Do You Have It?


Excerpts from a dharma speech in September 2000 at Cambridge Zen Center


A long time ago in China, Zen Master Joju visited a hermit and asked, "Do you have it? Do you have it? The hermit held up his fist. "The water is too shallow to anchor here," said Joju and went away.

Later Joju met another hermit and asked him, "Do you have it? Do you have it?" The second hermit help up his fist.

"You are free to give or take away, to kill, or give life," said Joju, bowing to him.

Two hermits; same question, same answer. Why did Zen Master Joju approve of one and disapprove of the other?

How much do you believe in yourself? 20%? 50%? or 100%? Everyone is always telling us, "You must go this way," or "You should live that way." Our parents, our spouses and children, our friends, society, religion, culture, the economy, the internet, the media--they all have their own idea for us. How we should think, act, pray, spend, save, communicate, and feel. Who can compete with that? It's a very tall order.

You'd hate to think that your whole life could just be a patchwork of what all these are trying to mold you into. We know that to some extent we will be influenced by it, but isn't there one thing, somewhere, not dependent on all of this?

There's one way to find out. Throw away all of the above and see what happens. Never mind about Joju's approval or disapproval. Ask your own true self the same question and see if you trust what appears.

The most important thing is to stay nimble, stay with things they are, and keep awake. There's going on retreat and there's returning home or as they call it in the Zen tradition, "returning to the marketplace." There's clarity in solitude, and there's clarity as you drive your car on Route 95 during rush hour.

Even the slightest hint of holiness or righteousness will take you away from just doing it. Keen-eyed people can see it coming from miles away and they'll run for their lives. Who can blame them? If you have a Zen idea, it's still that: an idea.

Let your mind go anyplace without hindrance.