Category Archives: Indian Philosophy

Zen Speaks by Tsai Chih Chung

Zen Speaks is a modern collection of Zen stories and koans by the author and artist Tsai Chih Chung that I highly recommend which contains wonderful cartoon renderings of many of the koans and stories we’ve already covered.  I just found out that you can watch the entire work as a cartoon in Cantonese with English subtitles on YouTube.

Zen Cake

zen garden birthday cakeIn Zen Buddhism, the 77th case of the Blue Cliff Record is cake.  A monk asked Yunmen, “What is talk that goes beyond buddhas and patriarchs?”  Yunmen said, “Cake.”  He makes us think of cake, imagining it’s sweetness, texture and satisfaction, a strange ghost that can be raised with a single word, somewhat like the ghosts of ancestors.  The thought of a cake is both a cake and not a cake, much as a rock is sometimes a rock and sometimes the thought of a rock, and thus not a rock.  Whether or not this has anything to do with the buddhas and patriarchs, it certainly has to do with cake.

Ssangbongsa

Onami & The Great Wave

Wavy no relation to Gravy

The wrestler Onami (Great Wave in Japanese) was unbeatable in practice matches, throwing all of his teachers, but easily defeated in tournaments.  He sought the help of a Zen master who lived in a temple in the mountains who told him to imagine he was a tidal wave sweeping away everything in his path.  Onami meditated that night in the temple, and slowly he felt the roll of his breathing turn into waves.  First they swept away the flowers in the offering vase in front of the Buddha statue, then they rose higher and swept away the vase, then swelled into a flood that swept the Buddha and bodhisattvas out of the temple.  After that night, Onami was invincible.  When we feel fear and anxiety interacting with others, it is useful to imagine that we and they are all the fluid, rolling motions of the larger situation that surrounds us, fearing neither they nor the situation as something external to ourselves.

Linji says Judge the Buddha

Linji Rinzai

Linji, the great Tang dynasty master of Zen Buddhism, said:

Followers of the Way, you take the words that come out of the mouths of a bunch of old teachers to be a description of the true Way.  You think, ‘This is a most wonderful teacher and friend.  I have only the mind of a common mortal.  I would never dare try to fathom such greatness.’  Blind idiots!  You go through life with this kind of understanding, betraying your own two eyes, cringing and faltering like a donkey on an ice road, saying, ‘I would never dare speak ill of such a good friend.  I’d be afraid of making mouth karma!’

Followers of the Way, the really good friend is someone who dares to speak ill of the Buddha, speak ill of the patriarchs, pass judgement on anyone in the world, throw away the Buddhist scriptures, despise those little children, and in the midst of disagreement and agreement seek out the real person.  For the past twelve years I’ve looked for this thing called karma, but I’ve never found so much as a particle of it the size of a mustard seed.

mu

Those Chan masters who are as timid as a new bride are afraid they might be expelled from the monastery of deprived of their meal of rice, worrying and fretting, but from times past the real teachers, wherever they went, were never listened to and were always driven out.  That’s how you know they were sages of worth.  If everyone approves of you wherever you go, what use can you be?  Hence the saying, let the lion give one roar and the brains of foxes will all split open.