Tousui about meditation 

- through Sophie Solere

Published on

Or how to keep from making a big deal out of meditation.

Tosui was very circumspect about spiritual practices, including his own. A passerby who recognized him one day turned to him for advice. He was a practitioner of the nembutsu, the recitation of the holy name of Amida Buddha, supposed to guarantee to those who devote themselves to it a rebirth in his paradise of pure land. Confided in devotion and unable to stop reciting this prayer, he recited it several thousand times each day. He was looking for a way to better live his faith and to moderate this practice that had become obsessive. Tosui said nothing, but took a sheet of tissue paper from his bag and drew a humorous and benevolent poem with a brush:

What's the point of striving like this
To repeat the name of Amida Buddha?
And then, who knows ? You might miss the Pure Land paradise
Landing way too far away...

Of course, it was not a question of calling into question the luminous practice overflowing with confidence and joy of the nembutsu (1), but the unhealthy attachment of a man. And teach him fairness and moderation through humor. Intoxication can also be spiritual in nature. Tosui seemed to have himself abandoned the practice of sitting meditation, which he nevertheless pursued in the secrecy of his heart and in the middle of the night, far from prying eyes. The master's whole life was a teaching given and received about simple sitting, stripped of expectations and projections. To live without fear or hope, and to unmask his own hypocrisy and that of his fellows was his path. A voie no compromise possible. Choosing poverty and wandering was a way of building nothing more on this bridge that is human existence, enjoying sight and life without hoarding or accumulating titles or possessions.

Tousui, the rebel sage

The image that old Tosui gave of himself had become completely indifferent to him. Salesman of sandals, vagabond devoid of a name, evanescent form that one saw under the bridges of Kyoto and which vanished as soon as it was glimpsed, silhouette glimpsed in the mountains, he cultivated the erasure of traces, of the consistency of the cloud, the body as clear as the water of the summer rains, the face muddy as that of the steep slopes, the thick beard and the shaggy hair, it mattered little to him. Contrary to all the expectations and prayers of those who loved him and who, in the name of this love, would have wanted him to do what they wanted: to accept the comfort of a couch or the roof of a hermitage, the the freshness of new, well-sewn dresses; he always refused. Rebellious and so slow to bend and consent, this fierce and frank dimension was the seal of its passage, the only legible imprint in the snow or the mud of the banks.

Choosing poverty and wandering was a way of building nothing more on this bridge that is human existence, enjoying sight and life without hoarding or accumulating titles or possessions.

A certain Suminokura had long heard of its depth and wisdom. Wealthy layman and Dharma practitioner, he had invited him to his home. And to the surprise of many, the wanderer had agreed to be the guest of this wealthy merchant. Sitting in front of the low table covered with a sumptuous meal of vegetables and rare fish, served with generous shaves of sake, old Tosui did not hide his pleasure. He gladly enjoyed this transient opulence, just as he could infinitely taste the sheer splendor of the sky when cool water runs down his throat or revel in the slightly bitter taste of roots taken and chewed in the evening. The moment came when the householder let go of his long-considered and restrained question hoping for a wise answer: "Master, what about meditation?" What can you say? How to practice correctly? Tosui looked up at the ceiling then after a long blurt: "The soy sauce must be made in the middle of summer, the miso paste in the middle of winter". The phrase, enigmatic and incomplete as it was, displayed in all its subtlety a most profound lesson: to meditate was to conform to things as they are, to follow the right rhythm of the world, to conform to universal law and to the natural place of things. Above all, it was not necessary to make meditation an extraordinary and special practice, but to be content with remaining in a natural balance and harmony.

A similar teaching had been given by the historical Buddha who, responding to the concern of a practitioner, who also happened to be a sitar player, about the quality of his meditation had then replied:
– What happens when you overtighten the string on your instrument?
“It breaks,” retorted the musician.
– And if you happen to relax her too much?
- It doesn't really ring anymore. Thus concludes the Buddha, the cord which produces a harmonious sound is the one which is neither too tense nor not enough. The same goes for meditation, the correct meditation is one where one is neither too tense nor too relaxed.

Like Tosui, you have to be careful not to make a big deal out of meditation, because it's carefree and free on its own. The real seat is very simple and easy. Understanding it is essential, it allows you to no longer have to play the comedy of the practice sacred to yourself. Learn from cats, very young children and simple ones who stand at the gate of the kingdom. Open your heart and let go of yourself again and again.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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