The Still Mind

Our world observed from stillness


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The Still Mind – Zen Tales Of Shi Song Shu – Chapter 2: There Is No Enemy

There is No Enemy

Shi Song Shu having learned vegetable planting from his mysteriously intriguing human teacher, was in the garden tending to his corn stalks. The sun was directly overhead, signaling the appearance of mid-day. A breeze suddenly arose, and Song Shu stopped to bask in the brisk relief it brought from the pounding sun. A rustling noise caught his attention, and his ear twitched as it honed in on the direction of the sound. Being that there is a family of stray cats that roam around the neighborhood, Song Shu was quite sure he knew what the sound was, and he feigned obliviousness, continuing with his gardening. The cat closed in step by deliberate step. He got close enough to pounce, and as he leaped, Song Shu evaded his attack effortlessly. The cat continued to pursue, but his advances were futile as Song Shu seemed to dodge and float through the air as freely and evasively as rice paper caught in the wind. It was not long until the cat tired, and his advances were diminished to labored panting. Song Shu, seeing that the cat was unable to continue, approached him and drew his dried gourd of water and handed it to him. The cat initially stunned, not wanting to pass up a drink of water at this critical moment, grasped the gourd and tossed it back. Song Shu stood and smiled as he watched the cat take in this desperately needed water.
“Thank you,” the cat began, panting as the last drops of water dripped from the fur on his lower jaw, “may I ask why you saw it fit to give me a drink even after I just tried to eat you? I must say, it rather took me by surprise.”
“You needed water,” Song Shu replied in his even-toned voice.
“Well sure, but you could have died because of me,” the cat said, trying desperately to understand his former prey seemingly turned friend.
“Maybe, but I didn’t, and you still needed water,” replied Song Shu, still in his original even tone. The cat’s stomach grumbled. Song Shu continues, “I was just about to make something to eat. If you are hungry, I can make something for you also.”
“Well, I am hungry, but I don’t want to impose.” His stomach grumbled again.
“No imposition, I assure you it’s quite alright. Come.” Song Shu prepared two bowls of noodles for the two of them, and they sat together at the table at the base of Song Shu’s tree. Song Shu said nothing, but all the while, the cat was running thoughts around in his mind. He had clearly just tried to take this humble little squirrel’s life, but now he acted as if it never happened, and even made him a bowl of noodles to quell his hunger. Song Shu could sense the weight on the cats mind, and without looking up from his bowl of noodles, asked, “What’s troubling you, friend?”
“I’m just confused, I suppose. Most squirrels are afraid of us cats, and stay away. Likewise, we cats chase those squirrels and try to eat them, so naturally the squirrels would stay away. But you seem not to be scared, nor are you trying to flee. Instead you invited me to a bowl of your delicious noodles… Some would say that we are supposed to be enemies,” the cat explained. Shi Song Shu gave a soft chuckle at the cat’s last sentence, and lifted his chopsticks to his mouth, and sucked the noodles in with a quick slurp.
“There is only an enemy when your mind says there is an enemy. If one is not to be another’s enemy, he need only put down the idea for it to happen,” Song Shu replied, once again, in his tranquil tone. “You tried to eat me because you were hungry. Your mind saw a squirrel and equated me with food. When you could not catch me, I surmised that you were still hungry, thus, I offered to make you some food so you could fill your stomach.” Shi Song Shu took another slurp of noodles, then continued, “I have no wish to be enemies with you, so why would I act in a manner that enemies do?”
The cat was puzzled, for he did not know how to respond to Song Shu’s answer, and it completely took him by surprise. He had never thought of this type of situation in such a manner before. He had no words. Song Shu gently took notice of the cat’s silence.
“Ah ha!” Song Shu exclaimed, chuckling blissfully, “there you are! An honor to make your acquaintance, my friend,” bowing his head slightly, eyes seemingly shut. The cat was perplexed, yet also intrigued by this most peculiar squirrel. He replied, in soft acknowledgement, nodding his head in return, “An honor.”
“Some tea?” asked Song Shu, offering his special brew of pine tea.
“Yes, please,” replied the cat, humbly.

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The Still Mind – Zen Tales Of Shi Song Shu Chapter 1: The Doing That Has No Meaning

Song Shu sat on the deck of his tree temple which he built not long after he began his seclusion. He was sitting, meditating on the sunrise. Yellow-stained orange light illuminated Song Shu’s sitting place, as not one movement was there from his body; breathing steady as a mechanical pump. Chirping from the birds suddenly arose as the sun drew higher in the sky.

“What are you doing?” came a voice from in back and above Song Shu. A young bird sat atop the temple roof, peering down at the unmoving squirrel.

“I am sitting,” replied Song Shu as he let the air from his lungs escape as smoothly as water through a cell membrane. He did not turn around to see who it was. He continued in his unflinching pose.

“What for?” asked the bird, fluttering down to get a glimpse of this peculiar squirrel. “Are you injured or something? Can you not forage today?”

“No, I am quite well.”

“So why are you sitting here like this?” the bird was increasing his curious tone, as he sought to inquire as to the strange non-activity of the squirrel.

“Just to sit.”

“Oh…” The bird was rather unsatisfied with this answer. This squirrel’s strange manner rather perplexed him, since he had never seen anyone, let alone a squirrel, sitting so still unless it was feeding on an acorn, or scared stiff. The bird began to pace around in front of Song Shu, studying him, thinking, reasoning. He looked at Song Shu’s face and noticed his eyes were closed.

“Sleepy, perhaps?” asked the bird.

“No, I am quite firmly awake,” replied Song Shu, still in his usual serene, unperturbed tone.

“Oh…” He hopped toward Song Shu. He wanted to examine him closer. Song Shu, feeling the bird’s curiosity beating down on him like the mid-day sun, shown a gentle smile.

“Curious bird, would you really like to know why I am sitting?” uttered Song Shu.

“Why, yes, of course!” the bird replied with a delighted flutter of his wings.

“I am sitting for the same reason the sun shines, the grass is green, and the trees are tall,” answered Song Shu, his breathing never breaking rhythm. The bird tipped his head to one side in utter baffled confusion. That didn’t answer his question at all, and what’s worse, it created even more questions that the young bird simply could not put his head around. His body slacked, as he let out a bellow of disappointed breath.

“I don’t quite understand such an answer, sir,” squeaked the bird. He plunked his body down on the deck in front of Song Shu, with a quick ruffle of his feathers, settling in.

“Good, you can join me while I sit,” said Song Shu, eyes still closed.

“Do you do this every morning?” Asked the bird, half expecting to receive another nonsensical response.

“From night until day, I sit,” replied Song Shu. The bird fluttered his feathers in amazement.

“What do you mean? Don’t you sleep?” the bird asked.

“When I am tired, I will sleep.”

“But how do you go an entire night without sleeping?”

“As peacefully as a rock sits on the ground in Spring.” Alas, the bird was to get no definitive answers from this squirrel, which quite ironically sparked his curiosity to want to know more.

“How do you do this sitting?” the bird asked after a long pause of deliberation.

“Just sit,” replied Song Shu. “But sit without yourself,” he added. Sigh, more incomprehensibility, but the young bird was intrigued, nonetheless.

“I shall try this ‘sitting with no meaning’. I am but a young bird. I haven’t much else to do.”

“Very well. Do as you wish.” Song Shu finally opened his eyes, and looked down at the little bird. “If you want to learn, we shall begin your training tomorrow, at dawn. I will go tend to the garden now. You should fly home to your nest.” The little bird fluttered his wings with excitement.

“Ok! I will be back early tomorrow,” he exclaimed with glee.