Joshu Sasaki Roshi died yesterday, at the age of 107, but the the problems in his sangha, Rinzai-ji, will not die with him — because, as I wrote in this post, the problem was never about Sasaki.
In the great TV series The Wire, Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin has a habit of randomly asking his police officers: “Where are you right now?” When he asks, he expects them to be able to give their precise location - the street corner or address, the floor of the building, the compass direction they’re facing.
It’s a good question for the Zen practitioner, especially if applied to more than geographic location.
Where are you? Who are you? What makes it “here”? What makes it “you”?
Image: Ryan McGuire
I read accounts of people meditating who notice a bird, butterfly, moth, or other pleasant creature (not a rat or cockroach) and decide that it’s a deceased loved one visiting in another form. This kind of magical thinking seems to me to deny the suchness of both the dead person and the living creature. When we project a personal, self-centered story onto life as it is, we miss the birdness of the bird, bird-nature, butterfly-nature, moth-nature, the Buddha nature of what is.
The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won’t let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away, but they’re not punishing you, they’re freeing your soul. If you’re frightened of dying and you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. If you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth.