Vending Machine

Vending Machine from 49 Fingers
by Dairyu Wenger

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 get the 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 are mad and kick the machine.”

Dainin (Great Patience) Katigiri Roshi was born in Osaka in 1928. He was ordained shortly after WWII in the Japanese Soto Zen Eiheji line. He came to America in 1964 and was a teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center from 1965 on, at Shunryu Suzuki’s request. Shortly after Shunryu Suzuki’s death, he left and founded the Minnesota Zen Center. He died in 1990. The case statement was from a lecture he gave at Green Gulch Farm in 1986. It was given at a time when the Green Gulch Farm 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?”

Nangaku came to Baso and asked, “What are you doing?” “I am practicing zazen.” “Why are you practicing zazen?” “I want to be a Buddha.” Nangaku picked up a tile and started to polish it. Baso said, “What are you doing?” “I want to make this tile into a jewel.” Baso asked, “How is it possible to make a tile a jewel?” Nangaku replied, “How is it possible to become a Buddha by practicing zazen?”

“There is no Buddhahood besides your ordinary mind. When a cart does not go, which do you whip, the cart or the horse?”

Do you kick your desire, your results, your means, your understanding or do you sit complacently with no nourishment? Where do the conditioned and unconditioned meet? Dainin asks, “Have you made your world into a vending machine?”

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