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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
FALL 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 63 the authorities know what you’ve done, and you know the judge will judge you accordingly. And you, along with the others, will conclude, Darn, I’m no good at following the rules, even though I’m great at catching myself and passing severe judgments. I’ll never be able to get it right. Then you hear Katagiri Roshi saying, “It’s the flower of your life force blooming, don’t you think?” And you don’t know what to think. Our most common strategy is to try to mea- sure up, to attain perfection and not have any lapses—zero tolerance, buddy. And you, being the intrepid, alert policeman, catch the smallest infractions: You did not stop at the stop sign. I don’t care if you’ve never been caught before in fifty years of driving. That wasn’t a stop. Bad dog! Once you are aware of the whole process—an activity followed by an assessment; assessment followed by judgment; judgment followed by dis- couragement (and perhaps shame); discourage- ment followed by unconscious behavior—you begin to sense that you are involved in dog train- ing. While you’re aiming to correct bad behav- ior, you’re unwittingly contributing to it—your bad dog does everything it can to avoid being anywhere near your heavy judgments about yet another (fun, painful, silly) activity temporarily out of sight of the authorities. As the judgment becomes more intense, the avoidance behavior increases. You begin to suspect that it’s time to make changes in your dog-training protocol, and bit by bit, you notice that changing any part of it changes all of it. As Shunryu Suzuki Roshi says in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “If you want to control your sheep or cow, give it a large pasture.” When you the judge lighten up, your goodhearted awareness stops trying to run away and begins making itself at home. Speaking of Suzuki Roshi, there’s a story that David Chadwick tells in Crooked Cucumber that goes straight to my heart. I first met David in the spring of 1967, when I was head of the kitchen and David was head of the guest din- ing room at Tassajara, and though David and I rarely see each other now, he abides tenderly in the sweetness of my heart. It’s one of the under- stated, remarkable aspects of Zen practice that we develop dharma friends that last a lifetime (or perhaps innumerable lifetimes). I was extremely introverted, and still tend to keep to myself, while David was extroverted— possibly the most outgoing person ever to prac- tice at Zen Center. Zen students spend so much time sitting silently facing the wall that they rarely have opportunities to be social. Extro- verts need not apply—and usually don’t. I recall one day at Tassajara, as I sat with David in the sycamore grove beside the office, everyone who came by stopped to talk with him (they weren’t pausing to speak with me). Each of them seemed to be continuing an ongoing conversation with David. Friendly, responsive updates were given and received as the sunshine sparkled in the blossoming maple trees and the budding sycamores. I sat in the warm light and soaked it all up in silent amazement. We are such different people, I thought. While the winters at Tassajara are devoted to two ninety-day practice periods for Zen retreatants only, summers are open to visitors as well. Zen students at Tassajara are directed not to drink alcohol. What can be challeng- ing for some is that summer guests were and still are allowed to bring alcohol. In the sum- mer, students follow a schedule of meditation and work (on scholarship), while guests pay to enjoy the hot baths, the quiet contemplative atmosphere, and three daily vegetarian meals. Income from the guest season helps support stu- dents year-round. At times, students see the guest season as an opportunity to develop skills and virtues that are not normally cultivated in the winter, such as being of service, practicing gracious- ness and generosity, learning to perform when called upon—as in work where there are conse- quences—and potentially acquire people skills. Others find the summer to be a distasteful disturbance to the inner and outer peace and quiet of the winter months. If peace and quiet is the point (sit, heel, fetch!), then staying at Tas- sajara over the summer certainly becomes a tra- vail. As my friend Daigan says with magnificent dry humor about a distant summer: “The heat, the flies, the madness, and the lies.” Which life will you train for? Classically, Zen students are said to have mouths like a furnace (you take it all in and burn it up, fuel for growth) and minds like a fan in winter (useless!). EDWARD ESPE BROWN was ordained as a Zen priest in 1971 by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. For two decades, he lived and worked at the various practice centers that make up the San Francisco Zen Center. He is author of The Complete Tassajara Cookbook and editor of Not Always So, a book of lectures by Suzuki Roshi. KENTLACIN