BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 6

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39451

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 6


    Case 5 never ends, yet now comes ...

    CASE 6 - Baso's White and Black

    The Preface begins ...

    When the mouth cannot be opened, the tongueless person knows how to talk. Where a foot cannot be lifted, the legless person knows how to walk.

    Imagine that the young monk had asked Baso, Chizo and Kai, "How do I breathe, how do I walk?" Can anyone give adequate instructions in words? One must learn to breathe and walk by ... just like a newborn baby ... finding the power naturally arising within oneself. The most the parent or mid-wife, the Zen teacher, can do is provide a suitable environment and nutrition for the inner ability to naturally arise. The baby must do the work, and make the discovery, by herself!

    There are countless books of Buddhist scholarship, written through the centuries, on "how to breathe, how to walk". The "four propositions and hundred negations" are Buddhist philosophical points on causation and emptiness by Master Nagarjuna (e.g., 1. Everything that is, does not come out from itself. ... 4. Everything that is, does not come out from nothing.) that may have their place in knowledge of how the world works (much as a medical researcher in physiology might write a brilliant, learned research paper on how the involuntary muscles and nervous system work in walking and breathing) ... but such is not actual walking and breathing.

    One must simply shut up, stop thinking about how to walk and breathe ... and simply walk and breathe! (a sure way to trip and fall is to think too intently about walking while walking! ... a sure way to start to choke is to think too much about "how am I breathing" while breathing!)

    Just shut up, walk and breathe! Don't talk about it, don't overly think about it ... just walk and breathe the Buddhist Path! Learn to walk and talk and breathe for oneself, not dependent on the physiologist's analysis.

    So, the poems say ...

    When the mouth cannot be opened, the tongueless person know how to talk, when the foot cannot be lifted, the legless person knows how to walk. If you fall for someone (else's) words and are burdened by them, how can freedom be yours?

    Learn from the "medicine" of the teachings of the old Zen masters ... but do not become "hooked" on the medicine ...

    Medicine become a sickness - reflecting on saints of old

    leaping free of the addiction, one is truly free ... and you and Buddha (not two) become the true healer ...

    sickness becomes a doctor - who should he be?

    A couple of notes on symbolism:

    "Vaisali’s venerable old awl" may be a reference to the renowned Buddhist layman, Vimalikirti, who once remained silent when asked about the ultimate teaching of Buddha.

    There is some debate about the meaning of "head is white ... head is black". Some, like Rev. Wick, seem to take this as something like "Chizo got it in Chizo's way, Kai in Kai's way". But the reference may actually be to an old story in which a "black headed" thief was a better thief than a "white headed" thief, which would mean that Baso may actually have meant that "Kai" (his star student) got "walking and breathing" a bit better than Chizo, even though they seemed to say-not-say about the same words.

    QUESTIONS:

    - How is Zen Practice like "learning to breathe, learning to walk" in your life?

    - Even though walking and breathing are the most natural of activities ... does medical research on walking and breathing (Buddhist philosophy) and medicine/physicians (Zen teachers) have some important place?

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-05-2020, 04:52 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Rimon
    Member
    • May 2010
    • 309

    #2
    A good book on how to swim won't really teach you to swim, unless you jump yourself in the water and start swimming. However, once you've started it can help you to get a better technique.
    A good book on stories on swimming is very different from swimming, but reading about it can motivate you to throw yourself to the swimming pool and start swimming. And it can also motivate you to keep on practicing.

    But nothing can substitute a good swimming teacher and a community of fellow swimmers

    Thank you Treeleaf
    Rimon Barcelona, Spain
    "Practice and the goal of practice are identical." [i:auj57aui]John Daido Loori[/i:auj57aui]

    Comment

    • Myoku
      Member
      • Jul 2010
      • 1487

      #3
      Originally posted by Jundo
      Just shut up, walk and breathe!
      Reading the Case before your full comment I came to a similar response: Stop moving it in your head, do it, be it. Somewhat these koans are strange, for example this one, it not looks any illogic to me. Koans which are not illogic do confuse me :-D This koan clearly demonstrates to the monk to stop to ponder this intellectually.

      I dont get your first question, Jundo, so I just say: Yes!

      About the place of medical research; yes, it has its place to help people who are ill; if you have no issue e.g. with breathing, any research on it has not much use for you. As a society its good too have people who work on theory to help others, even if there are only relatively few with issues. Buddhist philosophy and zen teachers however are particularly important (you may feel soft-soaped now), as they work on a cure for the majority of mankind.

      Gassho
      Myoku
      Last edited by Myoku; 06-26-2012, 07:36 PM. Reason: slightly improved my broken english

      Comment

      • Heisoku
        Member
        • Jun 2010
        • 1338

        #4
        How is Zen Practice like "learning to breathe, learning to walk" in your life?
        I am in complete agreement with Rimon's analogy... Gassho For this Rimon. I also feel that IMHO that we are continually being offered a life in a box..a kit for us to play and build with.. A kit that we have to buy into literally! To break from this and to see this takes some effort and a gauge to check how free we are truly becoming. Zen Practice provides a True Way that we can use as a path and gauge. Breathing freely without concern and walking in our own life is not a luxury or the dream of some lottery winner, but something we can truly access. Zen Practice shows us the gate....(getting through it requires the Swim team).
        Last edited by Heisoku; 06-26-2012, 07:49 PM.
        Heisoku 平 息
        Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

        Comment

        • Thane
          Member
          • May 2012
          • 37

          #5
          Hi Jundo and to everyone else.

          Thank you for your commentary on this koan. It was helpful to me and interesting to read your explanation of sentences that had confused me like 'head is black head is white'. These explanations help demystify the koans. I might have looked for some deep hidden meaning when in fact it is pointing to nothing special.

          How is zen practice like learning to breath, learning to walk in my life? I suppose it is continually trying to let go of my nested enclosures and over thinking. Letting the moment be as it is, just breathing and walking with out fixing it with my view.

          My answer to your second question. Do Buddhist scriptures and teachers have a special place? Special and non special. They are to be respected and i am grateful for them both but we have to walk and breath the path on our own. I agree with Rimon though that scriptures and teachers can offer support, guidance and motivation.

          So they are special but also just another part of life and we must not become hooked on their medicine.

          Gassho

          Thane

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39451

            #6
            Another line in the Preface that deserves mention ...

            When the four mountains close in, how can you pass free from them?

            Usually the "four mountains" refer to birth, aging, sickness, and death. In the Agon Sutra they are listed as the four mountains of aging, sickness, death and decrease.
            Gassho, J
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Kaishin
              Member
              • Dec 2010
              • 2322

              #7
              Also for more on the four mountains simile, do a net search for Pabbatopama Sutta (the simile of the mountains). Just happened to read this recently in a Pali anthology. It's a good text even for Zennies who otherwise aren't interested in Theravadin texts.

              As for my take on the koan...

              Study texts, but don't expect to find any answers. Seek the guidance of a teacher, but don't expect them to give you any answers. Be a part of a supportive Sangha, but don't expect them to give you any answers.

              Just sit as if your hair were on fire. Then get up and live NOW before the mountains crush you.

              Not easy.

              _/\_


              Gassho, Kaishin
              Thanks,
              Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
              Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

              Comment

              • Rich
                Member
                • Apr 2009
                • 2601

                #8
                Be the mountain.
                _/_
                Rich
                MUHYO
                無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                Comment

                • Jiken
                  Member
                  • Jan 2011
                  • 753

                  #9
                  How is Zen Practice like "learning to breathe, learning to walk" in your life?

                  Zen Practice is like learning to breathe and walk when you do it. In my opinion Zen practice is not just ike learning to breathe and walk it is breathing. It is walking. They are not the same but cannot be separated. Mind and body cannot be separated unless we conceptually do it in our head.


                  Even though walking and breathing are the most natural of activities ... does medical research on walking and breathing (Buddhist philosophy) and medicine/physicians (Zen teachers) have some important place?

                  Research or study can be the starting point or a guide along the way to understanding. Like when learning a language vocabulary gives you the start to understanding and eventually fluency.

                  I like what Rich said, "Be the mountain." In fact...Just....Mountain

                  Just my opinion

                  Daido

                  Comment

                  • Mp

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Jundo
                    One must simply shut up, stop thinking about how to walk and breathe ... and simply walk and breathe!
                    So true ... sometimes it best just to do, nothing more.

                    Comment

                    • Shugen
                      Treeleaf Unsui
                      • Nov 2007
                      • 4535

                      #11
                      In interactions with other people, if I spend the time I should be listening thinking about what I'm going to say.... Zen practice has helped my "trust" myself - to "allow" instead of to try so hard to "force" an outcome.

                      The sutras, books, discourses wear out my monkey mind to the point where I can "sit with it". The word "framework" is floating in here somewhere also.

                      Ron
                      Meido Shugen
                      明道 修眼

                      Comment

                      • Shohei
                        Member
                        • Oct 2007
                        • 2854

                        #12
                        - How is Zen Practice like "learning to breathe, learning to walk" in your life?

                        No matter how much we look at these basic activities, until we proceed in just doing, or allowing to be done by them, we miss the mark.

                        While some instruction is needed we are almost always instructed to JUST SIT mean while. Countless times I have said "ya Im doing that but WHAT ELSE?" and turned to look outside my daily life for "real practice"... Just sitting showed me I had plenty of to do right here and there was no practice vs daily life.

                        In this case, I have found myself on the other end of the spectrum with needing to do a bit more manual reading, to be honest .

                        Practice helps us realize the instructions and the instructions help us back to our practice.

                        - Even though walking and breathing are the most natural of activities ... does medical research on walking and breathing (Buddhist philosophy) and medicine/physicians (Zen teachers) have some important place?

                        So in walking and breathing we must do this on our own and yes we are naturally driven to do so. However, understanding mechanics and how to care for our bodies do come in handy and help us to continue the practice.

                        Myself, having a bad back, I know how to sit, but not paying attention to my posture (mental and physical) I often ache, the simplest reminder and instruction often helps alleviate that pain and I can return to just sitting, no need for discussion on the act (right now this applies as I lean on one elbow, twisted, and blaming the weather for the back pain /face-palm).

                        Gassho
                        Shohei
                        Last edited by Shohei; 06-27-2012, 11:23 PM.

                        Comment

                        • RichardH
                          Member
                          • Nov 2011
                          • 2800

                          #13
                          When the four mountains close in, how can you pass free from them?
                          By being born, aging, getting sick, decreasing, and dying.

                          Gassho, kojip.

                          Comment

                          • Dosho
                            Member
                            • Jun 2008
                            • 5784

                            #14
                            Hi all,

                            When I began zen practice I was all about finding wondeful insights (Taigu discusses how valuable these are in a recent video post) and the meaning of life itself! These thoughts and searches are not completely meaningless because they helped us find our way to buddhism, to zen, to Treeleaf. But after awhile you have to taste for yourself what is right now. There will be lots of "But I..." moments, but nothing! This! Here! Now! I also hear Fugen's voice in my head telling me there is no try and he is right. Do! Succeed! Fail! But just don't think about thinking, think or do not. There is a time to just get on with THIS and although you might say, "That's for tomorrow." What is tomorrow? Just a creation of our minds trying to distracts us from now. Now, now, now!

                            Now go sit!

                            Gassho,
                            Dosho

                            Comment

                            • Myozan Kodo
                              Friend of Treeleaf
                              • May 2010
                              • 1901

                              #15
                              "Attention!"

                              This, for me, is the wake up wisdom core of this koan.

                              Thank you all for your teachings.

                              Gassho
                              Myozan

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