There was a time, still within memory’s ever more tenuous grasp that I imagined myself, at this age, as a monk in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence imposed by lack of language, not faith.
I am certain that the Japanese are pleased that I let that dream pass unfulfilled, that I confine my practice to that American form of Zen, softened and gently bleached from its shogun watered roots.
I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji and countless other small temples where I would often find a zafu and sit, but only the youngest monks I met could understand that it was there, among them, that I felt spiritually at home.
What are words of wisdom from the mouth of the ancient ones. I tell you these are such words. You may accept or reject them as you will. Better still, tear this page from its binding crumple it and cast it to the four winds. Let it be carried off in ten directions.
If you walk into the room and many are meditating how will you know which is the teacher, which the students?
If one sits on a higher platform will you assume him teacher and ask the depth of his Zen. If he comes down to you and says he has no depth to offer do not think him a fool. When you sit at the bottom of the ocean and look down the water beneath you is shallow but the surface of the sea cannot be seen.
If you accidentally break a wise man’s possession do you leave him with one that is incomplete or two awaiting completion.
If he asks you to replace it you may search endlessly, bring him a thousand replacements but expect him to reject each one as never being the same as the original. If you grow dejected, remember he still has the original in the cupboard.
In entering, do you arrive or are you leaving. In departing do you leave or are you arriving. Can the gate answer or does it choose to remain silent. The mountain shouts the answer but only the river can hear it.
A reflection on case 30 of the Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)