Sunday, December 27, 2009

Whisky can be Zen

I love decent whisky, but normally can't justify the extortionate expenditure when the world has greater priorities. However, a couple of weeks ago I helped at a charity auction where all the funds raised were going to needy children. A half case of whisky came up - the best, from the private bottlings of the Chairman of the Bruichladdich distillery, home of Lagavulin.

So I won the auction with a bid of £500. My wife was very understanding.

Two days ago I allowed a couple of friends to help me open the first two bottles. We had a pleasant time - but the conversation was interrupted by the whisky and the whisky was interrupted by the conversation. Neither were satisfactory - yet this was the very best whisky, and when I have the same two chaps round for conversation, we converse well.

Tonight I sat alone and tried again. My son was asleep, my wife in the bath - just me and the whisky, and silence.

The experience is as impossible to describe as the inner experience of zazen - that is why food critics and Zen manuals both resort to apparently meaningless strings of words .

However, if you've done Zen, then you'll understand when I say that the whisky tasting involved one-pointed mind. What a joy! And what a contrast to the previous attempt at the same experience!

Zen is doing one thing, whole-heartedly, at one time.

(I would like to assure readers that no precepts were broken in the writing of this blog - at over US$100 per bottle, I can't afford to get heedless.)

1 comment:

  1. Some years ago, a Zen priest from Japan came to the zendo where I was currently practicing. He was a guest teacher who spoke English fairly well, he gave a dharma talk then allowed the sangha members to ask questions. One young man who was a smoker asked if smoking was acceptable for someone who practiced Zen. After pondering the question for a moment the teacher answered- “Only if you smoke with complete attention. Smoke without talking to anyone or thinking about doing anything else. When you are smoking, there must be nothing but smoking! This is Zen.”