Any Second Zen

Every-Minute Zen

Zen students are with their masters at least ten years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in was visited by Tenno, who having passed his apprenticeship, had become a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wooden clogs and carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: “I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or the left side of the clogs.”

Tenno, confused, had no instant answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He became Nan-in’s pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his every-minute Zen.

This story from “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones” compiled by Paul Reps holds up a worthwhile direction to head in, every-minute Zen. Before you work on every-minute Zen, you have to experience any-second Zen, that calm, spacious mind for any amount of time. Until then you are practicing based on faith in your teachers. After that, you’ve glimpsed the mountain. Now faith in your own experience, the desire for more, and guidance from your teachers are the path. “Glimpsing the Ox” is number 3 of the Ten Oxherding pictures. Coming this far should be celebrated. You are not a beginner any more, even though when you don’t see the mountain, you may despair.

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