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always at home, forever on the way

Tag: Mountain Practice

Mountains and Waters 2022 (3)

by tendo zenji

Looking East from Cuthroat Pass in the North Cascades

On Climbing the Highest Peak of Stone Gate


At dawn with staff in hand I climbed the crags,
At dusk I made my camp among the mountains.
Only a few peaks rise as high as this house,
Facing the crags, it overlooks winding streams.
In front of its gates a vast forest stretches,
While boulders are heaped round its very steps.
Hemmed in by mountains, there seems no way out,
The track gets lost among the thick bamboos.
My visitors can never find their way,
And when they leave, forget the path they took.
The raging torrents rush on through the dusk,
The monkeys clamour shrilly through the night.
Deep in meditation, how can I part from Truth?
I cherish the Way and never will swerve from it.
My heart is one with the trees of late autumn,
My eyes delight in the buds of early spring.
I dwell with my constant companions and wait for my end,
Content to find peace through accepting the flux of things.
I only regret that there is no kindred soul,
To climb with me this ladder to the clouds in the blue.


–Xie Lingyun
Translated by J. D. Frodsham in Zen Poems (Everyman’s Library)

Mountains and Waters 2022 (2)

by tendo zenji

Looking west from Easy Pass in the North Cascades

AFTER CLIMBING PA-LING MOUNTAIN, IN THE WEST HALL AT WAI-YDAN MONASTERY: OFFERED TO A MONK BEYOND THIS WORLD ON HENG MOUNTAIN


There’s a sage monk on Heng Mountain,
the beauty of five peaks his true bones,

autumn moon alight in a sea of water
revealing his ten-thousand-mile heart.

A guardian gone into southern darkness,
pilgrims of the Way all visit him there,

sweet dew sprinkling down, a language
clear and cool gracing flesh and hair.

Bright lake a mirror of fallen heaven,
scented hail a gate into all this silver:

come for the view, I feed on kind winds,
new blossoms teaching mind this vast.

–Li Po
Translated by David Hinton in The Selected poems of Li Po

Mountains and Waters 2022 (1)

by tendo zenji

Thornton Lake from Trappers Peak in the North Cascades

Climbing Long-View Mountain’s Highest Peak

Rivers and mountains beyond the form seen:
Hsiang-yang’s beauty brings them in reach,

and Long-View has the highest peak around.
Somehow I’d never climbed its cragged heights,

its rocky cliffs like walls hacked and scraped
and towering over mountains crowded near,

but today, skies so bright and clear, I set out.
Soon the far end of sight’s all boundless away,

Cloud-Dream southlands a trifle in the palm,
Warrior Knoll lost in that realm of blossoms.

And back on my horse, riding home at dusk,
a vine-sifted moon keeps the stream lit deep.

–Meng Hao-Jan
translated by David Hinton in The Mountain Poems of Meng Hao-Jan

Pilgrimage

by tendo zenji

BostonBasin2

Searching for Solitude

In last months talk on Solitude I described it as a process of letting go. Of putting yourself into a place where you abandoned distractions, entertainments, modern life.  Pilgrimage is in one view “searching for solitude.” It is a way, in our world, in our culture to make that space for solitude. Consider  how it was in India for Buddhists:

It was common in ancient India for yogis to remove themselves from society to practice in solitude in the forests. There they would beg for alms and offerings from ordinary people who respected them. In China there was no such tradition. Someone who went around asking for alms was simply a beggar. Practitioners had to work to survive and sustain their practice. For this reason Chan has traditionally placed great emphasis on applying practice to daily work.

-Sheng Yen, The Method of No-Method (pp. 42)

Being a hermit in the West means that you are a bum, down and out, maybe crazy. Pilgrimage means you are a vagrant. But this can be worked with. There are activities we can engage in that have the veneer of respectability that allows us to engage solitude, to be on pilgrimage. 

Commitment

The essence of pilgrimage is commitment. Being completely committed to the path. More than just traveling to sacred places this is a form of practice itself a way of life. It ties together individual and monastic practice.  The model is the method of practice in China.

Historical Precedence

Whip for Spurring Students Onward Through the Chan Barrier Checkpoints by Yunqi Zhuhong

“The Chan Whip was conceived by Zhuhong as a portable, convenient, no-nonsense “pocket companion guide” that addressed practitioners directly , providing not just method but morale. As such its selections deliberately eschew abstract discussions of theory in favor of sermons, exhortations, sayings, autobiographical narratives, letters, and anecdotal sketches dealing fankly—and encouragingly—with the concrete ups and downs of lived practice.”
–Jeffery L. Broughton, Chan Whip, p. 2

As an example of the life of practice (gongfu) incorporating the elements of pilgrimage  Xueyan’s story (Ch’an Whip, p. 17). In the recording of the talk below you can hear the whole story with commentary.

The story gives an outline of how Chan practice (gongfu)  was approached in the Song.  This is what I mean by pilgrimage.  In this story you can see that Xueyuan is completely dedicated to the path. He has his ups and downs–which are themselves instructive and part of the aim of the Ch’an Whip is to show the human side of these great teachers–but he stays with it and pushes pasts his low points.  This is further an exemplar of continuous practice. Where even as he travels, is on the pilgrimage practice is ongoing.

Xueyuan, like the other longer anecdotes in the Ch’an Whip, ordains and works with a particular teacher and then begins traveling from practice place to practice place.  This is the standard practice, typically one traveled after one has had an insight to test it and to push oneself deeper. Then seems to be an understanding that working with one teacher can be limiting. That is even a very awakened teacher has a style, a set of teaching devices and their own limits.  All of these masters-to-be came to deeper awakenings and into their own mastery under other teachers.  Not only these Ch’an Masters but all of the great Zen masters of Japan, Dogen, Hakuin Ekaku, Torei Enji, Gassan Jito, Bassui, Bankei all followed this path of pilgrimage.

Read the rest of this entry »

North Cascades Mountain Practice (II)

by tendo zenji

P1010639

Why am I so sad for so long?
Human life is like a morning mushroom.
How can this last for decades?
Both new and old wither and fall—
Of course I feel sad.
It’s a sorrow so hard to bear,
how will I ever endure it?
I’ll take my body back to hide in the mountains

Han Shan, The Complete Cold Mountain Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt

 

North Cascades Mountain Practice (I)

by tendo zenji

P1010707

This mountain
seems somehow
lonely as I

am. People
come and go
through its empty

distances, and those
distances remain

empty. I’m getting old
now, but this
mountain’s
been here almost
forever. No

wonder it understands

loneliness so much
better than
I ever will. Every
time I come

here, we both
promise never to
leave, and mountains
always keep
their promises.

The eye, the mirror–
deep eye is
magic. Things seen

go all the way
inside me
and vanish there. It seems
impossible, I

know, but everything
heals from inside

out.

David Hinton, from Desert: Poems