When we talk about paradise or happiness, what generally comes to mind? ... Everyone desires to be rich rather than poor. Everyone wishes to be healthy rather than ill. Everyone wants to be a success rather than a failure. No matter how hard you work during your lifetime, there may be times when you have to go without food for the day. No matter how much you complain of illness, you have to be ill when the time comes. Even if it is an illness you will die from, you cannot escape it. No matter how much confidence or capability you have, there may be failures.
Happiness that depends on what you acquire or become is only conditional happiness, not true happiness. No matter what happens, it is all right. If you become ill, just be ill; if you are poor, then just be poor. Unless you accept your present circumstances, happiness cannot be attained. To face any situation and accept it with open arms if it cannot be avoided molds the attitude enabling you to see that such a wonderful way of living is possible. This is indeed something of consequence. As soon as this attitude is achieved, you have reached paradise - anytime, anywhere, and in any circumstances...
It is the plum blossoms that bring the spring. Once this idea is accepted, spring must be everywhere.
Extract from Zen Seeds, Shambhala Publications, by Shundo Aoyama, Roshi (pictured), Abbess of Aichi Semmon Niso-do. First woman to hold the distinguished role of "Teacher of the House of Soto Zen", and among the foremost Zen teachers in contemporary Japan.