Friday, June 6, 2014

Put Down My Pack


The soul is a bad word in Zen. I was embarrassed to admit tonight after meditation that we were going to deal with the soul. In the rest of the world a soul is something you cherish. In The Devil and Daniel Webster, Daniel Webster attempts to get back a man’s soul from the devil. It was bartered for a good crop.

It isn't that Buddhists don't like the soul. They don't believe it exists. The praise JustThis really gets to the heart of the matter. There isn't anything to us but our skin and bones. And there is no part that is permanent.

But there are, for me, some inconsistencies in this view. For one, there is our Buddha nature, which some associate with our original being—who we were before we started piling up delusions. And for another, there is the question that is rarely answered about the Buddhist concept of rebirth. If it isn't our skin and bones that are reborn, then what is it that comes around around again? Buddhists believe that everything that we do and everything that we have done in past lives carves a statute of who or what we will become. How does this get passed on? If it is not a physical structure, is it not something very close to a soul?

William Stafford tells us that “to regain your soul” we should put down our pack and inhale glorious nature (my words). He says that “suddenly, anything could happen to you. Your soul pulls toward the canyon and then shines back...to be you again.”

Today I was working out with my trainer, Finn. Letting go is really tough for me. I restrict my movements with my brain. I create sore muscles by protecting them as best I can. Putting down one’s pack—that which (we believe) may sustain us in the future—may allow us to find the delight of this present moment. And in doing so, we may find our soul, or our original nature, as the Buddhists like to call it.

Putting down my pack is my challenge.

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How to Regain Your Soul
by William Stafford

Come down Canyon Creek trail on a summer afternoon
that one place where the valley floor opens out. You will see
the white butterflies. Because of the way shadows
come off those vertical rocks in the west, there are
shafts of sunlight hitting the river and a deep
long purple gorge straight ahead. Put down your pack.

Above, air sighs the pines. It was this way
when Rome was clanging, when Troy was being built,
when campfires lighted caves. The white butterflies dance
by the thousands in the still sunshine. Suddenly, anything
could happen to you. Your soul pulls toward the canyon
and then shines back through the white wings to be you
again.

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