15 February 2012

Nothing to Say

The other day in the midst of far too much already on my plate, the phone rang.  It was a local journalism student working on a project.  Since he'd been interested in our center for a while, he thought he'd get his work and personal interests satisfied at once.  "Could I come by and interview someone and take some shots of the place?" he asked.  "Sure, we could arrange that," I said.  "When might be good?"  He said, "I've got a deadline, and I can be there in 15 minutes."  "Oh," I said, "In that case you'll have to be content with interviewing me, but, sure, come on over."

He set up the camera in the front room, positioned me with mic and lighting, pulled up a chair, told me to pretend the camera wasn't there (right....), and started with the questions.  As we were talking about Zen and practice and ordaining, I found myself thinking as I spoke, "These words I'm saying don't even begin to let you in on it, buddy.  What I know I can't begin to say, and what you hear you probably don't understand."

I thought of the one interview in Amongst White Clouds, where the old master who has been on the mountain for a long time gets asked to say something about Zen.  "Nothing to say," he replies, "Nothing to say."

But there are two kinds of "nothing to say,"aren't there?:
A monk asks the master, "What is Zen?"
"Nothing to say…  Nothing to say…," says the master.

The novice asks the monk, "What is Zen?"
"Nothing to say!  Nothing to say!" says the monk.
The first "nothing to say" comes from realization; the second comes from learning the Zen lingo.  The first is an I-wish-I-could-say-but-really-I-can't kind of thing; the second is a look-how-special-Zen-is kind of thing.

I'm no master, but I know better than to be the mimicking monk, so I answered his questions as best I could, hoping that it might help.

I talked him into coming for the next Intro Night.  Perhaps, one day, he'll come to see just how silly his questions and my answers were.

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