4 thoughts on “Zen, Silent Teaching & Holding Up The Lotus

  1. Eric! It’s Nansens cat!! Not Haung Po! Come on! (To your credit, you did catch it though!)

    While I knew about Koans as a sort of ‘legal cases’ I have never thought about the reader being the Judge. That was very neat, and extremely clear. Every Koan is about the reader, but pointing out the reader is the judge of the case… Well, it’s a much more direct way of putting it.

    Never thought about Joshu’s fist, or Gutei’s finger as the same as Buddha holding the flower, but it makes sense – nor did I think about the Buddha holds a flower as a sort of potential political maneuver to establish Zen relating to Buddhism. Very interesting.

    Really glad to hear in the first ten minutes of pure disclaimer that you believe Zen masters weren’t doing things ‘beyond logic’ so to speak. That there is a reason or even philosophy behind Koans instead of an appeal to quietism that you see sometimes. While I have meditating consistently for almost a decade now, it wasn’t until I actually wrestled with Koans that Zen really opened up for me. I think it’s an incredibly overlooked aspect of Zen. I too am not much of a fan of meditating only on turning words. The context, the stupid or sometimes profound questions monks ask are the meat of the Koans. I really think, if done enough, I think you can really learn to become a critical thinker by wrestling with them as they are the works like the BCR/MMK/BOS etc. This is to say, I don’t think you can explain Koans away, nor do I think anything is wrong with treating them as having serious philosophical implications and trying to explain them. Where’s the bloody fun if not?

    I am ambivalent about you choosing to cover Joshu last. The first directly ‘Zen’ texts I read (meaning, reading the guys who made ‘zen’ *zen* if you get my meaning) were Bodhidharma’s Zen teaching by red pine and the sayings of Joshu by by James Greene. Bodhidharma was cool. Joshu was amazing. Nothing gets people interested in Zen better than the wit of Joshu. Of course, as a teacher, you definitely have more of an obligation to do things thoroughly… I just don’t want to wait.

    Anyway, great stuff! I am super stoked you are dedicating whole videos to single patriarchs and works like the BCR. As always, I get very excited, so I apologize for the wall of text. WordPress seems to squish my text together no matter how I attempt to segment it.

    1. The only reason I cover Joshu last, of the patriarchs, is I realized after I got into Linji that Joshu is happening at the same time, and he is the greatest of all of them, with Linji’s sermons serving as a good intro to how the House of Linji was framing Joshu and his interactions in the koan collections.

      Thank you again for your continued support, and calling me out on the mistakes, which are important to leave in. All too often academics fear making mistakes rather than failing to make personal progress, in my opinion.

      1. Eric it’s my pleasure. I should be thanking you!

        To speak colloquially, it seems like everyone is sleeping on the Zen Master’s. There is a growing interest forming as American Buddhism as a culture is developing, and I think it’s really great to see this happening.

        Perhaps you’re more informed here though, does academia explore these works like you’ve been?

        You’ve made enough disclaimers to make me think its somewhat taboo… unless you are an ordained priest of course. Yet, a friend of mine has pointed out that at one point, it was found upon for anyone but ordained priest to comment on the bible… and, well, now things are quite different.

        I know it’s not quite a one to one comparison, but you get the meaning. At any rate, really appreciate the work and will try to be a gadfly whenever I can with merit.

  2. I don’t think that academia has explored these works well, but that is what these posts and videos are for. Anyone should do philosophy. Academics can’t be left to the academics, anymore than war can to the generals. As your wise friend says, things are quite different. There is YouTube, and you can’t find Indian philosophy classes offered in a major American university, still, since the 60s and 70s. Times will change, as they have to.

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