Friday, April 23, 2010

Gutei's Finger

There's a koan I've been struggling with - and I'm struggling with it not for the first time, either! I do some koan exchange, so I know I'm not the only person who finds this one rather challenging. I'd thus be grateful if as many of you as possible could suggest what you think we're supposed to learn from the koan of Gutei's finger. Here's the koan:

Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When anyone asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy would raise his finger.

Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. He seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and ran away. Gutei called and stopped him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.

When Gutei was about to pass from this world he gathered his monks around him. `I attained my finger-Zen,' he said, `from my teacher Tenryu, and in my whole life I could not exhaust it.' Then he passed away.

So please tell me - what's that all about?

Monday, April 12, 2010

First there is a Mountain, then there is No Mountain, then there is…

A couple posts back, I quoted the Dharmapada and asked if anyone actually believed that we create the world with our thoughts. I was surprised when the only response was a cleaver “set up” from Kaishin, whereby he introduced a scenario where he would be struck in the head by a meteorite. Was this meteorite his doing? Or was being struck in the head just his Karma for being such a smart-aleck?

But since that time this whole issue has arisen under a completely different posting and under another topic, Karma. Harry and I have had some wonderful commentary bouncing back and forth and I realized that this is just too heady of a subject to not be resurrected.

According to the Dharmapada the Buddha stated:

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

Did the Buddha actually mean that we create the world with our thoughts? Or was he just speaking metaphorically? Do our thoughts actually manifest physically in the world? Even those we do not act upon? What about volition? Can we plead not guilty, just because we meant no harm? And what does this have to do with Karma?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Hard Question

This dilapidated man sits with his cardboard sign on the edge of a busy corner. Dirt and rain and car exhaust all in a dark marbled pattern on his face, his beard a matted mess. I find I can never avoid making eye contact with these folks, year in and year out, this country and in others - Spain and Ecuador, India and China, Bolivia, Peru.... And in eye contact there is connection, always. And then my unknowing and hesitation, questions about my being in relation to theirs, my action in relation to their being.

This being human is complicated sometimes.

What is right speech?

What is right action?