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Thread: Childish Gambino Kills the Cat

  1. #1

    Childish Gambino Kills the Cat

    Another school shooting today, other violence in this news.

    One of the most easily misunderstood of Koans is 'Nansen Kills the Cat.'

    Nanchuan (Nansen) saw the monks of the eastern and western halls fighting over a cat. Seizing the cat, he told the monks: “If any of you can say a word of Zen, you will save the cat.” No one answered. Nanchuan cut the cat in two. That evening Zhaozho (Joshu) returned to the monastery and Nanchuan told him what had happened. Zhaozho removed his sandals, placed them on his head, and walked out. Nanchuan said: “If you had been there, you would have saved the cat.”
    Here is how I take it: The "Sword of Wisdom" in Mahayana Buddhism actually makes the separate things of the world one when it "uncuts." It is the opposite of a worldly sword. The monks, in fighting over the cat, are the ones who had already mentally divided it. There was unlikely to have been any literal killing celebrated by Buddhist priests who take a vow to avoid violence, not to mention all the Karmic ramifications. Instead, Nansen actually brought wholeness and the cat back to life by ending the monk's arguing and divisive thoughts, and returning to Wholeness and the Absolute. No cat was harmed, in either the relative or the absolute sense. The "shoes on the head" at the end is a traditional gesture of mourning at Chinese funerals, showing that Joshu got the message.

    Pretty simple. The ASPCA certifies that no animal was actually harmed in the making of this Teachin

    Manjushri with the "Sword of Wisdom" as found in many Zazen Halls

    I realized this week that there is some commonality between this Koan and the current, very violent, anti-gun anti-racism video "This Is America." Both use an image of violence to make what is actually an anti-violence statement about coming together, and are supposed to shock us out of complacency. A Koan is just a dance too. The video's lyrics are also about people filled with desire these days (for money, buying stuff, sex) and only caring about that. Very Buddhist stuff.

    It is not just about the USA, but about any place where there is violence and division.

    I was inspired to play "This Is America" as our "Heart Sutra" during our Ceremony for Zazenkai today (about 6:00 mark), and then the short talk was about the Killing the Cat Koan if you find the time (from about 54:30). I also connected to Solomon threatening to cut the baby in two in order to find where the real love is found. Before the Ceremony, I explained that our practice is not just to sit in Peace, putting the ugliness aside. We must also look right at, and through, the violence to find the Wisdom and Compassion at its swirling center. Hate is no other than Emptiness, Emptiness just precisely Hate.

    The rest of our weekly Zazenkai is here ...

    Gassho, J


    PS - I am writing a book with a theoretical physicist and, of course, we have one section when this is mentioned together with Schrödinger's cat. In both one might say that the cat is alive and dead. Arguing, like the monks did, is the pellet of poison that kills the cat in the box. :-)
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-19-2018 at 11:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Ok, got it -or as got it as I'm gonna get for now. I had meant to ask about the second half of the koan: the Joshu/Nanshuan dialogue. It appears there was a part 'lost in translation' for me (perhaps figuratively and literally) that you've explained. I wonder how much of this is an issue in dialoguing with all koans - and/or/both/neither they 'evolve' as the come into contact with new times, places and peoples.

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Geika's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
    San Diego County, California
    Jundo, I think it's pretty awesome that you can see past the shock factor to Donald Glover's message in the video. I have been a fan of his for a few years.

    Gassho, sat today, lah

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  4. #4
    This is a wonderful teaching Jundo, thank you for clarity. =)


    倫道 真現

  5. #5
    Just a week ago my 14 year old son had me watch the "This is America " video. I'll admit I was put off by the video although I agree with the message. I also understand that sometimes you need to shock tonget your message across.

    This week's Zazenkai with the "This is America" Heart Sutra definitely eased my feelings towards the video. Side note: my son thought it was cool of Jundo to use it.

    Also this explanation of 'Nansen Kills the Cat.' is the clearest I've read.

    Sat today

  6. #6

    Thank you for letting me get the entire story of the cat. The interpretation is meaningul.


  7. #7
    Thank you for the clarifying teaching, Jundo.
    I've been struggling a little for getting the Nansen's Cat clear and meaningful.

    just sat
    Last edited by Washin; 05-21-2018 at 05:42 PM.
    Kaido (有道) Every Way
    Washin (和信) Harmony Trust
    I am a novice priest-in-training. Anything what I say must not be considered as teaching
    and should be taken with a 'grain of salt'.

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