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Thread: Cryptic Zen Teachings

  1. #1

    Cryptic Zen Teachings

    I was reading Steve Hagen's "Buddhism - It's Not What You Think," and came across this quote from Linji:
    There are Zen students who are in chains when they to to a teacher, and the teacher adds another chain. The students are delighted, unable to discern one thing from another.
    Hagen goes on to describe real Zen teaching in a way that made me think of Jundo and Taigu:
    We don't easily tolerate Zen teachers who make baffling and seemingly cryptic statements we can't understand. No, it's much more comfortable when they hand us something we can take hold of, sink our teeth into, carry with us, identify with, and call our own...In our delusion, we think that awakening to this moment is just another item to complete and knock off our list of things to do.
    This made me realize I've been waiting for Jundo and/or Taigu to quit screwing around and just tell me the answer - e.g. another concept I can get wrapped up in :roll:

    Slowly, slowly, slowly, I am coming around...


  2. #2

    Re: Cryptic Zen Teachings

    Gassho, Craig

    We popped up on this forum about the same time so I enjoy seeing how we move "forward" together :P

    Your post reminds me of the old "you can lead a horse to water" saying, and really how I don't think it applies :mrgreen: More so it should be, "You can lead a horse up and down mountains, in and out of rivers, through towns and villages, all the way back to where you started but you'd be hard pressed to make yourself aware of the fact that there was nowhere to go but where you are right now."

    Ok maybe the original saying rolled of the tongue better and did its job just fine :roll:


  3. #3

    Re: Cryptic Zen Teachings

    The oak tree in the front garden.

    When the wooden man begins to sing, the stone woman gets up to dance.

    There are many reasons that Zen teachers speak or act in cryptic ways ... most not so cryptic.

    In some cases, the teacher is guiding one to experience a teaching in the marrowless marrow of one's marrow ... not just ponder or philosophize about it. I often use the example of the difference between merely talking like a wallflower at the dance about "dancing the dance of emptiness" and getting up to lose and find oneself in the dancing!

    When such mysterious interchange and displays were at their height in Sung Dynasty China, for example, it was in reaction to a Buddhism which had become overly philosophical, analytical of arcane points of doctrine, bookish. It was much like people spending most of their time arguing about correct tempo and foot placements in dancing ... rather than getting up to dance. However, for the most part, the basic philosophy and perspectives of Buddhism where never abandoned in the dancing.

    Which leads to our next cases: Often, comments sound cryptic because they point to ways of viewing reality that are not "common sense" to most of us. For example, ordinary Western logic usually leads to the conclusion that you are not me are not the mountain which is not the river (A is not B is not C is not D). Zen philosophy is based on that not being the only perspective ... thus "A is radically B is radically C is radically D" by another perspective ... and in some ways so much so ... that we need not even speak of "ABCD" nor "is vs. is not"!

    Sometimes, Zen phrases seem "cryptic" because old Zen stories were written in 1000 year old "slang", citing forgotten Chinese legends, stories and poetic references, and poorly translated over time! It is as if I were to recite a Koan now using such terms as "bling-bling, shake your booty, Thomas the Tank Engine and 'Casey at the bat'" and expect folks 1500 years from now in Lithuania to "get the reference".

    Often, not a word was necessary because people were hanging out in the same world ... much as my wife and I, after nearly 25 years of sharing things and life together, can so often convey volumes with a raised eyebrow or a single smile.

    Sometimes, Zen phrases seem cryptic because fools on the internet and elsewhere try to "sound Zen" ... and think that if they don't make a riddle and mystery of everything that it is not "Zen". Well, do you really feel that those fellows in the Sung Dynasty --only-- spoke in riddles all the time? When they wanted the laundry done in the monastery, I am sure that they said "let's do the laundry" ... not "the sparrow flies with the dawn"! :shock: Same with imparting many teachings in a "straight" and wordy way.

    Anyway, enough words ... time to DANCE!

    Gassho, J

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