essence without essence

The ground on which the archer stands, the archer herself (the tension in her stance, the relaxation in her breathing), the act of her nocking an arrow and drawing her bow (the resistance in the bow as she draws it, the line of the arrow in her sight as it points towards the target), her loosing the arrow (the sudden loss of resistance as she opens her fingers, the thrum of the bowstring in her hearing, she way she catches her breath), the bow itself, the arrow itself (its flight, its striking the target), the target itself (the way it receives the point of the arrow into itself) – all of these things are the same thing. Then the moment passes, and they are all separate again.

The place where the haijin sits, the haijin herself (the straightness of her back, her carelessly contemplative state), the garden of sand and rock where there are fifteen rocks but no more than fourteen are visible from any vantage point, the sparrow or the leaf which by will or by instinct or by chance traverses her field of vision (it’s pausing on a rock in the garden, its resumed flight by wing or wind), the motivation to pick up her brush and violate a piece of virgin paper in order to convey the sight and feeling of the moment, the brush and the ink and the paper (the characters formed by the meeting of those three, their silent syllables, their texture, their shape), the dried ink on the page as the reader finds the verse, her reading it (the image, the evocation), her laying it aside having read it – all these things are the same thing. The moment passes, and they are all separate again…

A disciple approaches Buddha with a question in her mind. As she draws near, Buddha raises his right hand in a gesture which could equally be a benediction or a command to halt – the question lessens in importance, and the disciple is enlightened.


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