In this game, we took turns, each of us valiantly putting into the room one thing that “can’t be it”. "It" being enlightenment. " It" being the Buddha. "It" being the Pure Land. It being a source of light and perfection. "It" being the Way. "It" being the path. "It" being whatever you hold dear as your fantasy about how life should go if only you were [fill in the blank].
We each said just one.
"My knees that fall asleep"
"The tension in my jaw"
"My jealousy of other artists"
"My compulsion to teach"
"How I am always trying to Improve"
“the drunkenness I feel when I sleep in zazen”
We Just went around and around, adding one, and hearing one another.
After we had gone around maybe 5 times, we sat again for 5minutes (3.5- thank you Chris). I rang the bell at short intervals. I invited each person to look at whatever is going on and say to themselves: “this is it”. Of course, we all understand that on an intellectual level. But for tonight, we suspeneded doubt and tried instead with curiosity...THIS IS IT? THIS IS IT. THIS IS IT! In short, when those pit of shit thoughts came up, we tried out what it feels like to tell ourselves “this is it”. After, we discussed how what we noticed. What I noticed was that when the usual pushing aside of "unworthy" thoughts stopped and was replaced with something more encouraging and kinder, the thoughts expressed themselves with more clarity. Then faded away. Its hard to really hate something when it might be IT. I noticed I was willing to suspend disbelief and break from that story that there is something wrong with my life, and was happy to play a little with the possibility that my life is it. The Way. The Pure Land. The golden light. All of it.
The inspiration for this game came from: The Woman at the Inn: There was a woman who kept the pilgrim’s inn at Hara under Mt Fuji. Her name is unknown, and it is not known when she was born or died.
She went to hear a talk by Hakuin, who said, “The Pure Land where everything is only mind, the Buddha of Infinite Light in your own body—once Amida appears, mountains, rivers, and earth, plants, trees, and forests, all glow with a great light. If you want to see this, look into your own heart. Since the Pure Land is only mind, what kind of special features would it have? Since the Buddha of Infinite Light is your own body, how would you recognize it?”
When she heard this, the woman said to herself, “This isn’t so hard.” Returning home, she meditated day and night, asking these questions while she was awake and during sleep. One day, as she was washing a pot, she had a sudden breakthrough. She tossed the pot aside and rushed to see Hakuin. She said, “I’ve run across Amida in my own
body, and everything on earth is shining with a great light. It’s wonderful!” She danced for joy.
“Is that so?” Hakuin asked, “But what about a pile of shit—does it shine with a great light too?”
My endearing thanks to all the Buddhas in the room tonight. You are wise and wonderful teachers.
See you next week. Remember, David Weinstein is coming out to teach.
“A Course on Koans” is the delusion-riddled work of Chris Kufu (“Wind in the Void”) Wilson, who began practicing Zen in 1967. He regards Taizan Maezumi, Robert Aitken, and David Weinstein as his root teachers. Each of them pecked at his shell until he “completed” the never-ending koan curriculum of the Harada-Yasutani lineage.
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