MY HEART HAS BEEN THERE ALL MY LIFE

Once upon a time in the rainiest part of the rainy season, an old monastic began her pilgrimage to the holiest shrine on the holiest mountain in the land. Forced back by fierce winds and driving rain, she stopped at the foot of the incline to check directions one last time.

“Old woman,” the inn master scoffed, “this mountain is deep in wet and running clay. You cannot possibly climb this mountain now.” 

“Oh, sir,” the old monastic said, “the climb to this shrine will be no problem whatsoever. You see, my heart has been there all my life. Now it is simply a matter of taking my body there, as well.”

Source: As told by Sr Joan Chittister in keynote address
Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
(Atlanta Aug. 18-22, 2006)

CONSIDER THIS

There is some summit toward which every life is bent. All we really need is to find the faith it will take to complete the journey.

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UNTIL I AM TIRED OF DYING

On one of the few occasions that the disciple was able to Skype  the master – who for years has been working with refugees in a remote, far-flung, refugee camp under very difficult and dangerous conditions – a conversation ensued and the disciple asked, “How long will you remain there?”

And the master answered, “Until I am tired of dying.”

Source: Adapted by Philip Chircop from a recently heard story.

CONSIDER THIS

“We ought to learn how to die before we die, so that when we die, we won’t die.” 

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”  John 12:24-25 (The Message)

SINGLE HEARTEDNESS

A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:

“If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.”

The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”

The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast – How long then ?”

Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”

“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?” asked the student.

“Thirty years,” replied the Master.

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

Source: As quoted in Saskia Shakin
More Than Words Can Say: The Making of Inspired Speakers
Ovation Publishers (November 2008)

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Here’s a shorter version of the same story

Student: How long will it take me to learn enlightenment?
Master: Five years.

Student: What if I try real hard?
Master: Ten years.

Source:  Melannie Svoboda
In Steadfast Love: Letters on the Spiritual Life
(Twenty-Third Publications, 2007) page 66

CONSIDER THIS

It is not about working harder, but rather about stepping back and gentle focus.  Stop trying  so hard and instead allow things to happen unto you.

When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind or sees two targets –
He is out of his mind!
His skill has not changed. But the prize divides him.
He cares. He thinks more of winning than of shooting—
And the need to win drains him of power.

(Chuang Tzu : 19:4, p. 158)

LEARNING TO BE SILENT

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.

Source | Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Bones, Zen Flesh
(Tuttle Publishing, 1998) pages 83-84

CONSIDER THIS

To observe silence in a healthy and life-giving way one has to leave ego, pride and competition behind.

THE VOICE OF HAPPINESS

After Bankei had passed away, a blind man who lived near the master’s temple told a friend:

“Since I am blind, I cannot watch a person’s face, so I must judge his character by the sound of his voice. Ordinarily when I hear someone congratulate another upon his happiness or success, I also hear a secret tone of envy. When condolence is expressed for the misfortune of another, I hear pleasure and satisfaction, as if the one condoling was really glad there was something left to gain in his own world.

“In all my experience, however, Bankei’s voice was always sincere. Whenever he expressed happiness, I heard nothing but happiness, and whenever he expressed sorrow, sorrow was all I heard.”

Source |Paul Reps, Nyogen Senzaki, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
(Tuttle Publishing, 1998) pages 47-48

CONSIDER THIS

All our virtues are capable of being nothing but a disguise for their exact opposite.  Generosity can be a covert form of greed.

CYCLING

A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the student, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.” The teacher commended the student, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.” The teacher was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, “I am your disciple.”

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

And you, why do you ride your bicycle? Why do you do what you do?

SHOW ME THE KINDOM

A Christian who went to study Zen in Japan met a Zen master who asked her what was moving in her spiritual life.

“I dwell a lot recently on the idea of the Kindom of God,” she replied.

Instantly the Zen master said, Show me the Kindom of God!”

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • You get nowhere by telling a Zen master about your ideas.
  • As it happens, the  woman in our story went on to eventually become a Zen master, and she spent much of her time and energy in prison ministry – setting captives inwardly free.
  • She is now through her daily deeds showing us the Kingom of God.
  • And where do you stand? Are you perhaps still stuck in ideas or unstuck in some form of social engagement?

NOTE

Please note that for me at this time in my evolution the ‘g’ in ‘kingdom’ is silent. Not pronounced. It’s really ‘kindom!’ ! The real purpose of God, I believe, is to build Kindom more than Kingdom. Kingdom is about hierarchies. Kindom is about all of us opening our eyes to see how everything and everyone is in fact a kin, a brother, a sister, a sibling. It is about building life-giving, relational connections: locally, globally and internationally … between different religions, faiths and denominations … between friends, strangers and enemies … between ourselves and those neighbours we never speak too … with all those who are different from us. It is also about forging some form of creative connection  with our four legged, winged and finned creatures and the environment.