One day Zen master Yun-Men asked his disciples: “I’m not asking you about the days before the fifteenth of the month when the moon is full. I’m asking about the days before the fifteenth. Speak!” His disciples just looked at each other in silence, no body could give him an answer. Then Master Yun-Man answered himself saying, “Every day is a good day. Spring has its many beautiful flowers, autumn has its resplendent moon, summer has its cooling breeze, and winter has its soft carpet of snow. If there is no any care in one’s heart, that’s a good season in his life.”
“Every day is a good day” is a famous sentence from Zen stories. Here I would like to explain it from two different perspectives.
First: most people hope that every day is a good day. Unfortunately this is usually impossible and it also depends on a person’s mental state.
At birth we are incorporated into a tangible body. This leads us, naturally, to think, “I own this body.” We stubbornly stick to this idea. But think… if you really own this body why can’t you keep it healthy enough to not get any older and live-forever? Most things that happen are not good or bad, but who is it that judges them? People. When a thing benefits you, then you think it’s good. If a thing doesn’t benefit you, or isn’t as good as you think, or hope, it is, then you think it’s bad. It is when you have a good feeling or bad feeling that you produce suffering. In Buddhism we called it “Avidya”. It means ignorance; lack of enlightenment; the fundamental root of evil, and the ultimate cause of desire. Avidya creates the Dukkha (suffering) of existence. Its total elimination, resulting in perfect enlightenment, is the goal of the Buddhist Path.
So if you want every day to be a good day it shouldn’t depend on your mental state. It should depend on your wisdom. There is a sentence from Lao Zi’s Tao De Jing Chapter 58 that goes like this, “???????????” or “huò x? fú su? y?, fú x? huò su? fú”. It means “disaster is the avenue of fortune, (and) fortune is the concealment for disaster.” Let me give you an example from two stories about winning the lottery that I have read from the Internet. One American, who owned his own business, won one of the biggest lottery jackpots ever, three hundred million dollars. But after he won the lottery misfortune of one kind or another started to happen; many people tried to sue him for bad business practices, then stress caused his granddaughter to kill herself with a drug overdose. After his granddaughter died, this winner wished he had never won the lottery. The second winner, a man from the UK, won ten millions pounds about eleven year ago. Today this guy owes the bank two millions pounds, lost his houses, cars and is even poorer than he was before he won. So, for a wise man, every day can be a good day but someone with no wisdom will find that good fortune is just disaster in camouflage.
The second perspective of “every day is a good day” is my own personal feelings of dislike for this idea. What is good? What is bad? When things happen we just need to face it. We need to deal with the consequences and not loose our equilibrium. I try very hard to not judge everything that happens as “good” or “bad”. Instead, I think “Every day is an enjoyable day”. For example, I teach my Tai Chi and Chi Kung classes every day but Saturday. Sometimes I teach just once but sometimes I teach as many as four. I teach every class by myself. Sometimes I am sick or even have an injury from practicing, but I still need to teach the classes. Regardless, I try to enjoy every class while I’m teaching it. This is because I believe that Zen is not just facts, awareness and thoughts about my life… it is my very own experiences, most of which can’t be picked apart and talked about. Zen is beyond words.
Zen is in our daily lives. It is how we face the consequences of something happening that lets us know who is, and is not, a true Zen practitioner.