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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
JIRYU RUTSCHMAN-BYLER 35 the fourth and fifth gates: Contemplation and turning What is breath? In the fourth gate, “contemplation,” we invite our “illuminating intelligence”—our natural curiosity and wonder—to inquire deeply into the breath itself. Zhiyi encourages us to study closely its fine and subtle features as it moves in and out. “It is like a wind,” he says, “in the midst of space.” But let’s not take his word for it. What do you say? In this phase of the practice we ask that question wholeheartedly, bringing all of our physical and mental energy into the inquiry. What is breath? This deep, direct, and sincere inquiry dislodges some of the stale- ness or stuckness or passivity that can occur in breath practice. It invites us into wonder, even awe. It is not that we answer the ques- tion but that we turn toward it, and in doing so become ever more intimate with the breath itself. We are no longer meditating on a superficial idea of the breath—yeah, yeah, the breath, it goes in and out—but are turning toward the unfathomable suchness of the breath itself. And who is it who breathes? At the fifth gate, “turning,” having studied the breath, probed what it actually is, we turn to the one who studies the breath. Here we might ask simply, “Who breathes?” We have now counted the breath, followed it, and enjoyed the deep silence and stillness that can result. We then perhaps managed to pull ourselves out of what Jiyu Kennett Roshi memorably calls that “lake of quietism” and inquired with full wonder and awe: “What is breath?” But who is it, exactly, who has been doing all of this? Who counted, who followed, who stopped, who contemplated? Here we allow the breath to draw us into that fundamental question of the spiritual life: “Who am I, really?” opposite | Are You Really Here, 2014 PHOTOGRAPHYANDERSSUNEBERG