Category Archives: religious writing

Last Night I Dreamt

Last night I dreamt you brought me wine
and poured and poured until my dreams were full,
each one watered till the tendrils grew.

And then I heard you pouring more again for two
and thought I saw my tears reflecting you…

I wasn’t sure, until I woke to find
my body bathed in wine and wrapped in vines
or was it you? 

I never knew who turned my night to day
before the dawn had time for dew

~Amir Khusrow Dehlavi (1253-1325), translated from the Persian By Omar Pound, 1971

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All that has changed…

The mountains remain the same,
As do the trees and streams…
All that has changed
Is my heart.

~ Bennen

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Be not curious about God…

And I say to mankind,
Be not curious about God,

For I who am curious about each am not curious
about God,

(No array of terms can say how much I am
at peace about

God and about death.)

I hear and behold God in every object, yet
understand God not in the least,

Nor do I understand who there can be more
wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?

I see something of God each hour of the
twenty-four, and each moment then,

In the faces of men and women I see God, and in
my own face in the glass,

I find letters from God dropt in the street, and
every one is sign’d by God’s name,

And I leave them where they are, for I know that
wheresoe’er I go,

Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

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Knowing How Much Is Enough

The second awakening is to know how much is enough. Even if you already have something, you set a limit for yourself for using it. So you should know how much is enough.
The Buddha said, “Monks, if you want to be free from suffering, you should contemplate knowing how much is enough. By knowing it you are in the place of enjoyment and peacefulness. If you know how much is enough, you are contented even when you sleep on the ground. If you don’t know it, you are discontented even when you are in heaven. You can feel poor even if you have much wealth. You may be constantly pulled by the five sense desires and pitied by those who know how much is enough. This is called ‘to know how much is enough’.”

~From Dogen’s Shobogenzo Hachidainingaku ,1253 CE (translation from Enlightenment Unfolds: The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Dogen. Kazuaki Tanahashi, ed. Boston: Shambhala, 2000)

Dōgen on “Carrying water and gathering firewood”

“Lay Disciple Hō’on was an eminent person who was seated among the Ancestors. He not only trained under Baso Dōitsu and Sekitō Kisen but also had many meetings and encounters with Masters who truly walked the Way in our tradition. He once said in verse:

The marvelous spiritual ability manifests its enlightened functioning
In our carrying water and our hauling firewood.

You need to thoroughly explore this principle through your training. ‘Carrying water’ refers to the custom of loading up and toting water. Sometimes a disciple loads up and totes this water for his own sake, and sometimes he does it for the sake of others. This is what is meant by being a Buddha of marvelous spiritual abilities. Although knowledge itself is a transient thing, the marvelous spiritual ability is always a marvelous spiritual ability. Even if someone is unacquainted with it, what it teaches is not subject to fading out or to disappearing. Even if people are ignorant of it, what it teaches arises spontaneously. Even if they do not know that carrying water is a marvelous spiritual ability, the spiritual ability of carrying water is not subject to regression.

‘Hauling firewood’ means carrying wood for fuel. For instance, it is like what the Sixth Ancestor did of old. Even though he may not have recognized his marvelous spiritual abilities in his three thousand acts of a morning or may not have had the marvelous spiritual abilities in mind during his eight hundred acts of an evening, these acts were still a full manifestation of his marvelous spiritual ability.

Truly, those who meet and pay attention to the enlightened functioning of the marvelous spiritual ability of all the Buddhas and Tathagatas will, beyond doubt, realize the Way. This is why the realization of the Way by all the Buddhas—every one of Them—has unquestionably been fully accomplished through the effects of this marvelous spiritual ability. As a consequence, you should explore through your training that even though we were speaking just now of ‘the emitting of water’* of the Lesser Course as being a lesser spiritual ability, ‘carrying water’ is a greater spiritual ability. Carrying water and carrying firewood have never been abandoned, for people have not neglected them. Thus, these actions have been passed down from the distant past to the present day without a single person, even for a moment, falling away from them or turning them aside: this is due to the functioning of their marvelous spiritual ability. This is the greater marvelous spiritual ability, which is beyond any similarity with the inferior abilities of the Lesser Course.”

~ from Dōgen’s Jinzū (.pdf)

* this refers to a miracle where the Buddha emitted water from the upper part of his body and fire from the lower.