No lotus without mud
Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.
from the book “The Zen Poems of Ryokan”
translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa
With thanks to Gems of Wisdom – Zen Tradition
We tend to seek an easy and painless answer. But this kind of solution does not apply to the spiritual path, which many of us should not have begun at all.
Once we commit ourselves to the spiritual path, it is very painful and we are in for it. We have committed ourselves to the pain of exposing ourselves, of taking off our clothes, our skin, nerves, heart, and brains, until we are exposed to the universe. Nothing will be left. It will be terrible, excruciating, but that is the way it is.
The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.
On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: “Fix those lamps.”
The second student was surprised to hear the first one talk. “We are not supposed to say a word,” he remarked.
“You two are stupid. Why did you talk?” asked the third.
“I am the only one who has not talked,” concluded the fourth.
To observe silence in a healthy and life-giving way one has to leave ego, pride and competition behind.
An aging master grew tired of his apprentice’s complaints. One morning, he sent him to get some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master told him to mix a handful of salt in a glass of water and then drink it.
“How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter,” said the apprentice.
The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”
“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.
“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man. At this, the master sat beside this serious young man, and explained softly,
“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”