Koan: The Plum’s Core
The Layman went to visit Zen Master Ta-mei. As they were about to exchange greetings, the Layman said, “It has taken a while for the big plum tree* to mature. I wonder if any of the plums are ripe yet?”
Tai-mei said, “Go ahead and try one.”
The Layman said, “How completely unique!”
Ta-mei opened his arms wide and said, “You’ve gotten to the core!”
* The Layman’s question is a play on Ta-mei’s name, which means “big plum tree”.
On Monday, Zooming our CityZen gathering, we rang in the New Year with 108 bells – 108 is an important number in Zen tradition, it’s the number of worldly desires connected to pain and suffering. Michelle Brandt Sensei explained the mathematics behind this number.
See, hear, smell, taste, touch and object of mind (the unenlightened mind) are the 6 senses. Good, bad, and neutral are the three judgements.
6 x 3 = 18
Next, we multiply 18 times the 2 kinds of attachment – getting something and lamenting getting something.
18 x 2 = 36
36 x 3 = 108
Before finding sobriety, not only are we packing around these 108 worldly desires, we throw alcohol, drugs, or gambling into the mix. Like COVID-19, we become super spreaders of pain and angst. It’s no wonder we find our lives so unmanageable. Fortunately, we have a solution.
What does it take for us to accept the tenets of Step One? We do know it’s entirely an inside job; it comes about differently for each of us; and with drinking “careers” in the single digits to those carrying on for fifty years or more.
There’s not one of us here who would not have benefitted by coming into the rooms earlier than we did. We weren’t ready. And look how many of us have family and friends who seem to be good candidates of AA but are still drinking? They’re not sufficiently ripe for the program either.
Ripeness is subjective. I prefer plums that have a little give to them, a little firmness; but not the run-down-your-chin juicy kind. Maybe you like plums to be soft as gooey persimmons? We discover our own favorite ripeness in AA when we choose to taste the fruits of recovery.
For all who are here, we’re here! After drinking for 25 years and simply sick and tired of being sick and tired, a tiny part of my psyche matured just enough to realize I was done and willing to do something about it.
There are many ways we “go ahead and try one.” I tried by calling up and entering a treatment facility. “How completely unique” it was being in treatment – I had entered a different world, a world without alcohol. A safe world with no temptations. Even though it hadn’t really sunk in, I accepted the core truth of my problem and admitted my powerlessness over alcohol. I’ve never taken a drink since.