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No Beginning, No End

Jakusho Kwong's 2003 collection of talks No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen is quite reminiscent of Shunryu Suzuki's extraordinary books Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and Not Always So. That's not surprising: Suzuki was Kwong's teacher and predecessor in a California Zen center. The parables and insights that Kwong offers are excellent, sometimes startlingly so. After a paragraph of background, for example, Chapter One commences with a disclaimer:

If you come to listen to a talk as if you are going to hear something great from somebody else, this is a big mistake. The word teisho means something you already intimately know, and it is during the teisho that the roshi makes the Dharma, or truth, come alive. So the Dharma talk is really going on twenty-four hours a day ... continuously, without interruption, realized or not. We should remember this. It's usually very near at hand, preciously close, and always with you.

That's imminence, the now and here of the present instant. Like being aware every time you cross a threshold, and realizing that every moment is the threshold between past and future. Not something that words can properly capture, but definitely something that words can point at, like a finger pointing at the moon. A little later in that same first chapter of No Beginning, No End Kwong sketches out the paradox of "nothing is happening":

... This illumination shines throughout your body, breath, and mind and dissolves your delusions based on greed, anger, and ignorance. And that's exactly how the light and the dark interact. ... And though, again, it is beyond our thinking or conceptual mind, there is an intimate connection here. This is Nothing is happening. No one can pinpoint exactly what, or where, or when. As you sit, you'll discover this for yourself, and you'll also discover that through your sitting practice you will develop some kind of stability in your life. There's something very deep and immovable in yourself that was always there ... the empty essence from which the whole universe springs forth.

Nonsense. Or maybe deep sense. More quotes and fragments to follow.

^z - 2013-03-24

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