Friday, June 23, 2017


A once-in-a-lifetime offer is a bit of hyperbole describing something special, isn't it?

Birth -- unless you are into multiple lives -- is a once-in-a-lifetime offer. It only happens once.

Death -- unless you are into multiple lives -- is a once-in-a-lifetime offer. It only happens once.

In this realm, birth and death are special -- a shiver-me-timbers possibility or actuality.

But if birth and death are so special, why are they happening all the time and in the all-around? Look around. True, you or I may only get one shot at it, but that doesn't seem to constrain birth and death. Birth and death seem as common as salt. Is that special?

My Zen teacher's teacher, Soen Nakagawa, once commented, "There is birth and there is death. In between, there is enlightenment." I never did get to ask him what he could possibly mean by "in between." Would I have understood his answer? Would it have been special?

Another once-in-a-lifetime offer, I imagine.


  1. In the Soto school we sit. But in the Rinzai school they like to fuck with your head with all those koans. I expect it was something like that. At least that's the file drawer an unenlightened schlub like myself puts it in.

    Between birth and death there's too much of some stuff and not enough of other stuff. Clearly some equanimity issues here. Oh well.

  2. Charlie -- Just an FYI: Dogen was given to koans as well. I guess as long as the job gets done, it doesn't matter much.

  3. My teacher used to go to Tofuku-ji to get her koan dose. Modern Soto seems to do without, for which i'm grateful. Oryoki was trial enough for me. When you eat, just eat, unless you're in the zendo... wtf? lol

  4. Eating oatmeal with chopsticks was one of my formative bits of Zen training ... or something.

  5. Nakagawa, as I remember also said once 'Are you really sure you want to be enlightened?', which I took as a warning, along the lines of 'Be careful what you wish for'.

  6. Just one of the World Wide SanghaJune 23, 2017 at 9:47 PM

    For some reason this post and discussion made me think of and review the Ten Oxherding pictures and the the Five Ranks of Tozan.