Yunmen said, “I don’t ask about before the Day of Thanks. Say something about after the Day of Thanks.

He answered for himself, “Every day is a pie day.”

~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 6

Why do we practice? I think it is to appreciate our lives, and especially to appreciate pumpkin pie as it comes on occasion into our lives.

I recently received some boxes of books and old Zen center newsletters from a friend and teacher who passed away. Going through the dusty boxes, I have been reading four-decade old publications with interest. They are a window on the first years of my own practice and also reflect the early days for Zen in the U.S. In the spring of 1972, Taizan Maezumi Roshi received Inka from Koryu Osaka Roshi, and his talk was transcribed in the ZCLA Journal at that time:

First of all, and last of all, I just feel grateful; grateful about everything…

Anyway, tears just come up.

I did not study all these years for myself. And I did not study for you, either. I simply understood that this is the way it is, and that is why I studied. And that is what you all are doing, too.

So why do we study Zen? I ask that of myself often. Reading old stuff, I saw that Hakuun Yasutani, in our line three generations before us, wrote about three aims in Zen practice: concentration, awakening, and actualization. We still teach the importance of awakening and realizing that awakening in our daily lives. Is that why we practice?

Though I ask that question often, at the most basic level, I don’t know why I practice; nor do I think I need to know. Just asking the question is enough. I practice because that is the way things are. Sitting yesterday morning, the new rain began. It was a rain that would put out lingering wild fires, refresh the plants and animals, and fill the wells. I heard the drumming on the roof and the guttering in the downspouts. Looking up and out of the window, I saw the drops falling and cascading, falling. Tears just came up. And then we gathered for a meal together. And we will gave thanks. Especially for the pumpkin pie.