Work and the 4th Awareness of Dogen

As Freud said,

“Love and work..work and love..

what else is there really?”

He also was overwrought about death. “Why am I looking at Freud?” Because we are living in a heightened awareness of the loss of our work and the fear of a virus (now tagged as the “enemy’) as a  grim reaper stalking the world.

SCREECHING SOUND

 

Really?  WAIT A MINUTE. Freud must have been referring to the personality, those parts he labeled as the id, the ego and superego. Of course. THAT is what Freud was talking about when he talked about WORK and love as all there is. If you happen to agree with Freud, I refer to you to Peggy Lee’s song, Is That All There Is.  

Many believed him and many still do or at the very least are influenced by his elucidation of the “personality” of the 20th century man. The personality that swings on the oscillations of good and bad, like and dislike. The personality that craves and is never satisfied. And suffers much.

A person who comes out of two wars inevitably looks to the future for something better. The post-war babies and their children took up the banner: GO TO WORK YOUNG MAN. I say man because in those days (and even now) the banner was raised for a young man and women needed to go back to the kitchen as housewives and mothers.

But women, especially educated women heard the same message: GO TO WORK. But it wasn’t until the postwar 50’s and 60’s that Betty Friedan spoke about the Feminine Mystique. And what did that mean for women and work? It meant dragging the kitchen sink into the world of business work. But more precisely i offer the following.

In a nutshell:

Betty Friedan author of  “The Feminine Mystique”, the ground-breaking book that actually started the women’s movement, coined the term feminine mystique to refer to the unfulfilled feeling felt by educated housewives of  the 50s and 60s. Friedan believed that such women had lost their identity and sense of self to a life centered around husband, children, and home maintenance, and little else. The feminine mystique was a trap that had caught American women who were afraid to address the problem for fear of being perceived as “unfeminine”.

 

Don’t jump the gun here and think I am going to go on and on about women’s liberation or to state the obvious that the world is still a man’s world.  Well the world of work is a man’s world.  (i.e., a woman has not yet been a US president) but I am not going to go any further with the material world sufferings for all people.

NO. I am asking you to come along with me to look at WORK without the gender-identity mess. Just look at WORK as Dogen’s awareness of diligence with a twist upwards towards the higher Self. Yes. I am going to twist WORK upward away from the id, the ego, and super-ego as work needs to be realized beyond the pundits of the past. To offer a direction, a spiritual direction to Peggy Lee.

Let me go on.

If I remember correctly, Peter Drucker, the one-time guru of business management, wrote that work, that is, work in business is the “new” church where the young man would attain self-fulfillment. I have to say again, Really? Perhaps these ideas have made ministers and priests of every ilk see their work as a profession of self-fulfillment and not as a selfless service to the Truth of the Divine source. One must ask, who is then looking after the spiritual life of the world? Not the psychological life – the spiritual one.

Ah, but most of us have been raised and fed these ideas since childhood. Yes, that is true. Grow up. Get an education. Get a job. Make a lot of bucks. Ta Da. But this is not the road to freedom. We continuously forget the material world is the world of suffering.

Drucker, still considered a guru who changed the face of American business, changed the face of spiritual life all over the world. His ideal says, BE AN ASSET or often said as BE SOMEBODY, somebody important, rich, with power and influence.

Really? An asset? Raise your hands if you want to be an asset?

Drucker, an Austrian born American, set forth the ideals of business that included seeing the worker as an asset and not a liability. Do you think of yourself as an asset? Here’s a few definitions of the word ASSET.

 

a useful or valuable thing, person, or quality.

property owned by a person or company, regarded as having value and available to meet debts, commitments, or legacies.

 

And my favorite:

military equipment, such as planes, ships, communications and radar installations, employed or targeted in military operations.

 

It is not my intention here to go into the lengthy development of business in America but to point out what I consider salient ideas and concepts that have influenced how we view ourselves in relationship to work and how these ideas cause us to suffer, especially when work is being threatened by this pandemic. The roots of work are deep and cherished.

Now, ask yourself, do you measure your self in terms of usefulness, utility, a value-added being?

You probably do. And you probably measure yourself and others using these or some semblance of these ideas. Let me remind you in spiritual practice measuring disturbs the mind; comparisons lead you astray. But we need to forgive ourselves and others – we’ve been trained to be an asset. Useful. And this training is pretty long in being the goal of human life. If you’re not an asset – well, you’re a liability or a handicap or even a burden. Something perhaps to be discarded – pushed aside; tossed aside. Gotten rid of…

One has to ask if the world wars played a significant role in the exponential growth of business as a place to fulfill one’s life. Is it? Was it? I feel confident enough to say the wars did influence our need to seek something better – to rebuild a Europe that was decimated by the wars and yes, to replace the church with the office of self-fulfillment. After these wars people were weary and disappointed in what they believed to be God. The world was broken. But what people didn’t know is that the world is not the place to see and find and discover truth, a big T truth.

Let me pull these ideas together. Just to make them a bit crisper. Sharpen them up.

Freud’s influence on the structure of  “personality,” the internal world of the psyche felt work and love was all there was to life. Take a pause there. Take this idea and add Drucker’s postwar spangles about self-fulfillment at work as the new church and his coining the term knowledge-workers and try to consider yourself as immeasurable based on spiritual awareness. Pretty damn hard to get free of all that construction in your mind.

But there is some luck…and of course truth.

We are lucky to have outlived Freud’s poorly substantiated psychoanalysis. The pandemic’s collapse of the mercantile and governmental systems which highlights the uncertainty and impermanence of all that the world has built is a spiritual jackpot.  Really? YES! Really.

Fortunately, all of us can take the backward step towards the light of transcendence against the stream of measuring the personality and seeing utility as the temple. and self-fulfillment as the goal. We can get free of the personality…but I digress. This piece is about WORK.

So post-war America began to perceive women a bit different since they actually did work outside the home during those miserable war years. A taste of the grass makes a thief of the beast, as my mother would say. Women wanted to work and Betty Friedan began to beat that drum. Don’t get snookered by that feminine mystique ideal of being stuck at home. GO to Work. So women did go to work but took along the household of children with them.

And add to all this…Drucker’s success in business management and his heralding that WORK fulfills us and we are bound to be nuts when we are asked to shelter-in-place.

WHEW! No wonder so many are really uptight about being sheltered-at-home given a 14.7% unemployment rate which apparently exceeds the unemployment rate of the Great Depression.

SO………….we are up against quite a few ideals here. WORK is essential; especially WORK where one makes a buck or two. Survival is an instinctual attribute of all life so we are going to feel threatened. Unless…and maybe until…we begin to see through these ideas of personality and work as fulfillment. You guessed it. The ideas rope the instinct and we are caught at the most primitive level.

Imagine the sound of scratching a spinning vinyl record as a way to cut off this path to frustration, depression, anxiety and misery. We have to stop spinning in our made-up personality, stop measuring ourselves according to a comparison as an asset or a utility and turn to a higher ground.

I offer two teachings to help us to do just that.

 

The first one is from a 21st century Chan priest and the second one is from a 12th century Chan monastic cook. See for yourself.

Here’s what the 21st century priest tells us.

From NOW in this body,

WORK is devotion –

resting on concentration and focus –

a steady hand – a focused eye –

a wise, loving mind –

As one puts together a sand mandala –

slow & careful, not looking to do anything –

not looking to finish anything – not looking to keep anything.

To give this offering in perfection of spirit.

Take the stitches out.

 

This 21st century priest points us to WORK as a devotion; not as an asset, or to become somebody. NO. WORK is devotion. Get up. And offer WORK with concentration and focus; without wanting any reward. Everything you do – all the actions of your life are devotion and this devotion includes what most of separate out as work.

How might you do that?

Diligently as the 12th century cook tells us. It is an unselfish prayer to the Supreme Self by whatever name you know. It is a chant to be chanted daily.

And here is what the 12th century monastic cook explains.

Altar Opening:
In gratitude I acknowledge all tenzos gone before me, after me, and with me now.

I request their help, offering incense to them and Buddha.

 

Pay full attention to all work,

the Way-Seeking Mind is actualized by rolling up your sleeves.

Attend to every aspect yourself so that it will naturally turn out well.

Put things that naturally go on a high place onto a high place

and those that would be most stable on a
low place onto a low place.

In this way stability is established.

Keep your mind on your

work and do not throw things around carelessly.

Do not lose even one grain of rice.

All ingredients are the same.

Do not let your attitude be influenced by the quality of
ingredients.

As Master Dogen asked the COOK from Ayuwang, “

What is practice?”

The COOK replied:

“There is nothing in the world hidden from it.”

May all beings benefit from the merits of this practice.

 

 

There is a Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” As I ponder this 1st quarter of the 21st century I see the truth in this pandemic. The world has come in upon us and we choose to see all that is going on as the Chinese say, a curse or an unspoken boon. For those who follow Freud, Drucker and Peggy Lee; it appears to be a curse. For those who see the Way, all that comes into our life is a boon. And this one is a jackpot.

 

Don’t give up. Keep going.

This is the top of the mystical peak.

Humming Bird

 

Author: FaShi Lao Yue & Reverend Lao dizhi Shakya

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

 

 

Lyrics to Is that all there is 

Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller. 1969 I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire. I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me up in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement. I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames. And when it was all over I said to myself, “Is that all there is to a fire?”

Is that all there is, is that all there is If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing Let’s break out the booze and have a ball If that’s all there is

And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to the circus, the greatest show on earth. There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads. And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle I had the feeling that something was missing. I don’t know what, but when it was over, I said to myself, “Is that all there is to a circus?” Is that all there is, is that all there is If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing Let’s break out the booze and have a ball If that’s all there is

Then I fell in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world. We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other’s eyes. We were so very much in love. Then one day, he went away. And I thought I’d die — but I didn’t. And when I didn’t I said to myself, “Is that all there is to love?”

Is that all there is, is that all there is If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.

I know what you must be saying to yourselves. If that’s the way she feels about it why doesn’t she just end it all? Oh, no. Not me. I’m in no hurry for that final disappointment. For I know just as well as I’m standing here talking to you, when that final moment comes and I’m breathing my lst breath, I’ll be saying to myself, Is that all there is, is that all there is If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing Let’s break out the booze and have a ball If that’s all there is

 

Quotes

Definitions

 

An Encouraging Word or Two

 

Happy Birthday & A Feast Day 

 

This past week we celebrated the day considered to be the birth day of Shakyamuni Buddha and the feast day of Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic. Many celebrated and recognized Julian of Norwich as a Saint, someone who is wholly virtuous and the designated birthday of Shakyamuni Buddha, an awakened, transcendent being.

Both holy days are a way to recognize these figures as worthy of regard. To celebrate their spiritual vigor. To remember the work can be done by us.

*****

During a time when nations are teetering on collapse from within, these celebrations give us an opportunity to stop and consider there is more to life than meets the eye. More to life than the constant barrage of injustice that is happening in plain sight. More to life than suffering. As stated in Hamlet:

 

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science]

 

There are those among us from the past and present who have lived and do live remarkable spiritual lives that uplift us on our journey. They represent the ideals of spiritual practice for they are those among us who give everything in order to discover the Truth. They encourage us to do the same by being ordinary, real people who become extraordinary,  transcendent people of the Truth. It takes fearless courage and big-open-handed generosity.

As the shelter-in-place continues, we need to remember to look up to those of us who have given everything, their whole life to relieve suffering through a spiritual journey. Suffering, for both Shakyamuni and Julian of Norwich was the cause of their exquisite, spiritual lives. Both sought the Truth after a recognition of suffering in the world, in their own life. Each one set out on a journey – an interior journey to find the relief and remedy to the ever-present mash-up of the samsaric world.

There is no doubt that suffering in the world is in plain sight on many, many levels. Shakyamuni and Julian are an encouragement to each one of us – to see the force of suffering which is pervasive and evident, as a cause for us to set out, to begin and continue our journey for freedom from the unreliable, impermanent world. And to do it with fearless courage and big-hearted generosity. To vow, not to give up and when we do to return and keep going.

 

Hip Hip Hooray!

Hip Hip Hooray!

For Shakyamuni.

For Julian.

For you & me.

Humming Bird

 

Author: FaShi Lao Yue

Image credits

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com

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Zen Proustian Cake by Rev. Yao Xin Shakya

                 

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory as this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me.

Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?…

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea. -Proust

 

Proust in his ambitious novel, Remembrance of Things Past may, at least in this famous passage about eating a cake, resemble the curious activity of Siddhartha Gautama at the Plowing Festival. In biting into the sweet madeleine he bites into a morsel so familiar he enters a delicate ecstasy from a remembrance of the past. He suggests that all of us have, at some basic level, the intuition to transcend the material world. Proust’s recollection of eating a piece of madeleine cake points to an undeveloped insight and skill that reaches out across time and space through ordinary crumbs.

Siddhartha Gautama, when near death from six years of austere asceticism recalls a thing from the past perhaps his first bit of this greater nature. It was a remembrance of a time where he sat under a tree in his youth and looked within himself. This memory, this remembering seems to be a turning point, a point where a simple, spontaneous energy, though dormant, became active.

 

Siddartha’s Story

The story goes that when Buddha was a child, he attended an annual celebration called the Plowing Festival. As often happens to children, he was very bored with it all, and so went and sat under a tree. There, he spontaneously entered into profound meditation through observing his breath. At the end of the festival his parents discovered him beneath the tree, roused him from his inner absorption, and took him home. He never repeated what he had done that day beneath the tree, but he never forgot it.

After years of practicing incredible austerities and yoga, Siddhartha found himself without true realization. At this point he vows to sit beneath a tree and to remain there until he attained enlightenment. But how would he do that? What should be his practice, since everything he had learned in so many years had proven useless?

Under the tree he recalled his childhood meditation at the Plowing Festival. “Might that be the way to enlightenment?” he wondered. It seemed unthinkable that the simple, spontaneous practice of his long-ago childhood could be a small bite into Nirvana. But something from deep within him spoke, saying: “That is the only way to enlightenment.”

The only way to enlightenment is what the old patriarchs call, “turning the light within.” It is there where we find the way; it was the way Siddhartha found. The future Buddha facing his own suffering remembered that simple, very simple thing he did so naturally as a young boy.

He knew the extremes of luxury and austere ascetics had failed to awaken him. Near the end of his six years of austere and arduous ascetics, nearing physical collapse, he heard a group of girls pass by playing a lute. He thought,

“When the strings of the lute are loose, its sound won’t carry. When the strings are too tight, it breaks. When the strings are neither too loose nor too tight, the music is beautiful. I’m pulling my strings too tightly. I cannot find the Way to Truth living a life of luxury or with my body so weak.” -Buddhist Studies

A young girl, Sujata, seeing him fall and faint from weakness presented him with a bowl of some milky rice. There was no more struggle in the two extremes and he was open to just accepting what was given. And at that moment he entered the beginning of what might be called his authentic spiritual path.

That is Gautama’s story and it is a wonderful story. It is a marvelous story. It helps us to remember the requirements of the Zen path; honesty with the self and the world. Gautama’s recollection is a Proustian cake available to each one of us. He recalled what he knew and cultivated it on the path to enlightenment. His realization shows the importance of cause and effect, the deepness of our relative being, and our changing nature. He was willing to change and let go which requires humility and confidence.

When we remember how fragile and impermanent everything is we have a possibility for faith in the “Real Nature;” what the old patriarchs call “Buddha Nature” or more simply, “True Mind”. We also have the possibility to change and be humbled by change as Siddhartha was.

These two realizations, the relative, impermanent nature of all things are two wings of the same “iron bird.” This relative, impermanent being is included in “Buddha Nature;” we don’t need to look for any “Nirvanic realization” outside this “Samsaric world.” Siddhartha heard a lute under a tree and awakened.

Proust’s character, who recalls in a fragmentary moment the seed of transcendent intuition, much like Siddhartha, encourages us that realization is in the here and now. In Chinese Buddhism, we talk about having faith in the Buddha Amitabha and the Pure Land. The All Enlightened Amitabha, is no other than our “Buddha Nature;” his Pure Land is no other than our Mind when it is pure, when it doesn’t dwell in separation with the world. There is nothing magical yet, it is a mystical path.

As we shine the light sincerely on our human condition and develop a strong faith in Buddha Nature, we realize the importance of accord with all Dharmas, with the world. It is like the Buddha Shakyamuni agreed to accept a simple bowl of milky rice from a young girl. All moments of life can be a moment of harmony, a moment of expression of what the middle path is when the mind is pure.

Harmony with the expressions of the moment is, like the young Siddhartha, to simply sit and turn our energies within. These energies, which are usually externalized to the world in distraction after distraction, are nothing fancy. They are thoughts, desires and images that we firmly but kindly harmonize naturally with our Body-Breath-Mind. It is like the following experience of a Zen priest who goes to visit his seriously ill mother in hospital.

 

Yao Xin Shakya’s Story

I was alone looking at the pained face of my mother. She gave so much of her life energy for me, for my life. Although she was asleep I saw the agony she suffers. It was hard to see, hard to know.

Suddenly, she woke up.

I remember her eyes looked directly at me, as though she looked through me. I couldn’t look her in the eyes, so I began talking to hide my discomfort. At one point, she smiled and looked outside. I did the same. We sat together watching a magpie play with the wind. It lasted at least five minutes; five minutes of total silence, of total presence.

Looking together in the same direction I had the most authentic moment I ever had with my mother. At one point, she looked at me and smiled a big, wondrous smile. I didn’t say anything, but I knew I just had a wonderful moment of truthfulness, a simple and deep moment far from any of my preconceived habits or desires.

I never before felt so close to my mom. I felt as though I met her under the Bodhi tree in the hospital. This moment with my mother was my Zen Proustian cake, my bite of enlightenment.

 

Our Bodhi Tree

No matter what Buddhist technique we use, our point is to be one-pointed and to realize our True Mind. Just like the ascetic Gautama, we are able to find a Bodhi Tree. We decide to sit under it and never get up until we find enlightenment within. We allow impermanence to penetrate to the point we are humbled by it, we live by the precepts, and firmly trust our Buddha Nature.

Our Bodhi Tree every day is in every moment, but our ideas and wishes and desires may block the true mind. We return to one-pointed, single-mindedness, one breath at a time to enter the Pure Land. It’s available to those who attend to it, one moment at a time.

 

Humming Bird

 

Author: FaShi Yao Xin Shakya

Image credits: Madeleine Cakes

ZATMA is not a blog.

 If for some reason you need elucidation on the teaching,

please contact editor at: yao.xiang.editor@gmail.com