There is a passage...

銀碗盛雪  明月藏鷺  類而不斉  混則知處
“A silver bowl full of snow / a white egret hidden in the moonlight / these are not the same / comparing them we can appreciate [our own] place”

This comes from the Jewel Mirror Samadhi, a medieval Chinese text.

My own teacher gave a teaching upon this text back in September 1981. Her translation is:
“The white snow falls upon the silver plate, / The snowy heron in the bright moon hides; / Resembles each the other yet these two are not the same; / combining them we can distinguish one from other.”

Here is what she said about this passage:

“Snow is white, a silver plate is white, but they are not the same whiteness. Herons and bright moons are the same colour, but they are not the same thing. Do not discriminate between the value of the silver and the apparent lack of value of the snow.”

In other words, in her view, it is a teaching about nondiscrimination, which is one varient on nonduality.

Now I have something to say...

This text specifically says, even in her own translation, “These two are not the same”. If two are not the same, then they are dual, and the purpose of the text is evidently to get us to "distinguish one from other."

Roshi’s teaching, not to discriminate values, has some grounding in Buddhism, but, I suggest, it is a subordinate value to that of honouring the Three Jewels as supremely radiant (the moon), and in this passage, it is the higher teaching, not the lower one that is meant.

Thus was I educated intensely in this nondual attitude, and it has taken me some time and effort to see that often what is taken as teaching on nonduality is actually nothing of the sort.

This particular extremely famous passage is surely telling us to appreciate our proper lesser place in the scheme of things. However white a heron/egret one may be, one can never be the moon. Egret means individual creature standing in the light - oneself. Moon means the source of the light - Buddha. This is a text about not pretending to be Buddha and not thinking that when Buddha acts on, in or through oneself that that is by one’s own power. It sets one apart and sets Buddha apart. This separation is necessary in order that one be able to receive.

The arrogant notion that one is oneself Buddha already, that one bumps into everywhere, is a sad distortion. We should not be minimising the difference; we should be realising the majesty.

[Footnote: There are those who say that one should never criticise nor disagree with one's teachers. This idea is also a heresy. Buddhism is a dialectical process. If my disciples are not capable ot debating with me then they have missed the point completely. To follow the Dharma is also to wrestle with the Dharma. How else is one going to arrive at the point where it becomes real?]

Views: 147

Replies to This Discussion

Dear Dharmavidya, it seems very true that denying that we ourselves are imperfect is highly unwise and not in keeping with the intent of Buddha-Dharma. In this light, it would seem that you would not find the idea of "original enlightenment" either not valid or at least not very helpful. Am I understanding correctly?

Namo Amida Bu


Yes, I think 'not very helpful' catches it about right. Ultimate validity has to rest in the domain of speculative philosophy and to a large extent hinges on definitions of words and arguments that are essentially circular, but in the realm of actual spiritual practice, I agree with Honen (and, I think Dogen - though there are many arguments about his precise position) that the idea that one is inherently enlightened hardly adds vigour to one's practice.



ITZI Conference 2019

Subscribe to ITZI Conference Newsletter

* indicates required

Blog Posts

Sagesse féline...

Posted by Tamuly Annette on September 29, 2019 at 12:00 1 Comment

En l'absence de Darmavidya, j'ai - en ma qualité de voisine et d'amie - le privilège de m'occuper (un peu) de Tara, la petite chatte. C'est un bonheur  de la voir me faire la fête chaque fois que je me rends à Eleusis: elle s'étire, se roule sur le dos au soleil ou saute sur mes genoux. J'ignore si elle a profité de l'enseignement du maître des lieux, mais j'ai comme l'impression qu'elle me donne une belle leçon de sagesse: elle…



Posted by David Brazier on August 20, 2019 at 21:38 2 Comments

At the moment I am feeling very sad for the state of the planet. As I write the great forests are being consumed by fire, both the tropical forest in Brazil and the tundra forest in Russia. The great forests are the lungs of the earth. I myself have lung problems. When there are parts of the lungs that don’t work anymore one can run out of energy. It can strike suddenly. We will probably not do anything serious about climate change or wildlife extinction…



Posted by David Brazier on June 26, 2019 at 18:04 10 Comments

My medical condition continues to be a mystery. It is clear that I do not have any of the big nasty things - brain tumour, cracked skull, stroke, etc - as these have been ruled out by MRI investigation. Nonetheless I continue to have persistent, continuous head pain that varies in intensity and I become exhausted by the least effort so that I am functioning like an invalid incapable of doing very much. There is always a possibility that the whole syndrome is a…



Posted by Dayamay Dunsby on June 2, 2019 at 1:02 4 Comments

“Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the saviour, or that the Bible contains the truth. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark Valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us… Continue

© 2019   Created by David Brazier.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service