Unformatted text preview: dharma later sat facing a wall in meditation for nine years. To prevent himself from sleeping, he cut off his eyelids; and from the long, uninterrupted sitting, his legs withered and fell
off. We see Bodhidharma today in Japan in the popular Daruma doll
with its legless, oval shape and huge, staring eyes.
Emperor Wu understandably regarded Bodhidharma’s responses to
his questions as nonsensical, presumably not realizing that, in fact, they
expressed the essence of Zen. In Zen, enlightenment is sought by dispelling delusion, and that which deludes people most is language. Described
as “a special transmission outside the scriptures,” Zen rejects—or at least
seeks to hold to a minimum—the use of words, both spoken and written.
It stresses instead the intuitive, calling for “use of the heart (or mind) to
transmit the heart (or mind)” and for “direct pointing to the soul of
man.” Bodhidharma’s apparently nonsensical responses to Emperor Wu’s
questions can be taken to mean that there is no rationally meaningful
answer to anything. Like Bodhidharma, a later Zen master was thus likely
to reply to an inquiry from a disciple about, say, the nature of satori or
enlightenment with a phrase such as “Three pounds of flax!” or “Go
wash your bowl!”
From such exchanges as the above between master and disciple, there
developed the device of the kòan or problem presented to the disciple in
the form of a question that cannot be rationally or logically answered
and is intended to force the disciple to find an “answer” in some other
way. In time a series of kòan and what were considered their correct
answers were worked out to provide uniform training. Here are two kòan
and their answers:
Q: “In what way do my feet resemble the feet of a donkey?”
A: “When the heron stands in the snow, its color is not the same.”
Q: “Everyone has a native place owing to his karma. Where is your
native place?” 104 The Canons of Medieval Taste A: “Early in the morning I ate white rice gruel...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13