Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Zen and Training Wheels

About a year ago now I taught my daughter how to ride her bike. Actually I take that back, I didn’t really teach her anything. I suppose you could say I tried to teach her about balance, I even had her get off her bike and stand on one foot, “see, that’s balance”. I told her to keep her head strait, her shoulders strait, I put my finger on forehead and demonstrated that where-ever I pushed her head, her body would follow; this was supposed to somehow demonstrate that the head follows the body.

Of course my daughter didn’t get any of these things, she simply continued to cry and I continued to hold her seat while we went back and forth in the school parking lot. Finally I submitted to the fact that no amount of my talking was going to open the gate to some great understanding about bike riding, she was simply going to have to figure it out for herself. You see, you can’t head out to Barnes & Nobel, pick up a good book on bike riding techniques and expect to A.) understand and B.) proceed to go out afterwards and get er’ done.

Of course once she got it, completely on her own by the way, she understood everything I was trying to tell her about balance, keeping her head and shoulders strait and whatever other garbage I was flinging at her. The path to God is paved in much the same way, except for the fact that the journey will take a whole hell of lot more out of you then the couple weeks it may take you to ride the bike. The bottom line however is simple, no-one can tell you how it’s done, no-one can demonstrate for you the techniques, when you are hungry I cannot eat for you. You have to find your path to understanding balance, all I can do (in this circumstance as a father) is open the proper doors such that there are as few obstacles as possible on your trip up the mountain. Once again, if you are hungry all I can do at best is set the food before you, you have to put it in your mouth.

One can not expect to open up a textbook on God (lets say the Bible) and expect to find God there. You cannot expect to open up the pages of D.T. Suzuki and be walking with the Masters. God is simply nowhere there to be found. I will say though, that once you do find God then you will most certainly understand what Suzuki is saying, you’ll understand what St. Paul was saying, you’ll understand why Jesus died on the cross and you’ll understand what Confucius said when he stated, “when I was 15 I studied hard, and when I was 30, I knew where to stand.”

It is a common saying in Zen:
Before Zen, the mountains were mountains, during Zen the mountains were not mountains, and after Zen the mountains were mountains again.

There comes a time when you leave your child behind and begin living. And there comes a time when you begin living that you start thinking about living and what it means to live; it is in this circumstance most often that the mountains are no longer mountains. A monk approached the Zen Master Joshu and said, “Teach me master”, to which the master responded, “have you eaten your rice pudding?”, the monk replied, “yes I’ve eaten,” and the Master responded, “don’t you think you should wash your bowl.”

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