I think that, like many people, when I first came into practice, I came into it for myself — to lessen the suffering/dissatisfaction that the Buddha described in the First Noble Truth. Now, after many years of practice, something has shifted. I’ve been thinking about what it means to sit, whether you sit by yourself at home, with a sangha, or as I did yesterday at Friends For Life, with three other people, or just with one person. Can you do Sesshin with one other person? Can you do Sesshin by yourself? “Yes” to both of the above. You never know where or how practice ripples out. When a student comes from a college because he/she has to write a paper and perhaps is only meeting the requirements of the course, you still don’t know how that affects the person. Why did that person pick Zen to investigate? Perhaps not today nor tomorrow nor even next year, but at some time, the instruction and sitting will resonate. Perhaps it works even when we don’t know it’s working. Nothing is ever lost.

And so, now I feel compelled to share — to just sit with those three other people, people whose lives might be vastly different from mine — yet, we just sit and it ripples and ripples and ripples.

About kesho

Kesho is liaison for new members and coordinator for meditation instruction at Heart Circle Sangha.
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3 Responses to Ripples

  1. James Jakudo Shammas says:

    Yes, I believe IT is working even when you’re not aware it is working. Remember Dogen’s famous lines from the Genjokoan, “Enlightenment is like the moon reflected in the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken…Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not crush the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon.” Do you believe it?


    • Ellen Kesho Risbarg says:

      Yes, I believe it because sometimes it ripples back to you and you see it right before your eyes. As a former teacher of middle school students, I might not have always known who was “hearing” the lesson, for whom it was resonating. The most troublesome student, the student whom you thought you weren’t reaching at all might return some years later and tell you how that English or ESL class affected his or her life. Maybe something you said or didn’t say, maybe nothing in particular at all, and yet, something happened. It is an awesome thought, but real. For me, it’s the Great Diamond Net of Indra; not just a metaphor, but a description of the interconnectedness of all beings, sentient and non-sentient. And so, you can sit with hundreds of people or by yourself and it affects the entire universe. How could it not?

  2. James Jakudo Shammas says:

    Beautifully said, Ellen!–and practical too. I like the way you relate the teaching to your own life relationships. You bring up a good point too: that every action we engage in is really in relation to some other being (really all beings, I guess) somewhere: No man is an island, as it were. As a doctor, I see many patients, fellow, colleagues and other individuals every day, and I sometimes fall asleep at the wheel, forgetting that every single thing I do has a ripple effect, and sometimes not always so positive. Then–like you teaching– I see a patient back and even our unspoken visit together conveys the effects we had on each other the last time we encountered each other. Yes, a certain rightness (or wrongness) about our interaction is felt, something true and intimate was exchanged, or–if I was asleep–a sense of dukkha is felt, the wheel seems off kilter, the ride is bumpy. At the end of the day one realizes just how relevant these encounters are to one’s practice–that the day’s events are in fact as much the practice as sitting on my cushion at night. Forms, feelings, sensations, mental formations, and–ultimately– consciousness pop up everywhere, and at all times. It never ends, and so I guess it’s true that each little blip is either the gateless gate of opportunity to act freely or a block I choose to avoid and stay stuck in.
    I’m tired! Thanks for your insight!

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