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

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section XXVI
Alone and With

I sit quietly, listening to the falling leaves--
A lonely hut, a life of renunciation.
The past has faded, things are no longer remembered‌.
My sleeve is wet with tears.

--Zen Master Ryokan
translated by John Stevens

A Solitary Path

Everyone who would follow the Eternal must be willing to walk a solitary path.

This walking of a solitary path happens when one is alone and when one is with others. The Reference Point in both cases is neither seeming aloneness nor seeming togetherness, neither self nor other: It is the Eternal.

This is aloneness WITH the Eternal. Sometimes it feels very alone indeed. The trainee must be willing to experience the hard, dark edge of that aloneness. When all conditions ripen, this dark edge dissolves into the soft brightness of the "with."

The Precious With

So many times during her great kensho in 1976-'77 and throughout the next year or two, Rev. Master said, "It is enough for me to know the Lord of the House." The meaning of the word "know" here goes far beyond intellectual understanding. It is a knowing that dwells within, and radiates from, the hara. It wells up into the heart that knows the pang of loneliness and suffuses it with joy.

These words of my Master--"It is enough for me to know the Lord of the House."--are true for me. Sometimes karmic clouds roll in and at least partially obscure this teaching. That is when I need to reach out beyond the clouds with faith--the "knowing within unknowing." This is all part of the process of conversion. I do not wish it to be other than it is.

When I least expect it, there, once again, is the quiet certainty of the "cleanness of the Water." There, once again, is the certainty that everything that happens is for my good. And there, once again, is the warm glow of the precious "with" in the hara.

It was always there. It will always be there. At times, I may not clearly apprehend it, but it was, is and will be there.

The Precepts, meditation and faith: the practice of these three fundamental aspects of the Path of the Buddhas and Ancestors creates the optimal conditions within mind and body for the "blood and bones" knowing of the "with."


In the greatest crisis of my life, my master told me, "Just don't worry about external things." I grasped my will and put this teaching into practice wholeheartedly and this led directly to my first awakening to the Eternal. Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett showed me the way, and I have found again and again that the way she showed me works for me.

The key to this "not worrying" lies in entrusting all that we love into the hands of the Eternal. Only when we do this can we relax into the oceanic stillness of our wonderful True Nature. In my experience, that entrusting, and then relaxing into stillness, often only comes after working through a good deal of worry. Again, this is where I have to exercise faith: keep meditating, keep looking up, keep going on through the fog of worry until I come out the other side.

And always, eventually, I do come out the other side. Worry and care fall away, and once again, I experience the soft, bright fullness within the hara: this world of impermanence and suffering is the Body of Buddha; there is nothing from the first, that is, the true reality of all existence is the Great Immaculacy; it is enough to know the Lord of the House.

There is one word above all others that expresses all of this for me--Love. Love with a capital "L"--always with a capital "L."--As Rev. Master so truely put it, "Love beyond your wildest dreams." It is because this Love is the heart of existence that we can entrust all that we love to It.

I chose a poem of Great Master Ryokan to head this chapter of these Reflections in a Disciple's Life. Here is another:

Spring--slowly the peaceful sound
Of a priest's staff drifts from the village.
In the garden, green willows;
Water plants float serenely in the pond.
My bowl is fragrant from the rice of a thousand homes;
My heart has renounced the sovereignty of riches and worldly fame.
Quietly cherishing the memory of the ancient Buddhas,
I walk to the village for another day of begging.


Click here to proceed to Section XXVII, "The Begging Bowl"


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