Unusual for a City Center practice period, we are having night zazen for the next few weeks. You can count the participants on one hand most nights, which begs the question, Why bother?
Fortunately, a certain bodhi tree in Magada didn't ask that same question when a solitary man in his mid-thirties decided one night to sit under the tree and not get up until he found the solution to suffering. Eventually, the answer did show up, aided by the morning star.
A few days ago, I watched a conference speaker, backed by the requisite (if somewhat tangential) PowerPoint slides, explain that he was engaged in research to help speed up the enlightenment process so that more people could be compassionate quicker. I wanted to yell at his image on my laptop screen. You can't speed that up! (I shouted mutely.) There's no bodhisattva fast-track. As the Buddha once remarked to an assailant who was trying in vain to reach him, "You can't catch me because I have stopped. Now you stop." The assailant did -- and woke up to the truth of his own suffering on the spot.
So we sit, sometimes at odd hours, in homage not so much to the man under the tree, but to the power of stopping that he so ably demonstrated. Patience and tranquility, the necessary prerequisites to compassion, are found at the stop sign. We don't need to go get them; they're right here if we just stop and look ... inside.