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Blue Pancake
by Roshi Robert Althouse

 painting by Robert Althouse

painting by Robert Althouse

Ummon said, "The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your robe at the sound of the bell?" Each morning, as we finish meditation, a bell is rung, and we chant the verse of the okesa as we put our rakusu robes on top of our head. We chant,

Vast is the robe of liberation
A formless field of benefaction
I wear the Tathagata teaching
Saving all sentient beings.

Don't you long to be liberated by this vastness? Isn't your deepest desire to be complete and whole in this way? We speak of this experience as spirit, knowing that all words and concepts get in the way. You must let go of knowing for this experience is beyond time and space. This is given. You will not attain it no matter how hard you try. You may discover it and if you do, it will change everything. It has always been here and it is your deepest, truest self. Here there is no coming or going. 

If you see this, you can answer the questions, "Show me your original face before your parents were born?" 

In the early years of my practice at Zen Center of Los Angeles, Douglas Harding came and gave a talk about a little book he had recently published called "On Having No Head". In a room of 12 people, he'd ask, "How many heads are in the room?" And someone would say "12". So he'd ask again, "How many heads do you SEE in the room?" And someone would say, "Well, actually I only see 11." And that is an intriguing discovery because now you are no longer in the room, but the room is in you. And this is a glimpse of spirit. 

I encourage you to try this out for yourself. It will be helpful if you sit still with yourself before and after this so you can take it in as deeply as possible. Trungpa said it very well: "The sky is a blue pancake that plops on your head."

I hope you glimpse this for yourself. It's not difficult really. Just let go of "knowing" and it's right here; has always been here. It was here as the light met your eyes for the first time, and it will be here as the light leaves your eyes with your last breath. 

© 2017 Roshi Robert Althouse

Robert Althouse

Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, 38 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL, 60302