The Way to Cold Mountain Part 4 (end)

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

The practice of patience is acknowledging that feelings take time to process; limiting time may not be the best option for every client.  Lama Yeshe mentions three types of patience:  patience when harmed by others when we are suffering, and keeping concentration.[1]  Lama Yeshe’s definition of patience when we are harmed by others includes being harmed physically and mentally but not reacting by getting angry or harming them in return.  That immediately sparked in my mind when I had the situation with my tea group.  At the time I did not know how to react so I chose not to react or respond at all.  I did not necessarily realize that would have been a practice of my patience.

Practicing diligence is letting our relationships build on follow-up interactions, not just leaving them to grow like plants.  One session does not always solve the issue, or else clients may think that we do not care about them.  This is the same for our own individual practice.  No matter how much we can care for others, we still need time to care for ourselves.  I honestly felt different about self-care and did not realize its importance until I began to go deeper into chaplaincy work.  I was at Tzu Chi working at a mega health fair where there were about 8,000 patients and over 3,000 volunteers in attendance.  I was the volunteer coordinator so there was a lot of work before, during, and after the event in order to keep all the volunteers in order.  My hours during the weeklong fair were literally to go in before the sun came up and to leave when the moon was up.  I was already drowning in the pool of burn-out and I lost all motivation for life altogether.  There were times that I would want to hide in a corner and let the tears roll off my eyes because I was that tired.  I took a few days off after the fair and did absolutely nothing.  I did not communicate with anyone at all.  That did not feel good either, so I later picked up a sutra text and started reading it, after reading the text I got up and started to do things I liked like cooking, brewing tea, walking in the park.  My mind was off work but it was doing more than letting me sit at home with a dead mind.  When I came back to work I felt more energized and fully charged for the next task at hand.  That was when I realized the importance of caring for myself.

Through the practice of meditation, I can build upon the self and care for others whether physically or remotely via contemplative practice.  Venerable Master Hsing Yun in his book For All Living Beings talks about the Song dynasty poet Su Tung Po and his description on the stages of enlightenment in his poetry.  The main theme of the poems is the mountains and rivers have not changed much; it is the mind’s view of the mountains and rivers that change.[2]  Just like we already have the ability to meet the same Buddha at the same frequency, our minds just cannot get ourselves to break through the ice and fog which is our ignorance.  Even for myself, I have to reflect and think about how I interact with people, that is probably one of the most common subjects I meditate on, I also practice meditation through chanting, brewing tea, burning incense molds, and calligraphy.  Through these methods of meditative concentration, I constantly reflect on what would be the best way to present my best self for the benefit of the client and for all beings.

When the practices of the entire aforementioned are in motion, then the practice of wisdom can be activated.  Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this perfection as the perfection of understanding.  The perfection of understanding is not only the understanding that we are normally accustomed to, but a very deep understanding, the highest kind of understanding that is free from ordinary knowledge, concepts, ideas, and views.  In Sanskrit, this is the Prajnaparamita.  Thich Nhat Hanh used the example of loving someone and that if we can offer understanding to someone we care about, then that is true love.  My take on that is when the client and I reach common ground, then we can grow together.  This is when the ice has melted and the fog has disbursed, Cold Mountain appears after all.  Like going through the tearful experience of peeling through the layers and layers of an onion, Buddha Nature is found.

In the end, whose ice am I trying to melt?  Whose fog am I trying to disperse?  Am I awakening the Buddha Nature in the client or in myself?  Chaplaincy may look like a one-way street, but it is actually a development of both parties.  With that, I would like to dedicate any merit generated from this practice to all suffering beings, may they find the Cold Mountain in themselves.

May palms be joined together in every world expressing kindness, compassion, joy, and giving.

May all beings find security in friendship, peace, and loving care.

May calm and mindful practice seed patience and deep equanimity.

May we give rise to spacious hearts and humble thoughts of gratitude.

 

 

[1] Lama Yeshe. “The Six Perfections.” Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. March 03, 2017. Accessed December 05, 2017. https://www.lamayeshe.com/article/chapter/six-perfections.

[2] Xingyun. For all living beings: a guide to Buddhist practice. Translated by Robert Smitheram. New Delhi: Buddha Light Art and Living, 2011.

The Way to Cold Mountain Part 3

In the role of the chaplain, we have to be able to find ways to meet the client at their own level so that the client will be in a comfortable enough state to continue to express their feelings.  This reminds me of Vimalakirti—the way he helps people is by meeting them in their own environment.  He would even meet his clients at the bars or at the brothels.  I also remember watching The Gloria Tapes for one of my previous classes where the therapist would begin to smoke cigarettes with Gloria in order to be welcomed into Gloria’s comfort zone so she could express her feelings and thoughts.  Just like in the poem, if my mind cannot match with the client’s mind, then the cold mountain is nowhere to be found.  I think this concept is probably core to the role of the chaplain itself.

In Zen or Chan practice, the aim is to match our mind to the Buddha’s mind; or ignite our Buddha-Nature to have the same frequency as the Buddha.  To reach that level of frequency requires melting ice and disbursing fog, which can be compared to our constant application of the six perfections.  Thich Nhat Hanh in his text The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching calls these perfections the six steps to happiness because with this practice one can cross over, which is what the meaning of the Sanskrit word paramita means, to the state of liberation[1].  These practices can most definitely be applied when interacting with others in chaplaincy work.

The practice of Dana includes the practice of giving time and effort to be present for the client.  Throughout my time I have been reminded again and again to be present for others.  I have also discovered that now that almost everyone I know carries some form of a smart phone or a similar communication’s device, everybody likes to look down on their phones and not want to communicate as much with the physical world.  Everyone also likes to be productive and multi-task looking at their phone and doing other work at the same time, but if I am working with a client, I want to respect the client by giving him/her my full attention.  Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The greatest gift we can offer anyone is our true presence.”[2]  My understanding is that not only do we have to be physically present for the client but mentally present as well.  I also learned that that kind of practice is a key element in practicing the ministry of presence in chaplaincy.

Precepts: We cannot advise and fix but we can guide them to their own answer; especially when looking at the Bodhisattva Precepts (which I also uphold), I have to benefit beings and help them give rise to Bodhicitta, but I cannot really put it all on a plate and expect them to take it, like what Venerable Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain mentioned before that it builds up later without having to be attached to the fact that you have to build on it.[3]  In close relation to Patience I understand it as not trying to rush everything to a result that everybody may not be happy with, just as I mentioned with the Cold Mountain piece, Buddha Nature does not have a speed limit.  With that mindset I think the remaining perfections can fall into place.

[1] Thich, Nhat Hanh. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 1998.

[2] Thich, 111.

[3] Shengyen. The Bodhisattva precepts: directions to Buddhahood. Taipei: Dharma Drum Mountain, 2005. Accessed December 5, 2017. http://chancenter.org/cmc/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/TheSixParamitas.pdf.

The Precept Body in My Life Part 3 (end)

The biggest value to me and it is one of the precepts and practices I uphold the most is the practice of Bodhicitta.  My interpretation of Bodhicitta is to benefit beings and not to give up on beings in as many ways possible.  Before starting this program, the work that I have been doing involved mostly self-practice, group-practice, or performing chanting rituals dedicated to one of two purposes:  for the ill or for the deceased.  These practices are still on-going though—I will still sit in mindfulness in the morning for a few minutes, make my daily offerings, and then at the end of the day making a small offering to the preta or lower level beings with prayers of liberation.  This form of practice was partially inspired by Venerable Hai Tao of the Life TV Foundation in Taiwan, who taught that besides benefiting the human beings around us, don’t forget to do something for the beings that we cannot see with our eyes because they are in just as much suffering as myself if not more, they just cannot find a way to express it.  I feel that by practicing as so I have at least attempted to care for beings that we can and cannot see and kept my upholding of the practice of Bodhicitta.  Whenever I do these practices, I am reminded of when my family first escaped Vietnam as refugees, they were trying to escape from warfare, had very limited resources, and were risking their own lives to make it here.  According to what my mother would tell me, on the boat there was little to no water, little to no food and barely little room to walk around.  My mother has even seen dead corpses being thrown off the boat, these were usually people that died of starvation and before they were thrown out they were searched for anything of value.  The boat stopped at an island in Malaysia where they were given about small amounts of food and water as a form of relief and then took off again for Los Angeles.  The whole process on the boat to me felt like the preta beings suffering in the lower realms with no food or water, so my aspiration in my offering practices is that these beings can receive the dharma and offerings and be liberated to a better place.   Even now, on my way to the temple, there would be a beggar at the off-ramp and even under the baking sun he’s holding his hat out and whenever someone gave him something he would bow in gratitude.  If it was safe, I would roll down my window and grab some change from the coin case for him, and whenever I can remember I would carry an extra bottle of water for him as well.  Even when it is not safe or for whatever reason I forget, I would still pray that may he find fulfillment.

I am not a perfect person nor am I a perfect Buddhist, but with my practices of precept, meditation, and wisdom, I can be that much closer to a better self.  With precepts whenever I do something that falls in a grey area and I ask myself if the Buddha would do such a thing, that can be a reflection or meditative thought and in the end, if it is an action that is unwholesome I would avoid it.  Then I would learn the lesson from the action.  If I was perfect, I would become the Buddha already, but in his human life, I look at the Buddha as my role model and I try to follow his teachings as close as possible through precept, meditation, and wisdom.

The Way to Cold Mountain Part 2

In chaplaincy work, you meet a client and making that connection with the client can sometimes be as challenging as melting ice or penetrating fog; but once I overcome all of that, I can meet the client where they are.  I had this client, a little less than two years old; I could not get through to him much because he was crying, so I tried communicating with his parents.  His parents seemed mentally adjusted that their son will not survive but just could not get themselves to move forward beyond those feelings.  After the discussion, I discovered that their son would feel more comfortable listening to the recitation of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s name.  I asked permission to chant for a few minutes, we chanted together, and their son slowly stopped crying. I was able to open the floor to talk to the parents more in-depth.  I learned that the parents were very devout Buddhist practitioners and both parents had negative experiences from previous marriages.  They have made various pilgrimages to different Buddhist holy sites in Asia and were really interested in connecting with a temple that practiced the recitation of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.  I told them there was a temple in the Los Angeles area that was named after one of the Buddhist holy sites in China and that sparked their interest almost immediately.  I gave them the referral and they were so happy to be able to connect to a center even after their son eventually passed away a few months later.  I still recall during the eulogy that the parents were still grateful for being able to find a center and find spiritual care for their son even in his last moments.

I saw a video recently about the Buddha asking if one of his disciples was willing to go to this country where everybody led very unwholesome lifestyles.  The crime was high, families were broken, the government was corrupt, and the local king did not bother to care about the condition of his people.  The goal would have been to convert them to citizens that practice the Dharma through kindness and compassion.  None of the arahants were successful because they went in and gave their sermons in the traditional style of the high leveled seat and the audience at a lower level.  The citizens were not accepting of what the arahants were saying, nor was the king and his government.    The Buddha did not want to give up so he signaled Manjusri Bodhisattva to go.  Manjusri upon his arrival went to praise the local king for his great work towards the people and then tried to connect with the locals, finding their strengths and positives and praising them for their positive works.   The locals were moved and brought Manjusri lots of offerings.  Then Manjusri thought it was the right time to introduce the people to the Buddha, and the Buddha finally achieved the goal of transforming the locals to become devout practitioners of the Dharma.

It took me until the second to last semester in the program for me to realize that lowering myself down is my learning curve.  Whenever I talk to people I somehow have this mindset of having power-over before being able to gradually meet them at their level to continue the relationship.  I noticed that happening a lot this semester even with my own cohort-mates.  I feel like I let fog and ice buildup between my connections that even the summer heat cannot penetrate.  I need to work on my approach, and that’s been something I think I have been working on for a long time.  I sometimes let myself slide and forget that everyone’s Buddha nature grows at its own pace. Buddha nature does not have a speed limit; I just finished traffic school for the speeding ticket I received over a month ago.  Sometimes I have to repent for that because I may have unintentionally offended someone.

For example, in my tea meditation class, we have a small group of old students that have been continuing with the class for over a year or even since the class first started, I recall being the class leader for the longest time because nobody else was willing to do the job.  Eventually, people would comment on the way I manage the class or how I manage the new students in the class.  Sometimes I am not too fond of some members of the group giving me that kind of criticism because they may have been the ones that left me behind to continue this leadership role.  Recently our group is planning to go to a performance in Northern California but because I had to kindly deny the last person on the list to sign up because of over-capacity on the van, some other members of the groups are already spreading rumors that I am playing favoritism and only selecting people to go on this trip by my choice.  This was actually confirmed when someone accidentally recorded a portion of the conversation and posted it in the instant messaging chat group.  I reflected back on this situation and asked myself how am I going to react?  Or should I react?  In the end, I chose not to respond or react to the rumors or recording, because I felt that if I did make any sort of response, it would only cause more ice build and thicker fog to be slapped at me.

The Precept Body in My Life Part 2

There was one time I was having an argument with one of my Dharma brothers because I accused him of stealing one of my dharma instruments.  He would not admit to it and I still gave him the benefit of the doubt by trying to find it myself.  By the time I gave up finding it, I still accused him of stealing it and demanding him to return it to me.  I admit I have never been that angry about something like that before but that was one of those occasions where my whole precepts thing just flew out the window because I was so angry that someone I trusted would do that to me.  The temple custodian later found the instrument and gave it back to me, I asked where it was and he said under the table near the main shrine, it must have rolled off the table and fell under without anyone noticing.  At that moment I felt this big block of guilt on me, I took a few deep breaths after thanking the custodian and walked up to my dharma brother and humbly apologized to him and admitting that I wrongfully accused him of stealing and told him that I will be more careful before making such accusations.  My dharma brother accepted my apology and he went on with his business.  I on the other hand still decided to make three prostrations to the Buddha while contemplating back on the precepts and the Bodhisattva path before letting go of the incident.  I did not break down or anything but I made a prayer to the Buddha and told the whole incident and the whole process and repented for what I did.

The above incident may have been a more extreme example of when I did not uphold the precepts.  My Precept Master (Ven. Master Hsing Yun) gave a story about an Indian king returned to his palace from fighting a war and was unhappy with the meal he had so he ordered to have the royal chef executed.  The Queen, who was upholding the precepts at the time, wanted to save the royal chef’s life, so she invited the king to have a drink and requested an appetizer that only the royal chef knew how to prepare.  The king then realized that he just ordered for him to be executed and immediately ordered for him to be released, thus the queen successfully saved the royal chef’s life.  The queen violated the precept of consuming an intoxicant but that was her application of skillful means to save a life.  I think this is more like bending the precepts instead of breaking or defiling them because I feel like even though an unwholesome act was committed, the intention/mindset behind the action is more important so this may not necessarily mean that the precept is broken.  One experience I constantly have is with insects around my house.  Recently I found a wasp’s nest above my porch, there were still wasps swarming back and forth near my main entrance.  I did not know how to get rid of them since I was afraid that if I got stung I could get skin complications, and for the sake of my mother and young nephews, I had to seek professional help.  I called someone in and he sprayed some pesticide and at the same time in my mind, I was apologizing to the wasps.  That evening after everything got cleaned up, I did a smoke offering puja and dedicated the merit to the wasps that were lost.

The Way to Cold Mountain Part 1

Han Shan, or Cold Mountain was a legendary figure around the Tang Dynasty that was associated with a collection of poetry used by Zen, or Chan, Buddhists and Daoists alike.  He didn’t really keep to conventional tactics of paper, brush, and ink.  He carved on bamboo, wrote on walls, rocks, mountains, etc.  He is often depicted with Shi-de, the pair is always known as Han Shan Shi De.  Some believed that they were manifestations of Manjusri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.  There were no clear dates, or even a given name about Cold Mountain, but the common understanding so far was that he was around sometime during the eighth and ninth centuries.  Most of his footprints were around the Tien Tai Mountains of the area south of Hangzhou.  Many of his works were written near the area.  He wrote about 600 piece of poetry, of which 313 pieces were collected till this day.  The content of his works mainly revolve around his experiences or encounters he has had with people he met or even his thoughts about society.  His works can be of simple observation, natural or social, but can definitely transcend what seem to be mundane facts into ultimate truths.  That was how Zen Cold Mountain was.  For this reason, and the attractiveness of overall biographical mystery, countless poets, scholars, misfits and Zen practitioners today count themselves amongst the devoted.  He never wrote by traditional brush and paper though.  He carved on the walls of the caved he lived in, the trunks of surrounding trees, bamboo husks, etc.  For this paper I will quote one of Cold Mountain’s poetry and share my reflections along with commentary from current Masters.

人問寒山道,寒山路不通。夏天冰未釋,日出霧朦朧.
似我何由屆,與君心不同。君心若似我,還得到其中。

There exist many translations of the above poem since the 1950s by writers such as Burton Watson, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, etc.  I have chosen two translations, one by Red Pine and another by the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for the purposes of this presentation:

Trans. By Red Pine

People ask the way to Cold Mountain,

But roads don’t reach Cold Mountain.

In summer the ice doesn’t melt,

And the morning fog is too dense.

How did someone like me arrive?

Our minds are not the same.

If they were the same,

You would be here.[1]

 

Trans. By Josey Shun and Bhikshuni Heng Yin of City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

People ask the way to Cold Mountain:

There is no path.

How do I get there?

My mindset is different.

If your mind becomes like mine,

You will get there with ease.[2]

Cold Mountain himself lived in a cave and would sometimes travel down Tian Tai Mountain at times.  He would also stop at Guo Qing Temple as well.  When people wanted to visit him, they would not know how to find him or where to find him.  Navigation was not yet invented.  When Cold Mountain wrote this poem, was he thinking about the physical phenomena?  Could he have thought that since he could not install lighting to show where he can be located, that people could find him easily through his writings?  Masters such as Venerable Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan may think otherwise.  His take on the poem is referring to the Cold Mountain inside us.  Venerable Master Hsing Yun taught that because the common person’s mind still differentiates, he cannot connect with the Cold Mountain.  Someone can ask what Cold Mountain’s stage of cultivation was.  Such differentiation like that could not experience what Cold Mountain has experienced.  The mind is like free-flowing water, but because of a single thought of attachment the water solidifies into ice, and even under the summer heat the ice cannot melt.  The sun’s rays can shed light all over, but a single thought of ignorance can be like the thick fog, even the bright sun cannot penetrate through it.  Cold Mountain’s state of mind is like the vastness of space, the layperson’s mind has limits, the stages are quite different, but if our stages are similar, melting the ice mountain of differentiation, disbursing the fog of ignorant views, then our minds can meet each other.

[1] Shan, Han. The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. Translated by Red Pine. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2000.

[2] Professor Yeh Chia-Ying. “Lectures on Tao Yuanming’s Poems (continued).” 萬佛城金剛菩提海 Vajra Bodhi Sea. January 1, 2000. Accessed December 08, 2017. http://www.drbachinese.org/vbs/publish/356/vbs356p035.htm.

The Precept Body in My Life Part 1

I was fortunate enough to be able to receive precepts from various elders in this lifetime, but I do not let these different transmissions confuse myself in my own practice because I believe that the precepts all have common ground and do not stray too far from the root precepts.  Venerable Master Hsing Yun explained to us when we took precepts under him that the precepts are to be looked at more as a matter of respect for oneself and others’ freedom instead of a form of limitation.  The first five for example he described them as:  (1) To protect lives instead of harming lives, (2) to give instead of steal, (3) to respect one’s character/dignity instead of acting in misconduct, (4) to praise others instead of lying, and (5) to refrain from intoxicants.

When I first heard about the precepts back in the late 90s, I thought they were the same as the Ten Commandments, and thought they were a set of rules we had to live by as a Buddhist and if we defiled them we would be stripped of the label Buddhist or something to that nature.  I did not feel comfortable having that kind of mindset so I did not register for the transmission ceremony.  I was convinced later when I attended a seminar at Hsi Lai Temple, someone asked a question about precepts and the speaker described the first five like the Venerable Master did and then I decided to give it a try.  It was only a one-day ceremony and seminar I thought there was not much to lose at the time.  During the seminar the Master described the precepts again and by then I felt more and more comfortable about the precepts.  The Master gave many examples of upholding the precepts and when would it be okay to bend the precepts instead of defile them (the term defile is more like breaking the precept without turning back whatsoever).

I understood the upholding of precepts as a form of freedom more than a form of constraint because I felt it made sense to me when the Master used an example that those that are incarcerated are constrained because they did not follow the law and those outside follow the law.  That made me connect to this whole precept thing and I felt more confident to continue on with the transmission ceremony.  I feel that upholding the precept is something that I as a Buddhist do on a daily basis, but not necessarily have it as something I would stand out as an independent part of my practice.  For example, my daily practice routines include recitation, contemplation, and prostration, but instead of having the precept practice separate from the three, I sort of incorporate them into my prostration practice as a form of repentance.  Whenever I do my prostrations, as I bow my head towards the prostration stool, I would recite the repentance verse found in the Avatamsaka Sutra, “All the unwholesome karmic acts I have created in the past from beginning-less greed, anger and ignorance, all that arose from my body, speech and mind, for all these I now seek repentance (I usually read this verse in Chinese since that was what I was brought up to do this practice with).”  Another method I picked up from the Venerable Master was before doing something to ask myself, “Would the Buddha do this?”  An example would be when I was at McDonalds, after picking up my order I would go to the drinks and condiments section to get the drinks and ketchup and stuff, when it came down to the napkins, before I would just grab a big stack and stuff my bag before I head out the door, now as I reached for the napkins, I would stop for a few seconds to ask myself, “Do I really need all these napkins?”  “Would the Buddha use so many napkins for one sandwich?”  and then grab only two or three sheets and walked away.  That action of asking myself that question really helped me a lot in upholding precepts, though there were some extreme cases that made me somehow put this whole protocol aside.

Spiritual Distraction

There have been more than a few occasions where someone will have an issue and after consulting with a monastic or a minister, that person has prescribed to do a certain number of recitations and meditate for x times per day at whatever minutes per session.  After performing all those actions, the problem never seemed to go away in the first place, if not ferment into something worse.

I’ll give an example with fictional characters:

Mike has been out of work for over a year now.  He has been able to do some side jobs and some cash jobs to keep him afloat, but he knows that continuing to do that will not be sufficient in the long term.  He went to his nearest temple and talked to the resident monk about it and this is what he got:

Mike:  Sensei, I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m not sure where I can go.

Monk: How are you maintaining yourself?

Mike:  I have some side jobs that can barely make ends meet.

Monk:  I see, you should do some wealth-increasing recitations to help you along.

Mike:  I have.

Monk:  Oh! Then you probably have too much bad karma, you’ll need to repent all of that first.

Mike:  But I don’t have money to host repentance rituals.

Monk:  You do them at home, focus on repenting and nothing else, day in, day out, you’ll get good news sooner or later.  Trust me.

Mike: But…

Monk:  If you don’t get rid of that yucky karma you won’t be able to go anywhere.

Mike: Okay…

So the point is, some of these monastics don’t completely realize that not everything can be remedied with ritual alone.  I’m not arguing that it hasn’t worked in the past, but life has become much more complicated now and we all can’t wear a one-size fit all shirt.

During my chaplaincy program, I learned the hard way about not going that route, and later in the program, I completely understood why.  Let’s see what happens if Mike talked to another monk:

Mike:  Sensei, I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m not sure where I can go.

Monk: How are you maintaining yourself?

Mike:  I have some side jobs that can barely make ends meet.

Monk:  I see you’re trying real hard to keep yourself afloat during this transition period.

Mike:  Yes!  It’s stressful and I feel it’s getting in the way of my practice.

Monk:  Well, it’s still important that we have to take care of ourselves externally before working internally.  Could I suggest you maybe consult with an agency to maybe link you to some better-paying jobs?

Mike:  But I don’t have money to do that.

Monk:  I think you can do a little bit of research into that.  Most of them are free until you get hired I think.

Mike: Wow, I never knew that.

Monk:  I have faith you will find a job that will be of the best benefit to you.

Mike: But how about my practice?

Monk:  Well, of course, don’t lose faith and hope.  If you want to talk you can always come over, don’t be a stranger.

Mike:  Thanks Sensei.  I really appreciate it.

Monk:  Have lunch before you go?

Mike: Can I?

Monk:  Sure, it’ll take off one less worry, right?

Mike:  Thank you so much Sensei!

See?  Well, it may not be the most perfect form of spiritual care, but the second monk didn’t immediately impose the need to do ritual or address concerns too far away from the more pressing issue.  These are the kind of things I do on a daily basis, and it sort of gets me when I hear about too many encounters like Mike and the first monk.

What do you think?

 

Watercress Soup

img_2083One of my favorite soups next to lotus root soup, especially when I start seeing bunches of this stuff stacked up in the produce area, it’s something I can’t resist.  I made a pot a while back and wanted to share with you all since this vegetable is coming into season.

You can easily feed a family with this soup, but it’s also good to keep in the fridge for a while as long as you only heat what you need.  You will need some simple ingredients, but can be easily modified.

1 bunch of watercress, washed and drained.
1.5 to 2 cups of carrot, chopped into big chunks
1 cup of vege meat, I used a mix of vege lamb and a veggie soup meat since it already has oils and seasonings that I don’t need to add later.
1/2 gallon of water in a soup pot.
Pinch of salt to taste

You want to get the water boiling first before anything since that can take some time.  Once the water boils, the vege meat and carrots go in, let it boil again.  Add the watercress a little bit at a time so that the final product doesn’t clump together, or you can choose to chop up the watercress if you so prefer.

Let the whole thing boil again and turn to medium-low heat and let simmer for about an hour.  Season with salt to taste and it’s ready to serve.

An alternative would be to add a dried sugar date for taste (about the size of a quarter) and a tablespoon each of the Chinese Northern and Southern Almonds along with the carrots.  This product would need to cook longer, about 1.5 to 2 hours in order for all the flavors to come out.

A cooler alternative would be to make watercress tea, where you just boil watercress, a sugar date, and water, then strain, cool, bottle, and fridge.  It’s a great way to cool down when it really gets hot in the summer months.

This was a recipe I learned since I was a kid and I stood by it ever since.  Give it a try, and I’ll see you next post.