Like my mother used to say: “What good are Zebras and what good are Grasshoppers and ESPECIALLY FLEAS AND MOSQUITOS?
The koan may simply be why judge and look for good or bad –just be grasshopper!
Zen meditation is a practice designed to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us. It is meant to make us more sensitive to the world, to respond to others with empathy and compassion. It is a call to act in the world of suffering, while trying to maintain a mind of clarity and equanimity.
We need to cultivate that awareness, that sensitivity, to the world around us and to act upon it. This mindfulness includes the things that are unpleasant or difficult or make us uncomfortable to pay attention to. But that is necessary in order to look at the world just as it is and not how we want to see it or would like to see it.
A case in point comes from an article in this month’s issue of the “UU World.” The article is titled “Good for Nothing” by John Lockwood, a UU and a professor of entomology at the University of Wyoming. He is a bug doctor specializing in grasshoppers. I took an immediate interest in this article because you may recall that I have spoken about grasshoppers in the past. When I was a kid there was this show called “Kung Fu” in which the main character, Kane, was referred to by his master as “Grasshopper.”
It is a classic TV show of the seventies. Kane received this nickname, not because he looked like a grasshopper, which some people thought, but because of an incident when he first met his teacher, who happened to be blind.
The master asked him if he could hear the grasshopper that had landed on the boy’s shoe. When Kane looked down, he saw that indeed there was a grasshopper there. The blind Zen master had cultivated his awareness, his mindfulness, and his sensitivity to the world around him to such a degree that he could hear a grasshopper land on someone’s shoe.
Later when Kane passes the final test, his master asks him, “What do you hear?” He replies, “I hear the grasshopper.” Meaning that Kane had at last cultivated his own sensitivity to such a degree that he was now mindful of his environment. The grasshopper in this story is an everyday event. It is nothing special. But when experienced with a mind of clarity, even a humble grasshopper becomes the window to the sacred, the voice of Gaia.
Professor Lockwood’s study of grasshoppers from a scientific perspective yields some interesting insights. He claims that grasshoppers would make good Buddhists because they just sit there.
They exist for no discernable practical purpose. He writes,
“And so, in answering the polite and honest question, ‘What are grasshoppers good for?’ the ecologist in me wants to discuss the role of this creature in nutrient cycling, and the evolutionist in me wants to explain that it is good at replicating itself. But I have come to understand that these are ends that we impose and values that emerge only by induction; the grasshopper is unaware of our goals and our statistical extrapolations. We might as well ask ourselves what our children are good for: Do we love them because they are efficient omnivores, effective competitors, successful phenotypes, genetic successors? These compromise the right answer to the wrong question. The reason we love our children is not because of what they do, but because of who they are. That’s why as a spiritual scientist, my answer is that a grasshopper isn’t good for anything. Its presence is of no significance-an ultimate zero. Its value is in being a grasshopper, nothing more. The grasshopper just is. And that is enough.”
The question of “is a grasshopper beneficial for humans or is it just an inherent part of the web of life” is an issue that exists only in our heads to confuse us. Nature continues to be, continues to grow with or without us. The grasshopper, like the Zen master that can hear it, just is, and is not bothered by utility. Adapted from Sermon archive of Dr. Joshua Snyder.
QUOTE: Dae-Ju said, “When people are hungry, they eat. Only the outside, the body, is eating. On the inside, they are thinking, and they have desire for money, fame, sex, food, and they feel anger. And so when they are tired, because of these wants, they do not sleep. So, the outside and the inside are different. But when I am hungry, I only eat. When I am tired, I only sleep. I have no thinking, and so I have no inside and no outside.”
THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: The scientific name of a grasshopper is: Conocephalus Longipennis and they are edidble.The taste and texture of edible insects varies as much as other kinds of food. The most widely consumed species are grasshoppers. When these insects are roasted and salted, they have a nutty flavor. Grasshoppers can also be ground up and used as flour.
THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Grasshoppers! They are very good to eat… especially chocolate covered and offer good treats for our bird-feathered friends!
ZENTRAVELER SAYS:Eat more grasshoppers… so you can think from the outside and from the inside…. or just be! Grasshopper!
From here to Infinity is a relatively short ride! The next leg takes eons and eons as you fly through the Barycentric Dynamical Time Zone! …and on and on and on.
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