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“Grasping Mind is like Grasping Incense Smoke”

February 5, 2018


“Grasping mind is like grasping incense smoke” 

Sensei (Matsuoka-roshi our founder) would often say that we cannot grasp Zen, any more than we can grasp the rising smoke of the burning incense on the altar. The more we try, the more the smoke tendrils evade our grasp. But when we stop trying, and open our hand, the incense smoke embraces our palm. This is our approach in Zen. We allow it to come to us, rather than pursuing it — the way we do most things from remarks by Taiun-roshi, Abbot (Hojo) and Guiding Teacher of the Silent Thunder Order.


There are many ways to think about the above comment. Indeed it is a theme throughout Buddhism and Zen. Here grasp can mean nothing more to gain/experience...if I can only get this one thing then everything falls neatly into place. Or, how about the thrashing about trying to grab all the incense we can, scattering the smoke as we go. If our mind is trained to grasp, it creates pain and suffering as we beat our empty fist against the zephyr. 


We sit open and aware to the 10,000 things and, as one of them, while being the whole as well. Our mind is supple similar to the concept of the Native American dream catchers, more holes than frame, these suggest patience and allowance. We allow life to unfold neither running away, fighting, or trying to capture it. The subtle point is, if we captured IT, IT would no longer be IT--this is liberation. 


Please join us this Tuesday a we get to the bottom of smoke and mirrors...





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