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Katagiri Roshi discusses the Pointer to case Thirty-Nine of the Blue Cliff Record. To “observe times and seasons, causes and conditions” does not mean we should observe from a distance. We must observe closely, settling ourself in the self. “Times and seasons” means our life in the stream of the time process, and “causes and conditions” means the spacious dimension of our existence. Our life is in the pivot position, where time and space are working constantly in dynamism, regardless of whether we know it or not.
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Case Thirty-Nine: “Yun Men’s Flowering Hedge”. The Pointer:
One who can take action on the road is like a tiger in the mountains; one immersed in worldly understanding is like a monkey in a cage. If you want to know the meaning of Buddha-nature, you should observe times and seasons, causes and conditions. If you want to smelt pure gold which has been refined a hundred times, you need the forge and bellows of a master. Now tell me, when one’s great function appears, what can be used to test him?
“One who can take action on the road” is a person who is really alive in his life. [This is] not exactly freedom, but his life is really alive, every day. A person of this kind is just like “a tiger in the mountains” because the mountain is the place a tiger should depend on, instead of water or the ocean, et cetera. So the [mountain] is his place; his kingdom, his paradise, his freedom. So that’s why here it says, “One who can take action on the road is like a tiger in the mountains.” This is not only one particular person: whoever you are, you can do it, even for a moment, every day. [That] you should become “a person who can take action on the road” means “on the road” of your everyday life; your life must be alive. For this, you must be just like a tiger in the mountains.
And, “one immersed in ordinary understanding is like a monkey in a cage” – this is the complete opposite. A person who is tied up with worldly understanding, give and take, good and bad, right and wrong, is just like a monkey in a cage, or just like a raccoon in a cage. A raccoon in a cage is always going here and there, without being still or settling down; always going this way and that way. If you go to the zoo, you can see raccoons and other animals in cages. So if you are tied up with the worldly understanding, you become just like a raccoon in a cage: very restless. Even though your business is going well, even though your life is happy, or even though your life is pretty good, still it’s very restless. You cannot ignore it. It’s completely beyond speculation or logical understanding, because if you are really living in worldly understanding, you always have to compare your life with somebody else’s. You have to compare good with bad, you have to compare wrong with right; always comparison. If you compare yourself with somebody, very naturally you create confliction. Confliction makes you really irritated – unstable, uneasy – because confliction means going endlessly.
So we must be in the world; we are here, we have to deal with the world. But we have to see [how] we are here from a pretty different angle, that is [the] aliveness of life, free from worldly understanding. There is something wonderful, more than worldly understanding. Buddhist teaching always emphasizes this point. Even though you don’t believe any particular religion or divinity, whatever it is, if you are a human being, you can find it.
So that’s why here it says, “One who can take action on the road is like a tiger in the mountains; one immersed in worldly understanding is like a monkey in a cage.”
If you want to know the meaning of Buddha-nature, you should observe times and seasons, causes and conditions.
This is a very well-known passage from Nirvana Sutra. Dogen Zenji commented on this passage in Shobogenzo, [in the chapter] “Buddha Nature”. And also Doctor Abe wrote an essay on “Buddha Nature” in The Eastern Buddhist, May 1971, on pages 65-66. So if you want to understand logically, you should read that. It’s very helpful for you.
But I don’t want to explain [Buddha Nature] in a logical way today. If you want to know the meaning of Buddha Nature, Buddha Nature means vastness of existence – something more than you think. You only think something which you can see, which you can reach; that’s the territory you can always think [in]. That’s the territory you are always living in. But Buddha Nature is something more than that: more than you can reach, more than you can see, more than you can hear. Something more than psychological or philosophical views. Because your life as a whole is exactly present there. This is the total picture of your life, regardless of whether you understand or not. That’s why for twenty-five hundred years, Buddhist patriarchs have talked about the total picture of your life: where you are, what is your picture. They constantly talk about this. But still, there are lots of individuals who don’t care. That’s why as long as human beings exist, Buddhas and patriarchs exist. They have to exist.
So that is Buddha Nature. If you want to know the meaning of the vastness of existence, where you are exactly present right there, “you should observe times and seasons, causes and conditions.”
“Times and seasons” means the time process. Your life is exactly right in the stream of the time process. And “causes and conditions” means the spacious dimension of your existence. So [there is the] spacious dimension of your life, and also your life in time. So the total picture of your life is… well, look at it [as] the same and oneness of time and space. You cannot separate them. So [it is] time qua space. Do you understand qua? Qua means in the capacity of. So, you have to think of time as space, space as time. Time and space are one means motion, nothing but motion. What is the oneness? What is the same and the one of time and space? It is motion, function, working in dynamism; that is called the same and one of time and space. So that is the pivot position. Your life is in the pivot position, where time and space is working in dynamism constantly, regardless of whether you know it or not. That is, here it says, “times and seasons, causes and conditions.”
“You should observe”: Observe does not mean to see something at a distance; observe means to regard closely. Closely means… well, I don’t know what I can say. To observe closely who you are means to let your life be alive, or to settle yourself in the self. To make your life stable and steadfast and alive, [to] stand straight and steadfast, right in the middle of everyday life – that is to observe closely. If you want to observe closely who you are, you have [to] …
(Transcriber’s Note: The online audio ends abruptly at this point.)
12:44 end of recording
This talk was transcribed by Kikan Michael Howard. Audio recordings of Katagiri Roshi are being used with permission of Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.
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