Pick Up The Newspaper! Actualizing The Artificial Bodhisattva

Pick Up The Newspaper! Actualizing The Artificial Bodhisattva September 23, 2020

During our nonresidential practice periods at the Minnesota Zen Center in the 1980’s, students took turns giving talks at 4:30 a.m. Katagiri Roshi usually sat very quietly with his inverted half-moon mouth, a world-class frown, and very seldom made any comment about our wobbly efforts to express the dharma.

One morning Roy, a longtime student of Katagiri Roshi, began his talk verbally stumbling around.

“While I was walking to the zendo I began crossing the street just as a piece of newspaper was picked up by the wind and blown across my path. As I bent down to pick up the paper, I thought, ‘I hope someone sees me bending down to pick up this paper,’ so I froze.

“I didn’t want to pick up the newspaper for the wrong reason. I could see how stinky my ego was, only wanting to do something small for the good if someone saw me doing it. Then I noticed that no one else was around, so I started chasing the paper, but just as I bent down to grab it, I thought, ‘I will still know that I’m doing something good, so picking it up is still stinky.’

“I didn’t know what to do. By this time, the newspaper had blown away, so I gave up.”

Out of the silence, Roshi growled, “Pick up the newspaper!”

Jumping into birth and death, picking up the newspaper, is the dynamic working of realization. What must be dropped to actualize this dynamic working now?

Excerpt from Keep Me In Your Heart A While: The Haunting Zen Of Dainin Katagiri, by Dosho Port.

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