by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Leaf and Wind

Although our own merit for Buddhahood may be full ripe, it is our bounden duty to use all this merit for the purpose of enlightening every living thing: at all times there have been those who put their own Buddhahood second to the necessity of working for the good of all other living things.

Great Master Dogen

Heaven is Transitory

The importance of carrying on with one's training through and beyond even the most blissful experiences, is a recurring theme in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom. It first manifests early in Rev. Master's retreat (see Plate X, "Heaven is the Most Dangerous of All Places;" first edition Plate VI), and then again shortly thereafter (see Plate XII, "The Lake of Quietism;" first edition, Plate VIII). It manifests a few months later when Rev. Master realizes that she has to let go of her beloved tiger (Plates XXIII-XXIV; first edition, Plate XIII), and then again a few days later when Rev. Master wishes to stay at the edge of the waveless sea in the chapter entitled, "Recognition in the Waveless Sea." It manifests again two days later, as is described in the chapter entitled "Do Not Stay in Heaven."

True heaven is to experience the Love of the Eternal, and every such experience, which is an essential aspect of the coming to full fruition of meritorious karma, is precious. The experience of the Love of the Eternal strengthens certainty and faith and encourages us to continue to walk the Path, reminding us that even the longest and deepest periods of spiritual darkness and pain are transitory. When we experience the flow of Love, when we experience the peace of oceanic stillness, it is only natural to want the experience to continue.--It is natural to want it, but it is folly to try to hold on to it when it is time for it to dissolve.

The deepest spiritual experiences, including the deepest ecstasies, share with all our other experiences the common feature of being impermanent. The law of karma makes no distinction between "worldly" and "spiritual" objects of attachment: all clinging results in suffering. Heaven is ours to enjoy when it is present, but it is not, and never will be, ours to cling to and claim as our possession and our achievment. Should we do the latter, we will succumb to spiritual pride, which, if persisted in, will take us to very unheavenly, painful states of mind and body. We open both the gates of heaven and the gates of hell with our own actions of body, speech and mind.

The experience of ecstasy is a gift from the Eternal. We can bow in gratitude whenever we receive this gift. And we can bow again in gratitude as we willingly let go of the gift when it is time for it to return to its Source. When we "go on beyond" ecstasy, we neither reject heavenly experience nor resent its passing: we just continue doing our spiritual training. This training is done for its own sake, not for the sake of experiencing bliss. Yet if we continue to train for the sake of training, leaving the possibility of our future experience of ecstasy in the hands of the Eternal, we will in fact be doing exactly that which leads to such future experience. As Great Master Dogen wrote, "If you do these things [meditation and training in the Precepts] for some time . . . the Treasurehouse will open naturally and you will enjoy it fully."

Ecstasy and Responsibility

If we are blessed in any way and in any degree with the gift of ecstasy, we have the responsibility to in some way return the gift to the great ocean of merit from which it came. Yet I am not the Eternal, so how can I give the gift of ecstasy?--The answer is that I cannot give the gift of ecstasy, yet I can do my own training, which includes making an offering in my daily life. "It is an act of charity to build a ferry or a bridge."--Any action done with a pure and unselfish attitude of mind and heart returns the gift to the ocean of merit. We do not know the merit of our training, and that does not matter: perhaps we are most fully made use of by the Eternal when we have no idea of the use to which the Eternal is putting us.

For Rev. Master, who was a Buddhist monk with many disciples, this responsibility naturally focused on her duties as a priest and teacher. She writes, "If I do not make the Buddha Land appear for those around me I am unfit to be a priest. . . . However much I wish to sit above in the beauty and stillness it must be my pleasure and my joy to bring them [her disciples], should they so wish, to this blissful place that they may meet their True Lord." (Plates XXXV-XXXVI; first edition, Plates XXI-XXII.)

We do not have to go hunting for the responsibility: the Eternal will reveal it. The question is whether we will be willing to accept the responsibility when it manifests in front of us.

The Wind

Every day and every situation is a new opportunity to follow the Eternal. Perhaps that following will take us to a heavenly state for awhile; perhaps some heavy karma will come due and we will be precipitated suddenly into a state of misery. Wherever the following takes us, the important thing is and always will be the following itself: "The leaf goes where the Wind blows and does not disobey the Wind."

Again and again during her great retreat in 1976-77, Rev. Master chose to surrender to the Wind of the Eternal's Will rather than cling to any temporary state of bliss. And this is how she lived the rest of her life. In so doing, she fulfilled the Bodhisattva Vow to "save all sentient beings before realizing full Buddhahood." Yet when one clings to nothing whatsoever, including ecstasy and even Buddhahood itself, what is it that manifests fully in one's daily life?--Buddhahood. In surrendering fully to the Wind, the leaf becomes one with the Wind, and the true Way of Ancient Buddhas appears in this world of impermanence and suffering.




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