Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Beginning of Practice

"The Beginning of Practice" number 49 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

When is the beginning of our practice? Is it when we first take up the notion of Zen? Is it when we begin a zazen practice? Is when we find a sangha? Is it when we go on our first retreat? Is it when we find a teacher? Is it when we are assigned our first koan? Is it when we take jukai? Is it when we pass our first koan?

Yasutani Haku'un Roshi once said at a dinner party he threw for one of his students who had completed his formal koan study, "Now his practice begins."

Even before all of that, I was was still beginning. You?

I had thought that this morning's miniature was going to stiff and stuffy. Yet it slipped out so smooth. Before the question - there was the answer. On first reading it seemed too casual, just record of some dinner party. Yet the last line says in part "...but now I offer incense and bow in gratitude to my old teacher." This beginning touches me deeply and I'm surprised by that. 

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