Here there be dragons.

Dragons Gate is situated atop a high waterfall that cuts from the legendary Longmen mountains above the Yellow River at Hunan.

Carp that have endured the difficult and treacherous journey upstream are faced with this final leap of faith at the gate.
Those who succeed are transformed into dragons.

Dragons have always held a special place in Chinese mythology. Known as Lung, they are closely associated with the power and fertility of water, and are often used to symbolise courage, perseverance and accomplishment.

Seiko (Yeh Kung-tzu) and the dragon.
Yeh Kung-tzu was a man who loved dragons. He studied dragon lore and decorated his home with paintings and statues of dragons. He would talk on and on about dragons to anyone who would listen. One day a dragon heard about Yeh Kung-tzu and thought, how lovely that this man appreciates us. It would surely make him happy to meet a true dragon. The kindly dragon flew to Yeh Kung-tzu’s house and went inside, to find Yeh Kung-tzu asleep. Then Yeh Kung-tzu woke up and saw the dragon coiled by his bed, its scales and teeth glittering in the moonlight. And Yeh Kung-tzu screamed in terror. Before the dragon could introduce himself, Yeh Kung-tzu grabbed a sword and lunged at the dragon. The dragon flew away.

Many of us (note to self) fall into the trap of becoming infatuated with the idea of spiritual accomplishment and self transformation in our zen practice. It is easy to decorate ourselves with the accoutrements of practice and hang memorised quotes out as banners displaying our knowledge.

But when faced with the reality of actually leaping to meet the face of our dragon we can only scream and drive it away.

To love the dragon is to finally recognise a love of our own true selves. That is why the dragon came to Seiko.

I think we all face a choice to make the final leap at Dragons Gate.
We must all come to a true understanding that the scales of the carp are already the scales of the dragon.


Featured image via dianham

Wild geese. 

In Sung China,
two monks friends for sixty years
watched the geese pass.
Where are they going?
one tested the other, who couldn’t say.
That moment’s silence continues.
No one will study their friendship
in the koan-books of insight.
No one will remember their names.
I think of them sometimes,
standing, perplexed by sadness,
goose-down sewn into their quilted autumn robes.
Almost swallowed by the vastness of the mountains,
but not yet.
As the barely audible
geese are not yet swallowed;
as even we, my love, will not entirely be lost.

–Jane Hirshfield

Turning moments. 

I recently came across this eloquent post from John Tarrant a meditation teacher who was born in Tasmania:

“The first thing about really having your own creative life is not thinking you know what you are, not thinking what you are already thinking. This comes from making space, from not knowing, from playing.
We are living and making a work of art at the same time. The work of art is what we do, it’s also who we are. We ourselves are the work we are making.
Sometimes are just walking along and the world becomes real and beautiful. The bird calls, the face of a child, the lights in the rain, step forward. When we have difficulties we forget these moments of beauty but they are just as real as any difficulties we might have. Even the plain moments of life have infinite depth.
In Zen these glimpses are called turning moments because they turn us to face a new direction. And the poetry or koans that evoke such moments are called turning words.
And what do we discover? That we weren’t doing it wrong, that there is a happiness deep inside both the oldest and youngest things. Nothing is missing. Even when we think that the world has gone wrong, that thought has a light inside it, and expresses our unique life.
The turning moment is the creative moment, the time in which everything seems possible. The walls we have made fall down all at the same time.”

–John Tarrant

The Wait.

 

A beautifully crafted film following Belgian wildlife photographer Michel D’Oultremont as he displays both deep patience and presence in his work.

The film takes the viewer on a journey from Michel’s hometown in Belgium to the remote mountains of Romania. On the trail of wild bison, Michel tracks the movement of the animals and then waits for the perfect moment; a process that can take up to a week to capture one shot.

 

Practicing the edge. 

 

Engage all of your life as you would zazen. Don’t be cautious. Throw yourself into it. Thats where you learn. Our tendency is to go with what is familiar and safe.

Yet the familiar and the safe have nothing to teach.

Its only the challenges of a new territory that have something to reveal to you. But it means risking something, taking a chance.

It means living and practicing the edge, not backing away from it.”
–John Daido Loori.

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