Today I went to the Saturday zazen for the first time. There were twenty of so people, and it was good, aside from me forgetting to turn off my cellphone and having it go off, full volume, with the old-fashioned-phone ring, about a minute into the first sitting session. That was pretty mortifying. So I had to turn that off, and sit back down and calm down...
Each of times we started zazen, we'd be quiet for a couple minutes, and then a cricket in the room would start chirping and keep it up for a few minutes. It was as if it had been waiting for the silence. Perhaps it associated the silence with safety. Or perhaps it knew that only in the silence could its chirping be heard by other crickets. And now I think about it, perhaps it was there the whole time, but I couldn't hear it when everyone was settling down.
If it had started chirping 15 minutes into zazen, I'd be seeing it as a reminder to be present, pulling us back to the present, or that guy with the stick giving us a whack. But as it was, chirping within a minute or two of us starting to sit, I just saw it as a cricket chirping.
I am sure there's a deep meaning in the cricket speaking in the silence. But I don't know what it is.
After zazen, the leader of our group today, Chigen, talked about a koan from the Book of Equanimity, Case 20, where Master Jizo met Hogan, and asked Hogan where was going, and Hogan said he was on pilgrimage aimlessly. Jizo asked him why he was on pilgrimage, and Hogan said I don't know. Jizo said not knowing is most intimate, and Hogan experienced some awakening. Chigen talked about the importance of not knowing, being open to not knowing, and the practice of being there with your discomfort in not knowing. And we had a good discussion about it.
So there was a cricket today, and it chirped, and I don't know why this feels worthy of me retelling, but there you go. There is intimacy in not knowing. Perhaps. Or perhaps not.