Blinded by the Light
Blinded by the Light
Many years ago, when I read my first book on Buddhism, I was blinded by the light of the Dharma. Like one who had stared into a bright light sees a red spot superimposed over whatever he views, so I saw my newly acquired Buddhist knowledge coloring everything. I really believed I had understood everything. Mind you, what I had read was only a superficial, although very well written popularization about Zen. I looked up the nearest Zen Temple in my phone book. I showed up on Sunday ready to begin my short dash to Nirvana.
After Meditation, the Roshi invited everyone to tea in the dining-room. I fluttered from group to group eagerly butting in and sharing my views with everyone. I was shocked! These people didn’t really understand Buddhism.
I finally drifted to the Roshi’s table. He sat with two other members. He nodded to me and stared at me with smiling eyes. I immediately began sharing my opinions.
“So, you think you understand Buddhism?” he asked.
” I do.”
“I’m sure glad you are here because I don’t understand a thing.”
The others laughed, and thinking it was a joke, I laughed too. I decided to play along and asked ” How could you be a teacher if you don’t understand a thing?”
“Zen is not about understanding.”
” What is Zen about then?”
“Stop thinking that you understand and you’ll find out.”
Everyone around the table smiled, but this time I didn’t think it was a joke.
After I read my first book on Zen, I phoned the temple to inquire about meditation schedules. To my surprise the Roshi himself answered the phone. Instead of telling
me the times meditation was available he asked me,
“Why do you want to come? Are you sick?”
“No, I’m not sick”
“Then, you shouldn’t come. I have a very contagious desease.”
” What’s its name?”
“I don’t know, maybe it has no name.”
” How is it caught?
“If you look at me you’re in mortal danger, if you touch me you’ll die.”
I laughed. “When can I come?”
When I saw him in person, I reminded him of the conversation.
He laughed.” Yes, it’s a matter of time now. Nothing can save you.”
“How long do you think I’ll last?” I joked.
He shook his head. “A long time. You’re a thinker,
they take a long time to die. Very painful.
He shook his head again, “Not good!”