Friday, October 9, 2015

How Much Zen Is There in a Raindrop?

How Much Zen Is There in a Raindrop?

How much zen is there in a raindrop?
Asked one of my students.
(For I’ve collected a few
From time to time
As I’ve gone along.)

Well? he insisted.
How much?

He’s an insistent little so-and-so,
I’ll say that much for him.
But his zen is pure.
He avoids pornography and doesn’t drink to excess.
He has other good qualities too, of course.
Those just happened to come to mind.

“Hmmm,” I answered.
“Let me think about it.”

So I thought about it.

Every day the insistent student would come round 
And ask about the raindrop.
Come back tomorrow, I always said.
Rain or shine, every day he came.

After a few months he stopped coming every day.
Instead he came every couple of days,
Asking about the raindrop.

Then once a week came he.
Once a fortnight.
Once a month.
His visits became irregular and widely spaced in time.

Then he stopped coming altogether.

He sent me a letter.
(He’d moved out of state.)
How much raindrop zen is there?
Asked he in this letter.

I answered asking for more time to consider.
And so we exchanged letters.
We corresponded thus for a few years.
Exchanging news, sharing our lives.
He got married, started a family, bought a Prius.

Finally, the insistent student, 
After nearly five years of waiting for my answer,
Has given up.
He isn’t so insistent anymore.

His most recent letter did not mention the raindrop.
It spoke of his love for his family and his goals for the future.
How his twin daughters are growing up so quickly!
The family dog had had an operation, too.
But Fido was doing fine now.

It was a good letter,
Written from the heart,
And filled with zen.
Everything is good, he wrote, 
Adding in his final paragraph,
I can’t complain.

Aha, I thought, 
There’s the zen of it!

He was a good student, but
Boy, did he have to learn the hard way!

Live as Your Zen Commands

Life is painful.
On that we all agree
No one made it that way on purpose.
That’s just the way it is.
Full of pain and frustration.

One of the reasons it is painful
Is because we desire too much.
And our desires being unfulfilled we feel pain.

You see?
You want it.
You cannot have it.
You are disappointed.
Disappointment hurts.

That’s the zen of it!

So give up your desires!
Don’t be a slave to your longings!
Quit wanting stuff!

We’re destroying our planet with our Narcissistic materialism anyway
And, let’s face it, our greed.
For how much crap does one person need?
When others are doing without?
Or going hungry?

I have an idea.
Maybe we could try living as our zen commands.
Living the way we know to be right.
With kindness towards ourselves and others.
And a calm understanding that sees us through.

Let’s remember that life is crazy!
So don’t worry too much about it.
Laugh at it!
Laugh good and hard. 
And try living with less consumerism.
Because it’s destroying our humanity and our environment. 

Finally, cope as best as you can
With the vicissitudes of this life.
For it won’t last forever.

I didn’t say it would be easy.
It’s not an easy thing to be a zen man.
Or a zen woman.
Millions and millions of us are attempting it.
But believe me.
It’s worth it.
When you now and then succeed.

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