I actually was a Buddhist for about a year. Long story.

Okay, I've been playing Smash Brothers, and I'm still playing Smash Brothers, and I probably won't stop until I have to unplug the TV and move it to the new condo. To balance things out, I thought I'd espouse a bit of Zen wisdom on this blog.

No, really.

The great thing about Zen koans is that they make sense, right up until the punchline, which is when they veer to the side of reality and jump over the ditch. In fact, you might not even know you're at the end, but fortunately, 90% of all Zen koans end with the same dénouement: "...then he was enlightened." So, once you hear that, it's okay to nod wisely. But not before that.

Are we clear? Okay, let's go!

A Zen master had a wealthy patron, who studied with the master for many years. One day, the patron decided to honour the monk by giving him a rare book. It had been in the patron's family for many years, and was very valuable. He was beaming with pride as he selflessly presented the book to monk. "Here you are, my friend," he said. "With this in your library, your temple will double in prestige."

"Oh, no," said the monk humbly. "I couldn't possibly accept such a wonderful gift. Truly, your friendship is thanks enough."

"Nonsense!", cried the patron. "Accept the book, and you'll still have my friendship. Nothing will have changed."

"In that case," agreed the monk, "I accept." And with that, he took the book from the patron, and threw it into the fireplace.

"What are you doing!?", cried the patron.

"What are you saying!?". yelled the monk.

And upon hearing that, the patron was then enlightened.

The end. (See? Told you.)

So, what does that mean? Well, in one sense, it means that we are all one and interconnected with everything, but that's kind of a cop-out answer, since that's also the answer to everything else in Zen Buddhism. (In fact, it's even one or two of the questions.) A more specific way to read that is that a gift is a gift, freely given. If you give someone something with the condition that they use it a certain way, you haven't really given them anything. Not only do you exert control over the gift, you exert control over them. And dudes, that is bad karma.

A slightly more cosmic interpretation is that everyone acts according to their own individual nature. It's best to accept that sooner rather than later, and that way you'll be able to trust people even when they don't do things the exact same way as you.

All right, back to Smash Brothers now. Have a good day, everyone.


chad said...

I visited a zen temple on weekends while I was teaching English in Korea. For one of my two weeks off during the year, I traveled to another temple for a retreat. I still try to sit, but I should do it more often.

If you are still interested in zen, I can recommend books by Seung Sahn, founder of the Kwan Um School of Zen.

Alternatively, dharma talks are available as podcasts. You can search in iTunes for "Cambridge Zen Center," "Providence Zen Center," or "Zencast" (#'s 134-141) for teachings from my school.

KibBen said...

I love you Denton. You and your zen.

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.