Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pai Chaing and Sudden Illumination (Continued)...

It is rather odd to me that critics of this blog who think for some reason progressive Buddists aren't "true" Buddhists (?) would do so on a post about Pai Chan on "sudden illumination."

But I think it is illustrative.

The other night, I saw "Enter the Dragon" in its entirety, possibly for the first time.

In the (uncut version of the) movie Bruce Lee "plays" a monk at Shaolin temple, who, is in one part saying "wise" dialog with his teacher. Suffice it to say that Lee, who was in Hong Kong and not Henan, didn't really know squat about Shaolin temple, which at that point was largely in ruins due to the Cultural Revolution. There are Buddhist temples in Hong Kong to be sure, but there is really nothing like Shaolin there, and so Lee just had to make it up as he went along.

So it seems, do people who have no contact with Buddhism, or satori; in the absence of experience with it, they will often make up something about it. I suspect that many people have this fanciful notion of what transcendance of suffering actually is. Hence it's easy to come across characterizatons of Buddhism as pantheism, or what is important to keep in mind to skillfully live one's life.

I quoted Pai Chang here because, on hearing some of the words here, I thought that this was a good encapsulation of what the experience called enlightenment is, and how one acts from and within the experience of enlghtenment; there are others to be sure, but I wanted this bit recorded, especially as the written part of this is hard to find.

In so writing, Pai Chang is neither ratonal nor irrational: is the experience of the color blue or the taste of orange juice rational or irrational?

Now this satori is often associated with what psychologists call a "conversion experience," but clearly, from what Pai Chang (and others such as Dogen) write this is not solely the case. It is more closely the case that skillfully living one's life takes "everything we have"- body, mind, seeing hearing, touching tasting, that which is outside of us, that which came before us, that that which comes after us.

Now here is an interesting point of difference between Christianity and Buddhism: Whereas in Christianity much of the emphasis is on a presumed spiritual intervention by a deity, (and St. Paul's writings on temptation, "the flesh," indicate that this was clearly an issue for him, and it continues today) in fact, in order for one to do some things and not others requires a physical, as well as mental and spiritual discipline. Some forms of Christianity (but not all) assert baldly that this discipline cannot be cultivated, or that it is pointless to cultivate it, but those who have cultivated such a discipline are a scandal to those who have not done so. Moreover, I would say that the actions that arise from such a position have been less than could be achieved otherwise. Some people, whatever you want to call them, assert that no spiritual discipline is necessary whatsoever. I however, cannot live my life as they do: the possibility of being unskillful is too great and the advantages of acting skillfully from the cultivation of a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline are simply too great.

Going back to Pai Chang, then he is describing an experience that is a mindset for living one's life effectively in the same way that any good coach tells a kid how to play ball: by keeping your eye on it. When your eye is on the ball, there is no eyes no ears no nose no body no mind. There is no good or evil, there is no " acting as if things really are or are not, and not acting from motives of aversion, love and all the rest" - there is only BALL!

How else would you hit the damned thing- by blogging about it?

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