Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not Zen 104: The Main Thing

A young woman sat in a bookstore with her older brother. In front of them, a lady in a trenchcoat scavenged the pages of a discarded newspaper. Dark spots covered the lady's hands. She coughed, a wet sound.

The young woman flipped the pages of her religious studies text. Next to her waited a pile of thick tomes on various faiths and philosophies. On the other side of that stack sat her brother with the arts section of a newspaper. He read the lyrics to a song. Then he set it down in his lap. He meditated. As he ended his meditation and began the next article in the paper, his sister put a hand on his knee.

"You've been at peace with yourself for years," she said. She winced as the coughing of the lady across from them started again.

Eyebrows raised, her brother waited.

"Are you enlightened or what?"

"Ah." He nodded. He closed the section he'd been reading. "I'm practicing, making progress."

"There are two different schools of enlightenment, right?"

"There are many schools and also there are approaches that aren't taught in a school." He chose one of her unopened texts and flipped the pages. He set it down. She showed him the pages of her current book.

"The writers don't agree." She pointed to a long passage and a picture next to it of a monk in a saffron robe. "But you've put this stuff into action. It's part of your life. You know what works. Is sitting meditation the main thing or is the Eightfold Path the main thing?"

"It's not right to focus too much on the sense of present awareness." He grimaced at the picture of meditation. "That's connection to the De. It's important but it's not the core."

"The important part is the Eightfold Path, then."

"Not even the whole Eightfold Path. I should be clear that I'm talking about me, my own, limited experience. At the heart of everything for me is the freedom from attachments. When you give up worldly expectations, you're at peace. You're almost there."

"Don't you need to integrate the rest of the principals?"

A heavy cough interrupted them. The woman in the trenchcoat had edged around her table and crept up on their spot near the wall. She put a hand over her mouth as if she might cough again. With the thumb and forefinger of her other hand, she pinched the corner of the newspaper section.

"How rude. Ma'am, my brother's reading that."

Without a word, again the lady tugged gently at the newspaper.

"You can have it," her brother said to the lady. He rose from his chair and gave her the section she wanted. The lady in the coat clutched it to her chest for a moment. She smiled. She glanced from brother to sister then bowed her head in gratitude.

"Even children live by the principles," her brother said. He sat back down, empty-handed. "They are always with us."


  1. Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.
    Lao Tzu

  2. We live in a wonderful age, really, where science can demonstrate how little of us is our consciousness. Knowing ourselves is tricky. But there's never been a better time for it.