Thursday, October 20, 2011

I, Heretic

I, Heretic
by Scott Bradley


"Ta-mei asked Ma-tsu, "What is Buddha?" Ma-tsu said, "This very mind is Buddha." (Aitken)

Well, of course it is. Only what's this about some buddha-creature? What's some guy who sat under a tree and realized Reality got to do with it? He didn't invent it. He holds no patent. He didn't start the ball, or 'wheel', rolling. If Buddha is Reality, then so is everything else, so let go this religious fixation already. It reeks!

"Don't you know you should rinse out your mouth for three days when you utter the name Buddha? If you are genuine, you'll run away holding your ears upon just hearing the words, 'This very mind is the Buddha.'" Thank you, Wu-men!

If you've been reading these posts for any amount of time you know that I am going to say that everything is Reality. We only say mind is Reality because we are mind and it is from mind that this blabber about Reality emerges in the first place.

However, you should also hear Aitken roast me and expose my heresy: "Be careful not to slip into an antinomian position. I sometimes ask a student, 'How about this very mind that tells you to take up a pistol and shoot someone? Is that the Buddha?' Buji Zen people [that is, spiritually inferior people] would say, 'Yes, of course.' They wander in the limbo of pernicious oneness, where there is no purpose, no meaning, and certainly no Dharma Wheel."

You got that right, Roshi! That is precisely where I wander. However, though I understand how my oneness is pernicious (it is un-nomian, if we must use ‘nomian’ terminology), I don't get the limbo part. Oh, I see it now; I have yet to realize The Truth. Guilty as charged.

And where did Roshi Aitken wander? I will venture to say, to my shame and the further accumulation of vast de-merit, that he wandered in a place of religious dualism and Buddha-delusion. In a word, he was a religious man. In another, he was a believer. Yet someday we shall probably wander together in no-wandering-at-all.

And now for the irony: Aitken was very likely in some sense 'enlightened' and in contrast to his positive relatedness to the world, I am but a worm. But what's wrong with worms?

Aitken relates a continuation of the Ma-tsu/Ta-mei story. After years of study with Ma-tsu, Ta-mei went off to do Zen stuff in the forest. After many years, Ma-tsu sent a monk to inquire after his well-being. "What's he teaching these days," asked Ta-mei. "Not mind, not Buddha," replied the monk. "Great Master Ma is confusing people," said Ta-mei, "I still say ‘this very mind is Buddha.’" When Ma-tsu heard this, he said, "The Great Plum [Ta-mei] is ripening."

"Not mind, not Buddha", "this very mind is Buddha" — it all adds up to the same thing. "It's all empty." And all ‘good words’ are likewise empty.

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

1 comment:

  1. It's probably just a sort of human tendency to codify the principles and deify the men (usually) who came up with the grand ideas and methods. Like Zhang Daoling and the Celestial Masters; St. Paul and his little movement.

    But sometimes these things actually "heal" people. Religion--a power so great it can be only used for good or evil...

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