Zen Wisdom 141

Some people tell me all their problems, as if they want to read me their autobiography. I don't have time to listen to all of it, so I say, "I don't want to know the details, so I'll give you a method to use." Here is an analogy. There is a kind of parasite which attaches to the body and sucks blood. Suppose you find your body covered with parasites. One way to help yourself is to pick them off one by one. That would take a long time and require much effort; it might also result in the significant loss of blood. A much simpler solution is to throw salt on them, and the parasites will fall off. Ch'an is like the salt treatment for parasites; it does not address every individual problem.

To deal with problems in each instance is to try to remove the parasites one by one. It is messy and sometimes dangerous. While you are picking one off, the rest have time to penetrate further. Or you may have only stunned them; or worse, you may cut one into three pieces only to create more parasites because they can regenerate. Psychological problems can be like this. When you think you have finished dealign with a problem, it can reappear in another form, or in many forms. There is also danger of parasites getting on the therapist. It is better and easier to throw salt on the body.

For this reason many therapists have expressed interest in Ch'an and Buddhism. Numerous analysts and therapists have come here to practice and have developed more insight. They tell me that Ch'an reinforces and supplements their methods. A therapist incorporating Buddhist teaching is like a tiger with wings.

STUDENT:

I have been in therapy for ten years. There is a concept in psychoanalysis called denial. For example, somebody in an office yells at everyone and then thinks no one likes him. He doesn't realize that he is causing people to dislike him. He is totally unaware of his problem. That is denial. Is this like ignoring your problems in Ch'an?

SHIH-FU: