Many who come across my meager Zen droppings scattered here and there throughout the internet find a good part of what is presented somewhat useful and filled with wisdom. Others who come across the exact same material react vehemently to what is offered, scooping up what I refer to as meager Zen droppings into heaps and refering to it at best as dung and at worse by other assorted euphemisms.
For all who are drawn to my works, vehements or otherwise, not unlike what is invariably found in the opening of the Sutras, "Thus I have heard," more often than not most of what I present usually has somewhere in it's contents something that goes like, "For those who may be so interested," leaving an opening for those who may NOT be so interested to move on. So said, it does not make what is presented any more valid, but it does offer a choice. Amongst my writings the following quote writen by me and about me shows up:
"I am neither teacher nor guru, and since from the first not a thing is, I have nothing to offer. The most one can do is help point the way. In the end it resides in you."
However, if one searches more deeply into my offerings, refering back to the vehements and their dung comments, the following quote shows up:
"I do not claim to be a teacher, if anything I just shovel piles of shit out of the barn so the cows can have more space to move around in."
The above one sentence quote also relates to me and was written by me. It is the first sentence of a much larger paragraph that shows up in several places in my works and if read in context with the entire paragraph sheds light on it's meaning. To wit:
"I do not claim to be a teacher, if anything I just shovel piles of shit out of the barn so the cows can have more space to move around in. After I have shoveled it out, that same shit so shoveled, if used the right way by the right people and in the right places as manure, can contribute toward making flowers bloom or nourishment to be consumed. As chronicled in Riding The Cab Forwards I tell about me as a young boy being on a remote dirt landing strip in the desert along the east side of the High Sierras during the middle of the night waiting with my uncle and the pilot to transport a mysterious woman from Reno to Las Vegas. When she showed up the pilot had the vehicle that brought her swing around behind the plane and shine the headlights down the strip. Then, just before he got in the plane, fired up the engine and we took off, he walked the landing strip one more time kicking rocks out of the way he didn't like. Like the pilot I kick rocks out of the way so the path can be made clear making it easier --- for those who may be so interested --- to soar."
A lot of people jump up and down saying such things as "Ooooh, Wanderling, you used the word 'shit'," or "Surely a spiritual man such as yourself is more finely versed in language than that so you could find other ways and words to express yourself," or "With language like that you couldn't or shouldn't be a teacher --- like your mentor said about you being in the army, it brought out the beast in you, you never left the army!" Oooo, I'm bad. How soon everybody forgets I was in the Peace Corps, too. However, for your own edification, long before I ever came on the scene, dried dung, dried turds, and shit had a long and illustrious history in Zen and Buddhist lore. A couple of the two most famous are:
UMMON'S DRIED DUNG
A monk asked Ummon, "What is Buddha?" Ummon answered, "A dried stick of dung."
We must say that being so poor, Ummon cannot appreciate plain food, or he is so busy that he cannot even scribble properly. He is disposed to support his school with dry dung. Look at how devastated the Buddhist teaching has been!
Sparks of striking flint.
In a blink of your eyes,
You have passed by (and missed it).
CASE 21: Mumnonkan
When the master Wen-yen (Ummon, 864-949), founder of the Yun-men School, was asked by a novice monk "What is Buddha?" he answered: "A dried stick of dung."
In regards to the above version of Yun-men's response to a monk's question, "What is Buddha?" with "dried dung" being the master's reply (or "dried turd" sometimes), it has been said the Koan should be answered ONLY using the word kanshiketsu because of it's "true" meaning. Kanshiketsu has been interpreted legitimately either as a dried shit-stick, a standard implement that was used as we now use toilet paper OR simply as a dried turd (dung), an interpretation that has been derived from the usage of Chuang-tzu below:
WHERE IS TAO?
Master Tung Kwo asked Chuang:
"Show me where the Tao is found."
Chuang Tzu replied:
"There is nowhere it is not to be found."
The former insisted:
"Show me at least some definite place
where Tao is found."
"It is in the ant." said Chuang.
"Is it in some lesser being?"
"It is in the weeds."
"Can you go further down the scale of things?"
"It is in this piece of tile."
"It is in this turd."
PART II, Book XXII, 6
Some people just love to use the "shit-stick" answer in relation to Ummon's koan because of the sort of shock value it carries and how much fun it is to say or print shit in what is conceived to be somewhat religious circles. True, it does come across much more hard edged and specific, however to get caught up in the semantics of it all and argue on-and-on-and-on for hours-and-hours over the subtle nuances over any given word when what is really wanted is an innate grasping of the overall concept, is nothing short of wasting a lot of time and artificially creating unnecessary roadblocks along one's path toward Enlightenment.
ANYONE KNOWING REDONDO WOULD RECOGNIZE THE COLOR PHOTO ON THE RIGHT AS BEING ALONG THE ESPLANADE
One day while a teenager still in high school my Mentor and I, or at least the man in the process of becoming my mentor, were leaning on the the heavily encrusted rusted pipe railing just below the Esplanade overlooking the Pacific along the cliff edge of Veteran's Park in Redondo Beach a hair south from where a Japanese Midget Submarine floated up on the beach after it had been bombed off shore during World War II, a spot not far from where where we both lived. The park was located as well about half-way between where to the north another war time event occurred, only in the middle of the night when a giant unknown flying object as big as a Zeppelin turned inland off the ocean only to overfly barely above my house. The other half of the distance down the beach to the south, in Hollywood Riveria, guns of a World War II anti-aircraft emplacement no longer there opened up on the object, strewing the whole northside of the city with shrapnel. The event became known as the Battle of Los Angeles. It was now ten years after the fact and all was at peace along the beach. Thinking about those two war time events, I didn't care about the Buddha, what Enlightenment is, how much flax was something or not. But I did want to know how I, that is, me specifically, could reach, attain, do, or become Enlightenment. So I asked:
"What is Enlightenment?"
My mentor, turning and pointing slightly inward beyond the edge of the park lawn behind us, replied, "Dog poop turns white in the sun."
Sure enough it seemed a dog had left his calling card on the grass, but, having enough of the Zen answers I asked, "How can I be Enlightened?"
He said, "The grass grows in a circle much taller and darker green than the surrounding grass."
When it comes to dung and Buddhism I have a lot more experience than just koans. At least my first six months, possibly more, Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery it seems all I did was have latrine detail.
Now, while it is true, latrine detail --- as I have chosen to call it --- COULD, if one so chose, fall within the precepts of the Buddha's Eightfold Noble Path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. So said, Eightfold Noble Path or nay, the task, generally rotated, CAN be and is often metered out in a disciplinary fashion for nearly any reason --- sometimes delt with by one person for days or weeks at time. It carries with it a total bottom rung status amongst the monks assigned and everybody knows WHO is doing it. Working your way out of that detail, in a sort of finished basic training, paying your dues or prove yourself sort of way, changes your status. The job, done with un-gloved hands because there were no gloves, basically entails scooping out a small wood and stone lined cesspool using a ladle on a long pole. The ingredients therein, unless otherwise below zero or frozen, are poured into large wooden-stave buckets and carried, honey bucket style, to the growing fields to be used for fertilizer.
As far as the Far East is concerned, with all of it's Zen, Buddhism, and monasteries, it seems, and not always on a spiritual or religious level, Americans have been going to or involved one way or the other for as long as most people can remember, especially so the government during and since World War II, sometimes even turning a blind eye as with the Flying Tigers and such. However, after the war it wasn't until the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 that the U.S. truly jumped in with both feet, and as a small segment of those jumping in with both feet on-the-ground U.S. military and civilian personnel discovered, if they wanted to stay alive, dung was a part of it.
A decade after the French collapse at Dien Bien Phu by the hands of the north Vietnamese based Viet Minh, eight United States Air Force F-100D fighter-bombers of the 615th Tactical Fighter Squadron operating out of Da Nang Air Force Base in the Republic of Vietnam flew the first fully American combat air missions over Laos with strikes against Pathet Lao targets in the Plain of Jars.
A few months before those strikes could be fully implemented a number of cross-border forays from surrounding areas were put into place requiring the use of a number of covert ground teams inserted into rather remote and primitive conditions. Each team member and their equipment was sheep dipped and all teams embedded with specially trained communication personnel, each heavily blanketed with security clearances, versed in Morse code and the non-conventional expertise to build from scratch and use, if necessary, easily disposable Spark Gap Transmitters and QRP transmitters, along with foxhole radios and crystal set receivers. Several select members of those ground teams, all who were taught to travel light, eat indigenous foods, and leave no tracks, were soon appropriated for other duties.
The following, albeit highly connected to me and the mysterious hermitage beyond time high in the Himalayas known under a variety of names such as Gyanganj, Shambhala or Shangri-La, is as well related to the above even though found at the highly unusual source so cited:
"People ask, what is the point of eating indigenous foods? Is it because of traveling light that carrying food would contribute to an excess weight? That possibly enters into it, but it is only a small factor. I really can't get into it too much, but what people don't realize is the seriousness of it all operating under such conditions we are talking about here. Depending on the situation, any little infraction and you could be discovered. People searching for clues to the existence of a person or a small group of people that may have intruded into an area they otherwise would not be authorized to be in, something as small as human excretion can be a dead give away --- no pun intended.
"A full scale discussion around the subject of excretion is seldom brought up because most people that participate in operations don't stay on the ground for any length of time. For most there is usually a quick insertion and a quick extraction. However, for those that do stay any length of time, there is a big difference in the excretion products left behind between one who has consumed western food for their nutrition, say from a military mess hall, MREs, or Snicker bars, and adversaries who may live in a shared remote area far removed from the availability of western foods. To the right people, hunters of others for example, such a difference is noticeable. Eating indigenous foods is another way to contribute toward covering one's tracks."(source)
As far as being a teacher is concerned, or more accurately a pointer along the path, I am reminded of a comment attributed to Larry Darrell, the main character in the novel The Razor's Edge by the distinguished British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham wherein at the end of the all-important Chapter Six Larry says:
"Nothing that happens is without effect. If you throw a stone in a pond the universe isn't quite the same as it was before. . . It may be that if I lead the life I've planned for myself it may affect others; the effect may be no greater than a ripple caused by a stone thrown in a pond, but one ripple causes another, and that one a third; it's just possible that a few people will see that my way of life offers happiness and peace, and the they in turn will teach what they have learnt to others."(source)
MASTER DOGEN STEPPED ON DRIED SHIT
ZEN CAN BE FOUND IN ANY ACTIVITY
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
CODE OF ETHICS FOR SPIRITUAL GUIDES
SPIRITUAL GUIDES: PASS OR FAIL?
FALSE GURU TEST
THE SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
ON THE RAZOR'S
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN DARRELL'S LIFE OTHER THAN THE MAHARSHI: