Monday, August 12, 2019

"The Little Zen Companion"

The Little Zen Companion is a 1994 anthology compiled by David Schiller containing over 300 quotations. In the Introduction, Schiller explains, "This book doesn't presume to define Zen, but instead to offer a taste of Zen's way of looking at the world: where the best moment is now, where things are what they seem to be, where we see with the refreshing directness of a child and not through eyes grown stale from routine." The quotations are not all by Zen masters and many do not even explicitly pertain to Zen, but they all provoke thought about what it means to be human, and how to strive toward living in the now as opposed to dwelling on what was or what might never be.

Here are a few quotations that resonated deeply with me; in some instances, I have added my own brief comments (in italics, after the pertinent quotation):
  • "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki. Studies have shown that the best chess players look at fewer moves than weaker players, but the best players look at those moves more deeply and more accurately. The expert chess player understands that there are only a few optimal ways--and, sometimes, only one optimal way--to play a given position. 
  • "Before a person studies Zen, mountains are mountains, and waters are waters; after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and waters are not waters; after enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters." Zen saying.
  • "Ring the bells that can still ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen.
  • "The raindrops patter on the basho leaf, but these are not tears of grief; this is only the anguish of him who is listening to them." Zen saying.
  • "If you seek, how is that different from pursuing sound and form? If you don't seek, how are you different from earth, wood, or stone? You must seek without seeking." Wu-men.
  • "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" Gauguin, inscription on one of his paintings. This quotation reminds me of Prince's song "The Ladder," which has the following lyrics: 
    "Everybody's looking for the answers
    How the story started and how it will end
    What's the use in half a story, half a dream
    You have to climb all of the steps in between (yeah, we ride)

    Everybody's looking for the ladder
    Everybody wants salvation of the soul
    The steps you take are no easy road
    But the reward is great
    For those who want to go (I do)"
  • "In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don't wobble. " Yun-men.
  • "If you wish to drown, do not torture yourself with shallow water." Bulgarian saying. After breaking Joe Theismann's leg during a tackle on Monday Night Football, Lawrence Taylor visited Theismann in the hospital. "Did you know you broke my leg in two places?" Theismann asked. "I never do anything halfway," Taylor replied. For better or worse, halfway is nowhere; commit 100% to an action, or don't take action at all. This also brings to mind Sheriff Buck's conversation on "American Gothic" with the bungling criminal he dismissed as "Half-Ted"; Buck declared that if "Half-Ted" were a real criminal he would have killed all witnesses and escaped and if he were not a criminal at all then he would have never ended up in that particular predicament, so he was not really Ted but just "Half-Ted."
  • "One cannot step twice into the same river." Herakleitos.
  • "To set up what you like against what you dislike--this is the disease of the mind." Seng-T'San.
  • "How shall I grasp it? Do not grasp it. That which remains when there is no more grasping is the Self." Panchadasi.
  • "In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present." Tao Te Ching.
  • "When hungry, eat your rice; when tired, close your eyes. Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean." Lin-Chi.
  • "Sit, rest, work. Alone with yourself, never weary. On the edge of the forest, live joyfully, without desire." The Buddha.
  • "This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God..." Walt Whitman.
  • "Barn's burnt down--now I can see the Moon." Masahide. The ability to see hope in crisis and the faith/optimism to look to the future with confidence represent a very rare and special form of grace.
  • "We walk, and our religion is shown (even to the dullest and most insensitive person) in how we walk. Or to put it more accurately, living in this world means choosing, choosing to walk, and the way we choose to walk is infallibly and perfectly expressed in the walk itself. Nothing can disguise it. The walk of an ordinary man and of an enlightened man are as different as that of a snake and a giraffe." R. H. Blyth.
  • "Things derive their being and nature by mutual dependence and are nothing in themselves." Nagarjuna, second century Buddhist philosopher.
  • "An elementary particle is not an independently existing, unanalyzable entity. It is, in essence, a set of relationships that reach outward to other things." H.P. Stapp, twentieth century physicist. 
  • "The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." Carl Jung.
  • "If you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you." Nietzsche.
  • "He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened." Tao Te Ching.
  • "1. Out of clutter, find simplicity. 2. From discord, find harmony. 3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein, three rules of work. 
  • "If you study Japanese art, you see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic, and intelligent, who spends his time how? In studying the distance between the earth and the moon? No. In studying the policy of Bismarck? No. He studies a single blade of grass. But this blade of grass leads him to draw every plant and then the seasons, the wide aspects of the countryside, then animals, then the human figure. So he passes his life, and life is too short to do the whole." Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh is speaking the truth that an artist's greatness is not only in his hands but also in his eyes, and his mind's eye--in his ability to truly see, and to intensely focus with a calm gaze.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All contents Copyright (c) 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 David Friedman. All rights reserved.