Friday, February 22, 2013

Empty Ceremony

Chalk on Rakusu Fabric
People always want to know about the ceremony: what does it mean? But the ceremony, our ceremony, is meaningless. It is empty. This is very important. The ceremony is empty of significance so that the whole universe can flow into it. The ceremony includes nothing and excludes nothing, and therefore everything fills emptiness. Form becomes emptiness; emptiness becomes form. Form is exactly emptiness; emptiness is exactly form. This is the core of the Heart Sutra which we chant every day. It is the verbal reflection of zazen, and it is the vocal embodiment of our ceremony, the opening and closing of the body in sampai, the expansion and contraction of our bodies in breathing, the coming and going of pain in our knees and back. All of this is the reflection or embodiment of one thing: zazen. Ceremony is not different than everyday life. When we ask, “What is the significance of ceremony?” we would do better to ask, “What is the significance of our everyday life?” Why do we perform these everyday empty rituals? When ceremony and everyday living become one continuity of motion and stillness, emptiness and form, then we have answered the only question that is worth asking, the only question that is worth developing a practice for, a discipline for.