More 20th Century Psalms
By Justin Stone
I only once met Roshi Suzuki, the Zen Master who helped found Tassajara, but was deeply impressed. It is a difficult drive up to Tassajara in the winter and I had an old car. After speaking with me for a while in Japanese, in the mistaken impression I was a well-known scholar he was expecting from Kyoto, Roshi invited me to share a Japanese ofuro (hot bath in a wooden tub) with him. Looking hesitantly at the fading sun as the day drew to a close, I replied that I had better start back while there was still some sunlight to see by. "The moon gives light, too," was his soft answer.
One of my T'ai Chi Chih teachers brought some students to see me on the Monterey Peninsula. We talked of this and that, and then one of the students asked me about reincarnation (a misleading word).
"What do you mean by reincarnation?" I asked. "What is it that reincarnates? That tree in the garden is shedding leaves, which is natural in autumn. But those leaves will return next spring. Is that what you mean?"
"The leaves that come in the springtime will not be the same leaves," the student protested.
"Why identify with the leaves?" I asked. "Why not identify with the tree?"
Lynette Wooliver, a profound Christian Scientist, is one of the most spiritually advanced people I have known. She once remarked to me that she saw her daughters as two nice girls who occasionally visited the house. When the home she and her husband were building in Santa Fe tragically burned to the ground just before completion, she told me that they had watched the fire with interest for a while, then went home to enjoy a night's sleep. As her mother was dying, she remarked to Lynette on the beauty of the flowers in a vase by her bedside, and Lynette answered: "I picked them myself in the garden."
One time, in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, Lynette and some friends were eating lunch with me at a sidewalk cafe owned by an Austrian man. For dessert he brought us each a rich Sachertorte from Vienna, so good one always wants a second. As I was bringing my fork to my mouth with the first succulent piece, salivating in anticipation of this tasty morsel, Lynette suddenly asked: "Can we do without this?"
I immediately put my fork down and pushed the plate away, and she did the same. Seeing this, she remarked: "Then we might as well eat it" – which we proceeded to do with gusto. I believe the lesson was completely lost on her friends, but it is true that we can only enjoy that which we can do without.
Swami Ramdas, who died in the middle of the twentieth century, was like a joyous child who saw God in everything and everybody. One day a man robbed a bank in an Indian town and, when he was apprehended, there was Swami Ramdas carrying some of the bags of loot for him.
In court the Judge asked Swamiji, "What is a Holy Man like you doing mixed up with this thief?"
Swami Ramdas replied: "By the Grace of God I was standing on the corner when, by the Grace of God, a man ran by, carrying some bags. ‘Here, carry this,’ he yelled at me, and, by the Grace of God, he threw two bags for me to carry. So, by the Grace of God, I was running alongside him when, by the Grace of God, two policemen …"
"Get out of here," interrupted the magistrate, laughing, and Swamiji was set free – by the Grace of God. The Sanskrit scholar, Judith Tyberg, told me this story of the great Saint who had become like a simple child, dancing for Joy.
[Reprinted with permission from Good Karma Publishing. This title is out-of-print.]