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To What….Do You Ascribe Things? by Fashi Lao Yue

Old Moon by Yao Xiang Shakya


When something goes your way, do you ascribe it to your skills….to luck….to good fortune? When something turns sour, do you ascribe it to your childhood….to misfortune….to bad luck?

In any situation we tend to ascribe things to a source which is often something about our small self or some aspect of the material realm. Once we find the culprit we make some vow. When we make an error, for example, we vow never to do it that way again. This approach is common and workable on the material level, but most spiritual seekers recognize it as coming from a dualistic, functional understanding of life. And it tends towards blaming and shaming either the self or the other when something goes awry or boasting and tooting one’s own horn when things go well. Neither of which is recommended on a spiritual path.

Spiritual practice is daily practice with pots and pans, sheets and pillows, toothpaste and brush, with traffic and travel, with making a mess and cleaning up, with getting up and sitting down, with walking and talking, with changing diapers and putting on a coat, with sweeping and mopping, with paying bills and mailing them, with eating and sleeping, with laughing and crying, with giving and receiving, with asking and responding….and on and on practice goes.

And what makes it spiritual? Knowing that nothing is left out of practice, that nothing in the world is without Buddha nature (God, Brahma, G-D, the source of all things, the god with no name and form). It is not a belief, it is a practice with all things knowing not to pick and choose, love and hate. Spiritual seekers know practice with full attention to each thing we meet is the Way; without letting our attitude be influenced by our ego which wants to stamp things with some measurement of quality, i.e., bad, poor, fair, good, better, great. It is to treat things, whatever they are, as coming from the whole (holy). Nothing is left out. Nothing is hidden.

It is simple but it requires effort and determination to pay attention. Many times when students came here to sit, they kicked and threw the meditation cushions around. When instructed not to do so, they often got angry or felt put out or argued. All their backtalk showed was they needed to train to give their full attention to everything that came into their life. To do so requires effort and determination.

When we ascribe things to the Way, we are more likely to give full attention to it, and to actualize the Way Seeking mind right where we are. We can call the practice love or emptiness, but what matters is not the name or form, but that we no longer ascribe things to the self or to the other.

In the case of kicking and throwing cushions, the student often ascribed things as a personal affront or unnecessary. Again all this backtalk showed was the student needed training to relinquish the mind that takes things personally or feels put upon or wants things their own way and not the Way of a spiritual seeker.

Practice requires we meet what comes into our life without the ascribed self that takes credit or gives blame.
The material world is a world of measuring between all the opposites; it is a split view of the world. When we split the world we remove heaven from earth or the other way round, earth from heaven.

Our third Chan patriarch, Seng Ts’an in his poem Faith in Mind says it clearly….

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
Everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

He goes on to say….

If you wish to see the truth,
Then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
Is the disease of the mind.

All his wisdom takes us back to practice. Practice without love or hate, without picking and choosing, knowing everything is Buddha (God, G-d, undying, without name and form). Give full attention to all the work of your life right where you are.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
Nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things and such erroneous views
Will disappear by themselves.

Nothing is hidden from practice.

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