In our last half day sitting I spoke about Avalokiteshvara as Dogen presented in his fascicle by the same day that is found in the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, translated by Kazuaki Takahashi.
Dogen opens the fascicle with a dialogue between two dharma brothers, Yunyan and Daowu. Yunyan asks Daowu “What does the bodhisattva of great compassion do with so many hands and eyes?” Daowu’s response, “Like someone reaching back for the pillow at night.” This heartfelt exchange is packed with intensity from both individuals. Such a genuine inquiry by Yunyan and a wholehearted response by Daowu! Yunyan wants to know what are Avalokiteshvara’s hands and eyes about and why so many. Maybe some of you may have heard that Avalokiteshvara listens to the cries of the world. Dogen has another understanding, “…Avalokietshvara – One who has complete freedom in perceiving.” Now the eyes in the hands make sense! But Daowu’s response is unexpected, dynamic and unexpected, “Like someone reaching back for the pillow at night.” Who is this ‘someone’ and what is like to reach back for your pillow? After groping and feeling for a pillow we are comforted by the pillow’s presence. Can you imagine experiencing Avalokiteshvara’s abiding presence, bringing comfort to those in distress? The Lotus Sutra, chapter 25 highlights Kannon (Japanese name for Avalokiteshvara) qualities to those who invoke this Bodhisattva’s assistance. These expressions all take place in the phenomenal world. Now, the source of Avalokiteshvara’s compassion arises from emptiness, Suchness, Oneness, the Universal. Often “night” or “darkness” is a metaphor for emptiness. From these details we can begin to see the depth of Daowu’s response.
So how do we practice compassion in our life? How can Avalokiteshvara help us stay awake to what arises moment by moment, and equally important, awake to an appropriate response? Beginning with our zazen practice, we let go of our thoughts and mind habits. This work is with us off the cushion. And, zazen can be practiced in any of the four positions: sitting, standing, lying down, walking.
If you seek a state of happiness and peace, begin today with a daily meditation practice. This will open your mind-heart to being compassionate to self and others as the moments arise, one after the other.