What remains?

When we select some part of the system to symbolize the life of the whole, we always choose something that flows, such as blood or breath, rather than the rigid parts. Indeed the skeleton, essential as it is for a living body’s movement, usually stands for death. Can flow itself be imagined apart from any fluid substance? If it can, it seems to be nothing other than time. Time is the essence of life because life is essentially a process, or rather a network of processes.

If your real life is a process, a kind of flow, then the fixed identity you call your self is an illusion – or at least its continuity is inseparable from its being always in transition from one “state” to another. Its life is its impermanence. The idea of a substantial, permanent selfhood is a species of what Trungpa (1973) called ‘spiritual materialism.’ A fixed “creed” or formulated belief is more of the same. But the practice of whole-body reading, grounded in the spirit of inquiry, can resurrect a dead dogma into a living, breathing belief.

The true remains of the Buddha’s body are found in the sutras.

— Dogen (Cook 1978, 47)

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