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If others are like me, there is a collection of nudges that accumulates on the mental book shelf as time in spiritual practice advances.... second-hand stuff that rings your bell. Two that popped up in my mind this morning were these:
Once upon a time, at an introductory forum with the Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn in New York, an audience member said approximately, "Sometimes during [meditation] practice, I feel like such a liar and a phony and a schmuck. What can I do?" And Seung Sahn replied, "You're either a Buddha or a schmuck. There is no in-between."
The Zen teacher Ta Hui [1089–1163] once said approximately, "I have always taken a great vow that I would rather suffer the fires of hell for all eternity than to portray Zen as a human emotion."
A Zen friend and I once decided to do an all-day sitting together in his apartment. We weren't really sure how to structure it, but we thought we would try. Basically, we followed the structure of the zendo we both attended ... start with morning (chanting) service followed by sitting and walking, a break for cooking, more sitting and walking.
We were halfway through the morning chants when, as if on cue, we both began to laugh. And we couldn't stop. Each time one of us would serious up, the other would try to conform ... only to break down in laughter all over again. To this day, I don't know how we ever stopped... a couple of Marine Corps Zen students laughing our asses off. It may have been the best retreat I was ever part of.
My sense is that everyone goes through a gooder-than-good phase of practice. In the beginning, all the effort -- as for example, the precepts -- seem impossibly daunting. So much energy is expended on the failures and screw-ups ... well, it's enough to depress the pope. I might like not to kill, steal, lie, etc., but any examination leads me to understand just how often I kill, steal, lie, etc. Well, to coin a phrase, "shit!"
This is where practice comes in handy. Bit by bit, practice after practice, it becomes a little clearer that Buddhists (except the most annoying ones) do not need to be plaster saints vying for halos on Hallmark calendars. The point is not to be a cookie-cutter goodie-two-shoes but rather to shoulder and see through the responsibilities of this life. It is not necessary for me to say I like anchovies when in fact I dislike them.
Attention and responsibility are more important than becoming a winged critter strumming a harp and playing the 'compassion' card. Can you imagine how boring everything would be if everyone were gooder-than-good? Life is way more interesting than that.
Ah @federica ... it takes me back ... and makes me recall my own failure at a Zen monastery (went for six months, lasted two) here in the U.S. I came away with three invaluable lessons that I would expect no one to emulate: 1. As a monk, I'm a flunk; 2. Eating oatmeal with chop sticks is a fool's errand and 3. I wouldn't wish my patchwork Zen training on my worst enemy and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China.
Best wishes to all.