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Friday, 15 June 2018

409 – From Zhuangzi

                There was a hunchback named Su. His jaws touched his navel. His shoulders were higher than his head. His neck bone stuck out toward the sky. His viscera were turned upside down. His buttocks were on the same level with his ribs. By tailoring, or washing, he was able to earn his living. By sifting rice from husks he could make enough to support a family of ten. When orders came down for a conscription, the hunchback walked about unconcerned among the crowd. And similarly, in government conscription for public works, his deformity saved him from being called. On the other hand, when it came to government donations of grain for the disabled, the hunchback received as much as three chung, and of firewood, ten faggots. And if physical deformity was thus enough to preserve his body until the end of his days, how much more should moral and mental deformity avail!

--Lin Yutang’s rendition

Friday, 1 June 2018

408 - A Story Attributed to Alan Watts

                A Zen student in Japan was waiting in the dokusan line for his meeting with his teacher during which he would be expected to demonstrate his understanding of the koan with which he was currently sitting. As he sat on the verandah outside the dokusan room, a frog hopped onto the planking before him. “Aha!” he thought and caught the frog, concealing it in his sleeve. When it came time for his interview and the teacher asked him about his koan, he placed the frog in front of the teacher with a flourish. “No, no, no,” the teacher said. “Way too intellectual.”

Friday, 18 May 2018

407 – Shitou Xiqian

                One day an inquirer asked Shitou Xiqian, “What am I supposed to do?”
                “Why are you asking me?” Shitou replied.
                “Where else can I find what I’m looking for?”
                “Are you sure you lost it?”

Friday, 4 May 2018

406 – The Temptations of the Bhikkhu Gautama

                It is said that on the day before he attained enlightenment and became the Buddha, Bhikkhu Gautama carried eight handfuls of grass to the tree which would henceforth be known as the Bo Tree—the Tree of Enlightenment. He went to the south side of the fig tree in order to place the grass there, but he felt as if the land on that side were sinking beneath his feet.  So he walked around the tree first to its western and then to its northern sides.  Each time the land felt as if it were sinking beneath his feet.  Finally he came around to the eastern side of the tree and there the land felt stable.  He formed the grass into a cushion on this immovable spot and took his seat.  As he sat, he made a vow: “Come what may, even if my body should dry up and pass away, I will not move from this spot until I achieve full and complete enlightenment and thus discover the path of liberation for all humankind.”
                It is said that the tempter—the demon Kama-Mara—heard this vow and grew frightened.  This demon, whose name means “Love-Death,” was the personification of all the pleasures, fears, and attachments which enslave people.  Kama-Mara rose from his throne in the underworld and sought to divert the Bhikku Gautama from attaining his goal.
                First he assumed the appearance of a messenger whose clothing was in disarray and who panted heavily as if he had run a long distance in search of the Bhikkhu who had previously been known as Prince Siddhartha.  In this disguise, Kama-Mara presented a message purporting to be from the nobility in his homeland, Sakya.  It claimed that Devadatta had usurped the throne of his father, Suddhodana, and had thrown the king into prison.  Then Devadatta claimed for his own Suddhodana’s wives and all the goods and lands which had belonged to the king.  The message declared that Devadatta abused the women of the harem in the most vile manner and that he was despoiling the countryside, placing undue burdens of taxation on the people.  The nobles, so the false message went, begged Prince Siddhartha to return, take his rightful place on the throne, and restore order to the land.
                But Gautama reflected that it was the passion of malice which led Devadatta to usurp the throne; lust provoked him to abuse the women; greed drove him to ruin the people; and cowardice prevented the nobles and citizens from defending their king and themselves.  The knowledge that the seeds of these weaknesses and proclivities existed in all men and women only made Gautama more firm in his resolve to remain seated until he found a path of liberation.
                Kama-Mara then assaulted the Bhikku Gautama with natural terrors—a whirlwind, thunderous rain, and darkness which obscured the sun in the middle of the day.  But Gautama remained centered and calm in his meditation, undistracted and without fear.
                Next Kama-Mara revealed himself to Gautama in his terrifying form, riding a war elephant, bearing weapons in his one thousand arms, and surrounded by an army of ferocious and terrifying demons.  In this form, Kama-Mara rode up to the Bhikku Gautama and shouted: “You have no right to sit on that spot!  It belongs to me!  By whose authority do you dare take it?”
                Without disturbing his meditation, the Bhikku Gautama let the fingers of his right hand fall to touch the Earth, and it is said that the Earth itself took on the sound of a thousand human voices, proclaiming: “I witness to his right to sit here.”
                Next Kama-Mara called upon his three daughters—Pining, Lust, and Desire—along with their one thousand voluptuous attendants to present themselves to the Bhikku Gautama in their most provocative forms.  At the same time, Kama-Mara reminded Gautama of the predictions which had been made at his birth, that he could become the Emperor of all the World.  Kama-Mara assured him that that opportunity was still his.  But the Bhikku Gautama had long overcome those temptations, and he remained undisturbed in his meditation.
                So Kama-Mara was defeated and went off in despair.
                Having overcome the tempter, Gautama continued his meditation into the evening.  And at the break of day, as the sun rose in the east behind him, Gautama saw the Morning Star on the Western Horizon.  At that moment, he attained the full and complete enlightenment which is beyond words because it is a direct, unfiltered encounter with and experience of reality.