A monk asked Deshan, “Is there much distance between the ordinary and the sacred?”

Deshan gave a shout.

We tend to sort the world into the sacred—cathedrals, saints, scriptures, certain mountains; and the ordinary—kitchens, gardeners, novels, cornfields. How do you sort them? What’s on your lists?

One famous Zen ancestor says nothing is sacred. Another says the sacred and ordinary are less than a hair’s width apart. Another says the sacred is ‘getting tired during long meditations.’ Deshan, however, gives a shout.

What’s behind this monk’s question? Is he trying see how far he must go to get from his humdrum and messy ordinary life to something more pure, transcendent, enlightened?

Let’s look at this together. Maybe we’ll discover whether the place where we’re meditating and exploring is sacred or ordinary. But please, no shouting!


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