Sunday, February 17, 2013

Not Zen 46: Mutual Dependence

A school teacher sat behind his desk in the warm, afternoon sun. His students had left for the day.

"Sit in any chair, roshi," said the teacher to the elderly woman who entered. She was the matron who had once shown him the ways of Daoism and Zen. He rose and bowed his head to her.

His former mentor did not often have the chance to visit. Her health was bad. Even when she could make it to the school, she usually spent considerable time criticizing the way things were done in her absence.

She eyed the classroom furnishings and remained standing. Her right hand leaned heavily on the knob of her cane.

"Who made this chair?" she asked suspiciously. She banged the closest one with her stick.

"You did."

"Did I?" There was a twinkle in her eye. She seemed pleased. "Is this a trick? I was never a carpenter. Don't you think I would remember?"

"But you do remember, roshi. You are not so old as that. You recall that things derive their nature by mutual dependence. They are nothing by themselves. A wooden shape without anyone to sit in it is nothing."

"So I made the chair?"

"By your need, you did. Absolutely."

"This body is tired." Gratefully, she lowered herself into the seat. "I'm glad to make a chair for it."

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