Posts Tagged ‘bodhidharma’

Another look at Saturn

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about Saturn lately; probably because I’ve got Saturn transiting through the 12th house. And now it’s working its way towards Venus, which is easily arguably my chart ruler.

Saturn represents structure, boundaries and limitations. Psychologically speaking it represents the ego, not as some central point of I, but as a structure which we have developed to cope with the world around us.

Interestingly, I think as we tread the path Saturn represents self-enforced or self-chosen limitation. In the world of form limitations are a self-evident given. One the one hand, a clear form enables the light to shine through it into the world. And on the other hand a form that we struggle with enables us to confront the delusion in our own minds. And this is I think where the role of sila, or ethical conduct, comes in on the spiritual path.

For this reason, ethical conduct is as much a practise as meditation. In sila we are constructing a new form, which acts as a vehicle of the light, but it is not the light. To quote Bodhidharma: Buddhas do not observe precepts. Buddhas do not break precepts.

To free the mind from all improprieties is the Sila of Mind-essence;
To free the mind from all perturbations is the Dhyana of Mind-essence.
That which neither increases nor decreases is the ‘diamond’ of Mind-essence.
‘Going’ and ‘coming’ are only phases of Samadhi.

The Sutra of Hui Neng

But I think there’s more to it than this. We are simplifying our lives, reducing all of the unnecessary clutter. But we are also expressing our true nature. Meditation is ultimately an act of self-expression in a very concentrated and very limited form, i.e. sitting on a mat. This is what gives this mode of self-expression its power. Sila is like this, but carried out into the world.

In the form that we construct through sila, we see our desires made naked. Yet our very nature is free, so in the same way we choose to liberate ourselves from that very same desire and live moment to moment, just like in the moment to moment awareness of dhyana. All forms are after all impermanent. Coming and going are only phases of samadhi.

So who knows what Saturn will bring, as it continues the transit of the 12th house, but it does seem to be the clearing up of old forms and the preparation of new ones.

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Back to basics

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Strangely enough, before the last patriarch of Zen became the last patriarch there was a competition to write a stanza to demonstrate the understanding of essence of mind. Shin Shau, the senior disciple at the time wrote this.

Our body is the Bodhi tree,
And our mind a mirror bright.
Carefully we wipe them hour by hour,
And let no dust alight.

It seems to me that from one point of view he was correct. Desire, anger, lust, greed, fear, delusion obscure that subtle ever present awareness. So various sutras instruct us to eliminate desire. This is what Shin Shau pointed to.

Yet other sutras point us to the emptiness of it all. From the perspective of the ever present (and words fail me here) it’s all empty anyway. So what of desire, anger, lust greed, fear and delusion. Vimalakirti pointed to the idea that desire ultimately derives from non-attachment. Hui Neng, who won the competition and became the next patriarch wrote.

There is no Bodhi-tree,
Nor stand of a mirror bright.
Since all is void,
Where can the dust alight?

In some passages Bodhidharm agreed.

Regardless of what we do, our karma has no hold on us.
The Blood Stream Sutra, Bodhidharma

Yet, to paraphrase Bodhidharma, if we don’t realise our nature, we are bound in karma. And apparently those who don’t realise their own nature it’s because of their heavy karma.

I think we have a two pronged instruction here. One is to work on our karma. I can buy that. And the other is zen.

Through zen, it seems to me from my practise, that we become ever more aware of the effect of these things on our awareness. That was Shin Shau’s understanding. Yet from the awareness itself there is no effect. That was Hui Neng’s.

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Consciousness of the breath

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

A zen master sits in the hall and hits the ground with a stick. A loud bang echoes across the hall. What heard that?

Through endless kalpas without beginning, whatever you do, wherever you are, that’s your real mind, that’s your real buddha. This mind is the buddha says the same thing. Beyond this mind you’ll never find another buddha.
Bloodstream Sermon, Bodhidharma

It strikes me, that sitting in meditation, being aware of one’s breath is the same. What is aware of the breath?

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