As  I’m trying to finish writing an article for tomorrow, I’m again exercising the option to use this blog as a place to lay out some earlier pieces that are in process, as a way of (re)vis((it))ing them, kind of like laying out a sweater and skirt complete with kneesocks and shoes in place, just to see how it looks standing up.

(this  is from a skit from Skit Night at SFZC City Center, 2007).  I was reading Dogen and Whitman and found that they kept echoing each other, so I thought it would be fun to have them in conversation.  I played Walt and Greg Fain played Dogen.  During the skit Walt was shaving Dogen’s head.  We used a shaving brush and shaving foam, but the Mach3 razor had scotch tape over the blade. Daigan, the emcee is in full Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence habit.


DAIGAN, aka SISTER MARY MAE:   Last summer I was at Tassajara, enjoying a long afternoon’s plunge on my day off.   As I floated there in the bath—in full habit, of course! — I couldn’t help listening to two new guest practice students as they talked endlessly on the deck.  From what I could gather one’s name was something like Eihei Dogen and the other was Walt, Walt Whitman.  They’d met on the Stage and hadn’t stopped talking since.  Thus have I overheard….

Walt:  A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;   How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

Dogen:  Know that in this way there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses throughout the entire earth, and yet each grass and each form itself is the entire earth.

Walt:  The press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections

Dogen: The study of this is the beginning of practice.

Walt:    I have heard what the talkers were talking,

the talk of the beginning and the end,

But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

Dogen:  There is always unsurpassed practice, continuous and sustained.  Between aspiration, practice, enlightenment, and nirvana there is not a moment’s gap

Walt: There was never any more inception than there is now, And will never be any more perfection than there is now

Dogen:  It forms the circle of the way and is never cut off

Walt: All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,

Dogen:  If you do not have single-minded aspiration and are not awakened, who would pity you?  You should practice to gain sight just as you would be adding eyeballs to a skeleton lying in the wilderness.

Walt: You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,

Dogen:  Do not look back or cling to a heap of dust in the graveyard.

Walt: You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

Dogen:  Do not be like those who are blown about by winds from east, west, south, and north.

Walt: You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

Dogen:  Just forsake name and gain forever and don’t be bound by myriad conditions.  Do not waste the passing time.

Walt:  Enough! enough! enough!

Somehow I have been stunn’d. Stand back!

My ties and ballasts leave me,

my elbows rest in seagaps

Dogen:  You must put out the fire on top of your head.

Walt:  Give me a little time beyond my cuff’d head, slumbers, dreams, gaping, I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.

Dogen: Do not wait for great enlightenment, as great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily activity.  Do not wish for nonenlightenment, as nonenlightenment is a jewel concealed in your hair.

Walt: Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams.  You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

Dogen:  The power of continuous practice is itself rejoicing.

Walt: Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy, I cannot tell how my ankles bend, nor whence the cause of my faintest wish,

Dogen:  Love and respect your body, mind, and self that are engaged in this continuous practice.

Walt:  My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me.  Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,

Dogen:  Although the face, bones, and marrow of Buddha ancestors are beyond going and not going, beyond coming and not coming, they are always transmitted through one day’s continuous practice.

Walt:  I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and am not contain’d between my hat and boots,

Dogen:  The living body of this one day is a living body to revere, a form to revere.

Walt:  To be in any form, what is that?

Mine is no callous shell,

I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop, They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.

Dogen: If you live for one day merged with the activity of the Buddhas, this one day is considered as excellent as many kalpas of lifetimes.

Walt:  I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happyIn me the caresser of life wherever moving, backward as well as forward sluing, not a person or object missing,

Dogen:  Reflect now whether any being or any world is left out of the present moment.

Walt:  Undrape! you are not discarded,

Down-hearted doubters dull and excluded,

Frivolous, sullen, moping, angry, affected, dishearten’d,  I know every one of you, I know the sea of torment, doubt, despair and unbelief.

Dogen:  Even when you are uncertain, do not use this one day wastefully.  It is a rare treasure to value.

Walt:  And to die is different from what any one supposed,

[both say together]: and luckier.