December 2019

BODHI-TREE —Author Unknown

empty-bowl-jeff-levitch
“Empty Bowl” by Jeff Levitch

BODHIDHARMA left his robe and bowl to his chosen successor; and each patriarch thereafter handed it down to the monk that, in his wisdom, he had chosen as the next successor. Gunin was the fifth such Zen patriarch. One day he announced that his successor would be he who wrote the best verse expressing the truth of their sect. The learned chief monk of Gunin's monastery thereupon took brush and ink, and wrote in elegant characters:

The body is a Bodhi-tree
The soul a shining mirror:
Polish it with study
Or dust will dull the image.


No other monk dared compete with the chief monk. But at twilight Yeno, a lowly disciple who had been working in the kitchen, passed through the hall where the poem was hanging. Having read it, he picked up a brush that was lying nearby, and below the other poem he wrote in his crude hand:

Bodhi is not a tree;
There is no shining mirror.
Since All begins with Nothing
Where can dust collect?


Later that night Gunin, the fifth patriarch, called Yeno to his room. "I have read your poem," said he, "and have chosen you as my successor. Here: take my robe and my bowl. But our chief monk and the others will be jealous of you and may do you harm. Therefore I want you to leave the monastery tonight, while the others are asleep."

In the morning the chief monk learned the news, and immediately rushed out, following the path Yeno had taken. At midday he overtook him, and without a word tried to pull the robe and bowl out of Yeno's hands.

Yeno put down the robe and the bowl on a rock by the path. "These are only things which are symbols," he said to the monk. "If you want the things so much, please take them."

The monk eagerly reached down and seized the objects. But he could not budge them. They had become heavy as a mountain.

"Forgive me," he said at last, "I really want the teaching, not the things. Will you teach me?"

Yeno replied, "Stop thinking this is mine and stop thinking this is not mine. Then tell me, where are you? Tell me also: what did your face look like, before your parents were born?"



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"These Zen Buddhist Koans Will Open Your Mind" by Carol Kuruvilla (excerpt by Kosin Paley Ellison) Huffington Post

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Once a monk made a request of Joshu.
“I have just entered the monastery,” he said. “Please give me instructions, Master.”
Joshu said, “Have you had your breakfast?”
“Yes, I have,” replied the monk.
“Then,” said Joshu, “wash your bowls.”
The monk had an insight.
————————
"Mumon’s Poem"

Because it is so very clear,
It takes longer to come to the realization.
If you know at once candlelight is fire,
The meal has long been cooked.

— The Gateless Gate

“I love this koan. I am the student in the midst of my life, waiting for life to happen. I am the teacher pointing to this latte on my desk. I am the bowl that needs washing and the breakfast already eaten. How do we enter our life fully? It is right here. How do we want to live? Can we allow all the joys and sorrows to enliven us? Or do we just go along with all our patterns and habits? People who are dying always remind me: ‘I can’t believe I wasn’t here for most of my life.’ That’s one of the most common things I hear, and the biggest regrets. Many people have not inhabited their life because they’re just waiting for other moments. Are we waiting for life to happen in the midst of life? How can we give ourselves fully to our lives, moment to moment? Don’t wait. Life is always right here.”

by Koshin Paley Ellison
Co-Founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care

Mumon’s Poem
Because it is so very clear,
It takes longer to come to the realization.
If you know at once candlelight is fire,
The meal has long been cooked.
— The Gateless Gate

“I love this koan. I am the student in the midst of my life, waiting for life to happen. I am the teacher pointing to this latte on my desk. I am the bowl that needs washing and the breakfast already eaten. How do we enter our life fully? It is right here. How do we want to live? Can we allow all the joys and sorrows to enliven us? Or do we just go along with all our patterns and habits? People who are dying always remind me: ‘I can’t believe I wasn’t here for most of my life.’ That’s one of the most common things I hear, and the biggest regrets. Many people have not inhabited their life because they’re just waiting for other moments. Are we waiting for life to happen in the midst of life? How can we give ourselves fully to our lives, moment to moment? Don’t wait. Life is always right here.”

SOURCE: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/zen-buddhism-koan_n_563251dce4b0631799115f3c
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