Two classic texts from Christianity and Zen Buddhism: the eternal story of Jesus, and the eternal question of Zen. At first these texts seemed to me like a perfect match and a great way to end the year. What better answer to “where does the one return?” – in Christian language “where does God show up in your life?” – than the story of the nativity? Of course the One returns to us as the infant Jesus, born to his adoring mother and visited shepherds and wise men!
The Second Sunday of Lent
A favorite teaching concept of Zen Master Seung Sahn is “checking mind.” Checking mind is the mind that compares and contrasts, which measures “me” or “I” against something or someone else, which is endlessly competitive, which always wants something else. Checking mind is the mind which looks in the mirror in the morning and wishes for less gray and fewer wrinkles. Checking mind is the mind which makes judgements about other people to make itself feel better. Checking mind is the mind which thinks “if only I had that, then I’d be happy.” Checking mind is the mind of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Of course, seductive as it is, it’s almost never true. Happiness rarely comes while walking that road.
The First Sunday of Lent
This week we encounter Jesus while he is tempted by the devil in the wilderness. I imagine most readers have their own picture of what Jesus looked like, and it’s a safe bet most of us envision a human male. Likewise, most readers will have at least a rough idea of what the wilderness in Palestine/Israel looks like – perhaps fueled by Hollywood Bible epics. But how do we picture the devil in this story? Is Jesus arguing with a man with horns and a tail and dressed in a red suit? Was Jesus talking to a six-inch figure who stood on his shoulder and smoked a cigar like George Burns?
This week we encounter Jesus and Bodhidharma, two central characters in Christianity and Zen, coming back to life. Jesus died and came to life again on the third day; Bodhidharma died and was seen alive three years later wearing only one shoe.