The Shit Paper
Flush it, or it will stick to you
October 2002

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Dealing with life
It seems that people think that Buddhist temples are the only places in economically troubled Japan that do not know what to do with their money. Or why do I get calls like this?
"Hello, Mr. Priest? Have you ever tried dealing with stocks? Or gold? You can make real big money in no time!"
I feel tempted to answer: "Sorry, but this is a poor mountain temple. We have no money, and even if we had, we would not know what to do with it (which is a lie, actually)."
But this kind of reply is not ok..

There is a koan of an old woman who burns the hut of a monk whom she had been feeding for twenty years. The story goes like this: The woman build the hut for the monk and offered him food for twenty years to support hes practice. one day she decided it was time to "test" his practice: She told the young and pretty girl, who brought the food to the monk every day, to embrace him and ask him "How about it?". When the girl did, the monk replied: "This is like a dreid out tree clinging to a cold rock. No warmth in the midst of winter!" Thus the monk showed his detachment from desire and evaded the temptation. The girl told the old woman the monk's, but the woman was furios: She made the monk leave and burned the hut What did the monk do wrong in this famous koan. Certainly the old woman did not want him to give in to the temptation and enjoy carnal desire. To be content with few desires - to claim no more than is necessary to support one's practice - should be a matter of course for a monk. But for a practioner of the Mahayana (Great Vehicel), the question is not so much to what degree he can surpress his desires - the question his if he can save others through his practice. The monk in this story stayed clean - he could not be tempted. But he also could not save the girl that tried to tempt him, nor the old woman. It seems he did not even think of saving them.

"Hello, Mr. Priest? Have you ever tried dealing with stocks?"... One evening, during dinner, my master answered the phone: "Hello? Are you new to your job? Dealing with stocks - you must be having a hard time! You would not want to do that your whole life, would you? Why don't we talk about that right here in the temple? Not about dealing with stocks, but about dealing with your life? Oh no, no, don't be afraid, come anytime!"
Unfortunately, that person never came, but it was clear that my master did no just want to stay "clean" - he was aiming at the heart of the person he was dealing with, even if it was only a salesman on the phone.