A number of years ago the senior Zen teacher, Norman Fischer, was bent out of shape because we didn’t have his books on hand when he came to do a talk. I’ve talked about this many times because I often have that thought that seasoned Zen practitioners shouldn’t “leak”—they should in all situations maintain equanimity.
I read the story of the Dahlia Lama visiting a hospital where there were many with serious illnesses. He cried with each person, but when he left the hospital dropped his sadness and started laughing at a funny joke.
Last night my Zen teacher was bent out of shape because her Apple TV wanted a code that wasn’t appearing on the screen. I told her about K. She said there is no should about how a Zen priest should act.
My chance for equanimity came today. I wanted to go through the new self-serve checkout line at Central Market. A clerk was there to help people. I told him that I wanted to do it by myself. He started pressing my buttons. I said again that I wanted to do it by myself. I started thinking that he was assuming that I was a non-technical old man. He pressed one button too many, and I quit the check out process and started over on another station. I repeated, “I want to do it by myself.”
I’m sure he had the best of intentions and was somewhat shocked that someone might not want help. I’m very conscious of this habit I and others have of giving too much help. I wanted to be challenged by the machine, and I didn’t want another human interaction.
I was aggravated by someone’s good intentions. What I rediscovered today was how I was the source of the aggravation. He just did what he was probably told to do. And I blamed him for aggravating me. That happens to me four or five times a day. Maybe I can get quicker at recognizing the aggravation and then dropping it, realizing that it was I who had created it, not the other person or situation.
Here’s a sweet verse we studied today. Dantika and the Elephant is a story about the first women of Buddhism. She is attempting to tame her mind like the elephant was tamed.
Dantika and the Elephant
translated from the Pali by
Coming out from my day's abiding
on Vulture Peak Mountain,
I saw on the bank of a river
emerged from its plunge.
A man holding a hook requested:
“Give me your foot.”
extended its foot.
got up on the elephant.
Seeing what was untrained now tamed
brought under human control,
with that I centered my mind —
why I'd gone to the woods
in the first place.