Bishop Ditch

"Bishop Ditch" number 45 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

Today's miniature is both biographical and instructive.

Our dear Robert Aitken, tells us where he got the inspiration for writing in the style of the miniatures. Yoshida Kenkō wrote a collection of very short essays in this style back in the middle ages around 1331. His book is called Tsurezuregusa or "Random Grasses" or "Essays in Idleness". 200 plus entries collected together.

From introduction to George Sansom's translation of the Tsurezuregusa - "To while away the idle hours, seated the livelong day before the inkslab, by jotting down without order or purpose whatever trifling thoughts pass through my mind, truly this is a queer and crazy thing to do!" Sort of sounds like a blog, like this blog. Sounds like twitter. Would Yoshida Kenkō be blogging if he was around today, would he be twittering? Probably so.

Now for the instructive part of this miniature.

The story of Bishop Ditch by Yoshida Kenkō.

Seems the bishop didn't like the nick name Bishop Nettle Tree so he chopped down the nettle tree from which he got the name and promptly was known as Bishop Stump. Mad as hell, he dug up the stump only now to be called Bishop Ditch.

We are known by our actions. Every morning during sesshin we recite "The Five Remembrances" which in part says "My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand."

Now, I must consider what actions am I known by? We don't get to choose how we are know, we can only act and live the consequences. Focus on the action and let the consequences handle themselves. Grousing about the consequences is just another action that has consequences.

Thanks for the fish!
Bless you Robert Aitken.

Continuing our conversation from a few days ago about shame. How does shame relate to Bishop Ditch? This action and consequences cycle is our karma. How our ego relates to this cycle is usual not with much maturity. Isn't it the ego that responds to an action/consequence and labels it "shame" or "praise"? Wouldn't one ego get all worked up and another ego not even notice the same action/consequence? Even the very same ego, one time feels/sees/hears shame and another time not? All these questions point to the nature of the ego. What is the nature of ego? It is a made up construct of imaginings built up from the consequences of our actions from the "beginningless past".

Saying this does not make us immune from the ego's labeling of action/consequence cycles. It does help dis-identify with praise, blame and shame. These feelings are just heavy baggage that can be put down and left where ever we are or not even picked up when noticed. They feel like dead weights, hindering us from moving lightly through life. Sure, for some it may be helpful to temporarily work with someone to see clearly enough to dis-identify with these ego states. But only sometimes, for some people and only temporarily. We have to be very careful not to let ego wallow in the warm feelings that come from psychotherapy. For many people and even Zen itself, encourages us not to identify with these ego states but to simply and directly move through life without trying to "show me your mind and I pacify it for you".

Notice and put down. Notice and don't pick up.

My most favorite Zen moment:

CASE 12 from the Mumonkan.

Every day Zuigan used to call out to himself, "Master!" and then he answered himself, "Yes, Sir!" And he added, "Awake, Awake!" and then answered, "Yes, Sir! Yes, Sir!"
"From now onwards, do not be deceived by others!" "No, Sir! I will not, Sir!"

Mumon's Comment:
The master, Zuigan, sells out and buys himself. He has a lot of puppets of gods and devils that he plays with. Why is this so? With one mask he asked, and with another he answered. With another mask he said, "Awake!" and another, "Don't be cheated by others!" If you adhere to any one of these, you are totally mistaken. If, however, you imitate Zuigan, then all these are no other than the fox's disguises.

Some who search the Way of Zen do not realize true self,
For they recognize only the ego-soul.
This ego-soul is the seed of birth and death,
Foolish people take it for the true original self.