How many times in your life did you surrender an idea because of lack of money? Don't answer, else you'll fall into depression. Obviously one must be able to make a difference in between what's real and what's an illusion. No one can just keep on going with desires of owning this and that. Often, to let go of things is really healthy. But what if you have the real wish of achieving something but find yourself in front of that obstacle? This is the key: to make the difference in between desires and wishes.
Let me put you on the way... can you really pray your heart open for something you desire? The obvious answer is no. I played lottery many many times trying all kinds of prayers and rituals and never ever won anything...lol. At least i played i often think. In opposition, a wish is a complete different process and most of my sincere wishes came true. A wish is like a dream. Unconsciously, naturally, automatically you understand that it must be surrendered, but still ... you feel like giving yourself totally into this wish, for the sake of it... whatever it will cost you. Could we then say that receiving is giving? I can't go really further on the reflection, this it would sound totally pointless to me... and monks must avoid pointless speech. So look, for some money is the way... but you and me know that the money way does not necessarily bring happiness (mostly beyond 75000 USD as Forbes published about american materialistic dream). If i add to that "there's no way to happiness, happiness is the way"... you understand even easier the heartless feelings of those in our world who are sitting on billions not doing shit to do some real altruistic good. In zen, the traditional sayings are intense and sometimes very hard to take. It often requires years and years of practice and to be honest, one won't solve the problem, one will just go beyond. We often say that in zen, there are no answers to questions, just questions that vanish in the company of an enlighten monk, nun, bodhisattva or master. But still it is very important to ask the master and listen to the answer... we call that mondo and became almost a ritual. But so, let me get to the simple point that motivated the will of writing that text. "Monks beg for their food"... is that it?
No, truth is that monks can receive your offerings without even letting you have anything else than an humble bow in exchange. In a way, receiving is an art that requires training and selflessness. To give money or food to a monk before the midday meal is a tradition in Japan. People do it in order to attract good karma. Yes, i agree, it's superstition. It could totally happen that you make an offering to a monk and while bowing back to him, you dislocate a backbone and feel handicapped for the coming future. Silly...
Don't worry, bad becomes good :) ... the opposite being unfortunately true also.
So in the end, monks don't do much. They mostly practice their very intimate art and enjoy their life empty handed, without trying to grasp whatever passes in between their fingers.
Was that the point? again no... sorry, missed it again
Monks work... and if they sweat in their robe they get screamed at because it then stinks in the dojo.
Zen is not this easy. Zen is not this difficult
I talk to those of you who wish to learn from me and can't because they believe they don't have enough money to pay for my services. Those who believe, like the communists when they arrived Tibet, that monks should not have any privilege and work like anyone else to make a living. Don't worry, that's what i do... at least i'm trying. I know how to work hard, i do that since age 16 and i know now how to easily accept donations without feeling bad about receiving help. The thing i seem to be unable to do is to sell myself and i keep on believing that this is good.
a traditional way of receiving offerings
Another key: selfless giving, selfless receiving. If my prices seem to cheap, you've understood that you can give more. Many of my students did. They always laugh when i say "i accept donations" If you believe my prices are to high, please understand that you can propose something else than money in exchange. We all need help unless we are determined to only live out of strength. That's the point i wanted to get through... hoping you understand here that it's not an attempt to discount the value of what you wish to obtain from me nor of what i will give you. If you believe i'm not cheap and still wish to receive my teaching, why would you be cheap yourself... you understand? I've been giving courses for free because i was sensitive to the dreams of these people who came to me begging, hoping, dreaming. I exchanged courses for services that those who wanted from me could provide and that i could not afford to pay for. I lived long enough in Sinai to understand that talking about price is caring about price. Obviously with balance and respect.
My point is made and i hope you'll receive it with consideration. Please just remember, i know what's a hard life and my strength is tough... so tough that my master often said it was or still maybe is my weakness. Only thieves believe they can get things for free, don't be one.
"Zen is just life, but just life without Zen is not Zen" - Mokushosama Before to let you meditate on your desires and wishes, let me count you some zen anecdotes about money.
The teaching tourist
One day in the temple, some codisciples come and wake me up during the nap time saying they're facing problems at the reception.
I wake up and warn them: "You know that if you wake me up during the nap because of problems, i will solve them". Meaning that in a way, i won't take direct responsibility about the method i will use to solve it...
"Yes, we know... but we could not find any other way". So there's a guy who does not want to pay to stay in the temple because, to him, spiritual teaching is supposed to be granted for free...
"Look man, you're here to learn right?"
"So why do you start teaching?"
"I won't pay money... i could work"
"Good, thing is that we all work here, that's part of the tradition. The thing you ignore is that we have a big lawn to the bank for having that temple and we must pay it back for around 15 years. We're not sponsored by the government and even if we receive donations here and there, we could loose the temple and all the good work people like you and me did or will do inside it could be lost if we can't pay it back... so for now you must pay. But we can make you a discount if you only eat soup and work in the kitchen for example."
"Ok bye" ... end of story
Be sure that this story repeated itself quite some time and that some became violent, insulted me, even one threatened my family with weapons... my god. One must definitely make an effort to go beyond money issues. In France for example, it is illegal to borrow money to someone you know cannot pay it back. Hard and sad, but totally, if not unfortunately, part of normal life and common sense nowadays. Accept the conditions said Bodhidharma.
Another one... very famous. This one is not a real story... or maybe, but it did not happen to me.
Having no money will cost you twice
Same story, the guy cannot pay. Well, in this case it's more that he does not have money at all... He thought that was for free and argue that spiritual teaching should be free. Then the master comes; the guy expresses his devotion and begs for staying in the temple. To that the master says "ok... for you it will be double price". Obviously the guy is shocked. The master goes on and says that in town the local restaurant needs a guy to wash the dishes.
I spare you from details but the reputation of the temple grew because of the dimension and simplicity of the teaching that was provided in there. The locals were happy that the master was caring about their problems. The guy made enough money to pay his stay and enough efforts to understand the teaching... and you know what? He even got seen by a beautiful lady that became his girlfriend.
A third one, very traditional:
The repented thieve
A thieve, during the night, enters the little monastery of a monk. He knew that the monk had receive some offerings the day before. Since he does not find the money, he wakes up the monk and threatens him with a knife:
"Where is the money? Give me your money!"
The monk answers peacefully:
"It's under the Buddha statue there. Take what you need but leave me a little bit of it so i can eat tomorrow"
The thieve checks out the altar, sees the money... and like in all good zen stories the thieve feels the repentance coming, collapses in the posture of sampai and asks the monk to teach him the way. Little cheesy but sweet...
The last one:
The moon through the window
On the morning, the monks wake up and realise that their money and food have been stolen during the night. They run in the room of the master... it's still the night.
"Master, our food and money have been stolen"
"Oh, they took everything?"
"Yes, even the Buddha statue!!!"
"Fortunately enough they did not take the moon i can watch through my window"
In the zen stories, the moon symbolises enlightenment. I hope you like zen stories...
Thanks for reading, may you all walk the Way in peace
Blessings and regards