Sunday, July 14, 2019
Case 32: A Philosopher Asks Buddha
A friend of mine once said, “The West doesn’t need another religion. If the new Western Buddhists just set up a competing cult, what’s the value in that?”
I am a former Jesuit, and, it is impossible for me to change that part of my training, no matter how much I find myself outside the tradition. But I also know I need balance. If not, I get lost in a long theological rant and call it spiritual practice. Sitting quiets my mind just enough so that I can hear other voices besides my own. The rants calm down. Hearing and listening, however, are just the first steps towards understanding, and ultimately compassion.
Just over a month ago on Ignatius day, I talked about a Zen koan and the Jesuits who have practiced Zen and gone on to teach in the koan tradition. I won’t even try to predict where their practice will take them or their students. But I will encourage anyone, no matter what beliefs they cherish, to practice meditation with their whole heart.
Mumonkan - Case 32: A Philosopher Asks Buddha
A philosopher* asked Buddha:
"Without words, without the wordless, will you tell me the truth?"
The Buddha kept silence.
The philosopher bowed and thanked the Buddha, saying:
"With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path."
After the philosopher had gone, Ananda asked the Buddha what he had attained.
The Buddha replied, "A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip."
Father Ignatius would have approved of the Buddha's answer. I think that it might point to the heart of the Buddhist-Zen connection. And for the record I am not at all suggesting a fundamentalist, hierarchical interpretation of "blind obedience."
Here is a list of the Jesuit Zen teachers and other Catholic religious who have followed this path.
Fr. Hugo Enomiya-LaSalle, S.J. (dec. 1990)
Fr. William Thomas Hand, S.J. (dec. 2005)
Fr. Niklaus Brantschen, S.J., Roshi
Ruben Habito, Roshi (former Jesuit)
Fr. Bill Johnson, S.J. (dec. 2010)
Fr. Kakichi Kadowaki, S.J.
Fr. Robert Jinsen Kennedy, S.J., Roshi
Bro. Tom Marshall, S.J. (dec. 2010)
Fr. Ama Samy, S.J., Roshi
and their students:
Sr. Elaine MacInnes Roshi, member of Our Lady’s Missionaries
Bro. Kevin Hunt Sensei, Trappist
May their practice help relieve suffering and free all beings.
I’ll end this post with a poem by Rumi.
Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, like Jacob, blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his son and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down
and brings up a flowing prophet?
Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?
Jesus slips into a house to escape enemies,
and opens a door to the other world.
Solomon cuts open a fish, and there's a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop.
Now there's a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins
Suddenly he's wealthy.
But don't be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth,
without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.
*”The Philosopher” is sometimes translated, “the pagan.” The Buddha’s questioner is not a member of the sangha or even a lay follower no matter which word you choose.
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