It’s a beautiful spring morning, bright and frosty here in France, and going outside this morning I hear the birds all twittering away in the trees, getting ready for a big day of nest construction. In these conditions it’s very easy to understand the words of Dogen when he says:
Myriad dharmas come forth to train and enlighten the self
Well, that’s certainly a kind of enlightenment and a wonderful thing, a joy!
When we think about training the self, it’s easy to get quite heavy, serious: “Serious business, this training, got to get down to it, got to do some work… got to deal with all my obstacles and delusions” and so on.
But, you know, when you are standing in that spring sunshine, bathed in beauty, listening to nature, connecting with the elements, there is nothing to do. “Spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” All of the things that one might think of as obstacles just melt away. They melt into the Great Beingness of all this amazing diversity and stunning impactful beauty. And there is a poignancy here, too: the frost is cold, it bites. The sunshine when it comes might well be too hot, might well burn. Don’t work too long without your shirt on! This is the contrast, the bitter-sweetness of life. To live to the full is to take it all, to receive it all, to be grateful for it all. This is my prayer. So, my prayer is almost without words, just to stand here in this beautiful place, in tune with the elements, in tune with the season.
If I think back a month or two ago, it was really cold here. Again, I was in tune with the season. I had my wood-burning stove, I would go out in the forest and collect the wood. This is a very simple, straightforward life. It’s a bit different from living in the city with central heating and lots of machines and so on. When I go out and work on the land here, I use a bit of machinery sometimes but mostly I’m working with hand tools. It’s all very hands on. And then sometimes I just stop and stare… I just sit and think as I watch the sun go down. And at those times it’s as though nature has her hands on me.
So, here I am: nature and myself – whatever myself is and whatever nature might be – we make a good pair. I’m not it, but it is all of me. It takes me over; it lifts me up. It redeems my soul. This is the true spirit of nembutsu: not as some heavy religious practice, but as natural life, as the myriad dharmas coming forth to train and enlighten the self. How happy one can be!
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much