Posted inDharma, Other Teachings, Valerie's Messages

Message from Valerie: Empty Hands

January 18, 2023

With empty hands, I take hold of the plow.

~ Fu Daishi

Yesterday’s Sunday morning zazen at Mountain Cloud was another sign of life – the perimeter of the zendo full, with sitting followed by a lively gathering for tea and conversation. On Saturday, more than 60 people joined the online sangha meeting, which began with a 10-minute guided sit led by Henry (still recovering from Covid. Get well soon, Henry!)

Mountain Cloud is navigating a time of transition. The root of finding our way is the Way that brings us here: shared practice. What does this practice – and this tradition – have to say about the project at hand?

With empty hands, I take hold of the plow.”

This gatha was written by the 6th c. lay master, Fu Daishi, a contemporary of Bodhidharma. Fu Hui had a deep awakening experience. According to one account, he sold everything to devote his life to practice and serving the poor. Another account lauds Fu Daishi’s earnest practice and generous philanthropy, including building a temple that housed the first revolving sutra stand, a prototype for future libraries. Fu left several short verses; so simple, yet powerful enough to be handed down for nearly 1500 years.

With empty hands, I take hold of the plow.” That’s what he was doing: practicing, serving. In the verse, these are one reality. One emptiness functioning.

Fu Daishi offers a straightforward expression of what Bodhidharma called practice and principal.

One way of naming this sitting practice is ‘emptying.’ Let go, drop everything. That’s also the principal, the reality of who we truly are. Practice emptying and, in an unguarded moment, you may realize your hands are already empty. And not just empty – gone.

Dôgen pointed to this principal when, after his deep awakening – body and mind fallen away – having received transmission from his Chinese master, Rujing -he traveled back to Japan. He wrote, “I have returned to my homeland with empty hands.”

That’s the invitation to us: return to your homeland – your native ground – with empty hands. Come home to who you truly are and find that you never left. 

May Mountain Cloud be an invitation to us all to find our true home.

With love, Valerie

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

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