Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On Disruption, Setbacks, Etc. in Life...

Barbara writes about disruption and untoward things happening in life.  So does Dosho Port.   Barbara quotes Pema Chodron that things falling apart is a kind of "test."

If you don't already know I'm sort of dissatisfied with both this "test" idea and that there's a notion of "God" behind all of this anyway, so it's all OK.

No it's not.

That's almost condescending to those who are deeply in suffering. 

That is not to say that suffering isn't transcended, that there is not the manifestation of compassion that with our acute hearing of the cries of the world, that we can't see the inherent emptiness of all phenomena,

But,  saying that suffering isn't transcended through a practice of compassionate seeing into the true nature of things is not to say that this is yet another narrative to be taped onto the one we are mourning as our lives are disrupted.

There is no "god" that disturbs us to our destiny by hard events, to use the first line of Dosho Port's post.  Disturbance, pain, suffering, death, decay, trauma, withering, and calamity are our birthright.  "YOU WILL DIE!" was the teaching of Suzuki Shosan.  That teaching puts all other teachings in perspective. 

To see this in a slightly different aspect, I'd recommend studying this bit from Hakuin.  

A long time ago San-sheng had the head monk Hsiu go to the Zen Master Tsen of Ch'ang-sha and ask him: "What happened to Nan-ch'uan after he passes away?"
Ch'ang-sha replied: "When Shih-t'ou became a novice monk he was seen by the Sixth Patriarch."
Hsiu replied: "I didn't ask you about when Shih-t'ou became a novice monk; I asked you what happened to Nan-ch'uan after he passed away."
Ch'ang-sha replied: "If I were you I would let Nan-ch'uan worry about it himself."
Hsiu replied: "Even though you had a thousand-foot winter pine, there is no bamboo shoot to rise above its branches."
Ch'ang had nothing to say. Hsiu returned and told the story of his conversation to San-sheng. San-sheng unconsciously stuck out his tongue [in surprise] and said: "He has surpassed Lin-chi by seven paces."

The workings of the universe will be the workings of the universe regardless of your personal preferences.   To try to apply on some metaphysical ointment onto the reality of your suffering and disruption and this moment might be avoidance from the very medicine you might need to see to develop the heart of compassion with which to transcend the damned existence of that pain and disruption and loss. You hurt.  Live it. Feel it.  Maybe that's the medicine.


What could possibly go wrong from investigating the matter to exhaustion anyway?

This is also not to say that we should only engage in a self-pity that doesn't realize the fundamental nature of this suffering.  That fundamental nature of this suffering is that it is common to all sentient beings!   But it's difficult for me to see how that compassion - that empathy for all beings is developed and cultivated without first realizing what it is, and that I'd submit comes about from the very experience of suffering, setback and disruption - and death, ultimately, itself.

Springtime is almost upon us. 


Barbara O'Brien said...

Mumon, I think you are grossly misreading what Pema Chodron wrote and projecting ideas into it that aren't there. In the extended quote, which you leave out, she explicitly said it's wrong to think there is a test to be passed, because nothing is ever really solved.

As someone who has had some massive disruptions in life, I don't see condescension.

NellaLou said...

What is with all that friggin God talk in those posts? It's just like the stuff I used to hear in Sunday school. Next thing you know there'll be talk about the angels on people's shoulders and the devil under the bed.

Mumon K said...

True, I did leave that part out. But even thinking nothing is ever really solved is saying too much!

The suffering and disruption can't be removed forever, in that sense Pema Chodron is correct.

But even that's saying too much.

You'll have to work it out yourself - saying it's a test OR nothing is solved is really the same thing here - taping a narrative onto what must be lived.

Mumon K said...



Barbara O'Brien said...

NellaLou -- the only ones talking about God are you and Mumon.

Barbara O'Brien said...

"You'll have to work it out yourself - saying it's a test OR nothing is solved is really the same thing here - taping a narrative onto what must be lived."

Yes, that is Chodron's point. You are agreeing with her, that we should not tape a narrative onto what must be lived. Exactly what she is saying.

So what bit your butt today?

Bob said...

Well, all I am gonna say is: you guys are sure in for a big surprise! I thought quite similar to you until an nde disabused me of such naive notions. What I learned most vividly is that we are indeed being tested constantly, to see how we will react in every situation we encounter. Moreover, although there is not some "god" testing us, in terms of the disparity in the levels of awareness between us and the "testers", they might just as well be called gods. That's just the tip of the iceberg, however. As Lester Burnham said at the end of "American Beauty", "You have no idea what I'm talking about, but don't worry, you will someday."

Bob said...

A bit more elaboration: http://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/tests/

Barbara O'Brien said...

Bob -- I'm not "surprised." "Amused" would be closer.

In Buddhism, there are no testers. Period.

Mumon K said...


I thought I'd responded again yesterday, but such are the proclivities of Blogger.

Anyway - the point was not so much with Pema Chodron - the disagreement was more with what Dosho Port was saying which indeed was suffused with god talk.

It's not my intention - nor I'd suspect NellaLou's - to be the "god police of the Buddhist blogosphere" but it does a disservice both to Buddhism and to monotheisms to use one set of notions from one system in the other.

Barbara's being real kind to you.

Mumon K said...


The other thing I added in my now non-existent reply to you was that it is indeed problematic to say Pema Chodron says, that
"[T]hings don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy."


Because to the extent that these disruptions are like that ultimate koan, death, these words are not going to be sufficient to pass. Pema Chodron's words here are the replacement of the notion of "test" with another notion. Closer to what I was saying, but nowhere near the point Suzuki Shosan was getting at, as I see it.

That's the problem. Dosho Port's post has the same problem.