Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Killing the Buddha May be Bad For Your Health

In one of the myriad of commentaries Red Pine scoured through to put together his book on the Diamond Sutra, there was this from late 4th century Chinese monk Seng-chao:

"When your practice and understanding meet, you will see the Buddha."

An interesting line, don't you think? One that immediately sparks for me thoughts of time, and steps made in one's life. Ultimately, we are told, there isn't any time in the way we humans understand time. What we regularly view as time is just a construction. So, when is this "when" being spoken about?

Zen tends to toss out developmental approaches to practice, pointing it's students back to the now, to your breath, to your life in this moment. And yet, even to speak of a "moment," or of "now," is a construction. So, what now? There's not even a single square inch of earth upon which to stand, said Dogen, in a commentary on the Ten Grave precepts.

This kind of talk tends to upset most of us if we actually take time (laugh, laugh) to let it sink in. Hearing it, intellectualizing it feels good - maybe even dead on. But when you actually start to experience groundlessness, it's kind of scary, don't you think?

It could be said that in this moment, as I type these words, practice and understanding are meeting. Or now, as I type and watch the snow fall outside. Or now, as the car passes. Or ...

At the same time, if you don't do the work of meditation, chanting, applying teachings to your everyday life, then any appearance of the Buddha in your life will prompt you to commit murder before its time.


Laura.Jomon said...

Don't Buddhists have a similar expression for "Amen!" Can we work on this? Because this post calls for a lively interjection with a spiritual connotation to express assent.

Adam said...

If you see the Buddha on the side of the road, ask for his ID. Then kill him. :)

Algernon said...

I've heard Buddhists say things like "ah ho!" for amen.

For hallelujah, we've got "svaha!" Not quite as ejaculatory as hallelujah, but it works for the Heart Sutra...

Trevor said...

Laura: I believe the expression you're looking for is, "Svaha!"

Or perhaps, "Hells yeah!"

On Seng-chao's line: When I think about it from the context of shikan-taza (just sitting, or wholeheartedly-engaged sitting, the style of meditation of the Soto schol), it makes a lot of sense. Practice-realization is an understanding of the practice. So you sit, and you understand the practice of sitting as practice-realization, and once you're actually doing it (you and zazen and no separation between the "two") ego-centered self is forgotten and you're the sloppy, radiant Buddha you've always been. Or something along these lines.

Yeah, there are wholes in that, but it's late and I have to hit the sack. Why? Got to be robed up and in the zendo nice and early.

spldbch said...

The thought that time doesn't exist except in our minds has always been hard for me to wrap my mind around.