The Ladder

July 16, 2012 § 6 Comments

I am feeling shaky, a bit unsteady, these days.   My busy mind beckons.  Come join me, it says, in the brilliant analysis of your own failings.  Why didn’t you do X?  Why can’t you do Y?  Overwhelmed.  Undeserving.  Alone.  Falling.

In my struggles, I returned, as I often do, to this passage from Suzuki’s great work, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

One of my students wrote to me saying, “You sent me a calendar, and I am trying to follow the good mottoes which appear on each page.  But the year has hardly begun, and already I have failed!”  Dogen-zenji [a great 13th century Zen master] said, “Shoshaku jushaku.”  Shaku generally means “mistake” or “wrong.”  Shoshaku jushaku means “to succeed wrong with wrong,” or one continuous mistake.  According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen.  A Zen master’s life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku.  This means so many years of one single-minded effort.

A single-minded effort in each moment.  That’s all.  It sounds so small but within this conception a world of  great wonder and possibility resides.  Within this conception, each moment becomes a fresh start.

It is a ladder out of the pit of corrosive self-judgment.

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