Monday, 9 December 2013

I often read the following extract to students who feel they 'are not very good' at yoga or meditation:

From: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

The Marrow of Zen  'in the zazen posture, your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are, whether agreeable or disagreeable'

In our scriptures ...., it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones.  The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones.  You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn how to run!
When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse.  If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best.  This is, I think, the usual understanding of this story, and of Zen.  You may think that when you sit in zazen you will find out whether you are one of the best horses or one of the worst ones.  Here, however, there is a misunderstanding of Zen.  If you think the aim of Zen practice is to train you to become one of the best horses, you will have a big problem.  This is not the right understanding.  If you practice Zen in the right way it does not matter whether you are the best horse or the worst one.  When you consider the mercy of Buddha, how do you think Buddha will feel about the four kinds of horses? He will have more sympathy for the worst on than for the best one.
When you are determined to practice zazen with the great mind of Buddha, you will find the worst horse is the most valuable one.  In your very imperfections you will find the basis for your firm, way-seeking mind.  Those who can sit perfectly physically usually take more time to obtain the true way of Zen, the actual feeling of Zen, the marrow of Zen.  But those who find great difficulties in practising Zen will find more meaning in it.  So I think that sometimes the best horse may be the worst horse, and the worst horse can be the best one.

For me, this analogy can be applied to almost anything in life, too often we are encouraged to see the value in the culmination of an idea, celebrate the high achiever.  Maybe sometimes we should be encouraged celebrate the journey, the effort and dedication, regardless of the outcome