by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Harmonizing Heaven and Earth

One summer day a Zen teacher sat fanning himself when a monk asked, "Since the nature of wind is stationary and universally present, why do you use a fan?" The teacher replied, "Although you know its nature to be stationary, you do not know why it is universally present."--"Why is it universally present?" asked the monk. For answer the master merely continued fanning himself and the monk bowed: the True Way of Transmission and enlightenment, which is the result of real experience, is the same as this. One who thinks that fanning is not needed simply because wind is stationary by nature and requires no fan since it can be sensed, understands nothing whatsoever of its nature and its eternal presence: it is because it is eternally here that the wind of Buddhism makes the earth golden and the rivers run with ghee.

Great Master Dogen
Genjo-Koan ("The Problem of Everyday Life")


The Receding Sea

In the ninth month following the beginning of her great retreat, Rev. Master experienced a vision in which it seemed as if the waveless sea were about to engulf the Buddha Land. She writes, "It [the sea] had already reached the little house which enclosed the fountain when I realized that the only person who could stop it was me. I grasped my will with all my might and commanded it to recede and it did so just a little." (How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, Plate XLII; first edition, Plate XL.)

The wavelessness of the waveless sea is the stillness of meditation--ultimately, the stillness of Buddha Nature that lies at the heart of all existence. The waters of the waveless sea are the waters of temporal existence itself. The engulfing of the Buddha Land by these waters therefore represents the tendency of deeper spirituality to be obscured by the turmoil and confusion of worldly life.

The fountain at the top of the hill is the fountain of the Water of the Spirit--our experience of the Compassion, Love and Wisdom of the Eternal (note that there are three streams of water flowing down from the fountain at the top of the hill). As the water of the sea threatens to swamp the Buddha Land, the fountain seems to dry up. In other words, as we become more and more swamped in worldly longings and worries, the spiritual confirmation that the Eternal is, and that the Love of the Eternal is always present, diminishes. Thus earth diminishes heaven--if we allow it to do so.

Grasping the Will in the Right Direction

The next morning Rev. Master experienced another vision in which the sea continued to recede until all the water was gone and the bed of the sea was exposed. She writes, "The lotus blossoms withdraw their stems as the water level sinks, drawing them deeper and deeper into the earth until the blossoms rest on the newly-revealed ground. The beings in them step off onto the earth and mingle with the people of the world, appearing as ordinary beings, whether human or animal. The fountain, which had seemed to almost dry up last night, now flows freely again--and heaven and earth are one."




As I have emphasized throughout these Reflections, we cannot hold on to any transitory experience, including the most deeply spiritual and ecstatic. Yet we can exercise our volition in a direction that avoids the wilful blocking of such experience. In other words, we can meditate and train in the Precepts.

When Rev. Master grasps her will and prevents the waters of the sea from totally engulfing the Buddha Land, the choice that she is making is the choice to re-ground herself in pure meditation, letting go of worry about external things.

All human beings go through times when they struggle under the weight of worldly responsibility and worry. This chapter of How to Grow a Lotus Blossom teaches that we do not have to let ourselves be swamped. We have the choice to look up. When we do this, we know with the certainty of faith that the Buddha Land is right here in the midst of the turmoil, pain and confusion. We have the choice to do sange and offer all our worry, fear and longing to the Eternal in meditation. We have the choice to open our hearts to the Teaching and Compassion of the Eternal. We have the choice to bow to the Buddha of daily life.

Bodhisattvas Appearing as Humans and Animals

Everyone and everything that manifests within our experience provides help and teaching. It is up to each of us whether we will recognize and make wise use of this help and teaching. It is folly to search for Buddhas and Bodhisattvas outside of ordinary daily life. If I do not recognize Buddha today, when will I do so? If I do not recognize Buddha here, where will I do so?

The Buddha Land and this sangsaric realm of suffering are not separate from one another. If we look with the eyes of Buddha, we will see the heart of Buddha in humans and animals--and in all this wonderful and painful world. It is by grasping the will in the direction of training that the Buddha Land and the realm of sangsara are known and seen to be one.

If we combine the teaching of the visions described in "Heaven and Earth are One" with the teaching of the visions in which the dangers of clinging to heaven are exposed (see Part XXXIV of these Reflections), we get the following simple lesson: Do not cling to ecstasy and do not neglect the spiritual and diminish heaven.


Click here to proceed to Part XXXVI, "The Army of Mara"


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