Book Study: Comments by Jack Duffy Roshi on “Mind of Clover,” Chapter 5

I take up the Way of Not Lying…

Hello Friends, I hope this finds you in good (enough) health and spirits. We have had perfect weather, although a little on the chilly side, to grow trees and grass. We’ll have a few days (or hours) of sunny weather followed by a couple days (or hours) of rain or showers. The birds tell us they are well each morning around 4:15 and the coyotes as well sing of their well-being most evenings. Many people of the world are suffering and we sit with them in the morning and evening, It, at times, does not seem like much but I pray that it is something. Merwin said, “Even if the entire world was burning, I’d plant a tree.” Our zazen and yours is a tree-planting. Please have faith and, as importantly, please enjoy your practice and carry it (& yourselves) lightly.

I am still researching the following but this seems like the appropriate time to take it up. The mythology of Bodhidharma’s One Mind Precept (Isshin kaimon) words, which accompany each of the precepts, came from India to China and took root in the T’ien-t’ai school. They only found their way into the Zen school in medieval Japan @ the 15th century after many evolutions. His words were initially described in tantric terms. They clearly were re-interpreted to come down to us in the fashion we recite during the jukai ceremony. Possibly to say they came from Bodhidharma is a stretching of the truth. I will continue to read and talk to folks and update you as new information (for me at least) becomes available. Bodhidharma said, “Self-nature is subtle and mysterious (incomparably profound). In the realm of the inexplicable Dharma, not preaching a single word is called the Precept of Not Lying.” The word ‘inexplicable’ has its roots in Latin and means ‘it cannot be unfolded’. This is a beautiful description of Dharma and whether Bodhidharma said these exact words or not, their truth is rather evident. The moment you describe or explain, the true configuration of things fade.

One time as Baofu and Changqing were wandering in the mountains, Baofu raised his hand and pointed, saying, “Right here is the summit of the Peak of Wonder.”
“Indeed it is, ” said Changqing. “What a pity!”
Why did Changqing say it was a pity? Bodhidharma’s words give us a hint. He says it is inexplicable. Why narrow it down to your own understanding? Let it be what it is—vast, broad and wide. It is always right before us and can’t be unfolded because there is nothing hidden, ever. Where isn’t the Peak of Wonder? What isn’t the Peak of Wonder? Let yourself wander in the Circle of Wonder and you’ll find no reason to explain, complain or hide.

Bodhidharma then said, “Not preaching a single word is called the precept of Not Lying.” What do you make of that especially since Bodhidharma is preaching the One Mind Precept. Is he lying? Bending the truth? Shakyamuni Buddha, near the end of his life said, “I never preached even a single word.” And yet many, many sutras begin with, “I heard the words of the Buddha one time…” Again, what is being presented by Bodhidharma’s “not preaching, not saying even a single word”? Is this a lie or is something else being presented right within the words that we are failing to hear?

This is the beauty of the practice “Who Hears.” Initially you might think, ‘well, of course, I hear’. Or as you get more zennish, you might say, ‘well, no one hears.’ But as those very limited perspectives dissolve, as they blow away with the cut grass in a strong Spring time wind, you begin to unfold and open to the sounds of no object, no subject, no activity. Even the faculty of hearing with your ears falls away and you begin to hear with your entire body. But this, too, is a limited perspective anchored in space and time. And so you listen even more closely, you begin to hear with the entire body which includes the mountains, rivers, meadows and streams; the trees, bushes and shrubs; the insects, birds and animals. And you begin to hear the words of the Buddha which have never been said. You begin to hear Bodhidharma who never preached one phrase. And you realize there is nothing hidden, there is nothing to unfold. This is when we know a lie from the truth, illusion from reality and bullshit from sincerity.

Lies separate you from reality, you from the other and ultimately you from yourself. Dogen wrote, “The Dharma wheel turns from the beginning. There is neither surplus nor lack. The whole universe is moistened with nectar, and the truth is ready to harvest.” It is right here: here in the buzzing of bees, the chatting of squirrels and the incessant squabbling cries of jays. It is also in the pain and suffering of lost family members, lost friends and lost jobs. It is also present in the lies of those in stations of power. And this is where and why practice is so important, especially now. We have to practice deeply and hear intimately to understand the truth of what is actually being said. Hear below the content! Hear the silence between the words that is filled with grass growing, birds singing and trees budding….and act, and act from those sounds thus bringing truth to lies. The entire universe, all of it, is moistened and its true configuration is evident. Listen carefully. Listen closely. Who Hears.

I take up the Way of Not Lying. Aitken Roshi said, “Be honest.” What would you say? What are the exact, succinct words of your vow? How would you vow in the positive? How in the negative? Really! And now go out and live it, failing again and again but…continuing to cultivate the ground of vow; the vow of living embodied with the world, embodied as the world not preaching or saying even one word.

M. L.