Thursday, April 5, 2012

No Self

It's truly amazing how effortlessly the human body can adjust to change. Now that we've experienced warmer than normal temperatures in the Northland, it actually feels like we're having a cold spring since temps have returned to "normal."

I drove to Corny to teach my AM TCC class and was greeted with a book sale in the hall outside the community library. Of course, I made browsing the book collection my first priority (what reader can resist a $.25 per book bargain?). It was a breeze to pick out a dollar's worth of ready reads: PrairyErth by William Least Heat-Moon, The Healthy Heart Walking Book, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Moving Violations by former NPR reporter John Hockenberry.

Next week will be our final class until summer session begins in July. That class will also be the final time I'll see two of my most loyal and consistent TCC students. Bea and Howard are moving to the Twin Cities in June. It feels in many ways like the end of an era.

After our T'ai Chi Chih practice this morning we discussed a few pages of Ch. 13 in Buddha's Brain. This chapter returns us to the concept of No Self (chapter title is "Relaxing the Self"). We begin with a wonderful quote by Dogen:

          To study the Way is to study the self.
          To study the self is to forget the self.
          To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.

The book's authors remind us that it's important to not make the self special. What's left behind when we relax the self? Say the authors: Open-hearted spaciousness, wisdom, values and virtues, and a soft sweet joy.

These ideas and thoughts brought me back to The Second Book of the Tao by Stephen Mitchell. In section 16 Mitchell translates the words of Lao-tzu's disciple, Chuang-tzu and Confucius' grandson, Tzu-ssu, who espouse the glories of No Self:

          You have heard of flying with wings,
          but can you fly without wings?
          You have heard of the knowledge that knows,
          but can you practice
          the knowledge that doesn't know?

          Consider a window: it is just
          a hole in the wall, but because of it
          the whole room is filled with light.
          Thus, when the mind is open
          and free of its own thoughts,
          life unfolds effortlessly,
          and the whole world is filled with light.

Ahhh. No Self.

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