Case 5 never ends, yet now comes ...
CASE 6 - Baso's White and Black
The Preface begins ...
When the mouth cannot be opened, the tongueless person knows how to talk. Where a foot cannot be lifted, the legless person knows how to walk.
Imagine that the young monk had asked Baso, Chizo and Kai, "How do I breathe, how do I walk?" Can anyone give adequate instructions in words? One must learn to breathe and walk by ... just like a newborn baby ... finding the power naturally arising within oneself. The most the parent or mid-wife, the Zen teacher, can do is provide a suitable environment and nutrition for the inner ability to naturally arise. The baby must do the work, and make the discovery, by herself!
There are countless books of Buddhist scholarship, written through the centuries, on "how to breathe, how to walk". The "four propositions and hundred negations" are Buddhist philosophical points on causation and emptiness by Master Nagarjuna (e.g., 1. Everything that is, does not come out from itself. ... 4. Everything that is, does not come out from nothing.) that may have their place in knowledge of how the world works (much as a medical researcher in physiology might write a brilliant, learned research paper on how the involuntary muscles and nervous system work in walking and breathing) ... but such is not actual walking and breathing.
One must simply shut up, stop thinking about how to walk and breathe ... and simply walk and breathe! (a sure way to trip and fall is to think too intently about walking while walking! ... a sure way to start to choke is to think too much about "how am I breathing" while breathing!)
Just shut up, walk and breathe! Don't talk about it, don't overly think about it ... just walk and breathe the Buddhist Path! Learn to walk and talk and breathe for oneself, not dependent on the physiologist's analysis.
So, the poems say ...
When the mouth cannot be opened, the tongueless person know how to talk, when the foot cannot be lifted, the legless person knows how to walk. If you fall for someone (else's) words and are burdened by them, how can freedom be yours?
Learn from the "medicine" of the teachings of the old Zen masters ... but do not become "hooked" on the medicine ...
Medicine become a sickness - reflecting on saints of old
leaping free of the addiction, one is truly free ... and you and Buddha (not two) become the true healer ...
sickness becomes a doctor - who should he be?
A couple of notes on symbolism:
"Vaisali’s venerable old awl" may be a reference to the renowned Buddhist layman, Vimalikirti, who once remained silent when asked about the ultimate teaching of Buddha.
There is some debate about the meaning of "head is white ... head is black". Some, like Rev. Wick, seem to take this as something like "Chizo got it in Chizo's way, Kai in Kai's way". But the reference may actually be to an old story in which a "black headed" thief was a better thief than a "white headed" thief, which would mean that Baso may actually have meant that "Kai" (his star student) got "walking and breathing" a bit better than Chizo, even though they seemed to say-not-say about the same words.
- How is Zen Practice like "learning to breathe, learning to walk" in your life?
- Even though walking and breathing are the most natural of activities ... does medical research on walking and breathing (Buddhist philosophy) and medicine/physicians (Zen teachers) have some important place?