Where’s the Cow?

Dear Sangha,

cow imageSomeone brought up the image on page 28 of our book. Steve Hagen, the author, says, “Keep looking at the picture. I assure you that when you actually see what it is, all your uncertainty will vanish. You will know what it is. All beliefs and uneasiness about it will instantly cease.. . .eventually you’ll get it. Notice the . . . .shock of recognition and the profound shift in your mind.” He sends us to page 140 if we continue to be stumped.

I have to say, I spent a lot of time this summer looking at this image. I went to page 140. It’s supposed to be a cow. I was absolutely unable to see it! I looked at it from every angle I could think of. I backed off and came close.

But last night in our discussion group, someone came over and traced the ears. And the nose, and the eyes. Suddenly it came clear. I can’t tell you how pleased I was, how I felt that shock and shift in the mind.  The relaxation. Now I will always see it. I can’t disappear it.

This, as Hagen says, is how it is when we finally see Reality. 

This metaphor can be carried too far, but it seems helpful to me. What I noticed last night, though, is that it took help for me to see. I simply could not do it on my own. There needed to be someone who had seen it to point the way for me. My eye and mind had to make that shift, themselves, but I was unable to do it without help.

Without the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.  

Then we went back to the place in the book where we’re reading right now: another image there of a figure that could be concave or convex, depending upon how you looked at it. It is both. And neither—it’s a two-dimensional drawing.  We talked about how useful it is for the mind to struggle with what seems impossible, to begin to loosen its hold on its frozen views, its preconceptions.

Below is a note from the monks at Sokukoji Buddhist Community, an invitation. Some of us have close ties with that Temple in Battle Creek. Sokuzan Bob Brown is my teacher and Karen’s. So sometimes we’ll post information about what’s happening there. But our sangha in Traverse City is wide open to anyone who practices in any form (or no-form). For beginners who don’t know what that might mean, and for those who’ve had long practice in Vipassana, Shambhala, or Zen.  It takes all sorts of looking to see the cow-image.
 Winter Three Jewel Retreat

Three Jewels Retreat means: Three days when these ideas are seen, experienced and realized:

Buddha—This is when you are doing Shikantaza by yourself, seeing this, not separate from Buddha, as it is. Dharma—This is when you are studying the Buddhist teachings, the conceptual aspect, clarifying, analyzing, by yourself or with others. Sangha—This is when you are interacting with others to prepare food, clean the Zendo, dealing with projections and preconceptions about yourself and others who are also on this path, etc.

Of course they all overlap and this is just a way of talking about it.

Even the mailman steps into this Buddhamandala when he/she delivers the mail. How many footsteps will you take?

Come join the monks at Sokukoji Buddhist Temple for a personal retreat that fits your schedule. Sangha members (beginning meditators are welcome!) are encouraged to pick three consecutive weekdays anytime between December and February to come and participate in the daily practice schedule at Sokukoji (accommodations can be made for the weekends). A $200 fee will cover the cost of lodging and meals. Sokuzan will be available during the retreat for private interviews. Please contact Chiezan with questions or to schedule your retreat kjt001@aquinas.edu

6:00 am – Wake up and breakfast

7:00 am – Morning chants and meditation

9:00 am – Morning work period (light cleaning, various tasks and projects around the Temple)

11:00 am – “Footsteps” – Morning study period

Noon – Lunch and personal time

2:30 pm – Meditation, “Mountains and Rivers” (Dharma talk/discussion), various awareness practices (brush and ink awareness, opening the eye mind, etc.)

5:00pm – Dinner and personal time

7:00 pm – Heart Sutra recitation, meditation


 The temple monks