The Meaning Lies in the Effort Itself

It seems that most folks took my Orson Welles story the other day good naturedly. He really did live for a while on Stanley Drive north of Hollywood Blvd, but I didn’t learn that until many years after he passed on.  When I thought about how I used to ride the bus right by there nearly every day, I engaged in some fantasying and Friday’s story was the end result. If anyone felt my deception bamboozled them unduly or unfairly, which I highly doubt, I apologize. It just seemed a very Wellesian way to celebrate the centennial of his birth.

Today, another birthday: Zen pioneer Shunryu Suzuki was born May 18, 1904. Like Welles, Suzuki has been a huge influence. I’ve mentioned him a number of times on the blog, and you can read it all by clicking on his name in the tag cloud on the left sidebar (in between Shantideva and sufferings).

Suzuki helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the West and the collection of his teachings, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, is a book of deep wisdom that anyone, Buddhist or not, can benefit from reading.

He valued simplicity, so I feel it is a very Suzukian way to celebrate his life and spirit by keeping my words to a minimum and focusing on his:

shunryu_suzuki3In our everyday life we are usually trying to do something, trying to change something into something else, or trying to attain something. Just this trying is already in itself an expression of our true nature. The meaning lies in the effort itself. We should find out the meaning of our effort before we attain something. So Dogen said, “We should attain enlightenment before we attain enlightenment.” It is not after attaining enlightenment that we find its true meaning. The trying to do something in itself is enlightenment. When we are in difficulty or distress, there we have enlightenment. When we are in defilement, there we should have composure. Usually we find it very difficult to live in the evanescence of life, but it is only within the evanescence of life that we can find the joy of eternal life.

By continuing your practice with this sort of understanding, you can improve yourself. But if you try to attain something without this understanding you cannot work on it properly. You lose yourself in the struggle for your goal; you achieve nothing; you just continue to suffer in your difficulties. But with right understanding you can make some progress. Then whatever you do, even though not perfect, will be based on your inmost nature, and little by little something will be achieved.”

From “Calmness” Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind


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