Orientation: This talk is the first of six from our April 2013 sesshin. Click here for the full playlist from this sesshin.
Our practice is not to clear up the mystery but to make the mystery clear.
Robert Aitkin Roshi
As time goes by you begin to discover koans all over the place. How could it be otherwise when the great koan is life and death and we are with that every moment. This one that I want to use as a jumping off point comes from the comment of a Polish poet: “We call them cats but we don’t know what they are.” Anyone who has ever known a cat knows how unfathomable that mater is. The way they wrap their own mystery around them and take it off into the wild at night. What can you do about it but admire. So likewise we call it Golden Wind …actually we call it Golden Wind so as not to go too far down the road of calling it cats or dogs or… Golden Wind leaves plenty of room, of deep mythic dimension to explore. It’s the name of a deity, we can take our cue from that.…If we want to translate it we might call it impermanence or go on to call that suffering. But we need to live into that deeply and patiently and as awake as possible just to know what we are, let alone the truth, the depth of golden wind, let alone the truth and death of impermanence, of suffering, of life and death. But we could equally call it transformation: it is a matter of one thing continually becoming another. And then we can offer ourselves with appropriate joy to that as an equally unknown matter, one to explore pretty much forever. So change, impermanence, transformation. In times of great change, and this is no doubt one of those, an exceptional moment in the chain of moments of great change in human history, which by the way is very young. In times of great change, change itself grows more mysterious partly because we are so close to it and it’s really hard to see. This mysterious quality is not just “What’s going on?,” but also “How can we approach it, how can we lend ourselves to it ?” What does it ask of us? What does it want of us? Change is now in the most vivid form. It is unavoidable. It is obvious that it is here and the mysterious quality of it I would take as an important aspect of what we need to see in this important matter of golden wind manifesting itself. Robert Aitken said these profoundly important words about our practice: “Our practice is not to clear up the mystery but to make the mystery clear.” This sense of the mysterious quality of golden wind is now pressing on us to make this mystery clear.