Saturday, February 20, 2010

Close Friends

As it turns out, I didn't go see Laura Veirs at the Star Bar tonight after all. I had invited two close friends to join me, Nick, who I hadn't seen in a while, and his wife Andrea, who did go see Michael Goldman at Kavarna with me last month. They in turn invited me to join them and some of their extended family (siblings and in-laws) for dinner at Pho Dai Loi, a Vietnamese restaurant near my new office. Mealtime was early enough that we could eat dinner and still catch the show afterwards.

I agreed, and we had a very enjoyable meal and some great conversation (their being my close friends is also my being their close friend). But everything took longer than expected, and although we could have still caught the show by the time we were through, but just barely, everyone was too full and too tired to stand for three hours in a crowded bar to hear Laura. Plus, Eliot was still outside (he hadn't come in for dinner yet by the time I left to meet Nick and Andrea), so I felt compelled to come home and let him in. Once home, I stayed home.

Baso asked, "Well, what then is the right way?"

Even though what was said looks like an earnest question directly involving Baso at that very moment, Zen Master Dogen points out that it is also a question that refers to the way things are everywhere at this very moment in time. For example, think of a time when a close friend encounters a close friend: his being my friend is also my being his friend. The "what?" of one and "the right way" of the other are mutual manifestations of both perspectives at the same time.

The "close friends" in Dogen's example are disciple and master: when the disciple asks his or her spiritual question (the "what?"), the Master supplies the direction for the disciple to look (the "right way"). Although this may appear as a sequence in a dialogue, according to Dōgen, the answer to the question of "what?" is the "What."

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