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September 21, 2012

by Stephen Damon

On Monday, a couple of friends of my teacher took part in our weekly sitting.  They shared stories of their work with Katagiri Roshi as well as a children’s book, The Tale of Zen Master Bho Li, that they had written and just published.  As soon as I met them, I became aware that Dale and Barbara seemed like old friends or family that I hadn’t seen in a while.  And sure enough it turned out that we knew some of the same people and had sat in some of the same Zendos. It was like being in a foreign country and noticing that the stranger at the next table is speaking English.  Exchanging stories of our lives I felt an intimate interconnection with them that went beyond the boundaries of space and time.  Yes, they were members of a Zen community in Wisconsin and I belonged to one in California, but we wore the same robes, took the same vows, and were all members of the same sangha, trying to follow the same ancient path.

While I was thinking of interconnectedness, Dale told a wonderful story that I’d like to share with you this morning.  

A man was swimming alongside his motorboat when he noticed a school of Puffer fish swimming towards him.  As he looked at them he    noticed one fish that seemed to be having a hard time, swimming towards him.  As the fish approached him, the man noticed that it had a hook attached to his mouth.  The man grabbed the struggling fish and put him in a pale of water on his boat.  He then went ashore to get some tools to help him disengage the hook from the fish.  After he did so, he took the fish out to sea and released him.

A few days later, while the man was again swimming alongside his boat he noticed two Puffer fish swimming towards him.  When they got close they began to swim playfully in circles around him.  He soon recognized one of the fish from its scar. 

We’ve all read Buddhist books about interconnectedness and gratitude but the experience of this man is somehow more eloquent and more to the point than even the deepest commentaries by the most distinguished teachers.  One can imagine that the man might have read one of these books or heard a friend speak about these ideas, but it wasn’t until the ideas came to life that he believed them. 

I can only guess how this experience changed the man’s way of thinking about…everything.  But I know how the evening changed me.  To be honest, the idea of interconnectedness had always seemed a bit theoretical to me.  I had a taste of its truth but I had not yet been able to digest it fully.  After meeting Dale and Barbara as “old friends” and listening to this wonderful story, I felt profoundly interconnected not only towards the others in the room and the others whom I had not yet met, but also to myself.   

Thank you, Barbara and Dale for a wonderful evening.


From → Zen Buddhism

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