February 13, 2009


Last year, students from our local college's world religions class were visiting Olympia Zen Center on a field trip.  On that evening, I happened to speak about Dogen Zenji's chapter on "Space."  I mentioned that spaciousness was one of the great qualities of the Buddha and that my first Zen master was notable for having this quality.  People would say that no matter the kind of place they were in, whether it was small and enclosed, they always experienced a great spaciousness around him and in being around him.  He opened them to the nature of space.  We could say that the Buddha himself dwelled completely in Space.

I was speaking about the reality of the Dharma being connected with Space and that to speak about the Dharma is to abide in Space and to speak in Space.  Becoming a Buddha is to reside in Space.  These are the kinds of things I was speaking of.  During the question and answer period, one of the students said that he thought young people would understand this kind of thing very well because they were related to space in their communications in ways that the older generations were not.  He was thinking of "My Space" and the internet, of course.  He said that young people understand communicating in different ways and in the nature of holding space as their realm of relatedness in the internet.

This notion was quite interesting to me and I could agree about the nature of communications, but Space beyond space and the many kinds and notions of space in the Buddhist teachings were a little different.  It was only after the young students left that one of the Zen students asked, "But what happens to this communication when the power goes out?"

Today, I was working with an elderly woman who is tormented by grief.  She can find no way to deal with the swells of tears that constantly afflict her.  When she and I discussed the notion of space and how she could, in a very practical way, work with creating space around her emotions and physical pain, she could abide in equanimity, but, I told her, she had to choose to do so.  She had to actually practice doing so.  We can dwell in life in our emotional and thought-filled enclosures within ourselves, or we can dwell in the expanded space which is available to us at all times.  Dogen Zenji reminds us that our learned intelligence and our developed wisdom take place in Space.  Space itself is the Mind of Buddha; Space itself is the Dharma.