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

by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

Section XXXI
The Cleanness of the Water

To look back upon one's training with enlightened eyes is to see no speck of dust.


--Great Master Dogen, "Aspects of Meditation" (Gyakudo-yojinshu)

The Path of Suffering's Cessation

I would like to describe as simply as I can my actual experience of the way in which the teaching of the Five Columns in How to Grow a Lotus Blossom is applied in practice.

My description is couched in personal terms, and I am thinking of particular events in my spiritual life. I am thinking of times when I have been in a cloud of spiritual pain and have gone for refuge to the Eternal in pure meditation. In some instances, the details of these events stand out clearly in memory. I can see the stages in the process--the stages in the Path of Suffering's Cessation. And I can see each stage in the light of one of the Five Columns.

The Inextinguishable Light

Even in the midst of the greatest fear, grief, self-doubt, anger, confusion there is the inextinguishable Light that pierces these spiritual clouds and that I can see with the spiritual eyes of faith. I just have to pause to be still. Within a moment of stillness there is That which looks up toward the Light which is entirely of Itself. I just have to trust It completely and do nothing to get in Its way.

One moment of stillness; then another. Intervening pain and turmoil. Hold fast! Hold fast! Then another moment of stillness. Allow attention to be drawn to the breath or the beat of the heart. Another moment of stillness. Surrender into stillness. Join the Meditation that is eternal.


Open the body and mind, open the heart, fully to the Eternal. Allow inhalation and exhalation to quieten. Allow the heart to soften.

Be willing to see where I am wrong. Refrain from accusing self or others. "All, all is defilement, defilement, earth, earth. Do, do the work within my heart."

Is the dirt real? Is the uncleanness real?--It seems real, and while it seems real there is pain. Please help me to look up within the pain. Do not cling to regret. Do not cling to thoughts of injury and accusation. Do not cling to self-justification. Do not cling to self-judgment. Let go of worry about external things: "Nothing matters. Mindfulness is all."

Suddenly, there It is for a moment: the Cleanness of the Water. Then It seems to vanish. But I glimpsed It. A single glimpse of It and I know that the dirt is not real. There are actions and there are consequences: "No doer is there who does the deed, nor is there one who feels the fruit."

As I see actions and consequences--not those of others; only mine!--I see also how I have created clouds in a clear sky for myself. Others make their karma; I make mine. I can only do my own training. Whenever I have forgotten this, I have made suffering for myself regardless of what others have done or not done.

Where I have contributed to the confusion of others, I have contributed to my own confusion. Where I have done harm to others, I have hurt myself. Sincere repentance is beyond praise and blame, self and other: it is the pure sorrow of having wilfully added to confusion and pain for oneself, for anyone, for any being; it leads to the resolve to better understand and practice Preceptual Truth.

Where did I go wrong?--I did not remember to turn to the Eternal for help. I did not remember to be still instead of reacting impulsively. I did not remember to listen for, and follow, the Voice of the Eternal, which is the Voice of my own True Heart. The Precepts are reminders to follow this Path. How heavily I pay when I wander from this Path!--And still always, always there is the Cleanness of the Water.

A single glimpse of the Cleanness of the Water gives rise to quiet confidence and strengthened faith: "I am willing!" "Move, move my Defilement-free One."

Here again is the Cleanness of the Water, and then the heaviness of spirit flows in in a dark wave. Hold fast to the Lord of the House! Hold fast within the hara! The dark wave subsides. There is the Cleanness of the Water again. How exquisite It is. Do not try to hold on to It. Trust that It is doing Its work and that in reality It is always there.

With each cycle of washing, the spirit is lighter. With each cycle, I am more aware of the Compassion of this process, however painful it may be.

Heaven Penetrates Earth

Now the Cleanness of the Water is known. It was always the True Reality. It always will be the True Reality. "Since there is nothing from the first, where can the dust alight?"

From the beginning, always, everything that has happened, everything that happens, everything that will happen is for my good. Everyone, everything is a Bodhisattva for me personally. The pain, the confusion, the anguished striking out in spiritual darkness, suffering, disease, death--all, all is Buddha. The Buddhas and Ancestors, my dear master, my beloved fellow disciples, all beings: all, all are Buddha. The Life of Buddha is infinite and eternal. All, all is within the Great Immaculacy.

All Buddhas teach. Some Buddhas teach by example mostly what is good to do. The Buddhas and Ancestors are such Buddhas. Buddhas can also teach by example what is not good to do. In either case, it can be difficult at times to comprehend the teaching that is being given. For me, coming to an understanding of the teaching usually is like fumbling around in a dark room for a light switch. I have to trust that if it is good that I understand, that the understanding will eventually come. Keep an open mind and heart and do not try to force the issue.

The consequences of my own actions are Buddhas that give me teaching. The consequences of others' actions are also Buddhas that give me teaching. Always I need to wait patiently in order to absorb the teaching.


The Healing Love of the Eternal flows to and through all pain, to and through the sources of all pain. My love for the Eternal is the Eternal's love for me; the Eternal's love for me is my love for the Eternal. The Cleanness of the Water is.

The Love of the Eternal flows through the shadows of self-doubt, regret, self-judgment, grief, sadness, confusion. It despises none of them; It heals them all. The Cleanness of the Water is.

I will forget. I will stumble. The Cleanness of the Water is.

I will remember. I will be carried aloft and soar. The Cleanness of the Water is.

The Eternal Life of the Tathagata

Lord of my heart, I hide myself in Thee. I am blind, and I will follow where You lead. Please help me follow where You lead.

Eternal Meditation is the Light in the First Column. Eternal Meditation is the scouring Love in the Second Column. Eternal Meditation is the flow of Wisdom in the Third Column. Eternal Meditation is the Healing Love in the Fourth Column. This transitory, insubstantial body and mind is the vessel of Eternal Meditation, and this Reality of Oneness is the Fifth Column.

When I do not see this True Reality, I need to look up and ask for help in the First Column. I need to open my heart to the Eternal and offer everything in the Second Column. I need to sit still in patient acceptance and wait upon the Lord for the Teaching that illuminates the darkness of delusion in the Third Column. I need to entrust all of me to the Compassion of the Eternal and listen for Its guidance in the Fourth Column. I need to sit still and upright in the Fifth Column--and follow wherever the Eternal leads.


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