Posting a bit later today. No meeting to run to. My nose is still congested. Outside my window, it seems to be foggy again. Yesterday, the top half of the Eiffel Tower appeared to be lost in the low-hanging clouds. Because it was hidden by the fog doesn’t mean that half of the tower wasn’t there. The whole tower is always there, fog or no fog, whether we see it or not.
Now here we are on the fifth (and final) day of our retreat in the heart of our lives. Feels strange to write that: What ends? Our life and practice continue, whether we call it a retreat or not a retreat. That’s exactly what our practice and life have been devoted to experiencing throughout this week, all together. We have come together, wherever and whoever we are, joining as one to bring the whole of each of our lives together.
The last course in Bernie’s supreme meal is the course of this « together, » of relationship and community. « This is the course that brings all the seemingly separate parts of our life together into a harmonious whole, » he writes. « It’s the course that turns all the other courses – spirituality, livelihood, social action and study – into a joyous feast. »
(“Le dernier plat est celui des relations humaines et de la communauté. Ce plat rassemble en un tout harmonieux tous les éléments apparemment disparates de notre vie. Ce plat transforme tous les autres – la spiritualité, les moyens de subsistence, l’action sociale et l’étude – en un festin joyeux.”)
I am posting here a drawing made by a friend, a Zen monk named Willem, taken from a little book about Zen cooking that he wrote and illustrated. When we eat together in the meditation hall, we recite a chant that reminds us of the 72 labors that bring us the food we are receiving – the farmers who grew and harvested it, the workers and others who helped process and ship and sell and distribute it, the sun and rain, the earth, the people who prepared the meal and are serving it… It’s endless!
That’s what this last course is about. As Bernie notes, « One of the key principles of the Zen cook is that nothing exists by itself. Everything is interdependent. » (« L’un des principes clés du cuisinier zen est que rien n’existe seul. Tout est dans une relation d’interdépendance. ») As a metaphor, Bernie uses the example of Indra’s net, which comes from an ancient Indian story. Indra was a king who thought much of himself. He asked his architect to create a monument to him that all the people would appreciate. The architect made a vast net that extended throughout all space and time. At each node of the net, there was a bright, shining pearl; in every pearl was reflected every other pearl. And, as Bernie notes, « each single pearl – each person, each event – contains the whole of Indra’s net, including all of space and time. »
When we realize that we are all bright pearls, we see that « within each one of us the whole body of the universe is contained, » Bernie writes. « Since we are already connected in Indra’s net, there are no limits to the possibilities of connecting with other people in our lives and our work. » (« …nous comprenons qu’au sein de chacun de nous est contenue la totalité du corps de l’univers. Dans la mesure où nous sommes déjà tous en relation au sein du filet d’Indra, il n’y a aucune limite à la possibilité de nous mettre en relation avec d’autres, dans notre vie et dans notre travail. »)
So that’s where we are, today and all days. This view is an incitation to include rather than to exclude, to see ourselves, others and everything as a singular, whole part of the whole. What does that mean for you today? Look around, keep sitting, enjoy the feast, and tell us about it.
IMPORTANT NOTES: Tonight, the talk I give in Paris at about 20h30 Paris time at Centre Wild Flower will be live-streamed on our Facebook page. We’ll do it tomorrow, too, for the talk during our day of practice, at around 12h in Paris. Watch this space for a final post tomorrow so that you can all share your impressions.