A monk asked Ching Ch’ing, “At the beginning of a new year, is there any Buddha Dharma or not?’ Ching said, ‘There is….Initiate good fortune on New Year’s Day and the myriad things are all renewed.’
~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 54, Commentary
Browsing through the koan collections, at times I feel like I am drinking clear, fresh water that deeply satisfies. Other times the ancient exchanges seem dull and rather dramatic. And sometimes, I will stumble upon a phrase or few words that present themselves as a kind of jewel, reflecting something from my past.
What caught me about the above koan, which I read a few days ago, was not so much the theme of New Years as much as a sense of renewal of the myriad things. What it brought to mind was a simple understanding, a kind of knowing that has been with me for many years. It was not a big knowing, and I cannot even remember the context, though I think I was washing dishes at the local Elks Club at the time: “The universe remakes itself moment by moment.”
I can’t really explain that line using the traditional Zen lexicon of Form and Emptiness. But somehow I know it to be true, and though it includes my new year resolutions to shed ten pounds and win the Powerball lottery, it is grander than that. The universe remaking itself moment by moment has the qualities of freshness and hope.
On New Year’s morning just past, I woke in the pre-dawn and found my cat, Bluebell, nestled asleep in the crook of my arm while the sound of rain came through the window. I reached across the tangle of blankets and in the dark scratched her head. She raised her head a bit and I scratched it again. Somehow, though I am not sure how, that is the universe renewing itself. And it gives us hope.