Drawing Water and Chopping Wood

Konocti Rice Flies

Miraculous power and marvelous activity:
Drawing water and chopping wood.

(Pangyun, a lay Zen practitioner, eight century C.E.)

Cleave a (piece of) wood, I am there;
lift up the stone and you will find Me there.

(The Gospel According to Thomas, coptic text established and translated by A. Guillaumont, H.-CH. Puech, G. Quispel, W. Till and Yassah ‘Abd Al Masih, pg 43 log. 77, copyright 1959 E. J. Brill)

My take on the above passages from a few years back, amended:

The breath in emphasizes flexion in the body, as does the action of lifting an object; the breath out emphasizes extension in the body, as does the action of wielding an axe to split a piece of wood.

The weight of the entire body can bear at a single point in the movement of inhalation, as though lifting an object; the weight of the entire body can bear at a single point in the movement of exhalation, as though cleaving a block of wood.

Much of my writing has been about laying hold of one-pointedness of mind, as a consequence of “making self-surrender the object of thought” (as Gautama phrased it). The kind of one-pointedness of mind I’m describing is the kind that koun Franz wrote about recently:

I recommend trying it, sitting in this posture and trying to feel what it’s like to let your mind, to let the base of your consciousness, move away from your head.

(No Struggle (Zazen Yojinki, Part 6), by Koun Franz, from Koun’s “Nyoho Zen” site)

How that becomes the weight of the whole body bearing at a point, I hope I have described in my “Four Points of Aikido”:

… I realize that for me the exercise becomes in part the distinction of the direction of turn that I’m feeling at the location of awareness, and that distinction allows the appropriate counter from everything that surrounds the place of awareness.

(Zazen Notes, Four Points of Aikido, Aug. 7, 2018)

If the weight of the entire body bears at a single point in the movement of a whole inhalation, that’s a miraculous power of the entire universe, as far as I’m concerned; if the weight of the entire body can bear at a single point in the movement of a whole exhalation, that’s a marvelous activity.

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