An Unauthorized and Incomplete Guide to Zazen–contents

Drawing Water and Chopping Wood

Julia set

Miraculous power and marvelous activity
Drawing water and chopping wood.

(Pangyun, a lay Zen practitioner, eight century C.E.)

Cleave a (piece of) wood, I am there;
lift up the stone and you will find Me there.

(The Gospel According to Thomas, pg 43 log. 77, ©1959 E. J. Brill)

The breath in emphasizes flexion in the body, as does the action of lifting an object; the breath out emphasizes extension in the body, as does the action of wielding an axe to split a piece of wood.

As the part in mind completes the whole and the length of inhalation is comprehended, the weight of the entire body clears with the movement of breath; as the part in mind completes the whole and the length of exhalation is comprehended, the weight of the entire body cleaves with the movement of breath.

Reciprocal innervation is generated in support of the movement of breath as the weight of the entire body clears; reciprocal innervation is generated in support of the movement of breath as the weight of the entire body cleaves.

The feeling of drawing water and the feeling of chopping wood can translate into a continuous sense of the effect of the field of gravity as reciprocal activity is generated; this is summarized by Yuanwu as follows:

When you arrive at last at towering up like a wall miles high, you will finally know that there aren’t so many things.

(Zen Letters, Teachings of Yuanwu; trans. by Cleary & Cleary, page 83, ©1994 by J. C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)

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