Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Two Kinds of Love?

December 9, 2015

Realization is the grace of the “original face” appearing at every moment.


During the recent Mountain Cloud retreat I left time at the end for l’esprit de l’escalier (the perfect response coming to one only after one has left the party…) Yet as I drove home I remembered something I had been meaning to say all week. The tradition of Zen Buddhism not only has depth of wisdom, but also breadth. The teachings embedded in Hakuin’s “Song of Zazen” – of the six worlds, the six perfections, the five defects in meditation, and so on – cover a lot of bases in human experience. Zen is not for everybody, although like other revivers of the tradition, Hakuin felt it could help and should be available to just about anybody – but nevertheless over two and a half millennia it has acquired a breadth of understanding of humanity. Zen has had plenty of time to season, mellow and deepen through long experience – and long sitting.

* * *

Two kinds of love; or are they?

First, the love or mercy or compassion of Kanzeon: Kanzeon is both “directly Buddha” and “indirectly Buddha.” That’s to say, the fact of “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” is an infinite benevolence. Then “indirectly,” both because it’s received in a human heart with a response of gratitude, forgiveness, peace, belovedness; and because awareness of the fact through direct experience changes our orientation to other beings, so we can become the eyes and hands of Kanzeon (an eternal practice and training for those inclined…).

Secondly, related but different, there is the loving shelter of the legacy of masters and practitioners. To realize not only that we can come to recognize our original nature because it is intrinsic (though long “hidden in plain sight”), but also that our opportunity to do so has been and is sustained by the “continuous practice” of the masters over the millennia, opens us to receiving their compassion. They have upheld the “eaves” under which we shelter. Our refuge is their very body, their very practice. To recognize this is to be something like the prodigal son or daughter coming home. Whatever has kept us away, there is a surrender to mercy on returning.

Perhaps this can be poignant for those who have had challenging experiences with authority figures. To discover a lineage of kindness, and that we can trust it, is potentially healing. The lineages of Zen training, both male and female (though the female figures have been shamefully underplayed), are lineages less of fathers and mothers than of sons and daughters, who gave up their selves and became children of the Dharma. They practiced in order to manifest the Dharma, and through manifesting it realized it, as Dogen puts it. Knowing it is not yet it. It must be practiced, manifested and realized.

Realization is the grace of the “original face” appearing at every moment.

It comes through surrender. Humility, gratitude, openness, spaciousness, ease… and a full heart: “Flowers falling amid our longings, weeds springing up amid our antipathies,” in Dogen’s beautiful phrase.

* * *

Another reckless unproveable proposition: all beings are seeking two things, well-being, and reality. The two go together – that is the good news of the Mahayana. The further good news from the Mahayana is that all beings are caught in an inevitable process of coming to both, because that’s what we already are, though we may not feel like it.

Existence is intrinsically benevolent after all. That’s the virtue of our “original nature.” And the bad news is just that most of us have to go through a long and sometimes uncomfortable and inconvenient process of clearing up what prevents our experiencing it, then coming to rest in it. Perhaps it’s not really bad news. There are worse ways to spend one’s time than in a never-ending process of waking up and growing up.

Many thanks to everyone who supported and participated in our recent sesshin.

With love,


Message from Henry taken from our December 9, 2015 Newsletter
Image: Human-girl, by Pezibear, CC0 Public Domain, from Pixabay. com

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