The Greatest Teaching of All

A grand day out.
Dizzy from animated, noisy truck riding, conversations I wander off alone. First nose to nose with deer then a passing glimpse at bear scat. Manzanita berries are on the menu, apparently. Picking my way along. Pass abandoned boat and a pick-up, sans engine and most of everything else. Signs of mining, gold mining I find out later.

Scrub oak and pine, everything dry as dust. Silence, no wind no breeze, blue sky. Rustles in the dry oak leaves. A chipmunk? Squirrel? Who knows. I lay me down. Fall asleep. Wake and wander about. Gaze out past trees to distant forest hills. What a treat! Two or three hours in the wilderness. No particular purpose. No destination. No biting insects! No threat nor fear. No NOTHING.

Then, back to help load the log splitter. We set up an easy rhythm together, she operated the hydraulics, I swung in the next log. A rare chance to work along side novice monks. What a treat! Lunch and amiable chat about deer under the deck, mountain lions and re-roofing plans. Then tea and seniors talk of sewing the kesa, quilting and re-learning balance after hip replacement. All the while work continues.

We go home towing wood and log-splitter. My work companions elderly wet dog in the back and another novice helper beside. We are all dusty-tired, the dog too. Mt. Shasta, almost devoid of snow save for the glaciers, is in view as we weave our way down Strawberry Valley. Which appears again to be dotted with mini slag heaps. I never travel this road without that thought, of slag heaps. They probably reflect a geological event millennia old. Who knows?

A truck passes. Emblazoned on the cab side, Never give up. A split second later the novice in the back seat asks, Have you any advice for us (novices) please Rev. Master Mugo? I pause. No, not really. What IS there to say to these very able, well informed, up-to-the-mark young monks? Err, well Never give up! Never give up on your fellow trainees. Never give up on yourself.

This was a favourite teaching of the late Head of the Order. He meant by it so much. So much that is important in terms of maintaining harmony in the Sangha. As we say, Harmony IS the Sangha Treasure. Thankfully I hit a spot with my truck-inspired teaching. We chatted back and forth on the subject until we were home.

This pair had obviously studied their Taitaikoho (How Junior Priests Must Behave in the Presence of Senior Priests), Eihei-shingi (Dogen’s Monastic Rules). One of the instructions is to always be diligent in the presence of a senior and take the opportunity to ask for teaching. The last rule, number 62, states: For you seniors will always exist; there will always be someone senior to you both when you are a first grade unsui and when you become a Buddha. This is the greatest teaching of all.

Nothing like being out in the wilderness to return home once more to humility. And wonder. One is never so old for that. Monk or not.

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5 thoughts on “The Greatest Teaching of All”

  1. Seems Winston Churchill spoke these words or something like them, in a most emphatic way. According to something online, he never won an election until the age of 62 when he was elected Prime Minister.

    It’s never too late. Never give up!

  2. Sorry to be picky but Churchill was first elected to Parliament in 1900 when he was 26. Someone has to be an MP before becoming Prime Minister. He held many other offices too under other PMs.

  3. And another inspired post. Beautiful writing, poetic prose that doesn’t exactly cut. It just is.

    I might have to start meditating again.


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