Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Stink of Zen: the Ox-Tail Welcome Mat

Sometimes, Zen seems a little crazy. Going against the stream of the Game that we all play out day-to-day can be a little exhausting, and sometimes it's just damned disheartening to see impermanence wherever you look. Without a weekly visit to see some Zen friends, and the understanding of a Zen-practicing girlfriend, I would feel rather mental. On one level, Zen is everyday, it is the washing-up, the spreadsheet at work, and the waiting on hold whilst you attempt desperately to pay a utility bill to an inane computerised voice (I'm sorry, I don't understand. Was that "yes"?). On the other hand, letting go of views, living amidst impermanence, trying to live in a Bodhisattva way: these things can just seem plain bloody weird. Rinzai's "nothing to do, nowhere to go" is something I'm playing with at the moment, and with very little success. If I really "get into" practice, inevitably I start thinking "Oh cool, maybe I could write one of those tasteful Shambhala-type books, or become a groovy lay-Zen teacher. I could start a Zen school. Or maybe I could write a pithy, witty spiritual-type blog..." This is because I need something to lay hands on, something that says "Yes I am a Buddhist this is why I act funny okay?" As if I needed some excuse or some permission. But really all this could be dropped, and we could quite disappear to Zen : like a white heron in the snow, as the saying goes. Mind you, herons have got black legs, and they must have coloured eyes or that would just be just plain weird..
There's a koan, case 38 of the Mumonkan: "A buffalo passes by the window. His head, horns and four legs all go past. But why can't the tail pass too?"
This blog, this idle verbal lollygagging around that thing named Zen, this is my ox tail. Welcome to the Stink of Zen.

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