Sound of Cuckoo
For who do you wash your face and apply makeup?
The sound of the cuckoo urges me home;
Countless multitudes of flowers have fallen, yet the cuckoo’s call is not stilled;
Going deep into the jumbled peaks, in deep places its call continues.
~ The Record of Tung Shan, Chapter 115
So many of us ~ at least I can speak for myself ~ have been in a fever lately. Who created that fever? Running it to ground, we probably will not find its source far away. We created it; the fever is ours.
Most of today I have been reading a translation of Chanyuan Qinggui (Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery). This was the first major codification of Zen monastic rules in China at a period of great consolidation of the basic teachings of our school, during the Song Dynasty (10th~13th century). For me, this collection has been a delightful window on time: how did our patriarchs and matriarchs make their way when the institutional magma of Zen was cooling?
I thought I might write about a funny passage I found: “If a monk is invited to a tea ceremony sponsored by the abbot but cannot attend…he should have his seat removed. If the abbot were to expel from the monastery every transgressor (that is, absentee); exhaustively enforcing all the regulations, then there would be no assembly at all. The abbot should not grimace and show his anger to the assembly…” Sage advice for the abbot, I am guessing. But is our practice just about getting expert at not grimacing?
For me, in some strange way, that is where the sound of the cuckoo comes in. It provides a boundless, infinitely deep solace in times of fever. In talking with a student today, I asked, Why Zen? She gave a kind of windy explanation, then came back to: ‘I am not really sure.’ That is the sound of the cuckoo urging us home.