Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shuso Notes: Cookies, mothers, bodhisattvas, codependents

Once again, these are my musings on what is arising for me right now, as shuso (head student) of the practice period.

Here's a koan for you: What is the difference between a bodhisattva and a codependent?

(Thanks, Bruce Fortin, for this. A great koan from a therapist/Zen teacher!)

This post is my personal exploration and reflection on this wonderful -- and at least to me -- very funny modern koan. I'm not sure why it's so funny, but I keep waiting for the punchline ("A bodhisattva and a codependent walked into a bar...") If someone can come up with a good punchline, please add it to the post comments!

So, the shuso's tasks are many. One is organizing and attending "shuso teas" with members of the practice period. What that means in Everyday Zen is organizing teas in four separate parts of the Bay Area -- San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, East Bay -- and a tea during the sesshin. This is a very sweet and personal part of the practice period. A group gathers at someone's house, sips tea, munches on cookies, and each person has a chance to say something about how the practice period is unfolding in his or her life.

Now, you'd think that finding people to host the teas, coordinating dates, sending out invitations to the practice period participants, receiving RSVP's, sending out directions, and then actually showing up to and facilitating five different teas in a two month period would be enough. But no, Florence has to take it one step further. She has to bake cookies. Homemade, from-scratch cookies.

In my defense, I really wanted to bake cookies for the teas. No one was forcing me, even though I hardly ever bake - I probably haven't baked cookies more than once or twice since I was ten years old and Susan Canon and I made chocolate chip cookies together, singing, "A baby monster cookie for a baby cookie monster," laughing hysterically. I just liked the idea of doing something with my hands and feeding my friends. But I also recognize that this project was every so slightly in the over-achieving realm. This is where we get back to the koan at the top of the post. What, exactly, were my motivations? Bodhisattva? Mother? (After all, mother's bake cookies, right?) Codependent? A little of all three?

Every Monday for the past several years I have joined in a meditation group with a circle of mothers. I've written about this before, in this post for Mother's Day. It has been a tremendous education. Mostly, I've been in awe of what it takes to be a mother: the blood, sweat, and tears of it.

I have identified myself as the "token non-mother" of the group, but invariably someone else will say,"Well, that isn't really true. You're the mother to lots of people!" And I think that's true, to some degree. By not having children myself, my energy is freed up to care for many people, and for the world. On another level it's baloney: I know perfectly well that my life is way easier and way freer than the lives of the mothers I knows. No matter how many people I care for, I generally get to come home (wherever home is at any time), make myself a pot of tea and read a book all night if I want to, without interruptions. They don't have that option.

Anyway, during the practice period I have been looking at my desires in relation to others, whether  motherly, bodhisattva-like, codependent, or something in between. There is a way that the position of the shuso is like being a mother for a whole practice period, and I'm ripe for the task. I see others' suffering - maybe because I know my own so well - and have tremendous desires to ease it, if I can. I have tremendous desires to serve and to nurture (see "cookies," above). I am inspired by others' willingness to wake up to their lives; discouraged when someone seems to making a choice away from waking up, toward the forces of habit and despair. All these desires and inspirations are lovely, in their way, and also tricky. Very, very tricky.

After Bruce brought up the wonderful koan, I had to go look up the definition of codependency in Wikipedia. It's a term that has entered our vocabulary from the recovery community, and I think most people have a vague sense of its meaning. It was helpful for me to look at it more closely. It's interesting to me that one of the first discussions about codependency in Wikipedia is about its similarities to and important differences from healthy mothering. After all, mothers are dedicated to caring for others, to an immense, often self-sacrificing extent. But I think I would say, from what I've gleaned from my reading, that codependents, who are nearly always people who grew up in difficult or alcoholic families, have a compulsive need to be in a caretaker role, are identified with that role, and avoid or displace their own needs for the needs of others.

Some psychologist has even developed a series of questions related to codependency, and I'm afraid I ranked pretty high. So between that, the cookie making, and a few other ways I've been in the practice period, I'm more than a little suspicious that my inner bodhisattva and inner codependent are, shall we say, up to some hanky-panky together.

And all this matters, because the bodhisattva path (the path of awakening, and dedication to helping others to awaken), and the development of bodhicitta (the desire to awaken for the benefit of others) are at the heart of Mahayana Buddhist practice. But wouldn't it be awful if all the time you thought you were training in becoming a bodhisattva, you were actually enacting deep conditioned patterns of codependency? Ack!!!! And it seems that the bodhisattva ideal could be very seductive for people who tend toward codependency, because, like motherhood and codependency, the differences are not as obvious as one might think.

So how can you know? How can I know? Well, these is my working hypotheses, based on observation of yours truly and her behaviors, and bound to be partly wrong, but I share them with you anyway, as a work in progress.

  • If I feel resentment or disappointment toward anyone I think I'm "helping," there's a good chance that I have some vested interest in being "the helper." Not a good sign.
  • But if my heart is wide open, aware, compassionate, and respectful of the other person, not needing them to be a particular way, not needing myself to be a particular way, then the bodhisattva is stepping forward.
  • If I feel any compulsion to be kind, giving, etc, especially beyond my own capacity or willingness, rather than freely responding from warmth and love, I may be enacting some old pattern.
  • Being "good," being well-behaved, or being uncomplaining may not be true bodhisattva activity, even if it looks good. Sometimes bodhisattvas are fierce, like Manjushri, with his sword of wisdom. Sometimes they say "no" or "enough." 
  • If I'm willing to be hurt, willing to cry, willing to be vulnerable, and willing to lose others, that's the bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas definitely cry....some are even born from tears.
  • If I'm willing to respect the suffering of another, and know that it's not my job to fix them, but simply to love them as they are, the bodhisattva is peeking through.

My sense of myself is of a kind of flickering in and out of the bodhisattva and the codependent, from one moment to the next, and my job is to pay attention and notice what it feels like when one is in the ascendant, and when the other is. It feels very important not to judge myself for enacting old patterns, and to understand that "bodhisattva" does not belong to me; it's just the goodness of the universe stepping forward through me.

I think my job is to get out of the way of the bodhisattva and not attach to any idea of who or what I am, and the best way I know to do that is through basic mindfulness, basic awareness, and basic compassion for this mixed-up, imperfect, confused, but sincerely-trying-to-wake-up person, and for all her friends and fellow humans in the same boat: bodhisattvas, mothers, and codependents all together on a stormy sea.

Let's go eat some cookies!

Photo by Lulu Wong, EDZ sesshin cookies, 2012
Here's my cookie recipe, adapted from one on the back of Coach's Oats (available at Costco, I believe). My friend Alison gave me a big bag right before practice period. I think you could use quick-cooking steel-cut or Irish oats as an alternative to Coach's Oats. I did this whole thing with a wooden spoon and they came out just fine.

Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
....with a little bit of chocolate

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp milk
1 cup all purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup Coach's Oats or quick steel-cut oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup or more of shaved dark chocolate, your choice

Put the chocolate in the freezer overnight for easier shaving. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars, add egg, vanilla, and milk, and mix just until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and add to wet ingredients. Add oats and coconut, then shave chocolate and add, mix until combined. Drop by large teaspoons on to an ungreased cookie sheet (I used parchment paper) and bake for 12-15 minutes. Makes 3 dozen cookies, or enough for one practice period tea with some left over to give to neighbors and to take on a hike.



Monday, October 15, 2012

Shuso Notes: Zen and Life and Posture

This last week I've been contemplating posture. I notice in myself, as I write the word "posture", a whole cascade of negative associations, and these associations have no doubt contributed to my own slouchy, unimpressive habitual posture. Somewhere in my head is the idea that to sit or stand with a straight back is to be stiff, formal, unfriendly, affected, a Victorian graduate of etiquette school. This despite my more than twenty years of Soto Zen practice, with its deep teachings about the power of posture and uprightness!

In my school of Zen, when its 13th c. founder, Eihei Dogen, was asked what he learned about Zen during his four years in China, he said, "All I have is this: eyes horizontal, nose vertical." There are some Japanese (and maybe some American) Soto Zen teachers who teach meditation solely through posture. To sit in the posture of Buddha, legs crossed, back straight, eyes half-closed, is to fully manifest Buddha. What is happening in your head is inconsequential. I'm not sure I entirely agree with this, but I appreciate its simplicity and faith.

I also very much appreciate the dignity of Zen posture in the meditation hall, but have never been able to quite understand why it might matter in daily life. Thanks to an extraordinary movie, I'm starting to have a new sense of the raw power and beauty of posture, the way posture is an expression of fundamental human strength and resilience -- a long way from Victorian etiquette school, and tremendously encouraging and exciting in my own life.

For those of you who have not been able to see Beasts of the Southern Wild, I say, respectfully, do whatever you can to see it. I have seen it twice, once right before the practice period started, and once last week (here's a link for finding where it's playing: here.) It won best first feature film at the Cannes Film Festival, and it's a masterpiece. The first time I was so overcome by emotion by the end, weeping in my red plush chair in the theater, that I knew I would have to see it again just to catch the finer details. The second time what I saw was what you can see in these stills from the film: the grand, unaffected, proud posture of the five year old girl, Hushpuppy, who is at the center of the film.

Hushpuppy (who looks a lot like an older version of my beautiful niece Ellie) and her father, Wink, live in The Bathtub, an impoverished community hemmed in by levees south of New Orleans. They live in a kind of poverty that is almost unimaginable to most of us, even before a storm destroys what little they have. Her father and a few others refuse to leave before the storm, and so they hang on in a devastated place, a little band of drunks and motherless children. But what they have is in their bodies, in their standing upright in the face of terror and loss. None of the "actors" in the film are professionally trained: they all come from places much like the The Bathtub, so what they show in their posture is not learned: it's who they are.

Ever since I watched Beasts for the second time, I've been feeling differently in my body. Instead of thinking of Victorian ladies in hats when I straighten my back, I think of Hushpuppy and Miss Bathsheba (a wild-haired, straight-talking schoolteacher and herbalist who lives in a floating house filled with plants). I think of their genuine dignity and strength and grace: dignity and strength and grace I would hope to have if my world came apart at the seams, as their's does.

This afternoon I watched a talk by Zentatsu Richard Baker on the 50th anniversary of the founding of San Francisco Zen Center (skip ahead in video to about the thirty minute mark. There is a second video for the second half of the talk). He was one of Suzuki Roshi's earliest western students. He talked about the "mental posture" that he learned from Suzuki Roshi, and he said something that really struck me:

"Practice is not so much a matter of understanding as of incubation."

By that I think part of what he means is that Zen practice is not a matter of just the mind; it is a matter of the whole being steeped in the practice....mind, body, heart, and something even subtler: our attitude, how we move and live in the world. This can't be learned from books; this can only be learned from the long living of it, just as the actress who plays Hushpuppy couldn't be taught her dignity by acting coaches - it comes from her life, the life of her family, the life of her whole community.

From the beginning of the practice period I have been moving more slowly, and noticing with amazement how it changes my sense of everything - myself, the world around me, time, how I feel about others. Now, thanks to Hushpuppy and Miss Bathsheba, I seem to be getting over my prejudices about posture. Perhaps posture is what is needed to genuinely face the sufferings of the world. Maybe that's why the hundreds of thousands of Buddha statues are nearly all of Buddha sitting or standing upright. The Buddha knew all about suffering, and yet there he is, smiling, sitting straight and tall and dignified.

I never met the late Katagiri Roshi, who was one of the JJapanese pioneers who bravely brought Zren to the West, but I know that he too knew about suffering, and he embodied the sweetness and dignity of Zen practice, through and through. I came across this photo of Katagiri, and offer it to you as inspiration, side by side with Hushpuppy Roshi.

May we all find the courage in our bodies to be truly upright, through joy and through tribulation, whatever our life circumstances.



Monday, October 8, 2012

Shuso Notes: The Inner Judge

The nun Soma was a disciple of the Buddha. One day she was deep in meditation beneath a tree in a forest grove. Mara, the Lord of Delusion, approached her, cloaked in invisibility. He whispered in her ear, “Because a woman has a naturally limited consciousness, and the realm of wisdom is hard to reach, no woman has the ability to attain it.”
Soma recognized Mara and rebuked him, saying, “How could a woman’s consciousness be a hindrance when her heart is set on liberation? Am I a woman in these matters, or a man? This question has no power over me. Mara, begone!”

And he was gone.
                                                                                 From the Therigatha

For years now I have been thinking about, studying, and practicing with the modern-day equivalent of Mara, the Lord of Delusion, the one who visits Soma in this ancient Buddhist story. I call him "The Inner Judge" or "The Inner Critic."  Whatever you choose to call he/she/it, its voice is unmistakable. It whispers in your ear, in just the words that most hook you, "Who are you to think you can meditate/sing/write/paint/love/awaken (fill in your blank here ______)?" 

The effect is powerful and immediate, if you buy the story: a sinking of energy, a feeling of hopelessness, a desire to quit whatever you are trying to do, a deep sadness. At its most virulent, it takes the form of self-hatred. 

Even the Buddha was whispered to by Mara, on the night of his enlightenment, "What right do you have to seek enlightenment?" And in response the Buddha called on the earth to be his witness, in the famous earth-touching gesture, and the earth shook and roared in response. Sometimes this gesture is also called the "subduing Mara" gesture.

I became aware of the spiritual consequences of this inner voice through the work of the teacher Byron Brown, and his book, Soul Without Shame. Years ago I attended a one day retreat with Byron Brown at Spirit Rock, and was so convinced that I needed to work with the inner judge that I signed up for a five day retreat with Byron later that year.  I have been using what I learned from him ever since, and sharing with others too, because without an awareness of the inner judge, spiritual unfolding can come to a standstill, shanghaied by self-judgement. 

Spiritual ideas can even be used by the inner judge to make you feel like more of a loser: "What kind of Buddhist are you? A real Buddhist wouldn't get angry. A real Buddhist wouldn't grieve this hard or this long. A real Buddhist wouldn't spend an entire meditation period fantasizing about being enlightened some day...etc. etc." I spent about the first five years of Buddhist practice hounded by these sorts of thoughts, and feeling discouraged in my practice a lot of the time. 

Over the years of being aware of the inner judge and its tricks, I have become much less frequently or thoroughly at its mercy. But every once in a while I get hooked. I'm thinking about this right now because for various reasons the inner judge has been paying me a visit over the last few days. It's not fun to hear Mara's whisper in my ear. Sometimes it's not even a story: just a vague sense of dis-ease, an undefined sense of lack or shame.

So what to do? 

First of all, awareness. Awareness, awareness, awareness. Half the battle is just knowing you're under attack. As I said, the judge doesn't always speak in words...sometimes it's more of a vague drop in energy, a sudden loss of confidence. Sometimes there are words, even a recognizable voice. If I am saying awful things to myself in the voice of my first grade teacher or the meanest kid I knew, then chances are good that the inner judge is in town. 

Now, awareness might not seem like much, but I've found that awareness, all by itself, can take away a lot of the judge's power. As the story at the beginning of this post tells us, "Soma recognized him." Sometimes just the recognition is enough to dissolve the whole thing, open up freedom. There are lots of stories of the Buddha and Mara (you get a sense that by the end of Buddha's life they were old friends), and always there is this element of recognition and naming, and the sudden release: "And Mara was gone." 

But sometimes I recognize the inner judge and it just sneers at me and says something like, "Well, yes, this is the voice of the inner judge, but this time I'm right. You really are failing here. You really are a pitiful idiot." What then?

Byron Brown suggests various approaches if awareness alone doesn't break the spell (and it is a sort of spell), and I think the approach depends on the person and the situation.

One possibility is what one might call the "wrathful" approach, like those compassionately fierce Tibetan deities stamping on delusion in order to bring freedom. This is using strength or aggression: "Stop!" "No!" "I don't believe you!"  After all, the inner judge is an internalized authority figure, and one way to deal with an unjust authority figure is to take back your own power, your own authority. I have to admit that this hasn't been so effective for me. The danger is that the judge will just up the ante, and start yelling back. Then you have a yelling match inside. But this strong approach was what Soma does in the story, and it works well. "This question has no power over me. Mara, begone!"

Another possibility, more my style, is compassion. An inner judge arises out of a false sense of protectiveness, a false authority. But if I saw a child being belittled or discouraged by a parent or teacher, even a well-meaning parent or teacher, I would want to protect that child. I would want to sit down with her and tell her how wonderful she really is, how deserving of love and praise. We are children in the face of the inner judge, and we can treat ourselves with the kindness we would wish for from the adults around us. It is a sad thing when a human being is judged or attacked, whether from the outside or the inside, and compassion is a natural response. Even imagining putting my arms around myself can help.

A third approach is humor. Often the suppositions of an inner judge are, frankly, ridiculous:  "You know, if you go to that party, they will all stare at you, laugh at you, and talk about you behind your back. You should stay home." Or, "Your painting looks like it was done by a third grader. Tear it up immediately," An appropriate response might be, "Oh, come on! It's at least fifth grade level!" Sometimes just identifying the absurd words of the judge can lead to laughter. This has worked fairly well for me too, over the years.

And the inner judge really can dissolve just as fast as Mara does in the story. One minute whispering menacingly, the next minute gone, leaving you sitting quietly in the forest. Just like any other thought, the judge only has the power we invest in it. Once seen through, there's nothing left, not even a puff of black smoke.

As I write this, I feel a prayer rising up in me. "May anyone who is besieged by inner judgments find freedom from them. May all belittling, cruel and limiting thoughts dissolve into the light. And may each of us know and recognize our own unique beauty, our own capacity, and the gifts we bring to the world." 




Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shuso Notes: The Eight Worldly Winds

"Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions."
                                       Lokavipatti Sutta, trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight
During the sesshin (silent Zen retreat) that ended a week or so ago, I had some insights into what are sometimes called the "Eight Worldly Conditions", or, my favorite translation, the "Eight Worldly Winds." These are four sets of two words each:

Gain and loss
Status and disgrace
Praise and blame
Pleasure and pain

Everyone wants more of the words on the right; less -- or hopefully none -- of the words on the left. But each set of words go together. Loss and gain are intimately connected; as are status and disgrace; praise and blame; pleasure and pain. Life doesn’t dish up slices of one without the other, but most people, including me, live with the unconscious fantasy that it just might be possible to live a life of all gain, status, praise and pleasure. “With enough money, enough friends, enough good luck....maybe....” 

So these winds, and the desire for the right hand side over the left hand side, spin us around and around, like a puppy accidentally caught in a washing machine: up and down, up and down, round and round and round.

John Good in our Everyday Zen kitchen, photo by Lulu Wong
The first time I saw this list was years ago, posted on the refrigerator in a Zen Center kitchen. They are particularly apropos for a Zen kitchen. In the monastery, just as in ordinary life only more so, meals are among the small pleasures that everyone looks forward to. A really good meal can evoke tremendous expressions of gratitude and praise. But as I explored in my last post, in traditional Zen meals there is little or no choice of food, so feelings can also run high in the other direction. I have seen Zen cooks practically run out of the monastery for preparing the wrong kind of soup too many times in a row, or forcing their own food ideas (“salt is a bad idea”) on the whole community.

During the sesshin I was doing a variant on the traditional shuso job. In the monastery, the shuso and the benji (his or her right-hand woman or man) are responsible for the compost and garbage. This is profoundly wise, I think, on the part of whatever distant Zen ancestor established the tradition. Being shuso is a time of stepping forward into some degree of leadership and visibility, some degree of status (see above!), so what better job to balance things out than taking out the garbage, the stinkier and grosser the better!

Since we don’t have a monastery at Everyday Zen, there isn’t much garbage or compost. But there are plenty of bathrooms, so the shuso cleans bathrooms, an equivalently “low” job. I cleaned the bathrooms at the place where we hold our one day sits, at the beginning of the practice, with my friend Monica, and doing it together was both gross (the bathrooms were really dirty) and fun, in a bizarre kind of way. But Monica was only sitting in the mornings at sesshin, so the bathrooms were all mine.

Every afternoon I would put on work clothes and purple gloves, grab my collection of organic sprays and sponges, and start going from bathroom to bathroom. For the record, at Santa Sabina there are seven bathrooms, some with multiple stalls. They were already quite clean, since the staff cleans them in the morning, but there was usually just enough accumulated grime and other, um, leavings, to justify a little spiffing up in the afternoon. Besides, in Zen practice we don’t care how clean something already is: if the job is to clean an already clean bathroom, well, you clean it. 

And this is where it gets interesting. I got very depressed every afternoon. I was not only doing a “low” job, I felt “low.” Cleaning bathrooms changed my identity, albeit temporarily, to “bathroom cleaner,” and I didn’t feel proud of being “bathroom cleaner.” I walked around feeling, pardon the expression, like a piece of shit myself, like a very small, very unimportant person.

From Leo Prieta, Flickr Creative Commons, http://www.flickr.com/photos/leoprieto/1792854787/sizes/m/in/photostream/

It doesn't take a PhD in sociology to figure out that the way I felt is probably shared by a lot of people who do “low” jobs: house cleaners, maids at hotels, dishwashers, garbage collectors, fast food employees, homeless people begging on the street. It’s not pleasant, and it would take a very strong, very confident personality to not be affected by that job identity – at least it would take a personality stronger than mine! I’m planning to remember that the next time I leave my unwashed sheets in my hotel room and wonder whether to leave a tip.

But then, for the rest of the day each day of the sesshin, I was “shuso”. I was the only person in the room not facing the wall during meditation; I led the morning services; I gave talks; I held teas. And as soon as I took off those purple gloves, I felt like “somebody” again. After my first talk, I had so many nice notes from people that I felt like more than just somebody again: I felt pretty special. Scared me, actually. How do you accept praise and not get stuck to it?  How do you do a “low” job and not get stuck to it? Clearly the praise is not the problem, nor is cleaning bathrooms. The problem is the stickiness.

This reminds me of a Zen story about one of the other set of words: praise and blame, It is almost certainly apocryphal, but it’s still worth hearing:

A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied "Is that so?"

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. "Is that so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.

Hakuin self-portrait
So Hakuin is an example of not being flung around by the powerful eight winds. Sometimes I think I’m doing pretty well in relation to the eight winds, that I know better than to be caught by praise or blame, status or pleasure....but then something as small as cleaning a bathroom reminds me that I’m just as vulnerable as the next person.

I remember, years ago, hearing something on the radio that really moved me. It was the final speech of a Congressman before stepping down from office after being caught taking large bribes from defense contractors, and other ethical failings. He said, "In my life I have known great joy, great sadness, great achievement. And now I know great shame." I could hear in his voice that he meant it, and he had seen something profound about his life. I might not agree with his politics or his actions, but at that moment I was full of admiration for his honesty, and for his willingness to bear the shame that he carried.

I think it's fair to say that most of us will know, intimately, aspects of all eight of the winds. Rather than trying to sidestep them, or pretend they don't matter, maybe, like this unfortunate Congressman, we should bow down to them. "Yes," we could say, "I know this, too, now. This is part of being alive, part of being human." Each wind is part of our foolish, clownish, tragic humanity, after all. 

Here’s a final story, appropriately scatological and pretty funny, as many good Zen stories are:

A famous Buddhist poet of the Song Dynasty was assigned to an official post on the northern shore of the Yangtze River. Across the river was a Zen temple with a famous teacher. One day the poet, feeling quite advanced in his practice, wrote a poem and sent it across the river to the teacher:

"Bowing with my highest respect
To the highest gods,
Whose fine light illuminates the whole universe,
The eight winds cannot move me,
For I am sitting upright on the golden purple lotus blossom."

After reading the poem, the teacher wrote down one character as his comment and sent it back to the poet. The word was "Fart!" ("Pi" in Chinese, which means "utter nonsense") 

Upon seeing this insult, the poet was furious, and crossed the river to argue with the teacher. When he arrived, he asked, “How can you insult me like this?"

Innocently, as if nothing had happened, the teacher asked, "How have I insulted you?" Without saying another word, the poet showed the word "Fart."

Laughing wholeheartedly, the teacher said, "Oh! Didn't you say that the eight winds cannot move you? How come you are sent across the river with just a fart?" The poor poet was extremely embarrassed.

How have the eight winds moved you -- or not?