Tuesday, July 31, 2007

 

Nothing Special

I'm reading "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki a little at a time. You have to do that with Buddhist teachings or they don't stick. One of the sections is called "Nothing Special." Suzuki says,

"As long as we are alive, we are always doing something. But as long as you think, "I am doing this," or "I have to do this," or "I must attain something special," you are actually not doing anything. When you give up, when you no longer want something, then you do something. When there is no gaining idea in what you do, then you do something." (page 47)

Suzuki continues by saying that if you practice sitting zazen without any thought to reaching enlightenment, eventually you will reach enlightenment and it will be nothing special. "Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you obtain it, it is nothing special." (page 47)

A light bulb went on in my head when I read this. Have you noticed that really talented people seem to shrug off their talent? They have reached the place of "nothing special." When they wanted to acquire that talent, it was as if they wanted to get hold of a precious gem - a most special thing, but once they got it, huh! Big deal! Do you do this with your own talents, those things you know how to do so well you could practically do them in your sleep? (I'm not just speaking of an artistic talent here, but of any sort of talent - cooking, accounting, shopping for bargains, taking care of animals, etc.) Do you think they are "nothing special"? That is good, on the one hand. It means you have done something. And it is good on the other hand (all that is is good in Buddhism) because there are others who admire your talent as something special. Eventually, if they decide to practice whatever that something special is, they will come to a point where it is nothing special.

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