The Buddha in the Beauty Parlor

I took the Bodhisattva Precepts at the San Francisco Zen Center a number of years ago. It seemed like taking the Precepts was probably a big deal, so I may as well look somewhat presentable. It turns out that taking the Precepts is indeed a big deal, with much more ceremony than I had previously imagined. I'd figured that it being Zen, they'd just hand me a sheet of paper that said, “OK, you're a Bodhisattva now, fair play to ya,” and that would be it. That was not the case.

I had much longer hair than I do now. And when long, it would get pretty ratty. I was glad when the ceremony rolled along that I'd decided to go down to Market Street to get a haircut. While strolling along, a certain hair salon caught my eye. Right between a couple of the chairs was a Buddha, a fairly tall Buddha, probably five feet tall including the pedestal. I didn't know if that were an auspicious sign or not, but I thought it was pretty cool, so they cut my hair. Indeed I did come out looking relatively respectable.

A monk asked Chan Master , “What is Buddha?” Yúnmén's reply, “Dry shit on a stick.” A perfectly respectable answer, so long as you actually have a stick with dry shit on it with you. If you have three pound of flax, Buddha is three pounds of flax. If you don't have either of them with you, saying that either of them is Buddha would be just plain weird. But whatever is right here&now is Buddha. iPhone recording a talk? Buddha. Candles on the altar? Buddha. You siting there on the cushion, or reading this? Buddha. What's near you? Buddha. What's on that pedestal in the barbershop? Buddha.

In the non-dual Dharmadhatu, the realm of absolute reality, of all phenomena and noumena, Absolute and Relative are inseparable. There's no dividing line between form and emptiness. It's more like formemptiness. Not two sides to the same coin, as the coin of the Dharmadhatu has no sides, neither does it have an inside, nor an outside. It's not a Dharmadhatu + 1, with me looking in from the outside, the guest on the Great Cosmic Guest List. One could even call it the suchness party. We're all it in, whether we like it or not.

But in our world of differentiation, we have like and dislike, beauty and ugly, good and bad, and so on. Of course it's all created by thinking, ratty hair before, much more respectable after. The mountain doesn't wake up in the morning and say, “Man, I am one hot mountain.” Neither does it wake up in the morning and say, “Oh, I am so ugly. My trees are all scattered and bug-eaten, I'm not as tall as Everest. I'm awful.” We do. From the Chinese Text Project's translation of the Dao De Jing:

All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech. All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement).

The work is done, but how no one can see;'Tis this that makes the power not cease to be. Unless “ugly” exists, there is no “beauty.”

 If there is “good,” then that must only exist in reference to “bad.” Without creating these dividing lines, there is only the suchness of the Dharmadhatu. It is all encompassing, where there is no objectification or separation. If you think of yourself as an example, do “you” need anyone or anything else for you to think that there's a “you?” There's the relative “you” that isn't necessarily “me,” but neither one of us thinks we exist solely on the basis of the other person in the room. However, if there were no other beings thinking of their “you's,” would the thought of “me” even come up? Why would it need to? There's only the non-dual suchness of the Dharmadhatu.

From Richard B. Clark's translation of Sengcan's Xinxin Ming:

Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with Being
and non-Being.
Don't waste time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this.
One thing, all things:
move among and intermingle, without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.
Words! The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.

There's a Buddha in a beauty parlor. Where else would he be?

To listen to the Dharma talk, click on the title, or navigate here: