The Price

“You can do anything you want in your life, but you have to know the price for it and be willing to pay it.”  -Mrs. Featherston

The town eccentric, Mrs. Featherston, wore bright, flowing gypsy skirts and Converse high top shoes because of her hammer toes.  She lived just on the edge of town before the Lewisburg Bridge crosses over the Susquehanna River.  The house where she resided is now referred to as Packard House and it became a museum filled with all the clothes and artifacts she and her husband collected on their world-wide travels.  Lewisburg is a small rural town in central Pennsylvania, noted for two things:  Bucknell University and the Federal Penitentiary.  It is also the hometown and close to the birthplace of NiOsho.

The four-year-old girl, Patty, was walking with her mother, Evelyn, downtown when they noticed Mrs. Featherston on the way.  Mrs. Featherston bent over, her back like a shrimp, her eyes pierced Patty’s as she said, “Hello Patty,” patting her on the head with one hand, then straightening back up and walking on. 

Patricia asked her mother, “How is it that Mrs. Featherston can say one thing with her mouth and another thing with her eyes?” 

“I have no idea what you mean, Honey,” she answered.

Mrs. Featherston said with those sharp eyes: “You can do anything you want with your life, but you have to know the price for it and be willing to pay it.”

“Zen is simple,” Dai-En Roshi said.  “The way of the world is, ‘Fly now and pay later.’  But the way of Zen is, ‘Pay now and fly later.’  We need to be willing to pay the price for what we want to do.”

Soto Zen’s map describes the path to Enlightenment in detail:  It’s now or never.  There is no perfect teacher to show the way.  There is no perfect time.  There is no perfect monastery.

Yet, training is the price.  Consider the Buddha.  In his seeking Enlightenment, he practiced for six years.  The celebrated sage, Bodhidharma, was able to pass on the Dharma after nine years of facing a wall.  If these ancient sages worked this hard, how can we today, with all our digital distractions, dispense with whole-hearted practice?

Nothing valuable comes without profuse sweat, heartbreak, and disappointment.  Give up the numbing effects of a remote control, couch, T.V., and an iPhone.  Get down to the practice immediately if Enlightenment is what is desired.  Wisdom comes not from others fulfilling our needs, from books, or from gaining knowledge.  The seed breaks open when the causes and conditions are ripe.  It loses itself in the process.  If we know what Enlightenment is, we’ve not a clue.  The True Dharma can’t be heard without paying a price.

Zen Master Rinzai, on his death bed, asked his student to tell him how he would pass on his True Dharma Eye to future generations. 

“Kaaaatz!!!” proceeded from the mouth of the student.

Rinzai was not impressed, calling him a blind donkey – stubborn and ignorant of the truth.  The student had obviously paid the price in full.

The words Zen Fields and a signature stamp next to a spare ink pen outline of a meditator in a field


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