Unfolding Seasons

Zen Master Soeng Hyang (Barbara Rhodes)
Excerpted from a dharma talk in spring, 1990

Each of the seasons of nature come forth on their own whether we ask them or not. They are beautiful teachers that are all around us all of the time. Each season, each situation, each moment generously offers us an opportunity to see the mind that sometimes has trouble trusting how things are unfolding.

On a warm morning during a Winter Kyol Che retreat, I was sitting quietly in the interview room, waiting to give intrerviews. The window was open, and I was listening to the melting snow on the monastery roof coming down, landing on the ground. It was really nice to simplify, to just listen to that dripping, that melting.

Then a student came in for an interview; she was upset to the point that she couldn't even sit down. Just listening to that snow had made my mind clear and simple, so I could say to her, "Now the situation is to sit down." Finally, enough trust formed that the student was able to sit.

I asked, "Do you have any questions?" There were lots of questions... complicated questions, painful questions, lost questions. I didn't answer any of them directly. I just said, "Stop. What is this retreat? Let's try to practice what this retreat is."

I said, "Be quiet, then listen." The student heard the melting snow. "Let's just sit and listen to that for five minutes." So we sat and listened to it... just the trickling water.

Then I said, "You know, that's choicelessness." It was warm enough that the snow became liquid, with no idea or discrimination about it. The snow was just following the situation. Not wanting to hold onto the crisp whiteness, not wishing to stay that way, and not wanting to become water either. Just melting and then falling onto the mud next to the monastery.... slap, slap, slap.

If the snow were thinking, it might be very frightening to melt, drop off the roof, and slap onto the ground. If we're thinking, if we're holding onto our own identity, what could be more scary than to lose it? "I'm crisp white snow. Oh no, I'm water!" Zap, like that.

With people it's more subtle and slower than snow melting. But if we're holding onto what we think we are, the transformation becomes very frightening. If we're able to let go and just be with change, we will be able to recognize it as grace, as universal compassion. Rather than feeling fear, we will be able to feel grateful.... grateful for the unfolding of this moment, grateful for the unfolding of the seasons.

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Updated Tuesday, March 14, 2006 9:02 AM
Dan Dill (dan@bu.edu)