May 20, 2009
that was all
One day, a Zen student came to his master and asked him a very important question about the ultimate reality. He had been there for three years, but he believed that his master had not taught him the best things concerning meditation. So he presented himself that morning to the master, hoping that he would teach him very important things. The master pointed to a cypress tree in the front yard and asked the student whether he had seen it or not. That was all. The master refused to say another word. I think perhaps the student had gone by that tree many times a day for many years but he had not had a chance to really look at the tree. Therefore, his master wanted him to go back to the tree and look at it. And that was his deepest teaching. I don't know whether the student got the message, but when I read the story, I got the message. If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, it will be impossible for us to meet anything, including a flower or a tree.
[...] To go back to yourself, to be yourself again, in order to be in the present moment, in order for the encounter with the flower to be possible; that flower and [...] that cypress tree, they are life, they represent life. And if we cannot meet them, we cannot encounter them in a direct way, we miss life.
Thich Nhat Hanh, from the Dharma Talk Truly Seeing (available on cd, Parallax Press)