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Break Zen Fast

Reading Alan Watts,

the book is called:

‘Become What You Are,’

the chapter is called ‘Zen’

maybe unsurprisingly,

some (four) Zen stories are told.


Un:

A disciple came to Zen Master Chao-chou and asked, “I have just come to this monastery. Would you mind giving me some instruction, please?”

The Master replied, “Have you eaten your breakfast yet, or not?”

“Yes, I have, sir.”

“Then wash you dishes.”

The disciple became enlightened to the whole meaning of Zen.

Deux:

A Zen Master was about to address an assembly of students when a bird began to sing in a nearby tree. The master remained silent until the bird had finished, and then, announcing that his address had been given, went away.

Trois:

Another master set a pitcher before two of his disciples.

“Do not call it a pitcher,” he said, “but tell me what it is.”

One replied,

“It cannot be called a piece of wood.”

The master, however, was not satisfied with this answer, and he turned to the other disciple who simply knocked the pitcher over and walked away.

This action had the master’s full approval.

Quatre:

“What is the Tao?”

A Zen master answers, “Usual life is the very Tao.”

“How does one bring oneself into accord with it?”

“If you try to accord with it, you will get away from it.”


And that is four. In the book, Watts introduces and goes into each of these Zen stories.


I will not.


Let’s leave it open-ended.


Why?


Because, as Watts HIMSELF says, the very purpose of Zen is to make everyone find out for herself what THE HELL IS GOING ON AROUND HERE (not quite verbatim). For, ‘it is like a detective story with the last chapter missing; it remains a mystery, a thing like a beam of light which can be seen and used, but never caught - loved, but never possessed. And by that we may know that Zen is life.’


Just imagine, a detective story without the ending, how extremely annoing. Unless, of course, you find out who did it by yourself.



The Zen-with-the-bird-story by the way, reminds me of my first (and only, so far) Zen retreat, where the Zen Master gave me my first koan:


‘What is your Buddha nature when you hear the birds sing?’


The answer I cannot give, coming back to the whole open ended detective story and all that. Also, if given the solution to a koan, one can never answer it themselves. A friend of mine gave away the ending to ‘The Sixth Sense’, and I am still annoyed.

The Zen-with-the-breakfast-story reminds me of a poem I once wrote, just before going into the Zen retreat:



Reading that poem now, longing for some rushless Granola once more.


Clockwise, starting with the lady in green: William John Leech, the Sunshade, c. 1913 (From the National Gallery Ireland, in Dublin, which I visited just after the Zen retreat)  Komura Settai, Tattoo artist at work, 1938  Salvador Dalí, White aphrodisiac telephone, 1936  Alexander Calder, Suspended Composition of Small Leaves (Four Red Spots), 1947  Mark Manders, Large Composition with Red, 2017
An assortment of cards that I picked, Zen in mind

The image, with the cards, reading clockwise, starting with the lady in green:


- William John Leech, the Sunshade, c. 1913 (from the National Gallery Ireland, Dublin, which I visited just after the Zen retreat)

- Komura Settai, Tattoo artist at work, 1938

- Salvador Dalí, White aphrodisiac telephone, 1936

- Alexander Calder, Suspended Composition of Small Leaves (Four Red Spots), 1947

- Mark Manders, Large Composition with Red, 2017


Let‘s end with the beginning. Watts says (at the beginning of the chapter):


‘Although Zen is a word of only three letters, three volumes would not explain it, nor even three libraries of volumes’


So, wash your dishes after breakfast, listen to the birds sing, knock over some (empty) pitchers, stop trying and, most of all, stop reading.









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