A man of old once said, ‘Mr Zhang drinks wine and Mr Li gets drunk.’

~ Entangling Vines, Case 55

As we study Zen, we more and more come to appreciate a kind of synchronicity between ourselves and others. It is more than empathy, which is usually defined as understanding the feelings of another. What if there is no ‘other’? Then life is more direct: your experience is mine, and my experience is yours.

In working on koans with students, I don’t really look for a certain answer, though there is a list of them. If she is embracing the heart of a ‘dog’ koan, then ‘cat’ may be a far better answer than ‘dog’. In the process of inquiry we share: Her knowing is my knowing; she drinks wine and I get drunk.

I was talking with a friend who recently went to retreat. She told me, ‘Going there, I knew I belonged.’ It was an utterly simple statement, and yet I knew and she knew the meaning was far grander than the words. At the deepest level, she realized she belonged not just at the retreat, but in the whole universe. She drank wine and I got drunk.

I also recently visited Wind-in-Grass, an affiliated zendo in San Francisco. Some young students were laughing about the challenges of practicing while pursuing a busy career and life: Meditating on BART (easier), finding an empty conference room to sit in (harder). Someone spontaneously suggested we have a Zen ‘flash mob’ on BART. At the sound of a bell, all participants would sit quietly. We laughed and laughed and I was drunk.