all for the punch line


This is the humor, the Big Joke, of Zen practice that one finds over and over again in the sayings of the old masters. Whatever you privilege, whatever you define and adhere to, is always wrong and will, because wrong, always lead to a problem and a danger. Whether it is meditation or compassion or goodness or truth or enlightenment- whatever noble thing you’d want to know, experience, or aspire to- as soon as you privilege something and make a big deal out of it, there is always trouble. Whatever we designate s this or that, is just that, a designation, no more and no less, and we should recognize this and not get so excited about it.

Compassion, for instance, sounds like a such a good idea, but the problem with it is that it will probably make us sentimental, soft-headed, and overly enthusiastic, and this will tend to make us troublesome to exactly the people we want to have compassion for, because our excessive sentimentality and insistence on being helpful will probably be annoying and counterproductive. We will likely be tripping all over ourselves in our compassion, and in the process we will land with a thud on top of the very people we are trying to be compassionate toward. Also, quite possibly, our compassion will cause us to be disapproving or even hostile to others who we are certain are not as compassionate as we are. This, of course, is the opposite of compassion. Asked about what compassion really is, an old Zen master said, “It’s like reaching back for your pillow in the dark.” In other words, it’s a simple and natural human act, no big deal.

Therefore, our wise and practical Zen ancestors pointed out that there is nothing anywhere we can find to inflate ourselves with. It’s not that self-inflation is a moral mistake; rather, it’s a conceptual mistake, which in the end amounts to self-oppression and disparagement of others, both of which lead to great unhappiness. That’s why Zen is so insistent on the Big Joke that reminds us all designations are funny, funny in themselves, and even funnier (if tragically so exactly because we take them so seriously.

~Norman Fischer

maybe it’s about everything our families rely on us for………to be human….to be there……to laugh and get mad and heal…..

inquiry for today~   how can the Big Joke show up for you?

how to release the striving

What is this self inside us, this silent observer,

Severe and speechless critic, who can terrorize us

And urge us on to futile activity

And in the end, judge us still more severely

For the errors into which his own reproaches drove us?

~T.S. Eliot

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