A River Runs Through It
Huangbo said, ‘You’re all gulping down the dregs of the wine. If you keep running
around like this, where will you find today? Don’t you know yet that there isn’t a single Chan
teacher in the whole country?’
A student stepped forward and asked, ‘But what about all those places where people are
guiding students and leading communities?’
Huangbo said, ‘I didn’t say no Chan, only no Chan teachers’.
~ Blue Cliff Record, Case 11
At times, while acting as a teacher, I feel like I am selling water by the river. After all, in Zen, what is there to teach? Even ‘Buddha-nature’ is a made-up word to describe something that really cannot be touched by words.
It is not hard to get washed around in the expectations of teacher-dom. Huang Po, above, ‘produced thirteen enlightened disciples’ while the great Yunmen had ‘no less than 1,500 monks in attendance at one time.’ Dogen wrote thousands of pages. But as a teacher, what I see has greatest value for myself and for others is not in the numbers but in the sharing.
What I enjoy most about teaching is sharing something precious with my fellow travelers; to swim in the river’s wonderful water with friends. The river’s water is cool and fresh, clear and clean. And it deeply satisfies.
Indeed, a river runs through it all. Sitting with us at any moment in time are not just a handful of beings, but a vast and vast community of brothers and sisters, clouds and wind, mountains and forests.
‘You’ve heard it laugh,’ said Vasudeva, the ferryman. ‘But you haven’t heard everything. Let’s listen, you’ll hear more.’
Softly sounded the river, singing in many voices. The river sang with a voice of suffering, longingly it sang, longingly, it flowed towards its goal, lamentingly its voice sang.
‘Do you hear?’ Vasudeva’s mute gaze asked. Siddhartha nodded.
‘Listen better!’ Vasudeva whispered
~ Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse