My friend Ryushin (“dragon heart“) is senior novice at Great Vow Zen Monastery. Many things keep him from sleeping past 3:43 in the morning; his current duties include caring for the gardens. He writes:
Where’s that Sacred Fool? You’ll find him in the garden whispering sweet nothings to Chamomile sprouts. He sews seeds calling each by their secret name: lyopersicon esculentum, anethum graveolens, and eruca sativa. He wanders through rows, making water offerings to the vegetables, flowers, and weeds equally, beaming and chanting his heart’s song.
What does he drink to see the world like this? Nothing more or less than the sparkling air and gently-sieved sunshine. He eats the colour green with avid eyes and soaks hands in rich loam. He lives in divine madness, piling up rock stupas and bowing with decided reverence. Assuming the venerable hoe-leaning posture, he contemplates the nature of rust and calls to crows. The crows know better than to pay him any mind.
Beauregard lives next to the compost bin, though ordinary people just call him “rat.” Field mice dig tunnels mere inches below Earth. Slugs and earthworms crawl their way to and fro. Each handful of dirt is a world of wonder, and in the garden lies a veritable universe. We all share equally in this bounty of the earth as she offers herself freely. The Fool places himself no higher than the others, just another splash of orange dripping down the canvas in the painting of life.
And does he simply wander around all day, an unproductive bag of oatmeal and peanut butter? But, no! The function of the Fool is to respond. To welcome everything that comes forward with a warm and undefended heart is simply the red nose of Jizo Bodhisattva.
In a world of freely functioning the action of the question calls forth an answer. This reply begins in heart, or perhaps the gut, which commences to wiggle. It grows into a quiver then a twitch to a quake until the force echoes in the fingertips. The Fool belches out an answer, and walks away without apology.
So, take him as he is: innocent, fearless. And if you aspire to such grandeurs of incorruptibility … talk to plants and walls and sky. Forget birthdays and Tuesdays and instead appreciate the Purpledays and Maybedays. Wrap yourself equally in people’s praise and blame, then slough both off and roam naked through afternoon meadows. Cherish these teaching and revere them as holy as everything else until they lose all meaning and you become natural.