Sunday, July 22, 2012

I know what I'm talking about even if I don't

Enlightenment, compassion, love, freedom, true self, Buddha nature, God, heaven, hell, emptiness, transience, change, joy, peace....

Somewhere or other -- I think it was in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" -- the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki expressed his frustration when students would come to him with such verbiage ... love, freedom, etc. He was too polite and patient to ask them what the fuck they were talking about. Nice man ... but it must have been pretty exhausting.

Maybe it's like a farmer who has decided to lay in white pine seedlings as a means of combating erosion on a hillside. Patient, back-breaking work and perhaps the farmer has hired on a high-school kid to lend a hand ... but the kid keeps stopping, leaning on his shovel and asking what the farmer thinks about Emmanuel Kant.

I wonder if there is a tip-over point in such questions -- a point at which chagrin or shame rear their undeniable heads: How in the wide, wide world of sports could I imagine someone else could tell me anything about these ephemeral crown jewels? If I really wanted to know, then, instead of relying on some comforting, intellectual or emotional circle-jerk, I'd better stop leaning on the shovel and start digging.

For nine years, during what I think of as my Marine Corps Zen phase, I seldom if ever heard the word "enlightenment" mentioned. And any reference to the precepts so highly prized in Buddhism was equally rare.  Day after day, week after week, year after year ... doing zazen or seated meditation. And the funny thing was that the precepts arose all by themselves, lively and smooth as water over a rock. It was just how things worked better, plain as salt.

Plain as salt and ... alive.

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