Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Piece of Shit

A Piece of Shit
by Scott Bradley

When a monk asked Yun-men (862-949) "What is the Buddha?" he replied, "A dried piece of shit."

Why 'dried'? What kind of shit? Are all things then the Buddha? Inquiring minds want to know. But the point, of course, is that the inquiring mind is the problem; the statement was meant, by way of shock, to direct the monk away from his obvious bondage to the 'understanding mind'. Only an intuitive knowing can experience things spiritual. And, according to both the Daoist and Zen traditions, this kind of knowing is possible only after the rational mind is silenced.

In Zen practice this is accomplished through meditation and the contemplation of koans (of which this is an example). The methods of the philosophical Daoists, however, remain a mystery (at least to me). This appeals to me because it allows me to find my own way or to pursue no way at all. Somewhere in the Zhuangzi it says, "The sage has no use for methods", and I understand this to mean that the way that she follows is the way that happens for her.

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


  1. Well, koans are mainly found in the Rinzai Zen school; some Taoists (my teacher among them) interpret the TTC as a meditation manual. The methods of meditation in Taoist internal alchemy are about "sitting forgetting" (like zazen) and reflect, like Zen, Mahayana Buddhist influence.

    I might suggest that koans are later developments, (after the TTC and Zhuangzi) as are later Taoist texts on internal alchemy.

  2. And perhaps "The sage has no use for methods" because she has become a master. The great chef has no need for a cook book; Cook Ding doesn't need to sharpen his knife. They are beyond method.
    The sage may however teach methods. I think this may be the point of TTC 27.


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