The Courage of a Patch-Robed Monk

It is easy, day to day, to feel that what I do, what I deal with, is so small in the grand scheme of things. When reading the newspaper and listening to the news, hearing of the wars, violence, turmoil of the world, my own struggles and concerns seem diminuitive, tiny. What does it mean to focus on personal growth and discovering my own true self, when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?

Joan Amaral gave a dharma talk at the Rohatsu Sesshin in which she quoted this passage from Dogen’s “Eihei Koroku”:

“Traveling the land without fearing the tiger is the courage of the hunter. Sailing the sea without fearing the deep sea dragon is the courage of the fisherman. Facing the sword drawn before you and seeing life as like death is the courage of the general. What is the courage of a patch-robed monk? Set out your cushions and sit; lay out your bowls and eat. Exhale through your nostrils, radiate light from your eyes. Do you know there is something which goes beyond? With vitality, eat lots of rice, and then use the toilet. Transcend your personal prediction of future buddhahood from Gautama.”

There are different kinds of courage. In my heart, I know this to be true. The courage it has taken me to find peace with myself is just as great as that of the general or the hunter. Different, but equally valid.

Dogen tells us that simply by setting out our cushions and sitting, we can find transcendence. He honors that everyday courage of being alone with ourselves.

And, I do believe, that coming to the point where I can “radiate light from my eyes” will, eventually, change the world.

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  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Michelle. To radiate light will change the world. In my personal practice while moving in the world, I often times recite a quote from Suzuki Roshi, “to shine one corner of the world–that is enough.” When I think of this quote, I feel refreshed and connected to the river of life, where I draw the strength and courage to keep on shining.

  2. Jennifer, I love the Suzuki-roshi quote! Thanks for sharing it. It has been added to my “quotes to remember” Word doc. I know that when a meet a person who “shines” – it transforms me. A good reminder that it is the moments, not the grand acts.

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