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Have You Ever Tried to Calm a Crying Child?

I ran across Swampland Flowers, the letters of twelfth-century Zen Master Ta Hui, while I was researching a book on contemporary medical science trends and innovations.


Don’t ask me exactly how I ended up with Ta Hui’s book on my Kindle, but I did. Ta Hui was a believer in the approach that one should be about the business of life, and not hole up away from the world to practice your faith, or your personal philosophy. In that approach, he faced resistance from many people of his time and location.


His letters are down to earth, full of many everyday experiences. One of these in particular struck me because it dealt with holding a crying child. Here’s the section:

Once you have achieved peaceful stillness of body and mind, you must make earnest effort. Do not immediately settle down in peaceful stillness–in the Teachings this is called “The Deep Pit of Liberation,” much to be feared. You must make yourself turn freely, like a gourd floating on the water, independent and free, and subject to restraints, entering purity and impurity without being obstructed or sinking down. Only then do you have a little familiarity with the school of patchrobed monks. If you just cradle the uncrying child in your arms, what’s the use?

TA HUI, ZEN MASTER, FROM SWAMPLAND FLOWERS


Actually, I led you astray, because the passage deals with holding an uncrying child.

How often have we seen a person hand off a child when it begins to cry? It’s one of the best known ways of shirking responsibility and passing the buck to someone else.


And, it’s a lot like attempting to accomplish anything worth doing. The easy way out is never the right way. And anything worth doing is worth going to the trouble to do it correctly.

Obviously there is a direct correlation between the “handoff” of a crying child and the failure to take time to plumb the depths of your soul.


Let’s fight the good fight together. Comfort the baby, and then pick up a pencil and bare your heart.

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