Letter to a student:
April 14, 1982
Thank you for your letter and the information about EST training. You helped me understand more about the training, especially by the way you talked about your own experience with it. I do not feel compelled to do the training — not because I don’t think I have anything to learn from it, but because I think I can learn everything through the practice that I am doing now. Does that make sense? The analogy that just popped into my mind was this taking EST training would be like changing to a different size tennis racket in the middle of a match when the one I am using now feels fine. I know what I really need to do is grip the handle harder and keep playing as well as I can. I guess I feel that whatever practice or discipline we have simply needs to be followed up by sincere and consistent effort. We need to have a very clear picture about what sincere and consistent effort means in our life. Soen Sa Nim illustrated it by saying, “When you’re doing something, just do it. Put down your condition, situation, and opinion. Only go straight — don’t know:” The “don’t know” needs a lot of cultivation for most of us.
You said the EST training brochure mentioned instant transformation. I too believe that it is possible to transform our mind instantly and “get it.” But what I also know is that it is very hard to keep it.
So I guess that is where we started in our first letter exchange. Why live at a Zen Center? Living there serves as a constant reminder that when you are doing something, just try to do it. Maybe even more important is that the together action of the Zen Center takes your opinion, condition, and situation a few feet away from you at times, just painfully enough so that you can’t help but see your attachment to them. It’s usually very hard to see all the different tethers our mind is holding. The tethers have to be yanked before we can know them. The Zen Center is a great yanker, believe me.
You said that you have a hard time committing yourself to 10,000 years non-stop. I do have a suggestion. Try just fifty years to begin with. That’s a good start. Who knows where it will take you?
You asked about the Precepts. I’ll send you the literature we have about them. You said, “My sense is that the Precepts are like a fence along the path and sometimes you have to leave the path to take a piss.” The idea of a fence along a path leaves me with an image of the path being narrow and bound in by a solid, infinitely long barrier (the Precepts). I think of the Precepts as being a walking stick or fancy running shoes or, even better, a five-speed bicycle that you can use to move along at a steady pace. Sex, lying, killing, stealing, and heedlessness are all neither good nor bad by themselves. Why do you do them? That is what is most important. If it is to help people, then you are not breaking a Precept. If you are not sure, then often it helps to ride the bicycle and follow the path until the bicycle, the path, and you are merged into one thing. What is that one thing? I hope you can tell me soon.