Today’s teisho will be on Case 82 in the
Hekiganroku, the Pi-Yen-Lu, the Blue Rock Collection.
Case 82 is entitled, “Tairyu’s ‘Indestructible
The fishing line at the end of the rod—the one
with eyes will know. The spiritual activity which transcends
the ordinary—the enlightened one will discern. What,
then, is the fishing line at the end of the rod, and the spiritual
activity which transcends the ordinary? See the following.
A monk said to Tairyu, “Man’s body will ultimately
decompose; what is the indestructible Dharma body?”
“Flowers cover the hillside like brocade,
The vale lies deep in shade.”
The question came from ignorance;
The answer was not understood.
The moon is clear, the wind is cool,
The wintry pine stands on the peak.
I laugh heartily to hear the saying,
“When you encounter a man of the Way,
Meet him with neither words nor non-words.”
He held the crystal whip and smashed the jewels;
Otherwise, faults develop.
For there are laws in the land,
With three thousand regulations.
This is a beautiful morning for zazen. Of course I suppose
I would have said that it was beautiful no matter what. But
it is!! It’s a beautiful late October morning. From
where I sit, I can look out and see the yellow leaves, the
yellow-orange leaves of the maple tree. And from the dining
room we can see the blood-red leaves of the dogwood outside.
It’s really beautiful. We’ve been doing sesshin
here for a long time now and it’s always a thrilling
experience—there’s no better word than “thrilling”--to
have autumn sesshin here. At the start of the day, well before
the sun was coming up, we were sitting together very deeply.
It’s always a pleasure to sit with people who are practicing
wholeheartedly. Some of you have managed to attend the retreat
in spite of very difficult circumstances. Making time for
sesshin is often a challenge because our culture is not, I
would say, balanced or humane. For one thing, we are workaholics.
You probably know that in the United States we have fewer
vacation days than any other industrialized nation in the
West. The French and the Germans get at least a month off
every year. In fact, I’m told that the Germans get six
weeks of paid vacation with, of course, universal medical
care. I understand that working people in Europe are actually
under a lot of pressure not to skip their vacation time—to
skip your vacation is considered unsociable. Imagine if your
boss would get angry at you for taking only three weeks off
a year! You might have been following the news about French
workers who are rioting because the government in Paris wants
to raise the retirement age to 62. In the United States, of
course, that would be considered early retirement. But what
we take for granted here in the U.S. the French see as a betrayal.
Like their revolutionary ancestors, they are actually going
to the barricades, blockading gas stations and holding fiery
demonstrations. You might also be aware that the French socialists
tried to shift the whole country to a four-day work-week.
Now, all of this is simply unthinkable in America--absolutely
unthinkable. And in the developing world it’s even less
of a possibility. Then, of course, there’s China. China
today has become an economic giant; its people work very,
very hard. A huge sacrifice of human lives has been required
for China’s rise. And the Japanese, too, are a nation
of workaholics. I was reading recently that Japanese men in
upper management often die in their fifties--very young--
from stress related disorders, because they are expected to
put in sixty or seventy hours a week. Ultimately the stress
kills them. Yet they have an ethic—the Bushido code,
the warrior code--which teaches that you are supposed to go
down fighting. And they do--they go down fighting.
It’s too bad we all live this way because we can see
from the countries where people have more leisure time that
they are generally happier. The happiest countries in the
world are primarily the countries in northern Europe, although
there are a few other countries as well—several in Latin
America and few in Asia. The little Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan
does quite well, I’ve discovered, in measurements of
“gross national happiness.” It’s a pity
that we haven’t learned from them to have more balance
in our way of life, but we haven’t. Instead, we face
tremendous pressure all the time, running faster and faster
without knowing where we’re headed. To keep running
so far and so fast is nothing short of crazy, but it’s
hard to stop, perhaps impossible. It’s especially hard
for an isolated individual to say, “No, I’m going
to make some time for life, for my life!” Coming to
sesshin is a way of pushing back in this pressure—pushing
back against the regime of endless work, which was not created
by people who had your best interests in mind.
I think it’s quite remarkable that China has developed
in the way that it has, leaping to the front of the line.
It’s a tribute to the hard work and the intelligence
of the people in China. But on the other hand, in ancient
times the Chinese were really much wiser, with a deep understanding
of the richness that comes from taking time to appreciate
life without expectations. There is in the tapestry of Chinese
culture this vibrant Taoist strand which has had a strong
influence on Zen. It teaches that we shouldn’t look
at life as a struggle or a war but as a kind of play, like
a children’s game. The point is not to push, push, push,
but to find harmony with the natural unfolding of things:
Without stepping out the door
Know the world.
Without looking out the window,
See the Way of Heaven.
The farther one travels,
The less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without traveling.
Employs things without clinging to them,
Accomplishes without work.
The legendary author of these lines, Lao Tzu, says the best
kind of country is one where people haven’t acquired
a lot of ideas but are just concerned with filling up their
stomachs. They work only as hard as they have to for a modest
livelihood. To our Western, Puritan ears, this sounds so .
. . lazy, so irresponsible. Yet Lao Tzu tells us that we shouldn’t
work so hard, tells us, in fact, that we shouldn’t try
to be “successful” at all. Just make sure, he
says, that you have plenty to eat—nothing too fancy,
just enough for your health--and try to be present in the
moment. This sounds crazy, doesn’t it—crazy, shameful,
detestable? But Lao Tzu says that it’s the path to happiness.
Writing almost two thousand years ago, Lao Tzu could already
see that culture was moving in the direction of ever-greater
individualism and competition, and he understood that this
trend would ultimately unweave the very fabric of organic
life itself. But he wanted people to live in harmony—like
the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings movie, or like the Navi
in Avatar. And in his time, this way of life wasn’t
fiction at all. Human communities all over the world still
lived with few ambitions but a wealth of connections with
other people and the world.
I think that the Chinese people once had enormous wisdom.
You know, I didn’t really grow up in Seattle, as some
people think. I lived a portion of my life in Seattle, but
my father was in the military and we moved around quite a
bit. Seattle was the place, however, where I had my first
encounter with an Asian garden, and when it happened, I was
astonished to discover how relaxing it was. The next time
you visit the Metropolitan Museum in New York, walk up to
the Asian second on the second floor and take a look at the
Chinese scholar’s studio—a complex actually shipped
over from China. In the shadows of its eves you will find
yourself overtaken by a calm as deep as a forest. If you go
there you may never want to leave, so safe and relaxed will
The complex at the Met includes some Japanese buildings as
well, and they too can enfold you in a deep, majestic calm,
as though there is absolutely nothing to do and we are simply
free to be in the here-and-now for as long as we want to remain
there. Other buildings can have this effect as well. I remember
the first time I visited Santa Barbara in California with
its earthy mission style architecture. Sitting beside a courtyard
fountain on a summer day I instantly felt at home even though
I actually had no home at the time. All I owned then was in
my backpack. Yet I felt safe and sheltered.
This feeling of being at home or at ease in the world is
very, very important, even though we in modern times have
pushed it to the margins—have buried it under a mountain
of stressful routines and anxieties. In our breathless, blank-faced
civilization we have almost forgotten this lesson that life
actually has no a purpose. The purpose of life—if you
insist on speaking that way--is actually nothing than life
itself. How does the koan put it?
The fishing line at the end of the rod—the one with
eyes will know. The spiritual activity which transcends the
ordinary—the enlightened one will discern
If this is true—if we have nowhere to go and nothing
to do--then life becomes like play, or better yet, like art
. I suppose that fishing can be either one—play or art--so
long as we understand that point is not at all to catch a
fish. To live with purpose is one certainly possibility of
existence, and doing so means treating every moment as a step
along the path to your final destination. But when the moment
becomes the destination, then play and art become possible.
If you have to eat, for example, you can go to Wendy’s
or McDonald’s. You can pick the food up at the drive-in
window, and in a just matter of minutes, you can eat the food
and have done with it. But you could also make an art of eating.
On your day off you might call a friend and say, “Come
over. We’ll have lunch.” And then you could go
to the store. Maybe you go to the farmer’s market and
buy some tomatoes that look ripe—or some dark green
squash, fresh off the vine, or a sheaf of beats pulled right
out of the ground only a few hours ago. Then you might come
home and set to work—or rather I should say you might
set to play. Cooking is Zen too, by the way, Zen off the cushion.
Here’s what Lao Tzu says:
Act when there is nothing to do
Manage affairs when there is nothing to manage,
Know by not knowing . . . .
The sage never does anything great,
Therefore he can accomplish the great.
As for those vegetables, wash them lovingly and then cut
them up. Cook them as though they already contained the flavors
they will have when they are done. And by the time your friend
arrives, you will be prepared to receive your friend as a
Whether it takes place on the cushion or off, Zen prepares
us to be welcoming to the world because it frees us from the
illusion that we can control the situation or that a particular
outcome is supposed to take place. Long before Zen took root
in China, where Taoism arose independently, Buddhists had
already discovered this freedom. Here is what the Buddha says
to Manjushri in The Perfection of Wisdom in 700 Lines:
Manjusri: For what reason is this teaching called the
Lord Buddha: It is called "perfect wisdom" because
it is neither produced nor stopped. And it is so because it
is calmly quiet from the very beginning, because there is
no escape, because there is nothing to be done, and, finally,
because of its non-existence. For what is nonexistence, that
is the perfection of wisdom.
Non-existence, we might say, is like a clearing in a dark
forest or an open space in a crowded city, a place where things
are free to happen effortlessly without impediments. No schedules
or deadline, no performance ratings.
To prepare a meal for a friend in this spirit you could spend
the better part of a day. If somebody later said to you, “What
did you do today?” You might reply, “Oh, I had
my friend Bill over for lunch,” or “I fixed lunch
for Susan.” In response the person might say, “What
else? You spent the whole day preparing one meal? Don’t
you have something better to do?” But the Zen perspective
is that everything is “better” because nothing
is necessary. As the Buddha says, “There is nothing
to be done.” Even though a lunch date might seem trivial,
you might remember it for the rest of your life. And when
it was over, you might have come away with this wonderful
sense of spaciousness, of freedom. “With nothing to
do and nowhere to go, this is what I did with eternity today.”
Of course it’s not always possible to cook, but I try
to get out of my office to eat lunch as often as I can. You
know, I work all day and then I do meditations in the evenings.
I’m away from home for many hours and I don’t
usually really eat dinner, so I try to have a real meal on
occasion, and I often invite a friend to have lunch with me
at some place that’s not too expensive, a Chinese restaurant
or an Indian buffet. For about fifteen years I used eat at
my desk. I’d be working at my word processor and I’d
be eating at the same time. And then I thought to myself,
“This is so wrong. I’m eating but I barely know
it.” So I made a point of having a social lunch at least
a couple of times a week, a time when I could be with a friend
even if it’s just for half an hour—to talk and
enjoy somebody’s company along with the food.
A couple of weeks ago I had a little free time, and I heard
about an exhibit at MoMa of the expressionist painters, whom
I love. I took off one Thursday afternoon and went to see
the exhibit. Wonderful! I cannot describe the power of those
paintings except to say that they embodied the central teaching
of the Diamond Sutra: “Form is emptiness; emptiness
is form.” And after the show I sat drinking an espresso
in the cafeteria, looking out the windows at the autumn trees.
I thought, “This is the best. This is just perfect.”
Of course somebody else might ask disapprovingly, “What
did you do today?” And I might answer, “Oh, I
just looked at pictures--some paintings at the museum.”
“That’s all?” they might ask, with a scowl.
“Why weren’t you doing something useful.”
Someday in the future, if humans have a future, people will
marvel at us. They’ll ask, “What were those Americans
thinking back then?” If there are enlightened people
in the future, they’ll look back at our time and say,
“Oh yes, the Dark Ages. Everybody lived to work. How
sad that time was, because people could have enjoyed being
It’s true that we all have to work, but on occasion—it’s
not always possible--your work can become your play. My job,
for example, has some elements of play. I actually enjoy teaching
a great deal. My students might not always like me because
I ask a lot from them, but I enjoy their company, and I’m
always impressed by their curiosity. Even though ours is a
strange world, sometimes a frightening world, the kids I teach
are typically alert, compassionate, balanced. I’m always
pretty amazed because I think that our society is quite screwed
up and yet my students are actually pretty nice for the most
part, and remarkably open-minded. Teaching them can be like
play because you never know what’s going to happen next
in class. I trust that uncertainty.
On balance, I enjoy the kind of teaching I do, even though
grading papers can be detailed, time-consuming work. Grading
a set of papers can easily eat up a weekend. Sometimes, when
I’m grading, grading, grading, grading, I just have
to take a time-out and go for a walk, preferably in a park
or a forested neighborhood. I’m sure you’ve seen
recent studies suggesting that simply being out in nature
lowers your blood pressure and raises your spirits. Being
out in nature is good for your mental health, and so—of
But the values of our culture are basically at odds with
the notion that life should be like play. Instead, modern
life is often remarkably inhumane. Many young people, for
example, get out of college only to find the world is quite
unlike their experience at school. I would prefer to think
that most teachers in high school treat their students with
respect. And most professors, the ones I know, at any rate,
talk about their students with genuine affection. But then
when students get out in the world their bosses may not treat
them with respect. It’s not so uncommon to have a boss
who is far from friendly and polite. Some of them are even
abusive at times.
The other day I was reading an article by several psychologists.
I wish I had studied psychology, by the way. Some of you are
planning to become clinical psychologists. I think that’s
quite exciting, and I feel sure that your studies in this
area will dovetail with your Zen practice very nicely. The
article I read was all about a form of behavior called “dumping.”
What this means is that if I’m stressed and unhappy,
I will unconsciously find somebody who enjoys a lower status
than I do—an employee would be ideal—and I will
dump my stress and unhappiness on them. A person might do
this unconsciously, but the phenomenon is real all the same.
Let’s say that you’re coming into work whistling
cheerfully, while at the same time your boss is stressed and
unhappy. Once he sees you—quite unconsciously—he
approaches you seeking the relief that comes from “transferring”
his unhappiness to you. After he has made you unhappy and
stressed, he walks away whistling cheerfully.
We should be careful not to be too hard on bosses—people
in middle management. They have no power to make the rules
and yet they are required to enforce them. They get an email
from upper management that says, “You’ve got to
squeeze more hours out of the same number of workers who will
make the same amount of money.” Once a boss knows that
his unit’s productivity isn’t adequate, he becomes
fearful and frustrated, and he tries to transfer those emotions
down to the next level of the chain. When you’re the
low guy on the totem pole, all the dumping follows gravity
until it’s loaded onto you. This is why the world of
work can be especially hard at the entry level. But it’s
stressful up and down the chain even if you own your own business.
My brother was in business for himself, and at times I used
to envy him. I used to muse to myself, “He’s an
independent entrepreneur. No one can tell him what to do.”
When I had a bicycle, he owned a BMW. But his life was very
stressful. He sometimes had to go to court with a lawyer because
his suppliers wouldn’t ship the right items and then
they would deny they had made a mistake. He once told me the
story about an afternoon when he was outside mowing the lawn
of his nice suburban house. While he was preoccupied with
the grass, his accountant drove up and said, “Peter,
I just went through your books. You lost $25,000 last month.”
My brother told me that his knees gave out--just like in a
comedy, except that it wasn’t funny. His knees crumbled
under him and he fell right down into the grass.
So this is life. It’s not hellish but it’s challenging.
People aren’t always compassionate. And when boss yells
at you, remember that it’s not necessarily personal.
When we’re criticized, we often think, “Oh, I’m
no good—I knew it.” The boss comes out of his
office and he lights into you. Immediately you might think,
“This is my first job, and --oh my god--I’m already
a failure.” But don’t take the criticism to heart.
Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that your boss
couldn’t have done better himself if he were in your
If the boss decides to dump on you, remember that you don’t
have to internalize his unhappiness. Instead you should try
to take good care of yourself. I don’t mean you shouldn’t
think of others --not at all. I mean that you should try to
treat yourself with loving kindness no matter what your boss
has to say. Some people forget this lesson when they practice
Zen and as a result they can become quite hard on themselves.
They mistakenly believe that Zen is all about overcoming the
self. And indeed, when we sit down to meditate, we sometimes
enter a truly selfless state. That, as you know from your
own experience, is absolutely true. There is a state in which
the self disappears—there’s nothing but a pure
awareness in which both subject and object have merged, or
else they disappear altogether.
When that sort of thing happens for the first time you might
think, “Ah, now the self has been overcome!” But
have you noticed that the self always returns quite tenaciously?
You might hear someone, some guru, say, “The self? I’m
over it.” But actually, that’s impossible. It’s
impossible because sooner or later you will move from that
selfless state back into a self. Awareness needs a home and
that home is you, even though it’s just a temporary
situation, like staying in a motel room. And so instead of
thinking about Zen as the overcoming of the self, I would
suggest looking at the matter differently. For as long as
we’re alive, self and no-self are both aspects of the
real, and they can exist in balance, in harmony. Ultimately
there is no permanent self, isolated from everything else.
You’re here on earth for a while and then you’re
gone. In the Diamond Sutra the Buddha says that a person’s
life is over the blink of an eye. He declares that life is
as evanescent as a bubble. When you’re young, life might
seem interminably long. But as you get older life begins to
appear astonishingly brief. “That’s it?”
you might say with surprise one day. And yet, even though
life is impermanent—fleeting--it’s not over yet.
You’re still here and the way you’re here is tremendously
Instead of thinking about Zen as an overcoming of the self,
you should see your practice as an artful way of being here,
an artful way of inhabiting the self. Ultimately self and
non-self are the same, just as form and emptiness are one.
When you sit down on the cushion you will enter a state of
being in which the small self disappears absolutely and there’s
just this emptiness which is pulsing with life, radiant and
pulsing with life. Beautiful! Then you find yourself right
back on the cushion in this body, and you have to get up and
go to the bathroom. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed.
I think it’s a big mistake to imagine that Zen is going
to help us escape from the self, or that we’re going
to transcend the self—that sort of thinking makes our
lives unskillful and artless, even desperate. The life of
the self can be difficult. We all have endless problems and
multiple sources of stresses, and when we sit down on the
cushion we can experience the “no-self” as a tremendous
liberation, as indeed it is. When I come to sesshin I sometimes
carry a lot of stress myself, and sitting in sesshin can feel
like the rediscovery of a peaceful, calm place that is beautiful,
restorative, refreshing. And then, when the sesshin is over
and I leave, I can deal with my problems more skillfully.
My life becomes happier, richer, because I’m living
artfully by blending the no-self with the self. As far as
I’ve been able to determine, this is what it means to
live a Zen life. The Zen life is all about the freedom that
comes from the sheer aimlessness of existence.
There is no purpose to any of this, and for that reason,
we should live naturally—that is, by following our True
Nature. For one person, that might mean becoming a monk, for
another it might living in a home, holding down a job and
raising a family. As you know, monks and nuns live in monasteries,
sleep on the ground and have no personal property. They get
up every day at 3:00 or so, and when it’s time to eat
they’re served rice. If someone asks what’s for
breakfast, the answer will always be “Rice.” “What’s
for lunch?” “Rice.” “What’s
for dinner?” “Rice.” One way to think about
those people is that they’ve made a tremendous sacrifice.
But in another sense, they’re haven’t done anything
hard at all. What looks from one point of view like a very
strenuous road, could be seen from another point of view as
If those monks and nuns stay long enough in the monastery,
they might think, “This is heaven. I’m so happy.”
But not everybody’s True Nature is like that. You might
try to live that way and find it makes you abjectly miserable.
“This is horrible,” you might think. “I’m
starving for excitement and affection.” And you might
leave the monastery thoroughly convinced that you’re
a failure as a Buddhist because you can’t live like
a monk.” But actually reaching that conclusion would
be a big mistake.
Some of you have heard of Soko Morinaga, formerly the abbot
of Myoshinji in Japan. All his life Morinaga Roshi had nothing—virtually
no personal property, no wife, no children, no immediate family.
For him, that arrangement seemed effortless—he said
so himself, and I believe him. On the other hand, many people
would find Morinaga’s choices quite depressing. And
if Morinaga had lived differently, he might been miserable—living
up in Short Hills, let’s say, with his wife, three children,
and Wall Street job. As he set off toward Manhattan every
morning at 7:00 this hypothetical Morinaga might have looked
through the windows of his train, sighing at the sight of
the tree-covered hills and longing for the day when he could
put it all aside. I’ve known accomplished Zen practitioners
who were married, some who were celibate, some who had children,
some who never did. As Layman Pang says, “Every snowflake
lands exactly where it should.” You have to find the
way of life that’s most alive for you—and “most
alive” will also feel most effortless and free.
Nobody else can tell you how to live that way: you have to
find out for yourself. We can waste so much of our lives trying
to please others--our parents, friends, authorities-- that
we might not know what we really want to do or who we really
are. But I think that Zen can be helpful because it reminds
us that everything--absolutely everything--will finally come
to nothing. Shakespeare will someday be forgotten; Michelangelo’s
greatest sculptures will erode into grains of sand. Precisely
because it all comes down to zero, nothing in the future or
the past can justify your life now. Life in the “now”
has to be lived for its own sake. Do you see where the koan’s
A monk said to Tairyu, “Man’s body will ultimately
decompose; what is the indestructible Dharma body?”
“Flowers cover the hillside like brocade,
The vale lies deep in shade.”
When we think about an indestructible body, we might imagine
it as something we’ll acquire when we go to heaven after
we die, or as another state that exists on a higher plane—maybe
an astral dimension. But actually Tairyu’s indestructible
body is always right here. The trick is to inhabit it naturally.
But how exactly do we do that? Maybe your father wanted you
to be a lawyer and you went ahead and finished school at Cornell.
Now you’re successful—you have money and prestige--
but you find it harder and harder each day to get out of bed
and go to work. This sort of thing happens all the time, but
it’s quite a shock to be, say, forty-five and suddenly
to realize, “I don’t like what I do and I don’t
know who I really am.” You might also be afraid that
if you go down that road, it will lead to absolute ruin. “Oh
my god,” you think, “I might just quit my job.
And if quit my job I’ll probably wind up as a bum sleeping
on the street.” But when you calm down you can plainly
see that you’ll always have more choices than just these
two—continuing along the path your father chose for
you or becoming a total derelict. Instead, you might make
more time for other things—hiking or sailing, or taking
painting classes. Or perhaps you’ll change the kind
of law you practice. Or you might find a new form of work
that keeps you off the street but brings you greater satisfaction.
It’s very important to experiment—very, very important.
You can’t know in advance how you’re going to
feel until you try something new. You have to go there first
and then you’ll know. Are you familiar with the Cole
Porter song “Experiment”? To my mind, it’s
Make it your motto day and night.
Experiment and it will lead you to the light.
The apple on the top of the tree is never too high to achieve,
So take an example from Eve, experiment.
Be curious, though interfering friends may frown,
Get furious at each attempt to hold you down.
If this advice you always employ, the future can offer you
As you all remember very well, in Genesis Eve brings sin
and death into the world by eating the apple from the Tree
of Good and Evil. But Cole Porter says she had to do it! Eating
the apple, he insists, will “lead you to the light.”
How can that be possible?
From the Zen standpoint, the life well lived is not necessarily
the one that takes place in a monastic cell with no furniture.
Or the one that leads to an apartment in Manhattan. Instead,
the life well-lived will always be the one that make you feel
more fully alive. The key is being present in a wholehearted
way, but the path to wholeheartedness is not an easy one,
nor is it always obvious. Our expectations pull us in one
direction; True Nature pulls in another.
When we don’t know which voice to listen to, we can
feel trapped, frustrated, even depressed. We tend to trust
the voice of authority, but authority is often wrong. My mother
always hoped that I would choose to be a doctor. But even
though most people think of medicine as the most prestigious
of the professors, doctors actually have a higher-than-average
incidence of depression and substance abuse. In fact, women
physicians have twice the rate of depression of the general
population. Some people explain the drug abuse by saying that
doctors have greater access to many addictive substances,
but they must be taking them for some reason.
My own doctor—Dr. ----, seems to love his work Every
time I go in to see him he checks my blood pressure and my
weight and he says, “Oh, if only more of my patients
were like you. Your blood pressure is perfect. Your weight
is perfect. You could even gain a few pounds if you wanted
to.” I don’t really think he wants me to put on
weight but he’s paying me a bit of a compliment for
taking such good care of myself. He often tells me that many
of his patients have problems with their weight and, as a
result, they face complications like diabetes and high blood
pressure. It must be rather challenging to see mostly sick
people all day long—people who are sick and even dying.
Somehow my doctor seems to take it all in stride.
It interesting that he practices meditation. I didn’t
start out looking for a doctor who does. I simply hoped to
find an internist or GP who lived within striking distance
of my house. Even though I’ve been his patient of many
years, I never knew until recently that he practices meditation,
which is perhaps not so surprising because he emigrated here
from India. One day out of the blue he told me about a yoga
studio where he often goes. “I’ll tell you,”
he said, wagging, “someday I’m going to leave
all of this and spend the last part of my life in an ashram,
practicing yoga and meditation.”
That was a bit of a surprise to me: maybe he didn’t
love his job after all. Maybe he too was feeling a bit trapped.
Perhaps we could use Porter’s advice.
Make it your motto day and night.
Recently I was reading about a doctor who had grown completely
disenchanted with the standard form of practice, which forces
you to see each patient for about five minutes. So he and
several other physicians he knew came up with a revolutionary
idea. His patients would become his subscribers. Now they
all pay him a flat annual fee, which gives him a stable income
while limiting the number of patients he sees. Now, whenever
his patients come to visit him, he can talk to them for as
long as they want. He feels that he’s doing better medicine,
and they are happier about the treatment they receive.
How can we live naturally? Experiment!
A monk said to Tairyu, “A man’s body will
ultimately decompose; what is the indestructible Dharma body?”
Our biggest problem is that we keep trying to escape from
who and what we really are. But what we really are is actually
unknowable, and so even working eighty hours a week can’t
bring our minds to a place where we can rest. Worse yet, trying
to transcend this predicament by engaging in some sort of
mystical ascent is like trying to pull yourself off the ground
by tugging on your hair. It’s painful and it violates
the laws of gravity!
You know, a dog doesn’t try to be human being, a zebra,
or a cat. Instead, it simply walks around and barks and wages
its tail. That’s the naturalness of a dog. But what
does a truly natural human do? She grades papers, runs a marathon,
cooks lasagna, studies Spanish, does IT, raises her children,
scuba dives, or flies a jet—anything, in other words,
that makes her feel that she belong in the world here and
now. Do you want to see your Dharma body? Trust the moments
when you feel most alive.
What could be better than that?