Buddah Nature

Roshi's classic text

Roshi’s classic text

You must realize that no matter how intently you count your breaths you will still perceive what is in your line of vision, since your eyes are open, and you will hear the normal sounds about you, as your ears are not plugged. And since your brain likewise is not asleep, various thought forms will dart about your mind. Now, they will not hamper or diminish the effectiveness of zazen unless, evaluating them as “good”, you cling to them or, deciding they are “bad”, you try to check or eliminate them.
Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen

I was reminiscing with friends about my great fortune to have spent some summers on staff at the Rochester Zen Center at the time when Roshi Philip Kapleau was still alive and in full time residence.
I was scared to death that I would have some contact with him that would be absolutely wrong or at the least inappropriate and I avoided him like a plague. One day I was headed off to Starbucks for my afternoon break. My friend who usually accompanied me could not because he had to stay with Roshi while his nurse was gone for the afternoon.
I went into Roshi’s residence to ask my friend if he want a coffee and not wanting to be rude to Roshi (or maybe wishing I was his Jewish mother) asked, Roshi, would you like something. Without hesitation he replied, “Ice cream.”
“Okay,” I replied surprised, “Is there a flavor you like?”
Again, without hesitation he answered, “Chocolate.”
I left the center overwhelmed that Roshi had asked me for something and turned it into a quest full of questions: how much- what kind- what container and utensil- how should it be kept cold- my monkey mind made the ice cream into a perfect koan. I hunted down the treasure and after what seemed like hours released it into the hands of my friend for Roshi.
The next day, when I saw Roshi’s nurse, I proudly told her about my quest and she laughed, “That little devil! He’s not supposed to eat ice cream.”

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