Sunday, May 14, 2017

All Of Life Is A Teacher

The entire world is an open book, a scripture.  Read it.  Learn while digging a pit or chopping some wood or cooking some food.  If you can’t learn from your daily activities, how are you going to understand the scriptures”?
-Swami Satchidananda
Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”.
-Zen saying
You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.”
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Most of you reading this have probably never dug a pit, chopped wood, or carried water.  I assume everyone has prepared a meal if only for themselves.  Any of you who are old hippies like me probably know that Swami Satchidananda appeared at the original Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 and was also featured in the Woodstock documentary film.  He was a Hindu guru and died just a few years ago.  Today’s Zen quote is a famous one.  It is basically telling us that before or after we may attain some level of enlightenment we will still have the chores of everyday life.  What will change is our attitude and view of these chores.  Most of us in America live like Kings and Queens compared to most of the world.  The reality is that many people chop wood and carry water everyday just to survive.  I believe this quote is also telling us that if we aren’t finding what we are looking for in the tasks of everyday life we aren’t likely to find them in a church or temple or mosque.  St. Bernard is a Christian monk who lived near the end of the 10th century in France.  Clairvaux is a small town in France where he founded a monastery and lived much of his life.  I have been to Clairvaux, France and while there I visited a spring in a forest where St. Bernard is believed to have meditated and inspired to write the words quoted above.  St. Bernard was one of the early teachers and monks in the order of monks that came to be known as Cistercians.  The monastery where I lived as a young man was a Cistercian monastery.  I am reminded of a time I was in the monastery and feeling ill.  I was in the infirmary and reading “The Complete Works of St. John of the Cross”.  John of the Cross was a 16th century Spanish mystic.  His books would be considered “heavy”.  An older monk came to see how I was feeling.  When he saw the book I was reading he said, “Brother Dominic, you would learn more about God working in the cow barn than reading that book”.  The works of John of the Cross are spiritual classics but the older monk was right.  I learned more about God working at the cow barn and taking walks in the woods where the trees and the stones were my teachers than I ever learned in church.  There is nothing wrong with going to church but all of life can and should be your teacher.   

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