I cannot tell if what the world considers ‘happiness’ is happiness or not.
All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it,
I see them carried away headlong, serious and obsessed,
in a general rush,
unable to stop themselves or to change their direction.
And all the while they claim to be
just on the point of attaining happiness….
Chuang-tzu, Chinese philosopher, 4th century BC
Zen Master Genshu Watanabe (1869 – 1963) in his last years called to his bedside a monk who had recently become a disciple. The master asked, “How can one go straight on a steep mountain road of ninety-nine curves?” When the young disciple replied “I don’t know”, he was told, “Walk straight by winding along”.
When told to walk straight, we stupidly think we have to cross mountains, hills, rivers and the sea in a straight line. Ignoring traffic lights, we dash off like a race car, looking neither left nor right. But we only deceive ourselves into thinking we progress as we lurch forward. Instead, “Go straight by winding along”
Shundo Aoyama, Zen Seeds
It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.
Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.
It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.
Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.
Jane Hirshfield, It Was Like This: You Were Happy [extracts]
In this short Life that only lasts an hour
How much – how little – is within our power.
Emily Dickinson, In this short Life that only lasts an hour
One should say before sleeping,
“I have lived many lives. I have been a slave and a prince. Many a beloved had sat upon my knees and I have sat upon the knees of many a beloved.
Everything that has been shall be again“
Bodhidharma said, “Expel all concurrent causes. Do not give rise to a single thought.”
This is an important part of our training. Concurrent causes are the ones we are carrying with us when we come to sit in meditation. Not giving rise to thoughts means not letting them carry us away. You are not your thoughts.
Daniel Scharpenburg, The Essence of Buddhist Training.