Saturday, March 16, 2013

Frogs and Thunder

Case 3

Ananda asked Mahakasyapa, “The World-Honored One gave you the kasaya of golden cloth. Did he give you anything else?”
Kasyapa said, “Ananda.”
Ananda said, “Yes.”
Mahakasyapa said, “Knock down the flag-pole at the gate.”

Keizan’s verse:
The wisteria has withered; trees have fallen down;
Mountains have crumbled level with the plains.
Flooding cascades have overflowed their banks;
Fire flashes forth from the flint boulders.

Hello Palouse folks,

 Eileen and I just spent the last hour sitting in the dark as a lightning storm roiled overhead. First there would be a pronged shaft of lightning and then, and then, and then thunder in the distance. Over time, it came closer and closer so the gap between shaft and report grew nearer and more sudden…until the call-response was almost simultaneous. The sky seemed to be in complete accord with its goings on. This was closely followed by a burst of rain, actually sheets of rain. But a few minutes later, we sat only in darkness with an occasional word going back and forth…neither one of us wanting to disturb the clarity and quiet of a new night. This quiet was then broken by the year’s first frogs. They seemed to wake from winter, maybe hearing the overhead volleys and they, too, took up the call-response measure which has continued now for over an hour. Spring is not here yet but it has winked at us and we are glad for its return.

Although Ananda had perfect recall of all Shakyamuni’s teachings (even of the ones he wasn’t in attendance for) and he read and studied for 40 years, something still was not at rest. A part of his heart maybe was still uncomfortable, or not at ease. It wondered, it watched, it worried. He was a senior disciple in a large community, second only to Mahakasyapa and before that only junior to the Buddha himself and Kasyapa. And yet…
In the Buddhas time, Ananda watched closely. He watched how Shakyamuni sat, how he walked, how he talked, how he slept. He carried this same level of attention when he attended Mahakasyapa. And he did this because in his heart he knew something was still asleep. He watched and studied and read for 40 years but he could not see or find what he was looking for so one day, he took a deep breath and asked Mahakasyapa a question.

This took courage. He could have stayed quiet. He could have hidden behind the bald head, the robe and the sandals. No one would have known. His name meant ‘joy’ and wherever he went, people smiled and felt better than they had before. No one saw that he wasn’t able to see what he really wanted. His desire to wake-up must have been great. His practice was long, slow, steady and brave and many of us can take him as a role model. Sticking to and with practice is essential; the rest of it will take care of itself when the circumstances are correct. All you need to do is pay attention to what is before you, keep your intention in mind, practice in a formal manner each day…and cultivate a practicing community of at least two other folks who you can sit, walk, study and drink green tea with weekly.

Ananda took a deep breath and completely exposed himself. Mahakasyapa knew his attendant’s mind was ripe for he, too, had been paying attention to how his disciple sat, walked, talked and slept. I imagine Kasyapa had been waiting for this moment, not knowing when it would come or in what shape or form. He, therefore, moved quickly and responded immediately like thunder does to lightening. ANANDA! Please do not think he was side-stepping Ananda’s question. His response was the continuation of the dialog that he had with his teacher 20 years earlier. That time it was a smile, this time, from a different vantage point, “ANANDA”. Because Kasyapa’s response was in complete accord with his disciple’s body-mind, Ananda had not a moment to think. Kasyapa called to Ananda’s heart and that very heart, now at ease having heard its true name, responded.

This was the exact conversation Shakyamuni had with Mahakasyapa those many years before. The words, this time, were different. The locale, too, was changed but still the conversation between Kasyapa and Ananda occurred in the cloud covered valley laced with lone pines at the foot of Vulture Peak.

Keizan’s verse is a poetic rendering of the mindscape of Kasyapa’s call and Ananda’s response…or was it Ananda’s call and Kasyapa’s response? Oh darn, it is late and my mind is ready for bed. I look forward to falling asleep to the call and response of this spring’s frogs. Enjoy &

take care

1 comment :

  1. PZC Scribe’s Report, Saturday, March 16, 2013, “Ananda” in The Record of Transmitting the Light, pp. 36-41.

    “much hearing” vs. “listening?” what is being distinguished in our use of these two terms? intellectual (understood by hearing/reading sutras) vs. experiential (sitting, mu)? being receptive vs. reaching. listen before you hear, or hear before you listen? are they really that different? use of sound reappears in Jack’s teaching a lot; sound does come & go. significance of flagpoles & knocking them down. koan, or actual action - was it knocked down? no flagpoles, no debate (between Buddhist & nonBuddists, i.e.), no opposition, thus unity. Ananda hearing his name as an answer to his question of what else was transmitted with the robe. types of enlightenment; as a beginning; what’s the point of having the knowledge if it doesn’t change your life? Hui Neng heard the Diamond Sutra but he wasn’t finished. understanding via reading sutras and vs. having a teacher: it was in asking the question that Kashyapa recognized Ananda’s enlightenment – so the question, and not the answer, is the koan. did he think he was simply asking a question, or was he formulating it as a more significant gesture? posing a challenge? was he just exasperated with waiting? why didn’t Kashyapa knock down the flagpole himself? he knew Ananda had to get it out of his way, so gave him “permission” to knock it down. There’s nothing substantial in the flagpole. is Kashyapa dismissing the authority of the robe? is that what he’s showing Ananda? “If you want to investigate the true way, abandon the false views of the self, old emotions, pride and egotism”(40). The Verse (concluding today’s passage): what do you make of it? what is it saying, and how does it relate? Ananda’s lack of intrinsic faith and reliance on the Buddha, worried about his dying. But death happens and life goes on. The Verse seems to be echoed in the penultimate paragraph: “… all also was demolished… do not get stuck in purity… There is only this. Mind is transmitted by Mind, but no one understands this at all”(40). sometimes words are just words; is that the case with this Verse? how it resonates with all we know, share, are learning.


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