Thursday, June 20, 2013


In my backyard, we have a beautiful Japanese maple standing about eight feet tall. We planted it three years ago and it is growing splendidly. My daughter even named it, "Snow Bo Briar Rose." Quite a name, huh?
My family is planning to move some time next year and we will miss her. The tree not my daughter; the latter is coming with us!

Last weekend as I was mowing the lawn, I noticed a Japanese maple seedling sprouting between the driveway slabs of concrete. It is red, has three leaves, and is so tiny that a misplaced footstep could kill it. Although it would be super cool if the seed had come from our tree, I'm pretty sure that the seedling must be the offspring of my neighbor's tree, which is much closer to our driveway. Not that it matters.

So yesterday I wet the brief wedge of soil where the maple was growing, and when it was fully saturated, I transplanted the two-inch tree into a pot. The goal, of course, is to nourish it and bring it along with us to our new house, where we will replant it.

Although there is something very appealing to my aesthetic sense about the symbolism of the act, I am far more impressed by the sheer vulnerability of the plant. I have grown marigolds from seeds before, but that is a small feat. A tree, on the other hand, is something to marvel at. Not because it's an accomplishment, but because a tree is so vividly alive, especially a beautiful maple.

The other day in one of my Dharma talks, I addressed the meaning of life. Nothing grates my nerves more than the question, "What is the meaning of life?"

I want to shout, "Life is!" Life does not serve anything beyond itself; life is a means unto itself. 

The seedling doesn't need a purpose beyond its own existence. I'm not just referring to life as the period between birth and death, I mean LIFE, the seamless instantiation of being which is embodied by life here and now. The Absolute manifested in this present moment.

Why should that be subservient to anything else?

In my opinion, people place way too much emphasis on events, as if life were a kind of grand storytelling, where we are all lead actors and God is the author of our own personal tale. They read omens in everyday events, as if the universe is trying to send them a personal message. "God was trying to tell me something. It couldn't have been a coincidence..."

But that's yet another idea to let go of. My life does not point to some greater meaning beyond itself; it is the meaning itself. That's what Zen is about waking up to. Just this moment, right here, right now, is complete unto itself.

Lacking nothing.

And as I gaze at that naked, vulnerable seedling, I am gripped by such an appreciation for both this (my) life and LIFE itself.

Thanks to Seonsanim Lynch and my family for helping me see that.

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