Carrying Forth, Carrying Away...

Thursday March 2, 2006


Life has no whence; it is carrying forth, and carrying forth again.
Death has no whither; it is carrying away, and carrying away again.
      Ultimately, how is it?
      If the mind does not differ, myriad things are one suchness.

Dōgen: Eihei Kōroku. Trans. Thomas Cleary

A lovely quote this one, from Dōgen, the founder of the Soto Zen school. It is always treacherous to try to gloss Zen texts, moving from (using the language that Kim borrows from Huang-Po) tacit understandings to conceptual thought, or from the moon to the finger that points… Nevertheless, I love this passage of Dōgen’s because it sidesteps our restless questions. What is the meaning of life? What is the nature of death? What is the truth of the world? No proposition or claim or statement of fact could answer these questions. But meanwhile, life and death are surging onwards, all about us, within us.

Closer to the end of the text, there is the following: “The matter of life and death is important, impermanence is swift.” And in this matter, perhaps it is not an answer that is needed but merely attention. Attention to the pulsing life that we live, the breath that comes and goes, the flurries of snow outside of my window as I write, the afternoon sun, the distant hum of traffic, the taste of coffee, the fluttering recollections of the day I have had, the way my mind scuttles on to imagined futures… Attention to the endless carrying forth and carrying away of the ten thousand things.

Image: Ken Kiser

# · Bill Gardner

No whence and no whither. A superb mantra.

# · Sam W

I really like the last two posts Will. Great stuff!

# · George

No whence, no whither.
Here and now is where and when…
whatever happens.

[I couldn’t resist adding this, even though (as Bill’s comment suggests) the first line contains the other two. I agree with Sam, as well. Keep on keeping on, Will!]

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