Author Topic: Dumbfounded in the Dharma??  (Read 5537 times)

negra orquida

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Dumbfounded in the Dharma??
« on: June 24, 2012, 01:07:08 PM »
Came across this article (http://www.tricycle.com/editors-view/dumbfounded-dharma) something to do with Zen which i have no idea about and can't figure out but always found interesting. i'm still trying to figure out the point of this article.  perhaps it is about how we most probably don't know everything we thought we knew?

Quote
In Thoughts Without a Thinker, Dr. Mark Epstein recalls an encounter between Kalu Rinpoche and Korean Zen master Seung Sahn that took place twenty years ago at the home of a Harvard professor. As the Zen and Tibetan traditions employ “dharma combat” to test and hone one’s understanding, the students of both masters arranged for them to debate each other. Seung Sahn opened the debate, reaching into his gray robe and removing an orange. With classic Zen theatrics he held the orange toward his opponent’s face and yelled: “What is it?!” The elderly lama just continued to finger his prayer beads. Seung Sahn tried again, holding out the orange and demanding to know: “What is it?!”

Now Kalu Rinpoche was one of the great masters of Mind to be blown out of the land of the snows by the Chinese invasion. When it came to matters of reality he was no slouch. But while everyone waited for the old lama to manifest unfettered Mind, he remained silent. Finally, Kalu Rinpoche whispered to his translator. Then the translator said (to paraphrase) “Rinpoche wants to know,"What’s the matter with this guy? Hasn’t he ever seen an orange before?’”

As the story indicates, while absolute truth is universal and free of cultural conditioning, its means of transmission are not. Today we continue to juxtapose the various modes of dharma—both Asian and Western—in our search for appropriate forms: Tibetan scholar Jeffrey Hopkins (p. 53), addresses the need for inclusivity in terms of ancient teachings on form and emptiness. Hopkins’s version of a famous Tibetan manual on the arts of love aspires to transmit the dharma in ways that meet the needs of gay men. In “Enlightenment Needs a Minyan” (p. 48), Lewis Richmond wrestles with Asian models of hierarchy and authority, while Toni Packer (p. 32) has diverged radically from the Zen tradition in which she was trained and today tends toward the form of no form.

These experiments continue the lively investigation of dharma in the West. Yet insofar as they are a reaction to the forms of the East, these innovative paradigms address somewhat formal concerns.

At the same time, there is a another kind of transmission taking place through nameless, amorphous interchanges with the culture at large. I was reminded of this, again, during a recent visit to Seung Sahn’s Cambridge Zen Center. During the evening dharma discourse the master once more demonstrated his considerable gifts for confounding the rational mind with assaults similar to the one of twenty years ago described by Epstein. The next day, as I waited for the train to South Station, I encountered a Zen center resident. She was on her way to meet with her first-year university literature students. She explained that her students had requested extra discussion time because they were so utterly confounded by her assignment. Asked what the assignment was, she replied: “What is literature?”

During Soen Roshi’s first visit to San Francisco in 1949 he addressed The Theosophical Society where he spoke of Nangaku, the Chinese Zen master. Nangaku was asked by the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, “Who are you?”

According to Soen Roshi, Nangaku was dumbfounded and could not answer. In conclusion, Soen Roshi said, “Nowadays, there is no one capable of being dumbfounded like Nangaku. Everyone knows everything and can answer any question.”

Even if the literature students of Seung Sahn’s disciple prove Soen right - thinking that they know who they are or what this life is all about, and never wanting to appear dumb—how sweet to consider that for a moment they were stumped; and that, however tenuous, the transmission of dumbfounded dharma continues.

Jessie Fong

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Re: Dumbfounded in the Dharma??
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2012, 04:15:02 PM »
He took out an orange and asked his opponent what it was. Was he expecting "Orange" as an answer or something else?  He could be expecting any other answer, as it is to be called what you perceive it to be.

Had Kalu Rinpoche answered anything else but an orange, how would the debate have continued?  Since there was not a fixed topic for the debate, it could have been anything under the sky, as the purpose was about understanding.

If you were asked the same question "Who are you", what would your answer be?  Nearly everyone would of course answer with their given name.

To think that many people become dumbfounded when faced with a simple question, on reflection it is always the simplest question that is the most difficult to answer?

Big Uncle

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Re: Dumbfounded in the Dharma??
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2012, 04:49:27 PM »
He took out an orange and asked his opponent what it was. Was he expecting "Orange" as an answer or something else?  He could be expecting any other answer, as it is to be called what you perceive it to be.

Had Kalu Rinpoche answered anything else but an orange, how would the debate have continued?  Since there was not a fixed topic for the debate, it could have been anything under the sky, as the purpose was about understanding.

If you were asked the same question "Who are you", what would your answer be?  Nearly everyone would of course answer with their given name.

To think that many people become dumbfounded when faced with a simple question, on reflection it is always the simplest question that is the most difficult to answer?

Haha! I love this thread. I have no idea what a suitable answer should be like for the orange question but I do notice that for zen methods, the line of questioning is not about developing an intellectual understanding of reality but the total opposite. It is to confound the intellect so a sudden burst of realisation hits. I may be wrong with this definition but it is something like that. This is in total contrast to the Tibetan logical debate analysis that is meant to arrive at a irrefutable conclusion. The clash of both Buddhist traditions does bring about with quite a comical encounter.

If I were Kalu Rinpoche, I would just answer that it is an orange and it is a fruit that we humans can eat to gain sustenance. I don't think I have any deeper earth-shattering answer to that one. With regards to the existential question on who are you, I would say that my name is Big Uncle and that I am a human being, fortunate to be in a human body with all its leisures and endowments. Hehe! I am just trying to be smart with my answer. However, that is probably not the answer the Zen master is looking for. For now, I would have to stick to my Lamrim before I graduate to fast up the higher teachings' ladder.

bambi

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Re: Dumbfounded in the Dharma??
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2012, 03:50:29 AM »
Hahaha.. What an interesting answer! I didn't expect Kalu Rinpoche to answer in such a 'profound' and straightforward way. "What’s the matter with this guy? Hasn’t he ever seen an orange before?".
If it was me, I would've have answered "An orange." Straight to the point but I guess that wasn't the answer Seung Sahn was expecting. He would've imagine Kalu Rinpoche giving a profound and 'Zen' way of answering.  ::)

Before this post, I don't understand much about Zen Buddhism and I am very glad this post gave me the cahance to do so. From what I understand, Zen Buddhism is a combination of teachings that is widely being practiced in Japan, Korea and some part of the west. It's about how one sees things not as they are but beyond it. They are more into meditation and concentration of the mind. However, I did some research and found one, I think is easy to understand.

A special transmission outside the scriptures
Without reliance on words or letters
Directly pointing to the heart of humanity
Seeing into one's own nature.


Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is a mixture of Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism. It began in China, spread to Korea and Japan, and became very popular in the West from the mid 20th century. The essence of Zen is attempting to understand the meaning of life directly, without being misled by logical thought or language. Zen techniques are compatible with other faiths and are often used, for example, by Christians seeking a mystical understanding of their faith. Zen often seems paradoxical - it requires an intense discipline which, when practiced properly, results in total spontaneity and ultimate freedom. This natural spontaneity should not be confused with impulsiveness.

Enlightenment is inside

The essence of Zen Buddhism is that all human beings are Buddha, and that all they have to do is to discover that truth for themselves. Zen sends us looking inside us for enlightenment. There's no need to search outside ourselves for the answers; we can find the answers in the same place that we found the questions. Human beings can't learn this truth by philosophising or rational thought, nor by studying scriptures, taking part in worship rites and rituals or many of the other things that people think religious people do. The first step is to control our minds through meditation and other techniques that involve mind and body; to give up logical thinking and avoid getting trapped in a spider's web of words.


Clues to the meaning of Zen

Because Zen is so hard to explain here are some quotations that may help you get an idea of it:

The essence of Zen Buddhism is achieving enlightenment by seeing one's original mind (or original nature) directly; without the intervention of the intellect.
- Zen is big on intuitive understanding, on just 'getting it', and not so hot on philosophising.
- Zen is concerned with what actually is rather than what we think or feel about what is.
- Zen is concerned with things as they are, without trying to interpret them.
- Zen points to something before thinking, before all your ideas.
- The key to Buddhahood in Zen is simply self-knowledge.
- To be a human being is to be a Buddha. Buddha nature is just another name for human nature - true human nature.
- Zen is simply to be completely alive.
- Zen is short for Zen Buddhism. It is sometimes called a religion and sometimes called a philosophy. Choose whichever term you prefer; it simply doesn't matter.
- Zen is not a philosophy or a religion.
- Zen tries to free the mind from the slavery of words and the constriction of logic.

Sometimes called a religion but it is not a religion?!?!  ??? Ok, I think I'll just stick with Buddhism...
- Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one's own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom.
- Zen is meditation.

ratanasutra

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Re: Dumbfounded in the Dharma??
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2012, 05:07:21 PM »
bambi, thank for your information about Zen buddhism.
However i still could not figure out about the meaning behind of question of orange.

I could not imagine what would be my answer for both questions also.
i will be stunned with the question of the orange as it just an orange and what else would i answer. i believe that sometime things can be as simple as it is but we never think about it instead we think beyond that which lead to complex.

Here something to share about Zen

How Zen Defines Itself

Bodhidharma's definition:

A special transmission outside the scriptures;
No dependence on words and letters;
Direct pointing to the mind of man;
Seeing into one's nature and attaining Buddhahood.

Zen is sometimes called "the face-to-face transmission of the dharma outside the sutras." Throughout the history of Zen, teachers have transmitted their realization of dharma to students by working with them face-to-face. This makes the lineage of teachers critical. A genuine Zen teacher can trace his or her lineage of teachers back to Bodhidharma, and before that to the historical Buddha, and to those Buddhas before the historical Buddha.

Certainly, large parts of the lineage charts have to be taken on faith. But if anything is treated as sacred in Zen, it's the teachers' lineages. With very few exceptions, calling oneself a "Zen teacher" without having received transmission from another teacher is considered a serious defilement of Zen.

While we're talking about teachers, I should mention Zen masters. In my experience, the phrase "Zen master" is hardly ever heard inside Zen. Popular notions of "Zen master," however smarmy, roughly correspond to what a Zen teacher is. The title "Zen master" in Japanese, "zenji," is only given posthumously. In Zen, living Zen teachers are called "Zen teachers." An especially venerable and beloved teacher is called "roshi," which means "old man." I'm not sure how that works when the teacher is a woman, however. In any event, if you ever run into someone who advertises himself as a "Zen master," be skeptical.

Bodhidharma's definition also says that Zen is not an intellectual discipline you can learn from books. Instead, it's a practice of studying mind and seeing into one's nature. The main tool of this practice is zazen.

http://buddhism.about.com/od/chanandzenbuddhism/a/zen101.htm