Buddhists and riddles

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by voiceofwood, Jun 25, 2014.

  1. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    I walking in the woods near my home and approaching me are two Buddhist monks. I hail them and Ask them if they would like to exchange riddles? They start;

    A young monk asks his teacher for instruction on obtaining enlightenment, the teacher replies; first catch me a hare. Well the young monk sits under a tree and meditates on this when all of a sudden a hare runs out and collides with a tree. The monk takes it to his teacher and asks again for instruction on obtaining enlightenment. The teacher replies, ok, but first catch me one more hare, so the monk goes and sits under a tree, for the rest of his life.

    I was able to answer this easily but refrained from pointing out the irony that whilst we all wore sandals my dress was simple and practical whilst theirs was fanciful and ornate.

    Then I presented them with my riddle, which they suggested they must think about and meet next week. Can you help them out?

    In a field grows a single tree
    two men enter the field
    one man looks and the other man sees
    the man that looks sees a tree
    the man that sees looks at the tree
     
  2. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    I can't get over the fact that the discussion with two Buddhists was about riddles and judging fashion sense.
     
  3. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    Then you have failed to see the import of riddles and failed to observe that no discussion was about attire and failed to note that my observations regarding our attire was not a question of fashion. The Buddhists in question, though failing to understand my riddle, seem a little more perceptive than yourself
     
  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Illumine us on the import of riddles....
     
  5. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    Either of these riddles will do that, once you understand them
     
  6. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    You are incredibly helpful.... you should have been a teacher.
     
  7. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    Why thank you, so kind of you to say so but I would not presume

    That which can be said, can be said very clearly but that of which we cannot speak we must pass over in silence or resort to some other language game such as a riddle
     
  8. Marcialou

    Marcialou We are stardust

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    I'm going to take a crack at responding to the riddles with my impressions.

    In my experience, riddles present a story and then ask a question like, "How many are going to Saint Ives?" Apparently Buddhist riddles don't follow this format, so first we have to guess the question.

    The first story about the monks does not present an obvious question to me. Maybe it's, why did the master respond the way he did? or what was the path to enlightenment?.

    My guess is that this story is in the tradition of the senior person not giving a direct answer to the junior, but indirectly guides him to the right place. From there I'm not so sure but it seems that in the context of this story, meditation is the path to enlightenment. Senior doesn't tell Junior this directly but instructs him to do something that for Junior, is impossible, as he's been trained as a monk not a hunter. Senior knows that Junior will have to meditate on the problem, and since catching a hare is completely outside Junior's skill set, he will meditate indefinitely.

    Now, the hare hitting the tree and dying in at Junior's crossed legs is so improbable that even Senior, in all his wisdom, could not have predicted it. So when Junior comes back with the hare, Senior can only respond by asking him to catch another hare. The likelihood of another hare sacrificing himself to Junior's quest is so close to zero that this time Junior is able to follow the path to enlightenment in just the way Senior intended.

    I'm not entirely satisfied with this answer. In these kinds of stories, Senior is almost always right the first time. If he's not, it's not random chance that is responsible. It would have to be something else that gives a twist to the tale and provides another moral lesson, so I'm probably wrong.
     
  9. Marcialou

    Marcialou We are stardust

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    My first question upon hearing this is, "What's ironic about it?" In these kinds of stories, the humbler one is always wiser than his supposed superiors. So it's no surprise that the simply dressed, and presumably unlearned narrator (i.e. not a disciple of a great master) is not stumped by the two, richly-dressed monks. Their obvious materialism signifies that they do not see the true value of things, whereas his simplicity suggests that he does. This assumption is confirmed by the last story in which he stumps them with his riddle.

    So what's ironic about this obvious turn of events? Perhaps the use of the word ironic.
     
  10. Marcialou

    Marcialou We are stardust

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    Finally a question. It's implicit meaning is can you explain the paradox where looking and seeing have subtly different meanings?

    I think riddle has something to do with the idea that looking at implies seeing only the surface of things whereas seeing implies something deeper: understanding the true nature of the tree and its place in the universe. But I'm not sure which man is which.
     
  11. Marcialou

    Marcialou We are stardust

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    The final riddle is the response of voiceofwood, the OP, to Wil.

    The first question concerns Wil's remark. Why is he complimenting VOW for his helpfulness when he ostensibly has not been helpful at all? Either Wil see's something in VOW's response that I don't or he is being sarcastic. I vote for the latter.

    The second question is what does VOW mean by his cryptic response?.

    I think VOW is telling Wil that he understands his sarcasm is a way of expressing that of which we can not speak, which in this case, is something that might be construed as impolite. The ironic thing is that VOW is doing the same thing by masking his true meaning with a riddle. But VOW knows he's doing this when he self - deprecatingly cites a riddle as another way of expressing the "unspeakable".

    Am I being obvious, pointing out the elephant in the room or do I have it all wrong? My apologies to VOW and Wil if I have it all wrong.
     
  12. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    Hi, first of all your analysis or the indirect communication involved in both riddles is spot on, as is your last paragraph, unfortunately you haven't quite got the first riddle.
     
  13. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    Nice analysis. The irony lies in the fact that the monks are supposed to be detached from the material, yet there robes, which might be practical in say Tibet are ornate here and far from practical walking through undergrowth and brambles. They also seem strangely out of place in England's green land
     
  14. stranger

    stranger wolfwing, a feral angel

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    Hello voiceofwood,

    My take on this riddle:

    It is a moment of truth between one who "looks" and one who "sees", as the faculties of both men are brought to bear upon a single tree in a field. This will reveal not only the nature of the two men, but the order in which one achieves enlightenment. In this universal order, the "look" comes before "seeing". The man of whom it is said that he "sees" has gotten ahead of himself and has become presumptuous concerning his own abilities. However, the man who "looks" is in the better position, because he has only looked and not yet presumed to "see". And so the "seeing" comes to him first because his "look" is empty and humble.

    The man of whom it is said that he merely "looks", now sees into the true nature of the tree and its surroundings, how it came to be and why. He becomes the master in that sense. But the man who "sees" is now revealed as a beginner, not seeing into the true nature of things. The universal order has caught him, and he becomes, not one who "sees" after all, but one who merely "looks" at the tree.

    We are both men at certain times in life, but the order of enlightenment never changes.
     
  15. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    Very nice, if not correct. You are of course, absolutely correct in saying it is about the difference between looking and seeing and how that reflects upon the observer. However I, whose riddle this is, am not a Buddhist and perhaps your interpretation was influenced by the Buddhist tradition?
     
  16. Marcialou

    Marcialou We are stardust

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    I think I have a better answer to the first riddle about Junior and Senior Monks. Senior is a charlatan and as such he doesn't know the path to enlightenment. So in order to avoid showing his ignorance, he sends Junior on a fools errand to find the hare . Miraculously, the hare finds Junior. When Junior shows up with the hare, Senior asks for another Hare, again to hide his ignorance. At this point Junior understands Senior's game. Rather than look for the hare, and perhaps in disillusionment, he meditates under the tree for the rest of his life, thus achievieving the path to enlightenment.

    This interpretation is now in synch with the second riddle, which also shows how the inferior knows more than his superior.
     
  17. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    That was funny but way off
     
  18. stranger

    stranger wolfwing, a feral angel

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    Voiceofwood,

    No Buddhist tradition (yet). I have only the Christian tradition and, of late, the Tao. I look forward to your interpretation (or someone else's who is able to solve it).
     
  19. voiceofwood

    voiceofwood Interfaith Forums

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    Clues
    Riddle 1. method
    Riddle 2. concept

    Come on guys these poor Buddhists need some help!
     
  20. stranger

    stranger wolfwing, a feral angel

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    How about this...

    In the first riddle, junior/the student mistakenly attributes the hare colliding with a tree to the fact that he sat under a tree, meditating. When asked to produce another hare, he becomes stuck in the same old method for the rest of his life, though in actuality the two (his method and the natural occurrance) had nothing to do with each other. One might even say he becomes like the hare.

    In the second riddle, though one looks and one sees (seemingly two different methods to approach the tree), both are limited in that they depend only on the natural senses. So in both cases, it is merely a "tree" that is observed. In other words only the surface is seen. The true essence of the tree is missed. As an old childrens' book I like a lot once said, "That which is essential is invisible to the eye".

    Warmer, colder?
     

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