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The Flower sermon of the gorilla
January 22nd, 2013

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

The Flower sermon of the gorilla

Impossible not to think about this sermon while watching the baby gorilla:

Toward the end of his life, the Buddha took his disciples to a quiet pond for instruction. As they had done so many times before, the Buddha’s followers sat in a small circle around him, and waited for the teaching.
But this time the Buddha had no words. He reached into the muck and pulled up a lotus flower. And he held it silently before them, its roots dripping mud and water.
The disciples were greatly confused. Buddha quietly displayed the lotus to each of them. In turn, the disciples did their best to expound upon the meaning of the flower: what it symbolised, and how it fit into the body of Buddha’s teaching.
When at last the Buddha came to his follower Mahakasyapa, the disciple suddenly understood. He smiled and began to laugh. Buddha handed the lotus to Mahakasyapa and began to speak.
“What can be said I have said to you,” smiled the Buddha, “and what cannot be said, I have given to Mahakashyapa.”
Mahakashyapa became Buddha’s successor from that day forward.

But watch further, for the gorilla is showing a perfect example of Zen's "beginner's mind" here. He does not assume he already 'knows'…

He is invested in the world, the context. He is oblivious of categories: the flower he holds is unique, not a mere specimen of a larger group… he is oblivious of the past and the future of the flower, and of himself…

He is fully engaged in the world; however, his attention is concentrated, for engagement in the world is not synonymous with distraction. In that moment, this gorilla is a teacher in mindfulness!

When was the last time you could marvel at an humble flower with such eyes? When was the last time you watched the humblest flowers, or stones, or cracks in the pavement in their uniqueness? When was the last time you looked at your partner, your kids, your friends in their uniqueness (in that very moment, in how they differ from who they were a single day earlier)?

How do you train not to let categories, labels, knowledge or expectations get in the way, while still being able to use them when required? Clearly not by forgetting what you learnt… How?

By letting go of the laziness! By letting go of the "I already know, I don't need to pay attention." Knowledge is great when used appropriately to the circumstances at hand! The trouble is not knowledge, it is laziness; the trouble is in using knowledge "by default", when you shouldn't… because doing so requires the least effort… because curiosity and attention require energy you'd rather preserve just in case… because you're afraid of a future (possibly made of consequences of the past) while being incapable of appreciating what you have now!

If you don't live now, you will not live when the future time comes. For when the future time will arrive, it will be the new 'now', and you'll be thinking of a further future! Pay attention now, to whatever you do.

#Zen   #Buddhism   #Dharma  
[photo unattributed: please let me know if you have any information]