(For a third week) Yunmen said, “I’m not asking you about before the full moon. Come and say a word or
two about after the full moon.”
He himself replied, “Every day is a good day.”
~ Blue Cliff Record, Case 6
‘I once was lost and now am found’, goes the hymn Amazing Grace,’Was blind, but now I see.’ What if once we were found and now we are lost? What if once we could see, and now we are blind? We often talk about realization of the light, but what about the return of the dark?
A friend once told me a story of awakening. She was startled out of sleep in the middle of the night by a sound and realized that that sound and herself were not two. She saw the world with new eyes. Getting up, she read Dogen’s lines: ‘To study Buddhism is to study the self; To study the self is to forget the self; to forget the self is to be enlightened by all things’, and with joy for the first time understood those words.
Still in sesshin, she went into dokusan the next morning and the Roshi immediately began testing her on the koan. She passed some, but not other questions. As the day wore on, she said, she became discouraged and even agitated. Believing this retreat was her one best chance for enlightenment, she became despondent. The dark had come back.
From what I have seen, at times we all go dark. But in somehow allowing for the dark, not excluding it from our practice, we can regain the light. And how do we do that? It takes a certain kind of faith, in ourselves, in the process and in the universe. If we can make the simple vow that no matter how many lifetimes it takes, we will fully realize the Buddha Way, that itself is enlightenment and there is no more struggle. The dark just becomes another step on the way.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
~ John Newton, 1779