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Thread: Buddha's Theatre of the Sublime

  1. #1

    Buddha's Theatre of the Sublime

    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts ...

    (W. Shakespeare - As You Like It, Act II, sc. vii)

    We are born, as if mysteriously appearing upon a stage. A drama is underway, filled with scenes of comedy and tragedy. There is changing scenery, both beautiful and ugly. Myriad other actors share the stage with us, some close, some as friends or enemies, but most as strangers. In fact, we are each actors and action's audience too, looking out from our eyes. There are ever evolving storylines, many making little sense (if any), filled with laughter and tears, sometimes anger, violence and bloodshed. There is sometimes real pain. How we entered, stage right, is mysterious, but it seems we are expected to perform (little choice if we are to eat). There are acts in which we are young, healthy, but later acts of sickness and old age.

    In this production, we are not given set lines to read, nor is the eventual ending of the whole work (if there is one) anywhere clearly in view. Rather, we find ourselves in stage settings not of our choosing, some of us born as the rich man, the victor, most as someone poor, the victim, the vanquished. Within these settings, we are taught a little at the start, but then it seems we are free to say lines of our own making, act and react as we choose, in interplay with the other actors, in some kind of improvisation. We work from the scenes we are randomly handed from somewhere (often unexpected and far from what we might wish), make up our responses as best we can, which all invents whatever comes next.

    Oh, we are not fully in charge, not the sole masters of the words we are uttering, for all the actors on the stage make the show together, limit each other, as do the conditions and physical restrictions of the stage. We cannot simply fly because we wish it, nor can we play a role that is beyond us ... the fish does not become a bird just by thinking itself so. Nonetheless, we have tremendous freedom to create our lives within those parameters, do greatly determine whether our character is hero or villain, beloved or dreaded, builder of bridges or bringer of destruction, peaceful or tormented within. In fact, with enough creativity, a few wires and other ingenious tricks, we might even rig a way to fly!

    Our life consists of our stepping from some hidden "behind the curtain," onto the stage for a time, doing our turns and speaking our words for some years, then vanishing again ... exit, stage left. Where do we go then? Perhaps we just vanish. Perhaps there is another stage in back, maybe countless stages, maybe stages depicting hellish or heavenly reward. Perhaps we enter again later, in different costume, in another role. But let's leave that for some future act ... in the meantime, just act this present moment and role where we find ourselves.

    The problem is that most of us are born into this show, not realizing that it is a show. Nor do we act it very well.

    We get pulled into its tragedy, think it fully real, see the scenes of violence, abuse, sickness and death without realizing that there is more to what's going on. Then, quite often, we make things even worse, make more of a mess, creating ever more ugliness for ourself and the other characters by our choices and responses.

    Our task as Buddhists is to realize that this theatre is just theatre, to see past the scenes of sickness, loss, aging and death. Oh, the characters we love will vanish though we wish them to stay. The hoped for happy endings will not always be so. The story will not go in all the dramatic directions we planned and dreamed it would. Sometimes the scenes are truly painful, emotionally and physically, heartbreaking, criminal, unfair. In this strange show, even our acted broken legs hurt like hell, crush and shatter real bone, our cries and moaning are not faked at all. Though mere props, the knives are cutting and sharp, draw blood, take lives. However, the wisdom of this performance is that we can see through it all too, recognize it as the fantasy and fable that it is, even as it punishes. We see through the scenery, notice the curtains and the lights, recognize the the wooden facades and painted trees as less solid than they first appear, even while it remains a damn terrifying, torturous and tragic show sometimes, when not simply tedious.

    That does not mean, however, that our task in Zen is just to see through the show, be done with it once and for all. Far from it! While there have been voices within Buddhist "theatre appreciation" seeming to advise us to realize the unreality of it all, get off the stage soon and forever, never to return, the Zen maestros had another way: Realize it is theatre, the emptiness of it all, the play and players at play, but then enjoy the show while it lasts! Be of service to the other actors along the way. This show is our life, and what is happening right now! We have tickets, let's let it go to the end!

    Some folks think that the purpose of Zen practice is to become like someone watching a show in a theatre, believing that they must abandon the show, attain a totally empty stage, free of scenery, scenes and performers, in order to realize the "real theatre," the "real watcher." They think that barren floor boards are the ultimate deal, while the show is just an ignorant distraction. All they succeed in doing is to discover the building, the open space and lifeless floor which houses the theatre, not the theatre itself. Those floor boards are the site where the action happens, where the show comes to life: Without all that, it is just an empty theatre, robbed of life, the spectator/actors all gone home, the lights dark. Yes, our practice is not to become lost in the show, thinking it totally real, getting too much sucked in, then acting it poorly with scenes of greed and violence. We should not be prisoners of the false narrative, believing it true. But having seen through the surface scenery, we had best to to enjoy the show, realize it is not totally real, but enjoy the performance ... and to act it well, free of scenes of violence, greed, division and strife, as much as possible.

    Furthermore, we realize that it is all the theatre, together as one: Though we feel as single, isolated actors somehow apart from all the other actors and the scene, in fact, we can come to realize that the whole thing, the whole spectacle, is just one thing. We are not one actor, but a troupe ... and the story, and the lights and curtains ... are all us too. And we are just all of it. Hamlet is Macbeth playing Hamlet, while Macbeth is Romeo playing Macbeth. The orchestra is the spotlight playing music, while the spotlight is the trumpets and violins shining, while they are all the curtain going up and down. Each act, each scene, each small gesture of even one performer contains all the acts and scenes, plus everyone's every gesture, and fully all the other players and the whole show, including all that comes before and after. Seats and shadows, aisles and announcements, tickets, trinkets and toilets too ... it is all the theatre, all the whole show.

    This WHOLE flowing, wonderful ...

    ... terrible, absurd, sublime SPECTACLE is the Buddha Theatre!

    And when we realize so ... that it is all us and each other, and we just them and the whole hammy thing ... then, though we exit "stage left" when our death scene comes, we truly go no where. Not so long as the show goes on. For the show is just us, we are just the show, and have been all along.

    (And is there a hidden playwright who got this thing going? An architect of the building, a hidden director behind the scenes? Or did this drama, together with the whole theatre building, just pop up here, the curtain rising on its own? After all, in a universe with enough space and time, one could imagine that every show will happen somewhere eventually, and maybe again and again for an infinite run. I have my suspicions, but best leave the topic aside ... for, whatever the case, this right here and now is the show, and here are we as its players.)

    Finally, then, what is "Zazen" in all this madness? Zazen is intermission. We pause from the show for a time, just sit in the completeness of Just Sitting, sitting for sitting's sake, in radical equanimity, nothing to attain, no lines in need of saying, no other place to be, nothing lacking. One might say that the curtain comes down for some minutes, the lights come on for a time. We notice the room, that it is just a theatre hosting a show. Then, the bell rings, the lights go back down, the curtain rises ... and the show begins again, we go back, are drawn in again, but now we are refreshed, reminded anew that the show is just a show.

    We are now ready to act it well, whatever the next scene brings ...

    Gassho, J


    (Sorry, I tend to run wild with analogies sometimes )

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-21-2023 at 03:28 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo. You as Ed Sullivan, could have put on a "Really Big Shew." as its' been said before; it is what it is - all good.

    gassho, Shokai
    合掌 仁道 生開 - gassho, Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    一期一会 ("Ichi-go ichi-e," 'each single encounter is the one meeting') - "One Moment in Time"

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    Thank you Jundo. You as Ed Sullivan, could have put on a "Really Big Shew." as its' been said before; it is what it is - all good.

    gassho, Shokai
    I am afraid that most of the "later arrivals" on this stage (born post 1975) do not even know who Ed Sullivan is ...

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-19-2023 at 05:07 AM.

  4. #4
    Taigen Dan Leighton wrote an article: "zazen as an enactment ritual" (in Heine,Wright, 'Zen ritual' and in his own book, 'Zen questions' ). If my knowledge of the English language is adequate i think this article connects to yours..



    hobo kore dojo / 歩歩是道場 / step, step, there is my place of practice

    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  5. #5
    Wow what a beautiful share! Thank you Jundo. Reminds me a lot of the Kashmir shaivaism view of reality where Shiva is playing with Shakti (himself), like a wave playing with another wave in the ocean. All just for the sake of being playful and curious.



  6. #6
    Thank you



  7. #7
    Thank you Jundo.

    This just popped into my head as I was reading your post. I have always loved it and so wanted to post.

    If we shadows have offended,
    Think but this, and all is mended,
    That you have but slumber’d here
    While these visions did appear.

    And this weak and idle theme,
    No more yielding but a dream,
    Gentles, do not reprehend:
    if you pardon, we will mend:

    And, as I am an honest Puck,
    If we have unearned luck
    Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
    We will make amends ere long;

    Else the Puck a liar call;
    So, good night unto you all.
    Give me your hands, if we be friends,
    And Robin shall restore amends
    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.
    E84I - JAJ

  8. #8
    do not even know who Ed Sullivan (is) was ...
    Jundo, I guess I wasn't talking to them. I just wanted to say what a marvelous job you had done of a mock Shakespearian production.

    gassho, Shokai

    p,s, are we that old, my neighbour died this morning, We were just shoveling snow together about two weeks ago. And, I saw him go out for his walk yesterday morning. He was about 15 years younger; even younger than Tai Shi. He apparently finished his regular walk and then went for a walk with a friend. Last night he told his brother ( they lived together next door) he had a pain in his back and had maybe over done it . Then this morning his brother found him dead. Metta for the family.
    合掌 仁道 生開 - gassho, Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    一期一会 ("Ichi-go ichi-e," 'each single encounter is the one meeting') - "One Moment in Time"

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    Metta, as he exits is mortal stage ... and for those he leaves upon it ...

    Gassho, J


  10. #10
    Much Metta to neighbor's and his family and friends Shokai.

    Gassho, Shinshi

    空道 心志 Kudo Shinshi
    I am just a priest-in-training, any resemblance between what I post and actual teachings is purely coincidental.
    E84I - JAJ

  11. #11
    Thank you Jundo
    and metta to Shokai's neighbor's family.

    Kotei sat/lah today.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidō Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  12. #12
    Thank you, Jundo. This is a clear and compelling performance.


    東西 - Tōsei - East West
    there is only what is, and it is all miraculous

  13. #13
    metta, Shokai.



    hobo kore dojo / 歩歩是道場 / step, step, there is my place of practice

    Aprāpti (अप्राप्ति) non-attainment

  14. #14

    Jewels and pearls of wisdom in every talk.
    Your words of knowledge and wisdom are always lovely.

    My deep gratitude for Your precious teachings, Jundo.

    Sending you lots of Metta and healing power and good vibes to you Shokai and neighbor's family.

    With Nine Bows,
    Life itself is the only teacher.
    一 Joko Beck

    安知 Anchi

  15. #15
    Thank you Jundo.

    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

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