Go into the peace of your practices


Supposing I want to learn French. Right. I find a teacher, but I don’t like him. “Oh. Well, or, we’ll find you another teacher. Yes, we’ve found a very good one. Now, he could give you an hour on Tuesday, and another one on Thursday. But we always go round to the Grimsdalls on Tuesday and they come round to us on Thursday.” “Well, we’ll find you another teacher.”
“Oh yes, I like him and we’ve got a free day. But he’s much too expensive’.” And in that way it all cancels itself out. But when the personality is brought together, those different elements will fit in. “Yes, a teacher I don’t like. Great mistake to think I can’t learn from a teacher I don’t like. Why not? And I’ll change my appointment on Tuesday and I’ll saw up a bit of my money that I waste on my luxuries, and I’ll pay for a good teacher.” And then they begin to line up, and then it becomes a powerful force.

A group of Western people found in discussion that they all had the same experience. When they were given a new practise, they would try it enthusiastically and they would get a sort of exhaltation, and that would last for quite a time and they would feel ‘yes we’re getting somewhere with this’. And some of them would realty feel a great sense of progress. And then it would go off, and then there would be a depression, and then there’d be a dull sense of ‘keep on keeping on’ . So they all had this experience and they went to the teacher and asked him. And he was one who knew as many of the Buddhist teachers do, who knew the western scriptures to some extent, and he said, “In your Bible I understand, you have a section called, “Jubilees”, “Rejoicing” . And you’ve got another section called “Lamentations”, haven’t ‘you, the book of Jeremiah. And the “Lamentations” is much longer than the book of “Jubilees” . But you tend to see everything in terms of ‘triumph’ and ‘disaster’ . He said, “Your gardens are the same. Your famous gardens that I’ve seen: in summer they’re a riot of flowers’, it’s marvellous, but in the winter they’re very sad and dejected aren’t they, there’s nothing doing.” And he’d seen and read a commentary on Sissinghurst and the commentator had said, “Sissinghurst is rather sad in the winter.”

He said, ” You tend to see things in those terms, and you expect exhaltation and then you feel you’re making great progress. Then you have depression and you feel you’re making no progress or you’re going backwards. But the Japanese garden is quite different. The purpose is not to produce exhaltation with the corresponding, of course reaction in the winter when there are no flowers. Flowers play very little part in a traditional Japanese garden. It consists of rocks, and sand, and water. And the effect is not to produce joy, it’s to produce peace. And in the winter, under the snow, the rocks still keep their proportions and the garden looks as peaceful and as beautiful in the winter as it does in the summer. Now your practises are not meant to produce exhaltation. They are meant to produce peace. Go into the peace of your practises.”

The same teacher was asked by an anxious man who said, well no, he was always planning what he would do in such and such circumstances. What would be the proper thing to do, and whether he’d be able to do it. And he became more and more anxious about this. He would visualise situations and think how he ought to behave and then wonder how he would behave, and think, “Well I must try and improve on that”, and so on. And finally this came to the awareness of the teacher in some way. And this man happened to be an expert swimmer, so the teacher said to him when they were in town together, “There are swimming baths near here. Can you show me the racing dive of which I’ve heard?” and, “Oh yes, yes” he said, “I can show you that. Yes it’s quite different from the ordinary diving.” And the teacher said, “Oh I’d like to see that.” So they went in and the swimmer changed and they walked towards the end of the bath and suddenly the teacher pushed him in the water .He came up very quickly, pulled himself out and the teacher said, “Have you ever been in like that before?” So the man said, ” well whoever would go in like that (unless he was pushed of course )” So the teacher said, “Well, how did you know what to do? What did you do?” He said, “Well, ! don’t know but of course I came up, I’m a swimmer. I don’t know exactly what I did, but I would do the thing that would bring me up immediately, because I’m a swimmer.” And the teacher said, “Well, in the same way you’ve no need to plan what you’ll do in given circumstances. If you practice, you will do the right thing which will bring you up, because you’re a practiser. You’re a practiser.”

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Judo Experience – Zen & More Stories

Part 2: Finding inspiration in everyday things

Part 3: Go into the peace of your practises

Part 4: The doctrine of the void

Part 5: From emptiness inspiration will come

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