Continuing from When You Greet Me I Bow . . .
I did receive some Buddhist instruction, of course. I heard about impermanence, about emptiness, about nirvana. But more often I heard about simply being present, with body and mind fully engaged. Once, during a meal in the middle of a long retreat, my teacher began speaking in a grave tone, as if he were about to explain the secrets of the universe. “When you eat the three-bowl meal during retreat,” he intoned, “you should eat a little out of the first bowl, then eat some from the second bowl, then eat some from the third bowl, and then go back to the first bowl. This is the best way to eat.”
Over and over again throughout Zen literature, we read of students approaching their masters with complicated matters, only to be brought down to earth. “What is Buddha?” a student asks. “The cypress tree in the courtyard,” the master replies. “What is the way?” “A seven-pound shirt!” Like the teachers of old who saw that their existential concerns could best be met here on Earth rather than up in the clouds, my teachers grounded me and helped me to keep my balance. “It’s right here in front of your nose,” they told me.
from When you Greet Me I Bow