I was recently asked to review a new book “Zen and the Art of Wealth” by Warren Mackenzie, which is a story of two friends who chat while one helps the other build his drystone wall. It’s a good book and reminded me of some important life lessons that I had forgotten over the years. The book also triggered some memories about how I was first exposed to the world of Zen.
My first exposure to Zen was as a child, when I watched the TV show “Kung Fu” starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine. In the first episode, Caine is accepted for training at a Shaolin monastery, where he grows up to become a Shaolin priest and martial arts expert. Caine fights for justice, protects the underdog and has a strong sense of social responsibility, something that is sadly lacking today. Flashbacks were often used to reveal specific lessons from Caine’s childhood training in the monastery, from his teachers: the blind Master Po and Master Kan.
I loved the lessons from Caine’s training in the monastery and those lessons have stuck with me for some reason over the years:
Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the water. I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
The goal in Zen is to reach enlightenment called “satori”. It is an awakening and when I thought about it, I realized that achieving financial independence after so many hard years of work was my own awakening of sorts. That was the day everything started to make sense to me and my world changed.
By achieving financial independence and understanding what that meant, I could finally see and hear things that had remained hidden from me for a long, long time. They were always there, but I just didn’t realize it because I was so caught up in life. That realization allowed me to start my own victory lap and finally regain balance in my life. It is a realization I will always be grateful for. I no longer worry about the past and focus instead on the present, doing the things I want to do and find enjoyment in. The future can take care of itself!
I will leave you with this last bit of advice from Master Po:
“If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present; but if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past”.