WFZ-Lecture 2017-04-07T13:01:36+01:00

Lire au sujet du Zen

«Ne cherchez pas à marcher dans les pas des sages» dit un vieil adage Zen. «Cherchez ce qu’ils cherchaient». Lire sur le Zen, c’est comme lire des livres de cuisine ou des guides de voyage : ils relatent des expériences et proposent des recettes et des itinéraires. Ils peuvent être inspirants, enrichissants, informatifs et utiles – si nous gardons à l’esprit un point important : il n’y pas d’autre chemin que le vôtre, d’autre vie que la vôtre, et vous seul pouvez la découvrir.

Ultimement, vous devez fermer le livre, éteindre l’ordinateur, oublier ce qui a été lu et dit, et fouiller dans votre propre expérience de votre propre chemin, votre propre vie, telle qu’elle se présente maintenant, pas après pas.

Ceci dit, pour accompagner l’intrépide étudiant Zen dans son chemin, voici quelques bonnes recettes et guides de voyage :

  • Esprit zen, esprit neuf, de Shunryu Suzuki (Points)
  • Méditation et action, de Chogyam Trungpa (Seuil)
  • Au coeur du Chan, de Dennis Genpo Merzel (J.C. Lattès)
  • Comment accomoder sa vie à la manière zen, de Bernie Glassman (Albin Michel)
  • Le cercle infini, de Bernie Glassman (Albin Michel)
  • The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women, Florence Caplow and Susan Moon, editors (Wisdom)
  • Nine-Headed Dragon River, by Peter Matthiessen (Shambhala)
  • Zen Comments on the Mumonkan, by Zenkei Shibayama (Shambhala)
  • La pratique Zen, de Taizan Maezumi et Bernie Glassman (Éditions Véga)
  • Hazy Moon of Enlightenment, by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman (Wisdom)
  • Les entretiens de Houang Po, de Patrick Carré, (Les Deux Océans)
  • Essais sur le bouddhisme zen, de D.T. Suzuki (Albin Michel)
  • Introduction au bouddhisme zen, de D.T. Suzuki (Buchet/Chastel)
  • Les choses comme elles sont, de Hervé Clerc (Folio essais)

Reading about Zen

“Do not seek to walk in the footsteps of the wise,’’ goes an old Zen saying. “Seek what they sought.” Reading about Zen is like reading cookbooks or travel guides: They recount experiences and offer recipes and itineraries. They can be inspiring, enriching, informative and helpful – if we keep in mind one important point: There’s no path like your path, no life like yours, and only you can discover it.

Ultimately, you have to close the book, turn off the computer, forget what has been read and said, and delve into your own experience of your own path, your own life, just as it is here and now, step by step.

That said, to accompany the intrepid Zen student on his or her path, here are a few worthy recipes and travel guides:

  • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki (Shambhala)
  • Meditation in Action, by Chogyam Trungpa (Shambhala)
  • The Eye Never Sleeps, by Dennis Genpo Merzel (Shambhala)
  • Instructions to the Cook, by Bernie Glassman (Shambhala)
  • Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen, by Bernie Glassman (Shambhala)
  • The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women, Florence Caplow and Susan
  • Moon, editors (Wisdom)
  • Nine-Headed Dragon River, by Peter Matthiessen (Shambhala)
  • Zen Comments on the Mumonkan, by Zenkei Shibayama (Shambhala)
  • On Zen Practice, by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman (Wisdom)
  • Hazy Moon of Enlightenment, by Taizan Maezumi and Bernie Glassman (Wisdom)
  • The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, John Blofeld, editor (Grove Press)
  • Essays on Zen Buddhism, by D.T. Suzuki (Grove Press)
  • An Introduction to Zen Buddhism, by D.T. Suzuki (Grove Press)
  • Les choses comme elles sont, de Hervé Clerc (Folio essais)

 

Textes / Texts

UNE SELECTION D’ESSAIS PAR AMY HOLLOWELL

A SELECTION OF ESSAYS BY AMY HOLLOWELL

SUR LES KOANS

(Préface : L’Élan pour passer la porte du Zen, de Zhuhong – Éditions Accarias L’Originel)

Ainsi nous voilà en Europe, à l’aube du XXIe siècle, et beaucoup de questions auxquelles je suis confrontée au cours de mes déplacements en tant qu’enseignante Zen sont assez semblables à celles que rencontraient mes vénérables prédécesseurs pendant leurs propres déplacements en Asie, il y a plusieurs siècles de cela.

Qu’est-ce que cette «pratique» ? Qui s’y adonne et pourquoi ? Comment ? Quand ? Où ? Qui suis-je ? Les questions sont formulées différemment par différentes personnes, le sujet est abordé à partir d’angles divers – Quel est le sens de cette pratique ? Quel en est l’objectif ? Pourquoi s’asseoir et méditer ? Qu’est-ce que «l’éveil»? – et les questions surgissent dans un certain nombre de situations, moments et lieux. Bien que chaque occasion soit unique et qu’à chaque fois ma réponse diffère, je dois admettre néanmoins qu’à l’instar de mes prédécesseurs, je répète toujours la même chose.

Car ce que l’on appelle la «pratique» est en réalité assez simple : la méditation Zen, c’est vraiment juste prendre place au milieu de ce qui se passe, au milieu de cet instant même. Vous faites face à vous-même, nu(e), ici et maintenant. En vous asseyant ainsi, face à tous les êtres et aux choses tels qu’ils sont, vous vous éveillez de votre sommeil brumeux pour expérimenter directement les joies et les peines sans fin de cette vie éphémère que nous partageons tous.

Dans une des images bouddhistes classiques, le Bouddha est assis les jambes croisées, la main gauche reposant sur son genou, la paume vers le ciel, les doigts de la main droite pendants, touchant légèrement le sol. Ce «mudra touchant la terre» dit tout, parfaitement : tout ce dont nous avons besoin est ici, ce siège même sur lequel nous sommes assis est le terroir de l’éveil.

Cela n’a rien à voir avec le bouddhisme, le Zen, les moines, les robes, les cérémonies, les rituels, la couleur de vos vêtements ou votre coupe de cheveux, un titre, une position ou une réalisation. Cela a tout à voir avec le simple fait de s’asseoir. Avec tout ce qui surgit. Au milieu de votre vie, le bout des doigts touchant légèrement le sol. Ou l’eau de la vaisselle.

Bien que cela puisse sembler simple, juste s’asseoir et s’éveiller n’est pas une mince affaire, tout particulièrement dans notre monde moderne utilitariste, avec son emphase sur le «développement personnel», en proie aux préoccupations matérielles et à une vénération suprême pour l’explication scientifique, la gratification instantanée et l’accumulation incessante. Au cœur de ces problèmes contemporains, on retrouve à l’identique la problématique posée il y a plus de 2500 ans par le Bouddha Shakyamuni : l’origine de nos malheurs repose sur une croyance confuse en un faux «je» ou «soi» que nous avons en réalité nous-mêmes construit. Hier comme aujourd’hui, la réalisation ou l’éveil implique de voir la vérité essentielle de l’être au travers de cette construction.

C’est là que les koans entrent en jeu. Dans la palette des pratiques, des écoles et des techniques créées pour aider les chercheurs au cours des époques, les koans restent un outil unique. Leur utilisation s’est développée comme une méthode au sein de la tradition Zen — considéré comme étant un enseignement «en dehors» des textes formels ou sacrés, pointant directement vers la vraie nature de l’existence — pour faire surgir une expérience «soudaine» des choses telles qu’elles sont, là, à cet instant même.

Du point de vue de notre esprit discriminant habituel, les koans sont incompréhensibles. Au mieux, ils peuvent sembler présenter un paradoxe. Ils ne laissent aucun espace pour une réponse intellectuelle, une résolution mentale, une explication cohérente. Mais c’est également vrai d’un verre d’eau ou de la guerre en Afghanistan – à condition que nous soyons capables de renoncer à nos idées habituelles sur «l’eau», «le verre», «la guerre» «l’Afghanistan», ce qui, une de fois plus, n’est pas une mince affaire. Les koans sont des outils bien affûtés qui favorisent ce renoncement et qui, au travers d’un profond questionnement, permettent une expérience directe de ce que l’on finit par réaliser comme n’étant ni une «question», ni une «réponse».

La pratique (ou l’étude) des koans peut être assimilée à l’art de traduire une langue que nous connaissons en une langue que nous ne connaissons pas. Nous commençons avec la langue que nous connaissons – disons l’anglais ou le français – et nous identifions ce que nous avons devant nous dans cette langue familière. Puis, pour traduire en une autre langue – une langue que nous ne connaissons pas, le swahili ou l’ouzbek, par exemple – nous devons élargir notre notion de l’objet donné, au-delà de ce que nous en «savons». Nous devons mettre de côté les mots habituels que nous utilisons pour le désigner – chapeau, amour, après-midi, moi — et expérimenter la «chose» telle qu’elle est, vidée de nos croyances figées, libérés des frontières restrictives de nos idées préconçues. Et parce que nous ne connaissons pas la langue dans laquelle nous traduisons, nous nous retrouvons avec l’expérience pleine, illimitée, directe de ce que nous avions jusque là réduit à un simple mot, un concept figé — chapeau, amour, homme, après-midi, moi.

La pratique des koans n’est pas plus mystérieuse. Pendant des centaines d’années, toutes sortes de koans ont été compilés dans de belles anthologies, considérées comme des exemples exquis de la littérature Zen. Des systèmes de pratique des koans ont été établis et de nombreuses traductions de ces travaux ont été réalisées dans de nombreuses langues. Ce livre, avec une traduction de leçons données en Chine au XVIIème siècle, en est un exemple. Nous constatons que les étudiants d’alors, tout comme ceux d’aujourd’hui, posaient leurs questions et les enseignants prodiguaient leurs conseils. Des millions d’étudiants Zen, d’Est et d’Ouest, ont voyagé et continuent à emprunter le chemin à l’aide de ces outils grâce à l’indéfectible compassion de ceux qui les leur ont transmis, de génération en génération.

Le koan Zen force les pratiquants à travers les époques à faire face à la réalité : en définitive, la «pratique» n’est rien d’autre que s’asseoir et faire face à l’instant présent, en plongeant ainsi dans les profondeurs inconnues du cœur de sa propre vie. Chaque instant est alors perçu comme étant un koan, impossible à catégoriser ou à saisir, et pourtant débordant de la richesse, de l’amour et de la compassion sans fin de la vie.


Amy (Tu es cela) Hollowell
Montreuil, France
Toussaint, 2011

 

ON KOANS

(Forward : L’Élan pour passer la porte du Zen, by Zhuhong – Éditions Accarias l’Originel)

Here we are in Europe at the dawn of the 21st century, and many of the questions that I encounter in my wanderings as a Zen teacher are much like those that were encountered by my venerable predecessors in their own wanderings centuries and centuries ago in Asia  :

What is this “practice”? Who does it and why? How? When? Where? Who am I? The questions are phrased differently by different people, the subject is approached from a variety of angles – What is the meaning of this practice? What is the point? Why sit and meditate? What is “awakening”? – and the questions arise in any number of situations, times and places. Although each occasion is singular and every time I offer a different reply, I must nonetheless admit that, as did my predecessors before me, I am always saying the same thing.

For what we call “practice” is actually quite simple: “Zen meditation” is really just taking a seat in the middle of whatever is going on, in the middle of this very moment. You sit face to face with the naked you, here and now. And sitting face to face with all beings and things as they are, you wake up from your foggy slumber to directly experience the endless joys and pains of this one fleeting life that we all share.

In one of the classic Buddhist images, the Buddha is sitting cross-legged, left hand resting palm-up in his lap, right hand dangling fingertips lightly touching the ground. This “earth-touching mudra” says it all, perfectly: Everything we need is here, this very seat upon which we sit is the ground of awakening.

It has nothing to do with Buddhism, Zen, monks, priests, robes, ceremonies, rituals, the color of your clothing or the cut of your hair, a title, position, or attainment. It has everything to do with just sitting down. With whatever comes. In the middle of your life. Fingertips lightly touching the ground. Or the dishwater.

While it may sound simple, it is no small task to simply sit down and wake up, especially in our modern, utilitarian world with its emphasis on “self-development,” rife with materialistic preoccupations and an overriding veneration for scientific explanation, instant gratification and never-ending accumulation. What lies at the heart of these contemporary problems, though, is the same issue that was addressed more than 2,500 years ago by Shakyamuni Buddha: The origin of our woes is a confused belief in a false “I” or “self” that is in fact of our very own making. Then as now, realization or awakening involves seeing through that construct to the basic truth of being.

Which is where koans, the subject of this book, come in. Amid the array of practices, schools and techniques that have been created to help seekers throughout the ages, koans remain a unique tool. Their use was developed as a method in the Zen tradition — itself said to be a teaching “outside” formal or sacred texts, pointing directly to the true nature of existence — to bring about a “sudden” experience of things as they are, right here, in this very moment.

From the perspective of our usual discriminating mind, koans are incomprehensible. At best, it may seem that they present a paradox. They leave space for no intellectual answer, no mental resolution, no coherent explanation. But this is also true of a glass of water or the war in Afghanistan – if, that is, we are able to renounce our habitual ideas about “water,” “glass,” “war,” “Afghanistan,” which, again, is no small task. Koans are well-honed tools that foster that renunciation and, through that deep questioning, allow for a direct experience of what we then come to realize is neither “question” or “answer.”

The practice (or study) of koans can be likened to the art of translating from a language we know into a language that we don’t know. We start from the language that we know – English, say, or French – and identify whatever is before us in that familiar tongue. Then, to translate into another language – one that we don’t know, perhaps Swahili or Uzbek — we must expand our notion of the given object beyond what we “know” of it. We must put aside the usual word that we use to identify it – hat, love, man, afternoon, me – and experience the “thing” as it is, emptied of our fixed beliefs, freed from the limiting boundaries of our preconceived ideas. And because we don’t know the language into which we are translating, we are left with the full, limitless direct experience of what we had until then reduced to just a word, a stale concept — hat, love, man, afternoon, me.

Koan practice is no more mysterious than that. For hundreds of years, all sorts of koans have been gathered in beautiful collections that are often considered exquisite examples of Zen literature. Systems of koan practice have been established and many translations of the various works have been made in a number of languages. This book,with a translation of lessons from 17th-centruy China, is an example. We see that then, as now, students posed their questions and teachers offered guidance. Millions of Zen students, East and West, have traveled and continue to travel the path with the help of these tools, thanks to the undying compassion of those who have passed them on, generation after generation.

The Zen koan has pointed practitioners throughout the ages to the reality that the essential “practice” is nothing other than sitting face to face with the moment at hand, plunging into the unknown depths of the heart of one’s own life. Every moment is thus seen to be a koan, each instant impossible to categorize or seize, yet overflowing with life’s unending richness, love and compassion.

Amy (Tu es cela) Hollowell
Montreuil, France
Toussaint, 2011

 

SHIKANTAZA SUR LA LIFFEY : UNE LECTURE ZEN D’ULYSSE DE JAMES JOYCE

Ulysse, de James Joyce, publié pour la première fois en 1922, à Paris, dans une édition limitée, est généralement considéré comme l’une des plus grands oeuvres en prose (sinon la plus grande) du 20ème siècle, en langue anglaise. Il s’est imposé comme une oeuvre d’art, un chef-d’oeuvre magnifique de la littérature, un monument moderniste, et pourtant, ainsi que l’écrivit Stuart Gilbert

en 1930 dans son ouvrage de référence :“Bien que Ulysse soit probablement le livre le plus commenté de notre temps, l’oeuvre elle-même ne reste guère plus qu’un nom pour beaucoup.” Quelques décennies plus tard, à l’aube d’un nouveau siècle, dans un monde profondément différent, encore plus matérialiste et immergé dans l’ère de l’information, la remarque de Gilbert est toujours d’actualité, peut-être même encore plus pertinente aujourd’hui que jamais.

Ulysse est le récit d’une journée ordinaire, le 16 Juin 1904 à Dublin. Le “héros” de cette journée ordinaire est un homme ordinaire, Leopold Bloom, et le livre est “l’épopée” de cette journée ordinaire, racontée moment après moment dans sa glorieuse banalité. Bloom, c’est monsieur tout le monde, vivant toute chose. Toute chose, en effet! La méthode de Joyce ne laisse rien de côté ; c’est un spectacle représentant la vie entière. Dans ce récit circonstancié d’une journée de Bloom, tout est égal ; aucun fait n’a plus de valeur qu’un autre pour l’artiste. Portant témoignage de tout ce qui peut surgir, Joyce dépeint ses personnages tels qu’ils sont, avec une parfaite équanimité. “Magnifiques flocons de neige!” s’exclama un ancien maître Zen. “Ils ne tombent pas à un autre endroit!” Ainsi, interrogé par un journaliste qui lui demandait pourquoi il avait fait du père de Bloom un hongrois, Joyce avait répliqué, “Parce que c’en était un!” C’est un portrait de la vie entière, un tout cohérent et structuré, dans lequel chaque détail est vu ainsi qu’il est, exactement à sa place.

On pourrait dire que le prémisse spirituel de ce livre est l’acceptation totale de la vie, une notion fondamentale du bouddhisme. L’auteur de Ulysse, un irlandais d’un âge moyen, exilé au début du 20ème siècle dans une Europe déchirée par la barbarie de la guerre, était en accord avec le troisième patriarche Zen qui écrivait de nombreux siècles auparavant en Chine: “La Voie parfaite n’est pas difficile pour ceux qui sont sans préférences.” Il fait aussi écho à un autre aphorisme de la tradition Zen, “Le dharma est égal, ni haut, ni bas.”

Telle est la voie parfaite de Joyce, celle de Bloom et, de ce fait, l’œuvre de Joyce est éminemment orientale. Cette qualité ordinaire de Bloom est celle de “l’homme véritable sans grade” de Maître Rinzaï. Bloom, comme Walt Whitman, comme chacun d’entre nous, contient des multitudes. Et, comme tout être et toute chose, il est sans limite, flux incessant, s’écoulant sans cesse tel le Liffey à travers Dublin avant qu’il ne se jette dans la mer.

En outre, Joyce fait également voler en éclats nos notions de temps et d’espace, dépeignant l’instant présent de chaque instant d’un certain jour, en une certaine ville. “Tiens-toi au présent, à l’ici, par lequel tout futur s’abîme dans le passé,” dit un autre personnage principal de Joyce, Stephen Dedalus. Et de fait, nous suivons Bloom, Stephen et les autres dublinois à travers leur ville, par un jeudi à la fois unique et ressemblant aux autres. Joyce propose une unité de temps et de lieu, se contentant de nous présenter “l’ici et le maintenant” de chaque “ici et maintenant” toujours changeant: heure après heure, du matin au soir, de la chambre à coucher aux toilettes, de la cuisine au bureau, au cimetière, au bord de mer, au pub, au bordel et au lit de nouveau.

Tel Homère avant lui, Joyce choisit comme sujet l’odyssée d’un héros voyageur. Mais le héros de Joyce est suprêmement humain, exceptionnellement quelconque, manifestant la grandeur ordinaire de la bonté fondamentale. Joyce nous présente l’héroïsme quotidien d’un homme durant un seul jour. Cela nous rappelle Bodhidharma, un homme ordinaire face à l’empereur de Chine: aucun mérite, rien de saint. Joyce aimait faire remarquer que la belle Hélène, à la beauté légendaire, et pour laquelle les grandes armées de la Grèce antique étaient parties en guerre, aurait été bien vieille et ridée au moment où la guerre de Troie se serait finalement terminée.

Comme Shakespeare, Joyce prend l’étoffe de l’expérience ordinaire et, avec ses moyens habiles, tisse ensemble des fils apparemment disparates en une splendide tapisserie de la vie, telle qu’elle est. Chaque épisode comporte un temps correspondant, une couleur, une partie du corps, et les dix-huit épisodes sont reliés par des thèmes communs, des évènements, des pensées, des chansons, des expressions, des images, des objets, des lieux. Et il en est ainsi pour les vies des personnages, tous reliés par des fils évidents et subtils. Ulysse est vivant: l’oeuvre incarne le Corps Unique d’un univers où tout est interdépendant.

Joyce réussit également à unifier le style et le sujet; la “forme” de sa création, l’extrême diversité du langage et des styles employés manifestent la nature de la vie entière, infiniment ouverte et changeante. Les styles littéraires ne sont pas fixes, semblable en cela à nos identités,. L’utilisation révolutionnaire par Joyce du monologue intérieur amène l’intérieur à l’extérieur et l’extérieur à l’intérieur, contribuant à rendre corps et esprit un. Dans sa structure et sa thématique, Ulysse fonctionne en triade, chacun des groupes de trois (épisodes, personnages, etc.) incarnant deux “opposés” et leur unité. Ainsi, dans le tableau de la diversité peint par Joyce se révèle l’unité sous-jacente.

D’innombrables thèmes se déroulent tout au long de Ulysse, et les lectures possibles du chef-d’oeuvre sont aussi nombreuses que ses lecteurs. Il en est ainsi pour toute lecture de Joyce, dont les oeuvres sont toutes des microcosmes infiniment complexes du vaste univers. Néanmoins, nous pouvons dire qu’il y a un thème central dans Ulysse. En effet, tôt dans la journée, Stephen Dedalus se demande, “Quel est ce mot connu de tous les hommes?” puis, à la recherche d’une réponse, il erre à travers la ville du matin au soir, ne voyant pas qu’elle est là, toujours devant lui. Au coeur la nuit, Bloom, dans un acte de vraie compassion, lui donnera finalement la réponse.

 

SHIKANTAZA ON THE LIFFEY : A ZEN READING OF JOYCE’S ULYSSES

James Joyce’s Ulysses, first published in 1922, in a limited edition in Paris, is generally recognized as one of the 20th century’s greatest (if not the greatest) works of prose in the English language. It looms large as a work of art, a magnificent literary masterpiece, a modernist monument, and yet, as Stuart Gilbert wrote

in 1930 in his landmark study of the book, “though Ulysses is probably the most discussed book of our time, the book itself is hardly more than a name to many.’’ Decades later, in a new century and a vastly different, evermore materialist world immersed in the information age, Gilbert’s observation is still relevant, and perhaps even more pertinent today than ever.

Ulysses is the record of one ordinary day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin. The “hero” of this ordinary day is an ordinary man, Leopold Bloom, and the book is the “epic “ of his ordinary day in all its minute and glorious banality. Bloom is everyman living everything. Everything indeed! Joyce’s method leaves nothing out; his is a spectacle of the whole of life. In this all-inclusive account of Bloom’s day, all is equal; one fact has no greater value than another for the artist. Bearing witness to whatever arises, Joyce practices a perfect equanimity in depicting his characters, just as they are. “Beautiful snowflakes!” an ancient Zen master exclaimed. “They don’t fall in another place.” Similarly, when asked by an interviewer why he had made Bloom’s father Hungarian, Joyce replied, “Because he was!” His is a portrait of life as an integrated, coherent whole, in which every detail is seen as it is, in its place.

It can be said that the spiritual premise of the book is an all-encompassing acceptance of life, a fundamentally Buddhist notion. Indeed, an essential practice of Japanese Zen is what is called shikantaza, which is literally “just-sitting” or “only sitting.” It is a practice that uses no meditative support — no mantra, no object of concentration, no technique — and that is characterized by intense, non-discursive awareness. It can be defined simply as bearing witness to the whole of life. The author of Ulysses, a middle-aged Irishman exiled in an early 20th-century Europe torn by the savagery of war, was in accord with the Third Patriarch of Zen, who wrote, many centuries before in ancient China, “The perfect way is not difficult, it just dislikes picking and choosing.” He also echoes another traditional Zen saying: “The dharma is equal, no high, no low.”

Such is Joyce’s perfect way, and Bloom’s, and as such, Joyce’s work is eminently Eastern. The ordinariness of Bloom is that of Master Rinzai’s “true man of no rank.” Bloom, like Whitman, like each of us, contains multitudes. And he, like all beings and things, is without limits, in constant flux, endlessly flowing, like the River Liffey through Dublin to the sea.

Joyce also shatters our limited notions of time and space, depicting the present moment of each moment, on one specific day in one particular city. “Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past,’’ says the other main male character, Stephen Dedalus. Indeed, we follow Bloom, Stephen and their fellow Dubliners throughout their city, throughout a Thursday at once unique and like any other. Joyce gives us unity of time and place, presenting only the here and now of each ever-changing here and now — hour to hour, morning to midday to night, bedroom to toilet to kitchen to office to cemetery to seaside to pub to brothel and back to bed again.

Like Homer before him, Joyce chose as his subject the odyssey of a voyaging hero. But Joyce’s “hero” is supremely human, exceptionally average, manifesting the unprepossessing greatness of basic goodness. Joyce gives us the quotidian heroics of one man in a single day. We are reminded of Bodhidharma, an ordinary man before the emperor of China, proclaiming no merit, nothing holy. Joyce was fond of noting that the magnificently beautiful Helen, over whom the great armies of ancient Greece went to battle, would have been old and wrinkled by the time the Trojan War finally ended.

Like Shakespeare, Joyce takes the stuff of ordinary experience and, with his skillful means, weaves together the apparently disparate threads into an exquisite tapestry of life, just as it is. Every episode has a corresponding time, color, body part — the book is alive, the One Body of the interdependent universe incarnate — and the 18 episodes are interconnected by common themes, events, thoughts, songs, bits of phrases, images, objects, places. The lives of the characters, too, are interconnected in a thousand obvious and subtle ways.

Joyce succeeds, too, in making style and subject one; the “shape” of his creation, and the myriad forms of language and style employed, manifest the endlessly open, ever-changing nature of all of life. Literary styles, like identities, it would seem, are not fixed. Joyce’s revolutionary use of what came to be known as the interior monologue brings the internal outside and the external inside, serving to make body and mind one. In structure and subject, Ulysses functions in triads, each group of three (episodes, characters, etc.) embodying two “opposites” and their unity, like two bases of a triangle and the apex. Likewise, through Joyce’s uncompromising depiction of diversity is revealed the underlying unity.

Innumerable themes wind through Ulysses, and different readers will seize upon different ones. Such is any reading of any of Joyce’s works, which are infinitely complex microcosms of the vast universe. Nonetheless, there is arguably a central theme in Ulysses. Stephen Dedalus asks himself early in the book, “What is that one word known to all men?” and he wanders throughout the city all day seeking the answer, failing to see that it is always there before him. Deep in the night, Bloom, with an act of true compassion, will finally provide him the answer.

***

Joyce’s Ulysses, like Homer’s Odyssey or Dante’s Divine Comedy, can be read as an “allegory of the wanderings of the soul,” a voyage along the path of awakening. In Joyce’s tale, life is an infinitely rich process of moving toward atonement (or at-onement with one’s true being), a return to one’s true nature, an unveiling of one’s original face (before one’s parents were born), a making whole, a being one — intimate — with all things, here and now. To read Ulysses is to journey on the middle way, where we are freed from fixed, limited identities, ideas and positions. It is to see things as they are, naked, open. This is where the relative and the absolute, as the traditional Zen chant goes, fit together like a box and its lid. Yes: This is the Joycean adventure.

 

LA RICHESSE ULTIME DU BODHISATTVA

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

 

THE BODHISATTVA’S ULTIMATE WEALTH

Strictly speaking, the Sanskrit word bodhisattva means enlightenment (bodhi) being (sattva). But the term refers not to a god or a deity or to some exalted state; rather, it points to a way of being in daily life that is accessible to each of us at every moment.

A bodhisattva is simply a person who is truly open to the world because he or she is not focused on the preservation of his or her own “personal” territory. This openness results naturally from the direct experience of “seeing” one’s self and others just as they are, here and now. What is “experienced,” in fact, is the true nature of the self and all things: The existence of a fixed, solid “I” with a limited, or separate, identity is seen for what it is — a delusion. Seeing through this illusion, one is freed from the false “I” that binds and blinds.

One awakens to the boundlessness of his or her being, of all being, and is thus liberated from the futile grasping and endless struggle to be “someone.” The notion of “self-importance” loses its hold. And what naturally follows this realization is the compassionate action of the bodhisattva, who thus seeks to help others experience this same awakening. Although a common definition of the bodhisattva is, “One who puts others before himself,” this does not refer to an altruistic attitude of “denying the self for the sake of the other,” as the religious scholar Huston Smith notes, but rather to the bodhisattva’s realization that self and other are one, that self is other.

This realization and its ensuing action result in what we call peace, for there is no longer “someone” confronting another “someone” in the ubiquitous defense of “his” “territory” (or “self”) against the incessant invasions and aggressions of the “other.” The invasions and aggressions are seen for what they are: blind, misguided attempts to put an end to the pain of living with the doubt, fear, and aggression born of the basic delusion about our being.

Called enlightenment or awakening, the liberating experience of the essential truth of being is neither transcendent nor “extraordinary.” It always arises here, in the thick of daily – that is, “ordinary” — life and thought. It is always right where you are. In 8th-century China, the great Zen master Baso reflected this with his famous statement, “Ordinary mind is the Way.” Through the ages, Zen students have learned that everything –“chopping wood and carrying water,” as the legendary Layman Pang, a contemporary of Baso, said — is the stuff of awakening.

The ideal of the bodhisattva as formulated by Mahayana Buddhism is one of Asia’s most powerful contributions to human thought and spirituality. As the eminent Buddhist scholar Edward Conze noted, the Mahayana movement “owes its success’’ to its teachings about the bodhisattva, which first won over much of Central and East Asia before extending in modern times to the West. What the notion of the bodhisattva offers is an image not of a deity but of a human being, “ideal” yet ordinary, who has the potential to touch the hearts and minds of all, regardless of station or status, whether rich or poor, young or old, man or women, friend or foe, religious adept or layman. The bodhisattva is us: He or she represents our deepest aspirations for what is best in us. And as the bodhisattva’s compassion is by nature boundless, so his action is limitless and ever-changing, capable of adapting to whatever circumstance should arise. The bodhisattva works where he is, with what is at hand, whether it be offering food to the homeless, instructions to the lost or laughter to a train full of bedraggled commuters.

Yet the precise origins of this irrepressible ideal, like those of the Mahayana movement itself, remain, to some extent, uncertain, although the notions of non-duality and commitment to one’s fellow beings clearly go back to the historical Buddha himself, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, a son of the ruling class in the Shakya tribe in the sixth century B.C in northern India. As a young man, the prince was being groomed to follow his father as the tribal leader, living a sheltered life of privilege and material comfort. It is easy to imagine how the burdens of parental expectation and the carefully filtered environment of his father’s home might have contributed to the prince’s increasing restlessness. And so it is not surprising that he one day ventured beyond the confines of his home, stepping away from the small, protected world that was all he had ever known.

What he immediately encountered was the reality of life. He saw sick people, old people and dead people, he saw pain, anxiety and grief as health, youth and life itself slipped inexorably away. Everywhere there seemed to be nothing but endless suffering. Why? he wondered. What did this mean? Was there no end to it? And having now seen such suffering, how could he ever return to his previous existence, isolated from the pain of so many others? Seeking to understand this suffering and to be relieved from it — for he not only perceived it in others, but he experienced it within himself, as well — he decided to seek spiritual guidance. What he found was an ascetic practice — prevalent at the time in India — that required a withdrawal from worldly affairs. The young prince joined a few other adepts and applied himself assiduously to pursuing deep meditative states with little regard for his bodily form and its needs. But he eventually realized that such practices, with their insistence on a separation between ordinary life and some exalted state, did nothing to ease what he felt was life’s basic, gnawing pain, and, to the dismay of his comrades, he left their forest refuge.

Only then did Prince Siddhartha experience what is called his awakening, said to have occurred as he spotted the morning star after a long night of meditation under a fig tree.

At that moment, the young prince realized that the suffering common to all, the shared existential malaise, had a cause: a basic ignorance of the true nature of life, of its impermanence, of the absence of any fixed, isolated identity, whether it be “I” or “you.” Nothing was what we thought it was. He saw that only by putting an end to this ignorance could there be liberation or salvation, only then could there be an “end” to the suffering. Devoting the rest of his life to helping others dispel this ignorance, he became known as Shakyamuni Buddha, the awakened sage of the Shakya tribe, attracting a large following during his lifetime and setting the foundations for one of the world’s greatest, most enduring spiritual traditions. But first, by leaving his meditation seat and moving into the world, the one-time prince and future king became the original bodhisattva.

In pursuing his goal, the bodhisattva makes his way through the world guided by a compass that comprises two inseparable aspects: wisdom and compassion. The two, in fact, are not two, for there cannot be one without the other. “Wisdom” is seeing things just as they are; “compassion” is the action that naturally results from that view. “Seeing things just as they are” means experiencing the true nature of self and other: We are two interconnected parts of one body, or two interdependent expressions of one truth. Having experienced this absolute unity, what naturally arises is compassion: an unconditional concern for the predicament of others, whatever and whomever it may be — your joy is my joy, your grief is my grief — and a desire to relieve their suffering.

One of the vital characteristics of the bodhisattva is his ceaseless immersion in the ways of the everyday world, which is essential, for there is no other possible theater for his compassionate action. Aware of the unity of all beings and things, he knows that he is not fundamentally different from his fellow beings and thus he freely chooses to live as they live, experiencing the same passions and woes. Because he has seen through these passions and woes, however, because he has seen their cause and thus their “emptiness,” the bodhisattva is not limited or ensnared by them. His compassion, therefore, is boundless.

Matrceta, a first-century Indian poet, had this to say in praise of the Buddha, the original bodhisattva: “Although you preferred the delights of solitude,/compassion led you to spend your time among the crowd.” And nearly 2,000 years later, one of the greatest modern Tibetan Buddhist masters, Chogyam Trungpa, astutely framed compassion in the language of contemporary Western materialism, calling it “the ultimate attitude of wealth: an anti-poverty attitude, a war on want.” Compassion, he added, “implies larger-scale thinking, a freer and more expansive way of relating to yourself and the world.” Experiencing this openness, the bodhisattva does not look “beyond” or “ahead,” but starts when and where he is.

OR PUR ET DOUCE CREME : LE VRAI SENS DU BODHIDHARMA

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

 

PURE GOLD AND SWEET CREAM : BODHIDHARMA’S TRUE MEANING

In many traditional Zen stories, an inquiring monk puts a question to a master. What is Buddha? he may ask. Or, What is the primary principle of Buddhism? Or, What is the last word of Zen? One of the more famous versions is, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West ?’’

The words employed by the questioner change, as does the time, place and situation of the exchange. And the answer is always the same. As goes the question, so goes the reply.

What does that mean? It means just what it says, although this meaning cannot be understood. And if it is understood, then that is not the meaning.

This is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West.

Bodhidharma, the son of an Indian king, is said to have brought the Zen teachings from India to China in the 6th century. The successor of the Master Hannyatara, Bodhidharma is considered in our Zen lineage to be the 28th patriarch after Shakyamuni Buddha and the first patriarch of Zen, which originated as Chan in China. There are many legends about Bodhidharma, who founded the famous Shaolin Monastery in northern China. One of the more celebrated stories involves his encounter with the Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty, who invited him to his court in Nanking not long after his arrival in China.

The emperor was a follower of Buddhism and had done much to support it and foster its propagation, building and helping sustain monasteries and temples in his realm. Having heard of this eminent Indian teacher, the emperor summoned him and asked what merit would be his in future lives as a result of his good deeds in this life.

Bodhidharma’s reply was succinct: “No merit.”

The emperor, somewhat taken aback, was nonetheless intrigued by this stranger’s seeming irreverence. What, he wanted to know then, is the essence of this most sacred teaching?

Again, Bodhidharma was relentless.

“Vast emptiness,” he replied, “nothing sacred.”

Nonplussed, Emperor Wu now demanded of this Indian barbarian, “Who is this person confronting me?”

At this, Bodhidharma revealed the essence of the teaching.

“I know not,” he replied.

The emperor, however, did not realize what had been presented. Bodhidharma left. The emperor’s attendant suggested that he should not have let the great master take his leave thus. But although Emperor Wu then sought to retrieve him, he did not return. (It has been suggested by some researchers that the emperor’s daughter followed Bodhidharma and remained to study with him, eventually becoming his successor.)

So what, then, is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China? What did he reveal to the emperor? That is, what is the essence of his teaching?

One of the finest summaries of Zen practice that I know is from a teacher who is not officially a Zen master. It is a statement from Nisargadatta Maharaj, a Vedantist guru who lived in India in the mid-20th century:

“When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that’s wisdom.
When I look outside and see that I am everything, that’s love.
Between the two is where my life turns.”

It tells us what to do (look, inside and outside) and where (here, my life) and what could be called the “goal” (through wisdom and love, living my life).

This is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West. This is the essence of his teachings.

What does it mean, though, “living my life”? What does it mean to see that I am nothing? What does it mean to see that I am everything? Until we experience this nothing that is everything and this everything that is nothing, we have only a universe of ideas. In fact, the universe itself is nothing but an elaborate idea of shapes and forms until we open to its non-idea of non-form.

Half a century ago, some other Zen “foreigners” ventured with the teachings to new lands. The Japanese Zen monks who journeyed to America (and elsewhere in the West) came for the most part intending to serve their compatriots who had moved abroad. They founded temples in which they performed marriages and funerals and dispensed various other religious rites and services to a grateful Japanese community bound by its devotion to the ancient traditions of their culture. The members of these communities were not seeking to develop a regular practice of sitting, however, and they were not adepts hoping to awaken to the true nature of all beings and things.

Soon, however, something unexpected happened: Strangers started knocking at the temple doors. The newcomers were not Japanese, and they were generally not interested in tradition or ceremony. They were not attracted by the aesthetics of Japanese art and culture or by the language and literature. They came not for the exotic and beautiful shapes and forms. They came for what these shapes and forms indicated. They came for the essence of Zen. They came for what Bodhidharma had brought.

What is the meaning of these modern monks coming from the East, we might ask?

Bodhidharma’s Chan had come from China to Japan in the 13th century thanks to the great Zen Master Dogen. But seven centuries later, the essential Zen teachings in Japan had long since been lost to the general public. While Zen ritual remained popular among lay people, the teachings and daily practice of Zen meditation were available only within the restricted confines of monastery walls. In the West, however, there were no Zen monasteries, and thus no walls. Zen was therefore submitted to none of the limits imposed on it by Japanese tradition.

As has occurred throughout the history of Buddhism, Zen was being transformed by its transmission to the West. From its origins in India, Buddhism traveled to China, to Tibet, to Southeast Asia, to Japan and Korea. In each new culture, the forms were altered by the precise situation: the time, the place, the social structures and traditions, the people who transmitted and those who received the teachings and practiced them. The extent of the changes is unfathomable and unending. In more than 2,500 years, this is what has not changed. And this is the very essence of the teaching.

The questions take many forms, the languages differ, the contexts vary, the voices and faces are never the same. Those who begin reading this sentence are not the same as those who are reading it now at its end. And they are not the same as those beginning again with these words in a new sentence. It is this ever-changing flow that remains unchanged.

As Dogen wrote in the final verse of his beautiful Genjokoan, “Because the nature of wind is permanently abiding, the wind of the house of the buddhas makes manifest the earth as pure gold and turns the long river into sweet cream.”

Dogen is inciting us to awaken to the truth of things as they are, to our true nature. What we usually think of as uninteresting and ordinary, even burdensome — the everyday earth of our long-river life —- is in fact the world of absolute beauty and perfection, the pure gold and sweet cream of liberation. This whole everyday life that is yours and mine is the life of the Buddha. This is the true meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West.

LES BOUTS DES DOIGTS EFFLEURANT LEGEREMENT LE SOL

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

Travaux de traduction en cours…

 

FINGERTIPS LIGHTLY TOUCHING THE GROUND

Centuries and centuries ago, Bodhidharma, the founder of what is today known as Zen, famously proclaimed that he was bringing from India to China teachings transmitted outside special texts and rituals, teachings that pointed directly to the human heart. When he was asked by the emperor of China what the essence of Buddhism was, he also famously replied, ‘‘Vast emptiness, nothing holy.’’

He might just as well have said, ‘‘Abundant fullness, everything holy.’’ For Bodhidharma was indicating that fundamentally there is not something “sacred” as opposed to something “profane.” He was baldly stating the truth that every single moment offers us an opportunity to experience the inherent magnificence of the whole of life.

Today, the essence of Zen remains unchanged, pointing us directly to the heart of our lives, whoever we are, wherever we are. And Zen practice is still simply a matter of just sitting down.

In one of the traditional Buddhist images — reproduced in numerous classic statues and paintings — the Buddha is sitting cross-legged, left hand resting palm-up in his lap, right hand hanging down, fingertips lightly touching the ground. This ‘‘earth-touching mudra,’’ as it is called, says it all, perfectly: There is nowhere but here, no moment other than now. Look around! Leaves are falling, clouds are thick and gray, reflected in the rain-splattered street. A bird swoops low. Breath rises, slips away, then rises again. Everything is thus. Everything we need is here, now, this very seat is the ground of “awakening” to the perfect unity and the unfathomable diversity of all beings and things.

This reality has nothing to do with Buddhism, Zen, robes, ceremonies, rituals, relics, the color of your clothing or the cut of your hair, a title, position or attainment. While it manifests in all of these innumerable forms, this reality, this moment, is intrinsically immeasureable, and cannot be reduced to such measures. This reality has everything to do with just sitting down. With whatever comes. In the middle of your life. Fingertips lightly touching the ground.