Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Wildest Thing

One evening at our Zen group in Providence, Rhode Island, I asked a question of Lincoln Rhodes, Ji Do Poep Sa Nim. In those days, Linc wasn't teaching much, so I blew this up into "a rare opportunity" (i.e. something for me me me me) to hear a word from a long-time Zen student who had practiced in a lot of places and peculiar situations. I asked Linc the wildest thing he had learned through all these experiences. His response was right on point. He took a long, gentle breath and suddenly it seemed as if he were ten feet tall sitting on his cushion and he said, "The wildest thing is to sit here with you."

Recently on Oprah Winfrey's show, five people submitted to a happiness test, where their happiness was judged by a psychologist who writes books about happiness. He is the director of no less an endeavor than the Happiness Project.

Petitionary religion and magic are doing very well in the spiritual marketplace. Yet all of the videos and seminars are powerless to bring me the improbable joy of sitting in this place right now. And the reason for that isn't arcane or mystical in the slightest. The joke is that in order to seek or confirm our happiness, we have to depart from the center where actual happiness resides. We leave our center and go look for more books or classes to tell us how to be our true selves. Zen teachers are always testing our center, yanking on our eyebrows to see if we move. Once we are in on the joke, we get to hit the Zen Master and say, "I don't need your dharma," as the hilarious story of Hyang Bong reminds us.

The aspiration of a Zen teacher, however, is that you will one day believe in your true center. The wildest thing is to be right here.

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