Friday, March 27, 2015

Be Passerby

"Be passerby" is from the Gospel of Thomas.

There is the related Zen question too:  "Why did Bodhidharma come from the west?"

If someone asks you this, best to just keep walking.  And, if you are sincere about "knowing" the infinite non-answer to this question, what are you doing following the forms of a monastery? 

What is a life of no attachment?  How does it appear?  What is "emptiness" realized?

A real practice should promote inquisitiveness, experimentation, sharing, and travel.  It is my fantasy that, someday, this will be considered a normal thing -- to walk from one meditation center to another, meet the people there, work with them, have your little dharma debates, etc....  Then go to the next place.

If you think about the lives of the ages, this phrase -- "Be Passerby" --  pretty much sums it up.  You can go right down the list -- Rumi, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Jesus, Bodhidharma, Lin Chi, Mohammad.

That is a who's who of heavyweights.  If you take all the people of the world who subscribe to a known religion/spirituality (Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Daoism, Zen), then you have maybe 99.9 percent following ideas born of wanderers.

What else were they?

Monks?  Laymen?

Secular?  Sacred?

No.  They were nothing. All of them.

In monasteries, this is one of the points I would sometimes make -- that all these guys were just guys -- travelers.  That's about the only word you could use.  They just drifted around.

It is one of those conversations that goes nowhere.  People just politely smile, and make no response.  It is like speaking to air.  They think I'm an idiot, I guess.

Like my blog.  One comment.  24 posts.  I don't know why I write. 

But it is an important thing, this "be passerby".

Let's say you are extremely sincere about things, and let's say that meditation has changed you.  You can witness the mistakes "you" make, and you can change how you see.  So you can sit, and you can forgive -- deeply, in such a way that your entire world changes. 

When facing an injustice, you always learn a little something when you do this kind of forgiveness.  You see the pain of the other.  You couldn't see it before.

Then what would ask for?  What would you wish for?

Well, nothing.

BUT you would welcome anything.  You would welcome the pleasant things, as you always did, and you would welcome the difficult things, because they give you a chance to grow.  The difficult things are opportunities.  There is something in you that the world has "hit".  Before, you couldn't see it.  Now you can.

Moreover, you would put no controls on the world.  You would offer no set appearance.  The last thing you would do would be to wear a uniform of any sort.  People have a reaction to "monk".  They bow and things.  You don't want that.  You want to see them as they are.

Think of the guy -- Goatama, leaving his father's compound, wearing some old rags.

It is important.  "Be passerby". You wish to see the truth of the world.  You wish to face it.

You are saying "OK world.  Here I am.  I have love.   I have my heart, and it is all I need.  Let's see what you've got.  Come on!  Let's see!"

This is how you come to see.  This is how you come to know the heart of man.

Think about it.  How else?

That's what Buddha did.  And Jesus.  And Mohammad.  And Lin Chi.  And Bodhidharma.

They were annoyed with t he traditional forms of their time, and they spoke against them.  But they weren't speaking out of hatred for the men and women.  They were trying to point out the way of the heart.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Obaku Praises Lin Chi's Hard-Earned Freedom

There is an age old war.  If you want to sound fire and brimstone, you can call it the battle in heaven.

It waged along a one-dimensional line.  One direction is form, and the other is destruction of form.

A woman in a cafe looks across the street and sees a child walking into the street.  She runs across and stops him.  She caresses him.  She finds his parents and brings the child to them.

Her motives are selfless.  They are born of love.  She has no concern, at all, for the rules.  Did she jaywalk?  Who cares!  There is nobody on this earth who can tell her she did anything wrong.  If some idiot tries, she knows they are crazy.  There is no "form" that overrides a selfless intention.  Maybe she gets arrested.  Maybe the cafe owner gets angry because she neglected to pay.  It doesn't affect her.  In this moment, she knows herself.  It is love.  She knows her life.

Virtue has been all but forgotten in Zen tradition.  But it was the whole point, way back when. This little example illustrates the role of virtue, in a true practice. 

A true practice is one of increasing independence, and it is a destruction of internal forms. It is the end of "Buddhist" and "Buddhism".  It is the end of following anything, or anyone.  It is the birth of "knowing what to do".

Obaku walked into the Zendo, saw Lin Chi sleeping there, and banged his stick.  Lin Chi looked up, noticed Obaku, and immediately dozed off again.

Obaku walked along the line and saw the head monk sitting in Zazen.  He pointed toward Lin Chi and told the monk "The young fellow at the end of the hall is doing Zazen.  What kind of delusions are you indulging in here?"

Why did Obaku praise Lin Chi and scorn the head monk?

It wasn't Lin Chi's courage.  Modern Zen masters talk a great deal about Lin Chi's courage, or nerve.  But it obviously wasn't that.  I mean, the guy was asleep.  He was dozing off.  He wasn't demonstrating much of anything, aside from sleepiness.

Lin Chi knew his life-- a knowing earned from selfless deed after selfless deed.  In truth, there is no other way to know your life -- a lifetime of meditation alone won't do it.  He knew his life just as the woman in the story knew hers in the moment she rescued the child.  He didn't have to answer to anybody.  If Obaku was upset with Lin Chi's rest, then it was Obaku's problem.

That is the way it was with Lin Chi -- a freedom born of virtue.  A total disintegration of form.  A life lit by the heart of hearts.

Lin Chi was sleepy, so he slept.  That is what you do when you are sleepy.  There is no "Zen".

Obaku recognized this calm independence, was impressed by such knowing, and scolded, instead, the poor head monk, who likely snapped to attention as Obaku approached.

It really is an age old battle.

The two monks at the river, with the pretty lady.  The first picks her up and carries her across, the other scolds him for touching a pretty woman.  That's the battle again.  It is the same one dimensional line.  One monk has chosen form.  The other has chosen virtue; the destruction of form.

You may look at the Zen tradition today and ask yourself if it is about form, or if it is about true virtue.  Because these are two opposite directions.  Which is rewarded?  Which is punished?

Look closely.  Don't just follow.

You can look at the heros of modern Zen, if you wish.  Suzuki, in the face of scandal, praising Baker for his loyalty to tradition.  Aitken keeping things under wraps for the sake of Zen tradition in America.  Dogen, explicitly equating form with enlightenment. 

Which direction has traditional Zen taken?

What did Bodhidharma say, regarding the propagation Buddhist tradition in China?

"No Merit"

The form was never the point.