Now and Zen
Sylvia Boorstein

  

A traditional Zen teaching story begins with the account of elders in a rural Japanese village bringing a newborn infant to the mountaintop home of the local Zen priest, knocking at the gate, and saying, "The unmarried woman who is this child's mother says that you are the father.  You need to take care of it."  The priest says, "Is that so?" and accepts the baby.  Three years later the elders return, saying, "The real father of the child has returned to the village, confessed, and agreed to marry the mother, and now you need to give the child back to us."  The priest says, "Is that so?" and gives them the child.

I appreciate the story more now than when I first heard it.  It was told to me as an example of nonattachment, of the priest's capacity to let go of something he could no longer have.  I wanted the priest to say, "I raised him!  He is mine!" or "You can't do this to me!" or "I feel so terrible about losing this child.  How can you do this to me?" or "I worked so hard.  I don't deserve this."  The story upset me because I thought it meant the priest didn't care about the child, that he was indifferent.  I think that my discomfort may have been some alarm on my part about the possibility--in the event that my practice worked and I did change my habits of grasping--that I might become indifferent to my own children.  I see now that the story has nothing to do with whether the priest liked the child or didn't, or had enjoyed him or hadn't.  He was able to recognize the truth of the current situation--the elders were going to take the child--and whatever had been his experience would remain just as it was.

It's difficult to keep the emotions of the present moment from rewriting history.  If we are angry, insulted, or embarrassed, the mind often designates the person (or people) we feel caused our distress as "enemies," and substantiates that label by highlighting past experiences that support such a view.  It's probably a reflexive, protective attempt of the psyche to soothe our feelings.  It doesn't work, though.  A revised history isn't the truth, so it requires constant maintenance to keep it going.  And it's painful.
   

Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake
Sylvia Boorstein

“Sylvia Boorstein has written the
definitive guide for Westerners
to the Buddhist practice of the
Perfections of the Heart. Pay
Attention, for Goodness’ Sake
is
delightfully clear, accessible,
and immediate, as wise teachings
should be, and it is surely destined
to be a classic.”
—Jack Kornfield

 

More on letting go.
More on now.

  
    

The Tao Te Ching says, When I let go of what I am, I become what
I might be.  When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.
Have you ever struggled to find work or love, only to find them
after you have given up?  This is the paradox of letting go.
Let go, in order to achieve.  Letting go is God's law.

Mary Manin Morrissey

  


 
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