All make mistakes

I often think of the way the Dakotah Indians responded to a small wrong. When, for example, a young person walked between an elder and the fire – an act of profound impoliteness in their culture – the young person said, simply, “Mistake”. It was an honest acknowledgement of an error of judgment, devoid of any self-recrimination or self-diminution. All present nodded in assent, and life went on.

How healthy such an attitude seems. We all commit mistakes in judgment and we all need forgiveness. If we had the option of making a simple acknowledgement of our mistake and then going on with affairs, how much clearer and gentler life would be. And how healthier would our own hearts be if we looked on the injuries caused us by others as  simply the mistake of human beings who, like us, are struggling to get by in a complex and mysterious world.

Kent Nerburn, Make me an Instrument of Your Peace

See yourself with kindness

9th century Zen master, Tozan Ryokai, attained enlightenment many times. Once when he was crossing a river he saw himself reflected in the water and composed a verse, “Don’t try to figure out who you are. If you figure out who you are, what you understand will be far away from you. You will have just an image of yourself.”

Actually, you are in the river. You may say that is just a shadow or a reflection of yourself, but if you look carefully with warm-hearted feeling, that is you. You may think you are very warm-hearted, but when you try to understand how warm, you cannot actually measure. Yet when you see yourself with a warm feeling in the mirror or the water, that is actually you. And whatever you do, you are there.

Suzuki Roshi, Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen

Where real worth lies

Once a learned Bishop was traveling by ship from Archangel to the great monastery at Solovetsk. As the ship neared a remote island, the captain told the bishop that three old hermits had spent their entire lives there in deep prayer. The bishop was intrigued, and insisted on visiting. So the captain dropped anchor and the bishop went to the island in a small dinghy.

The three hermits were ancient, with white beards down to their knees, and they were dressed in rags. They greeted the bishop, bowing to the ground. He blessed them, and then asked them how they served God on their tiny bit of island. They replied that they had no idea how to serve God. They just served one another.

Well then, the bishop asked, how do you pray? They replied that they simply lifted their arms heavenward and chanted: “Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.” The bishop was alarmed at all this, and he spent the rest of the day teaching the three aged hermits the Lord’s Prayer and the rudiments of theology. But they were slow learners, and the bishop had to keep repeating his lessons.

As the sun was setting, the bishop bade the hermits farewell and returned to the ship. But as it sailed away from the island, he saw something….. The three hermits were running after the ship, on water, as if they were on dry land. When they caught up with the ship, they bowed down and humbly begged the bishop to remind them of how the Lord’s Prayer went, because they’d already forgotten it. The bishop crossed himself and, in tears, told the hermits to continue with their old way of praying because they had no need of his poor instruction. Then he bowed deeply before them, and asked for their blessing. After giving it, the hermits ran back across the sea to their island, and a light shone until daybreak on the spot where they were lost to sight.

from, Tolstoy, Три Старца, (Three Hermits), An Old Legend current in the Volga district, 1886

As you do

The self is relatedness. Only when the self mirrors itself in so many mirrors does it really exist. . . You can never come to your self by building a meditation hut on top of Mount Everest; you will only be visited by your own ghosts and that is not individuation. . . . 

The self only exists inasmuch as you appear. 

Not that you are, but that you do the self. 

The self appears in your deeds and deeds always mean relationship.

Jung, Seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra,

The practice of non-opposition

Do not become annoyed when faced with difficulties.

To do so merely adds difficulty to difficulty and further disturbs your mind.

By maintaining a mind of peace and non-opposition,

difficulties will naturally fall away.

Sheng-Yen (1931-2009) Resident teacher at the Chan Meditation Center in Elmhurst, New York