October 2nd, 2011

Shih Shu: "nothing to do; nothing to lose"

"nothing to do; nothing to lose"
by Shih Shu
(1660? - 1740?) Timeline

English version by
James H. Sanford

Original Language

Buddhist : Zen / Chan
17th Century

"nothing to do; nothing to lose"
among the flowers, darkening clouds
above the pines, a sinking sun
spring deepens with urgent birdcalls
autumn declines to the cries of insects
dawn: darkness wrapped in darkness
this, the end of every quest.

Shih Shu: "nothing to do; nothing to lose"

Late Morning, October 2, 2011 -- A Shrine: Part I Gateway to the Infinite

So much went on inside the uneventfulness that was this morning that i cannot put it all into one entry.  I have never thought to make our home a sacred place or to locate or create sacred spaces inside it.  My computer sits on a desk that also contains objects of special meaning representing Asia.  In a bookshelf over my left shoulder are faux Southwest Indian bowls and other objects.  (For some strange reason, among them are icons of the Russian Saint Siluon.and Mary and her infant.)  In the corner of the living room that was intended as my "shrine" is a small assortment of Tibetan Buddhist devotional objects, purchased years ago in support of Tibetan political liberation.  These places have for some reason, never been the venues of my meditation.

But in my backyard there is a tree,  I'm sorry that i can say little more about it.  I do not know its species (possibly some kind of oak) or its age (probably about 15 years)  Like most things and persons in my environment i have never made any effort to know about it, let alone know it.  But about two years ago i became aware of another tree and was so fascinated by its treeness that i have begun to  make friends with other trees, especially the four in my yard.  (The shrubs, flowers and grasses will have to wait, i make friends slowly and one at a time)

My place to read and think, when i am not in front of the computer, is my chair at the table just inside the patio door.  When i turn my head, the tree fills my vision and i stare at it or contemplate it for seconds or minutes, sometimes for many minutes as i did this morning.  It stood there, absolutely still, as if waiting for an audience before beginning its performance.  It was still for what seemed an inordinately long time.  Then some of the leaves began to flutter.

Usually the fluttering begins at the periphery, where leaves are most exposed to the breeze and where their movement is most likely to be noticed.  Today the extremities of the tree remained still and the movement began in the middle.  Almost in the center of the tree, there is a hole in the dense foliate, almost circular, maybe thirty inches in diameter, through which the sky can be seen.  But it seemed this morning to be a different sky, a deeper sky, that somehow penetrated beyond the stratosphere.  And the leaves which bordered this circle seemed to beckon.  I, of course, did not follow.

I have had at least one other experience that i identify as similar.  Maybe twenty years ago, Dianne and i were at Mass.  It was night and the Church was lit by candles.  We knelt during the consecration and as i stared at a flickering and melting candle, i felt my body start to flicker and melt with it.  I felt my knees sink into the kneeling bench, then into the floor.  I panicked and violently withdrew my attention from the candle.  Everything immediately returned to "normal."  I promised myself that if such an experience ever occurred again, i would not fear; i would not resist.

This morning there was no fear nor resistance.  I did not follow because i did not know how.  I stayed with the experience until it ended of its own accord.  I did not stand and start walking in the direction of the tree.  I don't know why i didn't do that.

I thought afterward that that  "hole" seemed like one of these "thin places" where the veil between this and "other" worlds might be penetrated and where the "mystery" might be particularly close.  For it is not the world that has become disenchanted, only ourselves.