Camp Indianola | Sep 2019
This series of talks exploring impermanence and Buddha Nature was given during the Fall Sesshin at Indianola 2019.
In what is likely the highest stakes poetry slam in history, fifth ancestor Hongren announced a lightning round smackdown, the winner of which would inherit his temple and carry the name of sixth ancestor. He alone would judge the submissions.
Sweatting over his quill for the better part of two weeks, Shenxiu gives it his best shot:
The body is the bodhi tree;
The mind is like a bright mirror’s stand.
Be always diligent in rubbing it—
Do not let it attract any dust.
Verdict from the judge? "The wisdom expressed in this poem is like that of a person who stands inside of the open door of awakening, but doesn't have the courage to step inside."
Ouch. Although Shenxiu will forever be known as the guy who lost the Super Bowl, the silver medal is no small feat. Allison gives this master his due.
When asked his name in the street as a young boy, Huineng replied, "My name is Buddha Nature."
Later, Dogen reframed this as impermance itself is Buddha Nature. This pulls the rug out of any fixed view of Buddha Nature. It's not something you can have or even be called. It brings up doubt.
Joan Stambaugh tells us, "To begin to understand impermance one must first of all doubt."
Last time we heard from Shenxiu. This time, Huineng steps up to the mic and expounds:
Bodhi is fundamentally without any tree;
The bright mirror is also not a stand.
Fundamentally there is not a single thing—
Where could any dust be attracted?
In classic Zen braggadocio, Huineng not only expresses a deeper truth, but turns his rival's submission inside out. The chorus of snapping fingers sounded like a cloudburst.
The master was pleased.
Jishan gets his bell rung by Siuan Zi and figures it all out.