"We don’t call Autumn the end of Summer, we don’t call Summer the beginning of Autumn (Genjo Koan)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Virtue of the Tao's Herb

Aki No Hashi Dojo: "Auttum Bridge Dojo"

"Beauty, youth, and allure fade even as they first appear. In the
earliest mists of Spring, we see the Autumn Bridge"

The Virtue of the Tao’s Herb

By Augusto Al Q’adi Alcalde

From the “Autumn Bridge Dojo”


I have been chewing one of Dogen’s experiences and phrases through the Shobogenzo. And that phrase. “Do Toku”, was shining. There are many possible translations of that Do Toku, but of course, enough to say, the only real “translation” is the living experience of it. The “common” living experience, the social one, the one that has the power to change our hearts and the world.

The usual one is “Total Dedication”, Total, full dedication.

But the words themselves, the ideographs themselves are quite interesting.

Do is the same as Zendo or the way or the Tao. And Toku is the equivalent for Teh in Tao Teh King.

It is the power, or energy, or “virtue”, of the Tao.

We could also translate not only as “total dedication” but also as “total availability”, to practice and essential nature. Our Zapatista brothers and sisters do say “the word is half of the one who says it, and half of the one who hears.” Thus, our “hearing” reality and our common heart, does create reality, makes our true nature shine.

May I quote Jun Fan? (also known as Bruce Lee) “Wu Hsin, No Mind, consists in a subtle art of harmonizing the mind’s essence with the essence of the place and situation in which we are working and doing. The innermost secret awaits for the silence”

So we can say that this is the power or energy or virtue, and not in the moral sense of the word “virtue” but as potential, as in what is the “virtue” of this plant or this herb.

The virtue of the Tao.

The Tao. We shouldn’t forget, if we understand what Lao Tzu is saying in his little book, it is the unknown, is the nameless, is the black female, the mother of all mystery.

Dogen talks about this total dedication as one of the fundamental elements of Zazen, the formless actualization of Unconditional Attention. Or, as a friend said, “making Love to emptiness” right on!!!

Completely disappearing into Zazen, into and as that very Attention as our True Body and Heart, this living moment.

Completely disappearing into each breath, each moment, each step.

As them.

Total dedication.

I think this is related with the word “Intensive” or intense that we use to approach this practice. We can say this very moment is a Zen Intensive. It is based, it depends, it is supported, by our respons-ability in relationship to our half of the word…

When we talk about the word Zen and the meaning of the word Zen we see more and more Zen as being much more than a practice, and see Zen more as an experience, a living experience, a flowing and unfolding living experience. Seeing it as such, does open really many many gates. And as Dogens says, Zen is the Dharma Gate of ease and joy. And at the same place as an inquiry, an inquiring, deep, formless, daring, fearless inquiring.

Inquiry not being caught up by any fixed form but just inquiring,

Formless deep inquiring into the unknown. As the Unknown herself.

So we can see Zen, as well as Life and relationship, is a practice, and actualization, as well as an inquiry.

The ones who did broke the neo-liberal mirror and war, do also say “Asking questions we walk”. We walk.

And this walking is contained in a form and community. even if in one moment is is a community of simply an ass and a pillow, a community of two feet and the ground.

The seed is there, and the seed is the tree and the shade. The tree is the rain and the horizon.

So that power, that virtue, that tao, is the Total Availability, total trust, total dedication to the seeds. Yes, in plural, as we are also, plural.

Thus we have this form and this community which is basically the container of that inquiry and play. At that point Zen or Shikantaza or Koan is a living experience renewed moment by moment falling, diving into that container of this form and the community and how it expresses outside the limits of the formal place, be it called Zendo or another name in and as our very everyday life.

When we say this word “intense” or “intensive” we touch the possible relationship between time and practice and life. And Passion and Love.

Time! such a mystery! As well as practice or life itself.

And the question is how do we touch this?

How do we become that intensity, that passion in such a way that that our Attention practice and play, our Zazen and our life is not just hanging in there for the 8 days or 50 or 60 or 80 or 120 years of life?

How do we touch or how we become, actualize, express that passion, that intensity without which I don’t think we can touch and become intimate with that heart of inquiry and practice.

The notion of continuity blocks that passion to come forth.

In that continuity we lose that passion because we place that ideal time in which realisation or understanding or fulfilment or ease and joy as Dogen defines Zazen will happen, always in the future, always as a projection. Do we by chance do the same with Peace, Justice, Freedom too?

Or maybe we do sit in some kind of formatting or manipulation of the cause, in such a way that we want to produce an effect.

But this I don’t think nothing works as well, as bad, we should say, as the illusion of having time, we “think” we have time. Yes tomorrow we continue here?, who knows!!! I don’t think so. It may be, it may be not .

And when we fearlessly challenge that security about next moment taken for granted we touch that passion.

When we have the illusion of having time, we imagine, we plan, we postpone, that living experience.

So Dogen says Total Complete Dedication, availability to this Tao, this unknown and nameless reality.

So what is practice then? what is play? Is that very Do Toku as Zazen, as Shikantaza, as the “Koan of everyday life”, that Koan named as Genjo Koan.

Then those elements, Unconditioned Attention, Full fearless Inquiry, the4 so called Zazen, Shikantaza or the Koan are expressed as every single step in our life.

So we have two wings in this practice, there is a lot of emphasis in certain schools about not searching but I think it is also important not to postpone that possibility. Not to postpone the horizon, not to postpone the New World, New Heart.

We don’t direct ourselves to our aim but also we don’t postpone the potential of this very moment as the only one for that awakening.

There, with that heart of passion and intensity, that we can call it Zazen or our true nature.

Not to search, not to postpone, becoming one in the simple act of sitting, walking, breathing, living, loving.

In the Taoist tradition the word for Zazen that is used is not the same.

The word is used the ideograph that is used is “Tso Wang”. Tso has the same meaning as Za- sitting. Tso Wang is “sitting in forgetfulness”, “sitting in oblivion”. Wang is forgetfulness, oblivion, not remembering. So the Taoist tradition which is one of the most important ones in the coming forth of Zen in China. says we sit in forgetfulness, in forgetting us, this act of forgetting everything itself.

Then there is nothing known, thus there is no point of reference.

WE don’t know what Zen practice is as we are sitting, we don’t know who we are, we don’t know what we are and thus as Dogen says the Self is forgotten and all beings from all directions and times come forth and actualise true nature. Actualize the New Heart, New World that is so badly needed on this Blue Planet.

Here then time is our heart and body, space is our heart and body, this brand new living moment is our heart and body. And it is a Common heart and Body, thus, a common walking.

Dogen, in a very interesting essay called Being Time or “the identity of being and time”, he says like this: “You may suppose that time is only passing away and not understand that time never arrives. Although understanding itself is time, understanding does not depend on its arrival.”

I find this last part quite interesting “understanding does not depend on its own arrival”.

We can rest there.


1 comment:

  1. thank you for your comments on the Tao... always nice to listen to a master at play.

    here is a lost stanza from the Tao te Ching... it came to me suddenly, like a lightening flash, as i found myself naturally putting objects in their True place... harmony is my new hobby, and the universe shines with joy:

    to enjoy the Tao
    is to master
    the art of magic
    in everyday life.