Toji Toya - Winter solstice celebration

Toji Toya greetings by Harada Roshi 22nd December 2011

People have made great efforts, especially the young people full of devotion continuing their training.  

In this way we come to this day of Toji Toya – the New Year of the Buddhist year, not of the almanac, but for people of Zen to strip away all of the extraneous thinking. It is truly that great death where these is no sign of being alive left. It is like it is said in the Mumonkan:

In all of the 24 hours of the day, to let go of all of our past experiences and conditioning, reaching the place where there is  no division between inside or outside

All past experiences, all judgments have been swept away, in every moment everything inside is being let go of. Like Shido Munan Zenji said:

While being alive to die, and to die completely, and then everything you do is good.

It is what is called the Great Death, where all thoughts have been let go of. Only from that experience can a new state of mind be born from. That is what we focus on in our training. The Buddha and the patriarchs have burned away all extraneous thinking, cleaned it up, the place where from a social or humanistic point, there is nothing left whatsoever. We have to walk through this place once, and from there a new world can be born.

It is just like in nature, all green has disappeared, the fall season also has passed, all grasses and trees have lost this life energy, everything has returned to the great earth and all looks like it has stopped living. It is that state of mind, where the patriarchs said:

Kill kill to kill myself completely

And the reason they were killing their own life is because they were wishing for a reborn state of mind, which is not based on ego and attachments, but the state of mind of the Buddha, that gives life to all living beings. It is the awakening of the Buddha.

All in all the three worlds, every place is my home.

In all the three worlds, all beings are my children.

The wish to also guide all beings to this experience arises from there. It is not that Buddha from 2550 years ago, but that great compassion arising in our mind is the Buddha mind born in our mind. That is the important experience in Buddhism. Without this experience, even using our wisdom and ideals, it is like we are bringing our personal satisfaction to society. This is while saying we want to liberate society, our only ambition is to feel satisfied. It cannot simply be imposed on people by doing good acts for them.

The IChing is using six lines and it is based on the combination of Yin and Yang to express. Just like the winter solstice - it is the time when the ultimate Yin has been reached, the source of life energy and from there it moves forth again.

Today we celebrate the New Year on the first of January, but in the old days it used to be in March. It was shown by Yang being on top with three lines and below Yin with three lines – the beginning of spring, which turns to be all Yang in June. This is the summer solstice, the beginning of the season of summer. It is just like nature is showing us, how the new life energy comes forth in Spring and then come to its fullest point in the summer. Then it again loses its outside expression and the life energy returns to the earth. Then we again reach the moment of Toji Toya, when Yin is at its height. From that day on, every day the sunrays extend for one row on the tatami lines, until the sun has returned to its fullest.

Through centuries especially in northern countries, there are rites on this day of greatest darkness to pray for the return of the sunlight. Some of these traditional celebrations are still observed today. People gather, burning huge fires to pray for the coming of longer days.

The same like our training. If our awareness moves outside, we think about this and that. We take in an excessive amount of information from outside. It has become our custom to do so, yet at the same time our inner essence becomes empty. Because our attention goes outside, it is like we are abandoning our inner being. We can say that this is the essence of today's society. If we bring this attention back to the inside, that over excited way of being outside, then we deepen our mind and look inside, bringing it back to its source. That is our practice of zazen.

Let's look at our bodies. We have a heart and lungs and under there the diaphragm. Under the diaphragm is where all the other organs are: kidneys, liver, spleen. The heart is like the sun, like a Yang, the lungs like a Yan organ. The lungs are cleaning the body from carbonic acid gas, and the heart is sending the blood through the body, then the meridians that go parallel to the capillary vessels in the body. In that way our body to the detail is blessed. What is moving through our body is called KI energy. It is this energy that energizes the blood vessels by flowing through the meridians. That is how that life energy gets passed through all the 100 trillion cells in our bodies. The heart and lungs are refreshing the body, while the kidneys and liver are cleaning out the impurities in the body. In that way, the liver is the Yin organ while the kidneys are Yang organs and in the upper part, the heart is the Yang and the lungs are Jin – this is how our body is being supported.

Exhaling to the end of the breath, bringing the Yang energy down to the liver. The exhalation is being send out by the lungs, the kidneys receive the inhalation. This is how Chinese medicines teaches it.

But even not knowing all these details, when the energy rises too much in our body, it is dangerous for our life, because the energy is going against its natural flow. To have a cold and clear head and warm feet is a healthy balance of energy. If our feet feel cold and our head is exploding with energy, that is a most dangerous state. The breathing exercises of zazen can help with balancing this energy again. With our exhalation, we bring down the energy into our belly, and for the exhalation we completely open our body, not sucking the breath in, by letting the lower abdomen expand naturally with the incoming air. By breathing in this way we find inner balance and let go of the energy to the outside. It is said that with the exhalation you can move the energy 10 cm down, and 10 cm up again with the inhalation. The blood vessels and meridians being stimulated by that moving energy. Thus the energy is being moved about 50 times through the whole body in one day. We breathe about 13500 times a day. And it is by breathing into the lower abdomen that the energy creates a fullness there, which brings freshness and clarity to our head. This is the actual base for our realization of original nature because it is an experience not just in our heads. Using our body we experience actual balance, and from there the mind of compassion and the wisdom of the Buddha can come forth. So we practice our zazen using the ways of heaven and earth.

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