Where the light turns tilts the moon remaining at dawn: The footnote says, “When negative reaches its limit, positive is born.” When you take something to its apparent edge, you meet its apparent opposite. I say apparent because in reality, they are one thing. When we look deeply into the deluded self, at its very edge, we encounter the mind of all buddhas and ancestors.
When the forms of the hexagrams are distinguished, Then are established dawn and spring. When forms come to light, then the world appears in its multitude. Thus, we must return from the place where there is no distinguishing day from night, so we can hear the baby’s cry. Having freshly fulfilled filial duty, Then one meets the spring—Walking drunk, singing crazily, turban hanging down, “Those who know well, don’t lecture on etiquette.” It’s not that they eschew social customs, but they don’t live by the rule any more. Even in following the rule, they’re following themselves. Ambling with tousled hair, who cares— “A thousand freedoms, a hundred liberties.” In great peace, with no concerns, a man falling-down drunk. To come down off the mountain and enter the world, this is what our practice is about—to shed the shell, to let go of the twig, to let go of everything, and to realize that life, fundamentally, is not a struggle. There is birth and there is death, joy and grief, enlightenment and delusion. And there is one body, one awareness, one awakening, which permeates everything. What is not all right?
Some students have asked, “Our teacher has passed away. What will happen now?” What now? When your alarm goes off in the morning, you get up to sit. You chant the sutras. You go to work. You do the laundry. You collect your paycheck, you pay some bills. You take in the suffering of the world and respond. What’s next depends on what is happening each and every moment.
The wisdom seed of the buddhas and ancestors continues through our efforts. There is no Buddhism outside of our own lives, there is no sangha beyond individual men and women practicing the dharma and practicing their lives. That’s why in every generation it comes into being anew. That’s why within each one of us the dharma resides in full. This is how we fulfill our obligation, the obligation of life itself. Having received this gift, having encountered this dharma, what more can we do, but to bring it to awakening? This is what Daido Roshi spent his life doing. It’s what his every waking moment was dedicated to. It’s what his final thoughts were focused on.
In those final hours when he was able to speak, he spoke about you. You. The sangha. Now it’s in our hands. As Roshi loved to say, “Please, give life to the Buddha.”
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei is abbot and resident teacher of the Zen Center of New York City: Fire Lotus Temple, and Head of the Order for the Mountains and Rivers Order.
Book of Serenity is a collection of 100 koans compiled and commented on by Master Wansong with poems by Master Hongzhi, both teachers in the Caodong (Japanese Soto) school of Zen. This important text stands as a companion to the other great Chinese koan collection, The Blue Cliff Record.