Advice From a Zen Fool
5:25PM Feb 1, 2022
Roshi Bodhin Kjolhede
blue ridge mountains
This is the last day of January 2022. And I'm going to in this podcast - this CoronaCast - try to turn a lemon into lemonade. And by that I am referring to the fact that a few days ago, I discovered that I had been scammed. And I want to talk about it.
I want to talk about it because as a kind of public service announcement, a warning, if I had had this kind of a warning a week or more ago, I don't think I would have been - I would have taken - I wouldn't have taken the bait that I did.
I'm also venturing into this more self disclosure than usual. Because I want to remind people that teachers have blind spots. Maybe you don't need to be reminded of that. But it's it's quite laughable how I how gullible I was with this incident.
But as far as making a lemonade, I can make some some Dharma points about this whole regrettable incident. And I hope lemonade may not be great, but hopefully be decent.
So here's what happened. Let me tell you because part of my interest in telling the story is to help me process it. I don't know if any of you have ever found that when you have some kind of unfortunate occurrence, some an accident or something. It could be kind of a silver lining to be able to talk about it. So this is what happened. A few days ago, I I discovered, oh no. A few days ago, I opened an email that was in the name of Milda. Mill live Avada. Milda was an early member of the Zen Center. She was already a star at the Zen Center when I got there in 1970 Milda was precocious. Milda was one of the first people to come to Kensho at the center. She had great leadership ability, highly intelligent, talented in so many ways. And Roshi Kapleau actually left her in charge of the Zen Center. This the management of the Zen Center, and I'm formerly a Dharma heir. But she left her left her in charge of the Zen Center in about 1973 or so as a teacher, and she was only 23 At the time, maybe 22. Well, her health broke down in those after six months of trying to manage this Zen Center that was bursting at the seams with 20 Somethings. And she she left she left staff and became very accomplished professional event planner. She came to our 50th anniversary in 2016. It's wonderful to see her but I've hardly I don't know that I've talked with her at all since then. So to find in my inbox and email from Melda was kind of exciting. So the but the message was a little puzzling. She in quotes, she was asking me for my help. It seems that she needed some iTunes I know some of you are already laughing. She needed some some gift cards iTunes gift cards, because her niece needed them and she was late for her there her birthday. And she needed him soon could I help out. So what does
Mr. knucklehead Hear do but fly into action. Now let me let me say my defense that I knew they were not supposed to answer emails and the name of people we don't know. Okay, Scott has drilled us that into us at the center. But I, if I ever heard about emails being hacked, it didn't sink in. Maybe Maybe once or twice I'd heard about it. But it was so riveted on helping poor Milda She sounded desperate, that all my good judgment went out the window. And I tore off and got the these went to Staples got these gift cards $100 Each for three of them. And the her instructions, again her in quotes. The instructions were to photograph the back of these cards, peel off the label that shows the code. I tried that a couple of times. And the reply came that the the photos hadn't come. So then the next message there were about a dozen messages back and forth because I was having difficulty understanding what was going on. The message came that Oh, here's another thing you can do is this after you've peeled off that label, just type out the codes on the back, eat on the backs of these three cards, type out the codes and email them to me. Ah, what a relief. Okay. So that's what I did. And felt very relieved that I couldn't help this poor Milda now I'll just finish the story. So after that, she thanked me and said I'm but but you know my niece? It's so long after a birthday. I can't remember what the excuse was. But could you send four more of these $100 gift cards? And that's when the light bulb went on over my head. And I realized I've been scammed. What makes it worse is that these emails were not perfect English. They weren't bad. I I thought okay. Having haven't talked to her in so long. She she did email me. I don't know. Last year, she mentioned that she had moved from her home in Naples, Florida, where she's lived for many years, she had moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains. And so the the story I was telling myself, in order to be able to ignore the problems in the text, that is the misspellings and the other little flaws. What I was telling myself was okay, she's on her back in bed in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And somehow she doesn't have phone service. I said in my email Milda Can't we talk on the phone, but she doesn't have his phone service. And who knows maybe she's she's got COVID She needs my help. This poor woman needs my help
anyway, I finally figured out what had happened and and deleted the messages. And meanwhile I emailed her she this is what happened. She she said that, that that email address in her name was completely made up a fake email address. She's never had that email address. And so she asked me to delete it and I did. But all of this was quite sobering, quite humbling for me. Because I should have known better. And this is this is what I can offer up is in terms of understanding it in Zen terms. My emotional response, overwhelmed my judgment overwhelm my rational mind. All I could think of was the need to help her My, my heart got the better of my head. In Tibetan Buddhism, there's something called discriminating wisdom. And maybe it's also in other kinds of Buddhism. But I've mainly heard in Tibetan Buddhism. My response was not I did not cover myself in glory, with discriminating wisdom. What was operating was a fixed idea that it had to be Milda because it was in her name.
There, we can speak of two ways of using our attention in Zen practice, there's using in a focused way, and using it in a broader panoramic way. The ladder the panoramic is more a kind of mindfulness, awareness of, of the bigger picture of ads, I did not have. The focus is is has been compared to like a flashlight. It's a directed, directed attention, all my attention was directed on Milda. The other one, the panoramic, has been likened to lantern awareness. And I had I had the flashlight on so bright, I wasn't seeing what was going on around it. The capacity, the inventiveness of the mind, in my case, to to, to find this all believable enough. Yeah, I wondered, what had what happened. She's She's a beautiful writer, she's written at least one book didn't sound like her. But again, I, I stitched together these reasons. Why? Well, it never even occurred to me if it occurred to me, Well, wait a minute, could this be a scam? No, that never entered my mind. So that's, that's not what we aspire to do. And in Zen practice is let our compassion or whatever, completely blind us to the whole, the whole picture. There's a is a call on and the Blue Cliff Record aware. Monk asks a master what what use does the bodhisattva of compassion make of all those hands and eyes, this is a reference to how the bodhisattva of compassion can own is often represented as having many eyes and hands. The eyes representing the noticing of the need the discerning of the need for help, and the hands is the reaching out the responding to the need. But the response in the call on the response is, from a master to this question about the bodhisattva compassion is, it's like one with outstretched hand reaching back for the pillow in the middle of the night. Beautiful, beautiful metaphor. Exquisite.
Yeah, this was the middle of the night as far as I discernment. And then I could offer some advice that I did not fail him. And that is how to deal with the aftermath of this. First of all, I had to do everything I could to try to undo this so called the credit card company I've used a credit card with to buy these three gift cards. They were not too encouraging, but they said they would investigate it and get back to us. And then the only other thing besides notifying Milda that her there's an email address out there, a bogus email address. The other thing was to go back to Staples and tell them my story, see if they could do anything. The manager who I spoke with was very sympathetic and He said, and now this is let me just say, this is part of the Public Service feature of this podcast. He said, he said, Do you remember me saying, when I rang you up asking you? Do you know, me, I ask what all these cards are for? And I had said, yes, it's for a good friend. And he let it go at that. But when I went back there the next day, and he asked me, Do you remember that? I said, Yes, he said, That's because it's so common. It happens all the time. So if every listener to this podcast doesn't already know how common that says, and would be unsuspecting, pass, pass on, pass the word. So that I'm the last person who gets duped in this way. And then after, after you've done everything you can, and then then our job. And our job is to let it go. Once you can't change, some mistake, something you regret. There, we need to let it go. Well, easier said than done. Right? Especially when you feel like such a such a fool occurred to me that here I was, I was being exam we're talking about Zen fool with a capital F, that is a, a no nothing someone and more like the idiot Dostoyevsky's novel The idiot, purity of mind. In this case, I felt like a Zen fool small f four. But then the job is how quickly can I put it behind me and forget about the whole thing. And this also gets into the matter of how we use our tension. In Zen practice, we learn how to direct our attention, not just as an exercise, but as a way to not suffer unnecessarily. And I've actually said this in, in workshops, when I open a workshop, I've sometimes said that meditation is the most intelligent thing anyone can do, because it, it determines how we use the mind determines our experience of the world. And then at the workshop, I'll sometimes use an example. So if something happens to you make a bad financial decision, and there's nothing you can do to rewind it, it's done, it's out of your hands, it's nothing to do well, then you have a choice view, continue to dwell on this. What's your mistake, which would be very easy to do? Or do you turn your attention to this, this moment here, not what happened and can't be changed. But this right here, again, this is the the directed use of attention the flashlight make can make all the difference in the world. Any kind of regret we have any kind of bad experience is to to keep our attention in this right here.
One other time that I suffered from I wouldn't even call it a scam. This was 30 or 40 years ago, where I trusted someone with to hold some money for me and never saw it again. The other thing you can do is to if you if you have to linger there a bit on what happened is to frame it, frame it in terms of karmic expiation. This is not any kind of fundamental resolution to it. I mean, it's still using the conceptual mind. It's creating a story, okay. What's happened here is I'm expiating some karmic debt and okay, I'm, I'm a little freer of that burden as a result of that. But better than that, better than that, is to not make it about myself. This is where you Having seen into the the emptiness of the self can make such a huge difference to have seen that what we call the self is just this this cluster of energy is this physical phenomena and mental phenomena has no fixed nature to it. So, why would you beat yourself up about something like that? Well that, that only go so far if this logic if it's just Okay, wait a minute, let's be logical about this, that that isn't gonna make a lot of difference but to the degree and it's always one degree or another to the degree that we have seen through the illusion of a fixed permanent self to that degree we're less likely to be beating up on ourselves because there is no self to beat up on we know it
so here I have what is that phrase in Shakespeare a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing
and then other constellation is to know that it's a learning it's a learning experience. I will never make this mistake again. And I hope none of you will ever have to make this kind of mistake you won't having heard this I'm sure you won't.
In in Xemnas, saying the person advanced in Zen practice has her head in the clouds but her feet on the ground Nilda we did talk we talked yesterday we caught up on the phone and she was in our car she was horrified that this had happened. I assured her that it was no one's fault. But my own she she was touched that I would respond so blindly. So with such immediacy. But that's that's not good enough. We have to we have to do better than that and taking the whole picture and and not not ignore what's right there these little flaws in the in the in the speech in the in the text of the email you know, one of the one of the tricky things that a teacher or a therapist faces is in the matter of self disclosure. This This story has been one of greater self disclosure unusual for me. But for all the reasons I mentioned, I thought maybe it could be of some help to air all this. Okay, that's all I got a happy new year. That is the this is the Asian New Year. And until next time, thank you