A half year ago in Malaysia, I met a Polish guy who had trained heavily in ninjitsu and was generally an admirer of Japanese culture and philosophy.
He and I talked for a number of hours, and we swapped a few book recommendations. I had just finished my copy of "The Samurai Ethic and Modern Japan" by Yukio Mishima, so I gave that to him as a gift. He recommended a number of good books and things for me to look up.
One of the books he turned me on to was "Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings" - and he gave me a link to a site where you could read all the stories for free, 101zenstories.com
I go back to the site for inspiration every month or two. I quite liked this one, "No Attachment to Dust" -
Zengetsu, a Chinese master of the T'ang dynasty, wrote the following advice for his pupils:
Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student.
When witnessing the good action of another encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing of the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.
Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature.
Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.
A person may appear a fool and yet not be one. He may only be guarding his wisdom carefully.
Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain or snow.
Modesty is the foundation of all virtues. Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.
A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.
To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him.
Censure yourself, never another. Do not discuss right and wrong.
Some things, though right, were considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave immediate appreciation.
Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe. Pass each day in peaceful contemplation.
Some of the koans and writings appeal to me and make sense. Some don't. But it's definitely worth going through a few if you want some inspiration.
"Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature."
"Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain or snow."
"To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him."
I definitely agree that some of the koans make sense and others don't. However I have this on audio book and have listened repeatedly to many of the ones which seem to me to be way out there. Eventually the meanings behind some of the really obscure ones do come into clear focus in the most visceral ways... When this happens, it's an extremely pleasurable experience in the true Epicurean sense of the word. Keep Digging!
Some of them have hidden meaning while some have meanings that would change as you go through life. I would like to know what appeals/makes sense (or not) to you and why.
Follow up to Christopher's comment on "Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.": I am going to guess that the author may not have meant it 'literally', i.e. to live in bad conditions or not having finances to take care of oneself or a family. It could mean to be aware of such things and not taking things for granted? Possibly, others may have different interpretation. It did not make sense to me but I realized you can't take everything too literally even thought we only have words to go by sometimes.
Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.
I ask you with sincerity: in your travels, have you ever had a glimpse of poverty as a condition to be treasured, either for yourself or for others?
If so, what were your impressions? Could such a condition be lived on a permanent basis? Or do you believe such a condition is best experienced as temporary?
I appreciate the link to 101 zen stories. I bookmarked it for future reference.
My name is ... I contacted you a couple days ago after being completely taken by your about page. I'll keep my introduction brief.
I am 19 years old, and I am a freshman studying --- at --- University. I spend my time preparing school work, writing code, playing and writing music, trying to to take care of myself, and always looking for the next big step. Regardless of the present activity, I tend to lose myself if I am not, at least at some level, processing my thoughts and external stimuli toward a general direction of realizing ever changing day-dreams. I feel incredibly grateful to have experienced (what I consider to be) success and fulfillment in this regard thus far. So much to do, so much to learn, so much to improve, so much to live. Always.
What struck me about what I've read of your content so far is that our philosophies have many intersections—an utter refusal to settle for the status quo when it can be improved, the desire to optimize the overlooked and the under-appreciated, an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and the need to produce and contribute creatively, to name several. However, your approach seems wonderfully more refined. I've explored your writings only briefly, and already I have learned much. I very much look forward to diving deeper.
It's a pleasure to talk with you Sebastian. The fact that you make yourself available as you do is greatly appreciated and deeply humbling.
This life that comes to be so incredibly crippling. The hollowness that sears.
We know we are all terrible sinners. The wretched labour of being just yourself, culmination of pains and scars and mistakes that corrode your soul. The only hope you have that Christ would save your wretchedness, your broken mind and body.
The Christian walks in love, brings glory to God in his service. Yet the inner furnace is so consuming it leaves no room for anything, for anyone. So well i know how short I have fallen, paralysed by my sins. I call out to God, to fill up the gaps in my soul, to have even a small taste of His glory, that might be enough for me to walk the rest of my life to serve Him.
"I tarried there in the ageless time of that land where days bring healing not decay"
Every single day is a hope that Jesus returns. Yet in this time before he returns, the pain so great, the shame of disappointing him, so unbearable.