Plastic Flowers

  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts
  • Kaishin
    • Dec 2010
    • 2322

    Plastic Flowers

    Just a story to share, thought it goes along nicely with our study of the Xin Xin Ming:

    One Sunday, while Zen Master Seung Sahn, who was called Daes?nsa-nim by his students, was staying at the Chogye International Zen Center of New York. At that time there was a formal ceremony marking the end of one hundred days of chanting Kwanseum Bosal and many Korean women arrived before the ceremony to help with decorations and goodies for after the ceremony, so they had brought with them shopping bags full of food and presents.

    One woman had brought a large bouquet of plastic flowers, which she presented smilingly to an American student of Daes?nsa-nim’s. As soon as he was un-noticed by the mingling group, the student hid the flowers under a pile of coats in one of the guest rooms. Soon after that another woman found them and, with the greatest delight, walked into the Dharma Room and put them in a vase and placed them on the altar.

    The student became upset and went to Daes?nsa-nim and said, “Those plastic flowers are awful. May I take them off the altar and dump them somewhere?”

    Daes?nsa-nim said, “It is your mind that is plastic. The whole universe is plastic.” The student said, “What do you mean?” Daes?nsa-nim said, “Buddha said, ‘When one mind is pure, the whole universe is pure; when one mind is tainted, the whole universe is tainted.’ Every day we meet people who are unhappy. When their minds are sad, everything that they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch is sad, the whole universe is sad. When the mind is happy, the whole universe is happy. If you desire something, then you are attached to it. If you reject it, you are just as attached to it. Being attached to a thing means that it becomes a hindrance in your mind. So ‘I don’t like plastic’ is the same as ‘I like plastic’—both are attachments. You do not like plastic flowers, so your mind has become plastic, and the whole universe becomes plastic. Relinquish your opinion and you won’t be hindered by anything. You will not care whether the flowers are real or plastic, whether they are on the altar or in the garbage pail. This is true freedom. A plastic flower is just a plastic flower. A real flower is just a real flower. You mustn’t be attached to name and form.”

    The student said, “But we are trying to make a beautiful Zen center here, for all people. How can I not care? Those flowers spoil the whole room.”

    Daes?nsa-nim said, “If somebody gives real flowers to Buddha, Buddha is happy. If somebody else likes plastic flowers and gives them to Buddha, Buddha is also happy. Buddha is not attached to name and form, he does not care whether the flowers are real or plastic, and he only cares about the person’s mind. Those women who are offering plastic flowers have very pure minds, and their action is Bodhisattva action. Your mind rejects plastic flowers, so you have separated the universe into good and bad, beautiful and ugly. Therefore, your action is not Bodhisattva action.

    Only keep Buddha’s mind. Then you will have no hindrance. Real flowers are no problem; plastic flowers are no problem. This mind is like the great ocean, into which all waters flow—the Hudson River, the Charles River, the Yellow River, Chinese water, American water, clean water, dirty water, salt water, clear water. The sea does not say, ‘Your water is dirty, you can’t flow into me.’ It accepts all waters and mixes them and all become ocean. Therefore, if you keep the Buddha mind, your mind will be like the great ocean. This is the great ocean of enlightenment.”

    The student bowed and said, “I am very grateful for your teaching.”
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.
  • Shokai
    Treeleaf Priest
    • Mar 2009
    • 6391

    Re: Plastic Flowers

    Thanks Matt
    gassho, Shokai

    仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

    "Open to life in a benevolent way"


    • Hoyu
      • Nov 2010
      • 2020

      Re: Plastic Flowers

      Great story! Definitely one I'm going to have to print out. Thanks for sharing Matt_/_
      Ho (Dharma)
      Yu (Hot Water)


      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39419

        Re: Plastic Flowers

        I was looking for the stories in which a poor man puts a broken dish into the alms bowl, for that is so much of all he has ... and a child put a clump of earth in the bowl, but with sincerity. The Buddha honored both as greater in merit than a wealthy man thoughtlessly giving a jewel.

        Gassho, J


        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39419

          Re: Plastic Flowers

          Ah, found it ...

          From Master Dogen's Shobogenzo: Bodaisatta-Shishobo
          [The Bodhisattas's Four Methods] (Tanahashi Translation)

          Buddha said, "When a person who practices giving goes to an assembly, people take notice." You should know that the mind of such a person communicates subtly with others. Therefore, give even a phrase or verse of the truth; it will be a wholesome seed for this and other lifetimes. Give your valuables, even a penny or a blade of grass; it will be a wholesome root for this and other lifetimes. The truth can turn into valuables; valuables can turn into the truth. This is all because the giver is willing.

          A king gave his beard as medicine to cure his retainer's disease; a child offered sand to Buddha and became King Ashoka in a later birth. They were not greedy for reward but only shared what they could. To launch a boat or build a bridge is an act of giving. If you study giving closely, you see that to accept a body and to give up the body are both giving. Making a living and producing things can be nothing other than giving. To leave flowers to the wind, to leave birds to the seasons, are also acts of giving.

          King Ashoka was able to offer enough food for hundreds of monks with half a mango. People who practice giving should understand that King Ashoka thus proved the greatness of giving. Not only should you make an effort to give, but also be mindful of every opportunity to give. You are born into this present life because of the merit of giving in the past.

          Buddha said, "If you are to practice giving to yourself, how much more so to your parents, wife, and children." Therefore you should know that to give to yourself is a part of giving. To give to your family is also giving. Even when you give a particle of dust, you should rejoice in your own act, because you correctly transmit the merit of all buddhas, and for the first time practice an act of a bodhisattva. The mind of a sentient being is difficult to change. You should keep on changing the minds of sentient beings, from the first moment that they have one particle, to the moment that they attain the way. This should be started by giving. For this reason giving is the first of the six paramitas.

          Mind is beyond measure. Things given are beyond measure. Moreover, in giving, mind transforms the gift and the gift transforms mind.
          If you would like to read a nice lecture by the great Shohaku Okumura on these passages and the practice of Dana (Generous Giving) ...

 ... e15_07.htm

          Gassho, J


          • Kyonin
            Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
            • Oct 2010
            • 6742

            Re: Plastic Flowers

            Thank you very much for this story.

            I have been doing a lot of thinking about my plastic mind lately and this hits the spot right where I needed it.
            Hondō Kyōnin
            奔道 協忍


            • Myoku
              • Jul 2010
              • 1487

              Re: Plastic Flowers

              I hate plactice flowers ... great teaching, spot on for me. Amazing we never stop learning