Zen: A Cup Of Tea

Chinese drinking tea

The following story is found in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. It reminds me of something Eckhart Tolle said: “Life isn’t as serious as you think it is.”

There were two good friends, Chokei and Hofuku. They were talking about the Bodhisattva’s way, and Chokei said, “Even if the arhat (an enlightened one) were to have evil desires, still the Tathagata (Buddha) does not have two kinds of words. I say that the Tathagata has words, but no dualistic words.” Hofuku said, “Even though you say so, your comment is not perfect.” Chokei asked, “What is your understanding of the Tathagata’s words?” Hofuku said, “We have had enough discussion, so let’s have a cup of tea!”

Hofuku did not give his friend an answer, because it is impossible to give a verbal interpretation of our way. Nevertheless, as a part of their practice these two good friends discussed the Bodhisattva’s way, even though they did not expect to find a new interpretation. So Hofuku answered, “Our discussion is over. Let’s have a cup of tea!”

That is a very good answer, isn’t it? It is the same for my talk — when my talk is over, your listening is over. There is no need to remember what I say; there is no need to understand what I say. You understand; you have full understanding within yourself. There is no problem.

Listen to Shunryu speaking about

Zen and Excitement:

It is necessary for us to keep the constant way. Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine. If you become too busy and too excited, your mind becomes rough and ragged. This is not good. If possible, try to be always calm and joyful and keep yourself from excitement. Usually we become busier and busier, day by day, year by year, especially in our modern world. If we revisit old, familiar places after a long time, we are astonished by the changes. It cannot be helped. But if we become interested in some excitement, or in our own change, we will become completely involved in our busy life, and we will be lost. But if your mind is calm and constant, you can keep yourself away from the noisy world even though you are in the midst of it. In the midst of noise and change, your mind will be quiet and stable.

Zen is not something to get excited about. Some people start to practice Zen just out of curiosity, and they only make themselves busier. If your practice makes you worse, it is ridiculous. I think that if you try to do zazen once a week, that will make you busy enough. Do not be too interested in Zen. When young people get excited about Zen they often give up schooling and go to some mountain or forest in order to sit. That kind of interest is not true interest.

Just continue in your calm, ordinary practice and your character will be built up. If your mind is always busy, there will be no time to build, and you will not be successful, particularly if you work too hard on it. Building character is like making bread—you have to mix it little by little, step by step, and moderate temperature is needed. You know yourself quite well, and you know how much temperature you need. You know exactly what you need. But if you get too excited, you will forget how much temperature is good for you, and you will lose your own way. This is very dangerous.

Buddha said the same thing about the good ox driver. The driver knows how much load the ox can carry, and he keeps the ox from being overloaded. You know your way and your state of mind. Do not carry too much!

Buddha also said that building character is like building a dam. You should be very careful in making the bank. If you try to do it all at once, water will leak from it. Make the bank carefully and you will end up with a fine dam for the reservoir.

Our unexciting way of practice may appear to be very negative. This is not so. It is a wise and effective way to work on ourselves. It is just very plain. I find this point very difficult for people, especially young people, to understand. On the other hand it may seem as if I am speaking about gradual attainment. This is not so either. In fact, this is the sudden way, because when your practice is calm and ordinary, everyday life itself is enlightenment.

Shunryu suzuki

Shunryu Suzuki

source: Shunryu Suzuki, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”

Here is the YouTube video with Peter Coyote reading this chapter from “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”:

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9 thoughts on “Zen: A Cup Of Tea

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