BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 8

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39270

    BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 8



    Case 7 never ends, yet now comes ...

    CASE 8 - Hyakujo's (Pai-chang's) Fox

    A Zen Teacher claims that, in Great Enlightenment, one is free of Karmic effects, life and death, rebirth. In return, upon his death, he find himself trapped in a fox's body for 500 rebirths. Payback!

    The trapped fox (in the guise of an old man) then hears from another Teacher that, in Great Enlightenment, one does -not- evade and cannot ignore Karmic effects, life and death, rebirth.

    Upon so hearing, the fox attains Great Enlightenment, is freed from further rebirth as a fox, perhaps from all rebirths, Karmic effects, life and death!


    The fellow denying Karma and rebirth is thus trapped in Karma and Rebirth, while upon hearing that even an enlightenment master -cannot- escape Karma and rebirth, he seems to escape Karma and rebirth. Sure sounds like a "not-damned-damned if you do, damned-not-damned if you don't" situation!

    Or (I suggest to you) this is another case of Zen Masters speaking out of "both sides of the no sided mouth". Perhaps, despite seeming quite opposite, both ways are True at once depending on the perspective (and dropping of perspectives).

    For example ...

    Imagine a painting on canvas ... an imaginary painted scene depicting your life, just oils or water colors spread on a blank, white canvas. All that is shown in a painting is not really there, much like an illusion or a dream. In a Buddha's eye, our lives are also a kind of dream, constantly being painted and repainted on a changing canvas surface. To the viewer, taken in by the illusion, all may appear so real, a constantly evolving image changing over time. It may appear as if lives come and go, people are born and grow old, time passes ... but all is an illusory scene painted on a pristine, underlying "ready for anything" canvas of open possibilities. The canvas never comes and goes ... is beyond birth and death ... no matter the changing scene reflected on its surface.

    Furthermore, the hands of the painter are our own hands, painting a scene of our own lives. A dream it might be, but a dream we must live in! And it is up to the painter whether he will paint skillfully or unskillfully, whether a picture of harmony and beauty, or violence and ugliness. The canvas and paints will host it all, our choice. The content continues from the past, but is also constantly renewed and REBORN ... new scenes appearing as effects of all before, and the old fading away.

    Oh, for sure, in this complex world painted by countless factors and painters, life is a group effort! It is actually not one painter, but endless painters and mother nature too holding countless brushes, each joining in to create this huge work of art we call "our world". Unfortunately, we often find ourself placed in a scene or situation that nature or others around us have created. We do not have total control over what life will become ... yet, to a degree we often fail to realize, the life we paint for our self is truly up to ourself. How will you wield that brush? Will you leave this world more beautiful for your presence, or leave it covered with ugly scars and scenes that may take generations to erase? It is up to your choices. Your choices add or subtract from the picture, cause lasting effects.

    Most folks in life get suckered into the dream painting, not knowing that it is a pure, white, timeless canvas of possibilities just below the surface appearances ... also not knowing that there is a brush in their hands. It is important to know life from all such perspectives. In fact, how pitiful and lifeless would be a blank campus without its painters and painting ... for an empty canvas is cold and vacant. But how pitiful too if we then waste this life in ugly grafitti, bloody images of violence and pornographic greed ... losing sight of the potential for beauty rising from the open, boundless cloth that holds all the world without rejection. In fact, the beauty of "Emptyness" does not mean simply discovering an empty virgin canvas and leaving it empty and unused. Rather, the real beauty of Emptiness is the constant interplay of canvas and our always emptying colorful paint cans, in constant moments of life creation ... painting a gorgeous living work with a master's hand!

    To rephrase our Koan today, don't be an unenlightened prisoner in one's life picture, framed in and fooled by the scene no matter how "realistic" it looks to the untrained eye. On the other hand, even a so-called "enlightened" master who has an "opening" and discovers the canvas and fiction of the paints should not stop there, just letting the canvas sit empty, content in the blankness, thinking perhaps that since all is a "fiction" then nothing more matters, that he is done with his work. That is also an ignorant view, and does not realize how real life is. A painter who paints a scene should not forget the flow of the canvas and endless possibilities, nor that all is just for creative fun and imaginative self-expression! However, he must paint his real-fiction ... live his dream-creation ... and do so well, reaping what he sows.

    And that is how life, death, Karma, rebirth is just a dream ... and that is how we make each real, and our actions matter.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Dogen was such a speaker out of "both sides of his no sided mouth". In his writings on the Fox Koan, he often cautioned against seeing things from only one side or the other, and reminded us to experience each brushstroke of each moment of life as the "pivot point" where paint meets canvas in our hands. Don't get trapped (as so many Zen students do) in thinking that this practice is to simply find the blank canvas, emptying the head of thoughts as if grabbing turpentine to strip away all the surface paint that covers the whiteness up, thinking that by doing so one is finding one's "Original Nature". The canvas is always here, brought to life in the very things that you think covers it. He wrote (in Daishugyo) ...

    As a rule, those who have never truly encountered or heard about the Buddha Dharma say, “After he had completely rid himself of the wild fox, he returned to the ocean of his Original Nature. Even though he was reduced to being a wild fox for a while due to his delusion, after he had had a great awakening, he shed being a wild fox and returned to his Original Nature.” They mean by this that he returned to some innate, unchanging self which non-Buddhists speak of. [But] this is not the Buddha Dharma. If they were to say that a wild fox is devoid of Original Nature or that a wild fox has no innate enlightenment, such [also] would not be the Buddha Dharma.
    The Great Canvas is always right here, despite our ignorance. It is not a place to get to by leaving the painting. Our Great Practice now is the pivot point, where brush meets canvas and the rubber meets the road, the place where Cause and Effect are fully realized. It is not enough to have merely an intellectual understanding of this, or just to pay it lip service. Rather, we must bring it to life in our training, practice, lives ... active brushstroke by active brushstroke:

    Further, there are many old [teachers] who have contended that saying ‘not being subject to’ and ‘not being blind to’ [not evading, ignoring cause and effect] are essentially the same, but they have not yet directly experienced how ‘not being subject to’ and ‘not being blind to’ are related. Consequently, they have not explored through their training the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow of falling into the body of a wild fox, nor have they explored through their training the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow of dropping off the mind of a wild fox.
    He wrote a few years later (in Jinshin inga), critical of those who believe that ... since all is as a dream, how we act has no ramifications ...

    In present-day Sung China, among those doing the practice of seated meditation, the folks who are the most in the dark are those who do not know that the teaching of "not being subject to cause and effect" is a false view. Sad to say ... heretical gangs have formed who deny cause and effect. Those who are exploring the Matter through training with their Master should by all means hasten to make clear the fundamental principle of cause and effect. The later Hyakujō’s principle of not being blind to cause and effect means not ignoring the presence of causality. Hence, the underlying principle is clear: we feel the effects of the causes that we put into action.

    ... To summarize, the principle of cause and effect is quite clear, and it is totally impersonal [in its workings]: those who fabricate evil will fall into a lower state, whereas those who practice good will rise to a higher state, and without the slightest disparity. If cause and effect had become null and void, Buddhas would never have appeared in the world and our Ancestral Master [Bodhidharma] would not have come from the West.
    Our Preface to today's Koan reminds us neither to fall into the Oneness of the canvas, nor become a prisoner of life trapped in a painted fox body. The Wise leap free of both!

    If you put this One in mind, you’ll enter hell like a flying arrow. If you swallow a drop of wild fox’s drool, you can’t vomit it for thirty years.

    We are also reminded that the Buddhist Teachings and Precepts were created as guideposts for folks who have a tendency to mess up life bigtime ...

    It is not that the decree of the western Heaven (the Buddha-dharma of India) is strict, just that rascals’ karma is heavy. Are there any such offenders here?

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Questions ...

    How are you painting your life now, and how would you like to paint it? Is Zen Practice helping to make you a better painter?

    Bonus questions ...

    Most folks in life get suckered into the dream painting, trapped in a frame, painted into a corner. It is important in our Practice to experience the open, pristine "canvas" where life is constantly realized like a work of art. Why is it important neither to be "trapped in life's illusions" nor "fall into the blank, pristine canvas, becoming trapped there"? Does our Zen Practice help us learn to jump from one to the other, and to see the interplay of both? Are you getting better at doing so?



    *****

    Our talk during the Zazenkai this week was also on all this, and I ask everyone to have a listen if they have time. The talk is a little long today (about 35 minutes ... though maybe seeming more like several lifetimes!). It begins near the 1:49:00 mark):

    Last edited by Jundo; 07-05-2020, 05:08 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39270

    #2
    If anyone would like to look at a couple of old postings on Karma and Rebirth ...

    Buddha-Basics (Part XV) — Karma
    I APOLOGIZE FOR THE LENGTH OF THE FOLLOWING ... IT MAY TAKE SEVERAL LIFETIMES TO READ! [monk] Hi Ho, It's been a couple of weeks since our last "BIG Questions". But now fate has led us to the next which, though seemingly some of the trickiest, I find not so tricky at all ... What about KARMA? Mr. D asked ... In


    Buddha-Basics (Part XVI) — Rebirth?
    Hi, Today's questions in our "BIG Questions" series are a matter of life and death: I don't know for sure (although I have some darn good suspicions arising from this practice). Frankly, I do not think that even those other folks claiming to "know for sure" truly "know for sure" that they
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-08-2012, 04:34 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • adrianbkelly
      Member
      • Jun 2012
      • 214

      #3
      Thanks Jundo!
      This reminds me of something I read somewhere (I think it may have been in a book by Sue Blackmore,) that if science has things right & everything is just particles following physical laws, then free will is an illusion & we are not responsible for our actions. However, in order to live our lives, we must TAKE responsibility for actions.

      Not sure if I agree with the lack of free will (in get a headache thinking about it) but it seems quite similar.

      _/\_

      Ade

      Comment

      • Nengyo
        Member
        • May 2012
        • 668

        #4
        That was a good teaching. Regarding your being kicked off of a Buddhist forum, I'm always amazed at how fast human's can latch on to dogmatic thinking. Not just in theistic religions, but in Buddhism and with individual scientist (although science as a whole as a fairly good anti-dogma system built in.)

        Originally posted by adrianbkelly
        Thanks Jundo!
        This reminds me of something I read somewhere (I think it may have been in a book by Sue Blackmore,) that if science has things right & everything is just particles following physical laws, then free will is an illusion & we are not responsible for our actions. However, in order to live our lives, we must TAKE responsibility for actions.

        Not sure if I agree with the lack of free will (in get a headache thinking about it) but it seems quite similar.

        _/\_

        Ade
        You should read Sam Harris' book on free will. It was short, sweet, and, for me at least, dispelled any notion of free will. For me it was very much in line with Buddhism because it proposes that the illusion of a separate "self" is tied to the illusion of free will. In essence your brain makes a choice that that "you" have no part in. After making this choice it later informs your ego or sense of self. Most of our internal dialog is a post hoc justifying of those decisions. At the very least it was interesting stuff to ponder.
        If I'm already enlightened why the hell is this so hard?

        Comment

        • RichardH
          Member
          • Nov 2011
          • 2800

          #5
          Originally posted by Jundo
          Dogen was such a speaker out of "both sides of his no sided mouth". In his writings on the Fox Koan, he often cautioned against seeing things from only one side or the other, and reminded us to experience each brushstroke of each moment of life as the "pivot point" where paint meets canvas in our hands. Don't get trapped (as so many Zen students do) in thinking that this practice is to simply find the blank canvas, emptying the head of thoughts as if grabbing turpentine to strip away all the surface paint that covers the whiteness up, thinking that by doing so one is finding one's "Original Nature". The canvas is always here, brought to life in the very things that you think covers it. He wrote (in Daishugyo) ...
          It is a relief to read a quote like this amid all the Zen talk of “true Nature”, and boy does it really cut to the core for me.

          If being stuck in Form is painful, being stuck in Emptiness is tragic. Saying life is an illusion implies an absolute Self above the “little self” that is “real”.. and falls into the ultimate sociopathic narcissism and indifference. It makes the garden variety narcissism of everyday egocentricity pale by comparison. It kills compassion and morality...

          Both Samsara and Nirvana are “real”, If practice is not both the reality of unconditioned freedom, and the full heartbreak of living and loving mother and son and world.....equally, it is a sham... and I give up.


          As far as painting this karmic picture goes... It ain't easy, because karma is also the conditioned habit-fibre of this body and mind, and as a painter I know, there is no end to learning to paint with coloured mud. Little steps... and nowhere to fall.

          ...a muddled response maybe.

          Gassho. kojip
          Last edited by RichardH; 07-08-2012, 02:06 PM.

          Comment

          • adrianbkelly
            Member
            • Jun 2012
            • 214

            #6
            Originally posted by Kojip
            Both Samsara and Nirvana are “real”, If practice is not both the reality of unconditioned freedom, and the full heartbreak of living and loving mother and son and world.....equally, it is a sham... and I give up.
            Wonderful, Kojip, thank you! _/\_


            @ Catfish Thanks for the recommendation! I have read Daniel Dennett's "Freedom Evolves" twice, but still don't understand it!

            _/\_

            Ade

            Comment

            • Jiken
              Member
              • Jan 2011
              • 753

              #7
              Thanks Jundo

              Daido

              Comment

              • Yugen

                #8
                Jundo,
                Of all the dharma talks and all the commentaries in the years I have been here, this one really speaks to me. I have read it several times, and will no doubt reread it many more. But for now, a deep bow of gratitude.

                Gassho
                Yugen
                Last edited by Guest; 07-09-2012, 03:07 AM.

                Comment

                • Mp

                  #9
                  Thank you Jundo ... like I have said in the past, I have always enjoyed and connect with you approach to the Dharma ... simple and clear.

                  Gassho,
                  Michael

                  Comment

                  • Heisoku
                    Member
                    • Jun 2010
                    • 1338

                    #10
                    I don't know anything about 'True Nature' and nowhere near enough about the 12 fold stages of causation but...
                    ...in each moment it feels as if there is a purity of existence of sheer reality, which also contains the karmic resonances of previous actions. These accumulated effects change so each karmic effect develops, breaks, then subsides. As we develop our practice, then old karma takes time to play out but our practice develops new karmas in tune with this purity of existence of sheer reality that will again develop, break then subside. The only difference being that our continuous practice maintain this 'new' karma.
                    I think this is how I see it working in my life as this wonderful practice cleans out habits of living that were creating 'negativities' and generates a way of living that develops naturally in a wholesome way which transforms relationships and day to day doings. This is how I am seeing each small thing as a manifest of a much greater and to me unknown whole. I hope this makes some kind of sense? It feels difficult to explain but is something I am experiencing.
                    The canvas is alive and buzzing with potentialities and the unknown.
                    Thank you for this teaching Jundo.
                    Last edited by Heisoku; 07-09-2012, 07:58 PM.
                    Heisoku 平 息
                    Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

                    Comment

                    • Shohei
                      Member
                      • Oct 2007
                      • 2854

                      #11
                      Thank you for sharing this painting with us!


                      The right tools, instruction, and practice we proceed to cut out suffering yet we have a dull scalpel, dull sense of timing or awareness...subtle ego slips in wanting to be that much more right! Believing I am doing right, I proceed with out thought of others karama in play (right? since I did the right thing so I'm golden!), giving the response that is "absolutely right".
                      I was not turned into a fox but I have ended up chasing my tail.

                      How are you painting your life now, and how would you like to paint it? Is Zen Practice helping to make you a better painter?
                      I am learning to paint with some more patience and to actually get paint on that thing, rather than hesitating, fretting over what ifs. That said my non-goal is to allow the strokes to be, to be open letting others paint on it too - well to be honest to relinquish drive for control there, since others are already painting on it- wanting otherwise or control just adds to the suffering!

                      Zen practice is painting me and so I experience the brush strokes, the paint and the canvas, and that has pointed out to me that we are all creating this master piece, the empty canvas, all things be it child's muddy mess or a Renoir and neither perfect, neither flawed.

                      Most folks in life get suckered into the dream painting, trapped in a frame, painted into a corner. It is important in our Practice to experience the open, pristine "canvas" where life is constantly realized like a work of art. Why is it important neither to be "trapped in life's illusions" nor "fall into the blank, pristine canvas, becoming trapped there"? Does our Zen Practice help us learn to jump from one to the other, and to see the interplay of both? Are you getting better at doing so?
                      Zen practice does help me realize both sides of the coin, see the painting and the pristine canvas, and like all things it takes practice, making mistakes and learning from them, a humble approach and it never ends - thinking other wise I am stuck again and that still happens

                      Gassho
                      Shohei

                      Comment

                      • Shokai
                        Treeleaf Priest
                        • Mar 2009
                        • 6391

                        #12
                        Thank you for this teaching Jundo;

                        Sometimes I stay within the lines. Other times I stray from the 'proper' form. Mostly I'd say It's all good. From time to time I remind myself what's really important. I feel my practice has certainly increased my awareness and patience. You, my friend, adharmic agnostic that you are, may come back as a wild fox but, not to worry, I shall probably accompany you as a domesticated goat.
                        合掌,生開
                        gassho, Shokai

                        仁道 生開 / Jindo Shokai

                        "Open to life in a benevolent way"

                        https://sarushinzendo.wordpress.com/

                        Comment

                        • Risho
                          Member
                          • May 2010
                          • 3179

                          #13
                          Originally posted by adrianbkelly
                          Thanks Jundo!
                          This reminds me of something I read somewhere (I think it may have been in a book by Sue Blackmore,) that if science has things right & everything is just particles following physical laws, then free will is an illusion & we are not responsible for our actions. However, in order to live our lives, we must TAKE responsibility for actions.

                          Not sure if I agree with the lack of free will (in get a headache thinking about it) but it seems quite similar.

                          _/\_

                          Ade
                          Oh these forums are on fire lately; the discussion is really great here. I have to disagree that we don't have free will, but I also have to agree. And I do agree with your statement that we must take responsibility for our actions.

                          From an absolute perspective, we're just "dust in the wind dude". Karma cause and effect beyond our control. There are so many factors that inform our day to day activities: race, culture, age, religion, upbringing, genetics.

                          However, we do in the end have the ability to choose how we react. We can't control our situation (in a way we can based on previous actions), not entirely at least. But we can choose to take responsibility. We can choose to atone for missing the mark on our Bodhisattva vows (that is inspired by "Realizing Genjokoan"; a great book by the way).

                          Taking responsibility for our reactions and ourselves is free will. But interestingly, on this path, you have to ask "Is there any other choice but to take responsibility?" when living sanely... from a perspective of understanding the interdependence of everything. From that perspective there is no free will, because there is only one road to take.

                          Gassho,

                          Risho

                          P.S. this is not my response to this koan; I'm still digesting that. lol
                          Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

                          Comment

                          • Myoku
                            Member
                            • Jul 2010
                            • 1487

                            #14
                            Karma and No Karma, not two, not one.

                            And the long version goes: Sitting in Shikantaza, where should there be Karma ? But at this moment its also there, hopefully, creating good karma, wisdom, compassion. So basically its always there, Karma and No Karma, at the same time. Thus its not two. But saying this, saying its one, once again an idea is born, something in the mind, not what truly is.

                            _()_
                            Myoku

                            Comment

                            • Marek
                              Member
                              • Jan 2012
                              • 161

                              #15
                              Jundo, thank you. This talk is indeed worth of reading couple of times as an important reminder.

                              Zen practice does help me realize both sides of the coin, see the painting and the pristine canvas, and like all things it takes practice, making mistakes and learning from them, a humble approach and it never ends - thinking other wise I am stuck again and that still happens
                              I belive it is true for everyone. It is definitely true for me.
                              Thank you Shohei

                              Last edited by Jundo; 07-10-2012, 10:38 PM.
                              Gassho,
                              Marek

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