spiritual capacity like a bowl

More about bowls!

The last couple of posts have really brought up some great points about striving, versus freeing oneself from dualities. I found myself laughing, because I agreed completely with everyone!

The first point is spiritual capacity. As Joseph brought up in yesterday’s post, our spiritual capacity is a like a bowl: it can only hold that much. Anything more overflows and is lost (or makes a mess).  So what can we do to increase our size, or as Barry points out, is this desire to be a bigger bowl actually a dualistic hindrance.

I think the answer lies in the approach. Why do we want to do this? Is it because we keep hearing Dharma talks and can’t remember them afterwards? Is it because we aren’t doing a good job of putting into practice what we know, or that we feel like what the Tibetans call a broken cauldron – no matter how much is put in, nothing is retained, nothing seems to be learned (from the experience).

At the risk of pushing an analogy too far, what determines our bowl size? To me, it’s whether we are living based upon our conditioned thoughts and urges of the body, or whether we are moving from something deeper.  Then the question becomes how do we get in touch with this something deeper, this something that has ten-thousand names.  The only way I know how to do this is by heavily returning everything to this fundamental mind, this Buddha-essence – letting go of “me,” what I know, and what I want to do. I’ve also heard someone describing this as “letting go to emptiness.” 

In a sense this is dying to all that stuff, but the unexpected result is that in becoming aware of this that transcends all dualities, energy and wisdom burst forth, and I’m better able to respond and be with what is happening.  Now, I’m able to actually hear what it is I’m truly called to do.

Somehow, all that gunk of “me,” desires, and resistance, is a paradox. If I indulge it and chase it, worry about it and fear it, my life slowly becomes a hell realm. Yet, if I fully become one with it and dive into this emptiness, then even that becomes an opportunity to awaken and grow.  Even that which I would despise becomes my gateway. This still seems so weird and amazing to me! 

Daehaeng Kun Sunim once said about the desire to practice, that “Yes, it is also a discriminating thought. But when you let go of it and entrust it to your inherent nature, it becomes a burning log that ignites and consumes the great mountain of logs that have accumulated over endless eons.”

8 thoughts on “spiritual capacity like a bowl”

  1. From a slightly different perspective. And, wow, what wonderful poetry:

    “Receive the Buddha Bowl of the stars,
    Know it as your very Self.
    Star, Sand, Stone, Bone —
    All take refuge in the one Being of the Universe.
    Will you take refuge in the Self which is not separate, but is one?”

    – The Buddha Bowl, by Paula Hirschboeck

    (Amazing what you can find when you look!)

  2. Thanks for this wonderful post, Sunim. As I read it, an old saying of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s came to mind (curious associations!):

    “You can, you can. You cannot, you cannot.”

    This seems to go right at the fundamental issue in the bowl/friend discussion.

  3. Great no-thinking post, Sunim. I’ve never thought of spiritual capacity like a bowl. More a river or an ocean. Always vast and profoundly deep. The trick is to not pollute it. 😉

    (Says she, struggling with desires and striving!)

    1. Hi Genju,
      I think the comparison started off as Mind as round (ie complete, always shines) then it became “holds everything,” then after that the comparison with a bowl and the size of the bowl must have come pretty quick.

      The comparison can feel a bit scary, because it’s used in the sense of hearing/experiencing a great teaching, but not having the capacity to absorb or “hold” it. Thus it’s lost, a missed opportunity that won’t come back.

      Barry’s really got me going with that incredible quote by Kyongho Sunim a couple of days ago. There’s some really great points there that deserve their own post, so I’ll try to get to those in the next day or two. (A bit swamped here these days.)

  4. So, instead of worrying about getting rid of the gunk taking up so much space in the bottom of my bowl, I should just use it for something useful, like planting some lotus seeds?? 🙂

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