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Form emerges from emptiness

The Infinite Potential of Life

“The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

– Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.”
― Zen Master Dogen

I was up early today and sat for a time under our banana tree drinking coffee and thinking about Easter in the predawn quiet. It’s a beautiful and amazing houseplant. About four feet tall at this point, it produces a new leaf every week or so. It’s a joy to watch each leaf appear at the crown, rolled up and cigar-like. After appearing, each leaf unfurls itself over the course of a few days. Soon, it is fully open, like a beautiful green solar panel open to receive photons from the sun 92 million miles away. To help our tree grow we now supplement natural sunlight with a grow-light. We are hoping that it will one day bear fruit, thus the extra light, careful attention and daily microdoses of plant fertilizer.This banana tree has been part of my life for well over ten years now. Well, actually, this particular tree has probably been alive for about 4-5 years now, but it is an offshoot of an offshoot of an offshoot from the original tree, which I bought in 2008.
banana tree
I have gotten curious about banana trees after living with one for so long. So I’ve done a little reading on them. In most trees, all new upward growth comes from the “crown” of the tree, a section near the top. But with banana trees, each new leaf and thus all growth actually begins as a single cell in the root or rhizome in the soil beneath the visible plant. Each new leaf begins below ground, then ascends up through the middle of the “stem” (it’s not an actual stem but the aggregate of all previous new leaves) to the top, where it emerges as a new leaf, ready to unfurl.Today’s new leaf will die in a couple months. At that point, all that will remain of the leaf is an inner ring of the stem, through which future new leaves will ascend. It’s amazing to me that this works, but work it does! Bananas are the most popular fruit in the US.As I was sipping my coffee this morning, I wondered where this tree that I am sitting under today “was” back in 2008 when I bought its great grandparent and brought it home? I suppose that there is a biological answer to this question – it was in the great great grandparent’s dna, but I was also intrigued by a “spiritual” answer. It seems to me that this tree existed in 2008 both as dna and in the formless realm of pure potential. That it would come to be and be so loved, was just one of an almost infinite number of possibilities back then.A well-known zen koan asks the meditator to consider the question “where were you before your parents were born?” And we could give a biological answer that would satisfy the rational mind, but this answer doesn’t feel like the whole picture to me. And I speak from experience when I say that no zen master would accept “from the dna” as the solution of this koan! It is a subject worthy of deep inquiry. When we touch into our identity as true self, the Christ within, the Buddhanature, we enter an awareness of the timeless, spaceless nature of God within. In this moment of insight, we realize that somehow, we have always been, even before our birth in and as this body. And the location of that birth is somehow hidden in the ground of our being, out of sight and beyond the reach of the conscious mind. Where exactly does it spring from? What is our origin? It is shrouded in mystery – unknowable and wondrous.As you celebrate Easter, I invite you to ponder the miracle of your being here at all. It is truly something to marvel at. Consider all that had to happen in the past generations for each of us to be here today, reading this email on a virtual sheet of paper created on an electron-fueled device. This is the miracle of constant birth, rebirth and renewal that all religions celebrate in one way or another. As Easter day unfolds, I wish that the grace of rebirth and resurrection will touch you anew.

Here’s to your ongoing awakening!

Bill

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