2020-07-06

Raven 130: Self and Soul

Back in #19, Woodpecker asked about "essential nature," and Raven chided him for presuming that there is one. Other than that, there's been no mention of essential nature around Tallspruce.

It's true that Zen includes talk about this "essential nature" thing -- though often to warn us from any such conception. Here's Yamada Koun, for instance:
"Let’s say, for example, that you have experienced kensho and realized your own essential nature. As long as there is something like 'essential nature' in your head, it is still not the genuine article. If you have truly become one with it, you are not aware of it in the least. As long as there is an awareness of something like “essential nature” it is not yet the real thing."
Case
Owl spoke up again that evening after zazen and said, "The Buddha Macaw said there is no self and no soul, yet I hear a lot of talk about essential nature, which sounds a lot like soul."
Raven said, "No self, no soul, no essential nature."
Owl said, "How come we hear so much talk about it?"
Raven said, "No excuse whatsoever."
Verse
The sun at dusk alights the river,
Casts the leaves in gold, and the mountainside.
I am either lost in thought about essence,
Or found in awareness of essencelessness.

It will soon be dark, and I have five or six kilometers
Through the woods back to my car.
Here is the essence and the essencelessness:
The stone on which I'm sitting is harder than it was
Half an hour ago.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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