This autumn I began practicing with a zen group new to me, the Blue Heron Zendo. I have been sitting in the Vipassana tradition for many years, but my roots are in zen. The black cushion, the tatami mats, the kosaku, the grinding of ink into the wee hours to fill baskets with rice paper covered in the Heart Sutra, I had left this but it had not left me. And so I found myself one Tuesday night at the top of a three story house in a formal temple dumbstruck by the most beautiful bell I have ever heard. Followed by bowing and chanting and inwardly objecting to chanting (which I long ago took a position against, after all I want to talk and with chanting you can hardly get a word in edgewise.) Two hours of walking, chanting, staring at the wall.
Clear mind, clear mind, don’t know.
The heart sutra’s bleak-but-not refrains of no-thing-ness, and images involuntary offering the balm of metaphor. Blessed metaphor: where is the sutra to you/for you? — or must I look to the German sangha, to Rilke and the tormeted but ecstatic Europeans for that? “A Metaphor is a dangerous thing. A single metaphor can give birth to love.”*
This practice changes you.
* Milan Kundera, a Czechoslovakian zen master of literature.