Zen notes-The swordsman and the master.

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by DrumR, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. DrumR

    DrumR Well-Known Member

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    The following is extracted from the little book on Zen that I consult from time to time, as one never knows when its lessons may prove of some use.
    =====
    A famous soldier came to the master Hakuin and asked: "Master is there really a heaven and a hell?"
    "Who are you?" asked Hakuin.
    "I an a soldier of the great Emperor's personal guard."
    "Nonsense!" said Hakuin. "What kind of emperor would have you around him?" "To me you look like a beggar!"
    At this, the soldier started to rattle his big sword in anger.
    "Oho!" said Hakuin. " So you have a sword! I'll wager its much to dull to cut my head off."
    At this the soldier could not hold himself back, he drew his sword and threatened the master, who said:
    "Now you are opening the gates of hell!"
    The soldier drew back, sheathed his sword, and bowed.
    Now you know the other half" said the master. "You have opened the gates of heaven" - "Zen Buddhism" published by Peter Pauper Press.
     
  2. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Ok DrumR, the analysis please ? Restrain is the gate to heaven ?? :)

    And I thought Buddhists are atheists, what is all this about heaven and hell ?? Next thing you will be telling me the soldier is worried about salvation :confused:
     
  3. earl

    earl ?

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    The tale isn't about retraint and this well known Zen tale as I read it in another form had the swordsman proclaiming his highly enlightened nature. The apparently more enlightened zen master was proving to the guy that if he could get his goat he still had a goat to get, (i.e., not as enlightened as he thought he was-a condition perhaps we could all plead to here.;)). But as to that heaven-hell thing, tradtional Buddhist thought envisioned 6 realms to existence which included several types of hell and another realm which they did not refer to as heaven but roughly would correspond to that notion. Of course, they posit no creator God to do the "judging," that it is merely karma driving our destination. So, we literally put ourselves in hell. earl
     
  4. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    The gates of Heaven and Hell were being opened at that moment.

    Those states were being experienced by the soldier... and the zen dude, had his head been cut off.

    We each make that choice of living in Heaven or Hell every moment of our lives.
     
  5. DrumR

    DrumR Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the favor of a reply, Avi.
    Last in, first out (LIFOs)

    Perhaps the Philosophical Buddhist and Zennists do not believe in the concepts of heaven and hell yet Buddhism is spread to other cultures with the aid of the "appropriate means" concept assisting. Thus the pre-existing Animisim and other diety based beliefs as were found in China, Korea and other cultures are not "wiped out" and replaced but are initially intertwined with Buddhism's philosophical base.

    There are more elements than mere restraint being portrayed in this lesson.
    Action arising from emotion, emotion being an attachement that blinds the mind, can be seen in the deliberate provocation of the soldier by the Master. Yet it is the soldier's own restraint that allows the lesson to continue. (Musn't kill the comic before the punch line is delivered ;))

    Notice also that the sword in the story is an in-animate object, un-like the +6 to attack, evil alignment, intelligent, soul eating sword as may be found in many D&D and other fantasy romances, that jumps into the hand of the soldier, will he or no. It is quite clear that this weapon of class destruction is animated by the soldier who initially issues a warning by vibrating the sword within its sheath - similar to the American rattlesnake's buzz before their defensive assault is launched.

    This might indicate that some personal control, on the part of the soldier, is being lost to emotion, but insufficient for the Master to prove his point in this case. Had the soldier enrolled the pre-requisite "Zen for Other Majors class," available for low cost at a Community Junior Monastery nearby, perhaps this would have been the end of the story as he "achieved enlightenment" from the very act of touching his sword. But then, the story would lose much in the telling

    Yet the Master further provokes the soldier to the point where the master is now being offered a lifestyle that may very well have a less loftier perspective should he lose his head altogether. Restraint still overrides emotion, but just barely, a wrong word is all that is needed. The soldier is in a state of limbo most probably giving some thought to the volumes of paperwork he would have to fill out. It is at this time that the Master, the eminent Behavioral Psychologist (and part-time comedian) that he is, delivers the punch line, we all fall for it, and then we can all live to enjoy the joke.

    A short drum roll, a closing fanfare, while the curtain come down, and the show is over for the evening. We recommend the act to our friends over refreshments.

    Have a cup of tea, Avi.

    Then again, if you would wish a more scholarly and informed explanation perhaps you ask someone like SeattleGal
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2009
  6. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Thank you for your insightful observations, all !!

    I would ask SG, but I have not seen her in a while, I suspect she is babysitting her lovely niece, Mort :D !!
     
  7. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    there is another part of the Blue Cliff Record wherein something akin to this mondo is related yet in this one there is a bandit chief that had gained a fearsome reputation for beheading his victims after he robbed them. one day he came upon a Ch'an master making his way on pilgrimage and decided to rob him. the bandit jumped out brandishing his sword hoping to intimidate the monk and thereby make his task much easier however the monk didn't flinch and simply looked at him.

    the bandit roared at the monks insolence and declared " I am the famous bandit king Black Tiger, do you not know who I am? I could cut your head from your shoulders in one blow!"

    to which the monk replied "Oh bandit king i know who you are, do you know who i am? I am a Ch'an monk and you could cut the head from my shoulders and i wouldn't care."


    i find mondos be to quite useful neg-cha symbol sets, yymv.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  8. 17th Angel

    17th Angel לבעוט את התחת ולקחת שמות

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    Awareness.....
     
  9. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Perhaps a study of Buddhism rather than reading about Buddhism would help :)
     
  10. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Hi Paladin, interesting comment, do you believe that reading about Buddhism is not an important part of studying it ?

    Please explain what other elements of "study" you are suggesting should be undertaken ?

    Also, if you are suggesting that I undertake other elements of Buddhism, in addition to reading about it, are you not making some implicit assumptions about what my goals are ? What if my goals are just to learn more about Buddhism from an interfaith perspective ? :)

    By the way, are you a Buddhist practicioner ?
     
  11. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Well, perhaps. But I wouldn't want to have to slog through the Torah for an answer when a Jewish source is so handy right here. We can save him months or years of misconception through just a few posts.

    The misconception here is that Buddhism is about restraint, when it is about (as 17A said) awareness. People act as if they have no control over their choices. The monk clearly demonstrated that the choice between living in Heaven or Hell wasn't in the hands of a deity or a matter for the afterlife. It is a choice we make a thousand times a day, in the here and now. Once we're aware that we make that choice, it isn't a matter of restraint. Who would choose to live in Hell? Heaven wins hands down. No restraint needed.
     
  12. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Actually Avi, the emphasis I intended was in the word "of" and the word "about"
    But I'll leave it in CZ's most capable hands :)
     
  13. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Being tortured by your own anger is hell, no?
     
  14. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    How about being tortured by your own jealously? Your own desire? Your own pride?

    Being possessed by greed, hate, and/or delusion is also hell, no? Could these gates to hell?

    Contrast this to the four sublime states of metta, karuna, mudita, and upekkha? Could these be gates to heaven?
     
  15. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Paladin, your comment reminds me of Tao Te Ching 54.2:

    Cultivate it in yourself; its virtue shall be true
    Cultivate it in your family; its virtue shall be abundant
    Cultivate it in the community; its virtue shall be lasting
    Cultivate it in the country; its virtue shall be properous
    Cultivate it in the world; its virtue shall be widespread

    ==============

    Commentary

    There are people who study the Tao for years and see no significant improvement in their lives. There are those who walk the path for a relatively short time and yet experience dramatic and profound transformation. What accounts for the drastic difference ?

    The answer is cultivation. The Tao isn't just something to read or talk about; it is something to put into actual practice. Those who see the Tao only as a philosophy continue to live their lives as they always have, so nothing ever changes.
     
  16. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

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    Since attachments may be based on fear, it might make sense to look at fear as an aspect of hell:

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naraka_(Buddhism)....
    The mentality of a being in the hells corresponds to states of extreme fear and helpless anguish in humans.



     
  17. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Absolutely...yes!
     
  18. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

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    Howdy Paladin,
    What part are you agreeing with?

    "Cultivate it in yourself; its virtue shall be true"
    What is it to cultivate the Tao?
    And what is 'virtue'?
     
  19. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti Well-Known Member

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    The problem, of course, is: what would be a full-fledged Taoist practice? I think it includes divination and making offerings to ancestral ghosts.
     
  20. Paladin

    Paladin Purchased Bewilderment

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    Why the part where Avi had an insight into what we talked about earlier of course. :D
     

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