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Re: Philosophical Perly Queues

by Anonymous Monk
on Apr 18, 2003 at 15:20 UTC ( [id://251460]=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Philosophical Perly Queues


The above quote looks like it is from Zen Buddhism. One of the main tenants of a major branch of Zen Buddhism is that scholarship and intellectual activity are dead ends, to be literally beaten out of the would-be student, frequently multiple times per day. Once the student is appropriately cowed, they are then sent begging around, where they hopefully meet a random normal person who will say something perfectly ordinary that makes the student understand the point of this treatment. Thus enlightened, the student becomes a master, thanks his original master, and sets about beating a new generation of students.

Yes, this is a caricature of one portion of Southern Buddhism. For a far fuller picture, read this but do not miss the various references to beatings delivered in various stories.

Still, is this is the path to wisdom that you wish to follow?

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Re: Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by TheDamian (Vicar) on Apr 19, 2003 at 22:44 UTC
    Still, is this is the path to wisdom that you wish to follow?
    The goal of beating the student is to put him or her in touch with the Now, the Immediate (i.e. un-mediated), the Actual.

    Ironically, the "Have you ever known a pearl to grow when planted in a field?" metaphor is itself trying to achieve this same goal. But it is fatally flawed. It attempts to have the student accept a precept that requires the student not to accept precepts.

    However, unlike the classic Zen koan, this paradox is not an honest one. It will not lock the student's thought processes, and thereby clear the mind to perceive "What Is". Instead it insinuates itself into their thought processes and leads them astray. "Yes, I have finally stopped accepting the wisdon of others!" they think, using the Master's thoughts instead of their own. Instead of one step forward, they have taken a step backwards. Rather than transcending the tyranny on philosophy, they have added the burden of another's philosophy on top of their own!

    This is the origin of the advice: "If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him!" Buddha has nothing to teach you. You just have to open your eyes and see What Is. But Buddha can't even teach you *that*. The very act of labelling it "What Is" is an abstraction that gets in the way of your seeing it.

    So Con Wei must rebut the Master, without emulating the Master. In typical Zen fashion, the way he does this is by...emulating the Master.

    By highlighting the limitations of the metaphor with an ironic counterfactual metaphor, Con Wei attempts to puncture the facade of "Wisdom", demonstrating that the metaphor is *only* a metaphor -- merely another layer of intellectualization being placed between the student and enlightenment.

    By striking the Master, Con Wei seeks to shift him from preception to perception.

    By admonishing him to Do rather than Say (i.e. RTFM rather the WTFM), Con Wei urges him to experience rather than abstract.

    And, of course, by expressing these ideas as a humorous pseudo-Zen story, Con Wei is merely showing off.


      Your clever dissertation on cleverness clouding perception is nicely underscored by your disserting on the wrong quote. Intentional?

      And the immediate actual truth which I do not need to be beaten to understand is that I prefer not being beaten. This is an example of "learning".

        disserting on the wrong quote. Intentional?
        Unfortunately not. I suspect my s/pearls/a pearl/ on the quote was merely the (un-Enlightened) desire to make the epigram a little punchier. ;-)
        And the immediate actual truth which I do not need to be beaten to understand is that I prefer not being beaten.
        Of course. Me too. :-)

        But the unpleasantness of being beaten is not the immediate actual truth that the Zen master is trying to beat into the student. Nor is it the immediate actual truth that the Zen student is trying to perceive by submitting to the Master's beatings.

        The lesson is not "I don't like being beaten. Ever."
        The lesson is "I am being beaten. Right now."

Re: Re: Philosophical Perly Queues
by Anonymous Monk on Apr 20, 2003 at 21:31 UTC

    Thanks for providing the link.

    In the context of the traditional focus on the soul, the self, the mentalism, and the doctrine of Karma and rebirth characteristic of the other Indian religions, Buddhism taught Four Noble Truths:

    1. Life is suffering.

    2. Suffering comes from desire.

    3. Suffering can be ended by ending desire.

    4. The eightfold path is the way to eliminate desire.

    I always thought, without really knowing, that Bhudism was about reaching beyond the mundane necessities of our everyday lives in search of a higher meaning, which I now see is a naive, but essentially accurate distilation of the primary notion. I also thought that the "higher meaning" was knowledge of onesself, or of others or both, or the motivations of same. And by some weird manipulation, I had translated that into a homespun philosophy that can be summarised by: "It is enough to know, there is no need to demonstrate that you know". From reading the above, I realise that I was way off-base.

    As a philosophy for life, this reminds me of the old joke about the guy who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and is proscribed from engaging in drinking (alcohol or those with stimulants), smoking, sex, spicy foods, films, TV, loud music, arguments, and any other pastime that may cause his heart rate to increase.

    "Will it make me live longer", he asks?

    "No", replies the doctor, "...but it will sure as hell seem like it!".

    It seems to me that once enlightenment is achieved, the only distraction left will be to look back fondly at the days of ones youth when one was still able to feel passionate about, even if it was only the desire that the master would stop beating on you.

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