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Denis Wallez
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«Intentions do matter.»
«Intentions do matter.»

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Bottomless pit, or abyss, or…

The pātāla sutta (SN 36.4) seems to be one of the most 'secular' sutta from the Pali canon, where the realms of existence (likely one of the hells in the sutta, but there's no reason the same wouldn't apply to other realms) are actually presented as metaphors of mental states, not as actual physical planes.

Funnily, many monastic translators struggle and avoid presented the realm as one of the realms of existence, or one of the hells, so we get sutta on the "abyss", the "pit", etc.
And, sure enough, there's no pātāla in the traditional (Theravadin) 31 abodes (www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sagga/loka.html).
But then would this suggest the Buddha is talking of some inexistent domain? I doubt the Buddha who here rejects the naïve interpretation of hells as an actual place would be OK with people tip-toeing and going round in circles to avoid saying clearly that the Buddhist cosmology is a metaphor ;-)

Here is Piya's always helpful translation with serious notes: http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/2.25-Patala-S-s36.4.pdf

#Buddhism #Dharma #secular
"not for the sake of popularity" series
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Kōan curriculum

A reshare of gplus.wallez.name/ZiGaha2zs5a led to the following questions: « How are koans used in teaching? Does one progress through a series of them, "completing" each one? Or does one revisit them again and again, finding a new answer each time without end? Do I understand this correctly, that improving the process of engagement is a noble goal, and that koans are often exercises towards that end? Or is it a test, pass or fail, in some kind of structured process? Or are they designed to help us learn how to ask helpful questions? All or none? Do I need an answer to continue practicing? ;-) »
Time to talk about the kōan curriculum ?


How are koans used in teaching? Does one progress through a series of them, "completing" each one?

I guess it might be useful to distinguish how they are used nowadays, vs. how they were.

Examples of historical considerations relevant to such a question:
• Kōans are a distinct feature of Chán / Zen / Sǒn / Thiền (gplus.wallez.name/ChoZwm9mWhB), and are at the heart of "direct, mind-to-mind transmission" (gplus.wallez.name/MjXGCt9df7t).
• It's been long considered within the very tradition he founded (the Soto school of Zen in Japan) that Eihei Dōgen (1200–1253) didn't use kōans… until the Shōbōgenzō (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, a collection of 300 kōans) was identified as his!
• Similarly, without the contributions of Hakuin Ekaku (1686–1768) in the Rinzai Zen tradition in Japan, and notably his fivefold classification system of kōans, it's possible this whole category of expedient means would have been forgotten.
• Sǒn, the Korean version of Chán/Zen, is also a descent from Linji / Rinzai, but the influence of Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163), and its Hua Tou (Korean: hwadu, Japanese: wato) reduction of kōans to their 'key phrases', might have lost a few too many details along the way if Japanese Zen had not survived.

One might note that the very existence of the Shōbōgenzō questions the assertion by Dōgen that he came back from China "empty-handed", but that's another matter… What's reasonably clear is that he didn't bring sutras, statues, 'magical' props, etc. But there's also controversy (to say the least) as to whether he actually received transmission from his own Chán masters! He claimed as much, but there's no certificate to be seen…
And we know that Hakuin didn't receive inka from Shoju Rojin, of who he considered himself an heir though…

So nowadays, it's often considered that one has to go through a series of them, of increasing difficulties (according to Hakuin)…

It's also considered that completing the curriculum is necessary to receive Zen 'transmission' (inka shōmei) and to teach…
Yet, it's well known that spiritual materialism is a major trap (it's not about collecting or accumulating 'solved' kōans!).
Moreover, the kōan system is then reduced mostly to progressing through a series of riddles aimed at relinquishing views, then more views… polishing the mirror with finer and finer grained sandpaper… i.e. the very opposite of the "sudden awakening" it's meant to tell about, and to provide opportunities for!
Finally, it's then considered that one ought to continue perpetuating the lies of an 'unbroken' lineage since the Buddha, even though we know that it's already been broken (even before Hakuin, cf. Touzi Yiqing an ancestor of Dogen !) and the whole thing is a polemical propaganda invented (from the 6th century, and many times re-invented through the centuries) when some teachers needed to assert their legitimacy against the spiritual competition. My essay "The invention of Chán lineage" is available to regular readers/students of my posts, upon request. There's a Zen saying "Good children don't use their parents' money" about the fact that one shouldn't publicise oneself based on the achievements of one's teacher, but hey it's so convenient to say "my teacher was a great teacher, so I must be great if (s)he acknowledged me as a successor…" LOL!


Answering correctly by luck, by parroting the 'correct' answers of others, or by partial understanding isn't the point.
There's a very controversial book, The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans With Answers, from 1916, available in English translated by Yoel Hoffmann, which contained the 'answers' to kōans, supposedly according to 2 lineages (some of the best bits are in the footnotes though).
The book still is controversial and was recently dismissed in e.g. https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/century-old-book-koan-answers-still-controversial/
Interestingly, there aren't solely the 'answers' to the kōans in this book, but also the answers to 'checking questions' (used by teachers to check that the student is not merely parroting the answer learnt from another)!
While the book was meant to breach a major taboo, in fact passing answers from monk to monk has been going on forever. The taboo was about public access (all religions like to pretend they have 'secret' teachings), not so much the cheating ;-)
And yet, while the book can be of interest, it's arcane and mostly unreadable to people not having solved some kōan previously! It can be used like "chess problems" can be used: if you don't know how to play chess (and I mean better than merely knowing the rules), you mostly will not be able to solve problems. But if you know how to play already, then they can be used to deepen your understanding, to keep in shape, to maintain your skills…


At several points in history, a few teachers considered that if you truly saw through one (any one) kōan, 'answering' all other kōans should be trivial afterwards… which didn't mean that no other work, no further progress was required, but it meant you either know how to see things as they are or you don't. Seeing things as they are might be the beginning of constructive engagement, so it's not the end of the spiritual journey, it's just the moment you finally have a clue about where to go next!

Either way (a progression of kōans —falling back into polishing the brick into a mirror— or a sudden 'complete' awakening from the very first kenshō), Zen kōans (and Sǒn hwadus) are expedient means to create doubt… a doubt supposedly helping the student to become more curious, to let go of prejudices, to actually open up to reality.
A related Zen saying states "Great doubt, great awakening. Little doubt, little awakening. No doubt, …"
A classic injunction is "Don't know" (gplus.wallez.name/JBmChcrHQod)
Leave at the door whatever you think you know; don't even trust yourself (gplus.wallez.name/fNntpgXdTHj), your previous realisations, your previous insights (gplus.wallez.name/JqYneaxNFp3)!

The doubt can be directly about reality, or about the Dharma (if the student is lost in believing that the Dharma is some unquestionable 'truth', perfectly capturing what reality 'is' despite being a mental representation).
Hence, although "Zen is beyond scriptures", some kōans only make sense if you know of some Buddhist scriptures, e.g. the "Mu" koan (when a Zen master states that "no", a dog doesn't have buddha-nature… although some scriptures say all beings have buddha-nature)!
The kōan is an expedient means for the student to question, to enquire, to access reality directly, without referring to what the Buddha said, what some other kōan said (another kōan about the same Zen master states that he answered that "yes", a dog has buddha-nature!) or Zen master said (gplus.wallez.name/LdarRvTDdwt).

Hence, it's not about a particular, predefined, preconceived, prejudiced answer anyway (gplus.wallez.name/4Vd3zfQjCMs), it's about spiritual autonomy, direct access, authenticity (gplus.wallez.name/dXCgSBFRjAM), personal responsibility in embodying the Dharma (rather than blindly clinging to this ritual, that precept or these pre-digested bits of wisdom gplus.wallez.name/NtsmpnHXR5S)… It's about realising the "selfless true self" (gplus.wallez.name/3pnjLP3xrTN).
And we can have fun and analyse sutras (gplus.wallez.name/PpjKYdo1BDJ) and kōans (gplus.wallez.name/j8S3ewRk4Aw, gplus.wallez.name/VKWjoBqFcq8, gplus.wallez.name/473WZowcu5M or the recent gplus.wallez.name/ZiGaha2zs5a), there might be some wisdom found in engaging with them, battling against the stream of our usual patterns of thoughts, in going through a curriculum of progressive difficulty, etc… and yet mental fabrications aren't the point (gplus.wallez.name/fgKsxciJCdN, gplus.wallez.name/bE46dahfwb2)! Daily ordinary life provides kōans just as valid as old Chinese teachers babbling (gplus.wallez.name/AsiZtSMTHaV, gplus.wallez.name/TZwG3HppriY).

Kōans are a response to the analysis and certainties that arose from the 'success' of Buddhism, and from the abhidhamma period (gplus.wallez.name/hH1fxZg22Yp); it's going back to the root of Buddhism, seeking to understand suffering, to see for oneself the origin of suffering, to realise the extinction of suffering… it goes back to the initial questioning (gplus.wallez.name/ZjE3AxTpcVH), instead of trying to find a consistent presentation of the suttas, it engages with the contradictions, turning suttas into questions more than answers (gplus.wallez.name/Rz9mMYgYbbK), and other past 'Zen' dialogues (and non-dialogues gplus.wallez.name/ZkVKPTqMHFp) into questions more than answers.


So how are kōans used in teachings?
A teacher might give you one, to shake certainties and other transparent prisons which need to be relinquished in order for you to progress on the spiritual path!
And (s)he might reject all your answers for a while… or (s)he might accept your first answer, and congratulate you, if your hindrance was the thought that you're an incapable loser ;-) Teachers can be unpredictable like that (gplus.wallez.name/K6NZcWtzScK), you rarely know why they give you this kōan or that one (gplus.wallez.name/47cxWCjzavw) ;-)


#Buddhism #Dharma #Zen #koan
As this is the second post of the "needlessly provocative" series, a.k.a. "not for the sake of popularity" series (gplus.wallez.name/CPRA6Kw3n4o), rest assured that yes, I know the image will unsettle some people… for them, it's particularly worth reading the next paragraph!
Image: part of "nirvana" series, in "the Museum project" by Atta Kim, published by Aperture, 2005… for which the photographer got the abbott of a Sǒn temple to let monks and nuns pose nude (at times together!). One can only marvel at the openness of this abbot: few abbots are ready to use opportunities as they arise, without wish or aversion for particular forms. The ‘clinging’ to rules, status, formalism and respectability is a famous impediment to the Liberation of the monastic community. Not so much in that monastery, it would seem.
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities: http://koan.mu/donate.htm
Other related posts: gplus.wallez.name/MKZk6Ze71ks, gplus.wallez.name/h9c4AL1pdzs, gplus.wallez.name/FXCW8MUYjEA, gplus.wallez.name/Ko86ef8qWvS, gplus.wallez.name/azZyoEm2z1y, gplus.wallez.name/18geCTTAAXg
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Dharma name or… simply 'Buddhist'?

Sure, there's a traditional basis for "Dharma names" in Buddhism:
«
Pahārāda, just as all the great rivers, that is to say,
the Ganga, the Yamuna, the Aciravati, the Sarabhu and the Mahi,
upon reaching the great ocean, losing their former names and origins,
come to be known simply as the great ocean…

so, too, Pahārāda, when these 4 classes
—the kshatriyas, the brahmins, the vaishyas, the shudras
having gone forth from the house for the homeless life in the Dharma-Vinaya proclaimed by the Tathagata,
they abandon their former names and lineages, and are simply known as ‘Sakya-putta recluses’ [‘recluses who are sons of the Sakya’].
»
Pahārāda sutta (AN 8.19)

But looking at this basis, you can see for yourself that, unless you live in a society where your name de facto informs others of your class / caste, you don't need a Dharma name!
That'd just be copying practices appropriate to the old caste system in India into another context, without regards for the appropriateness or priorities in the situation at hand (and "fixing imaginary flaws" is likely to distract you from, and keep you blind to, the present flaws —no society is perfect!).

Moreover, "sons of the Sakya" had no 'exotic' ring to it, in the regional context the Buddha proposed it. In Anglo-saxon countries, today, that'd be equivalent to changing your name to 'Smith': it lets your origins go, but it doesn't make you 'special', with some weird foreign name…

It might be noted that the Pali term in "sons of the Sakya" is ambiguous as to whether the Sakya is a collective, the clan from which the Buddha arose, or a singular, which would point to the Buddha himself.
The former would point to the 'Smith' case above.
The latter, however, would make the reference a bit more specific, or 'special'… but then you still don't need an exotic new name for that, for a suitable word already exists in English (which had no equivalent at the time of Buddha): 'Buddhist'.

If you ought to change something when you become a Buddhist practitioner, it's your mind, your views, your behaviours (in body and speech)… not your name. There's a difference between wishing to practice and practicing; don't start with distractions! Guidance is available (gplus.wallez.name/Uugxkqo6uy2).
The eightfold path is "right view, right intention, right action, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right mindfulness"… and 'right' here is a misleading translation from samma, which in fact points to 'complete', to 'inclusive', to 'harmonious' rather than 'right' (gplus.wallez.name/i74AzY5wEQL)! So, this list does not include "right name" —and if it did, then it'd mean 'harmonious' name, not something setting you apart, different, special or even implicitly superior (gplus.wallez.name/NPY9So13jED) on the assumption that you joined the 'right' tradition (because you're at ease with it? then watch gplus.wallez.name/bqEtDVgbhhy).


And, yes, 5 rivers but only 4 castes… because caste-based societies also have 'outcasts' or 'untouchables'… people which were also accepted in the Sangha as full-fledged human beings (this was and remains one of the social dimensions of Buddhism: one is worthy by deed, not by birth)… so if you "have to" change your name, then make sure you pick an harmonious one, rather than a tradition-specific, country-connoted, culturally-foreign, I'm-right-you're-wrong name! And no, I don't mean "harmonious after translation", I mean "harmonious". And on this basis, even claiming you're Buddhist might not be such a great idea. It isn't about how you label yourself, it's about how you behave (and refrain from embodying unwholesome tendencies): don't move forward on the path by outcasting others!


#Buddhism #Dharma
As this is the first post of the "needlessly provocative" series, a.k.a. "not for the sake of popularity" series (gplus.wallez.name/CPRA6Kw3n4o), rest assured that yes, I did think of putting some nude woman doing some meditative yoga pose or something; that'd be for another post, a monster bashing stuff just seemed more appropriate for this one ;-)
image: Japanese folklore's Ōari monster (the ghost of a giant ant) raising a wooden hammer, from the Hyakki-Yagyō-Emaki scroll, Muromachi period (approx. 1336–1573)… and no, this has virtually no link with Buddhist teachings… or about as much as Westerners taking exotic names on, to refurbish-yet-sustain their ego.
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities: http://koan.mu/donate.htm
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Impermanence

In order to perceive the world as 'changing'… I must fix myself (or at least a part of me, my 'memory') as the constant against which variations and alterations will be measured…
In order to see the variability of my inner world… some reference must be fixed, posited as constant…

Which means… knowledge (of impermanence) at its very roots arises from a kind of blindness, a delusion which arbitrarily fixes constants out of processes, snapshots from movements… and then imagines these 'constants' actually are constant.
But if 'I' am perpetually changing, if 'my' way of relating to 'constants' is perpetually changing… if we remember that 'I' don't ever perceive (even a 'constant') without the mind karmically interfering (gplus.wallez.name/aVJ7pgjKZT6), or if we remember that accessing memories in and of itself creates new neurological associations with said memories and therefore alters them… then the idea that I could have any 'constant' at my disposal to measure impermanence is a profound delusion!

And such a delusion is dangerous: I might try and fix a constant, try and measure some change, then find no change and conclude that impermanence doesn't apply (even though it does)… basically because my 'constant' has changed and thus prevented me from reliably measuring the evolution.
This is not just some hypothetical difficulty: it leads many to conclude they have a soul, as they seemingly find a constant 'identity' within themselves (because they're unable to fix a truly constant 'memory' of their past identity, against which to actually discern that no part has been left unchanged…). And people clinging to identities easily fall into extremism to defend these identities against perceived (not necessarily real) dangers. Others might not turn to extremes, but could nonetheless suffer from 'losses' (defined from a previous 'have' in an unreliable memory and/or with attached misconceptions around 'having' or around its object).


In the doctrine of two truths (gplus.wallez.name/4gaFiv79s7d, gplus.wallez.name/TUTAvQSj9cz, gplus.wallez.name/1zBnRf5bPuw), it is understood that both truths are conventional: the shortened "conventional truth" and "ultimate truth" are misnomers, for they're actually "conventional truth in conventional terms" and "conventional truth in ultimate terms".
And "ultimate terms" refer to "atomic" phenomena: phenomena that cannot be decomposed by analysis without becoming useless (think of atoms: decomposing further into electrons, protons and neutrons —or even further— is possible but you loose sight of chemical properties).
The observation above, about the knowledge of impermanence relying on some delusional observation (assuming a fixed point), points to a similar trait of the Dhamma: impermanence (anicca) is a "conventional truth" (regardless whether it's expressed in conventional terms or in ultimate terms)! And it cannot be otherwise since, at its base, it's 'delusional'.

To convince oneself of the actuality of what the Buddha calls 'impermanence', one uses one delusion to destroy many (which isn't dissimilar to how craving for awakening might help to let go of many other cravings http://gplus.wallez.name/4Z2tr9qgiaU )… but at some point, one still needs to go 'beyond', to let go of the idea of ascertaining impermanence (by setting permanent references, 'permanent' at least for the duration of the measure)!
One needs to engage with the flow (gplus.wallez.name/2V7f1nBTBq2), against the stream (gplus.wallez.name/7S3j1FGP21p) instead of trying to cling to the idea of being an 'external' observer, with the associated delusion of a separate self (unaffected / unchanging by the observed). One needs to let go of a referential 'self', to realise anatta.

According to the doctrine of rebirth and karma, impermanence doesn't equate a nihilistic death… impermanence only means change… but realising impermanence might well bring the death of the suffering ego (which tries to permanently have what it desires, and permanently avoids what it dreads).

#Buddhism #Dharma
image: detail from the Gaki-zoshi (Scroll of the Hungry Ghosts), late 12th c., Japan
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities: koan.mu/donate.htm
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J. Krishnamurti's discussion with Buddhist Scholars
Brockwood Park, 1978/1979
(1h36 + 1h32 + 1h53 + 1h33 + 1h46)
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December'17 — May 2018

The stream included the usual curation…
of videos (e.g. gplus.wallez.name/YPwh7brA2ov),
of articles (e.g. gplus.wallez.name/GusqkoVuRtm),
of shares (e.g. gplus.wallez.name/JnSvSqGhMLP),
of quotes (e.g. gplus.wallez.name/VnpBY9yvsCL, gplus.wallez.name/6rFEk2i6Lzi), etc.

It included 24 original contributions, as well as 2017's #AskMeAnything (plus.google.com/+DenisWallez/posts/esTCaatd9Pp):
When to meditate
gplus.wallez.name/HajMGGyMXuK
• A ritual for the New Year?
gplus.wallez.name/5bkGYG5w9oL
• Cyclically perpetuating / repeating the same mistakes?
gplus.wallez.name/BMFHDbrZwrm
The difference between wishing to go and going
gplus.wallez.name/Uugxkqo6uy2
A practical illustration of non-dualism
gplus.wallez.name/1jhwVreFxXb
Parfois les leçons d'éthique ne sont pas en classe de philosophie
gplus.wallez.name/BPFZMLJHGet
Guidance is available!
gplus.wallez.name/jac5sMFREWQ
Extend their own life by six months, or give the pill to a stranger, similar to them, for whom the pill would add an additional five years to their life?
gplus.wallez.name/ET2ZJmJwXxi
• forgot to meditate yesterday
gplus.wallez.name/MhSuEUZquQK
• The sky lets dragon and sun play their parts
gplus.wallez.name/4hgA6auWSJR
Why grasping at oneself creates suffering
gplus.wallez.name/GcDAYCkSmw4
You're not your own; yet you're your own refuge?
gplus.wallez.name/8S8Av8M9msA
• No mud, no lotus
gplus.wallez.name/L1ySPYygwr9
Impermanence
gplus.wallez.name/UUJmxcbj3RX
Craving for Awakening, and the poisoned arrow
gplus.wallez.name/4Z2tr9qgiaU
The first quality to cultivate is not meditative!
gplus.wallez.name/B676zfkBhQG
Good intentions are no protection
gplus.wallez.name/akJdnpYUtUq
The place of faith
gplus.wallez.name/38LJKRqBL57
What's the point of adding a lamp where there's already light?
gplus.wallez.name/E2GJQEwUncA
• Non-duality is when you reach beyond… the mundane and the sublime
gplus.wallez.name/1xtMuK7sZAZ
• Attachment to one's ease, one's opinions, one's "truth"
gplus.wallez.name/bqEtDVgbhhy
atthi kammaṃ akaṇhaasukkaṃ akaṇhaasukkavipākaṃ (cf. comments)
gplus.wallez.name/7UeSfBtKHnX
• Saying ‘I am not meditating’ is called pride. Idem with ‘I am meditating’
gplus.wallez.name/hQhBs27ykGz
• Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth
gplus.wallez.name/Ehvt53TWtsW

My activity on g+ also included the moderation of the "Buddhism and Meditation" community, the moderation as well as many answers in the "Buddhism Q&A" community, and some serious engagement with spammers suddenly flooding many Buddhist communities (incl. "Secular Buddhist" and "Buddhist Art" ).

Please, pretty please, support my work.
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities. Please http://koan.mu/donate.htm

#Buddhism #TableOfContents
image: Nam June Paik, "Enlightenment Compressed", 1994 (5" color LCD TV, video camera, wood TV cabinet, plastic TV case, bronze Buddha, aquarium stones, and paint).
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Where is Buddha?
(long Zen post)

Various kōans offer various answers to "What is Buddha?":
• Three pounds of flax;
• This very mind/heart is Buddha;
• Not mind, not Buddha;
• Dried shit stick.
Sometimes, people think they know what is Buddha though, thanks to lists of 'higher' and 'perfected' qualities… Another question might thus well be " where is Buddha?"

Sometimes the Buddha is described as refusing to answer meaningless points by remaining silent (hence e.g. the "14 unanswered questions", cula-Malunkyovada sutta (MN 63)).
But at other times, he's consenting by remaining silent (e.g. DN 32, SN 35.202, Ud 4.3…).
And that's before contemplating the Flower Sermon, at the root of Zen, with the Buddha holding a flower silently before the monastics.
Silence, in Japan, is traditionally associated with truthfulness, but it is also linked to social discretion and conflict avoidance, and it might indicate intimacy or… defiance.
And ignorant silence is not wise silence (gplus.wallez.name/cU1H1wGq9j3).

So…
Keeping in mind the possibility of multiple answers (dependent on context?) to one question… and the ambivalence of silence… let's look at a kōan:

«
One day as Mañjuśrī stood outside the gate, the Buddha called to him "Mañjuśrī, Mañjuśrī, why do you not enter?"
Mañjuśrī replied "I do not see myself as outside. Why enter?"
»

How do you understand this dialogue?

———

+BupSahn Sunim's recently proposed interpretation is
«
Mañjuśrī was correct in recogoinising that 'inside and outside are not two gates' (內外不二門), but in abiding in non-duality he turned his back on the situation whereas Buddha just entered. Had it been another, such as Samantabhadra or Kwanseum bosal they would have entered out of compassion without comment.
» — http://plus.google.com/+BupSahnJammin042/posts/RCHxeqoym6n

I see nothing wrong with what's written by BupSahn —let me make it crystal clear that this is not a critique of his post!—, I'm pretty sure some teacher may 'approve' it, and yet… is there another possibility?
Can we kick the kōan back alive again, instead of killing it with the certainty of having the 'right' interpretation? So that BupSahn had a realisation with his answer, but others can still have their own realisation as a result of their own enquiry, not by appropriating BupSahn's view… Can we go beyond e.g. criticising Mañjuśrī, or seeking his limitations, to conveniently side with the assumed / implied correctness of the Buddha's question?


First, the Buddha doesn't reply to Mañjuśrī, so we have to consider that the Buddha might be approving Mañjuśrī's reply. Then, to criticise the "ultimate view" of Mañjuśrī would equate acting "wiser than the Buddha himself" ;-)
In true Zen fashion, what if the Buddha was merely 'checking' Mañjuśrī's wisdom? Maybe the 'right' answer is precisely not to join with the Buddha!
After all, Buddhist teachers regularly have to push even their brightest students not to rely on / not to copy the master's acts: when the circumstances of the students are different from those of the teacher, their ways of engagement have little reason to be the same, we're not in the business of parroting wisdom, of repeating words: autonomy goes hand in hand with freedom.

Second, well, the Buddha doesn't reply to Mañjuśrī, so we have to consider that Mañjuśrī's reply is meaningless to the point there's no response to give to it.
Commenting on it would then be equivalent to arguing on whether unicorns only eat some kind of herbs or any herb… To comment on it, although the Buddha stayed silent, might equate acting "wiser than the Buddha himself"… or being lost in words, lost in the belief that this kōan 'must' have an intellectual answer expressible with concepts such as ultimate truth vs. conventional truth, or wisdom vs. expedient means… [Yes, I'm seeing the irony of the post, if this is the case ;-) Remember that I never claimed to be Enlightened!]

Intermission: on leaving classical koans without explanations (gplus.wallez.name/4Vd3zfQjCMs).

Third, why interpret "One day as Mañjuśrī stood outside the gate" as implying a 'trait' of Mañjuśrī as a being (then suggesting others would not have had Mañjuśrī's bias)… rather than a description of mere, contingent circumstances?

Intermission: for the fun of it, there exists an alternative reading of that kōan: http://books.google.fr/books?id=B8ojCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9#v=onepage
If you need to re-acquaint yourself with Zen, a few posts cover the basic teachings of Japanese Zen (gplus.wallez.name/ChoZwm9mWhB), the fundamental sūtras of Zen (gplus.wallez.name/j6pTx1nrxJe), how Zen is (and is not) beyond scriptures (gplus.wallez.name/buJMixjCnEw), and the meaning of Zen's "transmission outside scriptures" (gplus.wallez.name/MjXGCt9df7t).

Fourth, symbolically, we can look into the sanmon (三門 or 山門), also called sangedatsumon (三解脱門, lit. "gate of the three liberations"), which the most important gate of a Japanese Zen Buddhist temple… Naturally, the kōan predates Japanese Zen architecture, but the architecture arose from the same understanding, so maybe it can gives us hints?
The sanmon is not the first gate of the temple… it usually stands between the sōmon (outer gate) and the butsuden (lit. "Hall of Buddha", i.e. the main hall). The sanmon of a major temple would actually be three gates, kūmon (空門 gate of emptiness), musōmon (無相門 gate of formlessness) and muganmon (無願門 gate of inaction), symbolic of the "three gates to enlightenment" or "three liberations"…
So, when the kōan states « Mañjuśrī stood outside the gate », which gate are we talking about? We might associate the Buddha calling to him with the butsuden (lit. "Hall of Buddha"), this leaves us with 4 gates (from outer to inaction)… Which gate did Mañjuśrī stand outside of?
Is Mañjuśrī, contrarily to the interpretation of BupSahn, precisely staying in samsara (postponing his entry to nirvana, thus embodying the bodhisattva ideal)? If that was the case, maybe the 'approval' by silence of the Buddha is a serious option! Mañjuśrī's « I do not see myself as outside » would equate Mahayana's classic « samsara is nirvana ».
And, again contrarily to the interpretation of BupSahn, « Why enter? » would then mean that Mañjuśrī has understood the nature of non-abiding nirvana : there's seemingly no point in entering it, since it's not separate from dukkkha,
since dukkha doesn't stop upon becoming / joining a buddha (unless the stress stops for all beings: the realisation of inter-dependence doesn't let one be happy while others suffer).
The path is in saṃsāra… (gplus.wallez.name/AmuTinzujq8).
In true Zen fashion, maybe the Buddha was merely 'checking' Mañjuśrī's wisdom? Maybe the 'right' answer is precisely not to join with the Buddha? Where is Buddha? In his Buddha hall, i.e. in parinirvana (because, well, did any of you meet the Buddha recently?)? Not joining him, in order to continue manifesting wisdom (the primarily quality of Mañjuśrī) "outside the gate"… while the Buddha continues 'manifesting' (or non-manifesting) emptiness, formlessness and inaction… might be the wisest engagement with the situation at hand!


Can we kick the kōan back alive again, instead of killing it with the certainty of having the 'right' interpretation?
Don't trust yourself (gplus.wallez.name/fNntpgXdTHj). Can we re-manifest "great doubt", "not-knowing", or "what if?" (http://www.koan.mu/what-if.htm)? Can we see reality as processes, arising – enduring – ceasing (plus.google.com/+DenisWallez/posts/Sv1Et51iaFm), not certainties? Attachment to one's ease, one's opinions, one's "truth" is not what the Buddha had in mind for us (gplus.wallez.name/bqEtDVgbhhy).

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Please, pretty please, support my work Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities. Please http://koan.mu/donate.htm
image: Mañjuśrī, depicted as a male bodhisattva wielding a flaming sword in his right hand, representing the realisation of transcendent wisdom which cuts down ignorance and duality. The scripture supported by the lotus held in his left hand is a Prajñāpāramitā sūtra (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manjushri).
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It's been a while since I was last accused of being a charlatan, of straying from Buddhism by posting in my stream too many pictures of young beautiful women meditating, of writing solely to scam money out of people, or of disparaging the Buddha's teachings by some interpretation or another if not by some controversial art… I must be losing my edge and becoming very bland, I need to sharpen up again.

Expect the worst! ;-)

gplus.wallez.name/K6NZcWtzScK

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Brass alloy of canda [wrathful] Vajrapāni, Tibet, 13th c. The expression is wrathful to generate "fear in the individual, to loosen up his dogmatism."
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Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth (or it isn't… because you may also refrain from having descendants).

The thing is, even if you're worried about 'proteins' (which primarily shows ignorance) and 'anemia', you can reduce your consumption…
If you eat meat once a week, you cover your nutritional risks. And "once a week" is 93% less than "twice a day"… So you can get 93% of the maximum impact of a change in diet, with virtually no risk, and without (unsustainably) forcing yourself to a vegan diet.
You might also switch from some resource-intensive sources of proteins to less intensive ones, which if combined to reduced consumptions allows for a major change.
All in all, you can have an impact. All you need to do is reduce your consumption of meat and dairy, as much as sustainably acceptable to you. It doesn't matter if it's a small reduction (once less a week? smaller portions?), it'll be better than nothing… for you and the planet (both co-dependently exist).
By doing so, you cultivate the realisation of selflessness / interdependence, you cultivate restraint from 'justifying' lust and selfish preferences, you cultivate restraint from harming… Reducing meat and dairy consumption (without even going all "righteous vegan") is wholesome practice.

But then, of course, reducing consumption is wholesome practice, regardless of what the object is… Generosity is the first paramita, but it's only possible once one starts seeing that accumulating and consuming "more and more" isn't a reliable response to suffering (in existential forms and others), and is all the more unreliable that the accumulation and consumption is "for me, me, me".


#Buddhism #Dharma #engagedBuddhism
"starting somewhere": gplus.wallez.name/Bz6MsUssDAG
"vegetarianism and lay buddhists": gplus.wallez.name/TGBUJMuqewF
"food, inc.": gplus.wallez.name/MU166VDg7oY
"mindfulness of eating": gplus.wallez.name/Gny1J8Mhc8D
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities: http://koan.mu/donate.htm
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Saying ‘I am not meditating’ is called pride. Idem with ‘I am meditating’.

«
‘The mind has no object’ is also itself a concept. When there are no concepts of phenomena, then that is known as samādhi.
A word indicates a meaning. That word is not a thing. A word is like an echo, like the space of the sky.
These phenomena are not present; there is no presence to be perceived. The nonpresence is through the word ‘presence.’ Its nature is that there is nothing to be found.
One says ‘going’ and ‘passing away,’ but that ‘going’ does not exist. Through the word ‘going’ there is the absence of going. That is given the name samādhi.
Saying ‘I am not meditating’ is called pride. ‘I am meditating’ is a second kind of pride. Practicing for enlightenment without pride, and attaining the absence of pride is the highest enlightenment.
This unequaled equality is the level of peace; it is śamatha and vipaśyanā, devoid of attributes. Relying upon this peace, the level of buddhahood, is engaging in the meditation of samādhi.
»
— ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་རྒྱལ་པོའི་མདོ།
Samādhi­rāja­sūtra (The king of samādhis sūtra )
chap. 13, § 8–13

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source: http://read.84000.co/translation/UT22084-055-001.html
image: bronze figure of Shakyamuni (Ming dynasty), recently auctioned
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