I'm looking forward to being in the pulpit this Sunday (Aug 21). I'll be talking about living with koans -- and then unpacking one particular one.
Koans are little stories -- about 1 paragraph, typically -- from the Zen tradition. Three of the major collections of these stories that are studied in many of the Japanese-derived Zen centers in America are: The Gateless Gate, the Blue Cliff Record, and the Book of Serenity. The Gateless Gate consists of 48 koans, and the other two consist of 100 koans each. There are some duplications -- koans that appear in more than one of the collections -- and removing the duplications leaves 209 different koans.
I've been living with these 209 little stories since 2004 -- 18 years, now, since I began earnest koan study. The koans are like the parables that Jesus tells -- often paradoxical, puzzling, and offering many layers of interpretation and meaning.
Here are three that I'll mention on Sunday. I invite you to turn them over in your mind beforehand:
Blue Cliff Record #6:
Yunmen, giving instruction, said, “I don't ask you about before the fifteenth day; bring me a phrase about after the fifteenth day.”Blue Cliff Record #3 and Book of Serenity #36:
Yunmen himself answered in the monks' stead, “Every day is a good day.”
Great Master Mazu was unwell. The chief monk of the temple came to ask him, “Master, how are you feeling these days?”Blue Cliff Record #74:
The Great Master said, “Sun-faced Buddha, moon-faced Buddha.”
At each meal, Master Jinniu himself would bring the rice bucket to the front of the Zen hall, dance there and laugh loudly, saying, “Dear Bodhisattvas, come and eat rice!”Yours in the faith we share,
(Xuedou said, “Although he behaved that way, he was not [simply] kind.”) A monk asked Changqing, “An ancient worthy said, 'Dear Bodhisattvas, come and eat rice!' What does it mean?”
Changqing said, “That is exactly like praising and giving thanks at the midday meal.”
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I.C.Y.M.I. (In Case You Missed It)
The Aug 14 Service, Audra Russell, "Religious Humanism: A Colorful Thread in the Tapestry of Our Faith”
The Aug 7 Service, Rev. LoraKim Joyner, "You Say What?"
Here it is, your...
MOMENT OF ZEN
#125: Guided By Karma
in #23, when he asked about whether karma was "just cause and effect."
Is impermanence ("all things pass quickly away") a reason not to care about others? Should we care about them only if they (or if something) is permanent?
Perhaps the impermanence of all things is precisely the reason for lovingkindness and compassion right now. Perhaps that's what Raven is saying.
Mara can quote scriptures -- and selectively use a teaching against other teachings. But all the teachings point in the same way; each one is an implication of all the others. So if you're using one teaching (e.g., impermanence) to question another teaching (e.g., compassion), then you've understood neither teaching.
Cougar's presence created a certain tension in the circle, but he didn't seem aware of it. One evening he asked, "If all things pass quickly away, why should we be concerned about suffering of others?"Verse
Mole abruptly excused himself with a bow and hurried off, muttering.
Raven said, "Mara can quote sutras."
Cougar said, "I'm serious."
Raven said, "All things pass quickly away."
"If everything is urgent, then nothing is."
The management consultants direct.
They mean, by this major premise,
To imply a modus tollens:
Minor premise: It's not the case that nothing is urgent.
Therefore, conclusion, not everything is.
I accept your premise, Madam or Sir Advisor.
And build, instead, a modus ponens:
Minor premise: Everything is, indeed, urgent.
Therefore, conclusion, nothing is.
Every sight seen or sound heard --
Or fragrance smelled, or tactile sensation felt --
Is of a thing that cannot wait,
And that does.
Now, dear ones, consulting and consulted,
I offer you this (different?) proposition:
If everything is impermanent, then nothing is.
This, and that, and all, pass away.
Their departure casts them in the light of eternity,
As every tick of the clock is redolent with timelessness.
What, then, could be urgent? What not?
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith GarmonPREVIOUS ☙ NEXT ☙ INDEX