You practise with courage and sincerity

 

He (Torei) says that you must practise, not avoiding confrontations and not deliberately creating them either, but taking them on when they come. “You practise with courage and sincerity. It is when things are disturbed, you must realise that now is the time to go to the field of battle and then you will be able to decide things”, and he says if you defeat your greed and your fear and your power love and your pride at these times, then you have actually conquered them. You have actually won, but while you remain in a state of safety from them, you don’t know whether you have conquered them or not. Now, this text was for Samurai scholars. He doesn’t talk so much about the training for Zen monks, but he says little enlightenment, in fact, obstructs great enlightenment. If you give up the little enlightenments and don’t clutch them to yourself, then you’re sure to get great enlightenment and if you clutch at the little enlightenment and don’t give it up you’re sure to miss great enlightenment. It’s like someone who sticks to little profits and so misses the big ones.

Don’t cling to the little profits, then you will be able to get the big profits. When the little profits are invested, bit by bit, you don’t cling to them, but you invest them, then it does end in a big profit. But if you stick to getting little profits, so that the whole life is jut experiencing a succession of little enlightenments, you’ll never be able to reach the great freedom of great liberation, and he says that we do get exultation and we get little enlightenments and we’re liable to stop there and think, ‘Right, I’ve done something, I’ll amount to something, now I’m alright’, but he says if you stick to this you won’t make further progress. You must be prepared to throw away this idea ‘Now I have got something’ and pursue the training and go further into it.

This is a very unusual picture. It’s by the same Torei who wrote this text and I’ve had it enlarged for you. It’s an unusual picture of Bodhidharma and now is not the time to go into the text, but I’ll just explain to you a little bit. He’s seated and you’ll see that at the navel point, it looks like a bowl and this is the force of Tan. Meditation on the navel to give strength and then this comes upward to the heart. Then there’s a darkness, a dark circle and within that, there’s this bright circle. Now, the text is technical but it explains that, first thing there must be strength and this is from meditation at the navel point and, as you know, there are these breathing exercises or just to pinch below the navel to concentrate the attention there and to push the muscles against the fingers. There are various means of concentrating the attention there and then to feel strength. It’s called Tan T’ien, the field of the elixir. These are Chinese Taoist terms, but they were adopted by some of the Buddhist sects because the experience was the same in Buddhism.

To concentrate the strength there. Then to bring strength to the heart and then there is the mind and within the mind there is a darkness. I don’t know. We don’t know where our thoughts come from. I’m aware of the thoughts but where do they come from? There’s a darkness. They come out of nowhere and they go back into nowhere. There’s a darkness and in the meditation if that darkness is penetrated, then there is a light. So you think, what use is this? It’s to take above the limitations of body and mind.

This technical phrase, dropping off body and mind and it’s been compared in modern times with the aerial survey. Perhaps you know, when they’re looking at the remains of ancient settlements, very old settlements, you can see just the lumps and bumps and hollows in the ground, all overgrown with grass, but it’s quite difficult to make out what the pattern of the town was, but when the photo is taken from the air, it can be seen as a unity. When you’re on the ground, there is grass here and you go on the grass there, but you’ve moved from here to there and you don’t realise the colour of the grass has slightly changed, but when you’re above and you look down, you can see there’s a patch of grass here which is a slightly different colour th an the grass there. Well, when this brick work, even a long way down, the colour of the grass above it changes. So, from the air the pattern can be seen which is too big to be seen from the ground. It can’t be taken in. As you walk from one thing to another, you can’t retain the whole picture, but from the air you have the picture. Well, one teacher, he used this as an example that we can become aware of the cosmic flux by this sitting in meditation and then we can become one with it, because we’re aware of it.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: The Spur is addressed to a samurai who has faith

Part 2: The doctrine that everything is transient

Part 3: The facing inward of the Buddhas

Part 4: Keep up the right line of the meditation

Part 5: You practise with courage and sincerity

Part 6: The Cat and the Krait

Part 7: The Confucian and Bertrand Russell

Part 8: Picture of Bodhidharma