24 July 2009

Snowflakes on a red-hot stove....

I was reading Red Pine's (a.k.a. Bill Porter) translation and commentary on the Heart Sutra, one of the most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. In the discussion, Red Pine quotes Chen-k'o as saying that, once we realize the inherent emptiness of our so-called reality,

"...the light of the mind shines alone. When all the clouds are gone, the full moon fills the sky. thus birth and destruction, purity and defilement, completeness and deficiency are all snowflakes on a red-hot stove."

"Snowflakes on a red-hot stove" - now THAT is excellent.

I was just thinking about that today when my youngest son, Matt, was talking about the lives of writers that he likes: this summer it's Edith Wharton, Charles Dickens, and the Bronte sisters. He knows so much about the lives they led while they wrote the books that he loves, the full human beings almost come alive for me. And then I realize how not alive they are. There's a collision between all that energy I can still feel when I imagine who they were and the slapping fact of how quickly, really, it is all over.

There's a line chanted at the end of some of the services at ZCLA - it's an admonition of sorts - not to "squander your life" and to practice as though there were a "fire on your head."

...or, perhaps, as though you were a snowflake on a red-hot stove.

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