Thursday, April 7, 2011


by Scott Bradley

Both Watts and Hoover tell the story of Fa-jung (594-657). He was a renowned Buddhist sage who lived in seclusion on a mountain and was so holy the birds would bring him flowers. Hearing of him, a Zen master decided to visit him in his mountain home. I paraphrase:
While they were sitting near the forest, a tiger roared nearby and the Zen master gave a start. Fa-jung remarked that apparently the Zen master still knew fear. Not long after, Fa-jung excused himself so as to relieve himself in the bushes. The Zen master quickly moved to the sage's seat on a rock and wrote a symbol for the Buddha on it. Returning to his rock, Fa-jung was about to put his unholy bum on the sacred Name when he saw it and lurched with fear. I see you still know fear, commented the Zen master. With this Fa-jung experienced his true enlightenment.
I understand this to say that all things are holy, and that to impose our religious discriminations upon reality is to further bind ourselves. It is not about finding the one thing most holy or the one truth most true, but in realizing the undifferentiated wholeness of reality. This is why a Zen master said that if you see the Buddha, kill him. All things are sacred; attach to no one thing.

But I have saved my favorite part of the story for last: And the birds brought him flowers no more.

For me, one of the special things about Zen is its teaching that nothing is special. If we look for some special signs in ourselves or others as indicators of spirituality, we have missed the very essence of what is the awakening experience. It’s found and expressed in the simple tasks of living — “hewing wood and carrying water” — in simply being human.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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