Zen as a fraud
To be intentionally vague and to aim one's reaction to be intentionally illusive in answering matters of importance - is a character of those who aim for deception. But it is a tradition in Zen, and perhaps it cannot be more obvious, as in the following reference, which Zen teacher, D. Suzuki seems to be very satisfied with:
Doko (Tao-kwang), a Buddhist philosopher, came to a Zen master and asked:
“With what frame of mind should one discipline oneself in the truth?”
Said the Zen master: “There is no mind to be framed, nor is there any truth in which to be disciplined”.
“If there is no mind to be framed and no truth to be disciplined,
why do you have a daily gathering of monks who are studying Zen and disciplining themselves in the truth?”
The master replied:
”I have not an inch of space to spare, and where could I have a gathering of monks?
I have no tongue, and how would it be possible for me to advise others to come to me?”
The philosopher then exclaimed: “How can you tell me a lie like that to my face?...I cannot follow your reasoning!’
“Neither do I understand myself”, concluded the Zen master". D. Suzuki, "An Introduction to Zen Buddhism"- p.57 :
The abovementioned "Buddhist philosopher" in this story can be - in modern terms - any ordinary person who may be sincerely willing to understand a certain subject, and asks questions. In any mature circle of people seeking the truth, a person is entitled to an honest answer.
Master's response, based on avoiding honest answer to a genuine question, expresses a disrespectful attitude. The running away from honestly answering a simple question - this intentional illusiveness reveals inner fear from dialogue with the questioner. What modern Zen perceives as wisdom in this koan - is simply a Zen master fearing genuine answer. He chose the escapist path, voicing nonsensical denials.
Zen admits of being escapist: "The truth is, Zen is extremely illusive as far as its outward aspects are concerned" page 13.
"The critic will be inclined to call Zen absurd, confusing, and beyond the ken of ordinary reason.
But Zen is inflexible... the reason why we cannot attain thoroughgoing comprehension of the truth
is due to our unreasonable adherence to a "logical" interpretation of things" - page 28
Obviously, it is not in Zen tradition to be concerned or bothered by logic, clarity, or consistency - (and which are vital requirements of honesty and truthfulness in exchange of information among people). However, the tendency to avoid sincere or friendly discussion is nothing more than lack of inner capacity to answer. In the abovementioned story, the master employed illusive and nonsensical statements, but other masters were less capable: their form of reply was just silence, as we are informed by Zen literature:
Answering with silence:
The Emperor Wu of the Ling dynasty requested Fu Daishi (497 - 569) to discourse on a Buddhist sutra.
The Daishi taking the chair sat solemnly in it but uttered not a word.
The Emperor said, "I asked you to give a discourse, and why do you not begin to speak?".
Shih, one of the Emperor's attendants said, "The Daishi has finished discoursing".
Later on, a Zen master commenting on the above says:"what an eloquent sermon it was!". page 45-46
The "eloquent sermon" of silence here simply means that the master lacked self confidence, lacked knowledge and had nothing of a value to convey. But D. Suzuki gives the following explanation:
"Being practical and directly to the point, Zen never wastes time or words in explanation" - page 48
Refusing to answer a question is not a manifestation of wisdom or profundity, it is an expression of being a fraud:
"The monks wanted their master Hyakujo to give a lecture on Zen.
He said, "you attend the farming and later on I will tell you all about Zen".
After they had finished the work, the master was requested to fulfil his promise,
whereupon he opened his both arms but said not a word.
This was his great sermon. An Introduction to Zen, page 57
Did the anticipating monks consider the silent answer to their request - as "great sermon"?
Zen literature openly reveals how masters - who had nothing to contribute to or benefit others - used the "weapon of silence" to give an aura of profoundness, or to indicate that words are too primitive a tool of conveying Zen wisdom -
but, in fact, silence of Zen masters was no more than an expression their extreme poverty of mind:
"... when Yakusan (751 - 834) was asked to give a lecture, he did not say a word,
but instead came down of the pulpit and went off to his own room.
Hyakujo merely walked forward a few steps, stood still, and then opened out his arms,
which was his exposition of the great principle".
An Introduction to Zen, page 67
The "great principle"? What "great principle"?.
The word "Enlightenment" in Buddhism reflects a filed of great depth of wisdom, a state of mind of compassion and taking actions for the benefit of others in transforming their sufferings. It also reveals the joy one feels through fusion of one's existence with the eternal life of the universe.
Here is a koan about how a master triggered "the great field of Enlightenment" in the mind of a novice:
A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?
The monk replied, “I have eaten.”
Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.
Current Zen followers - inwardly perceiving the superficial "teaching" of the master- try to impose a hidden supreme value of a secret message behind washing the bowl - and one comment goes like this:
What was Master Joshu conveying to the monk?
Utter simplicity of no-mind.
Author: Safwan Zabalawi (Darshams)