It’s a lovely morning here in Montreuil, all bright sun and blue sky, butterflies fluttering and bees buzzing in the garden around a multitude of flowers in bloom. I’m reminded of a little pond in my friend Corinne’s garden, shown in the photo above, where lotus flowers were blooming in the sunlight. When the sun goes down, the flowers close, and they don’t blossom when the water in the pond is renewed by a hose.
The lotus flowers came to mind, I think, after I read what many of you had to say about my post yesterday: What I wrote was confusing to you. My example was just not clear enough! And confusion was not at all what I had hoped for. I am always hoping to help us all experience simply, freely, directly the whole of life. So my apologies for a less-than stellar effort yesterday.
Let’s try again today with lotus flowers.
Lotus flowers grow in still, muddy water, yet they are not « stained » by the mud. In his commentary on Dogen’s Genjokoan, Bokusan Nishiari writes that « the reason lotus flowers are not stained by mud is that they are free within mud. If they remove themselves from mud and go to a field, they will become dried out. But what would happen if the lotus flowers are stuck in the mud? Then they cannot give forth their fragrance. Now look! Being separate is not good. Being attached is not good. Not being separate and not being attached is called going beyond. »
What does that mean for us? It applies directly to the life/practice situation we are exploring this week. If we remove ourselves from the mud of our daily lives, separate ourselves from things as they are – taxes, work, family, love, war, happiness, joy, despair, pain – how would we live? We would become « dried out. » But if we become stuck in that mud, if we are attached and caught up in the muck, how would we live? We would not give forth the « fragrance » of our being. So what do we do?
« May we exist in muddy water with purity like a lotus, » we chant at the end of our oryoki meals. Instead of « purity » we could say « freedom, » because that’s what purity means in this context. And « muddy » means not crystal-clear, not without cracks and bumps, just like our lives. So what a marvelous reminder this is for us: May we exist in the muddy water of our daily life with freedom like a lotus. And that freedom lies in not making the endless separations we make, such as between « life » and « practice. » Everything you do and are is life, everything you do and are is practice. As Suzuki Roshi wrote: « The secret of all the teachings of Buddhism is how to live in each moment, how to obtain absolute freedom moment after moment. »
In this moment, I must stop writing: It’s time for my Portuguese lesson. Meanwhile, please keep telling us here about your days!