What does a rock have to do with time and Zen?

Rocks and Zen and Time! Thirty years ago, I belonged to a Zen Monastery where twice a week I would go to sit Zen and meditate. Some of the people lived there and others were commuters like me. The master was a renowned Japanese Zen expert and we all felt he must truly be enlightened. One of the women who lived there told me that once when the master was going to travel back to Japan he asked her what he could bring back for her. She told the master: “I really love ancient and old objects and could you bring me back something very ancient.” When he returned, he had a present for her wrapped in a package and tied with a bow. She was very excited and could hardly wait to open it. When she removed the present from the package, her excitement dropped as all she found was a rock. She looked at the Zen master with great disappointment. He saw her disappointment and said “You wanted something very ancient. This rock is more than 100, 000 years old.” She then understood the message that he was trying to impart to her. Most of us are like this young woman. We think we know the real value of things, but often we are only concerned with images, names and brands.

Rocks are not valued by many people but they are truly old and ancient. Rocks are proof that time itself is not the major factor that decides the value of an object. The real value of anything is not in the name, the image or the age. Antiques are valuable because they evoke nostalgic memories or because they remind of us something that we associate with a better life. Time is one of the most precious things in the world, however we never realize the value of time until it is in short supply. How many of us wish we could live a moment over again or retrieve some moment in time that was ill spent?

Does the law of supply and demand govern the value of time for you or does your time conform to rules of branding and imaging? How many people do you know who love to express their importance by being ever so busy and never having any time? Why do you value time? What in time creates value for you? Would you know a gem from a rock when it comes to time?

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