I think it’s important to remember days like our Founding Day because they made possible what is happening right now. I’ve often thought that maybe what we need is a crawling through the window ceremony as a way of celebrating and remembering the occasion, instead of the service we do in the zendo. We would all line up outside by the front door and then each person would crawl through the window and offer incense. Or we could do a crawling through the window student entering ceremony. That would grab people’s attention. And when people asked why we do it that way, they would hear the story of the founding of the Monastery and it would be embedded in their consciousness. You can be sure no one would ever forget then.

Dogen did something similar at his monastery. He had a very strict rule about never accepting money from people in positions of power because there would always be strings attached to it. He was very strict about this. Yet one day, a monk accepted a gift from a wealthy patron and when Dogen found out about it, he not only threw the monk out of the monastery, he took the man’s seat and threw it out. Then he dug a hole six feet deep where the cushion had been, took all the dirt in it and threw it out. And the hole stayed there for years. So every time a new monk arrived at the monastery he’d ask, “What’s that hole?” And he would hear the story of the banished monk. Everyone was very careful about accepting donations after that.

So, why is it important to “create a landmark for future generations,” as the commentary says? We are not talking about a geographic landmark but rather a spiritual one. And what would that be? It would be a significant teaching, realization or development. Something established by one generation and recognized by the next one. The historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote that “Of all the historical changes in the West, the most important—and the one whose effects have been least understood—is the meeting of Buddhism in the Occident.” So we could say that the coming of Buddhism to the West was a spiritual landmark, one that is felt and recognized by all the subsequent generations. In the same way, the establishment of this monastery, of this Order, is a spiritual landmark. It is the establishment of that archive of sanity, not just for ourselves, but for successive generations. That is why we say that everything each of us does has a very real effect on everything that comes after it. As the commentary to this koan says, “Creating a landmark for future generations has profound implications that resound in the ten directions.”

 

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