When you see a mountain why must you climb it with your eyes. When you hear a mighty river why must you ford it with your ears, when you feel the earth why must you touch it with your feet? Are you not the mountain does the river run through you, as you run through it, are you not the earth?
A reflection on Case 16 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye) koans.
We spent one morning of our visit to Key West wandering around Hemingway’s home.
The six-toed cats seemed to realize that we were cat people, came over to us, took us aside for a petting and conversation.
He was a tough old goat, they said, or so our ancestors told itm and we cannot begin to understand why you, cat people, so obviously intelligent would pay to see the old typewriter he hated, because the S and D keys always stuck
We scratched them behind the ears, sat by the empty pool, and waited for a literary inspiration we knew was never included in the ticket.
You can take my sight, but my mind will still see what it must, and my fingers will become eyes. You can take my hearing, I will imagine what I must, and my eyes will become ears. You can take my tongue, but my body will shout what I must, and my hands will speak volumes. The only thing you cannot take is my words, for without them my prison would be complete and I would be rendered mute, deaf and blind, and that is a fate from which I could never hope to emerge.
In setting along the path do you follow Hofuku covering your eyes so as not to see evil, ears so as not to hear it and close your mind to wandering ideas or is Jizo’s path yours as well?
With eyes shut tight the mind will still see, with ears covered sound will echo, growing louder with no hope of escape. With open eyes light is reflected, with ears open fully, sound passes freely and flitters away and the empty bowl is filled with potential.
“Trains are present,” she said,” and somewhat the buses, but airplanes are mostly absent.” I understand what she meant, and didn’t need her to cover hands over her ears to cement the point. On a train, most sit back, some with ear buds but many simply stare out the window at towns and villages and fields flowing by, willing to share bits of their lives, real or imagined. On a train there is only truth, and what is said is real, if only within the confines of the car. On a plane the people hide inside headphones, bend their headrests around their ears, as if to demark some personal space inside which the person in the adjacent seat dare not enter, even with words. “Trains,” she said, “are as much about the journey as the destination, while planes are an abyss between the points of departure and arrival, crossed with the fear you could fall into the pit of another’s life and never again emerge.” I agree with her as we pull into a station and she rises to disembark.
First you should draw the scene with as much detail as possible, using the full palette of colors and adding depth and dimension. Next you should write the scene, again with detail, color, depth, for words are capable of all of this. Now compare the scenes, are they the same, and if not, how do they differ. Now close your eyes and envision the same scene again, noting whatever you can, listening to your mind’s description, as you gaze through your mind’s eye. Pause and consider that none of these are real, each is an illusion you have created, and then know that you, too, like I, am illusory as well.
Yesterday the cat explained at great length that we occupy her house because she loves us, but that we dare not take this status for granted. I scratched her behind her ears to signify my agreement and so she took my simple act of kindness. You get another week she said, purring.
When the Buddha offered true wisdom, no one was present to hear it. Those who were not there understood it fully. Where will you look for true wisdom? Will your ears here what your mouth cannot say? Only with closed eyes will the light become clear.
A reflection on Case 36 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye).