Saturday, July 14, 2012

Causation II: Happy As a Fox

Scott Bradley


We are looking at the second koan of the Mumonkan which relates the story of the Zen abbot condemned to 500 lives as a fox for answering the question, "Does the enlightened man fall into causation?" with, "He does not". Hyakujo pronounces the "turning words", "He does not ignore causation", and the abbot is enlightened. Mumon's commentary is brief and to the point:
Not falling into causation." Why was he turned into a fox? "Not ignoring causation". Why was he released from the fox body? If you have an eye to see through this, then you will know that the former head of the monastery did enjoy his 500 happy blessed lives as a fox.
These answers are equally both correct and wrong and thus the 'answer' lies in an experiential understanding infinitely beyond them. For this very reason, they 'point'; and we can see that to which they point, and though this speaks to what is true of us, it this does not necessarily make it immediately true for us.

The sage is beyond causation because he is causation. Zenkei writes:
The man of real freedom would be one who lives in peace in whatever circumstances cause and effect bring about. Whether the situation be favorable or adverse, he lives it as the absolute situation with his whole being — that is, he is causation itself.... When he lives like this, he is the master of cause and effect and everything is blessed as it is. The eternal peace is established here.
If for "causation" we substitute "transformation", we have the essential Daoist vision. Dao is this apparent ceaseless transformation, and in utterly identifying with it, becoming it, one exults in being Dao. This is what it means to love what is. And this is why the abbot was happy as a fox. What did he fall into that is not Dao? Samsara and nirvana are equally Dao. Zenkei sums up: "Each as it is is enlightened. Everything as it is, is the Truth. It is impossible to go astray or to be in error." My heart weeps for joy; how much more, should it be utterly true for me.

It is Zenkei who earlier spoke of satori as becoming the Absolute Master; might not this be understood in part as being "the master of cause and effect", becoming transformation? Is it not to mount existence and all its manifestations as your dragon stead and in absolute freedom wander far and unfettered? Remember Mumon's introductory poem? "Gateless is the Great Dao, there are thousands of ways to it."

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