Imagine you are made of snow, and each breath, a drop of rain.
Let the rain gradually melt the snow.
If you find hard lumps of ice in the midst of the snow congealed masses of anger, fear or hope turn the heat of your attention on them until they too begin to slowly melt away.
I opened last week`s sesshin with these words. Today, let`s explore with the metaphor a little further.
One way to think about snow and rain would be to notice that they are both forms of water. If we follow this line of thought, we are as snow- are just one form or manifestation with the great cycle of evaporation, condensation, cloud formation, rain, snow fall, melting water, and again evaporation. Seen this way, we might be inclined that say our self is part of a larger, perhaps divine or cosmic self. Our little, individual self and the big, cosmic self share an essential nature, both being made of the same substance, water. This way of thinking was characteristic of the classic Hinduism at the time Buddha began his quest for enlightenment. It represented the conventional wisdom of his time you might say: Brahma (the Absolute) and Atman (the Soul) are One.
Buddha`s teaching was different. He would say, look at each snowflake. None is identical to any other. Each may last only a moment. Only the continual creation and flow and accumulation of endless individual snowflakes gives the impression of a single entity, now. Here the self is the sum of all these individual, transitory snowflakes. But instead of saying that every snowflake which he would call dharma shares an underlying essence: water. Buddha declared that all dharmas are empty. That is, they have no fixed, unchanging essential nature of any kind. It is as if each snowflake not only had a unique shape, different from every other snowflake, but was composed of its own unique elements as well. Each dharma, each moments flash of existence, shares with each other moment, only the fact of its impermanence. And it is that impermanence, that emptiness, which is their Buddha-nature.
What does all this mean for practice? Well, first of all it means we are not here to search for some higher, divine, inner or cosmic essence, some real me or true self that exists on some plane apart from our everyday lives. Our true self is not an essence, but an absence. One might say it is an absence of attachment whatever it is that makes the individual snowflakes try to stick together and hold one particular shape perhaps as a way of bracing themselves against the elements! When we practice, we let each moment simply come and go. Then our moment to moment experience is like light powdery snow, able to blow freely this way or that in response to the wind of circumstance. But under that layer of light powder in all of us there is a deeper layer of hard, packed snow. Snow, maybe even ice, that has grown rigid under the pressure of our fear, anger, hopes and expectations. When we sit, we need to work our way down to that level of hard packed snow, which we find buried in the tension of our bodies. Breathe into that tension. Shine the light of attention on it. Let the heat of attention gradually allow it to melt away. Whenever you find some lump of cold hard ice that particularly resists your efforts to melt it away, bring THAT into daisan to show me.