Saturday, August 25, 2012

Repent and Be Saved!

Scott Bradley


Here I go again, arguing with those who know and, unlike myself, are qualified to speak. Or are they disqualified for having spoken? In any case, since they have presumed to speak, why can't I? In this instance, I am referring to Zenkei with whose commentary on the previously mentioned 23rd koan of the Mumonkan, I take exception. (Zen Comments on the Mumonkan).

If you haven't read the previous post, Truly Amoral, you might want to do so, as I won't be repeating the story of Myo here. Suffice it to say that I basically described him as a rotter who became enlightened when, in the midst of his rotterhood, he was able to truly see into the amoral nature of Reality and thus the inconsequential nature of his moral discrimination regarding himself. He realized that there were no moral conditions to meet, and that the pursuit of such conditions was symptomatic of his bondage. "Think neither good nor evil. At such a moment, what is the True Self of Monk Myo?" asked the 6th Patriarch, and Myo saw the light.

Zenkei's commentary, as I understand it, would basically have us believe that Myo was a good man who fell into a bit of mischief, but even that was simply a consequence of his misguided zeal for Zen: "As he was originally an honest and simple-hearted man, so straightforward in his action as to have pursued Eno to Mount Daiyurei, he must have experienced even greater compunction." For "compunction", read "repentance", for this is where Zenkei is taking us. Essentially good, Myo saw the depths of his present sin, was cast into the "Great Doubt" and was thereby enabled to break through the barrier. Amazing grace. Amazing bullshit.

For my part, I tire of the constant moralizing to be found in this and every commentary of Zen persuasion. (And every other). There is hardly a koan dealt with here where we are not told of the great compassion and grandmotherly kindness seen in every dubious deed or word of the masters, or of the moral worthiness of those they awaken. It's not that it is otherwise, but that it doesn't matter one way or the other. Amazing moralistic reek. Amazing religiosity.

I have no interest in focusing on the 'badness' of Myo or any other player in this koan, except when his satori is portrayed as having been contingent upon his realization and repentance of this badness. I insist on the badness only because Zenkei insists on replacing it with goodness as a prerequisite to awakening. Yet, what is the point of "Think neither good nor evil", if not precisely that? This is the whole point of the mondo.

Myo's awakening was indeed facilitated by an acute sense of his present badness, but this was because it provided an opportunity to realize it did not matter one iota, not an opportunity to repent and become good, and thus worthy of enlightenment.

Eno's word of Zen was perfect to the occasion; here is Myo caught up in the realization of what a rotter he is, and Eno tells him that it does not matter, because all this good and evil discrimination is bullshit. So, yes, Myo was enlightened through a realization of his badness, but repentance had nothing to do with it. A good laugh would be the more insightful response.

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

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