by Doug Kuyo Sensei
In the essay “Naturalness,” in his book “Everyday Suchness,” Reverend Gyomay Kubose says “if we are as we are, we live as we are without pretending, without superficiality.”
There is a lot of wildlife on the island where we live. To those of us who have mainly lived in the city it never fails to excite us when an eagle flies overhead or we see deer walking in the woods. Just the other day we saw an otter crossing the road and then a few days later another one swimming in a cove. And speaking of eagles, we were passing a field that had just been cleared and it was dotted with these huge birds hunkered down apparently waiting for something to jump on.
Although the locals might find it amusing we still pull over to look at cows grazing near the roadside or rabbits sitting on somebody’s lawn. We whistle and call to them in an idiotic attempt to make some kind of connection. At some point the animal, whether a cow or a deer or a rabbit will turn and look at us and in my mind it’s as if they’re saying, “we know what we’re doing, but what are you doing?”
The teaching they provide is simple and immediate. It is one of naturalness, authenticity, dedication, seriousness, sincerity, in short, all the things in my practice where I need work. If a cow had my spiritual work ethic it would starve to death. It would take a couple of mouthfuls of grass, start chewing and then stop and think about what it all means.
In our backyard pond we have a mother mallard duck and her two surviving ducklings. Every day, rain or shine, they swim, eat, and rest and go about their duck business. There were originally seven ducklings in the brood but just about every day there would be one less. Patti Kayo and I were getting frantic. Even now I think about the missing ducklings and how I wish they were still with us. Does the mother duck have these regrets? If she does, it doesn’t stop her from suiting up and showing up and giving a hundred percent to raising the two remaining kids. They’re getting pretty big now and I think they’re going to make it.
Anthropomorphism, or personification, is “the attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being.” And I’m doing a lot of that here. It seems like all of the animated movies these days are about animals who are basic human stereotypes that present human emotions and values through the voice-overs of our favorite actors.
From this sentimental point of view I start liking the rabbits and ducks but not the eagles and herons that prey on them and their young. It’s okay for the ducklings to eat tadpoles but when a deer is hit by a car it is a tragedy. So the point seems to be that I’ll miss the lesson of nature if I impose my own desires and interpretation. It’s all or nothing, the good and the bad (my values again). Naturalness, or Suchness can’t be constrained or categorized. In the poem “Eternity” William Blake writes:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
So, finally, all that’s left for me is to stop describing what I think I’m seeing and let the lesson unfold on its own.
Doug Kuyo Sensei is a Lay Minister with the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha. To learn more please visit us here.