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Mods- might seem Buddhist but I think you will agree there's plenty here for Bums of all stripes!

 

I just finished a piece on Fuxi's poem; if you're not familiar with it, it goes like this:

 

 

 

The empty hand grasps the hoe handle
Walking along, I ride the ox
The ox crosses the wooden bridge
The bridge is flowing, the water is still

(poem by Fuxi, trans. Andy Ferguson "Zen’s Chinese Heritage")

 

I could post the whole thing here, but I think it's better if I just give the link to my site; I'm hoping that folks who are interested can maybe comment here.

 

http://www.zenmudra.com/zenmudra-fuxi.html

 

Feedback and suggestions greatly appreciated, of course!

 

Thanks, everybody;

 

Mark

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That's beautiful :)

 

You're way off the mark on the description though. It's nothing to do with the body. Let's just take the first two lines which explain non-action within action.

 

"The empty hand grasps the hoe handle"

The empty hand is the state of unborn mind. The Buddha mind. Whatever you want to call it. The hoe handle is anything that exists within creation. The empty hand allows seeing potential and the grasping is matching potential.

 

"Walking along, I ride the ox"

This is stealing potential or more simply just going along. You aren't really doing anything. You're just letting things run their course while going along for the ride.

 

These two lines alone are the essence of years of practice.

Edited by Bearded Dragon
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That's beautiful :)

 

You're way off the mark on the description though. It's nothing to do with the body. Let's just take the first two lines which explain non-action within action.

 

"The empty hand grasps the hoe handle"

The empty hand is the state of unborn mind. The Buddha mind. Whatever you want to call it. The hoe handle is anything that exists within creation. The empty hand allows seeing potential and the grasping is matching potential.

 

"Walking along, I ride the ox"

This is stealing potential or more simply just going along. You aren't really doing anything. You're just letting things run their course while going along for the ride.

 

These two lines alone are the essence of years of practice.

 

You can critique my treatment of the next two lines as well, when you have time- if you would!

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You're way off the mark on the description though. It's nothing to do with the body. Let's just take the first two lines which explain non-action within action.

 

The most profound teachings combine all aspects - body, mind, spirit. It is perhaps rather rare because it cannot be simply constructed intellectually, no matter how much study and research and planning and preparation is involved. Harmony begets harmony. The intent of an individual is not comprehensive enough to achieve this, and that is why such profound teachings are truly profound. The whole is complete, the part is peripheral.

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No. Profound teachings are not about all aspects. There is a certain thing these people try to get across. To bring it to the domain of bodywork is missing the point entirely.

 

Having said that I really like working with the body and I have nothing bad to say about the benefit of the content in that regard. It's just that this poem is not about that. To not mention the crux of it is a shame. That is all.

 

I will write a bit more later since I was asked to.

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OK. Lines 3 and 4 are a bit deeper. The first 2 lines describe suchness and receptively going along with circumstances. The last 2 explain what is actually going on.

 

Going by the primordial state 5 element theory explained in Chang PoTang's Understanding Reality (trans. Thomas Cleary) wood is defined as essence and water as real knowledge. It states that essence produces real knowledge.

 

"The ox crosses the wooden bridge"

The wooden bridge is the mind that dwells in essence. The Unborn Buddha mind once it has seen itself. The ox is a happening that is entering and exiting the Buddha mind. This line is a marker for the stage of enlightenment or illumination.

 

"The bridge is flowing, the water is still"

This is the limit of my understanding. One can only presume that it's talking about the water (real knowledge) being immediate and hence having never moved, plus the wood (essence) being the only thing that has ever moved. The reason that I cannot say is that I have not seen essence. I can dwell in the buddha mind but that's about it in terms of experiential wisdom.

 

Overall it kind of shows a progression. In the most basic sense you can deal with line 1 and receptiveness of an open mind. Line 2 you can add to the method and introduce suchness and going along with circumstances. Between line 2 and 3 it's "Refine the self and await the time". Riding the suchness is refining the self and walking along is awaiting the time. Line 3 you come across sudden illumination and discover the wooden bridge which is essence. Line 4 describes what is presumably pretty obvious after the fact.

 

It's a wonderful 4 lines.

Edited by Bearded Dragon
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Esoteric teachings encoded in this kind of poetry usually target several levels of perception/awareness. One can bypass the decoding attempts altogether and grasp the whole for face value -- just go for a visual, sensory, emotional, even existential image -- and feel that it's "all there is" and that it's enough. This image deemed "enough" is not necessarily universal, however. It can be very intimate, speaking one on one to one's own unique image-making machinery. (E.g. for me it evokes a ride on a camel I once took, and a certain underground lake in a cave, with water reflecting on the wall in a way that made the stone flow and wobble and shimmer, while the lake itself was completely still. No one else sees and feels these, but that's the trick with great poetic images -- you see them and they see you, you look at them and they look back at you, you look into them and they look inside you, and animate your own image-making machinery -- it springs to life and, voila! -- an image is born, via the great universal process of co-creation.)

 

But the art of decoding of the hidden layers of meaning, intent, and transmission (sic) is in no way inferior to the knack and luck (or skill or attainment, whatever you call it) of grasping and grokking the whole. They are facets of the same diamond, and the poet puts painstaking work into making each facet shine -- there's no shining whole if this work hasn't been undertaken. Of course sometimes it's all done for you and your diamond of a poem just falls in your lap, complete. But then you don't know how it's made, don't know how it's done, and are never sure you'd be able to replicate it. So, working on those facets is noble and can be as profound (or more so) as just being illuminated (or blinded, more often) by the perfection of the whole without having actually contributed to its existence.

 

Mark has done spectacular work on one such facet, and it shines. I do believe there could be, probably are, more and different ways to look into this poem as you would into a crystal ball. This one is not one of those with which I spent a long time looking in and being looked back at, so all I see is the swaying, trance-inducing pace of my (alas, only for a short while) magnificent camel and the flowing wall of an underground cave over a still lake (alas, disrupted soon enough by some tourists who never noticed the miracle and whose out-of-place loud voices are now part of my personal embedded/embodied memory of that particular miracle). But I've looked into some others like that, and I know there's much to see. So... don't rush, folks. Don't jump to conclusions. Spend some time looking, feeling, tantalized, wanting to know, knowing -- yes, knowing, it suddenly comes and it's a thrill second to none.

 

Thank you, Mark. :)

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I was thinking about this while out walking on my meadows. I don't know anything about Fuxi (the Zen master) or his relationship to martial and physical arts, and so have no way to speak to the original intent of the poem, but it's common Daoist methodology to apply broad universal, macrocosmic concepts to the physical, personal experience, and especially to martial and medical applications.

 

Dismissing Mark's work here is akin imo to dismissing all Daoist meditation techniques that function through an interpretation of the Yiching (and the original Fuxi's bagua) because there's nothing in the text that specifically describes bodily functions or structures. It's just a history book after all. Daoist methods are all ultimately a form of interpretation and interpolation of broad concepts and sometimes cryptic texts. And of course the same is true for the Daodejing and Zhuangzi.

 

So, for me, Bearded Dragon's explanation of the text is illuminating and interesting on a macrocosmic level, while Mark's provides a very cogent practical application that can accompany me in my practice. It was there in my qigong earlier, out on the meadow, before it started raining and I had to come in.

 

Also, yes, thank you, Mark :)

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"The bridge is flowing, the water is still"

 

One way to look at this is from the perspective of essence.

Nothing moves, nothing has ever moved from that perspective because essence is one-ness, non-dual.

The bridge, on the other hand, being a link between mind and mind's fundamental nature (essence) remains a manifestation of duality and hence is subject to change - is impermanent.

 

Another way to look at it is that water, being one of the five elements is essentially indestructible.

It is a constituent and fundamental part of our physical world and experience.

The bridge, on the other hand, is a creation of man (edit - and mind) and therefore temporary.

Finally, the bridge between knowing and not knowing can take many forms for different individuals and once knowing is there, the bridge is no longer necessary.

 

Wonderful work Mark, Bearded Dragon, and Taomeow.

I would agree that poems like these are meant to speak to us on many levels and the meaning is not contained within the words or within the author's intellect, but rather within us - within essence - and there are therefore infinite legitimate possibilities and, at the same time, only one.

 

 

It's a wonderful 4 lines.

Indeed!

Edited by steve
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No. Profound teachings are not about all aspects.

 

Yes. They are.

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I'd like to thank everybody for writing on the topic, and memories like camels and caves and meadows of practice light me up, for sure.

 

On another site, I wrote this about the anatomy:

 

"The anatomy is an aid to me in relaxation. Sort of like sorting out direction and strength as a wave flows back into the ocean, the better to keep my feet."

 

That's true with the wave coming in, too, of course, and it's my own breath that is the tide in my toes.

 

I spent a long time stumbling around in the postword of my piece. When I wrote:

 

"The extension of the boundary of the senses may at times become a matter of necessity in the practice of zazen, and at such times zazen may indeed get up and walk around, yet the well-being of activity in the absence of volition is always close at hand..."

 

I wrote something I needed to hear.

 

I'm aware that Fuxi's poem works on many levels, and I've had many discussions with friends about people like Nisargadatta, who wrote:

 

 

"My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense 'I am' and to give

attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any
particular course of breathing, or meditation, or study of
scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it
and remain with the sense 'I am', it may look too simple, even crude.
My only reason for doing it was that my Guru told me so. Yet it
worked! Obedience is a powerful solvent of all desires and fears."

 

(from here)

 

The key in that short description for me is "the sense 'I am'"; the reference is to a sense. It may look too simple, too crude. When I say the relaxed distinction of the senses, waking up or falling asleep, you might think it's a cup of tea. You would be right.

Edited by Mark Foote
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That's true with the wave coming in, too, of course, and it's my own breath that is the tide in my toes.

 

Nice :)

 

That's a fundamental part of my practice. Waves. Waiting for them. Being carried by them. Crests and valleys, inhalation, exhalation. The more I let them run their own course, the more subtle they become.

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From the Terebess site, attributed to Fuxi:

 

"Each night, (one) embraces a Buddha while sleeping,

Each morning, (one) gets up again with him.

When rising or sitting, both watch and follow one another,

Whether speaking or not, both are in the same place,

They never even for a moment part,

(But) are like the body and its shadow.

If you wish to know the Buddha's whereabouts,

In the sound of (your own) voice, there is he."

 

From the same site (Fuxi referred to as Shan-hui):

 

One day, wearing a Buddhist cassock, a Taoist cap, and Confucian shoes, Shan-hui came into the court. The emperor, amused by the motley attire, asked, Are you a Buddhist monk? Shan-hui pointed at his cap. Are you then a Taoist priest? Shan-hui pointed to his shoes. So, you are a man of the world? Shan-hui pointed to his cassock.

Shan-hui is said to have improvised a couplet on the occasion:

 

"With a Taoist cap, a Buddhist cassock, and a pair of Confucian shoes,

I have harmonized three houses into one big family!"

 

 

We should all be so even-handed! :)

Edited by Mark Foote
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“To bring it to the domain of bodywork is missing the point entirely.”  

 

 

"When we let go of our minds and cast aside our views and understandings the Way will be actualized. One sage clarified True Mind (Reality) when he saw peach blossoms and another realized the Way when he heard the sound of tile hitting a bamboo. They attained the way through their bodies. Therefore, when we completely cast aside our thoughts and views and practice shikantaza, we will become intimate with the way… This is why I encourage you to practice zazen wholeheartedly."

 

(“Shobogenzo-zuimonki”, sayings recorded by Koun Ejo, translated by Shohaku Okumura, 2-26, pg 107-108, ©2004 Sotoshu Shumucho)

Edited by Mark Foote
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I go into ecstatic trance states just reading your guys' writing! I'm just riding along on your boot heels, catching glimpses of your unseen worlds...this is my like button

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The empty hand grasps the hoe handle

 

Doing but acting without egoistic purpose


Walking along, I ride the ox

 

the person allows his corporeal body to do its thing ,self  observed 

 

The ox crosses the wooden bridge

 

carried along through life


The bridge is flowing, the water is still

 

change comes but one is left unperturbed.

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