Much water imagery lately, in journeying as well as meditation; in dreams as well as in synchronicities of everyday life. What does it all mean? In the wise words of an old man by the fire, “It doesn’t mean anything.” Reading the Teachings from the Huainanzi today, this was the message:
“Of all the things in the world, nothing is softer than water. Water is accommodating and yielding, but its depth cannot be plumbed and its boundaries cannot be measured. Rising to the sky, it becomes rain and mist. Falling to the earth, it becomes springs and underground lakes. Life cannot exist without water, and crops cannot be cultivated without it. Water benefits all and has no favorites. It nourishes the smallest insect and the largest mammal and does not expect gratitude. It enriches the world and does not begrudge those who use it.
“Water is soft yet strong. Strike it, and it cannot be injured. Pierce it, and it cannot be punctured. Grasp it, and it cannot be held. Its strength can wear down stone and metal. Its sustenance can nourish the whole world. It can float in the sky as clouds, squeeze through narrow valleys as streams, and spread across wide-open plains as lakes. It takes from the earth and gives back to the earth. Unbiased and nonjudgmental, it does not have notions of first and last and does not distinguish between us and them. Everything is equal in its eyes. Separating and merging, it blends with its surroundings and is at one with the sky and the earth. Not conforming to the left or the right, it can be straight or meandering. Not restrained by space and time, it can be present at the beginning and the end of all things.”
-teachings from the Huainanzi, The Natural Way, translated by Eva Wong
It means nothing. It means everything. Such is the Dao.
The world does not owe you an explanation. Stop thinking about it; instead, live.
“You think about your acts,” he said. “Therefore you have to believe your acts are as important as you think they are, when in reality nothing of what one does is important. Nothing! But then if nothing really matters, as you asked me, how can I go on living? It would be simple to die; that’s what you say and believe, because you’re thinking about life, just as you’re thinking now what seeing would be like. You wanted me to describe it to you so you could begin to think about it, the way you do with everything else. In the case of seeing, however, thinking is not the issue at all, so I cannot tell you what it is like to see. Now you want me to describe the reasons for my controlled folly and I can only tell you that controlled folly is very much like seeing; it is something you cannot think about. . .
“. . .You really know how to talk and say nothing, don’t you. . .you seem to have an unbending intent to confuse yourself with riddles. You insist on explaining everything as if the whole world were composed of things that can be explained. Now you are confronted with the guardian and with the problem of moving by using your will. Has it ever occurred to you that only a few things in the world can be explained your way?”
-teachings of don Juan
“You believe that because you’re thinking. You’re thinking about life,” don Juan said with a glint in his eyes. “You’re not seeing.”
“Would I feel differently if I could see?” I asked
“Once a man learns to see he finds himself alone in the world with nothing but folly,” don Juan said cryptically. . .
“Your acts, as well as the acts of your fellow men in general, appear to be important to you because you have learned to think they are important. . .
“We learn to think about everything,” he said, “and then we train out eyes to look as we think about the things we look at. We look at ourselves already thinking that we are important. And therefore we’ve got to feel important! But then when a man learns to see, he realized that he can no longer think about the things he looks at, and if he cannot think about what he looks at everything becomes unimportant.”
–Castaneda, A Separate Reality: Further Conversations With Don Juan
“Our view of man will remain superficial so long as we fail to go back to that origin [of silence], so long as we fail to find, beneath the chatter of words, the primordial silence, and as long as we do not describe the action which breaks this silence, the spoken word is a gesture, and its meaning, a world.”
― Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
Shared by Zen Master Wonji Dharma.
“Everything is already determined and has no meaning. I had met with Zen Master Seung Sahn in a private interview back in about 1992. I have spoken often about this particular interview and even posed Zen Master Seung Sahn’s comments to many of the other teachers in the Kwan Um School of Zen, many of the comments I received were less than satisfying. Apparently, he hadn’t made this particular statement to very many people so they weren’t sure how to respond.
“I don’t remember the particular gongàn I was working on at the time, but I had a question about it and honestly, I wish I remember what question I asked him at the time; yet his response really shocked me at the time and I was extremely confused. Nevertheless, his response to my question was “You don’t understand! You have no choice!” I remember thinking, “WHAT? This isn’t Zen Buddhism.” So, I said to him, “Did you just tell me that I have no choice?” Daesonsa-nim said, “Yes, everything is already determined and you have no choice.”
“This confused the shit out of me, so in desperation, I said to him “That sounds like Catholic Determinism, are you telling me that everything is written in a book written by the Dao or God?” He then looked me squarely in the eyes, “You don’t understand, so you are confused.” I asked him to please explain it to me and he said “Look, everything is already determined, and you have no choice. And until you realize that you have no choice, only then do you get a choice.”
“He continued, “Everything has no meaning, no reason, and no choice, and we have our practice to help us understand our true self. Then, we can change no meaning to Great Meaning, which means Great Love. We can change no reason to Great Reason, which means Great Compassion. Finally, we can change no choice to Great Choice, which means Great Vow and Bodhisattva Way.”
“At this point, I bowed to him and thanked him for the interview and frankly I wasn’t sure what it meant. His statement became a huàtóu for me and I sat with it for a very long time, and eventually I digested his comments.” –Wonji Dharma
We create our prison out of these four walls: wanting, holding, attaching, and checking.
Wanting: I want a new car. I want to be happy. I want to XYZ. I want enlightenment.
Holding: She said this and I will never forgive her. Twenty years ago, he did ‘this’ and I will never forgive him.
Attaching: I must meditate for two hours a day or I will never attain enlightenment. I must chant for one hour a day or I will be a bad practitioner. I must give up X or I will never be blessed. I can’t miss my morning work-out or my day will be ruined.
Checking: I used to meditate more. I should be spending more time reading the sutras, the Bible, the blah, blah, blah. I need to exercise more, eat healthier. I shoulda coulda woulda. . .
Your prison has four walls. Those walls are wanting, holding, attaching, and checking. You are not your idea of yourself. You are not your thoughts. It is not good or bad. It just is as it is, right now. Be present for it.
“Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment.
“You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. THIS is being free.
“There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. This is my belief.” — Jeong Kwan, Buddhist monk (nun)