Obstacles in Yoga and Zen


A man asked the abbot of a monastery outside a city whether he could come each weekend to meditate there, as at home in the city there were constant hindrances and the noise from the street interrupted his meditation. ‘You may come,’ said the abbot, ‘but there will still be interruptions.’ The man came the next weekend, and in the afternoon entered the great meditation hall, all alone. The place was absolutely silent, and quite bare except for a small image of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom at one end, with a single stick of incense burning in front of it. In the dim peace he felt his nerves relax and sat down to try to enter his meditation. After a little the place felt almost too silent; he thought he heard a tiny sound and opened his eyes a little. He noticed the stick of incense, and began to wonder why the smoke always rises. Then he noticed the perfume of the incense, far superior to the incense in the temple near his home.

He speculated how much it might cost, and thought: ‘If it is not too expensive (and probably they get quite a reduction for buying in quantity) perhaps I could buy some from them here at cost price – they are after all spiritual men and not interested in profit – and then sell it to the priest at our temple and make a little for myself,’ The bell sounded, and he realized that his meditation hour was finished. He went straight to the abbot, prostrated himself and said: ‘I understand. The interruptions are from within. From now on I shall practise meditation in my home. Please give me your blessing.’ The abbot blessed him, and he returned.


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