Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rabbit Stew Happens

Scott Bradley

There was a farmer from Song who scared up a rabbit while working in his fields. The rabbit was so frightened that it ran into a tree and died. The farmer gleefully took his windfall home for a nice rabbit stew. For days after, he was seen loitering around the tree, and when someone asked him why, he exclaimed, "Waiting for another rabbit!"

There was a man who sought satori with such intensity that he fell into the "abyss of despair" and eventually attained his goal. Later, when asked how one attains satori, he declared, "You must fall into the abyss of despair!"

What unites these two stories is the mistaken belief that what happens incidentally is the norm. A specific experience is taken for a general requirement. Now it may be that there is a path which advocates despair as a means to transformation, and those who wish to follow it might hope for despair. But it would be mistaken to declare that every path to transformation requires despair.

In another sense, from the perspective of Daoism and Zen, even within the context of a path that sees a particular kind of experience as a prerequisite for obtaining its goal, it would be a mistake to advocate the pursuit of that experience. If an experience happens, it happens. If, for example, despair happens as a result of seeking satori, then in seeking satori despair will happen; never was it necessary to seek despair. Nor was it necessary to advocate the experience of despair. The difference is that which obtains between the imposition of an idea on reality and the allowing of reality to unfold of itself. It is the difference between the mechanical and the organic; the one is made to happen, the other is allowed to happen. Or, as in the case of Daoist thought, it is the difference between deliberate doing and non-doing (wu-wei).

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

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