Not falling into has or has not, who’s got the courage to be at peace with this?
We all anxiously seek to leave the ordinary current of our lives,
but when we’ve finished bending and fitting,
we return to sit by the charcoal hearth.

—The Record of Dongshan, 114
 
It has been a long journey, traveling through these Five Ranks of Dongshan Lianjie, the 9th-century cofounder of the Caodong (Soto) school of Chan/Zen. We have met familiar faces in the dark, picked up an ancient mirror, traveled the emperor’s pure road, and fought with swords. We now return to the warmth of our home fire, accepting all the bending and fitting in our lives that we previously tried to avoid.   
 
This epic journey of a thousand faces is a story older than humanity itself. How, in this ordinary world of struggle, can we return to our original dwelling place?
 
By chance, this past week I finished Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey, one of the great modern translations of Homer. Odysseus’s voyage begins when he leaves home to join the Greek army that is fighting Troy. After nine years of bloody warfare, the trickster Odysseus helps defeat the Trojans with the gift of his wooden horse, and then begins a journey home that lasts another ten years. He encounters monsters and hostile tribes, and loses his crew in a shipwreck. After turning down an offer of immortality from the beautiful nymph Calypso, Odysseus sits weeping on the island’s shore, wanting to see “even just the smoke that rises from his own homeland.”
 
He finally returns to a home that is at once changed and familiar. Dozens of suitors are feasting in his great hall, uninvited guests are seeking his wife’s hand and plotting to kill his young son. Yet after two decades, his wife is still true to him, his son is successfully grown, and faithful servants are in place.
 
Yasutani Hakuun, in his commentary on the Five Ranks, compares our lives to a body of water and its waves. “The water and the waves are not two, but one body.” At the same time, commenting on the weaving and unweaving of the Ranks, sometimes there is just water and no waves, sometimes it seems there are only waves and no water. Each condition perfect in its own way.

Yuanwu writes in The Blue Cliff Record, referring to Yunmen’s famous koan:

What are the teachings of a whole lifetime?
It just boils down to this saying: “An appropriate statement.”
If you can grasp this immediately, then you can return home and sit in peace.

Art: Artemis, Mayumi Oda, the Original Goddess! See www.mayumioda.net.