Painting, "Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva" from Buddha series
I will no longer be actively marketing my art work, so I will not be sending you any sale announcements. The reason for this is that I have stepped into a more active role administering and marketing our Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago. So, it now feels like a conflict of interest to be marketing my art work along side the Zen Center's programs. So if I have to choose, it will always be the dharma and my sangha community.
But all is not lost. Now I am free to really say what I want to say, and usually that's going to have something to do with the dharma, wisdom or compassion. So here is a new post for your reading pleasure. This is a koan from the Book of Equanimity. This is a book of koans my Zen students take up and study with me when they are fairly far along in their Zen training.
Ungan asked Dogo, "What does the Bodhisattva of great compassion use so many hands and eyes for?"
Dogo said, "It's like someone reaching back for a pillow in the night."
Ungan said, "I understand."
Dogo said, "How do you understand?"
Ungan said, "All over the body are hands and eyes."
Dogo said, "You've said quite a bit, but you've only expressed 80%."
Ungan said, "What about you?"
Dogo said, "Throughout the body are hands and eyes."
There are many ways a Zen student could work on this koan. First of all, one can appreciate this beautiful image of compassion being as normal and ordinary as simply reaching back for your pillow in the night. We go to sleep every night and our dreams seem as real as our waking reality. Which is real? If we are responsible for our waking behavior, are we not also responsible for our dreams?
Another meditation that comes up for me around this koan is to remember all the many loving hands that have touched and held me. And when I think of this, it breaks my heart open. This sad and tender heart is called bodhichitta. It means awakened heart and it has great strength and resilience in the face of all kinds of challenges and seeming obstacles.
There is another question that arises for me at this time, regarding this koan. How do we practice in times of darkness. What does it mean that compassion might come in the dark? I can hear someone saying, "but I have no control over my dreams". Exactly. If we could let go of needing to be in control perhaps we could trust what works in the dark.
~ Roshi Robert Althouse