January 13, 2009

Smart or smart aleck


Don't take a job interviewing class from this man. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme at Goat Rope these days is Buddhism and some of its lore, but you'll also find links and comments about current events. The series started last week. This week's posts are about the legendary figure of Bodhidharma or Daruma, who is said to have brought Zen to China and is also associated with the martial arts of Shaolin and karate.

As yesterday's post related, the legends say that on arrival he had an interview with the emperor that didn't go all that well. In response to his questions, the monk told him that the ruler had acquired no merit from building temples and translating scriptures; that the essence of Buddhism was "vast emptiness;" and that he (Bodhidharma) had no idea who he was.

In his defense, his answers, however abrupt, were in line with classical teachings:

*No merit. Someone who does good deeds solely to gain karmic brownie points is probably lacking in true compassion or generosity. This attitude has been called "spiritual materialism" and is kind of like wealthy Christians through the ages who tried to buy their way into heaven.

*Vast emptiness. When the Buddha attained enlightenment, he was said to have seen that all things were empty or insubstantial (anatta), meaning that things come into being and pass away as conditions change. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, Emptiness (sunyatta) could be understood as pure potentiality from which all things come. The Heart Sutra, a key text in that tradition, states that "form is emptiness and emptiness is form itself." So, yeah, that's pretty much it.

*No idea. Finally, Buddhism teaches that people lack a permanent self. What we think of as the self is a constantly changing bundle of form, sensations, perceptions, mental reactions and consciousness. Clinging to the illusion of a permanent self or ego is a cause of suffering. Who is anybody, really?

Was he being a good teacher, a smart ass or a little of both? You be the judge.

HOMING IN. Here are some ideas on how to help with the housing crisis. On a related note, the number of homeless people is increasing in WV.

THE BUSH LEGACY? Whatever.

UNNATURAL SELECTION. Humans are messing with evolution and that's probably not a good thing, according to research detailed here.

HEALTH CARE. A new report by Families USA shows the benefits of expanding Medicaid eligibility in El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia.

LOVE AND ANTI-LOVE POTIONS are discussed here.

HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS, but some dinosaurs had them too.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

2 comments:

yennob said...

*No merit. Someone who does good deeds solely to gain karmic brownie points is probably lacking in true compassion or generosity. This attitude has been called "spiritual materialism" and is kind of like wealthy Christians through the ages who tried to buy their way into heaven.

So, like, according to the Buddha, most Catholics were screwed?

El Cabrero said...

To quote the president-elect, that question is above my pay grade.