Monday, March 26, 2012

Zen and death

Corresponding this morning with a friend who has also had a longtime interest in Zen Buddhist practice, it crossed my mind mildly....

That perhaps the whole vast canon and sometimes wracking concern with Zen or any other spiritual tale boils down to little more than getting over a fear of death; that once the fear of a personal demise or revision of the current lifestyle is in place, all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and a pretty picture is revealed. It's usually nothing very interesting ... a scenic lake, a field of flowers, an old church in Normandy, a farmhouse with horses ... some Hallmark-y something or other.

I do like the story of the Zen teacher who, on his deathbed, was asked by a student if he had any last words, and the the 'master' replied that he had. He said, "I am afraid of dying." The student was aghast that a man who had spent so much time and effort in addressing the matters of birth and death could have failed so miserably. The student expressed his horror. And the old 'teacher' looked at him sadly, as if he had failed in his task, and said, "You do not understand. I am afraid of dying, really. I am afraid of dying...really."

Telling such stories is often a means of expressing or gathering to oneself the wisdom and understanding of the story itself. 'Teachers' do this all the time while all the time holding in reserve the excuse that they never claimed to have attained any such thing. And maybe it's true ... but more important, maybe it's not.

I note this because I was about to say that I would not lay claim to such an understanding as the story points to. I am no 'teacher' ... except, of course, this too is bullshit. Everyone is the 'teacher' all the time. Really ... no kidding. It's nothing to be proud of or put at the top of the "success list." It's just inescapable... and what is inescapable deserves our attention, however boring it may seem.

I figure there is no compelling need to worry about the impact or honesty of the story in my own life. Could I express such a sentiment honestly ... be at ease with my fear of death by surrendering to it and shining within its preamble fears?

Who cares?!

I guess I'll find out when I get there.

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