Searching for Hidden Treasure

There is a children's fable, I believe from Aesop's collection, about a farmer who told his children before he died that there was a hidden treasure somewhere on their farm. Unfortunately, they were not given the location before the old man died. The search for the hidden treasure and the meaning that emerged for the children who searched is the theme of this brief reflection.

Suzuki Roshi made a comment that nears on this search. Here are his words:
“Most of us study Buddhism as it were something that was already given to us. We think that what we should do is preserve the Buddha’s teachings like putting food in the refrigerator. Then when you want to study Buddhism we take the food out of the refrigerator and whenever you want it it is already there. Instead, Zen students should be interested in how to produce food from the field and the garden. We put the emphasis on the ground…Usually we are not interested in the messiness or the bareness of the ground. Our tendency is to be interested in something that is growing in the garden, not in the bare soil itself. But, if you want to have a good harvest, the most important thing is to make the soil rich and to cultivate it well. The Buddha’s teaching is not about the food itself, but about how it is grown and how to take care of it…The ground has no special shape or form, but all the forms arise from it. So, the most important thing for us is to take care of the ground.”

In addition, Rumi speaks to this same teaching in his poem, “The Pickaxe.”

Some commentary on I was a hidden treasure,
and I desired to be known: tear down

this house. A hundred thousand new houses
can be built from the transparent yellow carnelian

buried beneath it, and the only way to get to that
is to do the work of demolishing and then

digging under the foundations.  With that value
in hand all the new construction will be done

without effort.  And anyway, sooner or later this house
will fall down on its own.  The jewel treasure will be

uncovered, but it won’t be yours then.  The buried
wealth is your pay for doing the demolition,

the pick and shovel work.  If you wait and just
let it happen, you’d bite your hand and say,

“I didn’t do as I knew I should have.” This
is a rented house.  You don’t own the deed.

You have a lease, and you’ve set up a little shop,
where you barely make a living sewing patches

on torn clothing.  Yet only a few feet underneath
are two veins, pure red and bright gold carnelian.

Quick! Take the pickaxe and pry the foundation.
You’ve got to quit this seamstress work.

What does the patch-sewing mean, you ask? Eating
and drinking.  The heavy cloak of the body

is always getting torn.  You patch it with food,
and other restless ego-satisfactions.  Rip up

one board from the shop floor and look into
the basement.  You’ll see two glints in the dirt.

Inquiry recording: