Wednesday, March 18, 2009

effort for what?

My Zen teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, had a mole at the base of his throat. Since the clothing he wore was generally V-necked, the mole was always obvious. (You can't see it very well in this picture, but it's there -- a small dot in a poor photo.) As far as I could ever tell, he wasn't worried about it -- never put any concealing or camouflaging make-up on it. There it was, like it or lump it -- a small, brown mole at the base of his throat. It didn't seem to impede his laughter or lifestyle.

Wasn't there a Henry James story about a man who was deeply in love with a woman who had some skin defect that drove him nuts? I don't remember clearly and I sure as hell don't want to reread Henry James in order to recall more accurately. But as I recall, the man convinced the woman to have the defect removed ... and the removal killed her.

Sometimes I think it is sort of sad that those with the inclination to reflect should insist on removing the obvious by elevating the obscure. "Buddhism" may be wonderful, but what is wonderful is the understanding that flows from what is, not from what might be. What is wrong with how anyone might actually be? If you're five-feet-two and twitchy as a cockroach, well, isn't that enough? Isn't that enough to work with? Isn't that the way home? If you try to add or subtract, doesn't that bar the way, lead to more confusion, and leave you dissatisfied? If you're naked anyway, what's so bad about being naked?

I guess you can't ask people to have faith in themselves when they lack faith in themselves. But it seems a pity to struggle towards the East when they want to go West. Perhaps the best that can be said for it is that if going in the wrong direction is the truth, then what is the truth of going in the wrong direction? And if anyone discovered that truth, how could it be the wrong direction?

I too have a mole on my neck. Or maybe it's not a mole. It's not brown like my teacher's and it's over on the right side. I suppose I could have it lopped off, but since it doesn't cause any discomfort and since I dislike going to any more doctors than I have to and since it doesn't seem to impede laughing or crying or walking to the kitchen ... well, what for?

Moles and all, "Buddhism" is for people, not the other way around. All people, not just "Buddhist" people. No point in killing yourself about what is just the truth. No point in struggling to defect-disdaining East.

Go West, young (wo)man! :)

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