A girl began inner training under a Zen abbess for whom she had conceived a great reverence.
After a period of probation, she was told by a senior disciple that she would now be given instructions on how to meditate.
“I have never done meditation at all”, she said anxiously. “These practices will be ones that suit me, won’t they?” “Yes, they will suit perfectly”, she was assured.
She was given the instructions, and told at the same time that it would be better not to discuss her practices with anyone else. She fully intended to follow the advice, but (as often happens) something slipped out, and she was taken aback to learn that every pupil was given these same practices at the beginning.
She asked to see the senior, to whom she complained:
“I had expected to receive personal instruction suited to my own temperament. I did ask for that, and you told me that I would get it.”
“You have done. These practices will suit your temperament.”
“But I’ve been told that they’re just standard practices, which everybody gets. We’re all different; there can’t be a standardized instruction suitable to everyone, because we’re all different.”
“Everyone says that at the beginning”, remarked the senior. “But here we do not find it so. We find that we’re very much the same.”
“But the fact that everyone says we are different shows that we must be different”, argued the new pupil, puzzled.
The answer came quietly: “The fact that everyone claims to be different shows that we’re all the same.”