January 09, 2009
The flower sermon
The theme at Goat Rope lately is Buddhism, Zen and otherwise, although you'll also find links and comments about current events. The series started Monday and El Cabrero is not sure how long it will last, although I can safely say that it will be impermanent.
The form of Buddhism popularly known as Zen is often traced to a wandering Indian monk named Bodhidharma (from bodhi as in awakening and dharma as in teachings or simply the nature of things) who by tradition arrived at the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan China around the year 520. Zen, whatever else you can say about it (which is both a lot and nothing at all), is kind of based on direct experience and insight.
But legends (and that's all we've got) take the story back nearly 1000 years to the time of the historic Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha. He was said to have once wordlessly held up a flower. Among the multitude who witnessed the event, only one person, Mahakasyapa, smiled and got the point. A direct line of "the transmission of the lamp" was established of which Bodhidharma was the 28th Patriarch, although he is also regarded as the First Patriarch of Chinese Zen or Chan.
The emphasis on direct insight remained a major characteristic of Zen. While its traditional practices included rituals, meditation and scriptures (called sutras), there was always a strong iconoclastic and irreverent streak with in aimed at jolting people out of conventional ruts.
According to tradition, if one asked a Zen master an earnest question, one might be thrown out of a window, smacked on the head, or given a bizarre, non-linear answer. Or he might just put his sandals on his head...
Bodhidharma set the gold standard for strange behaviour. About which more next week.
HOMELESSNESS is on the rise again. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recommends that housing vouchers and other measures should be included in economic recovery legislation.
PULLING OUT THE STOPS. Big business groups are going to spend big bucks to kill the Employee Free Choice Act. Here's hoping they waste their money.
MORE ON THE WV SUPREME JOKE here.
IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING HOW PTEROSAURS TOOK OFF, click here.
URGENT SHRUNKEN HEAD UPDATE here.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED