August 19, 2013

Paradoxes - part 3

Let me continue the articles about paradoxes in Buddhism.

Paradox No 6

Although people interested in Buddhism hope to find perfect peace one day, the only way how to find perfect peace of mind is to stop trying to attain perfect peace of mind and just do something.

I think this is quite self-explanatory. But I'll try to say something about it  based on my experience. I have just practiced zazen for one hour. I usually feel peaceful and happy after one hour of zazen. That's usually, mind you. Not always. And now how do I feel? I am not sure. Nothing much. This is exactly the moment when I could feel disappointed and restless: How come I don't feel wonderful after one hour of zazen? This is exactly the mistake. How come the sex was not what it was last time? How come nobody likes what I am writing although a year ago people liked it? How come it is not sunny today? How come my partner is not as cheerful as usual? How come they stopped selling my favorite ice-cream around the corner? How come nobody comes to me with a million saying: Hey, I got some spare cash, I thought you might like to use some of it... How come I am not five years old any more? I could come up with lots of crazy "how come". The whole thing is about whether we can deal with reality or not. Deal with it. Zazen will only make you peaceful,  if you can accept the lack of peace here and now. Just forget the whole thing of being peaceful or not and do something. This is what I am saying to myself from time to time, when I don't feel so peaceful. Just make another step. Forget the last step. I wish I could have written something more interesting about this whole thing but as it seems, I have failed. Now I can relax and deal with the fact that I am a lousy Buddhist writer. Peace!  

Paradox No 7

You look up to your master and hope to at least be similar to him or her, yet she is doing her best to convince you that you have been the Buddha since the very beginning.

Now I have made up a story about a tiger zen master and a mouse zen student.

A mouse wants to learn the Buddhist truth and she... he? Now how to avoid the whole sexist issue. To make things modern, let's say the mouse is a boy and the master is a tigress. OK. So a  mouse hears there is a famous Zen master living in the jungle and she is a tigress and knows the secret of Buddhism perfectly. The mouse decides to find the tigress and learn from her. Although a bit afraid of the mighty beast, he after a long difficult journey finds a little grass hut where the master lives. He greets the master respectfully and says that he wants to be a student of hers and learn the truth of Buddhism from her. "OK", says the tigress, "we can start right away. You can live next to me and see how I live. Maybe you can learn the secret of Buddhism if you practice  zazen with me every day and spend the rest of the day with me." The mouse was excited. Of course, he was ready to do anything the master would say. They began to practice zazen together and spend the days together. The tiger would go hunting every day and the mouse followed her. The tiger often repeated: "It is important to be your true self." The tiger was an excellent hunter. It would follow its prey silently and in the right moment jumped and caught the animal. The lunch was ready. The mouse tried hard to do exactly the same. Silently wait in the grass and jump out in the right moment. Then the mouse would always fail to catch the animal but because the tigress was a very noble being, it would let the mouse eat a bit of her own lunch. There was always more than plenty for them both. It was like this for weeks and months. The mouse always tried hard to imitate the master, but never caught anything, only to be invited to the lunch or dinner after its yet another hunting failure. After three years the mouse, kind of disappointed, still not understanding Buddhism very much and not having learned how to catch prey, asked the master: "What's wrong? I have been practicing with you for three years, trying hard to learn from you, always following your example, but I've never learned the secret of Buddhism, obviously. While you are a mighty tigress, I am a lousy mouse. I can't even catch a frog, let alone an antelope." "And who told you", replied the master, "that your job is to become a tiger? Who told you to go and imitate me when I do my job? I have no idea what a mouse does to get food, I hoped you would live your life as a mouse, but was always puzzled when you tried to hunt with me. You can watch and learn from me how a tiger lives, but that doesn't mean you should become a tiger. Now go back to your mouse life and try to live your mouse life, maybe you will at last understand what Buddhism is about." The mouse went back home, very disappointed, but not giving up. He still believed, somehow intuitively, that the tigress was a true master and he believed that she'd given him the best advice. So he went home and tried to live a life of a mouse. For a few weeks it was very difficult, everywhere he went he tended to look for prey, rather than look for cheese or cereals. But after some weeks of hunger and confusion, he learned to find cheese or cereals and eat well. One day, as he was peacefully munching on a piece of Eidam he'd found somewhere in the house where he lived, the tigress happened to walk by and heard some mousy noise. She was interested, as tigers usually are, in noises, so she came closer and found her old student, the mouse munching on a piece of cheese. Excited to see her old student living happily, she exclaimed: "I see my old little student at last found the truth of Buddhism!" For a fraction of a second, the mouse didn't understand at all. Then, all of a sudden, holding a piece of cheese in his little hands, he understood something important. He cheerfully smiled at the tigress and the smile said a big "thank you". The tigress said: "Don't forget what you learned from me!" Then she disappeared in the grass.

Maybe you can notice this story was inspired by a few similar stories from master Dogen's collection of koans, the book called Shinji Shobogenzo. I recommend that you read those stories if you find this one interesting. They are all the same, essentially, but if we don't pay attention to the realism of life that those stories try to teach us, we will end up being a ghost, a shadow of our true self. We'll try to become a tiger in a mouse's body.  

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