Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Passing obscurity

Given the unimaginable character of our true-nature, Zen spills over with poetry and figures of speech, conveying what can’t be grasped. I have recently come upon the poetry of Hongzhi Zhengjue, the 12th century Ch’an master, considered by Dogen as a living Buddha. His imagery is particularly lucid when it comes to talking about meditation and images which help us to understand. Throughout Zen literature you’ll find poetic depictions of clouds passing in the night sky to reveal the moon. This symbolic image is intended to show the relationship between fleeting thoughts and the pervasive light of consciousness. Like clouds, a mind filled with illusive thoughts, obscures clarity of insight. And our thoughts, like the movement of clouds, come and go. Here is how Ch’an master Hongzhi put this to verse:

“Right here—at this pivotal axle,
opening the swinging gate and clearing the way—
it is able to respond effortlessly to circumstances;
the great function is free from hindrances.”

This short verse captures the essential process. When the clouds pass away, the light of enlightenment is revealed and functions without hindrance, adapting effortlessly to evolving and ever-changing life.
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