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and who are you?

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In response to yesterday’s post, Anonymous wrote, “I’d say it’s not important what we call ourselves, but how we live our lives.” How true! What matters is how my conduct is perceived by others, not by my ego.

Labels serve practical purposes. We often ask “What do you do?” when meeting strangers. While working at hospice, my nurse-colleagues would introduce me as “our zen monk” to ease entry into the private spheres of people in distress. On such occasions, having a ready-made label helped to communicate my role and function to people who might otherwise have refused to see a chaplain.

As if on cue this morning’s mail brought a note from a blog co-written by five practitioners in the Korean Zen tradition. Here’s an excerpt:

” … don’t get caught up in labels such as ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ nor the preconceptions that go with such labels. … It’s so hard to be born as a human, but to become a true human is even more difficult.”

In a chant I’ve brought to many memorial services and funerals — typically with participants unfamiliar with Buddhist practices — there are these lines: 

My deeds are my closest companions;
I am the beneficiary of my deeds.
My deeds are the ground
on which I stand.

How about this: Labels are convenient currency in everyday encounters. Action and intentions are the moral underpinnings.

image: “Introductions” by Lithuanian artist Arunas Zilys.


6 responses »

  1. “… What matters, truly, is how my conduct is perceived by others, not by my ego. ”

    What if I turn that statement on its head?
    If I say: “… What matters truly is how my conduct is perceived by my ego, not by others”

    I cannot control – or, ideally, need to control – others’ perception of me.
    I can control – if I want to control – my ego’s perception of me.
    And what part of me is observing how my ego responds to my own, or others, conduct?
    In observing my ego’s response, I have the opportunity to what …?

    Life ain’t simple an’ it!
    And my mind loves to simplify and complicate.

    • malcolm, i believe that both matter.

      “like a foot before and the foot behing in walking; each thing has its own intrinsic value” (in: Identity of relative and absolute by Sekito Kisen)

      Others’ perception can serve as mirrors of our intentions.

  2. PS:
    Peter, I have as much fun with your delicious choice of unspoken wisdom in the illustrations you choose – and in the further investigation of them – as I do with your words.

    Thank you for the effort – and doubtless the fun that you have in the research yourself – that you share with us.

  3. Yes, malcolm, i too delight in the “mythic surrealism” by Arunas Zilys.

  4. May i walk what i talk, may i talk what i walk,
    …and may i be one.


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