I'm so busy trying to finish The Iliad that I missed this...and it's only the second week of my intention.
It goes without saying that I am grateful for Buddhism coming to America, and for my Zen Center. One of the reasons I'm so behind on my reading is that I finished the last paper I intended to... on Dogen. And this week I am grateful for Dogen. You have to read Dogen with a combination of intellectual curiosity, and the willingness to suspend all you think you know.
The crux of the matter that makes me so grateful to Dogen is this:
"It is difficult to investigate this life of ours or to thoroughly comprehend it. Is it life, or is it not life? Is it old age, or is it not old age? In accordance with different viewpoints, they are not at all identical, and the viewpoints themselves differ according to the individual's environment and abilities. If you want to understand such things, be determined and diligent in your practice. You should understand that life and death in their true form exist only within your own practice, and that your diligent practice does not exist within life and death." (Cook p 181)
and perhaps it is the crux of my paper. I don't know, perhaps I just blathered on. My other papers, my teacher liked. This one, different teacher, different material, I don't know.
Writing that paper, I opened to the understanding that it is continuous practice which sustains my life.
What is continuous practice, you ask? I have a workplace friend who is from Peru and a conservative Catholic. He told me he'd been doing a particular spiritual practice while he was working; he didn't think I'd understand. I understood perfectly.
It is possible to keep your mind focused throughout the day on a particular spiritual practice. It is also possible to have this spiritual hum just always be there at the base of your being. These are kind of pointing to continuous practice.
But what that last line means in the above quote is that it's not something that you do, it's something that does you. It is the emptiness (shunyata) through which all changes are possible, and everything changes. Let's not confuse this with God, though, mkay?
My favorite at this moment in time from Dogen's Gyoji:
This present moment of continuous practice should be engraved on your hearts as something to be greatly prized. Do not think that this silence is useless and empty. (Cook p. 186) Ceaseless practice is the one monastery that we enter, the one monastery that we emerge from, the one monastery that is the path left by flying birds, and the one monastery that is the whole universe. (Nearman pdf p 411)