traditional Zen teaching story begins with the
account of elders in a rural Japanese village
bringing a newborn infant to the mountaintop home of
the local Zen priest, knocking at the gate, and
saying, "The unmarried woman who is this
child's mother says that you are the father.
You need to take care of it." The priest
says, "Is that so?" and accepts the
baby. Three years later the elders return,
saying, "The real father of the child has
returned to the village, confessed, and agreed to
marry the mother, and now you need to give the child
back to us." The priest says, "Is
that so?" and gives them the child.
appreciate the story more now than when I first
heard it. It was told to me as an example of
nonattachment, of the priest's capacity to let go of
something he could no longer have. I wanted
the priest to say, "I raised him! He is
mine!" or "You can't do this to me!"
or "I feel so terrible about losing this
child. How can you do this to me?" or
"I worked so hard. I don't deserve
this." The story upset me because I
thought it meant the priest didn't care about the
child, that he was indifferent. I think that
my discomfort may have been some alarm on my part
about the possibility--in the event that my practice
worked and I did change my habits of grasping--that
I might become indifferent to my own children.
I see now that the story has nothing to do with
whether the priest liked the child or didn't, or had
enjoyed him or hadn't. He was able to
recognize the truth of the current situation--the
elders were going to take the child--and whatever
had been his experience would remain just as it was.
difficult to keep the emotions of the present moment
from rewriting history. If we are angry,
insulted, or embarrassed, the mind often designates
the person (or people) we feel caused our distress
as "enemies," and substantiates that label
by highlighting past experiences that support such a
view. It's probably a reflexive, protective
attempt of the psyche to soothe our feelings.
It doesn't work, though. A revised history
isn't the truth, so it requires constant maintenance
to keep it going. And it's painful.
Attention, for Goodness' Sake
Boorstein has written the
definitive guide for Westerners
to the Buddhist practice of the
the Heart. Pay
Attention, for Goodness’ Sake is
delightfully clear, accessible,
and immediate, as wise teachings
should be, and it is surely destined
to be a classic.”
More on now.