2020-06-21

128. The Seed of Enlightenment

We first saw Reverend Crane in #33, when the Tallspruce Community visited his Little Church in the Grotto. He then came to visit the Tallspruce gang in #107, where he asked what role God has in our practice.

Dogen describes his journey, both spiritual and geographic:
"After the aspiration for enlightenment arose, I began to search for dharma, visiting teachers at various places in our country. Then I met priest Myozen [1184-1225], of the Kennin Monastery, with whom I trained for nine years, and thus I learned a little about the teaching of the Linji School....Later I went to Great Song China, visited masters on both sides of the Zhe River, and heard the teachings of the Five Gates. Finally, I became a student of Zen master [Tiantong] Rujing [1163-1228] of Taibo Peak, and completed my life’s quest of the great matter." (Bendowa)
It begins with the arousing of an aspiration for enlightenment. But what kind of aspiration is this? Until one experiences enlightenment, one can have only deluded conceptions of what it is. Yet somehow aspiring for a deluded conception of enlightenment -- that is, aspiring for something entirely different from enlightenment -- is a necessary first step.

We have to start where we are -- with the delusions, projections, and imaginings that we have.

Case
Reverend Crane stopped by again one evening to hear one of Raven's talks. Afterward he asked, "Do I have the seed of enlightenment?"
Raven said, "You can be your best Reverend Crane."
Crane said, "Are we talking about character development?"
Raven said, "Have to start somewhere."
Crane said, "Maybe my best Crane is just something I imagine."
Raven said, "Have to start somewhere."
Verse
Where did you start?
I don't mean, in the womb,
Or the wombs of your two grandmothers,
where your parents waited to be born.
I don't mean the 64 wombs from which your fourth-great-grandparents came,
a couple centuries ago.
I don't mean the first human, first primate, first mammal, first life.
You could pick any of those, say that's where you started,
and have a good point,
But that's not what I mean.
Nor do I mean when you were four, or went to first grade,
Or turned 18.
I mean: where were you when you stepped onto the great way?
Where in your body did the cold lump of defeat weigh?
the smoldering ash of shame,
the cavity of loneliness?
Where was the clench?
stomach? shoulders? throat? chest?
Wherever it was, it reached down to your foot,
and lifted it in the direction of the path.
Wherever it was, that's where you started --
There, and where you are right now.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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