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Posts Tagged ‘Shunryu Suzuki’

We are currently studying a book by Shunryu Suzuki entitled Not Always So, Practicing the True Spirit of Zen.  In the chapter entitled “One with Everything” he talks about how we can make more or less problems in our lives and he relates it to making cookies.  How wonderful is that!  So just in case you’ve discovered or created or uncovered some problems in your life making cookies may just be the answer to them!

He writes. cookie with sunglasses

In short don’t be involved in making too many homemade cookies your ideas of big or small, good, or bad.  Make only as many as you need.  Without food you cannot survive, so it is good to make cookies, but don’t make too many.  It is good to have problems, and without problems we cannot survive, but not too many.  You don’t need to create more problems for yourself; you have enough problems (page 123).[1]

The “problem” isn’t that we like chocolate chip cookies.  I have a recipe that I call “Everything but the Kitchen Sink.”  Suzuki calls my cookie “One with Everything.” I’ve made them many times for our Zen group for a pot luck supper or an all-day zazenkai.  I start with the basic peanut butter cookie recipe and then I put in whatever I have in the cabinet that might be great in a cookie, chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, and more!  Each cookie is so heavy it takes two hands to eat it!

Sometimes my life feels like that, so heavy I can’t get out of bed in the morning or fall asleep at night.  Sometimes I make too many cookies and they go stale before I can eat them and other times I eat them all and then get indigestion and gain 3 pounds!  During those times I’ve forgotten to take Shunryu Suzuki’s advice and “make only as many as I need.”  Having no problems in life can make our lives boring, small, and inconsequential.  It is when we encounter problems and then discover the solutions that our lives begin to expand. We may see a wonderful change in our consciousness, our prosperity, our health and in a myriad of other ways in our lives that we never thought could be possible.

I bet each of you can remember many times in your life when a “so-called” problem at home, work, or in an organization that you belonged to turned into the best thing that you ever did.  For me one particular situation comes to mind.  I had a disagreement with the powers that be at Unity Church’s world headquarters.  So when going through the ordinary bureaucratic channels did no good I decided to start my own association of churches, ministers, and teachers and create a seminary to train and ordain them.  I did that and for several years we helped people around the world get credentials and degrees to continue working at their current churches, create their own churches, and more!

A problem turned into a bigger and better idea, had the problem never existed the wonderful work that all of our members did would have never been possible.  So make just the right amount of cookies in your life, fill them with just the right ingredients, and bake them just enough—not too much and not too little! Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Eat your goodies today! Let me know how they taste!

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Suzuki, S. (2002) Not Always So, Practicing the True Spirit of Zen HarperOne: NY, NY

[2] picture of the cookie is from We Heart It.

 

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All spheres, every sense and field,
Intermingle even as they shine alone, interacting even as they merge,
Yet keeping their places in expression of their own.

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi (1999) wrote:

“The Sandokai’s words are also double-edged. One side is interdependence (ego) and one side is absolute independence (fuego). This interdependency goes on and on everywhere, and yet things stay in their own places. That is the main point of the Sandokai (510).[1]

That is why we are calling it “relative and absolute” not one, not two, not either, but both as the above lines of the poem/sutra describe. And so in this world we use everything in the relative world (light/San) that we can see, hear, taste and touch on the physical plane and we live at the same time in the absolute (darkness/Do) the oneness where there is no differentiation.

Shohaku Okumura in his book Living by Vow uses the example of our five senses to illustrate this point.

Eye is eye, ear is ear, and nose is nose. They have different functions and shapes. They cannot replace each other. If we lose our eyes, we can’t see. If we lose our nose, we can’t smell. But in a universal sense they are not independent; none of them have self-nature. They are really interdependent. And yet in our commonsense way of seeing the world, eye is eye, nose is nose, tongue is tongue. Individuality and universality always coexist, and neither side should be negated or ignored. We should always try to see reality, all beings, and our lives from both perspectives. (page 227)[1]

So when looking at your life do not look through a monocular lens but through a binocular lens where you see both the relative and the absolute for one cannot exist without the other. If we see life through this mono vision we will be confused and upset as the world outside does not comport with the world inside us. This causes stress, fear, anxiety, and confusion in our minds and bodies and can lead us to frustration in our practice and in our relations at work, at home, and at play.

Parallax is a word in science that means “a displacement or difference in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight.” Wikipedia gives the example of sitting in your car and looking at the old fashioned speedometer straight on and seeing the car going 60 miles per hour. While your mom sitting next to you in the passenger seat sees a different speed and will chastise you for going too fast and will warn you about the cost of getting a speeding ticket.

So the Sandokai is asking each of us to see life through the relative and the absolute, to move and adjust our vision, our life, our sitting, and everything from both points of view. It asks us to see our actions and thoughts as “interdependent” while at the same time being “independent.” My thoughts are not your thoughts, yet all thoughts ultimately align in the interdependency of all things.

How many times have your thoughts and someone else’s thoughts been exactly the same and spoken simultaneously? An example would be: You were thinking of calling your friend to invite him or her to lunch at your favorite restaurant. You reach for the phone, as you do it rings and it is him or her calling you to ask you to go to lunch at that same exact restaurant. What are the changes of that in an independent world? What are the chances of that in an interdependent world?

You might say “fuego” has occurred. Fuego “is a manner of ‘doing’ that is not premeditated but rather arises as an instantaneous, spontaneous reaction to given circumstances,” such as hunger for lunch at your favorite restaurant with your favorite friend! And still your hunger is yours and hers is hers.

And thus this brings us back to our verse:

All spheres, every sense and field,
Intermingle even as they shine alone, interacting even as they merge,
Yet keeping their places in expression of their own.

We are both independent individuals as we shine in our own singularity and yet we are all one in the same as we merge in our interdependence. Be mindful of your thoughts and conversations this week. Let me know how it felt when you realized that you were treating someone as the “other” or “independent being” and how it felt when you were treating someone as the “same” or “interdependent being.”

When we treat them as an “interdependent being” we just may call each other simultaneously to enjoy a meal at our favorite restaurant!

Chew on that for a week and let me know how it if feels and tastes!

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

Fuego, literally “doing by not doing” Zen expression for intentionless action, which leaves no trace in the heart-mind of the one acting, as is the case with profound enlightenment. It is a manner of “doing” that is not premeditated but rather arises as an instantaneous, spontaneous reaction to given circumstances. (The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991) page 72.

[1] Suzuki, S. (1999) Branching streams flow in the darkness: Zen talks on the Sandokai. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA

[2] Okumura, S. (2012) Living By Vow A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts. Wisdom Publications: Boston MA

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