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May

“The Difference”

“It’s Up to You!  It’s Always Been!  What Do You Want?”

In his book “A Monk in The World” Wayne Teasdale makes reference to one of several versions of a story told to me many years ago.  When I first heard it, it defined for me what I call “The Difference,” that one ingredient which separates novelty and authenticity.  My version tells the story of an encounter between a Zen master and one of his students.  The student in a rare opportunity approached the master challenging him about the notion of enlightenment.  “How is it possible to be truly free?”  “To live an unencumbered life, free of the mind’s distractions, worriments, and fear?”  The master invites the novice to walk with him and together they enter the forest surrounding the monastery.  The young person continues probing the master while he remains completely silent offering no response.  They eventually arrive at one of the lakes on the property and it is then the master speaks inviting his companion to join him as he cools off in the body of the lake.  No sooner they are waist deep in the lake and suddenly the master grabs the student and pushes him under the water, holding him there.  You can imagine the surprise and eventually the fear rising in the novice’s body.  It is almost to the moment when the student would naturally pass out and only then does his teacher lift him out of the water.  Gasping and kicking, obviously angry and afraid, he screams at the teacher, “What was that about?” “How could you do that to me?”  The Zen master walks to the shore with the screaming novice, shakes himself off and turns to the student saying to him, “When you truly want enlightenment as badly as you wanted your next breath, then and only then will all of your questions be answered and you will know the answers in your very body just as your body knew to choose life.”

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