The true imperative

Another Sawaki Roshi quote I have been carrying around with me for the last few months, but not bringing to a teaching situation, goes like this:

‘People often say, “In my opinion…” Anyhow, “my opinion” is no good – so keep your mouth shut!’ (The Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo)

It does not seem so kind to offer this to others, but I realise I can reflect on it for myself. I have a dozen or so unfinished drafts for this blog, usually full of my opinions. I have published quite a few more over the last year, with the hope that the leavening of practice makes them somewhat useful. Back last summer at Tassajara when I was starting to think of producing this blog, I noted a few ideas to pursue, one of which was notions of success.
Recently on Medium I came across a very popular piece with fifty pieces of advice for people to adopt in order to be successful, healthy and happy (I think it was in that order). It seemed that it would make the good basis for an article about the criteria for success, and I had some ideas floating around in my head this week. But I have not written it, and perhaps I won’t.
Instead, a poem, which Myogen Steve Stücky wrote on my shuso rakusu at the end of the practice period at Tassajara in 2012, which I have since discovered comes from the second case of the Book of Serenity, to accompany the story of Bodhidharma meeting Emperor Wu.

Empty – nothing holy – approach far off.
Success – swinging axe spares the nose.
Fail – dropping pitcher – no looking back.
Still and silent, cool Shaolin zazen.
Brings up the true imperative. – Tiantong Hongzhi


3 thoughts on “The true imperative

    1. Thanks, Olaf. I wasn’t intending to give it any more publicity than it already has had. If you go to Medium and click on the most popular stories tab, it will show up pretty quickly. There are of course things on the list that no-one would want to disagree with, but as a whole it felt quite exhausting and prescriptive, and since the author has been doing a number of them for less than a year, probably not at all sustainable.

      Liked by 1 person

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