Sawyer Jisho Hitchcock
3/4/2021 09:30:13 am
I'm starting to feel like this practice of "offering" is one of the most foundational structures of practicing the Dharma. Sometimes recently, this has even felt a bit... dizzying. It's one (large) thing to accept that the whole of our life can be "practice," and another to accept that the whole of our practice can be "offering." Sometimes I've felt this as a challenge, sometimes I've felt it as a relief, and other times I've forgotten about it (though at some level, I'm starting to see, relation to "offering" keeps operating).
A few days ago I submitted a pair of poems to the Indy Kurt Vonnegut Library's literary journal, responding to their theme for this year: "Our Good Earth." I've had just a few experiences "submitting" writing for publication, and it was helpful to see it as offering. The weekend before that my Dad and I participated in Upaya's online retreat, "Haiku As Refuge In Our Times." In an ideal (yet very practical) way, I'd like to be able to understand and experience my writing as not "my" writing. Haiku offer a good chance at that. Here's one from that weekend (just after our snow-week here), that also found its way into a section of the poem I offered to the Vonnegut journal:
deep through snowing woods
Thanks woodpecker, trees, snow, ears, imagination, woodstove...
Norman Fischer says in his essay "Zen / Poetry,"
"My language is a given that precedes and creates me, and so the notion of my own expression as if I were an isolated individual apart from all of that is really a false and pernicious notion. Poetry is a communal process, a process of sharing."
Joy Harjo is our current U.S. Poet Laureate, and is a tribal member of the Mvskoke, and so the first person indigenous to this land to represent poetry for us in the United States. She recently edited "When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry." (Hoko, could this be added to the resource page?) In her introduction she says,
"Words are living beings. Poetry in all its forms, including songs, oratory, and ceremony, both secular and sacred, is a useful tool for the community. Though it is performative there is no separation between audience and performer."
Dogen (with Hojo-san and Alan Senauke and everyone else) writes,
"They simply shared what they had according to their ability. To launch a boat or build a bridge is the practice of dana paramita. When we understand the meaning of dana, receiving a body and giving up a body are both offerings."
Here's to continuing submissions and offerings...!
3/6/2021 01:34:18 pm
Your writing this week is a wonderful offering, Sawyer Jisho. I appreciate how you weave between sharing your own poetry, sharing your experience of writing it, and then offer the words of Norman Fischer, Joy Harjo, Dogen & friends. Writing (noun, words on the page/screen) are different from writing (verb, the process of settling and bring the right words up so they can be submitted). I like hearing about your writing process and experience.
Your first paragraph is also leaving me with a lot to consider: the ways offering appears to us as a challenging, a relief, and as something we forget. Always there and changing.
3/7/2021 10:16:00 am
It is your mind that moves.
“The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks were having an argument about it. One said, ‘The flag is moving.’ The other said, ‘The wind is moving.’ They argued back and forth but could not reach the truth. The sixth patriarch said, ‘It is not the wind that moves. It is not the flag that moves. It is your mind that moves.’ The two monks were struck with awe”.
This koan came to mind while reading the ‘offering’ portion of Bodaisattva Shishobo where I was struck by the closing sentence in Nishijima’s translation , “…there are times when the mind changes things, and there is free giving in which things change mind.” Daitsu Wright’s footnote to that section says, “How we look at the various things or people around us determines our perception of them.” The koan and the fascicle both seem to point to the idea that the way of reality exists beyond our rigid mental idea of dualities.
Yamada comments that “There is no flag or mind outside the wind. There is no wind or mind outside the flag. There is only I, alone and sacred, in heaven above and the earth below.” He relates to this as when one “realizes the world of oneness.” For me, this is echoed in Wright’s translation where “self is being offered to self.”
Dogen gives us a generous teaching! Surely, we have all practiced selfless giving at some point in our lives, so unconditional giving is a practice we can all do. Can we do it deliberately, with a goal in mind? I often expect some notice, some appreciation; even when offering a gift to myself there is usually some expectation of a reward. But sometimes unconditional giving arises on its own in the right way. We should take notice when this happens without undermining its virtue.
 K. Yamada and A&W, “Case 29, Not the Wind, Not the Flag,” in The gateless gate: the classic book of Zen koans, 1st Wisdom ed., Boston, Mass: Wisdom Publications, 2004.
 K. Nishijima and C. Cross, Eds., Master Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō. Book 1. BookSurge, LCC, 2006.
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