What is Love?

CASE

One evening, after the Dharma talk at the Cambridge Zen Center, a student asked Seung Sahn Soen-sa, “What is love?”

Soen-sa said, “I ask you: what is love?

The student was silent.

Soen-sa said, “This is love.”

The student was still silent.

Soen-sa said, “You ask me. I ask you. This is love.”

COMMENTARY

To ask or answer a fundamental question is the give and take of Zen practice. It may not be difficult to stick to the question or the answer. Perhaps something deeper is at work.

VERSE by Dairyu

The radio sings non-stop of love
But when does the moon meet the baying wolf?

It Ain't Over Til It's Over

CASE

Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame Yankee baseball player said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”

COMMENTARY

Yogi Berra is a famous baseball player. Joe Gargiola said he was called Yogi because he walked like a yogi. He played, managed, and coached baseball. During a game, commentators often remark or ask if the game is over. If the score is 10-0 in the 7th inning, even though there are two innings left, they may say the game is over.

Great wisdom often appears as silly nonsense. Poor grammar can bend the minds patterns.

When you drive in your car are you thinking about where you’ve been, or where you’re going or where you are?

It is easy to make a mental jump ahead of the moment. This sentence is over at the period. [Not at the period.]

Yogi Berra was a great athlete. He knew each moment was its own. Each moment has its own life and its own opportunity, its own completion.

VERSE by Dairyu

Has it begun?
Is it over?
Whatever the score
The Yogi is ready.

Perfect and You Can Use a Little Improvement

CASE
Shunryu Suzuki addressed the assembly. “Each of you is perfect the way you are and you can use a little improvement.”

PARTIAL COMMENTARY
…Can you stand to be perfect? Can you stand to be flawed? Where do you turn away?…

VERSE by Dairyu
The heat of Master Shunryu’s heart
burns away both faith and doubt,
leaving a withered tree in the golden wind.

In What Sense is this Table Real?

CASE
D.T. Suzuki was seated with other scholars around a table at a philosophy conference. At the end of the day he had not spoken. The chairman said, “In what sense is the table real?” Dr. Suzuki replied, “In every sense!”

PARTIAL COMMENTARY
…In what sense is any of this real?
Vast indeed!…

VERSE by Dairyu
Faith and doubt
Swallow them in a single gulp
Don’t forget to breathe.

Different Schools of the Same Teacher

CASE
The Burmese Theravedan monk U Silananda was asked what is the relationship between Theravada Buddhism and Zen. He replied: “Different schools of the same teacher.”

PARTIAL COMMENTARY
…The sincerity of the student is crucial. Life itself is the teacher…

VERSE by Dairyu
On a cloudy moonlit night
everything appears to be moving
— clouds, moon and myself
as I walk along the temple path.

What is Meant by Emptiness?

CASE
A student asked the eminent translator Tom Cleary what is meant by Emptiness? Tom Cleary replied it is innocent of concept.

PARTIAL COMMENTARY
…What is emptiness? Innocent of concept?
No eyes, no ears, no nose…
”In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in
the experts few.”

VERSE by Dairyu
At Tassajara it is easy to stub your toe on he rocky paths.
The vacant trail is totally alive.

Encourage Others

CASE
A student asked Nakagawa-Soen during a meditation retreat, “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” Soen Roshi replied, “Encourage others.”

PARTIAL COMMENTARY
Some will follow the way when they are discouraged, some when they are encouraged, and some when they are even tempered… Which are you? What should you do?…

VERSE by Dairyu
In the rainy village
or the sunbleached plain
the Dharma reigns equally,
still you are responsible.

The Brown Telephone

CASE
Richard Baker told the assembly, “I dreamt I was trying to solve a problem. A brown phone kept ringing in the background, distracting me. Finally, annoyed, I picked it up and the voice on the other end told me the answer to the problem.”

PARTIAL COMMENTARY
What is important? What has to be dismissed?… Is your daily life a necessary but unwanted adjunct to your daily meditation?… Don’t let your practice block your practice…

VERSE by Dairyu
Ruled by picking and choosing
A distraction may be to the point.
What are you trying to do?

Vending Machine

CASE
Dainin Katagiri once said, "You take care of your life as if it were a vending machine. You put the coins in from the top and then expect a soda at the bottom. You do meditation and you expect something. But life doesn't always go well. The vending machine goes out of order. Then you kick the machine."

PARTIAL COMMENTARY
...This was from a lecture given at Green Gulch Farm in 1986. It was given at a time when the Green Gulch community was undergoing considerable self criticism and evaluation. 

The masters of old ask over and over, "What do you want? What is your intention? What are you manipulating?"...

VERSE by Dairyu:
RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT, ONE... TWO... THREE.
The monkey mind is a helpful aid and a tyrannical master.
Is the tail wagging the dog?