Sunday, July 21, 2013


Two days ago, I mentioned on this blog that I was thinking about asking for donations because times were a bit tight. It is not something I do lightly.

To my surprise and delight, not 30 minutes after the mention, someone made a donation of $2. The fact that someone -- someone I didn't know -- would take the time and make the effort aroused a pure yummy of thank-you. Imagine that! (There was no return address so I couldn't say thank you then. I say it now ... thank you.)

Still swimming in wonder and weird delight, I drove to the supermarket later. On the way out of the parking lot, a homeless man was standing at the stoplight. He had a cardboard sign describing his plight, but it was difficult to read. I saw the word, "please" ... and called him over to give him half of what I had received ... $1.

Today, during zazen, the incident popped up again in my mind. I was on a wonder-rather-than-greed frequency. And from my vantage point while sitting, I could see the donation box that hangs in the zendo because a woman once came to sit and cussed me out for not having a place to make a donation. So I built one (unmarked) and hung it up. It got very little use, probably because I made a zendo rule a number of years back ... no donations until you have come at least three times ... and then we can talk about it.

But this morning I remembered the check sitting untouched in the donation box. It has been sitting there since 2005 and is probably worth nothing now. For all I know, it came from the woman who cussed me out about having a donation box ... a check for $100.

What a lot of money that seems like today. But it also seemed, in its time and for different reasons, to be a lot of money then ... too much money. I had built the zendo on my own hook, was working at the time and ... well, $100 was too much then.

After a few years'-worth of using the zendo, when a couple of serious students showed up, I laid a tithe them ... $5 for each time they came. I laid it on them because it is my feeling that there should be a level playing field in the zendo and those who visited deserved to know that as they got (a place, a teaching, an understanding or whatever), so, precisely, they gave (a place, a teaching, an understanding or whatever). And even if they didn't understand or even as they were unwilling to accede to a level playing field, that didn't mean the playing field wasn't level. $5 was enough to make a small point. It's easier than sitting for free. Thinking things are free (or not free) is irresponsible and Zen practice (or living life if you prefer) is best savored in a responsible manner.

This morning in the zendo, I seemed to be sitting in the midst of gifts for which I could not say thank you. Statues on the altar, incense smoke, flower in the vase, flickering candle light, a $2 donation, a check that had lost its meaning ... I D-double-dare-you to say "thank you," Adam.

But I couldn't.

So I sat.

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