Eating the Blame

From: After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

By Jack Kornfield

When we are confused or in pain, we often judge ourselves as
“not spiritual enough.” But the awakened heart does not judge
anything-not our family or our love, nor our pain and confusion,
our passion or anger. “Terrible harm has been done by this
misunderstanding,” said one Catholic monk.

In mature spirituality we are willing to have a dialogue
with pain, with evil, to hold them in our prayers. In
situations Of great pain, someone has to consciously
suffer the impact, to become the ground where the
sorrows can be held and reworked. These things can be
carried with grace. But it can’t be faked. If you go to
someone with 99 percent of goodwill and are still caught
in 1 percent anger, all they feel is the anger, and it pushes
them from reconciliation. The heart has to willingly hold the
whole of suffering for it to be transformed.

In Zen, holding the suffering sometimes takes the form of
“eating the blame.” It is illustrated by the story of a
cook who made soup for the monks from a turtle offered by
fishermen that morning. When the soup was ladled into the
monks’ bowls, the roshi bellowed for the cook to come out.
The turtle’s head, which should have been removed before
serving, was floating in the master’s bowl. The cook bowed
to the master, looked into the bowl, saw the problem, and
with a deft movement of chopsticks plucked the turtle head
out and ate it. Then he bowed to the master, the master
back, and the cook returned to the kitchen.

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Sure Heart’s Release

From After the Ecstasy, the Laundry:
How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path

by Jack Kornfield

For almost everyone who practices, cycles of awakening and
openness are followed by periods of fear and contraction.
Times of profound peace and newfound love are often over-
taken by periods of loss, by closing up, fear, or the discovery
of betrayal, only to be followed again by equanimity or joy. In
mysterious ways the heart reveals itself to be like a flower that
opens and closes. This is our nature. The only surprising thing is
how unexpected this truth can be. It is as if deep down we all
hope that some experience, some great realization, enough years
of dedicated practice, might finally lift us beyond the touch of
life, beyond the mundane struggles of the world. We cling to
some hope that in spiritual life we can rise above the wounds of
our human pain, never to have to suffer them again. We expect
some experience to last. But permanence is not true freedom,
not the sure heart’s release.

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