Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Monks and the Coffee

It's long bugged me that as a restaurant critic I seemed to have fallen into the most spiritually self-destructive of careers. Most traditions make a similar point, but the Hsin Hsin Ming, from Zen, states it most pointedly:
"If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind."
The metaphysics make sense. But as a critic, I spend my life making opinions, feeding the dualism by rendering thumbs up and thumbs down judgments. Am I fostering a mind that's rife with disease? Are chowhounds (and others with keen appreciation for quality) cosmically damned? Must we hanker for Wendy's if we're ever to enter the kingdom of heaven?

But a while back I found the key in a story written by a woman who'd worked as a driver for some Buddhist monks traveling around California for a series of meditation programs. The monks had fallen crazily in love with a certain brand of coffee they'd discovered during the trip. But while they practically jumped for joy whenever they came upon some, she found it interesting that they never showed the slightest trace of disappointment if they failed to find any. Even when days went by without finding their coffee, they were no less happy. It began to dawn on her that if they never drank that coffee again, it wouldn't bother them in the least. Yet each time they found it they positively basked in the delight.


Barry said...

LOVE this anecdote (and lesson). Linked to it.

Kirk B said...

"Asked why there was a rule of silence during most meals, Suzuki Roshi said, 'You cannot eat and talk at the same time.'"

- Zen Is Right Here
ed. David Chadwick

sku said...

Well, what kind of coffee was it?

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