In Stumbling Toward Enlightenment, Geri Larkin discusses the diligence that is needed to follow the Buddhist path through bumblings and plenty of mistakes. The dharma talks in Tap Dancing in Zen include teachings on letting go of mental models of the world based on judgmentalism, experiencing humility as joy, and why vows matter. First You Shave Your Head offers an account of Larkin's 30-day pilgrimage to Korea with her meditation teacher. And in Love Dharma, she presents the relationship wisdom of early female followers of Buddha. This volume contains a modernized version of the Buddhist classic The Dhammapada, along with stories from the Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple where Larkin is the guiding teacher.
With the creativity and verve which are part and parcel of her style, she states: "The Dhammapada oozes wisdom and compassion and reminds me that life is tough, that we all suffer, and that we do because we insist on yearning for external stuff that won't ever make us permanently happy. It reminds me that enlightenment really is an inside job, one that includes letting go of the wildly entertaining melodrama I call my life." The members of the Temple are artists, entrepreneurs, students, health-care workers, and unemployed individuals. Zen meditation is important, along with chanting, prostrations, and sutra study. But many of these people also want teachings that speak to the challenges of their everyday lives. This translation of the Dhammapada has plenty to offer them and us.
Here are two examples:
"If we live our lives obsessing
about pleasant things,
our senses unrestrained--
eating too much, being lazy--
temptations will destroy us
even as the wind
uproots a weak tree."
Rather than allowing external things to send us careening from one experience to another, we would be wise to walk the path where our actions match our intentions:
"You can recite all the sacred texts you want
but if you do not act accordingly
how will you benefit?
Without actions we are like
who count the wealth of others
but have little of their own.
We will not share the fruits of a holy life--
Larkin discusses the spiritual benefits that accrue from "eating all the blame" whereby we each take responsibility for the problems and conflicts that come up in our lives. It is not an easy practice given the natural propensity to blame others when something goes wrong. Larkin praises humility as a prelude to enlightenment and an antidote to pride.
As usual, the author has excellent teaching stories to share. Here's one:
"There's an old Zen story about an enlightened Zen master who would sit in meditation every night. About halfway through his sitting, he would shout at himself, "Don't let them fool you!" Then he'd shout, "No, Master!" It was his way of protecting himself from the addiction and the advertising messages. It was his reminder to stay upright. It was his communication with himself: by shouting to his own mind, "You can't fool me anymore!" he was acknowledging that he was the one responsible for his own purity or impurity."
Check out Larkin's Motor City Zen, and behind it all, you'll see the wisdom of the Buddha.