Zen Koan #35: Parable of Every-Minute Zen – Buddhist Teaching on Compassion

Zen Koan #35: Parable of Every-Minute Zen - Buddhist Teaching on Compassion Meditation gives us the opportunity to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on. The meditative space is like the big sky— spacious, vast enough to accommodate anything that arises. Nothing much has really transpired in that period of time. In the actual human world, we can’t avoid the choice between good and bad, for the reason that there is no absolute level apart from the relative and compassionate levels.

Relative, compassionate, and absolute are ways of talking about the moral choices we make with these human bodies and minds, in an actual, lived, physical world. Having an equal mind means that there is no conception of relativity between things. To illustrate this, suppose you are walking along a road and it starts bearing to the right. What is the best approach?

Pay close attention to the method. Love inductively authorized as a payment is not love at all. They tell themselves that they could be doing so many other things at home, or furthering their career. Thoroughly enlightened people spontaneously help sentient beings in accordance with causes and conditions. The secret of all the teachings of Zen Buddhism is how to live in each moment, how to obtain absolute freedom moment after moment.

Zen Koan: “Every-Minute Zen” Parable

Zen students are with their masters at least ten years before they presume to teach others, after all learning all one can isn’t as easy as learning how to ask a girl out or how to ride ones bicycle. These are lessons that take the span of a decade to master. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: “I suppose you left your wodden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs.”

Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in’s pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.

Buddhist Insight on Compassion

In Zen Buddhism, everybody is trying to work out his or her artistic self-expression and compassion. In addition, after they had lived together for some time in married cheerfulness, the Queen became aware that the day was drawing near when she should bring forth a child. However, compassion also exterminates delusions. The intermediate Zen meditative state can last from a moment to seven days, depending on whether or not an appropriate compassion is found. It means learning skillful means not to be so caught up in things, not to be so attached. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

Compassion is not a quality to romanticize, idealize, or project into a future moment. Nurturing compassion does not depend upon personal perfection. We meet suffering, pain, and confusion every day of our lives. The homeless person on the street, the frail parent, the hurt child, the stressed executive, the alienated teenager. It is not easy to open our hearts to the bottomless depths of pain in the world. We hold in our hearts our own mortality and the mortality of others. All life is fragile; we live in a fragile world. health turns to illness, well-being to pain, safety to uncertainty, life to death; none of us can control the countless supports upon which our well-being rests. The moments of sorrow and confusion we meet are moments that invite us to cultivate a listening heart, to let go of separation, and to be present with every cell of our being. The difficult moments and encounters in our lives are the gateways of compassion. Our enemies are angels of compassion in disguise, inviting us to be present, to attend, and to receive. Here we discover for ourselves the healing, balancing power of compassion.

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