Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our Daily Bread

In the Five Mountain Zen Order, when a Novice teacher is promoted to a Zen Master, there is an Inka ceremony. During this ceremony, the prospective teacher sits on a cushion and one by one people come up and have a little Dharma exchange. Dharma exchange is sort of like verbal zen combat. Some sample questions might be:
  • What is beginners mind?
  • How do you cut through delusion?
  • In this moment, what would you like to not say?
Generally, at the time of the ceremony, the presiding Zen Master has already decided to promote the novice teacher. So these interactions are generally light and full of laughter. At the last one of these I attended, this is what I put to the candidate:
In fifty years I will be dead and none of this will matter. So why should I practice Zen?
This question has a couple of big hooks. If none of this matters, what is the point? Is Zen just a waste of time? Even bigger, is life just a waste of time? We have spent a lot of blog space on impermanence. The idea that nothing lasts. All things will end. So how can we answer?

In the West, many of us have heard the sayings: This too shall pass and Give us this day our daily bread. These almost seem contradictory as well. Should we focus on time passing? Or on this day? And, could these relate to our answer?

If you have practiced meditation, have practiced Zen or some other form of spirituality, or have even read a bit of this blog - the answer may be clear. The practice is coming back to this present moment. If this question were posed to me, I would answer something like this: "Just sitting here talking to you is already enough."

So, yes, there is impermanence. All things will pass. Are we wasting time? We put it all down and return to this present moment. To our daily bread. To the only moment there is.