Mistake After Mistake (File a File)

by Bob Schwartz

Mistake after mistake: 將錯就錯 [shōshaku jushaku], literally, take a file (rasp) and work on the file. File a file about something. Take up a mistake and settle in with the mistake. Mistakes surpass mistakes.

“When we reflect on what we are doing in our everyday life, we are always ashamed of ourselves. One of my students wrote to me saying, “You sent me a calendar, and I am trying to follow the good mottoes which appear on each page. But the year has hardly begun, and already I have failed!” Dogen-zenji said, “Shoshaku jushaku.” Shaku generally means “mistake” or “wrong.” Shoshaku jushaku means “to succeed wrong with wrong,” or one continuous mistake. According to Dogen, one continuous mistake can also be Zen. A Zen master’s life could be said to be so many years of shoshaku jushaku. This means so many years of one single-minded effort.”
–Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind

“We should understand that, in reality, mistakes are called learning, and the state of no mistake is called nowness. In nowness there is no before or after, no goals, agendas, or fixed direction. Like the meandering river, it twists and turns in accord with circumstances but always knows how to find its way to the great ocean. If you wish to travel like this, you must go alone, not carry any baggage, and trust yourself implicitly.”
–Dogen, The True Dharma Eye