The old Buddhist masters I’ve been reading — Dogen and Foyan in particular — must have been crusty old bastards. They certainly did some hard traveling in the Woody Guthrie way, traveling back and forth from Japan to China, which is where the greatest Zen teachers lived. (Maybe that should be Way.) When a junior monk, accompanied by a couple of his seniors, asked Foyan a stupid question, the sage said, “If it wasn’t for you two old guys, I’d have punched that little bed-wetter out.” Still, what they meant by enlightenment is just straightforward happiness — managing to get through the day without freaking out. At the same time, of course, this is the toughest thing in the world and takes a lifetime to attain — this is seeing into the heart of things.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Humanities at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press (2001). He lives with his wife Carole, two Jack Russell terriers, Jett & Penny, & a Chocolate Lab, Angel, on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

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