Thursday, April 1, 2010

Failing Bio 101

DHS 141

Have been reading Krishna Menon's Notes On Spiritual Discourses this evening (pdf copies can be found online easily). One of the notes pulled me right out of Vedanta and back into Zen. Note 46 is:

What is meant by "Water does not flow"?
Water as water, or as the element water, is both in the flowing water as well as in the stagnant water. So the flowing-ness or the stagnancy does not go into the make of water. Therefore, water does not flow, nor does it stagnate.

Similarly, the ‘I’-principle is both in activity and in inactivity. Therefore it is neither active nor inactive. The ‘I’-principle shines unchanged: before, during and after every activity or inactivity.

This method, of understanding the objective world and the ‘I’, not only establishes one’s self in the right centre, but also destroys the samskaras relating to them.

Remind you of anything? Reminds me of Case 29 of the Mumonkan, or Gateless Gate

The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks were arguing about the flag. One said, "The flag is moving." The other said, "The wind is moving." They could not agree, no matter how hard they debated. The sixth patriarch, Eno, happened to come by and said, "Not the wind, not the flag. It is the mind that is moving!" The two monks were struck with awe.

Mumon's Comments:
It is not the wind that moves, it is not the flag that moves, it is not the mind that moves. How shall we understand the sixth patriarch? If you gain an intimate grasp of its meaning, you will see how the two monks, intending to buy iron, got gold. The patriarch could not repress his compassion for the two monks, and so we have this disgraceful scene.

Wind, flag, and mind moves,
All confirmed as guilty of error.
Only we know our mouth is opened,
we do not know our speech went wrong.

To which Kōun Yamada added this commentary (in part) in his book The Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans:

There is another interesting story in the same category as this koan. During the Tokugawa period in Japan, a venerable master of the Sōtō sect by the name of Sonnō lived in Sendai. One day one of his disciples came to visit, bringing melons as a gift. The master, much pleased with both the gift and his disciple, suggested they try some of the fruit. Sonnō said, "It's very sweet." "Yes," replied the disciple, "It's very sweet." Then the master smilingly asked, "What do you think, is the melon sweet or the tongue sweet? If the melon is sweet, the sweetness has nothing to do with the tongue. If the tongue is sweet, the sweetness has nothing to do with the melon. Where does the sweetness actually come from? Try to tell me that!"

At this point i would have run for my life. As soon as the master started smiling you knew he had a weapon hidden somewhere and was ready to use it, but the disciple was much braver than i could ever be so he tried to offer a response.

The disciple thought for awhile and then replied, "It comes from the causal contact of the tongue and the melon."

Uh oh..... that came right out of Biology 101 or Buddhism 101. Even i know better than trying that one. I think he just asked for a beating.

The master retorted, "That answer is merely from the theoretical standpoint of Buddhism. It contains no experience of the Zen monk!" The monk asked him, "If so, where does it actually come from? Please give me a turning word."

Cheeky bastard, brave soul, or someone deeply committed to finding the Truth? Oh well, he asked.

Master Sonnō gave him the following instruction: "Where does it come from? Even the Buddhas and Patriarchs cannot tell you. If you search for 'where,' you will find the whole universe is the melon and that there is no tongue outside the melon. Or you will find that the whole universe is the tongue and that there is no melon outside the tongue. In the world of reality, there is neither subject nor object. The real fact transcends both mind and things. We call it the essential activity of no-thinking, which has been transmitted from Buddha to Buddha, from patriarch to patriarch. From now on you must exert yourself all the more intensely." The monk was deeply impressed.

Now let us look at the koan in the present case. Is the situation not the same? If you say the wind is moving, the wind is all and is quite alone in the universe. There is no flag or mind outside the wind. If you say the flag is moving, the flag is the only thing in the universe. There is no wind or mind outside the flag. If you say the mind is moving, the mind is all. Nothing exists outside of it. The true fact transcends all these three, and what is that? You must search for it deeply by yourself.

Yamada continues but finishes by making his point perfectly clear:

But from my point of view, Mumon, too, was was mistaken to comment as he did [the mind is moving] because the true fact transcends all moving and non-moving. It is just....what?!

Don't you love it when they spell it out so clearly? It is just....what?!

It's just... well you know
This and that and nothing more
One coin with no sides?

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