Author Archives: Kay Lorraine

About Kay Lorraine

I'm a writer, poet, and artist... a technologist and a thinker, independently living my life.

Mōanjō (A Safe Staff for the Blind) – Part 1 Complete

Suzuki Shōsan

Suzuki Shōsan

1. We must know without a doubt that joy lies in knowing birth and death. Now, the truth that all who are born must die is upon our lips, but we do not realize it in our hearts. Youth is soon over, the hair turns white, wrinkles furrow the brow, the physical body declines day by day, and with every sunrise and sunset our dewdrop life approaches its term. This never astonishes us, however. Last year gives way to this, spring passes and fall comes, yet we do not understand what is meant by the scattering of the blossoms and the falling of the leaves.

Though sparks from the flint flash before our eyes we do not grasp that they are transient, illusions. Truly, even those who wear around their neck the robe and bowl, who enter the way of renunciation and who thus seek to know the emptiness of all phenomena, in the end find it hard to rid themselves of the profound urge toward permanence of being.

Therefore, since we believe this body to be real and solid, our sufferings never cease either by day or by night. If you are one who is really concerned about his body, forget it right now. Where does suffering come from? Only from love of the body. A warrior, especially, must in his own life know birth and death. When you know birth and death the Way is automatically present. When you do not, humanity, morality, propriety, and wisdom are absent too.

Some hold that two characters are used to write the word samurai because the warrior knows both birth and death. Of Ch’u Chiu and Ch’en Ying, in China, one thought nothing of dying while the other kept himself safe and sound. In the end they destroyed the enemy, twice enthroned the crown prince, and achieved the true meaning of the profession of arms. This was because they knew birth and death.

It is therefore quite wrong to accept your lord’s generosity, to love your own wife and children, and to promote your own interests, while all the time feeling that your body is yours and letting your spirit go slack. Know well that it is due to your lord’s generosity that you owe your very life, and serve him by giving him your body.

Then for yourself you will achieve peace.

Yes, your body is your lord’s; what are you to call your own? That you may go into your mind beyond such shallows as these and mount guard unremittingly, you must see that “never has there been a single thing, birth and death do not exist”, and that Ota Dokan of Musashi entered deeply into the Way and was an expert in poetry as well.

As an enemy stabbed him to death with a spear saying, “Make a poem now, if you’re so good,” Dokan managed to gasp out,

“At such a time I surely would cling to life
Did I not know
That my body never was.”

Again, Ninagawa Shin’uemon’s farewell poem runs,

“If I had died
That same moment I was born
Wind still would blow
This evening through these pines.”

And Abbot Ikkyu has this:

“A pause, and from the past
Pass into what will be:
Let wind blow if wind will,
Let rain if it will rain.”

. . . delight of these men is beyond all measure. This is because people like them, despite their initial bewilderment, entered upon the Way and practiced it. What should your practice be? Simply to rid yourself of your self.

Alas, you can remind a man that many he loves and many he does not will die before him. But he will think that you are talking of someone else and will let your words go right through his head. Who lingers on for long? What thing endures the least while? This world, all dreams and fancies, takes our whole gaze, fills our ears.

Know then, know that this world has always been changing. If you clearly recognize that it does not last, what can stand in your way?

What is it, this body which battens onto a dream world and in which we delight as though it were our own? Earth, water, fire, and air join in temporary union to give it form. It is not ours at all. When we cling to the four elements, the four elements bewilder us. Go all the way without time and again being bewildered by the four elements. There is a self, but it is not a self. Though distinct from the four elements it belongs with them. It accompanies the four elements and avails itself of them. An ancient has said, “There is something which precedes heaven and earth. It is without form and its root is still. It is truly the master of the myriad shapes, and the four seasons around it never withers.”

 

This version of Moanjo is based on The Selected Writings of Suzuki Shōsan

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Mōanjō (A Safe Staff for the Blind) – Part 1-2 for Reflection

Therefore, since we believe this body to be real and solid, our sufferings never cease either by day or by night. If you are one who is really concerned about his body, forget it right now. Where does suffering come from? Only from love of the body. A warrior, especially, must in his own life know birth and death. When you know birth and death the Way is automatically present. When you do not, humanity, morality, propriety, and wisdom are absent too.

Therefore, since we believe this body to be real and solid, our sufferings never cease either by day or by night. If you are one who is really concerned about his body, forget it right now. Where does suffering come from? Only from love of the body. A warrior, especially, must in his own life know birth and death. When you know birth and death the Way is automatically present. When you do not, humanity, morality, propriety, and wisdom are absent too.

Clinging to the idea that our bodies are real and solid… a source of endless suffering.

Forget the body. Forget it right now. Loving the body and forgetting birth and death disguises the Way from us. It prevents what we need most:

humanity,

morality,

propriety,

and wisdom.

Surely, all these things meant something different in Shōsan’s time, than they do now. And Shōsan is vehement in is disavowal of the body. Over and over, he repeats that it’s worthless, it’s nothing, it’s a hindrance.

I personally believe Shōsan had plenty of experience that warned him away from trusting the body or becoming attached to it. In his years as a samurai in service, he must have seen many battles, and likely witnessed many warriors cut down in battle… not to mention coming across decomposing bodies after armed conflicts. His experience in battle, with blades cutting through guts, spilling viscera and excrement everywhere, surely must have affected his view.

Who would trust the human body after seeing it sliced to ribbons so many times?

But even if we haven’t had those same experiences to warn us away from trusting the body, we can still gain something from his words. The more we cling to appearances, especially those of the body, the greater and longer our suffering will be. The farther we remove ourselves from birth and death, the more deluded we become.

We should consider ourselves warned.

 

This version of Mōanjō is based on The Selected Writings of Suzuki Shōsan

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Mōanjō (A Safe Staff for the Blind) – Part 1-1 Reflection

Suzuki Shōsan

Suzuki Shōsan

1. We must know without a doubt that joy lies in knowing birth and death.

tulip petals dying beside vase

Now, the truth that all who are born must die is upon our lips, but we do not realize it in our hearts.

baby lying on blanket smiling

Youth is soon over, the hair turns white, wrinkles furrow the brow, the physical body declines day by day, and with every sunrise and sunset our dewdrop life approaches its term.

old man's face

This never astonishes us, however.

Last year gives way to this, spring passes and fall comes, yet we do not understand what is meant by the scattering of the blossoms and the falling of the leaves.

fallen leaves

Though sparks from the flint flash before our eyes we do not grasp that they are transient, illusions.

fire with sparks flying up

Truly, even those who wear around their neck the robe and bowl, who enter the way of renunciation and who thus seek to know the emptiness of all phenomena, in the end find it hard to rid themselves of the profound urge toward permanence of being.

bridge at sunset

 

And how true it is. Each and every day, we are surrounded by evidence and proof of our impermanence.

Yet, we overlook it, ignore it, pretend it doesn’t matter.

Or that we can escape it. Even those who have devoted themselves to a Higher Path… even they still cling to life.

And who wouldn’t? It’s what we do.

Live.

 

 

This version of Mōanjō is based on The Selected Writings of Suzuki Shōsan

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Mōanjō (A Safe Staff for the Blind) – Part 1-1

Suzuki Shōsan

Suzuki Shōsan

 

1. We must know without a doubt that joy lies in knowing birth and death. Now, the truth that all who are born must die is upon our lips, but we do not realize it in our hearts. Youth is soon over, the hair turns white, wrinkles furrow the brow, the physical body declines day by day, and with every sunrise and sunset our dewdrop life approaches its term. This never astonishes us, however. Last year gives way to this, spring passes and fall comes, yet we do not understand what is meant by the scattering of the blossoms and the falling of the leaves.

Though sparks from the flint flash before our eyes we do not grasp that they are transient, illusions. Truly, even those who wear around their neck the robe and bowl, who enter the way of renunciation and who thus seek to know the emptiness of all phenomena, in the end find it hard to rid themselves of the profound urge toward permanence of being.

 

This version of Moanjo is based on The Selected Writings of Suzuki Shōsan

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Learn

Practice

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Mōanjō (A Safe Staff for the Blind)

Suzuki Shōsan

Suzuki Shōsan

[Topics discussed:]

  1. That joy lies in knowing birth and death.
  2. That one must know himself by reflecting upon himself.
  3. That one must in all things achieve sympathy with the mind of others.
  4. That one must practice, in good faith, loyalty and filial piety.
  5. That one must discern his own lot in life and know what is his natural endowment.
  6. That virtue lies in avoiding dwelling upon anything.
  7. That by forgetting himself one must guard himself.
  8. That one must be firmly resolved to take great care when alone.
  9. That by destroying the mind one must cultivate the mind.
  10. That one must give up petty gain and achieve the great gain.

This version of Moanjo is based on The Selected Writings of Suzuki Shōsan

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Settling in, digesting the feast

This weekend has turned out to be a pretty good one. I’ve had a fairly mellow time of it, which is nice.

Keeping the busy down… spending time in the back yard, pulling out invasive ground cover that’s choking out my grass… reading and watching some videos… doing some errands… cleaning a bit, here and there… and just thinking about the past week, letting it all sink in.

This is what so often gets lost — the chillness, the mellow, the time to let everything just sink in and become part of your life, part of your experience.

Avoiding experiential indigestion, so to speak.

Because life is a feast, and (proverbially speaking) going swimming right after you’ve eaten your fill, can create needless problems.