HOW TO GROW A LOTUS BLOSSOM: Reflections in a Disciple's Life

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section IX

When we allow our senses to become absolutely still, the Heart of Heaven--the Buddha Nature--will be visible; It naturally contains the Divine Light which is exquisite.


The Iron Ball

At the time of Rev. Master's death, the monastic community of North Cascades Buddhist Priory consisted of myself and two disciples. Our temple had a small lay congregation, and in addition I was travelling periodically to several other meditation groups scattered around the Pacific Northwest. It was an all-out effort.

After Rev. Master's death the monastic community of our temple began to grow. Rev. Master Mokushin Hart, who is now Dean of the Serene Reflection Dharma Association, came to live and train here in the fall of 1997. Our monastic community and lay congregation have benefited from her teaching and training ever since.

Monastic life and training is often no less complex than life and training in the world. There are always problems and questions on my meditative "back burner." In the last months of 1997 and the first half of 1998, one problem seemed particularly significant, and at times I was very worried. I meditated with it, and it gave me a good spiritual work-out.

Sometimes we are faced with a problem that we have not created, but which somehow has landed in our lap. We may be given insight into the past-life origins of such a problem. But in the end what really matters is how we train with the problem today.

For several months I trained with the problem. It was one of those "iron balls that cannot be swallowed or spit out." In this classic spiritual dilemma, all conditions have to ripen in order for the solution to manifest naturally. Meditation and the Precepts must be given equal emphasis in training in order for the internal (spiritual) conditions to ripen fully. The Eternal will do all the heavy lifting in the preparation of both internal and external conditions if we follow Its lead and do not interfere with the process by acting wilfully. Internal and external conditions have to come into readiness at just the right moment: then timing is everything.

This process is far too complex to ever be fathomed intellectually. We have to trust with our whole being. Intuition can guide us through a darkness that is completely impenetrable to the intellect. By following genuine spiritual intuition, we can take the right step at the right time.

Countdown to Blast-Off

In 1997, we prepared to construct a new building that would contain some private rooms for monks as well as kitchen, offices, library and a second, smaller, meditation hall for formal monastic meals. Using a small bandsaw sawmill, I worked for three months in the spring of 1998 making lumber for our new building from trees that we had cut down on and around the building site. I jokingly referred to this as "the ninety days of pain." In reality, the work was not painful, and it was the perfect follow-up to the meditation retreat that I have briefly described in Section VIII of these "Reflections in a Disciple's Life." The work was a way to express gratitude. There are many ways of bowing, and I needed to do a lot of bowing.

At the beginning of April, Rev. Master Mokugen Kublicki came to our temple for an extended stay. She went into retreat as soon as she arrived. Rev. Master Mokugen's retreat would be one of the great blessings in the life of our temple and in my life.

In the beginning of May I gave Dharma Transmission to two monastic disciples, Rev. Basil Singer and Rev. Hector van der Marel, both of whom are now masters with their own temples. Now if anything happened to me, there were Transmitted disciples who could assist Rev. Master Mokushin in looking after the younger trainees in the temple and the congregation.

On May 21, I spoke with Rev. Master Mokugen about the problem that had been troubling me. Rev. Master Mokugen emphasized the importance of generosity of spirit. Her teaching helped me begin to fully release my worry into the hands of the Eternal.

My diary entry for the next day, May 22, reads as follows:

"Last night I awoke in the middle of the night and meditated. From somewhere deep inside me I asked for help. . . . It feels as if there is a deep spiraling downwards and inwards into a great darkness. I know He is there. It is my choice now. I cannot go to Him wearing the clothes of self. I can only go naked. And it is time for me to choose. . . .I have the strong sense that all my effort in the end cannot do what I need to do. It [the Help of the Eternal] has to be given. I can accept It, but I cannot get It by striving for It. It is time to give up the fight."

The whole day of May 22 I experienced pure terror. In my first years as a monk, I had experienced much fear, and the training of that time stood me in good stead now. Throughout the day my mind was intensely concentrated in meditation, though I was doing ordinary daily activities.

The Divine Light

On the morning of May 23 I went to the meditation hall and did bows. The following is part of a diary entry for that day:

"[After the bows] I felt as if I were standing on the edge of a great darkness fringed with light. I felt that there was a hard shell of self and a lovely brightness, and I felt my feelings jumping between the two. I felt the shell beginning to dissolve at its edges. I knew that I was letting go of something held back. . . . I looked up, not down. My face and body began to be infused with the "electric" feeling of the Water of the Spirit working on a major block. It grew steadily stronger until my whole body was filled with It. I knew I was being reclaimed by the Eternal. Light and darkness were completely interfused. I made gassho [placed the hands together as in prayer] and said quietly, "I love You, I love You." I felt myself in the Great Current of the Light of the Unborn, completely owned by It."

I have always thought of this as "surrender" to the Eternal. It opened my body and mind to the Help of the Eternal at a new level, as will be seen in coming Sections of these "Reflections in a Disciple's Life."


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