Everything goes back to front.
Another analogy for practice: there was a 1950s movie about attempts to break the sound barrier. The pilots would climb exceptionally high in their jets then aim at the ground. They would dive as fast as they could. Alas, as they got close to the sound barrier, they kept crashing.
It was one pilot who, when he found himself hurtling toward the ground at around the speed of sound, and unable to pull out of his dive, decided to push the joystick into an even deeper dive – and mysteriously, the plane pulled up and he was saved.
It turned out that at the speed of sound, the controls had to be reversed. They flipped, and worked backwards.
This is a bit like practice. First it all makes notional sense: we are caught in a root-system of desires and we suffer. As we chip away at our faith in our cravings and clingings, we gradually get less tormented. Then we may hit a strange tipping point known as awakening, or kensho in Zen. Everything goes back to front.
Thereafter, as Dogen said, practice itself is awakening. And then we can understand what Bodhidharma meant by his words: “when you reach the other shore you realize there never was another shore.” Or what Zuigan meant when he said: “there are no stages of practice.” Or why Joshu said: “Buddha is affliction, affliction is Buddha.”
Yes, it’s crazy. Iron trees come into blossom, as another master said.
Message from Henry is from our October 29, 2018 Newsletter
Image: Blue Angels Formation by skeeze, CC0 Public Domain, from Pixabay.com