The first Zen master to teach in the United States was a man named Soyen Shaku of the Rinzai school of Buddhism. He is quoted as saying, “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” Those were profound words considering he was afflicted with neither acid-reflux nor acute blindness.
It is said the Rinzai master devised a list of eight rules and practiced them daily his whole life. The list is pretty straightforward and can be embraced by anyone, regardless of religious belief or socio-political leanings. Soyen Shaku’s list of rules is as follows:
In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.
Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.
Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.
Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.
When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.
Do not regret the past. Look to the future.
Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.
Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.
Of course, Soyen Shaku’s rules were written some time ago and the language is a bit stiff. I bet a lot of people nowadays either get bored and quit reading or become confused and decide to just go on being jerky simpletons the rest of their lives. Pondering that, I decided it might be nice to translate into 21st century English the wise sentiments expressed above so that they might be further proliferated. So here is my contribution to global spiritual enlightenment, a present-day translation of Soyen Shaku’s eight practices:
Inward reflection is best in the morning. Do it naked with some nice aromatherapy candles burning.
Stop partying all night and eating crappy fast food at 2am. And no more super-size!
Keep it real.
Don’t bullshit people and don’t be a flaky asshole.
Don’t be a gullible dipshit or a clueless loser.
Get over it and move on.
Be like Dr. Who.
Crash out hard but don’t waste the day in bed.
There, doesn’t seem quite so daunting now, does it?