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To Study Yourself Even on a Bad Day



Just as we know what is meant by “The Buddha says, ‘Desire must a man destroy,'” the Buddha’s audience, assuming that he ever made such a silly statement, would also have instinctively known that the “negative” element was desire and that the imperative was not that desire ought to destroy a man, but rather that if a man didn’t destroy desire, it would likely destroy him.

The man of conscience considers his actions and acquires the strength of character and the skill to handle any thrashing temptation. But if, on occasion, he still feels confused, he knows that with effort he can find insight into deeper meanings, just as he can calibrate desire.

If he repeatedly scans for intuitive insight into compromising situations, he’ll find that it’s rather like learning music well enough to get a billing in that great theater in the sky. He will find clarity in ambiguity.

The confused tourist asks: “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

The wise New Yorker answers, “Practice! Practice!”

Ming Zhen Shakya

But it seems that bad days keep coming and coming and coming. As one of the witches in Macbeth declares as she hears the approaching footsteps of Macbeth:

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

I don’t know about you, but I experience this right now. And I represent a group. What that wicked something is – I don’t know and it appears others don’t know as well. But it does seem something wicked is afoot.

We appear to have reached a place where:

Fair is foul and foul is fair.

In the play Macbeth,  Shakespeare shows the extent of the wickedness by having an agent of Macbeth kill a child on stage. This sounds familiar; the negative drama of this world where children are killing children and little is done about it.

With this in mind, we need to GO SLOWLY, with CAUTION into the study of ourself in order to forget ourself. THAT is the central practice of Zen Buddhism. The caution is to enter slowly, carefully with awareness. There is no need to get rev’d up. The structure of the life of practice which leads to the great theater in the sky is yours to determine and design. BUT it is a necessity to design one; and commit to it. It is to be determined and designed as one would map out a journey. There is a caveat, of course; a proviso or warning:

In matters like these, it is best-better to consult a religious cartographer for help.

Since we are not together physically, we must find our way to reach the goal with what we design. there are teachings; but they are teachings, not mandates. The teachings arise from those who have gone before. But, don’t believe anything, for that is not the Way. Find out by practice, practice, practice of the Way It does require of you to do the work of practice.

You are the main pillar of practice!

There are no quick fixes. So, we are encouraged to go slow. Realization to transform and transcend the self is equal to the consistent effort you are willing to give to your practice. In other words, it is up to you. There are mitigating factors, i.e., karma, but even that is part of practice and another topic for another day.

  • Build in rest, for the world is wearied by the something wicked that this way comes…
  • Build in blocks of solitude, silence, stillness, sitting and study. Let these blocks be at the top of your concern; not as a task to check off, but as a Way of being. Let this pervade your day.
  • Don’t worry about getting-anything-done…that is the Way of the material world. Get up and do what is next to do. We will go over how to approach the work-at-hand as with-awareness, otherwise known as devotion. This requires relinquishing all the results of action. Don’t seek the fruits, just do the work with grace and know who and what is Boss.
  • Do your best, completely and thoroughly. This includes getting dressed, making the bed, cooking a meal, washing the dishes, walking the dog, sweeping the kitchen…treat the work as giving, giving, giving. Nothing in it for the “me-baby.”

Keep going. Don’t give up.

Humming Bird

Author: Fashi Lao Yue

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