Last week I wrote about Suzuki Roshi's suggestion that we encourage people to be mischievous.
Later I wondered about how we block our mischievous self from appearing. And it occurred to me that the biggest obstacle might arise from the desire to protect something.
We humans seem naturally inclined toward protection.
Suddhondana sought to protect Siddhartha from the world's suffering (which didn't work out so well).
Shortly after Buddha's death, a group of monks sought to protect his teaching by canonizing it. And, in so doing, they excluded a great many of Buddha's teaching words.
That same ancient impulse comes alive today whenever a community soils the dharma by defining a pure teaching. When a teacher seeks to protect her students, the students wither. When a teacher seeks to protect his lineage, he eviscerates it.
When a student attempts to protect her practice, the practice dies.
When we attempt to protect ourselves from the truth of experience, we falsify everything real about life. Maybe it's time to examine how the urge to protect arises in our own lives.
And maybe it's time to get mischievous!
Photo by Brian Auer. This photo, taken from the American side of the border, shows ordinary Mexicans enjoying a mischievous day at the beach.
Many years ago, Zen Master Ji Bong posed me a question:
When you begin practicing Buddhism, you must first kill your parents and take refuge in the teachers and bodhisattvas. But then you must also kill your teachers and the bodhisattvas so you can take refuge in the Buddha.
But Yunmen said, "I have already killed Buddha with my Zen stick and fed him to a hungry dog." So, then, in whom can you take refuge?
I gave many answers over a fifteen year period and all were rejected. Finally, the teacher led me through the answer.
But I still don't get it. And that's the point, as I now see it.
We seek refuge in answers and certainty. But when an answer appears, it actually changes nothing about our life.
Unless, of course, we fully attain the answer - and then everything becomes completely different.
Yunmen's Zen stick has a long reach. If we seek refuge in the certainty of answers, parents, teachers, bodhisattvas and the Buddha, we're gonna get hit.
Even though you try to put people under some control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in its wider sense.
To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him.
So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them.
The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.
Suzuki Rosh goes on to say that this is also how we practice Zen - just watch the mind, without control or defensiveness.
This spaciousness is the essence of how we practice, both in the dharma hall and in the world. I call it "disorganized Zen."
Today's post is really just an excuse to show you this photograph:
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said:
If your window is dirty, you clean it. You wash the dirt, and then the window, in the absence of dirt, is labeled a clean window. There's nothing else. The phenomenon that we are calling a clean window, the quality that is the absence of dirt, is not something that we produced by cleaning the dirt.
I don't think we should even call it a clean window, because the window in its original state has never been stained by the extremes of either dirty or clean.
This photo shows a puppy that wants to get to the kitten (on the right). The puppy has an idea that the way to get the object of its desire is by cleaning the window.
When a Zen teacher authorizes a student to teach, the student receives inga (inka in Japanese). This term literally means, "The legitimate seal of clearly furnished proof." Colloquially, Zen teachers say that it means something like, "Your mind and my mind are the same."
Ever wonder how they know? Here's the test:
Cartoon by Pat Byrnes; copyright by Cartoonbank.com.