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Singing and Building Our Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage PART TWO

It is hard for us in the 21st century to image building a grass hut up in a far-off mountain range. A place we would call home! It is unthinkable. We love all our conveniences – running water, heat when it is cold, air conditioning when it is hot and every imaginable device from stoves to air cookers to electric light. We want an endless array of amenities and deem them essential.

But less we forget – we are spiritual seekers, much like Shitou Xiqian an 8th century Zen Master. We are seeking realization. Maybe we are not ready to give up indoor plumbing, yet. But we who seek liberation from suffering surrender our passions and demands. At the very least, we practice with the hardships of this modern era in the same light as Shitou. The light of no value. That is the light that builds the grass hut.

“Nothing of value” is a universal knowledge of spiritual surrender. It is often said and perhaps over-used as “letting go.” We let go of any iota of self-attainment, self-achievement, or self-praise and gain. Another way to understand this universal knowledge is to see and know it as “emptied out.” It is what the Great Awakened Masters did. They were dispassionate and lived a renunciate life.

Shitou is an exemplar of dispassion and renunciation. He had built a temple. Disciples came. And, yet… legend says he built a grass hut right next door to his temple… then. moved into it, alone. Moved into a grass hut he built where there was nothing of value.

The GRASS ROOF HERMITAGE is both a place in the external world and a description of Shitou’s internal destination. It is a solitary place where he eats, relaxes, and enjoys a nap where there is nothing to measure or tote up or evaluate and appraise.

When the hut was completed, fresh weeds appeared.

Now it’s been lived in covered by weeds.

Once the hut is finished, fresh weeds appear. Once he lives in it, he sees that it is covered by weeds. We know that Shitou accepts the immediate change in the hut without complaint and with acceptance. As the Song goes on to explain.

The person in the hut lives here, calmly, not stuck inside, outside, or in-between.

NO regrets. NO worries about his new digs getting worn down by time and use. NO worries about the property value. Or the neighbors. Or how comfortable it will be or how long it will last. Or resale profits. Shitou is aware of the nature of the world as being of no value and impermanent.

He is not caught up in where he will live and how much it is worth. He does not get attached. He is not a worldly man. He does not love the things and places of the world.

Places worldly people live, he doesn’t live.

Realms worldly people love, she doesn’t love.

Neither the external desires for things nor internal desires of feelings plague him. Shitou knows all he needs to know about the world. He knows that the hut is small, and he knows all the vagaries of the mind including passions and attachments are in this hut. There is nothing special about the hut – in the sense it prevents all the suffering of desires, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and a self-centered consciousness. NO. Building the hut does not stop the world because Shitou he does not go there. Nor does he go towards the mental realms of his mind forms.

 In ten feet square an old man illumines forms and their nature.

Whatever is in the world is in the small hut because Shitou is in the small hut. The light of Shitou is the same light we have. The difference is he used the light to illumine forms and their nature in a ten feet square grass hut. We are to sing the same song and illumine forms, so we know their nature.



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