Thursday, April 01, 2004

Buddhism/Zen Thursday

Try this on for size:

Then, from the circle of white hair between his brows, the Buddha emitted a great beam of light called manifestation of the realizer of Thusness, accompanied by countless trillions of light beams. That light illumined all the worlds in the whole cosmos, circling ten times to the right, revealing the immeasurable powers of the enlightened, awakening countless enlightening beings, shaking all worlds, extinguishing the suffering of all states of misery, eclipsing the abodes of all demons, and showing all buddhas sitting on the seat of enlightenment attaining perfect awakening, as well as all the assemblies at the sites of enlightenment. Having done this, the light returned and circled the assembly of enlightening beings, then entered the head of the enlightening being Wondrous Qualities of Natural Origination of Buddha.*

A religious system that claims to have no cosmology of its own will eventually develop one. If it's a system that arises in India, it'll show Indian characteristics, among which are a love of assembled masses, huge cosmic spaces, and phenomena appearing in the numberless gazillions. This mentality got imported into China, and sits uneasily in the East Asian mind even to this day, I think.

Compare the above with the following, and find, if you can, what major themes these two passages have in common despite their obvious differences.

Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: "The flag is moving."
The other said: "The wind is moving."
Hui Neng happened to be passing by. He told them: "Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving."

*From the Hwaeom-gyeong, or Avatamsaka Sutra, core text of the Hwaeom (Hua Yen) School of Buddhism. This passage is the opening of Book 37 of the Avatamsaka Sutra as translated by Thomas Cleary (p. 975).

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Andi's very profound post (am still chewing it over) re: impermanence.


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