Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Love Itself - in Form and the Formless

     “A number of years ago, at a retreat in Ithaca, New York, Leonard told me that he was going to retire from music. Then a few years later, he came out of retirement, and he came out with a CD that he called Ten New Songs … The whole album is dedicated to, 'Our Teacher, Joshu Sasaki Roshi.'
     The works of Leonard Cohen, are known all over the world, of course. But what isn't known is that they are peppered with inside allusions to the teachings of Sasaki Roshi. The fifth cut on the Ten New Songs is called "Love Itself" and it's Leonard's version of the teisho, or Zen talk, of Sasaki Roshi. Unless somebody pointed it out, you wouldn't realize that.
     Sasaki Roshi has only one talk: There is zero. But zero is inherently unstable because it consists of all of the positive and negative in the universe. Therefore, inevitably it breaks apart into expansion and contraction. Expansion only knows how to expand. Contraction only knows how to contract. In between, they create a vibration called space, and that vibration is further nurtured and matured in the cleft between them, and then it evolves into a feeling thinking self that either knows it just came from zero, in which case we call it an enlightened self, or it doesn't. If it knows where it just came from, it knows to give the positive that it received from father back to father, and the negative that it received from mother back to the mother. Therefore, it disappears. There's nothing in between father and mother anymore. And they come back together to create a new state of zero. Oh, you don't understand? Okay, well, I'll try to say a little more. Then he says exactly the same thing again. And then, I see you still don't understand. Well, let me see if I can say some more. But you see, each time he says it, he lives it. He could say it forever. He lives that cycle and if you sense that he's living that cycle, you could listen, you could hear him say it forever.
     You're going to see in this song, there's a refrain. It imitates the style of Sasaki Roshi, but there's more to it. Sasaki Roshi talks about this little room of space where father and mother vibrate, and that's — They come into contrast, you reunite, come into contrast, reunite. He always describes it as like a private little room where there's only the two sides of the Source.
     Many of you have experienced that there are different flavors of Flow, different flavors of impermanence. I look upon the expansion and contraction as the fundamental flavors. When a wave comes up on the shore, the top of the wave is expanding, the bottom of the wave is contracting, and in the cleft as they're sheared apart is born all this foam. There's wavy Flow, there's vibratory Flow, which is analogous to the foam, but underlying it all is this expansion and contraction.
     Often, the most prominent experience of Flow, or change, or impermanence, is a kind of scintillating misty bubbly kind of Flow and it's very blissful, often. And your whole body and mind and the external world can dissolve into it, and it's like trillions of little motes of dust sort of just shimmering. Some of you have had that experience. Because it's blissful, there is the danger of being attached to it. But if you don't become attached to that, then it all sort of flatlines into zero. All the little vibrations go back to the Source. Father and mother come together, and there is shalom bimromav, the peace of heaven.
     If having that champagne bubbly experience of Flow is like being made love to, in a sense, what's beyond that is the Gone. And what's beyond the Gone? Well, after Gone, there's no place to go but to come back, to self and world, but to see it in a different way, for having had that experience. And to do this over and over and over again until there is no fundamental separation between the experience of the Source and ordinary experience. They're on a continuum. There's not a duality between the deepest transcendent empty timeless spaceless cessation, there's not a duality between that and any ordinary experience. They're on a continuum. That's living nirvana. There's nothing in between one's humanity and that which is beyond the human. And that would pretty much describe the world of a master.
     There is the formless, there is the form, and then there is them not being fundamentally separate. In the end, if you want to experience what Sasaki Roshi calls true love, hontō no ai, use that expression. It says everybody wants true love, but they don't realize that true love is zero. True love is what happens if you're willing to let go of the most celestial form of love other than true love, so you'd have to even let go of the massage of the spirit.
     Understanding this, you are in a position to completely understand Leonard's song called 'Love Itself.'"

     Shinzen Young


Leonard Cohen - 'Love Itself'



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