Earth Mirror Hope Future

Choro Antonaccio prepared and read this for our Earth Day Celebration on April 22, 2023 at the Austin Zen Center.

This is the Old Post Oak. Next year it will be a decade since Teacher Kosho McCall gave this unfathomable tree a Buddhist name, symbolically inscribing it into the lineage of Buddhas and Ancestors. Not that it needed sanctification. But it indicates, in a way we can relate to in the Triple Treasure of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The tree is the true treasures of teacher, the teaching of phenomena, and the teachings of community, of all beings. This tree is our teacher Do Kyo Bo Rai, Earth Mirror, Hope Future.

The presence of this tree is what we call suchness. It’s been here a long time, maybe 200 years. I read that the oldest post oak in Texas might be as much as 500 years old. Many human lifetimes, rooted in place. Rooted in time, in causes and conditions. Where does this tree come from, where does it begin? We say an oak springs form an acorn, and nothing else will grow from an acorn - not a bird, not a blade of grass, nor a frog, nor a person. But if you look deeply, there is no beginning and no end to the tree. With its branches and leaves it reaches out and up to light and air, it follow the rhythms of this place. Its roots go deep into soil and moisture. But how can we say what is tree and what is other?

If you search for post oak information on the internet, you will learn that the reason it’s called a post oak is that to humans who names things, it’s a source of fence posts and railroad ties. What about us? We followers of Zen have given this being a different name. As we encounter this big tree, we must pass under its branches to enter the temple. We don’t control it, we live entwined with it. So how do we meet this tree? We bow our heads on our way to the door, both protective of our heads and respectful of the tree. Can we let this tree show us true relationship? Ask if there is some dividing line between the tree and us. How do we awaken to our true nature, and to this tree? “Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life”, said Jane Hirschfeld, about a young redwood tree growing by a house. Our tree is no longer young. It is subject to drought, heat, cold; ice storms and thunderstorms, lightning and insects. There are oak wilt and sudden oak death. With this shimenawa, this rope of blessing, let us offer our reverent respect for this tree while not considering it, or anything, as apart from us. As it teaches immensity, the Old Post Oak also teaches impermanence - not just on our timeline, nor according to our wishes, hopes and fears.

Do Kyo Bo Rai, we concentrate our hearts on your today, great Bodhisattva of our lineage who stands and teaches, reaching down and reaching up, in all directions. Who accepts all, who gives all, life giving. Dogen said, “If you study giving closely, you see that to accept a body and to give up the body are both giving… To leave flowers to the wind, to leaves birds to the seasons are also acts of giving.”