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Zen Koan #9: Parable of The Moon Cannot Be Stolen – Buddhist Teaching on Letting Go

Zen Koan #9: Parable of The Moon Cannot Be Stolen - Buddhist Teaching on Letting Go The ethical guidelines of the Zen Buddhist tradition invite us to live a life of doting commiseration through restraint and cultivation. We communicate with the world through our bodies, verbalization and minds, and so we are inspirited to explore the intentions and forces that guide our words, actions and pyretic conceptions, and culls, appreciating the puissance they hold to impact on our world in each moment.

The ethical guidelines, undertaken as a Zen Meditation practice, invite us to explore the inchoation of our actions, verbalization, and thought. Shakyamuni Buddha himself devoted forty-odd years to teaching and saving sentient beings. You may be a highly intelligent person who works very hard and has good karmic roots. The second line explains what prevents us. You may think that by putting down the method and relaxing for a while, you are re-charging your energy.

Is there an equivalent to the “Pope” in Buddhism? No mind, or Zen, is a state of non-arising and non-perishing. In working with difficulties—desire, anger, restlessness, doubt, fear which are the Zen traditional hindrances which arise in Zen Meditation—how can one work with them, how can one make one’s spiritual practice so that these become workable?

Zen Koan: “The Moon Cannot Be Stolen” Parable

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Buddhist Insight on Letting Go

The great majority of people today allow others to do their thinking for them. Your life would become a lot more alive and precious for you. Against such a misleading statement, one must enter an emphatic protest. Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other ramifications. More often than not, the infection is transmitted to progeny as well. Yet the rewards of letting go are infinitely more. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

We believe that it is difficult to let go but, in truth, it is much more difficult and painful to hold and protect. Reflect upon anything in your lives that you grasp hold of – an opinion, a historical resentment, an ambition, or an unfulfilled fantasy. Sense the tightness, fear, and defensiveness that surrounds the grasping. It is a painful, anxious experience of unhappiness. We do not let go in order to make ourselves impoverished or bereft. We let go in order to discover happiness and peace. As Krishnamurti once said, “There is a great happiness in not wanting, in not being something, in not going somewhere.”

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Zen Koan #8: Parable of Great Waves – Buddhist Teaching on Mindfulness

Zen Koan #8: Parable of Great Waves - Buddhist Teaching on Mindfulness Zen Buddhism is usually characterized as a no dualistic Zen tradition. The truth can also be unwholesome—even though it’s truthful, it could be abusive towards somebody and done out of anger. Do not try to overcome the pain as if you had to burst through a barrier. The Buddha described observing the precepts as a gift: a gift both to yourself and to the people around you. You give protection to other people’s lives, their property, and their knowledge of the truth. Yes, the miseries of the retreat are quite real. In consummate totality, there is no sense of solitude.

You should see that there are no real differences between the various methods. Then we simply renew our commitment to stay open to others, aspiring to start fresh. When you attach to or reject anything, you are in a position of duality with that object. Otherwise, taking these two lines literally would imply that if one person becomes a Buddha, everyone else has to become a Buddha. However, if you are disposed to apperceive being a dunce, then take the time to climb the mountain. This is prevalent among neophytes.

Our path remains incomplete as long as this third treasure is omitted. When the mind is not making distinctions, there is no self, no other, no good, and no bad.

Zen Koan: “Great Waves” Parable

In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

“Great Waves is your name,” the teacher advised, “so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land.”

The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler’s shoulder. “Now nothing can disturb you,” he said. “You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you.”

The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

Buddhist Insight on The Difference Between Mindfulness and Concentration

This little thing in the breath has something to teach us. I didn’t know what an important practice it is and how beneficial it is in terms of purification. Those too are not freedom; they’re simply very groovy states of mind. When these men heard it, they were unable to camouflage the truth. That is the difference between mindfulness and concentration. What can truth or reality gain by all our practice? The American Theravada Buddhism monk and author Ajahn Sumedho writes in Teachings of a Buddhist Monk,

Some people do not know the difference between “mindfulness” and “concentration.” They concentrate on what they’re doing, thinking that is being mindful… We can concentrate on what we are doing, but if we are not mindful at the same time, with the ability to reflect on the moment, then if somebody interferes with our concentration, we may blow up, get carried away by anger at being frustrated. If we are mindful, we are aware of the tendency to first concentrate and then to feel anger when something interferes with that concentration. With mindfulness we can concentrate when it is appropriate to do so and not concentrate when it is appropriate not to do so.

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The Idea of Religious Tolerance is to Allow Religious Freedom

Sir Godfrey Kneller's portrait of John Locke, 1697.

No one should be denied equal rights on account of their religion. In A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), John Locke wrote, “No man can be a Christian … without that faith which works … by love.”

The idea of religious tolerance is to allow religious freedom—in civil terms, to leave the adherents of a particular religion unmolested in private and in public. In a political sense, it means granting equal rights to individuals regardless of their religious beliefs.

Jn 1689, English philosopher and physician John Locke (1632-1704) advocated religious tolerance in his Epistola de Tolerantia (A Letter Concerning Toleration). He wrote the letter, addressed to an anonymous “Honoured Sir,” while in exile in Holland, which was a secular state that permitted religious differences. The recipient of Locke’s letter was his friend, the Dutch theologian Philipp van Limborch (1633-1712), who published it.

The objective of a modern Catholic community is the setting for John Locke’s political philosophy, and what was both a liberal and Protestant reaction to the political beliefs of the Restoration era. Having since 1666 been a disciple of the Parliamentary Whig leader Lord Ashley, later Earl of Shaftesbury, Locke was the scholarly bete noir of the Restoration Stuarts.

At that time, there were fears that Roman Catholicism might take over England. Locke was involved in helping draft the English Bill of Rights of 1689, but it did not go as far as he wanted regarding religious tolerance. The same year, Parliament passed the Toleration Act, which granted freedom of worship to Nonconformists, such as Baptists and Congregationalists, but not to Catholics and Unitarians. Locke suggested that religious tolerance might resolve the problems experienced by both government and religious leaders, and that there should be a separation between church and state.

John Locke held a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1652, but was evicted from Christ Church on Charles II’s unambiguous orders in 1684. He was previously in banishment in the Low Countries at that point, and did not set foot in England during James’ sovereignty, which began the next year. Locke convoyed the Princess Mary on her return to England, after her husband William, Prince of Orange, acquired the success of the Revolution there in 1689.

Locke’s letter caused a controversy among members of the Anglican High Church. Clergyman and writer Thomas Long thought that the letter was part of a Jesuit plot aimed at enabling the Catholic Church to achieve dominance by causing chaos. There followed a protracted published correspondence between Locke and clergyman and academic Jonas Proast (c.1640-1710), who asserted that the state had the right to use force to make dissenters reflect on the merits of Anglicanism. Locke’s ideas came to form the basis of modern views on the toleration of religious differences.

The important works that define John Locke’s philosophy were written while he was in exile: the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Two Treatises of Civil Government and the First Letter Concerning Toleration. None were printed until after the Revolution. As one, they collect Locke’s enduring trepidations: the nature of knowledge; entitlement to property; the legitimacy of government and its use of force; revolution; the nature of religious belief; liberty of opinion. With the benefit of hindsight, these works have also been taken as scholarly justifications for the Revolution and its jurisdictive settlement. That connection should not be overstated. For example, the English Toleration Act was in many respects a reward to Protestant nonconformists for the support they gave to the Revolution, and the honorable restraint they had shown when refusing to take advantage of James’ extra-Parliamentary declarations of indulgence.

  • John Locke’s Jurisdictional Argument: “Force, you allow, is improper to convert men to any religion. Toleration is but the removing that force.”
  • John Locke’s Anticompulsion Argument: “Whatever profession we make, to whatever outward worship we conform, if we are not fully satisfied in our own mind that the one is true, and the other well-pleasing to God, such profession and such practice, far from being any furtherance, are indeed great obstacles to our salvation.”
  • John Locke’s Limits to Toleration—Real and Imagined: “The Magistrate ought not to forbid the preaching or professing of any speculative opinions in any church, because they have no manner of relation to the civil rights of the subjects. If a Roman Catholick believe that to be really the body of Christ, which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour.”
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Zen Koan #7: Parable of Announcement – Buddhist Teaching on Hardening Our Hearts

Zen Koan #7: Parable of Announcement - Buddhist Teaching on Hardening Our Hearts As access to the unconscious is important in many psychological domains, our data are potentially highly relevant in a wide array of areas. When you are thwarted, it is your own attitude that is out of order. It is not that the Buddha wants to save sentient beings. Afterwards, they opiate to return to it in each cogitation.

Conversely, the capacity of the unconscious mind is, presumably, vast. Several different things can be accessible or temporarily primed at the same time. When the method and experiences are no longer necessary to you, you will have returned to the source. However, in the course of practice it is compulsory to first get to the one. Even before attaining the Buddhist Way, practitioners should train themselves in the proper attitudes of one who is already enlightened.

When you have mindfulness, when you have enough courage to go back to yourself and embrace the suffering in you, you learn a lot. The beauty of the object did not radiate out any more, for the reason that it was surrounded by so many other beautiful things. Following on from interdependence there is also the question of our perception of reality in terms of our feelings of being separated from everything else and our consequent clinging to desire and aversion.

Zen Koan: “Announcement” Parable

Tanzan wrote sixty postal cards on the last day of his life, and asked an attendent to mail them. Then he passed away.

The cards read:

I am departing from this world.
This is my last announcement.
Tanzan
July 27, 1892

Buddhist Insight on War Begins When We Harden Our Hearts

The innate state of the mind is neither happiness nor unhappiness. Those who sow the seed of unhappiness, of pain and suffering, will certainly have to reap a full-grown crop of the same in the future. War begins when we harden our hearts. That seems to be the basic point. Many raise fortifications because such a path seems easier. Begin to be aware of that and notice just what’s there. The American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes in Practicing Peace in Times of War,

This is a familiar scenario in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities, even when we’re just driving our cars. We’re just driving along and someone cuts in front of us and then what? Well, we don’t like it, so we roll down the window and scream at them.

War begins when we harden our hearts, and we harden them easily—in minor ways and then in quite serious, major ways, such as hatred and prejudice—whenever we feel uncomfortable. It’s so sad, really, because our motivation in hardening our hearts is to find some kind of ease, some kind of freedom from the distress that we’re feeling.

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Hasidic Judaism Quotes

Hasidic Judaism is a Jewish religious sect Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism is a Jewish religious sect that resulted from a spiritual revival movement in Western Ukraine during the 18th century and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe.

  • Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov once said to his children, “My life was always blessed in that I never needed anything until I had it.”
  • Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes: “Aren’t all religions equally true? No, all religions are equally false. The relationship of religion to truth is like that of a menu to a meal. The menu describes the meal as best it can. It points to something beyond itself. As long as we use the menu as a guide we do it honor. When we mistake the menu for the meal, we do it and ourselves a grave injustice.”
  • Soon after the death of Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin someone asked one of his disciples what was the most important thing to his teacher. The disciple thought and then replied, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the moment.”
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Zen Koan #6: Parable of No Loving-Kindness – Buddhist Teaching on Awareness of Mortality

Zen Koan #6: Parable of No Loving-Kindness - Buddhist Teaching on Awareness of Mortality The reason we do not see truth is that we do not have enough courage. The more you meditate in the Zen tradition, the less likely you will step in it. When we say this, we do not mean that we depend on the Buddha. We mean that if we follow the Zen Buddhist Method taught by the Buddha we will develop the confidence to work out our own salvation. We certainly do not think that the Buddha will come one day and take us up to “heaven” in a glorious flight. When you reach this state, you will perceive everything as equal. The minute you stop pumping, the air starts to leak and the tire will eventually go flat.

However, beyond the desire realm, there are the form realm and the formless realm. To transcend them, you have to liberate yourself from the pabulum of consciousness. After they finish the work, they pave over it again and everything is just as it was before. Of course, if there were no sense of doubt in the commencement, you would not be incentivized to practice. After practicing diligently, you will gradually resolve the quandary of doubt. It all depends on your karmic roots. When those with deep karmic roots are exposed to the edifications of Zen, they expeditiously accept them. Such visions, good and bad, are generally manifestations of our own mental realms.

Zen Koan: “No Loving-Kindness” Parable

There was an old woman in China who had supported a monk for over twenty years. She had built a little hut for him and fed him while he was meditating. Finally she wondered just what progress he had made in all this time.

To find out, she obtained the help of a girl rich in desire. “Go and embrace him,” she told her, “and then ask him suddenly: ‘What now?'”

The girl called upon the monk and without much ado caressed him, asking him what he was going to do about it.

“An old tree grows on a cold rock in winter,” replied the monk somewhat poetically. “Nowhere is there any warmth.”

The girl returned and related what he had said.

“To think I fed that fellow for twenty years!” exclaimed the old woman in anger. “He showed no consideration for your needs, no disposition to explain your condition. He need not have responded to passion, but at least he should have evidenced some compassion.”

She at once went to the hut of the monk and burned it down.

Buddhist Insight on Awareness of Mortality

Buddha teaches that this moment is not dependent upon the prior moments or future moments. Within this, there are the contradictory reason of real dependency, and the contradictory reason of dependence from the vantage point of mind. True practice is one continuous mistake, one after another anyway. All who want happiness want to disregard suffering and raise their awareness of morality? They’re a little scary but they’re not so terrible. German Theravadin Buddhist nun Ayya Khema writes in When the Iron Eagle Flies,

The Buddha recommended that every person should remember every single day that we are not here for ever. It is a guest performance, which can be finished at any time. We don’t know when; we have no idea. We always think we may have seventy-five or eighty years, but who knows? If we remember our vulnerability every single day, our lives will be imbued with the understanding that each moment counts and we will not be so concerned with the future. Now is the time to grow on the spiritual path. If we remember that, we will also have a different relationship to the people around us. They too can die at any moment, and we certainly wouldn’t like that to happen at a time when we are not loving towards them. When we remember that, our practice connects to this moment and meditation improves because there is urgency behind it. We need to act now. We can only watch this one breath, not the next one.

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Zen Koan #5: Parable of If You Love, Love Openly – Buddhist Teaching on New Beginnings

Zen Koan #5: Parable of If You Love, Love Openly - Buddhist Teaching on New Beginnings Nirvana is not a place, where one can expect facilities. We are deeply enmeshed in a world where materialistic postulations dominate, and it is not so facile to contravene the momentum of that paradigm. There is a way of checking through the answers of the old Zen Masters. You come to a recede with the desire to transform yourself.

In respect to its social and moral code, the German philosopher, Prof. Max Muller has said, “The Zen Buddhist moral code taken by it is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known.” This is why you should not look for something here you can take home with you. In fact, as you get into ever-deeper levels, you may be aware of the movement of your mind in the previous level, even if you are not aware of the movement at the present level. These are the highest states that can be attained from the practice of worldly dharma. It is not natural to tighten your stomach muscles or to straighten your back by protruding your chest. It is doubtful whether anyone really achieves health that does not responsibly choose to be healthy.

A person who has experienced oneness is different from a mundane person. Just do not have any doubts about the method or whether you have the “right stuff” to practice.

Zen Koan: “If You Love, Love Openly” Parable

Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written to her, she said: “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”

Buddhist Insight on New Beginnings

All men have their fragilities and new beginnings. And when you look at how authoritative our habits are, and how much we go to sleep, and how much the world really needs somebody to have the audacity to say “no” or “stop” or “wake up” or “live differently,” it becomes very compelling. The phenomenal world is the supported destructible inhabitants, sentient beings, within the destructible environment. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

Cultivating the beginner’s mind involves a leap of faith, a willingness to dive deeply into “not knowing.” The alternative is to be chained to a past we know too well and to perpetuate history in each moment of our lives. In each new beginning we learn the art of letting things be. The concepts, images, assumptions, conclusions, and judgments; we let them be. They are received, listened to, and embraced in a vastness of heart that invests no absolute truth in them. It is a great challenge, undertaken only one moment at a time. Who is more free, the person who travels through their life carrying their raft upon their head, or the person who can lay it down and walk on unencumbered? The lessons of joy and sorrow, contraction and vastness, imprisonment and freedom are learned in each moment we are willing to begin anew and be changed by those lessons. They are simple and profound. To begin anew, to see anew, is to discover joy and freedom.

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The Influence of Confucius

The Influence of Confucius

Confucianism in general is borne out by the regression that took place over the centuries. It may be characterized as follows:

  1. The idea of the unknowable One is transformed into metaphysical indifference. When Confucius declines to think about the absolute or to pray for help, it is because a certainty rooted in the Encompassing enjoins him to turn to mankind in the actual world. By living in serene acceptance of death, not asking to know what we cannot know, he leaves everything open. But once Confucius’ certainty is lacking, skepticism runs rampant and with it an uncontrolled superstition. Agnosticism becomes a vacuum, which Confucianism seeks to fill with material magic and illusionary expectations.
  2. Confucius’ simple but passionate drive toward humanity is transformed into utilitarian thinking. The result is a pedantic pragmatism shorn of any feeling for man’s independent worth.
  3. The free ethos, implied by the polarity between the li and the power that guides them, is transformed into a dogmatization of the li. Without their ground in the jen and in the One, the li become mere rules of external behavior.
  4. Openness of thought degenerates into dogmatic theory. For example, a controversy arises as to whether man is good or evil by nature, whether training in the li makes man good or only restores him to his true nature.
  5. The knowledge that was inner action degenerates into rote learning. There arose the class of scribes who distinguished themselves not by personality but by formal learning and maintained their prestige by a system of examinations. For Confucius antiquity was a norm which each man must acquire for himself. As transformed in Confucianism, this came to mean the study of ancient works, the pre-eminence of the scholar; instead of making antiquity his own, the student learned to imitate it. School learning produced an orthodoxy which lost its bond with life as a whole.
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Robert Frost’s Favorite Poem: “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Robert Frost

Robert Frost is a captivating poet and public figure whose approachability and mystique will assuredly engross many generations of scholars, whether their approach is biographical, cultural, or theoretical. Frost’s portions, inscriptions, and random poems will continue to surface until nearly all of the items in small, private collections find their way into shared annals. They in fact add enormously to our interpretation of how Frost worked through his ideas. Paired with poems or excerpts from Frost’s works, these repeatedly sumptuously and lavishly created greetings raise captivating questions about the interaction between the visual and the verbal in Frost’s work.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a poem by Robert Frost, published in the collection New Hampshire (1923). One of the most famous, as well as one of the most anthologized, of Frost’s poems. It portrays a lone traveler in a horse-drawn carriage who is both driven by the business at hand and mesmerized by a frosty woodland setting. The poem is written of four iambic tetrameter quatrains, and the contemplative lyric derives its incantatory tone from an interlocking rhyme scheme of aaba bbcb ccdc dddd:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
 
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
 
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
 
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

No American poet has been more prosaic than Robert Frost—prosaic because many readers like to believe most of his poems are narrative in nature, not just the lyrical representation of an image or a feeling.

Eternity Looking through Time

'The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0805069860) Frost’s poem has the back drop of a late dark wintry sundown, a harsh and bitter winter (“The darkest evening of the year”). The physical setting of the work is the deserted woods far off from the village. The significance along with physical landscapes of the poem is dreadfully isolated, bare of any living flowers or leafy trees. The narrator of “Stopping by Woods” is compelled to make a significant ethical choice, which his cherished horse does not seem to concur with. The preference that the narrator must grapple with is whether to return to the cordiality and safety of the village (where the owner of the woods lives) and his home or to stay and watch the beautiful woods filling up with fluffy snowflakes on a wintry evening. The narrator does seem to have trouble making his decision, torn between two equally enticing and delightful possibilities. This kind of persistence upon human choice is distinctive of most of Frost’s poetical works. The narrator eventually chooses to return to the village even though it seems to take his great self-control or willpower. He understands that he has some social or civic duty or responsibility to achieve before he dies.

The night, as well as the winter, is closely related to old age, pain, loneliness, and death. As stunning as snow looks, it implies the cold wintry weather, which is in turn connected with despair, disintegration, and death. Just as the woods are “lovely, dark and deep” to him, so does death look to him. Death seems not to be so unnerving, grim, or even scary—but rather fascinating, welcoming, almost a feeling of relief. The narrator is reminded of the final destination of his journey—probably to the village where his home is. The narrator’s “little horse” is perplexed by his master’s conduct —stopping by the woods located far away from any farmhouse—and thus jiggles his harness bells in impulsiveness. Impatient, the horse prompts him to resume his homeward journey.

Robert Frost Narrating and Speaking

“My Best Bid for Remembrance”

In a message to American poet, anthologist, and literary critic Louis Untermeyer, American poet Robert Frost called his famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as “my best bid for remembrance.”

According to an essay by N. Arthur Bleau, Robert Frost described the poem’s back-story during a reading at Bowdoin College in 1947:

Robert Frost revealed his favorite poem to me. Furthermore, he gave me a glimpse into his personal life that exposed the mettle of the man. I cherish the memory of that conversation, and vividly recall his description of the circumstances leading to the composition of his favorite work.

'The Road Not Taken and Other Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0486275507) We were in my hometown—Brunswick, Maine. It was the fall of 1947, and Bowdoin College was presenting its annual literary institute” for students and the public. Mr. Frost had lectured there the previous season; and being well received, he was invited for a return engagement.

I attended the great poet’s prior lecture and wasn’t about to miss his encore—even though I was quartered 110 miles north at the University of Maine. At the appointed time, I was seated and eagerly awaiting his entrance—armed with a book of his poems and unaware of what was about to occur.

He came on strong with a simple eloquence that blended with his stature, bushy white hair, matching eyebrows, and well-seasoned features. His topics ranged from meter to the meticulous selection of a word and its varying interpretations. He then read a few of his poems to accentuate his message.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mr. Frost asked if anyone had questions. I promptly raised my hand. There were three other questioners, and their inquiries were answered before he acknowledged me. I asked, “Mr. Frost, what is your favorite poem?” He quickly replied, “They’re all my favorites. It’s difficult to single out one over another!”

“But, Mr. Frost,” I persisted, “surely there must be one or two of your poems which have a special meaning to you—that recall some incident perhaps.” He then astonished me by declaring the session concluded; whereupon, he turned to me and said, “Young man, you may come up to the podium if you like.” I was there in an instant.

We were alone except for one man who was serving as Mr. Frost’s host. He remained in the background shadows of the stage. The poet leaned casually against the lectern—beckoning me to come closer. We were side by side leaning on the lectern as he leafed the pages of the book.

“You know—in answer to your question—there is one poem which comes readily to mind; and I guess I’d have to call it my favorite,” he droned” in a pensive manner. “I’d have to say ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ is that poem. Do you recall in the lecture I pointed out the importance of the line “The darkest evening of the year’?” I acknowledged that I did, and he continued his thoughtful recollection of a time many years before. “Well—the darkest evening of the year is on December twenty-second—which is the shortest day of the year—just before Christmas.”

'Robert Frost's Poems' by Robert Frost (ISBN 0312983328) I wish I could have recorded the words as he reflectively meted out his story, but this is essentially what he said.

The family was living on a farm. It was a bleak time both weatherwise and financially. Times were hard, and Christmas was coming. It wasn’t going to be a very good Christmas unless he did something. So—he hitched up the wagon filled with produce from the farm and started the long trek into town.

When he finally arrived, there was no market for his goods. Times were hard for everybody. After exhausting every possibility, he finally accepted the fact that there would be no sale. There would be no exchange for him to get a few simple presents for his children’s Christmas.

As he headed home, evening descended. It had started to snow, and his heart grew heavier with each step of the horse in the gradually increasing accumulation. He had dropped the reins and given the horse its head. It knew the way. The horse was going more slowly as they approached home. It was sensing his despair. There is an unspoken communication between a man and his horse, you know.

Around the next bend in the road, near the woods, they would come into view of the house. He knew the family was anxiously awaiting him. How could he face them? What could he possibly say or do to spare them the disappointment he felt?

They entered the sweep of the bend. The horse slowed down and then stopped. It knew what he had to do. He had to cry, and he did. I recall the very words he spoke. “I just sat there and bawled like a baby”—until there were no more tears.

'Robert Frost Poet as Philosopher' by Peter Stanlis (ISBN 1933859814) The horse shook its harness. The bells jingled. They sounded cheerier. He was ready to face his family. It would be a poor Christmas, but Christmas is a time of love. They had an abundance of love, and it would see them through that Christmas and the rest of those hard times. Not a word was spoken, but the horse knew he was ready and resumed the journey homeward.

The poem was composed some time later, he related. How much later I do not know, but he confided that these were the circumstances which eventually inspired what he acknowledged to be his favorite poem.

I was completely enthralled and, with youthful audacity, asked him to tell me about his next favorite poem. He smiled relaxedly and readily replied, “That would have to be ‘Mending Wall.’ Good fences do make good neighbors, you know! We always looked forward to getting together and walking the lines—each on his own side replacing the stones the winter frost had tumbled. As we moved along, we’d discuss the things each had experienced during the winter—and also what was ahead of us. It was a sign of spring!”

The enchantment was broken at that moment by Mr. Frost’s host, who had materialized behind us to remind him of his schedule. He nodded agreement that it was time to depart, turned to me and with a smile extended his hand. I grasped it, and returned his firm grip as I expressed my gratitude. He then strode off to join his host, who had already reached the door at the back of the stage. I stood there watching him disappear from sight.

I’ve often wondered why he suddenly changed his mind and decided to answer my initial question by confiding his memoir in such detail. Perhaps no one had ever asked him; or perhaps I happened to pose it at the opportune time. Then again—perhaps the story was meant to be related, remembered and revealed sometime in the future. I don’t know, but I’m glad he did—so that I can share it with you.

Two Minds About It

'Robert Frost A Life' by Jay Parini (ISBN 0805063412) Frost’s daughter Lesley later validated the narrative and quoted her father reminiscing his weeping, “A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.”

For many years I have assumed that my father’s explanation to me, given sometime in the forties, I think, of the circumstances round and about his writing “Stopping by Woods” was the only one he gave (of course, excepting to my mother), and since he expressed the hope that it need not be repeated fearing pity (pity, he said, was the last thing he wanted or needed), I have left it at that. Now, in 1977, I find there was at least one other to whom he vouchsafed the honor of hearing the truth of how it all was that Xmas eve when “the little horse” (Eunice) slows the sleigh at a point between woods, a hundred yards or so north of our farm on the Wyndham Road. And since Authur Bleau’s moving account is closely, word for word, as I heard it, it would give me particular reason to hope it might be published. I would like to add my own remembrance of words used in the telling to me: “A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me its shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.” (Incidentally, my father had a liking for certain Old English words. Bawl was one of them. Instead of “Stop crying,” it was “Oh, come now, quit bawling.” Mr. Bleau is right to say my father bawled like a baby.)

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Zen Koan #4: Parable of Obedience – Buddhist Teaching on the Art of Living

Zen Koan #4: Parable of Obedience - Buddhist Teaching on the Art of Living Zen is an interesting method of communicating enlightenment; however, enlightenment does not differ between the many varieties of faiths or religions. Anyhow, yes, there are enlightened people who use Zen nowadays, but none who are enlightened in Zen. For instance, this incense board is just a piece of wood. A sick person may absorb this energy and this may avail them to practice preponderant. Practicing this goodness will avail the process of their rejuvenating. However, because of incognizance and delusion, we keep following this cycle. We carry out many activities, and develop many affixments to this life.

We endeavor many incipient things in order to gratify ourselves. We chase after pleasure and we endeavor to evade or discard those things we do not relish. From this concentrated state, we can enter the mind of unity. Tibetan Zen Buddhism as we know it today was shaped in part by arguments over how best to present Zen Buddhist teachings. Great space does not refer to nothingness, but rather to a totality. No ghosts or deities would be able to find you. Some people become so overwhelmed by troubles in their practice, they end up without any discrimination, letting go of their hopes as well as their despair.

Zen Koan: “Obedience” Parable

The master Bankei’s talks were attended not only by Zen students but by persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras not indulged in scholastic dissertations. Instead, his words were spoken directly from his heart to the hearts of his listeners.

His large audience angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because the adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self-centered Nichiren priest came to the temple, determined to have a debate with Bankei.

“Hey, Zen teacher!” he called out. “Wait a minute. Whoever respects you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you make me obey you?”

“Come up beside me and I will show you,” said Bankei.

Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.

Bankei smiled. “Come over to my left side.”

The priest obeyed.

“No,” said Bankei, “we may talk better if you are on the right side. Step over here.”

The priest proudly stepped over to the right.

“You see,” observed Bankei, “you are obeying me and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.”

Buddhist Insight on An Art of Living

The art of Zen living requires, if you come to something that’s in the middle of the road, even if it’s not your lane, it’s a nice thing to pick it up, move it aside, because you care for the earth; not because you’re intended to, but because it brings joy. At first, it’s difficult, but if you work with it for a while, it actually starts to become interesting. The Burmese-Indian teacher of Vipassana meditation S. N. Goenka writes in The Art of Living,

By learning to remain balanced in the face of everything experienced inside, one develops detachment towards all that one encounters in external situations as well. However, this detachment is not escapism or indifference to the problems of the world. Those who regularly practice Vipassana become more sensitive to the sufferings of others and do their utmost to relieve suffering in whatever way they can – not with any agitation, but with a mind full of love, compassion and equanimity. They learn holy indifference – how to be fully committed, fully involved in helping others, while at the same time maintaining balance of mind. In this way they remain peaceful and happy while working for the peace and happiness of others.

This is what the Buddha taught: an art of living. He never established or taught any religion, any “ism.” He never instructed those who came to him to practice any rites or rituals, any empty formalities. Instead, he taught them just to observe nature as it is by observing the reality inside. Out of ignorance, we keep reacting in ways which harm ourselves and others. But when wisdom arises – the wisdom of observing reality as it is – this habit of reacting falls away. When we cease to react blindly, then we are capable of real action – action proceeding from a balanced mind, a mind which sees and understands the truth. Such action can only be positive, creative, helpful to ourselves and others.

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