The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. MARCEL PROUST

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. WILLIAM BLAKE

Wanderer, there is no way; the way is made by walking. ANTONIO MACHADO

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Banzan In The Butcher's Shop

Do you know the story of Banzan? Before he became a great Zen master, he spent many years in pursuit of enlightenment, but it eluded him. Then, one day, as he was walking in the marketplace, he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer. 'Give me the best piece of meat you have,' said the customer. And the butcher replied, 'Every piece of meat I have is the best. There is no piece of meat here that is not the best.' Upon hearing this, Banzan became enlightened. 

I can see you are waiting for some explanation. When you accept what is, every piece of meat — every moment — is the best. That is enlightenment.

ECKHART TOLLE The Power Of Now

I love this story. What I like most about it is the setting: an ordinary, humble butcher's shop. It's not about enlightenment dawning after many months of rigorous meditation under a banyan tree, or after years of wandering and soul searching in the mountains and deserts, or as a result of disciplined study and ascetic practice under a yogi or other spiritual teacher. No, it's about enlightenment dawning suddenly, and when least expected, in a prosaic, everyday setting. To me this has the ring of authenticity. Perhaps we are mistaken in walking so endlessly and so earnestly the caminos of this world in pursuit of spiritual illumination, when we are more likely to find it — if we remain aware, open and receptive — in the moment NOW, in our own ordinary home, in our wilderness back garden, in the local streets and shops of our town or village.

So, when you're at the butcher's this week picking up your Christmas turkey, sausage meat, gammon joint and pork pies, be sure to eavesdrop on the conversations going on around you. You never know, it might be the start of a whole new life.

11 comments:

Herringbone said...

I like this. After years of thinking there was something or someplace better, I have become increasingly grateful for what I have.Words like this are encouraging.

laurel said...

I agree with this. The thing is though, I think most of us have to walk the caminos first and go out seeking before we realize that what we were looking for was here all along, here being wherever we are in a given moment. I think the end stage of the journey is finding what you were looking for when you arrive back home, realizing that it was there but you just couldn't see it, and if this doesn't happen the journey hasn't served its ultimate purpose.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your words, Herringbone. Gratitude for what we have, for what is, for the present moment — yes, I think that's the way. Each 'now' moment is a gift.

Hello, Laurel, and thanks for visiting. I agree with you absolutely. You put it very well. I think I glimpsed at an early age (through reading Krishnamurti and others) the sanctity of the present moment, had the realisation (which came, I remember, like a thunderbolt) that the now is what mattered, and all anxieties, worries, regrets, expectations, neuroses etc. were tied up with the past and future, i.e. they were insubstantial, dissolvable, shadows — unimportant compared with the wonderfully real and vivid state of NOW. However, one forgets, one changes, one needs to be reminded of and to rediscover such spiritual truths constantly, and the caminos (and other paths) are good ways to do this... Not necessary for enlightenment, no, not at all, but helpful...

verena said...

meditation, sitting or walking silently etc is not a means to achieve enlightenment, not an exercise in order to obtain something, that would be too cheap&ugly politics.
it seems to be the other way round: if someone loves to enjoy the bliss of solitude, zen walking, pilgrimage or the like it just indicates that this one might mature in a way to get ready for more devlopment which finally might make him or her prepared to be awake the moment Grace is calling.... Love :-)

The Solitary Walker said...

Verena — Yes! Not consciously seeking, not having a conscious objective, but putting oneself in a sympathetic, conducive zone, and seeing what happens...

Anonymous said...

At each time
Stay awake
All can happen

Ruth said...

I agree with the wonder of a moment's sight, when the blinders fall away. I also agree with you and Laurel that the work must also be done, and when the ground is tilled, a miracle can happen. (I think of how it happened for Tolle, though, and it seems "the work" was being utterly miserable and coming to the end of himself; then 18 months on a park bench, in bliss!)

Poems are like this for me these days. The work seems to be inside, gnawing at a line or phrase. Then suddenly the poem "appears." As you astutely noted at A Year with Rilke, Rilke's daily influence is deeply felt, as is Rumi's. Oh, and also the pain of hands arms and shoulders. I guess that pain that Rilke writes about really can carry us through to the light.

But sometimes it does happen in an instant.

George said...

I sent comments on this great posting yesterday, but don't think they made it. My internet connection has been malfunctioning of late. In any event, I wanted to salute Banzan. Acceptance of what is, versus what our conditioned minds think should be, is absolutely critical to inner peace. And, yes, let us roll the drumbeats for the eternal NOW, the only venue in which life has ever occurred and the only one that remains an option for those of us who seek to live fully.

ksam said...

Robert...thanks for the post! And the reminder in this last week of craziness, Enjoy it! If you can be truly present, even in those last moments, in all those shopper crazed stores, you meet the most amazing people! I had the lovliest exchange with someone in a fabric store, filled with wild eyed, exhausted shoppers. I left there, really smiling and I think the girl behind the counter was genuinely smiling too! Enjoy it, each pearl in the strand as they come!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, anonymous, for your haiku ...

... and Ruth, this is such a productive time for you at the moment. Here is not the place to write at length about the relation between suffering and creativity, though I could write lots ...

... and George, yes, let these drums roll ...

... and Karin, what an inspiring comment! How well it shows that such ordinary, chance encounters can be pure, radiant now-ness, if only we smile, relax and let the moment in ...

Grace said...

I love this little story--now I wish I hadn't passed on my copy of the book!

I haven't expereinced this at my bucther, but did watch them easily cut up a whole lamb on their table saw (?) and it made me think about life and death and how we are all the same -- we're all meat and muscle underneath our skin. There was no denying that this meat was once a living thing.