The Zen Calendar with Quote of the Day
Happiness Page by Page
The bluebird carries the sky on his back
As I held the Zen Quote of the Day Calendar in my hands, I told myself that I didn't need another calendar. I had several already. I used a spiral-bound Week At A Glance book to keep my to-do lists and appointments. There was also a desk calendar that I used mostly for scratch paper and that kept me up to date on the approaching holidays. I had the formidable computer organizer called Microsoft Outlook, and also a PIM Personal Information Manager that came with the computer and has yet to be checked out. Plus, Google has an online calendar that's interesting, too. So I was well-equipped, calendar-wise, and, surely didn't need another calendar.
But I bought it anyway. The calendar was called the Zen Quote A Day Calendar. It was for sale at a calendar kiosk in the shopping mall at the start of the Christmas shopping season. After I glance through it, I thought to myself, I'll box it up again and give it to someone else for Christmas. It's a generic present, good for man or woman, for any holiday or for a birthday. I can re-gift it.
In this Zen Calendar, each day has its own page and its own Zen quote of the day. The Zen sayings were what I wanted to read. They are pointed yet ambiguous, inner-directed reflections on life and the self. Every day, they offer happiness, comfort and calming. Would you like a few examples?
I opened the calendar at random. Here's the quote for Thursday, July 20, 2008.
wears heaven and earth
as his summer clothes.
Kikaku is apparently the author. And I puzzled about the meaning. Am I myself the beggar who should care less about clothing and possessions? Will I find what I need in the natural world? Or should I look for a beggar who is in need of some summer clothes and also some help from me? Is it that heaven and earth are so sublimely beautiful? Maybe I should relax and let heaven and earth look after me? Obviously, I am a novice at interpreting Zen.
Let's try another page. By chance it's Wednesday, September 6.
The practice of Zen is forgetting the self
in the act of uniting with something.
Now that's more like it! It's happened to all of us. We've all been so wrapped up in a project that we lost all track of time, and even self-awareness. For me, it's computer programming that takes me out of myself. It's also racquetball, and most other sports. It's also reading and... Well, actually, I spend a lot of self-forgetting time. But is this what Roshi meant? I think not.
I'm flipping through the pages again for something you might like. Here's Lord Byron on October 27, with his bit of poetry, so it seems that Zen includes Byron.
There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture in the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music is its roar.
I love not man the less, but nature more.
August 30 belongs to Seneca. Pardon me, but wasn't he a Roman author from two thousand years ago? How Zen is that? All Seneca has to say is:
Begin at once to live.
And on October 25, Paul Cezanne, the French painter, has something to say along the same lines:
Right now a moment of time is passing by!...
We must become that moment.
And there was June 4, a truly memorable summer day, when Henry David Thoreau told me
The bluebird carries the sky on his back.
May 18, a Sunday this year, has time for a Chinese proverb:
When eating bamboo sprouts,
remember the man who planted them.
and a Kikuyu proverb for September 19 (I must remember to look up Kikuyu):
When elephants fight,
it is the grass that suffers.
Something interesting from The Buddha himself on Labor Day, September 4:
Learning and thinking are like being outside the door;
sitting in meditation is returning home to sit in peace.
February 22, Washington's birthday, offers a kind of riddle, a Zen Koan. "Koan" means something perplexing, or an insight. Westerners think of them as riddles, as I just found out. Please don't ask me for the answer; I don't know either.
In the sea of Ise, ten thousand feet down, lies a single stone.
I wish to pick up that stone without wetting my hands.
Franz Kafka uses Friday, May 19 to tell us:
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Aren't they lovely thoughts? As gentle as a baby's laugh, as tender as life itself. I'm tempted to go through all 365 days for you because different quotes will be special to each person.
Needless to say, I never re-gifted the Zen calendar. Instead, when I feel an unwanted tension, or a sense of panic fills my mind, or I can't see the forest for the trees blocking the way, I have a reason to stop for a moment, riffle through the pages of the calendar and read at random. The ideas always seem to be something I need. The calendar opens up little paths of daydreaming while my thoughts go hip-hopping along through that particular forest of my memories.
I hope life brings you much success.
I wish you a very happy day.
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