Tuesday, March 27, 2012

That's not perfect

It was my first koan, and I had never heard of koans.  It was a question in the little book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, which was the only Zen I'd seen at the time in my impoverished middle-American life.  I'll render it as a sort of haiku.
If you do not say good
and you do not say not-good -
then what is the nature of reality?
I mean, that puzzled me (though I didn't know it was supposed to).  It seemed to me the essence of being an adult was analyzing, making judgements, distinctions.  And having those feelings and reactions I've learned to call preferences.  They were me.  Growing up you make quite a thing of that, remember?  Who do you like, what is your favorite color, what car would you buy, what kind of ice cream do you like, how does your sandwich have to be cut?  So, what if I didn't have those identities?  I couldn't imagine.  That's where I was in the around 1980, when I remember studying that little book.  It's quite an introduction to some original texts.

And boy, it's been a long strange trip.

I don't think we find this looking beyond by deciding something.  I don't think one can do this with the conscious mind.  It is the conscious mind that's put a lot of effort into deciding what is Me, what is Not, what is friendly, what is enemy.  And what is just perfect, what is a fault.  Humans are such vulnerable little things, hardly any fur, worthless claws and teeth, not the fastest runners in the animal kingdom - we protect ourselves by making distinctions.  Once you've labeled good/bad, perfect/faulty, like that, it seems to take a a lot of work to get past it.  Hard retreats, being forced down on reality.  There are many routes to wisdom, but this is about discarding what you "know."

Maybe the road out of that labeling brain is the road in - that you turn away from the mind toward the heart.  Your heart can find a three-legged cat beautiful.  His heroic adjustment to reality, that staggered gait, his happiness, his ease, just like every cat - perfect.

[Three-legged kitty takes a nap, from Gail Guthrie Harsh]

That's all I know tonight.  I'll sleep on it and see if I have anything to add tomorrow.  It will probably be this: I don't mean to be making claims about myself.  I wish I had transcended these distinctions and could accept illness (for example) with equanimity.  Not so far.

1 comment:

  1. Wishing we could accept with equanimity. I'm with you sister. Accepting not accepting, now there's another koan. Thanks for sharing your journey.