I thought, on the train, how utterly we have forsaken the Earth, in the sense of excluding it from our thoughts. There are but few who consider its physical hugeness, its rough enormity. It is still a disparate monstrosity, full of solitudes & barrens & wilds. It still dwarfs & terrifies & crushes. The rivers still roar, the mountains still crash, the winds still shatter. Man is an affair of cities. His gardens & orchards & fields are mere scrapings. Somehow, however, he has managed to shut out the face of the giant from his windows. But the giant is there, nevertheless.
I have a friend who feels sometimes that the world is hostile to human life - he says it chills us and kills us. But how could we be were it not for this planet that provided our very shape? Two conditions - gravity and a livable temperature range between freezing and boiling - have given us fluids and flesh. The trees we climb and the ground we walk on have given us five fingers and toes. The “place” (from the root plat, broad, spreading, flat) gave us far-seeing eyes, the streams and breezes gave us versatile tongues and whorly ears. The land gave us a stride, and the lake a dive. The amazement gave us our kind of mind. We should be thankful for that, and take nature’s stricter lessons with some grace.
Zen Master Seung Sahn wrote thousands of letters to his students, most of which concluded with a version of this sentence:
I hope you only go straight - don’t know; try, try, try for 10,000 years non-stop; keep a mind which is clear like space, soon get Enlightenment, and save all people from suffering.
This summarizes his entire teaching, especially in its emphasis on try-mind.
Try, non-stop, for 10,000 years.
I went on my first long retreat in 1991 and one afternoon Zen Master Wu Bong came to give a talk. After the talk, he took a few questions. Someone asked, “What is the most important thing in Zen practice?”
I was a pretty new student and expected him to say something that seemed (and still seems) impossible, like “you must attain enlightenment” or “always keep a clear mind.”
But, instead, he answered the question with one just word: “Try.”
I’ve never forgotten the power of that moment, contained in one three-letter word.
When we bring try-mind to our life, Zen Master Seung Sahn’s wonderful teaching phrases appear naturally, without effort.
May we together try, try, try - non-stop! Soon get enlightenment. And save all beings from suffering.
(I Love this)
We think that there is some sameness all the time, something that is always there. This is the way we create continuity in our mind. Thoughts create continuity and they create this idea of sameness. When we totally stop thinking and become mindful and concentrate and pay attention to whatever is happening right now, we see that something is arising right now. It was not there before. It is right now.
One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!
(One reader claimed that Thomas Cleary once told him that the original ending of this story was quite different. According to Cleary, D.T. Suzuki changed the ending because he thought the original would not appeal to Westerners. The story was then picked up by others, such as Paul Reps. In the original version, the strawberry turns out to be, in fact, deadly poison.)
Two monks were walking down the street after a heavy rain that left the streets quite muddy. They came upon a a lady of very easy virtue vainly attempting to find a dry path across the road without soiling her kimono.
One monk, more compassionate than the other, picked up the woman and carried her across the street, setting her down on the other side of the road. He returned to his companion and they continued down the road for some minutes until the second monk chided the first with the remark, “You really shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why, you contaminated yourself by touching that impure woman.”
“Oh, are you still carrying her? I put her down on the other side of the street.”
These fish have no eyes
these silver fish that come to me in dreams,
scattering their roe and milt
in the pockets of my brain.
But there’s one that comes—
heavy, scarred, silent like the rest,
that simply holds against the current,
closing its dark mouth against
the current, closing and opening
as it holds to the current.
— Raymond Carver
from Five Branch Tree