Note: 25Mar-2Apr -- Meetingbrook is on retreat this week. It is Passover. It is Holy Week. The shop is closed, no evening events until Tuesday, 2April2002. (But, the shop will be open Thursday the 28th.)
Life and death attend each other this week. It is a holy week.
We think death is other than life, other than what is. Death is not what we think it is. Death companions the passage to what is fully experienced.
Life faces and engages itself. Life is what is at origin. Life companions death as it moves through all that would stay, separate, annul, and unlove.
What is this companioning passage? If we are willing to say “God,” say it. If we wish to say “Nirvana,” say it. It we decide to say “Nothing,” that too. Names are valuable -- but not as valuable as experience.
The word “companion” is lovely. From Latin com + panis = with + bread. Meaning: thoroughly together with, comrade; rascal; one of a pair of matching things; one who lives with and serves another.
To companion is to be bread for and with each other.
For us, just now, we have some fear of death, but after we resume our true original nature, there is Nirvana. That is why we say, “To attain Nirvana is to pass away.” “To pass away” is not a very adequate expression. Perhaps “to pass on,” or “to go on,” or “to join” would be better. Will you try to find some better expression for death? When you find it, you will have quite a new interpretation for your life. (p.94, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind)
A holy night approaches. One face of night is silence. Another face of night is emptiness. Praying at night is the prayer of silence and emptiness.
1. Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!
2. They shall see the Lord face to face…The night shall be no more.
3. God has destined us for acquiring salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Stay sober and alert
5. If you are angry, let it be without sin.
6. May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness.
7. You are in our midst, O Lord, your name we bear: do not forsake us, O Lord, our God.
These seven first lines are from seven Night Prayer readings of The Liturgy of The Hours.
I wonder if #2 might also be read, “The night shall be, no more.” And #3, “God has destined us for acquiring salvation. Passing Through! Just as our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Night is the truest prayer. Moving through night is co-incident with engagement and encounter.
One who has made the passage from origination through separation to the holy name of what is Alone peace, presence, and wholeness, that one – is named Jesus, the Christ.
Passover Angel, Bodhisattva, or Companion – these too take us through this week of deep remembrance and recollection.
Shunryu Suzuki (1905-1971) in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, (c.1970) in a chapter entitled “Nirvana, The Waterfall” says,
Before we were born, we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called “mind-only,” or “essence of mind,” or “big mind.” After we are separated by birth from the oneness, as the water falling down from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water. Our life and death are the same thing. When we realize this fact we have no fear of death anymore, and we have no actual difficulty in our life. (pp.93-94)
Water falls, as we fall, through empty space. Best to let the fall be what it is – movement through seeming separate existence, return to flowing companioning continuance, allowing the passage.
If one is a true learner of the Way, one does not search for the faults of the world, but rather speedily applies oneself to attain genuine insight. If one only can see with perfect clarity, then all is completed.
- Rinzai (d.866)
There are some among us who understand intuitively the companioning presence we call God.
It is good to travel near them. This week, as does life and death, let us attend each other.
Listen carefully to the conversation. Set a place for the stranger.
This night is different. Watch through the night. Begin with bitter herbs. Begin with fire. Begin with water. Fall free. It’s only life; only death; only the breaking through and going beyond of humankind’s deepest longing – to see, God!
To talk about it this way is quite easy, but to have the actual feeling is not so easy. But by your practice of zazen you can cultivate this feeling. When you can sit with your whole body and mind, and with the oneness of your mind and body under the control of the universal mind, you can easily attain this kind of right understanding. Your everyday life will be renewed without being attached to an old erroneous interpretation of life. When you realize this fact, you will discover how meaningless your old interpretation was, and how much useless effort you had been making. You will find the true meaning of life, and even though you have difficulty falling upright from the top of the waterfall to the bottom of the mountain, you will enjoy your life.
This holy falling, holy passage, and holy week calls us into companionship.
Behold the lamb, the bread, the wood, the water, and the night.
Attend with attentive presence what is passing through, passing beyond!