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Lions Roar : May 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 81 THERE’S A CURIOUS EXCHANGE recorded in the Blue Cliff Record between a Chinese ministry president named Chen and Buddhist master Tzu Fu that has come to my rescue more than once. The ministry president, Chen, was a devoted and accom- plished follower of Chan Buddhism. The story goes that Chen went to see Tzu Fu, supposedly for instruction and guidance. When Tzu Fu saw him coming, he drew a circle. Some versions say he drew the circle in the air, though I like to imagine its being drawn on the ground. Seeing this, Chen said, “My coming here has already missed the point; how much more so to go on and draw a circle!” Tzu Fu thereupon went into his room and shut the door. When I put myself in Chen’s position, what I see most clearly is the image of myself standing outside that shut door. The story doesn’t tell the reader what Chen did about it. Did he go back to the ministry feeling that he’d wasted his time? But when that door shuts in my face, I want to knock on it and ask for a second try. I don’t know what Chen anticipated and what he thought would be worth the time he’d spent getting there, but whatever he was looking for, it apparently wasn’t the circle Tzu Fu offered him. It was Chen’s refusal that slammed shut the first door, which was then perfectly mirrored by Tzu Fu’s own shutting of the door to his chamber. Life frequently gives me circles when I’m expecting squares, or squares when I’m looking for circles. Whatever I happen to prefer, it might be interesting to see what could be done with what the universe actually offers me. What might Chen have discovered had he taken Tzu Fu’s offer? What if he’d been just a little more curious about what Tzu Fu’s circle might have had in store for him? I don’t know about your life, but my life is as much marked by what I’ve refused as by what I’ve accepted, like an apology offered me, which, once turned down, was never offered again, forfeiting the resumption of a friendship, or a young girl’s bid to dance with me, which in my farm-boy awkwardness I couldn’t handle and so made some lame excuse to opt out, remembering now the disappointment in her eyes as she turned away from me, or a trip I didn’t take with my brother, Rowland, who died before we could take another. Remembering the many regrettable refus- als of my life, I try not to argue with circumstance so much and take a good look at what’s being handed me. So when Billy Brown handed me his “business card,” I took it. I didn’t actually know Billy was Billy at the moment and can’t really An Inscrutable Balance Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to resolve a contradiction or arrive at a conclusion, the “answer” remains unknowable. A story about resting in uncertainty by LIN JENSEN. Balanced rock sculptures by Bill Dan. PHOTOSBYBILLDAN,COURTESYOFWWW.ROCK-ON-ROCK-ON.COM