Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zen Horses...

Which Kind Are You?

"In our scriptures (Samyuktagama Sutra, volume 33), it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one does, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones."

From "Zen Mind Beginner's Mind" (New York: Weatherhill, 1970), by Shunryu Suzuki.

Let's call the horses 1-4 , with the first kind being the "best" kind. He goes on to say that a lot of people in Zen who are the "best" kind of student often have a harder time getting or sticking with the practice. Being so talented, things come so easy and so they don't tend to take the lessons deeply in. He says that the fourth kind might actually be the best kind because the lessons really have to penetrate.

I've found this to be true for T'ai-Chi. I often tell students that in this art, patience and persistence are much more important than good looks and talent. Lots of good looking talented people come and go, but the slower learners, the more patient and persistent students, even if they aren't very talented, seem to go the farthest.

So when you look in the mirror...which kind of horse were you when you started your training and which kind of horse are you now? Just talking generally here. You might have been one kind of horse with forms and another with applications..I was definitely a fourth horse guy when I started. I didn't get anything very easily and I had to practice like crazy for anything to stick, whether solo or with a partners. But, over time and many years, I'm happy to report that I now feel squarely in the third horse category, with moments of one and two now and then.