Thursday, August 30, 2012

Demonic Words

Scott Bradley


In his comments regarding the wheelwright Pien who dared to declare to his lord, the infamously violent Duke Huan (685-643 BCE), that the written words of departed sages that he was reading were merely the stinky left-overs of their passing (Zhuangzi 13), Mitchell offers this mondo:
Zen Master Kuei-asked his student Yang-shan, 'In the forty volumes of the holy Nirvana Sutra, how many words come from the Buddha and how many from demons?' Yang-shan said, 'They are all demons' words.' Kuei-shan said, 'From now on, no one will be able to pull the wool over your eyes!'
(The Second Book of the Tao)
Ironically, these volumes become demonic only when they are declared to be 'holy'. Until then, they were merely fingers pointing at the moon.

The probably fictional Jed McKenna, 'author' of the Enlightenment Trilogy, comments that whenever he hears someone say, "The Buddha said....", his bullshit meter spikes. More than anything else, this statement endeared me to his books. Just these few words can evince a mind subjugated to belief. This need not be the case, but how often is it?

I have no idea how many of the words attributed to Sakyamuni Buddha are actually his words, but I suspect they are few indeed. If only we could know which ones they are ... we could render them demonic. But we would have already done so, if we believed them to be more 'holy' than any others.

Perhaps you have asked yourself how this might also apply to Zhuangzi. Although I find aspects of every chapter of the anthology that bears his name helpful, I give extra weight to those which are attributable to 'Zhuangzi' himself. The reason for this is not because they were (possibly) written by him, and are therefore 'holier', but because they more accurately illustrate his philosophy which I endeavor to understand. The Zhuangzi reflects many philosophies, and many of these, even those which would seem to be the most dedicated to Zhuangzi's philosophy, deviate from the core teaching of Zhuangzi, namely that our not-knowing is a gateway to transcendent experience. There is nothing 'holy' about this teaching; it is not the Way, or the Truth. It is simply a 'skillful means'.

It is also the case that all words are 'demonic' to the extent that we allow them to take the place of reality. Unfortunately, it is not only possible, but generally the case, that our thinking and being do not coincide. The remedy is not to stop thinking, however, but simply to remain aware that that gap exists. Life is a dialectic; until it is not; if ever it is not.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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