I wonder if what those who make Zen our lifelong practice have in common is that when we're young we experience what John Tarrant Roshi describes in his book Bring Me the Rhinoceros: “None of the usual solutions to life that were on offer meant much to me.”
Even before I'd heard of Zen, the things that were supposed to be important seemed trivial, and based on a crazy assumption of permanence. I annoyed my first girlfriend by saying life was only varying degrees of suffering. So, when I heard about the First Noble Truth, it was a relief.
I suspect that's the difference between lifers and those who come to it for comfort or support during a period of crisis (not that the one is better than the other, just different).
An apology without amends is no apology at all. To acknowledge causing harm while offering no atonement or explanation is to deliver a taunt. “I'm sorry” is only an apology if it is followed by a comma, not a period.
Some people in the Buddhist world like to talk of “noble silence,” or, even, “Noble Silence.” Silence is neither noble nor ignoble; it's silence. If we try to make it more than it is, we make it less than it is, by imposing our small story on it, so that we experience not the silence, but our ideas about the silence.
Once in a saintly passion
I cried with desperate grief,
“O Lord, my heart is black with guile,
Of sinners I am chief.”
Then stooped my guardian angel
And whispered from behind,
“Vanity, my little man,
You're nothing of the kind.”
— James Thomson
Self-loathing is the same narcissism as self-adoration. Vanity prefers to be Satan than just another ordinary sinner. Contemplative practice is not about learning to love, or accept, ourself, but getting over ourself.
More than ten years ago, I realised I had never seen a good English translation of The Kannon Sutra, a.k.a. Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, so I decided to attempt one that was both accurate and easy to chant. This is the result, Romaji followed by English. (Note: in our sangha, we still chant it in Japanese.)