One of the dozen or so stories Roshi [Katagiri] repeated most often points to a door in the rock wall. A monk saw Huangbo bowing and challenged him saying, “You always say, ‘Not seeking Buddha, not seeking Dharma, not seeking Sangha’ [i.e., not seeking Buddha, not seeking Buddha Teaching, not seeking Buddha community]. When you bow, what is it you’re seeking?” Huangbo said, “Not seeking Buddha, not seeking Dharma, not seeking Sangha~one always bows in just this manner.”
*Dosho Port. Keep Me in Your Heart a While: The Haunting Zen of Dainin Katagiri.
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Interesting this story, for possibly the most important rite of entering a Buddhist path officially is Taking Refuge. This shelter is precisely in Buddha, Buddha Teaching, Buddha community. So, why not seek that one takes refugee in? This would be like to a priest saying to his congregation, "Come to the altar for the body and blood, but no seeking Christ." Or like an evangelical pastor saying, "Yes, let us worship together, but do not seek God, do not seek Bible teaching, do not seek church." On the surface, none of this may make sense. That is the point, this is not meant to make sense to the rational ego attached to spiritual performance, certainly not to anyone hiding behind such.
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By not seeking, Port says Roshi Katagiri was pointing to a doorless door in a rock wall. Port speaks of this rock as fear of death, of dissolution. For him, specifically, he refers to the sign of death in bowing. He had resisted bowing, but did it for it was a rite within his community. Port says when bowing downward, horizontal to the ground, this implies dissolution of self. To say, then, "I do not want to bow," is saying, "I do not want to let go clinging to this I, me, mine, myself," and, finally, "I refuse to accept I will die." The paradox in the sign of bowing is, as Port remarks - Bowing is ... wide open. So, when bowing, you are practicing self-abnegation, at the same time you are opening up. Opening up is at-one with dying. When bowing, you are inviting life in, all of it, everyone, everything, and even the self that does not want to die.
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living in a cocoon
everything living inside the heart
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One need not assume a moral message here. A bow is a bow. Some bow. Some do not. Yet, if one does not bow with body, one must bow with life, or die a death not blessed death.
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I bow often. Entering meditation bowing. Leaving meditation bowing. Bowing to others, at times. Bowing to Nature, at times. I find bowing to express humbleness and cultivate humbleness, find bowing to express respect, even reverence, and to foster the same. I bow, at times, not wanting to. I bow, at times, wanting to. To bow is to bow, not needing a particular feeling. One is doing well when bowing and not wanting to bow, as well as when bowing and wanting to bow.
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How do we bow? We bow to bow. We just bow. We do not turn bowing into a means to an end. We live to live. We do not wake up with a huge purpose hanging over our heads, some big mandate. We get up, we live. At night, we go to sleep, we live. Why do we live? We live. What is our purpose? No purpose. We live. Do we live to please God? No, if there is a God, we could logically conclude God, who would have given us life, created us to live that life. My question, "Why is that not enough?" And, no, I do not live for others, I live inviting them to live with me. That is so different from living for others. So easily the self decides to be purposeful, so to validate itself by serving others, then feeling righteous about serving others. Often, in serving others, we are using them, and we call that love.
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So, see, if we just bow in spiritual practice, or do any other act or ritual or rite, what have we done? What we do in our spiritual practice is to be integrated with life as practice, life is our principal practice. We can bow in many ways of goodwill toward others, as well as enjoying the blessing of this precious human life given us. We can live bowing, when awake and asleep. We can do all this simply for such is the thing to do in any one moment. We do not need to turn it into a huge agenda. And, in this bowing, we are relaxing the self-guarding and are opening to the world around us, not simply other humans but animal life, plant life, all seen and unseen. We find this a most natural way to live, and we can embrace those times when we feel we simply cannot keep the heart open. That, too, is part of the journey. We can bow to our feeling unable to bow. We find in this bowing life, we do not lose ourselves, we do not become merely a blob of oneness with others. We find ourselves as an expression of that oneness, an expression not negated by oneness, but made possible in oneness by oneness. Now, is that not kind of weird, that in dying, we live? Now, we live, and can live with others, inviting them into the very bow by which we risk being vulnerable. Then, we may see, there was never any risk at all, only love in a most natural way desiring to open itself simply to love and enjoy the love of others who bow with us in one bow. For when we bow together, we become a single bow. And this bowing and bow is not religious, not spiritual, only bowing and a bow.
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Now, you might ask, "What if a purpose separate from life arises and is attached to life?" Well, just bow to that, also.
*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.
The Sacred in Me bows
to the Sacred in You