Yun Men taught, ‘Everybody has a light inside. When you’re looking for it, you can’t see; its dark, dark, and hidden. What is this light that everyone has?’

He himself answered, ‘The kitchen pantry, the entrance gate.’ Then he said, ‘It is better to have nothing than something good.’

~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 86

Holiday lights blinking in a darkening landscape. For me, that is Yun Men’s light; both my light and yours. A few years ago around this season I picked up my daughter from trumpet practice and we took the long way home through the neighborhoods to see the houses decorated with lights. It was an excuse to lengthen our shared time together; she was already in adolescence, with all that that meant. Predictably, many of the decorations were gaudy, some bright, but all shining, giving

CJ Xmas Candle.jpg

definition to the deepening night. To me, that is kind of how buddha nature is, a light that gives definition to the dark.

Last week I volunteered at a ‘Gift Store’ run by a local parish in San Francisco. Mothers and grandmothers came by to pick up toys so that their children could have a few presents on Christmas Day. Included in the gift bundle were large bags of oranges, potatoes, and onions. Those small gifts of toys and food meant something to the neighborhood people. Handing out food and giving rides home is not doing a good thing. It is doing nothing. And because of that it is good.

photo: Caroline Joseph