Friday, October 26, 2012

The Path Has Its Own Intelligence

I've been reading David Chadwick's Thank You and OK!, An American Zen Failure in Japan. Chadwick was a close student to Suzuki Roshi, and after his teacher's death, he wrote the wonderful biography Crooked Cucumber. Anyway, I came upon this wonderful quote which is for me a perfect description about what Zazen is about. An unusual description for sure, but one which ties together the history of our practice to the ongoing history of humanity. 

Hunter from the Lascaux Caves in Southern France

Sitting zazen for hours a day may seem like a lot of nothing when there’s so much to do, but it’s the Buddhist treasure hunt and the reason we still keep in this search is that the treasure is supposedly always right there waiting for us to find it. Suzuki, my old teacher, once said we find our treasure by watching and waiting. Gary Snyder, a teacher of the Buddhist hunters that prowl the Sierra Nevada in California, has suggested that hunting is one of the experiential origins of meditation. Indeed, throughout human history human hunters had to sit and wait motionless, even for days at a time. And Dutchananda, another sportsman on the track of this timeless snark, once pointed out that “marga” (aka “the Way,” “the Path”, in Sanskrit) is not a regular old trail or street, but is a word that originally meant the hunter’s path. The course is unknown is ahead of time to the hunter, who must sniff and look for signs and watch and wait. [Thank You and Okay, page 109-110]

This reminds me: In the 80s, I was just learning to sit and was reading, besides Zen books, all sorts of Native American books, especially about the Plains Indians. One day I was hiking in the Franklin Mountains along a creek bed. Even though the creek was dry, the rugged gash in the side of the mountain was lush with grasses, scrub oaks, all sorts of desert flowers and plants. It was easy to imagine a slow seep of water finding its way down through the cracked seams in the mountain. It was a perfect place to practice my new art of zazen. I found a nice place, bowed, straightened my back and began to sit. The breeze. The bird song. The crackle of twigs and leaves. My breath. I sat quiet for 20 minutes or so, and then I heard (or felt) a tweeting rustling in the leaves. I opened my eyes wider, and strutting quietly maybe five feet in front of me--almost close enough to touch--was a family of scaled quail The mother hen followed by six little ones. They marched right by me, paying me no nevermind. 

My best to you all.
Bobby Kankin Byrd

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