The Tree of Sorrows
So it was that when the Hasidic pilgrims vied for who among them had endured the most suffering and who was most entitled to complain, the Zaddik told them the story of the Sorrow Tree. On the day of Judgement, each person will be allowed to hang all of his unhappiness on a branch of the great Tree of Sorrows. After each person has found a limb from which his own miseries may dangle, they may all walk slowly around the tree. Each is to search for a set of sufferings he would prefer to those he has hung on the tree. In the end, each man freely chooses to reclaim his own personal set of sorrows rather than those of another. Each man leaves the tree wiser than when he came.
Kopp, Sheldon B. If You Meet The Buddha on the road, Kill Him! Bantam Books, 1976.
After some consideration I decide to open with a parable about a metaphysical arboretum in which one might peruse and compare impairments. It’s an off-beat allegory that I like (and sometimes need to be reminded of) and will likely be a good anchor for this end of the Great trek. Eventually have to commit yourself to some sort of opening.
I also get to quote from a book I appreciate and whose title, as a suggested course of action, I claim to be an adherent of.
Whether pilgrim or wayfarer, while seeking to be taught the Truth, the disciple learns only that there is nothing that anyone else can teach him. He learns, once he is willing to give up being taught, that he already knows how to live, that it is implied in his own tale. The secret is that there is no secret.
Everything is just what it seems to be. This is it! There are no hidden meanings. Before he is enlightened, a man gets up each morning to spend the day tending his fields, returns home to eat his supper, goes to bed, makes love to his woman and falls asleep. But once he has attained enlightenment, then a man gets up each morning to spend the day tending his fields, returns home to eat his supper, goes to bed, makes love to his woman and falls asleep.
The Zen way to see the truth is through your everyday eyes. It is only the heartless questioning of life-as-it-is that ties a man in knots. A man does not need an answer in order to find peace. He needs only to surrender to his existence, to cease the needless, empty questioning. The secret of enlightenment is when you are hungry, eat; and when you are tired, sleep.
The Zen master warns: ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!’ This admonition points up that no meaning that comes from outside of ourselves is real. The Buddhahood of each of us has already been obtained. We need only recognize it. Philosophy, religion, patriotism, all are empty idols. The only meaning in our lives is what we each bring to them. Killing the Buddha on the road means destroying the hope that anything outside of ourselves can be our master. No one is any bigger than anyone else. There are no mothers or fathers for grown-ups, only sisters and brothers.