This week's book is Stephen Batchelor's "Alone with Others", and I am finding myself not agreeing with all of it. This quote stopped me this morning: 'in fact, an inner experience only achieves true completeness when it has been spoken' (italics in the original). He goes on to qualify this with the understanding that language is limited, but that language is the signifier that humans are essentially 'being-with', rather than alone.
I have been thinking about the Bodhisattva Precept Ceremony aka the Full Moon Ceremony, which we are doing tonight. It is one of my favourite ceremonies, and one that I also often don't enjoy so much, not least because I always get caught up in my own ideas about how it should sound, the way the bells should be rung in the chants, and the way the kokyo manages to get through the long phrases, which means that when those things don't happen the way I think they should, I stop being completely present with the confession, repentance and vowing. Nevertheless, some of my favourite zen words occur during the ceremony, and the line 'to expound the dharma with this body is foremost' is something that I hold very closely. And I also take it fairly literally.
Thinking about the ino job, I am currently seeing it as three main areas of responsibility: organising things, showing up for all dharma activities and being available for people who need me. Now in this last part I have been falling down very badly, due to getting caught up in my own emotions and stories recently, and that is something I will be focusing on tonight in our small group discussions around the precepts, which we will do before the ceremony. The organising is mostly happening without too many problems, and I am still showing up. I have always been pretty good at showing up, and it has always felt like an important part of practice for me. Yesterday, bowing during evening service, I was wondering about the times recently when I have been showing up but not completely present, and how that may appear to others. Knowing that I am supposed to be modelling forms and behaviours for the sangha, I still have to play that role, even when I am not feeling like it, and that in itself is can be valuable; I still unfold my zagu and bow as mindfully as I can, because my body is used to doing that, and doing this can bring me back to being present even when my mind is caught up in its own swirl.
Coming back to Stephen Batchelor's point, the other end of this notion is what I have often heard or read about great zen teachers, and which I think was many people's experience of Suzuki Roshi, that their very presence was a complete expression of the dharma, that anything they said was secondary to their way of being and what that taught those around them.
So how do we express the dharma? I think I will leave Dogen the last word: 'Hundreds of things all manifest original practice from the original face; it is impossible to measure'. (Self-receiving and -employing Samadhi).