The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
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Saturday, February 17, 2018
Spirituality ... Zen ...

Our Zen sangha recently discussed a koan called “Kyogen Mounts The Tree“. It’s about a sage named Kyogen who describes a man hanging onto a tree branch with his teeth, while dangling over a steep cliff. The koan did not specify why this man could not grab on to the branch with his arms and hands — perhaps he was disabled? And just how did the guy get into this predicament? That would require a sensible answer, and koans are not in the business of providing sensible answers.

Anyway, according to the koan story, someone else came along and saw the poor fellow up in the tree, hanging on for life. The sojourner did not make any attempt to rescue Kyogen’s friend — perhaps there isn’t much that could have been done in ancient times, a time without cell phones and body harnesses and helicopters. So, the passer-by decided to ask the hanging man a question: Why does Bodhidharma come to China from India? This question puts Kyogen’s man in a quandry — if he stays quiet, he “fails” — presumably he misses his chance to spread the dharma and perhaps attain his own enlightenment (for it is in teaching that we learn the most). But by staying mum, he keeps alive the hope that somehow, something will rescue him. If he does decide to answer, he goes down into the chasm, and dies on the rocks below. But in the few seconds of his fall, he might attain enlightenment (or at least bring the passer-by to it — assuming that Kyogen’s man has a good answer).

Various members of our group argued that the answer is obvious: let go and answer the question! Being a true Zen student means taking the risk, accepting the worst, and letting go. Even if that means making a sacrifice for the cause. We should not get hung-up on what seems most obvious — i.e., putting self-preservation first. The fear and struggle caused by mindless self-preservation holds us back; it can be worse than the consequence itself. This would seem most consistent with the Buddha’s teachings that grasping and desire are the ultimate cause of suffering, and  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:07 am       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Society ...

At my office, the janitorial people work by day. Being a prosecutorial law-enforcement office, we have a good number of professional staff; over one-third are attorneys. As to the investigative people with the guns, most of them have 4 year college degrees, and some have graduate degrees. There are a lot of suits and ties (or jackets and ties, in my case) for male staff, along with heels and dresses for women. There are plenty of desktop screens, laptops, smart phones, and — despite all the talk about “going paperless” — copying machines and red-rope file folders. And wandering amidst the busy office rows and cubicles with their sneakers and smocks and gloves and refuse carts and vacuum cleaners are the janitors, usually middle-aged Hispanic women.

For the most part, this arrangement works out. The cleaning people are very considerate, although sometimes they have to get in our way. Once in a while I grumble to myself if one of them wants to vacuum the rug in my office while I’m working on a complicated financial report. But usually I just get up and take a walk over to the water cooler, and in a few minutes they are somewhere else. Another moment of consternation occurs when the cleaners close off a mens or womens room for 20 minutes during mid-morning.

Overall, there is not a whole lot of personal interaction between “them and us”. Some of the clericals who are also Hispanic sometimes get into a chat with one of them in their native language. But for the most part, we exchange polite hellos, they do their jobs, we do our jobs, and the clock ticks until the work day ends for the night.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:52 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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