Wednesday, February 09, 2011

"Non-clinging mind"

I wrote this for an English publication in Niihama. Enjoy!
mu shuu jaku 
No Clinging
Now that I’m back in Kansas I’m occasionally asked, “What do you miss most about Japan?” It’s a difficult question. Wait, no it’s not. “My friends,” duh. But then memories appear in my mind—mountains, holy god oceans, fresh spring water, umeboshi, enkai, junior high kids, co-workers, trains, kyanpu, thousand-year-old god-trees (goshinboku), sunbathing naked (rotenburo), rivers, zazen, onigokko, onsen, and on and on, I can go forever—Japan is like a secret life I have that nobody here knows about, an inner wonderland that colors my world with appreciation and perspective—but it’s wrenching! I miss Niihama everyday! I’m not exaggerating.

“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.” That proverb attributed to Dr. Seuss says it all, really. Crying because it’s over can be a form of clinging, which leads to more suffering (because everything changes). Sounds familiar. I’m appropriately reminded of the “mushuujaku,” or “non-clinging,” talk a glowing Zuioji monk gave some Sunday morning beneath blooming cherry blossom trees. As many of you know Buddhism maintains that everyone has “The Buddha Nature,” and that this “innate,” “unborn,” “undying”, “transcended,” “eternal” “unstuck” aspect of you is a center and expanse of awareness always present and “creatively detached” from your personal mind, body, emotions, thoughts, and feelings, even right now as you read these words. This part of you is aware of change, aware of time, aware of passing experiences and relationships. It is not confined to any of those, however. “The way sunlight falls upon all things equally,” this non-clinging light-mind shines through you onto things every moment as awareness itself, aka “the nature of mind,” and there you are.

Moreover practicing mushuujaku correctly cannot be escapism or avoidance or disinterest in the world. It’s not being dead inside. On the contrary, the teachings note that the “non-clinging mind” is so radically open and inclusive it embraces all feelings, all life, all loss, “like a mirror its objects.” It just doesn't get trapped in any of them.

I try to keep all that in mind.

When I got to America I immediately sought out and became friends with the Japanese exchange students. I admit it. They were amazing, yappa beautiful and generous, and occasionally mentioned how my English was the easiest to understand, and that my Japanese was the best. I guess years of living abroad helped me master pronunciation and pace in both languages. Those exchange students have completed their semester and are already back in Tokyo. Man time flies! I miss them already. Shogyo-Mujo, Ichigo-Ichie! And it’s nice to know that the more loss I experience, the more I get to practice the profound mushuujaku, and imitate mushuujaku Maude from the classic film Harold and Maude (1971).

Harold: Maude?

Maude: Yeah?

Harold: (pulls the stamped coin from the arcade out of his pocket) Here.

Maude: A gift! (reads it) Ohhhhh! This is the nicest present I've received in years. (kisses it and tosses it happily into the ocean. turns back to Harold).

Harold: (stunned, looks out to the ocean and then back to Maude. begins to form the word “Why?")

Maude: So I'll always know where it is.

1 comment:

true apricot said...

I am so with you on this. I felt similar things when I came back from Japan. So many treasures, so little that can be put into words. They don't need to be put into words, but I would have liked to share my experience with people I love. Not what I saw, did, ate, etc., by my _experience_. But that's not how it goes.

Everyone carries his or her own culture with them. Sometimes I am in awe of how very well we humans _can_ know and bond with each other. It is a wonderful thing to be both a individual and part of something bigger.

Keep learning, keep striving to realize your full self, and keep sharing the good things you find within you with others. This is how I live my life, at least.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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