A friend commented that I was a die-hard Hidden Lamp (Sunday group on the Zen matriarchs at Appamada in Austin), referring to the fact that I risked torrential downpours to go Sunday. Though I’ve always been attracted to Zen stories, I’m discovering more and more that they are a wonderfully accessible dharma gate.
I remember a teacher in college telling the class that Sartre’s philosophy was better expressed in his fiction than in his philosophical writing. And I remember, at approximately the same time in the 60s, reading Zen in the Way of Archery, and learning that the way to learn about Zen was through a Zen art. Experience can best express ideas.
It seems that the stories embody the teachings in us. What can’t be expressed by definitions is expressed so well through interactions between people. The problems with definitions are two: 1) they clarify to the point of creating a false sense of understanding. I might say that “karma is intention” or “karma is volitional action.” But It is the karmic experiences we have where we see both our actions and the results of those actions that helps us understand the effects of what we do. I yell at a kid because he broke something and then I see tears running down his face (luckily our grandkids don’t break things) and 2) it is hard to see our actions for what they are by reading a definition. But as we read a story, we can see how people react to their environment that in turn helps us respond to our environment in a more compassionate, less harming, and more meaningful manner.
Compare this story to someone telling you that it is enough just to do an offering and that you don’t need to be given credit. The story touches our entire being. It actually changes our body chemistry. We might identify with the priest, or with Laywoman Pang. Or we might be a fly on the wall, observing the interaction. Or we might be the “ether” in and surrounding the interaction. The experience is different than the idea. Tomorrow we might decide to put our no-longer-needed clothes in the container provided by Goodwill. We might even do that when no one is looking. We might even not congratulate ourselves for not taking credit. We might simply say to ourselves, “Dedication of merit is complete.”
That’s why I'm a diehard Hidden Lamper.