where the writers are
What does Zen know?

Knowledge could probably be ignorance masked. I tend to analyse a bit too much, often finding meaning where there is none. Interpretation is fine, but what if it is a real interaction and one is enlightened only to realise the intent was far from it? Is enlightenment a way by which we affirm superior knowledge? How do we ‘unenlighten’ and save ourselves?

It is probably one of those rare occasions when I post something from elsewhere, because the questions were sparked off by this delightful Zen fable:

* * *

Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wandering monk can remain in a Zen temple. If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a temple in the northern part of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together. The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime teaching. The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the younger one to take his place. "Go and request the dialogue in silence," he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterwards the traveler rose and went in to the elder brother and said: "Your young brother is a wonderful fellow. He defeated me."

"Relate the dialogue to me," said the elder one.

"Well," explained the traveler, "first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living the harmonious life. Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus he won and so I have no right to remain here." With this, the traveler left.

"Where is that fellow?" asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

"I understand you won the debate."

"Won nothing. I'm going to beat him up."

"Tell me the subject of the debate," asked the elder one.

"Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes. Then the impolite wretch held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we only have three eyes. So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and that ended it!"

* * *

6 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

‘unenlighten’ and shrine


That's an entertaining fable.  But, in Japan, Zen buddhists are at temples, not shrines.   Shrines are for Shinto priests.

Also, I think unenlighten is like unlearning,  and unenlighten needs enlighten first to get unenlighten, and unlearning needs learning before unlearning.   So the knowledge of unenlighten or unlearning does not go back to zero, but adds more to it. 

Comment Bubble Tip



So true. To get rid of something, there has got to be something. And unlearning takes us into new territories. Zero, by the way, is a powerful number with mystical qualities in quite a few Oriental and Middle Eastern cultures.

Thanks for the information on temples vs shrines.


Comment Bubble Tip


You're welcome.  I should have mentioned it though that even Japanese are often confused with the difference between temples and shrines.

 Yes, I love the issues of zero, nothingness. 



Comment Bubble Tip


As you know, concentrating on shunya (zero) is a powerful form of meditation. Nothingness can be so freeing!

Just thought I'd share, until the next such discussion.



Comment Bubble Tip

I'm fascianted with the

I'm fascianted with the subject.  I googled about the tradition of  Zen questions and answers and found out the first question monks were asked is something like  "Do dogs have a spirit or soul?," and I think the answer is no.  And this no doesn't mean ordinary no because it's obvious to us that dogs do.  It said it is known to take three years to understand the answer, but again obviously some people will not get it.  

Among the people who do not get it are well known philosophers and scholars.  I was watching a documentary on philosophyical debate when I travelled on Korean Air probably more than 5 years ago.  I don't remember their names, but it was a discussion of Oriental thoughts vs. Wesern thoughts.  The interviewer struts in his chair and said something like, "So, (forgot the name of classical philosopher but it could be nietzsche) did come up with the same conclusion (as the oriental philosophy of nothingness,) but in a differnt way."  The interviewee responded, "But I don't understand.  All these are here.  We can see it."

It was a ha moment for me.  I couldn't find it on youtube.  But if I ever find it, I'll let you know.  I believe it was recorded by BBC.

Comment Bubble Tip

This is all immensely

This is all immensely interesting, and I do know of philosophers who are so wrapped up in themselves that they would not hear a dog bark, let alone cogitate upon its soul.

Do let me know when you find the link.

I discovered something that sort of goes with this post:

Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

So, all living beings might have souls.