Monday, June 14, 2010

What is a Buddha?

A question has arisen in a koan exchange in which I've been participating. It's a question I've asked without necessarily knowing the answer! I'd be interested in what you people think - and so, doubtless, would be my koan combat partner! Here it is:-



If I let go of perfection, am I a Buddha?

18 comments:

  1. And who is it to hold or to let go of perfection?

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  2. A Buddha is someone who ceases to ask what a Buddha is, and simply lives as a Buddha.

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  3. See the Buddha, kill the Buddha. The moment you think you are, that's when you're in your deepest entanglement. As Koro Kaisan, said, a Buddha who is someone who lives as an enlightened being plain and simple.

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  4. Hey, I'm gonna disagree with Koro and Do Jhana - and I'm seeing them both later this year! Scary!

    As Harry raised, doubt is a big part of practice. If you stop asking what a Buddha is, you clearly no longer enjoy the benefit of this doubt - and enlightenment dissipates as every hour goes by!

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  5. Michael,

    Here's the way it's put in the Sutra of the Sixth Ancestor:

    As to the vow, 'We vow to attain the Supreme Buddhahood,' when we are able to bend our mind to follow the true and orthodox Dharma on all occasions, and when Prajna always rises in our minds, so that we can hold aloof from enlightenment as well as from ignorance, and do away with truth as well as falsehood, then we may consider ourselves as having realised the Buddha-nature, or in other words, as having attained buddhahood.

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  6. While it is true that a dog who chases his own tail gets lots of exercise, the dog who knows that he and his tail are one, has time to bask in the sun and listen to the birds sing.

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  7. Careful, doggie, there's a wolf coming...

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  8. "...the dog who knows that he and his tail are one..."

    The smug, lazy dog hasn't clarified itself or a single molecule if it thinks that knowing things as 'one', or any such class of doggie knowing, is anything other than its own doggie daydrams... It may as well while away its time listening to the nice birdies.

    Regards,

    Fido.

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  9. Harry,
    I don’t know which translation of Hui Neng you are using, but I can assure you that he never used the term “orthodox” As you will recall he was an outlaw for slandering the orthodoxy. He wasn’t posthumously given the title “Sixth Patriarch” until well after the dust settled…on a non-mirror with no dust. ;-)

    Miles

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  10. I don’t know if I would refer to a dog who has clarified his true nature as being lazy, there is always much to do for the benefit of all beings. Once he lets go of his own tail, he can enter the market place with helping hands…or would that be paws? ;-)

    Miles

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  11. Hi Miles,

    There are teachings in Buddhist orthodoxy that might help the doggy realise that his true nature is not 'one-ness', nor anything like 'one-ness', nor, indeed, anything he can imagine or philosophise about at all.

    It's the old translation by Price and Wong Mou-lam I quoted. It seems still to be pretty well respected. I have the Red Pine version as well, but don't have time to check that passage against Red Pine at the moment (personally I don't have a problem with 'orthodoxy' when it is adopted in the spirit that it is transmitted by realised teachers, nor the word that represents it).

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  12. Hi Harry,

    Yep that’s one of the translations I have, it’s really a pretty good translation. I will have to see how it compares to the others I have. Sometimes words get plugged into translations to help support the translators point of view, while other times, they are in the text from the beginning to support the original writers point of view.

    Like you, I have no problems with orthodox teachings that are transmitted by realized teachers either. I just think it’s funny how Hui Neng is now considered the true founder of orthodox Zen. Or that Linchi/Rinzai has a whole school named after him! It seems that it’s the ones who kick the orthodoxy in the pants that become the fore runners. What becomes generally understood eventually becomes the orthodox; to quote Zen Master Arthur Schopenhauer- “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

    As for doggies philosophizing about one-ness this is only a term used to give us something to relate to two-ness, both are merely products of imagination. As sentient beings we choose how we view everything, as practitioners of Zen we begin to realize that our struggles come from our views. This is where playing the flute(badly) comes in handy.

    Good stuff!
    Miles

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  13. Hi Miles,

    I like to keep in mind Nagarjuna's homage to Gautama Buddha 'who taught the Dharma as the relinquishing of all viewpoints'.

    I think that realising this is essentially not a matter of choice or free will. It is stopping choice and 'free' will, dropping them off.

    I wasn't just talking about imaginary 'one-ness' and imaginary 'two-ness' but of actual inclusive reality (which rejects nothing in existence) and the multiplicity within it which are never one and/or two things. There is no one thing to be found anywhere, yet this doggie (me) can't walk through a brick wall.

    That 'form is emptiness' often seems to be taken to philosophically downgrade the other actual fact that 'emptiness is form'. Put in other terms we might say 'Multiplicity is one-ness; one-ness is multiplicity'.

    In Genjo-koan, Master Dogen takes this a practical step further by stating that the way of buddhas, the way of directly practicing it, is already 'leaping free' over abundance (multiplicity) and lack (one).

    What is the actual implication for 'one' or 'two' or 'none' or 'everything' when we practice it directly?

    If bad flute playing is a valid means, I should have completely realised it long, long ago ;-)

    Regards,

    Harry.

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  14. Hi everyone,

    If the dog is happy listening to the birds, who cares if he is a Buddha or not?

    Viewpoints are to be relinquised, but I still prefer karate over boxing, and that's why I practice the first. Even when I try (and achieve) not to be jugdemental, my mind inclines naturally for some views. I just see them and let them be. Are they relinquished?

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  15. Every year a mated pair of Cooper’s Hawks return to their nest just outside Open Gate Zendo. Like clockwork, they have two nestlings that in the early summer begin their flying lessons. With much squawking about, they keep following their mother, who flies from tree to tree in an attempt to convince them that they are birds capable of independent flight.

    With great doubt in their calls the young birds insist that they are not really birds and this flying is beyond their capability, yet they fly from tree to tree keeping up with their mother as she flies about in self evident demonstration.

    Then one day without warning, we no longer here their cries, they have taken wing- setting themselves free. Some how they suddenly realize that they are birds after all, nothing has really changed; it’s just that their self doubt has fallen away.

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