November 19, 2018

No Room for Love in Zen

Today I am going to use the word Zen instead of Buddhism, because if I say There is no room for love in Buddhism, people will think I am crazy. Of course, there is no room for love in Buddhism, but let's just talk about Zen, by Zen I mean the lineage of Buddhist teachers from Bodhidharma through master Dogen up to contemporary successors in Dogen's lineage.

I can imagine some people would like to argue with me right at the beginning. How can you claim there is no room for love in Zen? And then we would have an argument about the definition of love. But there is no room for argument in Zen either. It seems there is no room for anything in Zen, right?

Exactly, in fact there is no room for anything in Zen. So we can just pack up and go home. Or we can discuss, not argue but question and investigate. What does it mean that there is no room for anything in Zen? That means that we should not attach to anything. There is no room for advise like Look, that is really important, keep that in your mind. In Zen there is nothing we should keep in our mind. And if you say that our mind should be empty, ditch that idea, too. There is no room for empty mind in Zen, there is no room for unempty mind and anything else that looks similar to empty or unempty. Still, there is something in Zen that is important. That important thing is not something in your mind, but something real here and now.

Anyway, what about love. You must have come across the word compassion in connection with Buddhism or even Zen. What is the difference between compassion and love? More or less not much difference. Anyway, before we can express authentic compassion, we have to let go of ideas about compassion. True compassion comes out of our natural action before we think. If you see a blind person trying to cross the street, before you think, you help the person. But if you first think, oh, as a Buddhist... then no compassion follows, it is calculation. Anyway, how come there is no room for love in Buddhism? There is no room for romantic ideas about love.

When it comes to romantic relationships, when a man falls in love with a woman or vice versa or LBGT or what comes relationships, they have no room in Zen. That does not mean that such relationships are not welcome or discouraged. There is just not much comment. Have you ever heard a Zen master discuss tennis? Maybe comparing zazen to the moment before you serve the ball. But do Zen masters discuss the problems and theory of tennis? No. Do Zen masters from Bodhidharma through Dogen and master Sawaki ever discussed how to make a violin? Not likely. Why? Because these are specific fields of human civilized efforts. And so is a romantic love. It seems the relationship we have with our closest friends or parents or children or partners are so important and there must be a way to address these relationship in a Zen way. The relationships are important, of course.  It is important how  we treat our partners or parents or children. But there is no teaching on love in Zen, like how to love or why love somebody or how to express love or compassion. Instead Zen teaches something like: Forget about it, man. Just forget about it. Master Dogen taught that to study our true self, we have to forget ourselves. We have to forget ourselves and all ideas about love and romance and just become completely stupid at this moment. In that moment of perfect stupidity we can see our partner for the first time in our lives. That is a kind of hello moment, a moment of rebirth. In fact we don't even know whether that person is our partner. We have no idea if we love each other. A baby that has just been born does not think I love you, mom. It just acts - without any notions of love or hatred. It sucks completely. It shouts completely. The whole universe breathes in and out.

It seems like this is my instruction or advice on how to love someone. No, no. As I said, Zen has nothing to say about love. It just notices there is a complete action at this  moment when we are completely ourselves. A human love, romantic love is a kind of story, a movie. It may be very dramatic, frustrating, beautiful, sweet, strange, bitter, dark, crazy, passionate, wild, lukewarm, mutual or one-sided. But it is always a kind of story. People call this story love. But zen teaches say that when we let go of our stories, there is something truly brilliant. A monk comes to a master after a few years. He is touched by the moment and expects the master to show some emotions. The master, to the monk's disappointment, shows no trace of warmth. "Why are you so cold, master? We haven't seen each other for such a long time", says the monk. The master says: "There is something very intimate in the moment when we meet here and now." That means that when we truly, completely meet someone, there is more passion than in the wildest sex ever. But please, do not imitate this story. Forget this story and see for yourself what happens when you do not imitate anyone. Be spontaneous.

When I read my first book about Zen, it mentioned an old Chinese master talking about the sound of the creek in the valley. If you go to the valley with your beloved partner, it will be difficult to hear the sound of the creek. But if you say: "Do you mind if I forget about you for a while, I'd like to be quiet for some time..." Sit down, forget yourself and all love stories and koans and books about Zen and just listen to the creek. In that moment, true love will explode through all corners of the universe.

There is no room for love in Zen, but there is room for nature in its original form. I think it is possible to find something a bit deeper than human stories in the nature when it is revealed to us in its original form.

It is very difficult to find freedom and liberation from human delusions in the middle of a romantic relationship. But if you let go for a while, it is possible. There is plenty of room for true love when we dare to let go of everything. True love has no name. It is not a category. It is the original state of things. Nobody has grasped it yet. Nobody has caught and maintaned it. It will always escape. It is perfectly free. No teaching has ever defined it clearly.  Yet, beyond definitions and philosophy, it likes human beings and all creatures and mountains and clouds. It is always ready to dance with you.

October 13, 2018

Deeper, deeper... stop!

Yesterday at the Lotus Centre during my talk we came  across the notion that some people are more enlightened than others. It was just at the end of the talk that kind of got out of control as I didn't check time so you can imagine when a free discussion begins, where it leads to after an hour... I see it is definitely necessary to set a time limit to a talk. Anyway, just when we were about to stop, someone said that some people are more enlightened, or their enlightenment is deeper. And we decided to address this issue next time.

There is no such thing as deep or shallow enlightenment. Well, firstly, let's ditch the expression "enlightenment".  For obvious reasons which I have discussed on my blog a few times already. If we say awakening, there is nothing as being half-awake. Physically speaking, yes, you can be half asleep and half awake. I have experienced this many times. In the morning in my bed or dozing off in my office. Be careful about being half-awake when driving, please! Anyway, awakening in Buddhism is like traffic lights, either the green light is on or it isn't. If you get slapped all of a sudden, I am sure you will be as awake as Buddha was when he saw the Morning Star. Whenever we let our delusions flood our mind, we are not awake and whenever we let go or see clearly how deluded we are, we are awake. If you somehow let your thinking control your body and mind, there is no awakening. If you let go and just return completely to your activity here and now, you are awake.  This is not about beginners and experienced practitioners. This is about a momentary state of body and mind. Ancient zen masters knew nothing other than you already know. But the thing is they knew clearly that they didn't know anything special. They knew clearly that awakening is not something you gradually or suddenly attain to boast that in front of others ever since. There is depth to water or a bowl, but there is no depth to awakening or wisdom, it either appears or doesn't.

Kodo Sawaki said: "Simply the awareness that you are deluded, which comes from practicing zazen, makes you, in reality, a Buddha. It's zazen that teaches us that we are deluded, and hence delivers us from this delusion. When we actually practice zazen, and look carefully at all the deluded ideas that keep popping up, we realize how ordinary we are and how little we have to be proud or brag about; nothing to do other than quietly hide away. Satori is being enlightened to the fact that we are deluded."

By being enlightened to the fact that we are deluded doesn't mean that we have to stop and meditate about our delusions, as that would clearly be just going back to the depth of our delusions, it is rather immediately going back to what we are doing here and now.  What we need to do is just realize how deluded we are and in an instant return to reality here and now. And we have to do this a thousand times a day. Maybe there is a difference between someone who hopes to get rid of delusions and someone who sheds delusions in the middle of everyday action. As we continue our practice and study Buddhist philosophy with a reliable teacher, we learn and get to know different aspects of Buddhism, but this learning is to no avail if we hope to reach the heights of "enlightened masters" or look up to "enlightened masters" or look down to beginners who yet have to reach the spiritual experience we have had. Of course, master Dogen wrote about attaining the truth. It is a serious matter. But it is not about depth, progress or ranks. It is becoming ourselves in the middle of everyday actions, which is not an easy task, if you get entangled in spiritual theories. It is seeing, in theory and practice, how the ordinary person and Buddha are one and the same thing exactly. It is letting go of one and many, awakening and delusions. It is the warm, golden-sunny October Saturday afternoon.  

September 6, 2018

Is Zen Hygge?

This text is based on a Czech text about Zen and hygge, but I made some changes to the contents. Of course, it is basically the same message.  As for using the term Zen, I decided to use this term rather than Buddhism in this text, as the word "Buddhism" means all kinds of things to all kinds of people. Although the word Zen is also quite misleading, I feel it is still a bit closer to the actual meaning of Buddhism or Zen... 

I have recently come across a phenomenon called "hygge". It's basically a Danish lifestyle, which has become popular throughout the West in recent years. Maybe it will be popular in Japan as well, as the Japanese like to copy the West. What is the lifestyle? And why write about it on this blog? I wonder how it relates to Zen and whether it has any value for people who are interested in Zen.

Hygge, pronouncing "hyg", where the "y" sound has no equivalent in English, is a style that the Danes, I do not know when, have developed, in order not to be cold, sad and anxious. Who would  want to be cold, sad and anxious? Take the Italians for example. They also have a very specific lifestyle, but because they live in completely different geographic conditions, they are logically interested in things other than warm socks and a cup of hot chocolate - maybe a parasol and a glass of good wine. Why is Hygge so popular today? As I wrote, the Danes want to be warm, feel nice and not sad. So they need warm, hand-knitted woolen socks, throw blankets, cushions, a lot of cushions and a thick scarf. The Danes probably do not turn up the heating much in the winter, otherwise I cannot fathom why all those thick layers and woolen hats and scarves. Well, ideally, there is a fire place making the room even cozier. You are surrounded by  friends, sipping hot chocolate, if alone, reading a good book - or playing board games with others. If you are talking, you should avoid topics like politics or religion. No zen, then, no matter if you consider Zen a religion or not... See? A conflict already. Definitely don't argue what Zen is... Conversations must be pleasant and easy going. If it is summer, and in Denmark sometimes it is summer, I myself experienced it myself, then it is good to go for a beer with friends, go to a jazz club or a beach. Although the water is so cold that it is not possible to swim in it, you can play games on the beach or read - a real book, not stare at your smartphone screen. What is not Hygge - internet arguments, political demonstrations, your own graffiti on your neighbour's wall, road rage, etc.  If you are a prime minister, you have to treat your subordinates as if they were your best friends -  offer nice tea and cushions. Don't discuss politics!

How does it all relate to Zen?  Because I have decided that since September of this year I will live Hygge. There have been too many arguments about money and politics, and such... Enough cold feet and instant coffee... and enough fast food. I want to talk to people without making them feel uncomfortable... Of course, I am joking, but not completely. I would like to add that Hygge aspect to my everyday life, to my cycling, meeting friends, furnishing my bedroom, talking to my girlfriend and spending time with her. There is no need to add Hygge to zen retreats or weekly practice. There is some Hygge aspect to practicing zazen with others, some Hygge aspect to listening to your teacher's talks, while you are wrapped in a blanket and sipping nice coffee. We used to have retreats at Earth Spirit in England, and that place was very, very Hygge. The style, the furniture, the meals, the cozy atmosphere in the evening -  friends whispering to each other on the sofa, quietly giggling and feeling close. We even had a real saxophone players playing jazz at the end of the retreat - do you know John Hart? We had poets... Ralph? Dancers, forgot their names... all very Hygge.  But we shouldn't expect zen retreats to be Hygge from the beginning to the end. If there are no conflicts, if the teaching is not a bit harsh at times, there is something wrong. Even master Dogen wrote that the teaching must be a bit pushing at times.

Hygge is primarily about feeling good, cozy, comfortable and safe. Zen is primarily about becoming one with what you are doing right now, no matter if it is eating delicious cake or shoveling manure. When you drink tea, there is no difference between you and your tea. When you repair a bicycle, which is also a Hygge thing, if you do it calmly, in Zen it is primarily about being united with your activity. In Hygge you don't care if you are one or not with whatever you are doing, you just want to enjoy what you're doing, that's all.  In Zen this joy is secondary, it comes naturally. Or doesn't. Certainly someone having experienced Hygge may become interested in Zen or vice versa.

As for zazen, you know people like meditation, in general, when it is Hygge - no pain, you are wrapped in  a blanket, no pushing, nobody is telling you how to sit. Zazen is a bit different. There may be some pain or discomfort. But not too much. We should find a posture in which we can sit balanced, balancing right and left, back and forth, so you are looking for the middle, without being stiff. Also, mentally, not trying to feel nirvanic, nor being preoccupied with negative thoughts or anger, you just let these feelings or desire go, over and over again, and return to your posture.  There is no room for human sentiments and opinions in zazen. We can do that after zazen, discuss feelings, pain, opinions, but during zazen, you just sit pretty stupidly.  But when you do this completely, a new kind of freedom appears. Master Dogen wrote: If you continue this something ineffable (practicing zazen without being stiff mentally or physically) the warehouse of treasures will open naturally, and it will become possible to receive and make use of these treasures.

It sounds very grand and mystical, but basically master Dogen means that zazen helps us to be completely one with our coffee and blanket. Sometimes we have to endure a bit of pain in order to get some comfort. Some people have to work hard in the fields and factories so that we can have that delicious hot chocolate and buy that beautiful woolen scarf. Some masters tried extremely hard in severe conditions and the result was the complete freedom master Dogen writes about. Anyway, Hygge is a nice concept and great experience. As for Zen, it is up to you.

June 14, 2018

Buddha Means to Be Equal

There is a retreat with Mike Luetchford in Slovakia next week. When I think about the people going to this retreat, most of us have known each other for about ten years or so. Some of us are married, some divorced, many of us have a different partner compared to when we met. We have shared all kinds of things during our retreats and struggled and made efforts in between retreats. We have asked ourselves or others, or our teacher: What is Buddha? What is awakening? We have read books and found answers or failed to find answers to our questions. We may feel proud or underestimated. We may feel better than in the past or worse. But all in all, we are all perfectly equal.

Buddha Way points to the place where we are all equal. We often forget this. We talk about success or failure, teachers and students, beginners and advanced students,  but all in all, there is no difference between me or you, between a buddha and you. When we all sit in the zendo, saying nothing, all of us dealing with our silly thoughts and imagination, we are the same. When we share the lunch, we are the same. When we go to sleep, we are all the same. And when the teacher speaks, giving a talk about buddhas, we are all the same, teacher, students, we are all dealing with the same thing. We are all on board the same ship. We all wake up together when working in front of the house or when practicing zazen. When Buddha attained the truth, he realized that there is no difference between him and all beings. Essentially, all beings have the same awakening, here and now.          

If you know me personally, you know I was preoccupied with feelings about my value, about how much I mean to others, about my talents and failures, about my ambitions, about feeling odd and not accepted by others, etc. When I practiced zazen, this feeling disappeared for a while and I sank into the state of equality with all beings and things. But it was always very difficult for me to get free from myself. It is difficult for everyone. When we practice zazen, we may get free for a while. When we go hiking or when we cook, or when we clean the bathroom, we may be free for a while. This is very important. We deserve to get this freedom. This freedom is called buddha. It is the awakening that matters. There are no better or worse people in this awakening, there are no superior or inferior beings, no teachers or students, no women or men, no nations, no races, no political parties, no right, no wrong. We all deserve this awakening. And Buddha explained how important it is to experience this awakening. Awakening to equality of all beings and things.

Then, in this awakening, when all things and beings are equal, we can notice the beauty of red, the beauty of white, the beauty of green, the beauty of a rose. Because the intellect with its judgment and comparisons is quiet. When we drop our opinions of ourselves and others, only then we can fully appreciate the beauty of things and appreciate that we can eat, drink, sleep and breathe.

But this does not mean that we should never discuss anything, or have no ambitions or aspiration. This does not mean that our experience is the same as experience of somebody else. There are significant differences between people and all beings. There is a lot to learn from people whose experience is genuine, authentic. It may be a carpenter, a pianist or a chef. The problem is when we forget to reach the point when everything is equal and true. The moment a piano student touches the keys after being instructed - in that moment awakening to equality of things is possible and natural. So we practice zazen and learn the Buddhist philosophy to see clearly that differences matter to a certain point, but our awakening of the original self, which contains no differences, only complete action at this moment, is even more important than understanding and intellectual analysis. Both is necessary, but after all, the single undivided experience matters the most.

We may feel that we have made progress or achieved something within Buddhist practice but the most important achievement is when we realize that it is important to share this universe with others without judging them at the moment of actions like eating, drinking, walking or practicing zazen together. Sharing this universe with respect towards others and their struggles, that is very important. I have to treat my students at school as if I was more important than them, being a leader, a teacher, but they need my leadership. And I don't think I am more important than them at all. Teaching is possible without arrogance or feeling superior. Actually, in Buddhism, this attitude is necessary.

We may have studied Shobogenzo. Master Dogen often mentions great masters and talks about great awakening of different beings and things. But after all, master Dogen points to the equality of all things, that is all things are true and their truth is perfectly on par with the truth of other things, be it a plum blossom, or the full moon. No matter how painful our life is, we can always return to the situation where all things express the truth without stages or levels. We deserve to forget who we are and see the truth that silences our intellect and silences our questions and doubts and frustration and hopes. We are equal and true, essentially, and we deserve to see this and see others and all things as perfectly true as they are. This is the point where we should all meet. And I hope this coming retreat will be a success in terms of coming to equality and authenticity of things and equality and authenticity of our human actions, helping each other experience our true selves.

April 17, 2018

Thank You, Unknown Man...

This afternoon I was sipping coffee and munching on delicious ice cream in a cozy coffee shop in a trendy Prague neighborhood called Karlin, say something like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, only better... I had been thinking about something really silly all day and could not stop. Although it was a beautiful, sunny day and I had about three hours to go cycling along the river, I was considering going home... because I just wasn't in the mood for cycling or enjoying the spring day... As I was not really enjoying the delicious ice cream, being busy with my "agenda", I noticed a couple sitting at the next table who were talking about something familiar. I began to concentrate and listen carefully. The guy was explaining something to the lady. In a nice, patient voice. He was Asian. Ah, he is talking about the clarity of the present moment.  Maybe he was a Tibetan teacher.  I didn't think I was doing something wrong listening to this informal teisho. So I continued. He was explaining something I have heard Mike, my teacher, speak about many, many times, and I myself had tried to explain the thing many many times before. He was talking about the clarity and brightness there is when we let go of our ideas, images, opinions, hopes, memories and worries. There was a beautiful flower in a vase in the window just in front of me. I noticed its beauty. The ice cream finally started to taste delicious. My eyes got misty and then tears started to run down my cheeks. I had been busy thinking about something silly all day, but now I noticed. The flower is wonderful, it is sunny and I am sipping nice espresso here. I quickly glanced at the guy, my cheeks still wet. He was smiling. Of course, I am going cycling now! What else! It is a beautiful day...  

So thank you, unknown fellow, for your teaching. We all forget from time to time, we all forget to notice what is present and wonderful, preferring our own issues and dreams. So although we sometimes say that it is necessary to let go of Buddhist teaching, this specific teaching, which I have heard so many times so far, and which was often helpful, points to something much more interesting than Buddhist teaching. It points to the beautiful spring day, the flowers and ice cream. It is not so convincing when we read about it in books or on blogs like this, but it is sometimes very touching and helpful, when it is given sincerely from person to person.

We have heard a lot of stories about scandalous behavior of all kinds of famous teachers. Although it is important to have a sense of justice and caring, even if one true sentence is said by someone who did wrong things in the past, it is still true teaching. We never know who may be our teacher after all... He or she may have done something really bad in the past.... this guy today may have been in prison for all kinds of things, who knows, but today he has passed a piece of true teaching in a coffee shop. To me, to the lady... to the spring day.

March 22, 2018

How to Do Our Best

Last time I promised I would write an article about the meaning of "doing our best". This story might not be very encouraging, but you are probably a very different person, have very different experience and be much more mature than I am now. I have no idea, but I will just tell you what it was for me "to do my best" for twenty five years of my Buddhist practice.

Ever since I began to practice zazen and study the Buddhist philosophy with teachers, I have seldom  felt  happy about who I was and what my situation was. Except a short time after I returned from the US where I began my Buddhist practice. After my return home, which was and still is Prague, the Czech Republic, I felt like I had brought a new life from the US. The direction I got at the Zen center seemed amazing and it worked great for some time. But soon I started to realize that I was slowly and surely returning into a mindset which I would call "something is wrong with me".  I had started to practice Zen in Kwan Um school, which is based on working on koans, helping others more than oneself and practicing hard with others and for others. I thought that I was one of the most impatient and frustrated students. Then I discovered  a book of Dogen's essays and some interpretation of Dogen's teaching and decided to find a teacher who would teach me in that style. I particularly liked the teaching   that satori (in which I was very interested at that time) is not different from zazen and zazen is not different from satori.  Then I tried two different teachers during ten years, but my relationship with them didn't work and I wasn't sure if they could ever help me to realize who I am actually. In the meantime, I was a loser in relationships with women and I felt like one, as a high school teacher. My life, until recently, felt so unsatisfactory and frustrating, that at one point I hit a kind of rock bottom. I felt like I was not able to continue like this. I felt my efforts and the results of these efforts were so stupidly different that it was ridiculous. I tried so hard to practice zazen, to work, to be a good partner, to write about Buddhism on this blog, but about eight years ago I really felt like it was all going nowhere. You may ask: "If you were so desperate and unhappy, how come you were writing such positive and encouraging essays about Buddhist teaching and practice?" Actually, what I was writing was my experience, to some degree, but I was not just one person, I was two people. Although most of the time I felt like a loser, a silly oddball, I did have a kind of area in my life, where I found satisfaction, clarity, joy, hope and happiness. That was whenever I practiced zazen for more than thirty minutes, ideally an hour or more. Of course, you'll find peace and balance in ten minutes of zazen, but to me, in order to feel balanced and clear, I needed more time on the zafu than that. Nobody should imitate others, as you need to find your own pace and time for zazen, it may be ten minutes a day, maybe three hours a day, everyone is different. Just in my case, I always found one hour or so very helpful for writing essays and feeling all right about myself and the world.  But the way I was unhappy most of the time, there was something sick about it. I don't think it is necessary to feel that bad about oneself. But I did. I never had a relaxed relationship with my current teacher Mike Luetchford,  I mean until last year, I would say. I had struggled to find my role and his role in our relationship. For me, it was very difficult to talk to him, which wasn't his fault, I just took him too seriously quite often. That was painful. I did not know who I was supposed to be. I really did not know if I was doing my best and usually I felt I was not doing my best. This situation seemed to be my fate, to be my whole life. It was painful, but at the same time, you know, we humans get used to such things and consider them common or just the way it is. You get used to it and at the same time, don't want to accept it.

Anyway, last year, last winter, I somehow, not sure what events exactly helped me to realize that, but I somehow realized that the way I am, the way I lived and struggled, how I tried hard, as a partner, as a high school teacher, as a writer, as my teacher's student, as a friend, as a son, etc., I just realized that basically, it would, essentially, never be better. The word "essentially" is important here. Your life can always be a bit better or a bit worse, you may become very lucky one day and extremely unlucky another day, but there is something essential that just never changes. And that is important to find. That which never changes. The you, your self, that is always the same. The buddha nature that is never better, worse or different from somebody else's buddha nature. It is like living in an eggshell you can never ever escape, no matter how hard you try... and you cry and you try hard to get out of the eggshell, but to no avail. Actually, you are trying to escape your buddha nature! Because for some reason, the buddha nature seems to be a prison, not freedom. You think that you do not belong to the eggshell, you feel you should live somewhere better, somewhere nicer, more interesting and show others, that you are not just a stupid chicken trapped in that stupid eggshell. You want to go and conquer the world. You want to show them. You want to go and join the free running chickens. You want to be Somebody. Not a loser, not a chicken trapped in an eggshell. But last winter, during a few days, I slowly realized that I could never escape. I can never escape my life, my weaknesses, my gifts, my quirks, my hopes, my dreams, my experience. I found out that the only thing I could do about myself was to accept who I was and try to use this guy like some kind of dough you use to make bread. You hope the dough is good enough and now you have to make it into bread. Bread should be delicious and balanced, but we humans cannot hope to be made into something brilliant. We can only hope to be the bread we are supposed to be. Some people are more brilliant, some people are less brilliant, but the dough is the same for us. So in my case, as I realized that the dough is given and won't change, I wanted to see what can happen, or what kind of bread will be made. As for living in a small eggshell, just as I gave up trying to escape that eggshell, I found freedom within the small and limited space of the eggshell. I realized that when we just relax, accept both the shit and beauty of our lives, the necessary limits, we can breathe freely. It is the same with zazen. Although you may not move much and you just face this boring wall for an hour, or so, once you accept this sitting still in front of the wall, you may begin to feel free. Free, despite the stillness and going nowhere and getting nothing special.

Ever since last winter, to "do one's best" has meant something different from what it meant to me in the past. I am somehow clumsily living in my little eggshell, without much wisdom or brightness.  Maybe I am just finding out who I am. Maybe it is not all so simple and clear and I may become confused about myself again some time in future. I just think that whenever there is an obstacle or pain, you just have to go straight and deal with the situation. Or take painkillers. When you look back, you may feel you could have done better, but this time, you are not so frustrated. You did your best. Next time you will do your best. People won't be impressed. But little do they know how small your eggshell is.

I am sure zazen is something that makes buddhas out of fools, out of simpletons and out of intellectuals. The path of Buddhas is clear and bright. We can always reach out and open the window to let the fresh air of dharma transform the fool we are and make a buddha. We can let this dharma accompany our lives, no matter if we feel horrible about ourselves or more or less OK.  After all the twenty five years I was struggling, I was also a fine person, I hope, but it was difficult for me  to see it. We are all trapped, and at the same time, we can all meet dharma and find our true home in dharma. Time is not that important after all. When or how much later, that is not so important. Can we do something real today? Can we wake up today, just like yesterday, just like cats and dogs and birds? I am sure we all can.

March 17, 2018

A Strange Wood

There was a strange wood far away in the mountains. All the trees were quite crazy except one.

There was a tree that said: "I don't want to be an ordinary tree. I want to be the most beautiful tree in the world. I want to be decorated with pearls and diamonds and wear a beautiful silk dress. I want everyone to adore me! It is unbearable to be an ordinary tree like thousands of others!"

Another tree said: "I want to be the tallest tree in the world. I want to be above others and see what the other trees can never see. I want to be the closest to the sky and be the one that an eagle chooses to sit on when flying above. It is awful to be just like other trees. I don't want to be an ordinary tree!"

There was another tree that said: "I think it is much more important to be compassionate than beautiful or tall. I want to be the most compassionate tree in the world. I want to offer shade to insects and other little animals and offer my branches to all kinds of ants and bugs and birds. I want all little creatures to come to me and choose me as their home. I don't want to be just one of those trees nobody needs."

There was a tree that said: "I want to be the strongest tree in the world. When there is an orcan, I want to survive, I don't want to break like many other trees that are too weak. It is important to be strong and I want to be the strongest tree in the world. Otherwise, my life is meaningless, really embarrassing."

And another tree said: "All these things you are talking about, trees, are ridiculous. I want to be the wisest tree. I want to teach other trees about the truth. I want other trees to follow me and listen to my wise words. You may be ignorant as much as you like, but I am going to be the one that teaches woods and forests. I hope to be the wisest tree there is. Nobody will laugh at me."

So such were the hopes of these strange trees. Maybe they overheard people discuss the meaning of life some time in the past. Maybe they understood the human speech and were misled by theories and hopes of people. But there was a tree that was different. This tree was not infected by the ideas of people although even it heard and understood such words.

This tree said: "Why do you want to be stronger than you are? Why do you want to be more beautiful? Why do you want to have more compassion? Why are you afraid that you are useless? Why do you need more wisdom? Why do you hope to teach others while other trees know exactly how to be true? You trees should realize that the way you look, the way you offer shade, the way you sway in the wind, the beautiful sound your leaves make in the wind,  and the way you grow is more than enough. You all are strong enough already, compassionate enough, beautiful enough, special enough, wise more than enough, tall enough and you basically don't need to change. Just notice how a storm comes and how you can never separate from the storm. Notice how you let bugs and birds be a part of you. Notice how children are happy when they can freely run in your shade. Notice how squirrels enjoy their meal in your crowns,  how the rain happily falls on you, how flowers bloom under you, how birds sing their love songs for which they very much need you. How can't you see how wonderful you are? How can't you see what the meaning of your life is? Just be a tree, the way you already are, and there will be no worries and all creatures will come to you and will love you as you are. Please, do not waste this opportunity to be exactly a tree!"