Catching the Zen Bird

So many people hear of the Zen Mind or Buddha Mind or Truth or Suchness or Enlightenment or the Great Way or the Absolute or the Unborn or the Fundamental Nature – there’s a million different names for it – and they know they want it for themselves.

It’s like hearing of a magical mythical royal bird – like a phoenix.

And theres a story that whoever may catch it will be given great power and riches and the knowledge of the universe.

So we go off searching for it.

Hunting for it

Scheming for it

And maybe we catch sight of it flying high in a certain place

So we go there again and again

And we lay traps for it

Hoping to snatch it for ourselves

And in those traps

We catch all kinds of different birds

Brown birds blue birds red birds

Even a chicken

And we shew them all away

And we wait and wait and wait

Dreaming of the day we catch the phoenix. We fantasize about it. It consumes us.

Then one day we check on the trap and we discover a hurt little baby bird

Our heart breaks open a little bit and we are moved by it’s innocence it’s helplessness and a great remorse comes over us as we watch it struggle to breakfree of the pain that we ourselves have caused it from our own selfishness

And something in us moves us to help it

Then the momma bird comes and attacks us

And we take those attacks

We endure her piercing beak because we know she is only trying to protect her baby and maybe she’s feeling bad too that she couldn’t keep it safe

So we care for that baby bird

We nurture it

We help it

We feed it

We gently love it

We strengthen it

We watch it grow

This whole time we’re still thinking of the royal magical bird

But less and less

We just see the matter at hand and do our best

We start to really see and know that it was because of our own greed hatred and delusion that this little innocent bird has been hurt

We vow to change

To be different

To be better

The baby bird finally gets strong enough to walk and fly on it’s own and we rejoice we celebrate it we clap and dance

In this moment we forgot about ourselves

And finally we bring it back to it’s mother strong and alive

We apologize to the mother and say we will change or ways – we have changed already and promise to do even better

We bow to her and we wish them the best bird life possible

And we realize in that moment that we have forgotten about the royal bird

We’ve forgotten about our goal our dreams our wants

And when we look to the place where we used to lay our trap – right there fast asleep is what we have sought so long ago

The royal bird – the radiant phoenix in all it’s spledour and glory is just sleeping peacefully there

We experience great awe reverence and we stop right there in our tracks our breath caught in our chest

And we sit there in the grass not moving a few feet from the phoenix

Not wanting to disturb this moment and the beauty of it

And we watch with an open heart

And something has changed in us because we don’t chase after it we don’t grasp it at – if this is the closest we get to it then that’s fine – more than fine – it’s the most magical thing we’ve ever experienced

And every day we do this

We tiptoe quietly to the spot hoping not to disturb the royal bird and scare it away with our own blunderings and some days we do and some days we don’t

But we keep going back

And now something else changes

We hear the forest

We feel the breeze

We look around us and somehow start to see the magic of life again

We praise the tree

We dance with the wind

We feed the birds

And care for the land

And easeful joyous heart begins to arise in us

The simplest things become marvellous

How could you have never seen this before

Heard this before

Tasted this before

Smelt this before

Touched this before

You even see the beauty in the “dark” things

In the decay

In the struggle

In the pain of the process

And even in death

You begin to bear witness to it all

The miracle of it

You have a reverence for it

You see that you have a great privilege and rare chance here and you do everything you can to help it

And everything is smooth

Everything is easy

Mountains are no longer mountains

Streams no longer streams

Everything is the great way

Then one day you realize that you haven’t thought of the royal bird in a long time

And you go check in on it’s normal place and it’s not there

And you’re fine

And you sit

And the you that’s sitting disappears

Words cannot get to it

To say you are oneness is not correct

To say anything really is not correct

But everything is correct

All words are silence

All actions are non-actiom

All thoughts are non-thought

All and all

Everything is perfect just as it is

How foolish you were before

Now you’re the greatest of fools


Just this

And that’s saying too much

The crickets chirping

The sun setting

The wind blowing

The water softly cresting on the shore

How can you truly describe the great way – to say anything is to miss the mark but to not say anything is to break your hearts vow to help all beings

And right then looking down there’s the discovery

Of the royal bird – the blazingly radiant phoenix sleeping in your lap and you’re not shocked or elated or anything really

It’s just this and nothing else

And though nothing’s been said you hear it’s wisdom nonetheless

And somehow you know that the royal bird, the great beautiful phoenix had been there the whole time

Guiding you

Loving you

Calling you

To awaken

It’s all the great phoenix

And you laugh and laugh

And the royal bird smiles

The crickets chirp

The sun sets

The wind blows

And the water softly crests on the shore

A rumble in your tummy

You getup and cook the rice

Clean the dishes

And sleep when you’re tired

You and the forest are not two – not one either

Mountains are mountains

Streams are streams

The great blazing phoenix soars through the vast open sky unhindered and completely free.

Zen Master e

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Artwork by Louis Dyer –
The amazingly beautiful and transcendent artwork of the Golden Phoenix is by the gifted artist Louis Dyer.

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