by Rev. Koshin Schomberg

The Second Rank: The Guest Turns Toward the Host

A sleepy-eyed grandam
Encounters herself in an old mirror.
Clearly she sees a face,
But it doesn't resemble hers at all.
Too bad, with a muddled head
She tries to recognize her reflection.

--Poem on the Second Rank
Great Master Tozan
translated by Ruth Fuller Sasaki in Zen Dust
quoted in A History of Zen by Dr. Y. H. Ku

Accepting the Invitation

Great Master Tozan's poem on the First Rank shows that, while the invitation of the Eternal is always present, we are not always heeding and accepting the invitation. To review Tozan's poem on the First Rank, click on the following link to Part XLII of these Reflections and read the poem at the top of the page:

Click here to return to Part XLII, "The First Rank: The Host Invites the Guest"

In the Second Rank, the guest heeds and accepts the Host's invitation. In other words, in the Second Rank, we open our hearts to the Love of the Eternal in pure meditation. This is the deepest spiritual meaning of "offering."

In turning toward the Eternal in offering, we stop seeking a refuge in externals. Therefore, accepting the invitation extended by the Eternal always has the aspect of renunciation. Yet this renunciation is a positive act, not life-denying asceticism. Great Master Dogen's words in Rules for Meditation, "Cut all ties; give up everything." mean "Offer everything you are and everything you love into the hands of the Eternal and trust completely." We offer up a lesser love for the sake of the greatest Love.

Clear Heart, Muddled Head

As Great Master Tozan's poem on the Second Rank (at the top of this page) shows, the offering of which I speak may be done in the midst of considerable confusion. If we had to have intellectual clarity on how to offer, and what we are offering to, in order to successfully do the offering in meditation, no one would ever do it. Fortunately, there is That within us that can just do it; It does not need intellectual clarity.

Here is another way of saying the same thing: The invitation from the Eternal helps us turn toward the Eternal; then, as we do this, the Eternal guides us in opening more and more to Its Compassion. Thus, the offering in meditation happens whenever we turn toward the Eternal and then refrain from veering off in other directions.

The Eternal is the most beneficent of hosts. If we say "Yes!" and are willing to put our money where our mouth is (spiritually speaking), we will find that the Eternal does all the heavy lifting. Even so, since saying "Yes!" to the invitation from the Eternal gets all our spiritual need lined up to receive the Eternal's Help, and since some of that spiritual need comes in the form of deep delusion, clinging, anger, grief and fear, we are going to go through a process that at times will stretch our faith and patience to the limit.

Cleansing the Heart

We should not be surprised when the Eternal takes us up on our "Yes!" by showing us the ways in which we have done harm to ourselves and others. Then we have the opportunity to do sange--accept responsibility for our actions, experience the sorrow that actions based in attitudes that deny the Buddha Nature have loaded the heart with, and allow the Compassion of the Eternal to flow through this sorrow and guide us to a deeper understanding of Preceptual action.

This cleansing process is an essential part of the Second Rank. Rev. Master sometimes referred to it as the "wash cycle" of the Eternal's cosmic washing machine. We take the Eternal up on Its invitation by turning toward It and opening our heart in pure meditation; then we are popped into the washing machine, and round and round we go. Gradually, the illusion of uncleaness is washed away: the Great Immaculacy was, is, and always will be the True Reality of ourselves and all existence.

Perspectives on the Second Rank

In How to Grow a Lotus Blossom, the aspects of sange and spiritual washing are emphasized in the Second Column.

In the Five Aspects of Meditation ("Offer wholeheartedly"), the aspect of offering is emphasized.

In the Buddha's Second Noble Truth ("The cause of suffering is craving rooted in ignorance"), the cause of suffering--that is, the spiritual need that is made available to the Compassion of the Eternal whenever we accept the Eternal's invitation--is emphasized.


Click here to proceed to Part XLIV, "The Third Rank: The Host in Rightful Position"


Click here to return to the Table of Contents of Book One: How to Grow a Lotus Blossom: Reflections



Click here to go to Table of Contents of Book Two: How to Grow a Lotus Blossom: Reflections in a Disciple's Life

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