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Thread: BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 65

  1. #1


    Case 64 never ends, and so we ride to Case 65, Shuzan's New Bride ...

    Ever wonder if reality is just God's Big Joke? A sacred-silly, serious-ridiculous, sometimes LOL sometimes backfiring slap-stick joke?

    Most Koans employ a bit of humor, absurdity, turn-things-on-their-headness, all to express some hard to express serious Teaching. In this case. perhaps, the joke of all this is the very point, and the serious-absurdity of life right at the tragi-comic heart!

    I recall an old practical joke popular in America when I was a kid (Is it still around? Did it make it to other countries): "No Soap Radio" ...
    A joke played on an innocent victim, where several people agree beforehand to laugh at a completely pointless joke with the punch line "no soap ... radio". The objective is to see if they can get the victim to laugh along so he won't look like he was too dumb to get it. If he does, then everyone stops laughing and asks the victim what's so funny, and gets a good laugh at his embarassment.


    This joke requires the joke teller to have at least one confederate [someone in on the joke] who already knows the joke and secretly plays along with the teller. The joke teller says something like "The elephant and the hippopotamus were taking a bath. And the elephant said to the hippo, 'Please pass the soap.' The hippo replied, 'No soap, radio.'"

    At this point the confederate (who is pretending that this is the first time they have heard the joke), starts laughing hysterically, as if the joke was very funny. The other person who was told the joke is then left wondering why it is funny, and why everyone else "gets it," but they do not. Typically, the recipient of the joke will pretend to get it and laugh along with the others just so they won't look stupid. The joke teller and the confederate then laugh at the recipient for pretending to get it, because the joke is, in fact "ungettable." "No soap, radio" is not a punch line, but a nonsensical statement.
    Some commentators put this Koan in the same family of "What is Buddha?" Koans with answers such as "A Dried Shit-stick" (the most profane as sacred, right through high and low) or "Six Pounds of Flax" (the most ordinary and daily stuff as as most profound and extra-ordinary). In this Koan too, perhaps, things are "upside-down, the rude is sacred" with a Wisdom about life centered right through up or down, right and wrong ...

    As Shishin Wick relates, in Chinese tradition, having the honored mother-in-law walk pulling the donkey while the bride rides is absurd, upside-down, far from the "graceful" and "natural" that some translations use to describe the situation in the Appreciatory verse. Or is the rude and awkward situation also "Graceful, Natural" in a Buddha Eye? Is there truly "up" and "down" to the upside-down (I am reminded of a physicist's description that the universe really has no "up" or "down", which are relative terms that only have meaning relative to each other. Is Australian truly "down" while Canada is "up", or is that only a map convention ... serious "geo-politics" or just another big joke ...

    Beyond that, most folks commentating on the Koan don't seem to have much sense that it means anything! Need it mean something to "mean something"? In the case, the absurd humor is not making a serious point ... but the serious point is the absurd humor!

    The double sounds in the Preamble are just sounds that one might hear at times in life. One translator has them as "Tut, tut! Whoop, whoop! Crump, crump! Grumble, grumble! Puff, puff! Zing, zing!" (almost the sound effects in a Chaplin silent movie! ) He says ...

    The words vast and vague (man man, kan kan) do not express so much a specific meaning but more a feeling at a certain time. You might consider all these words lined up here as exclamations uttered in various moods. Why are they written here? Because each utterance “returns to the first principle,” they completely express our true self. Whether it’s “Ah!” or “Oh!”, each completely manifests the essence.
    Are these silly and daily sounds, or sounds as holy and sacred as some Celestial Chorus and Heavenly Trumpets? Again, depends how one hears with ears upside down.

    Apart from that, the commentators seem at a loss to find much beyond the joke itself.

    Chaplain's Donkey from 5:00 here ... (I guess not so funny for that poor donkey!) ... Does the donkey go up and the world down?

    The story at the end about the grimace is perhaps about someone who just pretends they understand the meaning of this "no soap radio", and looks foolish and shallow for doing so.

    So, let me ask you, "What is Buddha?" ..................... NO SOAP RADIO! of course,

    Gassho, J


    Is the joking the party or is the party the joking ... is the family the laughter or is the laughter the family? ... Is New Jersey Up or Down?
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-18-2016 at 03:28 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you, Jundo,

    Not much to add. I think I can see the point here. You mentioned the classic, "Buddha is a dried shit stick," which to me, as you mentioned it does to some, belongs in the same category as the backwards and profane image of the mother leading the bride.

    Gassho, sat today
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  3. #3
    I had to let this one soak in a little bit.

    I kept coming back to the Preface.
    "Fooling fooling"

    Who's being fooled? Who's doing the fooling?

    Gensa stubs his toe and says "my problem is that in the end I cannot be fooled by anyone".

    If you stub your toe on a rock that's on you.
    If you spend your life looking for Buddha while ignoring what's going on right up your nose, that's on you too.


    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N920A using Tapatalk
    法 Dharma
    口 Mouth

  4. #4


  5. #5
    Hi All,

    I do sometimes feel this is a big cosmic joke...sort of. Actually, the joke seems to me to be this world of concepts, which we create; experientially speaking there is no joke to be joked.

    The mother-in-law leading the cart is just as arbitrary as if it were the other way around. The joke comes in the act of judgement of the situation. In other words, as Jundo writes, the serious point is the absurd humor. The ultimate joke here is not who is leading who, not if Buddha is sacred or a shit stick, but that we are all going through life grimacing like the old neighbor lady... perpetuating concepts and value-judgments, and then re-enforcing them when our original mind isn't adhereing to those concepts in the first place.

    On the surface-level of the koan, I feel that the joke is that the bride and mother-in-law are seemingly the subject, but really it is the neighbor lady who is the subject. On a higher-level, the joke is that we are engaging with this koan...the joke's on us, we are that grimacing lady!


  6. #6
    Wow nice John.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    清 道 寂田
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  7. #7
    This reminds me of the Sutta where the Buddha is debating a brahmin and points out the weakness of their argument of the brahmin caste being the highest by pointing out the non-existence of caste in some outlying countries.

    Quote Originally Posted by
    ""What do you think, Assalayana? Have you heard that in Yana & Kamboja and other outlying countries there are only two castes masters & slaves and that having been a master one (can) become a slave, and that having been a slave one (can) become a master?""
    It's one reason I like to read and learn about other cultures. We have all these cultural beliefs, traditions, and ways of doing things. However, in some far away country they have totally different ways of doing things but still manage to get by just fine. What's the right or proper way to do things here may have no meaning somewhere else or even be considered improper.

    Sat today.

  8. #8
    My Mom is a great old fool. When I was younger I always had strong self esteem and never thought too much about how fat I was. I was the second fattest kid in my class, but I never thought about it much, but thats because I had a wise old fool who always showed me how special I am. She would do her best to not let me focus on instability when my Dad was on one of his drinking binges, or always helped me have fun and forget that we shared a one bedroom apt where my parents would sleep on the floor so I could have a bed. Both my parents were actually old fools, where although there was disfunction, gave me a sense of worth and value and contentment even though we were lower middle class.

    That type of foolishness has been passed onto me. In my profession it's important to always come in as a beginner; assumptions cost time; asking as many questions up front is the most efficient way to learn and clarify requirements. Humor and foolishness are tools I use quite often to convey the message that, "hey, were all human". It unites and breaks down barriers. Again thanks Mom, never afraid to look goofy when you needed to; one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned about leadership.

    When you can be foolish in front of your peers you are practicing zazen; you are dropping the ego to ease suffering. I think this is a timely point especially for Ango and the focus on samu (work practice) which is something I treasure and try to refine in my daily life. A smart person already is an expert at their craft; theres little space in the mind for new ideas. A fool drops all the baggage with each new problem, takes what they've learned but doesnt assume anything, constantly trying to get better, never satisfied with old habits, realizes that what we think we know in our lives is always based on limited perspectives and that something that seemed to be perfect may be able to improve tomorrow.

    This is zazen, always moving, nothing to chew on, always trying to get a deeper understanding of life, precepts, the teachings, etc; a vibrant way to just sit, a vivid way to live.

    Germany is beautiful mixed with an air of somberness given the destruction that erupted in the 20th century. A smart expert would note that the Nazi mindset must never see the light of day again, but a fool realizes that they also have this capability within themselves and only by acknowledging their lack of compassion and actively practicing (atoning) they enable that to spring forth into the world anew.

    A fool recognizes the Syrian refugees as our family who are at risk of losing their families and want to help.

    A fool recognizes that any leaders that promote fear as a tactic to unify a nation are very dangerous.

    It is our responsibility as fools to not get angry at those with differing political views because it only causes more suffering; it is also our responsibility to meet propaganda with equaniminity to be role models for compassion; if we get accusatory or separate or avoid other people with differing views that is not being a lotus in the mud; we have to be in places that make us uncomfortable; otherwise we are just practicing foolishly, and not in a good way.

    A fool remembers that we are all a little neurotic and myopic; there are many valid and differing viewpoints; and I think the greatest asset of a fool is that they have a stronger driver to be helpful rather than "right".

    One other thing I was thinking is that ever since I started this practice I feel as if it has been a slow process of revealing the fool within. I used to be afraid to meditate in front of people and then it was a fear of admitting I like this and then it was a fear of taking jukai and then it was a fear of losing myself to a cult and then chanting when my wife could hear me.. On and on.

    This is why I wear a mala; its not that I want everyone to know my way of life but I dont want to hide who I am. This practice is hard because for me I started before I could explain why, but it just felt so right, it fills a need that I couldnt explain and not knowing makes me so uncomfortable! But its also the power of this! Its like an ultimate questioning of what u think u know and who u think u are and very quickly into this u are thrown into it and so u need this foolishness to trust in practice amid this very knew territory of the unknown.

    This unknowable and discomfort came up after the shine of my new zafu started to fade; it was a critical benchmark of my practice; instead of blind acceptance it forced me to not just bow in complacency but still bow but understand what this practice means. When friends and family would ask or still do, it forces me to either answer or continue to dig into why I'm doing this... Again and again. In the beginning questions annoyed me because I didnt understand my full motivations but now I feel that although I dont understand that is a very very good place to be, but that isnt a giving up- its an active surrender to give up an idea of ever arriving somewhere or having something to chew on; this practice is endless; hopefully I'm lucky enough to continue learning and practicing with you all for a long time to come.



  9. #9
    A fool remembers that we are all a little neurotic and myopic; there are many valid and differing viewpoints; and I think the greatest asset of a fool is that they have a stronger driver to be helpful rather than "right".

    One other thing I was thinking is that ever since I started this practice I feel as if it has been a slow process of revealing the fool within. I used to be afraid to meditate in front of people and then it was a fear of admitting I like this and then it was a fear of taking jukai and then it was a fear of losing myself to a cult and then chanting when my wife could hear me.. On and on.
    Your mom sounds like a great person, Risho. I like your take on this.

    There is good reason in a pack of Tarot cards that The Fool is seen as the starting point and ending point. We start off free of concepts and notions and after having gained a whole bunch, learn that there is great wisdom in being able to drop them again.

    Who but a fool would give away his possessions and live in a hut in the forest with one robe and a bowl for company? Cold Mountain, Big Stick and Pick-up always seemed very happy with life!

    Borrowers don't bother me
    In the cold I build a little fire
    When I'm hungry I boil up some greens.
    I've got no use for the kulak
    With his big barn and pasture --
    He just sets up a prison for himself.
    Once in he can't get out.
    Think it over --
    You know it might happen to you!

    Last edited by Kokuu; 09-12-2016 at 04:20 PM.
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  10. #10
    It seems that this Koan is about perception and perspective. We don't know the mind of either the mother-in-law or the bride. Perhaps this is an expression of the Precept "Not discussing the faults of others". Anyway who's to say they aren't taking turns leading and riding the donkey?

    Sat today

  11. #11
    This kaon made me LOL, and then I read the commentary and got the joke to LOL all over again

    I got a kick out of the preface, with the first word being the verb and the second word being the noun or concept, it's a fun little zen word game

    Buddha knows no life station, which certainly includes brides and mothers-in-law

    The whole thing adds up to giving up your concepts, letting go of conditioned ideas, because by doing so you find you are your own buddha

    And have some fun as you go down the Path.
    AL (Jigen) in:

    I sat today

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