I heard this story just this morning:
A young adept came to a famous Zen master to learn the art of being a samurai. He came very quietly into the room where the master was doing calligraphy. He removed his shoes outside, stepped in silently, and sat down. The master carried on doing his painting without so much as glancing at the young adept or acknowledging him.
When the master had put his brush down, he looked up serenely and asked the young man:
“What brings you here?”
The young adept answered, “Master I want to learn the art of using a sword. I want to become a samurai.”
The master replied, “But you are an expert in it already!”
The young man was puzzled. “No!” He cried, “I have never held a sword in my entire life! That is why I have come to you.”
The master shook his head. “If you don’t know the art of sword fighting, then I am not a real master. Tell me, have you mastered another art? What have you been doing up till now?”
The young adept said very quietly, “Master, all I have learnt is the Japanese art of making tea.”
“I knew it!”, cried the master. “That is enough! That is all you need to know. The energy is the same. Whether you use it in the art of the Japanese Tea Ceremony or to wield a sword, it is one and the same energy. Once you have learnt how to make and serve tea, you can use it to write calligraphy, to arrange flowers – or to be a samurai. I don’t need to teach you anything.”
Zen stories are teaching stories. And the reason I love this particular story is because, without saying anything explicitly, it conveys a lot to me. For example how we need to establish our life on a strong foundation. Or that how we are all governed by the same energy, however, we may choose to channel it.
So, dear reader, have you given a thought to how this energy manifests in your life?
Imagine a pearl necklace. What holds it together? The individual pearls are just individual pearls until you thread a string through them. That invisible string is what holds all the single pearls together and makes them into a necklace. Just like that, this story tells me that my life needs to have a single string, one unchanging stream that is a continuous presence forming the foundation of my life. I need this in much the same way the adept revealed his unchanging stream that the master calls ‘the same energy’.
This same energy can be expressed as making money or striving to reach the top of your chosen profession… Or, as has happened in my own life, the practice of meditation – because it is meditation that is my foundation. Meditation is the invisible string that holds together all the individual pearls – or experiences – of my life.
So if you are reading this blog, pause here for a moment and think: What is the string that is holding all the individual pearls of experience in your life? And how does that inform you as you go about living on a day to day basis?
Does this idea even resonate with you? Or is this just a load of old hogwash?