ISSUE Space Also Becomes Old by ZM Bon Hae Sangha Notes
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Space also becomes old by Judy Roitman (Zen Master Bon Hae) One summertime Zen Master Man Gong visited Zen Master Yong Song in Seoul. As they sat facing each other, Yong Song said, “Man Gong, you have become old.” “Space also becomes old,” Man Gong replied. “Why wouldn’t this form-body become old?”
This is case 144 in Zen Master Seung Sahn’s kong-an collection The Whole World is a Single Flower. I love this kong-an. Even when I was young I loved it. It’s so human — two friends are visiting and one of them suddenly realizes: my “Space also befriend has become old!
comes old. So why not Man Gong’s rupakaya?”
I remember when I first noticed my parents were old, as they walked out of the jetway into the Kansas City airport, their bodies a little smaller, a little more frail than the last time I’d seen them. Something had shifted. But I didn’t say anything. “Old” is a word like “fat” — it’s not considered nice, so we use euphemisms — “senior” anyone? Nobody in our culture would say, “Mom, Dad, you’re old.” Unless we want to make them feel bad. But old is just old. I’m old. Maybe you’re old. If you’re not old, and if you don’t die first, someday you’ll be old. No problem.
means body in Sanskrit. Rupa means form, so the rupakaya is the form-body, the body as it exists physically. One meaning of dharma is truth, so the dharmakaya is the dharma-body or the truth-body. Originally these words applied only to the body of the Buddha: the nirmanakaya was what everyone saw when they looked at Sakyamuni Buddha; the sambhogakaya included the thirty-two marks of the Buddha (look them up online) that only high-class bodhisattvas could see — together these were the rupakaya; and the dharmakaya was the Buddha’s true nature. Eventually rupakaya and dharmakaya were applied to all beings. Space also becomes old. So why not Man Gong’s rupakaya? Who are we to think we will live forever? That we will not become old? That’s just how it is, you know? No big deal. The wall is white. The floor is brown. Man Gong became old. And now he’s been dead for 70 years.
This case has several questions, one of which is: If you say dharma-body and form-body are the same, then dharma-body also becomes old. If you say they are different, these two bodies come from where? Wait a minute! The dharma-body is not supposed to become old. It is never born and never dies. So these two bodies must be different, right? But then how can they connect? Who do they belong to? But if this is someThis is a reference to Buddhist terminology: the rupa- body’s form-body and dharma-body — yours, mine, kaya (which has two manifestations, the nirmanakaya Man Gong’s, doesn’t matter who — then how can and the sambhogakaya) and the dharmakaya. Kaya they really be different? (cont’d next page)
So Man Gong is old and Yong Song points this out. And what does Man Gong say? Not “Who you calling old, buster?” Not “You wouldn’t believe how lousy I feel in the morning.” Nope. He says, “Space also becomes old. Why wouldn’t this form-body become old?”
Congratulations to Todd Wyant and Clare Gomes on the birth of their daughter Coral.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Stela and Alvaro Lopez Duarte on their wedding.
Condolences to Joe Janowski on the death of his mother.
We miss Justin Smith, who moved out of the Zen Center house to go to graduate school in Louisville KY. And we welcome new resident Andy Foat.
Thanks to James Kizer for his wonderful sculpture installed just southwest of the back porch. The calligraphy reads: no gate. It is transcribed from Steve Addiss’ calligraphy scroll in the dharma room.
Stan Lombardo began working on an interlinear (word for word) translation of our chants 15 years ago. It is now completed, and you can find it in our brand new chanting books. We thank him profusely. Among the people who helped him, special thanks go to Yvonnes Chen for the cover calligraphy and to Justin Smith for the countless hours (we tried counting but gave up) he put into typesetting and copy editing.
The Zen Center buildings and grounds depend on volunteer labor from the sangha for their upkeep. Thanks to the many people who showed up on the spring workday, at the June weeding party, picking up black walnuts after our October 9th practice, and who quietly weed on their own when time permits. Consolidating all the lists (and if we left anyone out, let us know) we thank: Cara Baustian, Bill Bunn, Yvonnes Chen, John Cougher, Sadie Cougher, Oliver Cougher, Tom Davis, Wenda Davis, Ting Dotson, Alvaro Lopez Duarte, Aly Evans, James Kizer, Bailey Lombardo, Stan Lombardo, Bond Love, Steve Olson, Margaret Rausch, Bill Rogers, Judy Roitman, Jan Schaake, Elizabeth Stela, Jenn Thomas, Maria Velasco, Charlie Vitale, David Whitaker, Wyatt Whitaker, Blake Wilson, and Todd Wyant. Special thanks to Stan Lombardo and Justin Smith for their work fixing the leaky pond, to Ben Graham for the house drainage system, and to James Kizer for painting said system.
(Space cont’d) How can they be separate? But how can they be the same? What is going on here? It’s so easy to get distracted by all these kayas. And it’s so easy to get distracted without them. A recent oped in the New York Times called Why We Never Die (say what?) tries to establish that… well I’m not sure what it’s trying to establish, but clearly the author was seriously distracted by the thought of physical disintegration and desperately trying to come up with alternatives (“The artifacts that we have produced also persevere…”). Case 144 is not about kayas. It is not about Man Gong. It is not about old age or physical disintegration. It is about each of us. It is about our life as it actually is. Whether we are old or not, we are all getting older. Are we afraid because our form-body actually started disintegrating when we were in our teens? That’s one kind of dream. Do we cling to the idea of an unchanging dharma-body as a way of calming our fears? That’s another kind of dream. Space also becomes old. Why not you and me? And what can this idea of “old” possibly mean?
Two-day retreat Friday November 18 6:30 p.m. to Sunday November 20 noon. With Zen Master Bon Hae (Judy Roitman).
Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony Sunday December 11, 2016, 10:30 a.m., followed by a potluck lunch.
One-day retreat Saturday, December 17th, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Zen Mater Bon Hae (Judy Roitman).
500 bows for the new year Start the new year right with 500 prostrations! Sunday January 1, 2017, 10 a.m. to noon
Two-day retreat Friday January 6 6:30 p.m. to Sunday January 8 noon. With Zen Master Hae Kwang (Stan Lombardo).
One day retreat Sunday, February 5 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. With Zen Master Hae Kwang (Stan Lombardo).
Two-day retreat Friday March 17 6:30 p.m. to Sunday March 19 noon. With Zen Master Bon Hae (Judy Roitman).
Buddha’s Birthday Ceremony Sunday April 9,2017, 10:30 a.m., followed by a potluck lunch. Come help us bathe the baby Buddha!
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