Dear Zen friend
1) November sesshin : from 11/11 to 11/15.
2) It snowed 6 inches deep on Thursday 27th. Temperature has been low since. This is the earliest first snow for the wintry season in my memory.
I enjoyed autumn foliage along my drive on Wednesday. Surprise, surprise
3) Uchiyama Roshi said in one of his lectures that we were not wise enough to know what death is. I had no clue to think of death then. Death was issue which would be thought about decades later. I was busy to find solutions on other problems.
A few years after his retirement, Uchiyama Roshi published collection of poems. One of poems briefly and clearly depicted life and death. It was an understandable picture for me for the first time in my life. I newly respected Roshi’s continuous approach to the dharma.
He wrote: Life begins with Self like scooping water by a ladle. The Self is formed by the shape of the ladle. Death is like the thought of Self is broken, just like the water is scattered to the ground.
To know a clear perspective is important. Without the perspective of life, we do not know where we are going. We have fear of death mainly because we do not know where we go after our own deaths. I appreciated Roshi’s sincere search. Analogy of water and ladle, thought and Self was simple and clear. Simplicity often helps to grasp complicated matters.
However, questions arose over time. Roshi did not say who scooped the water. (Passive voice is commonly used in Japanese.) How are Self, ego, and thought related? When water is scattered to the ground, the world ends all together. What happens to the water? Does ground hold any meaning? Something does not fit to the real, practical world. Arguments did not cease.
I’d like to propose a different view about ‘life and death,’ inspired by Uchiyama Roshi.
Life and death is like the birth of an apple and the end of the fruit. Apple’s life starts with pollination in spring. In summer it grows under sun shines. In autumn it goes bad with frost temperature. Apple’s meat gets rotten and falls, seeds are eaten by animals. Few sprout in spring.
An apple is born with pollination. Spring wonder brings about pollination with flowers, bees, and warm air. Apple grows while taking energy of the Sun. The death of the apple doesn’t mean the end of the world. The consequences of a piece of apple persist in the form of sprouting from seeds or enriching soil with skins. We don’t know how far the influences of an apple last in time and space.