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.