A few weeks back, during the Thanksgiving Weekend when I was coming home from one business trip, getting ready for another and enjoying my family all at the same time, I had wanted to put something on our blog about giving thanks relevant to what we do when we sit and stare at the wall and then study the dharma, either separately in our own homes or together as members of the Sangha in our Zendo with such great sun light. And so I remembered these two little bits of text that I'm pasting below. I am also pasting a couple of the recent magnificent photographs from the Hubble Telescope, that remarkable instrument wandering around in the great beyond and sending us messages about this vast universe in which we live. [See notes at the bottom of this post for captions for the photographs.] Thinking about this post, it simply occurred to me that those photographs help illustrate the two verses below, especially the first.
The first is "The Verse for Studying the Dharma" which is repeated in our strand of the Soto lineage before a dharma talk. I did not include this verse in the Both Sides / No Sides sutra sheets because we were short on space, and, besides, at the time I thought the language a bit extravagant for my tastes. However, the more I sit the more I come to realize the wisdom of the verse. We should truly give thanks for the opportunity to practice the Dharma.
is rarely encountered in hundreds of thousands of millions of kalpas,
we can no hear it, listen to it, study and hold it,
may we understand the tatagatha’s true meaning.
The second verse is one of my favorite poems from the last century, one I've pasted in an email before, but I wanted to copy into the blog. It's Philip Whalen's whimsical "Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis." As I said in that email, the poem is one of my signposts for getting me to go sit on a zafu somewhere. I remember where I first read it--sitting on the floor in the stacks of the library at the University of Arizona. A long time ago. For me anyway, but not for these stars and galaxies in the vastness of where we live.
Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis
I praise those ancient Chinamen
Who left me a few words,
Usually a pointless joke or a silly question
A line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the margin of a quick
splashed picture--bug, leaf,on paper held together now by little more than ink
caricature of Teacher
& their own strength brushed momentarily over it
Their world & several others since
Gone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it--
Cheered as it whizzed by--
& conked out among the busted spring rain cherryblossom winejars
Happy to have saved us all.
NOTES ON THE PHOTOGRAPHS
The first Hubble photograph I found at the New York Times website. Its caption reads: "The new Wide Field Camera 3 aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, took this image of hot gas fleeing a dying star 3,800 light-years away in the Scorpius constellation. A so-called planetary nebula, it is also known as the Bug Nebula or the Butterfly Nebula. What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The star itself, once about five times as massive as the Sun, is some 400,000 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the hottest known in the galaxy. In what amounts to a kind of galactic recycling, the lost gas, enriched by elements like oxygen, nitrogen and carbon produced by the formerly massive star, will form the stuff for future stars."
The second Hubble photograph I found here. The caption for this one reads: "The Sombrero Galaxy - 28 million light years from Earth - was voted best picture taken by the Hubble telescope. The dimensions of the galaxy, officially called M104, are as spectacular as its appearance. It has 800 billion suns and is 50,000 light years across."