There is a large Chinese calligraphy in one of the main halls of the Providence Zen Center, the wonderful Head Temple of the international Kwan Um School of Zen. This is the venerable spot from where my Teacher’s vision of “World peace through Zen!” could spread throughout the world.
Yet the calligraphy shocked me the first several times I walked past it (feeling receptively reverential, in this main entrance hall of the Head Temple of the Great Zen Master Seung Sahn) — it shocked this naked-faithed with a translation that reads, “Bodhidharma sat silently facing the wall above Sorim (Shaolin) Temple for nine years, full of spite.“
Full of spite.
Sometimes I took those words too literally, not understanding what kind of liberating “spite“ that ancient teaching is actually pointing to. It’s not the spite of egoic street-justice in the head: it’s the cosmic spite of ever having to have ever existed in the first place. Because from there comes fear of death, non-existing. The whole chain.
Perhaps the words in that calligraphy were so poorly understood by me for so long, and at great cost. Any such radical expression of that cosmic spite of Bodhidharma been reimagined as some license for me to have conducted some of the many actions for which I have genuine regret over the years of my public activity. It is a constant effort marching always clearly this uncontrollable burden, plowing back (with interest!) this unrepayable debt to my Teacher, to continuously make efforts to spread his view and his easy-to-implement “methodology” (didn’t have one) for people easily to grasp and implement in their lives. The busyness of my constant public activity has not helped my practice to always be on the up-and-up. I’m still from New Jersey, they say here all the time. Sometimes the sharpness can remain, and hinder, and hurt, hurt others.
It keeps me in this job, as well. It’s always a work-in-progress.