A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen Master.
There’s great beauty in imperfection. Celebrate it!
The normal human tendency is to strive for perfection. We like things to always work fine. We like it when Life goes to a plan – our plan! We love it when everything is in its place – the way we want it to be. The way we live, the way we dress, the way we decorate our living spaces – all of this happens while we strive for perfection. But Life’s imperfect. In its own, unique way. Things often get messed up, plans go awry and nothing ever stays the way we want it to. While we will naturally tend to get frustrated with the way Life operates at such times, if you pause to reflect, you will still find Life beautiful!
This morning, I notice that one of the curtains in our living room was torn. There were guests visiting us and I noticed the tear when I was sitting with them. I kept wondering how the tear had happened and after the guests left, I spent a fair amount of time trying to understand what may have caused the fabric to tear! Then, because we don’t have a curtain to replace this one immediately, I tucked away the torn portion deftly, so that it wouldn’t show! As I finished this “mini-salvage mission”, I smiled to myself. I thought that even the way the torn curtain was now, with a forced wrinkle that hid the tear, it looked good. I concluded that we didn’t have to work toward replacing the torn curtain immediately.
That’s when I was reminded of an old Zen story.
One day, when the priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old Master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.
When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. “Isn’t it beautiful,” he called out to the old Master. “Yes,” replied the old man, “but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I’ll put it right for you.”
After hesitating, the priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the Master walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. “There,” said the old man, “you can put me back now.”
The learning here is that, when Life goes its own way, often turning all your plans upside down, flow with Life. Don’t crave for clarity on what’s going to happen next or seek predictability. Simply live with and celebrate the imperfection. Wanting things to be different than what they are, than the way they are, is a sure way to invite misery and suffering. Instead live with Life as it is. And enjoy its beauty the way it is!