Saturday, June 11, 2016

Garbage and Roses

"What is real remains."

A principle text of Buddhism, the Prajnaparamita "Heart" Sutra, perhaps the principle text for all practitioners on the way is also called "the Heart of Understanding." This text is central to many and universal in its wisdom. It traces its roots within the Buddhist Canon back 2,000 or more years. Surely other traditions at that time had some access to it, and other like teachings.
Technology may have changed over that time, but the Heart, or Perfect Understanding Sutra in its reflection of human nature and practice has not. Despite the passage of time, it remains a reality.

For me a student of the Way, and a learner of the teaching, I have used other study texts to understand and learn more; however, the best one I have used whether in Zendo or on my own, is the 1988 translation and commentaries written by Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding.
 It is written with emphasis to make the teaching more accessible to the Western mind. By writing the commentary on Garbage and Roses, he seeks to further our understanding of emptiness. "To be empty does not mean nonexistence... Emptiness is the ground of everything... if I am not empty, I cannot be here [in this moment] writes the philosopher, Nagarjuna... Empty is quite a positive concept... because you are there, I can be here."

"Neither defiled nor immaculate"

"Defiled or immaculate. Dirty or pure. These are concepts we form in our minds... A beautiful rose is pure, immaculate." A garbage can is dirty, evil, rotten. These are experiences that may fill our mind with the idea of the word.
Looking more carefully, more deeply, you will see that the rose is born out of the garbage. The garbage is composted, and forms the base of humus for the soil that the rose needs to survive. Organic gardeners know that in a few months, plant matter, and natural things, decay into compost. Thus roses and garbage inter-be.
They need each other! Likewise, the Buddhist teaching of the human Genesis is very short and simple, yet it is very deep:

This is, because that is. This is not, because that is not. This is like this, because that is like that.

Meditate a while upon this and you will see more clearly the inter-being of things. Sometimes, we in our lives, are like that because this is like that. We all inter-be. So, "we must be very careful. We should not imprison ourselves in concepts. We can only inter-be. We cannot just be." Only through the eyes of inter-being can we be freed of suffering, can we find forgiveness and blessings.

For example, many of us want to "be good." But we forget that part of good is evil. For without evil, what then is the good? "You cannot be good alone,' Thich Nhat Hanh states, 'you cannot hope to remove evil, because thanks to evil, good exists and vice versa...
So Buddha needs Mara to take the evil role so Buddha can be a Buddha. Buddha is empty; Buddha is made of non-Buddha elements... Buddha needs Mara in order to reveal himself... When you perceive reality in this way, you will not discriminate against the garbage for the sake of the rose."

Saint Paul needed Saint Matthew to become Saint Paul, who himself initially was a vicious persecutor of Christians, yet through a vision, and contacts with the disciples, with Saint Matthew the Evangelist, Paul (Saul) became transformed into one of the early Fathers of the Christian Church. Without Saint Matthew and others to open his eyes, like Mara and Buddha, he would not be Saint Paul of the Bible.
 Clearly that is because this is; it is the work of inter-being that we may look deeply to perceive that. The Feast of Saint Paul is June 29 in the Roman Church Calendar.

"So do not hope that you can eliminate the evil side. It is easy to think that we are on the good side, and that the other side is evil. But wealth is made of poverty, and poverty is made of wealth." And if we look very carefully into the world, into ourselves, we may see that we suffer, we bear the pains of all.

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