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The 360 Model of Matsuoka-Roshi

We have for the last couple of months been exploring constructs. These are models that encompass a theory of relationships. I began with the point that words are constructs.

For example when I say tree, and you hear it you have a general idea such as I am not talking about the Moon. But I could be talking about millions of variations of “tree.”

The next level beyond the dyad of “this versus everything else,” lies the metaphors of comparisons and simularities and the most important range of similes. I’ve talked about Hojo Michael Elliston-roshi’ new book, The RazorBlade of Zen, with a focus on his Eight-Dimension comparisons of rational, theistic and Buddhist constructs. In 2018, Taiun-Roshi wrote an article on Precepts and Practice as closing the circle of understanding (intuiting) to a way of life (underlining is by me):

So, sorting out the “Myriad Things” or “10,000 Things” into the usual categories the mind conjures, however useful, represents a fundamental kind of delusion. But merely intuiting the sameness underlying the obvious differences in things is not, in itself, enlightenment. According to Matsuoka Roshi’s “360 Degree” model, this is realized at 180 degrees, only halfway around the circle, from our beginning Zen practice at point zero.

But nonetheless, a kind of insight is gained here, into the non-duality of things; including the fact that all things of the Universe share the traits of impermanence, insubstantiality, and imperfection. So too with our Zen practice. If we try to “perfect” our practice, we may only be conforming our understanding of Zen to a preconception, whether conscious or subliminal.

What I believe Hojo and O’Roshi are pointing to is never attempting to pindown, assume, or hold an immovable opinion.

In Mokurai, Matsuoka-roshi uses the circle to illustrate a point. But the illusion is not the point, rather each of us is evolving it. We start with ZERO as ignorance revolves 360 degrees to ZERO as Sunyata. I will not review progressive or sudden enlightenment options but again underline Elliston-roshi… we think we are there when the thought is delusion. I recall one conversation about becoming a Novice Priest when he confronted me with…”You are not a Priest.” That is I’d just started becoming at that point.

As I understand it O’Roshi ‘s wisdom is similar to Dogen’s parable of The Mountain. In ignorance a mountain is just a mountain (0-degrees), when you sit zazen for a while it becomes more than A mountain (Matsuoka’s “Tall Mountain Sitting Feeling”) and here we feel good that we are fully-so. Yet here we are only 1/2 . We then by practicing in all our affairs become the mountain too, but again this is insight and yet to be inculcated. Then as more is revealed we see the 10,000 things as whole and the mountain can become a mountain. The 360-degree = 0-degrees of no-ignorance-no enlightenment.

Perhaps you have noticed, as I have, that things change! I’m not speaking of impermanence in them as much, as I am different perspectives in me. Having read something dozens of times, a new reading penetrates the circle from a slightly different angle and awe arises. Therefore it is the harmony of the difference that becomes the sameness as master Shih-t’ou captures the full circle of Matsuoka-Roshi…

Underlining below is mine for emphasis.

Harmony of Difference and Sameness


By Ch'an Master Shih-t'ou Hsi-ch'ien


Harmony of Difference and Sameness

竺土大仙心 The mind of the great sage of India

東西密相付 is intimately transmitted from west to east.

人根有利鈍 While human faculties are sharp or dull,

道無南北祖 the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.

靈源明皎潔 The spiritual source shines clear in the light;

枝派暗流注 the branching streams flow on in the dark.

執事元是迷 Grasping at things is surely delusion;

契理亦非悟 according with sameness is still not enlightenment.

門門一切境 All the objects of the senses

迴互不迴互 interact and yet do not.

迴而更相涉 Interacting brings involvement.

不爾依位住 Otherwise, each keeps its place.

色本殊質像 Sights vary in quality and form,

聲元異樂苦 sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.

闇合上中言 Refined and common speech come together in the dark,

明明清濁句 clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light.

四大性自復 The four elements return to their natures

如子得其母 just as a child turns to its mother;

火熱風動搖 Fire heats, wind moves,

水濕地堅固 water wets, earth is solid.

眼色耳音聲 Eye and sights, ear and sounds,

鼻香舌鹹醋 nose and smells, tongue and tastes;

然於一一法 Thus with each and every thing,

依根葉分布 depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.

本未須歸宗 Trunk and branches share the essence;

尊卑用其語 revered and common, each has its speech.

當明中有暗 In the light there is darkness,

勿以暗相遇 but don't take it as darkness;

當暗中有明 In the dark there is light,

勿以明相睹 but don't see it as light.

明暗各相對 Light and dark oppose one another

比如前後歩 like the front and back foot in walking.

萬物自有功 Each of the myriad things has its merit,

當言用及處 expressed according to function and place.

事存函蓋合 Phenomena exist; box and lid fit;

理應箭鋒拄 principle responds; arrow points meet.

承言須會宗 Hearing the words, understand the meaning;

勿自立規矩 don't set up standards of your own.

觸目不會道 If you don't understand the Way right before you,

運足焉知路 how will you know the path as you walk?

進歩非近遠 Progress is not a matter of far or near,

迷隔山河故 but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.

謹白參玄人 I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,

光陰莫虚度 do not pass your days and nights in vain.

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Falmouth Zen

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