Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Mother's Advice

Jiun, a Shingon master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When he was young he used to deliver lectures to his brother students.

His mother heard about this and wrote him a letter:

"Son, I do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to turn into a walking dictionary for others. There is no end to information and commentation, glory and honor. I wish you would stop this lecture business. Shut yourself up in a little temple in a remote part of the mountain. Devote your time to meditation and in this way attain true realization."

#20 of 101 Zen stories transcribed by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps


At May 24, 2006, Blogger me said...

If you are ready for a challenge try explaining to this fellow professor and philosopher what value there is in staring at walls


or click here

At May 24, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

Maybe Brad took down his stuff from the web because he got a note from his mom.

At May 24, 2006, Blogger karen said...

I read the first few paragraphs and I don't think this person would take to having the value of anything explained to him. Especially since he seems to have already made up his mind about things. But, if I had the chance to converse with someone like this, I wouldn't call it staring at walls. I like to think of it as waiting for a visit, in silence. I don't think of meditation as a means to an end. The end result of meditation cannot be brought about through rational thinking or logic. You could sit until the cows come home but if you have a motive for that sitting, you will still be unfulfilled.

At May 24, 2006, Blogger me said...


good points. I think he's pretty much unaware of why anyone might even want to do zazen.

At May 25, 2006, Blogger Bob J. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At May 25, 2006, Blogger Bob J. said...

This is a good example of a good rational mind gone wild. I looked at some of his other posts, and the guy is clearly an intellectual; not that there's anything wrong with that, but he honestly doesn't see any possibility that the individual has any higher function than the rational mind.

And by his definition, he's right, Zen is not philosophy. He obviously hasn't gone beyond the New Age shelf in Borders for his Eastern philosophy though, because of lot of it is just the kind of ratiocination he thinks is the be-all and end-all. Confucianism certainly comes to mind.

What's hilarious is that we are having this discussion under a blog entry which denies the viability of blog discussions in Buddhism. I love it.

At May 25, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

but he honestly doesn't see any possibility that the individual has any higher function than the rational mind.

Higher? What is higher or lower? And how do you know you are holding it the right way up?

And by his definition, he's right, Zen is not philosophy.

The generally accepted definition of philosophy is 'love of truth'. Rationalism is the dominant present form of philosphy but it isn't the only one - Continental (European) philosophy comes to mind. For Buddhists reality itself is the ultimate 'truth' if there can be said to be one at all.

At May 25, 2006, Blogger me said...

Justin, Great post on Massimo's blog by the way!

I find him a great catalyst to organize thoughts - to defend Zen from being lumped in with methods that fail to approach truth.

At May 28, 2006, Blogger James said...

Karen - everyone has a motive for sitting each time they begin. Only when that motive is forgotten is zazen able to be really finished. A devoted practitioner would be wise to heed their mother's advice when it is so straightforward.


At June 02, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

If I'd listened to Karen, I'd have saved a lot of time. But it was still valuable to me. Like me said, the discussion was a good catalyst for organizing my own thoughts.

I'm sure you're all familiar with this story:

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. "It's overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted. "You are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"


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