October 23, 2004

New Use of Language: Part Two, It's Too Terrifying

Shoju taught Hakuin and his fellow students in this way:

"Suppose at some future day you men have temples of your own. You receive an invitation from one of your parishioners, asking you to visit him at his home. When you arrive with your head monk and some of your students, you are ushered into a large room, where you find layers of thick, soft cushions to sit upon. Dishes filled with rare delicacies are arranged before you. You sit there in high spirits, partaking of the food without a single qualm, regarding it as your due. When you finish eating, as you are enjoying yourself amid the loud talk and boisterous laughter, one of the people present addresses you, and brings up a difficult point of Zen - the kind that furrows the brows of Zen monks. He suggests casually that you explain it. At that moment, what kind of response will you make? Your heart will probably start to thump wildly in your chest. Your body will break out in a muck of sweat. Your distress will cast a black pall over the entire room.

"So inasmuch as you are members of the Zen school, you should concentrate diligently on your training. If you don't, you will be unwittingly sowing the seeds of your own shame and disgrace. There's no telling when you'll find yourself in such a harrowing situation. It's too terrifying to contemplate."

Realm of a Thousand Buddhas, trans. Norman Waddell

2 comments:

Suzie said...

Exactly!
Whenever I go to email my buddhist friends I feel exposed, clothed in conceptuality instead of naked awareness.
Years of training and not sure what to say,
never simple enough, always winging it. Thinking of my dilema as the result of sloppy practise will help.
I know in the face of the end of Suzie, the most harrowing situation I can imagine, it would be best to be better prepared.

claratara said...

Yes, this is indeed sobering. I feel like I should just know automatically what to say to help people, but to be honest, I often don’t. All I can think to do is to have as much bodhicitta as possible, do my practice, and have more faith in intuitive wisdom. I am reluctant to make mistakes but recognize that making mistakes is part of the process. Even though I’m not quite sure how to help, I know I still have to try.