“How prosaic and emotionally indifferent Zen is! When it sees a mountain id declares it a mountain; when it comes to a river, it just tells us it is a river. When Chokei (Chang-ching) after twenty hard years of study happened to lift the curtain and saw the outside world, he lost all his previous understanding of Zen and simply made the announcement: ‘How mistaken I was! Raise the curtain and see the world! If anybody asks me what philosophy I understand, I’ll straightaway give him a blow across his mouth with my hossu.’
“Chokei does not say what he saw when the screen was lifted up. He simply resents any question being asked about it. He even goes to the length of keeping the questioner’s mouth tightly closed. He knows that if one one even tried to utter a word and say ‘this’ or ‘that,’ the very designation misses the mark. It is like another master bringing out before the entire congregation a monk who asked him who Buddha was. The master then made this remark, ‘Where does this monk want to find Buddha? Is this not a silly question?’ Indeed, we are all apt to forget that every one of us is Buddha himself. In the Christian way of saying, this means that we are all made in the likeness of God or, in Eckhart’s words, that ‘God is-ness is my is-ness and neither more nor less.’” ~Daisetz T. Suzuki
Emotionally Indifferent Zen
Is Zen Buddhism truly emotionally indifferent? I am not convinced of it. I can remember during the Vietnam war scenes of Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire (self-immolation ) to protest the war and the rule of Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam. That is not at all indifference. Of course, some of these monks may have been practicing a form of Buddhism other than Zen. Yet I still believe that Zen is not truly indifferent.
For starters, why bother to be a monk at all if you are indifferent to the condition of the world, the people in it, or your own fate? Unless forced to by circumstances beyond their control, I think one becomes a monk (or spiritual adept) because he wants to better himself, the world, and all of humanity. So if they later achieve this emotionally indifferent Zen, why don’t they quit being monks?
I think the idea is actually to not worry about the conditions of the world, especially those things you cannot change, to the point that it makes you behave contrary to common sense. Continue reading “Indifferent Zen, Emotionally and Mentally”