Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Put God on the Shelf

"Put God on the Shelf" number 77 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

What can we do about this question of God? The question of God in Zen is like the question of a supernova in proctology. Put ideas of God aside. Without saying God or no God, doubt is resolved by being intimate, dancing with life, practicing the never ending practice.

Yesterday, we looked at a small part of Dogen's Genjokoan. "To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things." In a recent podcast, Jay Rinsen Weik gave some practical instructions on how to study the self and work with what comes up.

"Well, the interesting thing is, that where that difficulty is, when you're honest, is the edge of our practice.  That's where the edge is for you."
- Rinsen
Looking at the specifics of the edge of what we can accept is the way deeper into the practice. We don't want to hear that. We want everything to comfortable and familiar. We know that coasting is antithesis of practice. And yet, we don't hear enough encouragement to do this edge practice. For me and probably others, there is a strong pulling towards the results of a deeper more energetic practice and a deep confusion about the practical mechanics of the transitions needed to move towards a deeper practice.

Well folks, here is the skinny. When I get frustrated by the clutter at home and blame my life partner, when her TV watching habit annoys me, when all the undone chores of home-ownership weight me down, these define the current edge of the comfortable and small me. This is my work, my way into a deeper practice. Going off to some long retreat is not the way into a deeper practice. Doing retreats from time to time can help me be prepared to plunge deeper, but it is only when I get to that edge and step into what has been named difficult, only then will I actually penetrate deeper.

Thank you Rinsen. May all beings be happy. May all beings be safe.

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on
Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance.
Any merit generated by this activity is solely the result of
Aitken Roshi's clear teaching and is dedicated to
all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.


  1. Someone once explaind it to me somthing like this:
    We need the action of daily life for material to work with, and the retreats to process it.

  2. Yes, and sometimes retreats prepare us for working with the activities of daily life. Processing in the now.

    Not one or the other but both and! Back and froth. Over and over, it never ends. Like practice and realization.

    We discover our place in the universe by accident and Zen makes us accident prone.

    Thank you Jordan for your comment.