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

Give yourself a break today

The blog was listed recently in the Feedspot “Top 20 Spiritual Wellness Blogs, Websites & Newsletters To Follow in 2019“.  I am glad if the blog is a support to people and I thank all of you who read so faithfully or who are already following.  You might like to check out the other sites which made the top 20 and find rich material to nourish your inner self this week. 

Think in ways you’ve never thought before…

When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about
To give you something large: tell you you’re forgiven,
Or that it’s not necessary to work all the time, or that it’s
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.  

Robert Bly, Things to Think

I see…

A Japanese Zen story about responding to whatever happens in the present moment with acceptance, or about observing troubling emotions with kindness. Like all of these stories it functions on a symbolic level, challenging us to open up to new ways of living when faced with surprises and disruptive situations:

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours in the village as one who lived a pure life. Then a beautiful girl in the village became pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious girl finally pointed to Hakuin, whom everyone revered for his pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter’s accusation, he simply replied “Is that so”

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a outcast by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child. It was now his responsibility.  He said simply “I see” and calmly accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the girl could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. “Is that so” Hakuin said as he handed them the child. 

Hakuin Ekaku1686 – 1769, was one of the most influential figures in the history of Zen. 

 The Japanese, Sōdesu ka, translated normally as “Is that so” can also be rendered as “I see”