Our Stupidity

Our Stupidity
A talk by Roshi Enkyo O’Hara

Listen to the audio.

My intention today is to encourage you to come and practice zazen here at the Village Zendo. That is my sole aim today. I encourage you to really look at your choices and try to find a regular time. I think it’s the smart thing to do. Because this practice opens like a beautiful flower””if you do it!

I’m talking about the smart thing to do because my topic today is stupidity. It’s also known in the Buddhist tradition as delusion, but today I want to think about it as stupidity. It’s our stupidity to not look at our own lives””our own precious lives””and our stupidity when we look at the world around us. It’s the craziness that you see in the mass media, which is the information that we take in; and the stupidity in my own personal life when I run off and become angry about the silliest thing. It’s the stupidity in my own mind; there’s a lot of stupidity in my own mind.

There’s a wonderful book about this””a retelling of the apocryphal Hundred Parable Sutra from China””called Flock of Fools, by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt. It’s a book of parables, and there’s one story that amused me that I want to tell you:

There was a village in China that was blessed with incredible spring water””the most delicious water that you could imagine came from the spring in this little village. The spring was five miles away from the king’s castle, and the king ordered the villagers to bring this sweet, fresh spring water to the castle every day. The villagers did that, but they complained incessantly about it because it was so far away. It just seemed too much to be walking five miles every day. The head of the village went to the king and proposed to him that he decree the distance from the village to the castle was actually three miles, not five; and the king agreed. The villagers were overjoyed! “It’s only three miles to the castle! Isn’t that fabulous?” One villager said, “You know it’s still five miles,” but everyone ignored him.  The king had decreed it, and thus it was only three miles to the castle. The sutra reminds us that if we’re too literal about the words“”too literal about the belief system“”we’ll be fooled. We’ll be stupid and we’ll miss the teaching.

These days we’re at a certain peak of popularity of what is being called “mindfulness” or “meditation” in Buddhism. There’s kind of an aura around it now, and it’s really easy to be seduced by these words that really are distant from the reality of practice itself. It really is five miles; it isn’t three. It’s very easy to believe what we’ve been told and not go to the root of our own understanding, the root of our own suffering and our own experience. And, going to exactly where we are, not where we’re told, we’re able to pull ourselves into real life just as it is. Otherwise we’re like the villagers: “Oh, it’s only three miles! Meditate five minutes a day you’ll be fine.”

“Our Stupidity” full transcript.

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