Blinded by the Light

Blinded by the Light

Many years ago, when I read my first book on Buddhism, I was blinded by the light of the Dharma. Like one who had stared into a bright light sees a red spot superimposed over whatever he views, so I saw my newly acquired Buddhist knowledge coloring everything. I really believed I had understood everything. Mind you, what I had read was only a superficial, although very well written popularization about Zen. I looked up the nearest Zen Temple in my phone book. I showed up on Sunday ready to begin my short dash to Nirvana.

After Meditation, the Roshi invited everyone to tea in the dining-room. I fluttered from group to group eagerly butting in and sharing my views with everyone. I was shocked! These people didn’t really understand Buddhism.

I finally drifted to the Roshi’s table. He sat with two other members. He nodded to me and stared at me with smiling eyes. I immediately began sharing my opinions.
“So, you think you understand Buddhism?” he asked.

” I do.”

“I’m sure glad you are here because I don’t understand a thing.”

The others laughed, and thinking it was a joke, I laughed too. I decided to play along and asked ” How could you be a teacher if you don’t understand a thing?”

“Zen is not about understanding.”

” What is Zen about then?”

“Stop thinking that you understand and you’ll find out.”

Everyone around the table smiled, but this time I didn’t think it was a joke.

****

Death Threat

After I read my first book on Zen, I phoned the temple to inquire about meditation schedules. To my surprise the Roshi himself answered the phone. Instead of telling
me the times meditation was available he asked me,
“Why do you want to come? Are you sick?”

“No, I’m not sick”

“Then, you shouldn’t come. I have a very contagious desease.”

” What’s its name?”

“I don’t know, maybe it has no name.”

” How is it caught?

“If you look at me you’re in mortal danger, if you touch me you’ll die.”

I laughed. “When can I come?”

When I saw him in person, I reminded him of the conversation.

He laughed.” Yes, it’s a matter of time now. Nothing can save you.”

“How long do you think I’ll last?” I joked.

He shook his head. “A long time. You’re a thinker,
they take a long time to die. Very painful.
He shook his head again, “Not good!”

4 Responses to “Blinded by the Light”

  1. My teacher also said something like this to me. She tapped me on the head with her stick and said, “You’re too bright. And don’t take that as a compliment.”

  2. my first encounter with a teacher, he laughed at my as i nodded my head to what he was saying and exclaimed, “look at him! he thinks he understands!” was one of the most shocking experiences of my life and humbling too.

  3. melachric Says:

    OK Pete, here’s one for you. My koan (self-chosen and nonpoetic) over the past few years has been this: What is the difference between nirvana and annihilation? Yeah it’s abstract, conceptual, wrong in so many ways, but it’s the thing I keep coming back to. Kind of stuck there, in fact. Just fishing for a new perspective on this… maybe somethng for the Zen Detective, eh? Thanks.

    • cerosoul Says:

      Hi Eric,
      Curiously, I did meditate about that for a long time,
      and came to the conclusion that nirvana is the
      realization of anatta. This realization changes
      the contains of consciousness, in the sense that
      the observer and the observed disappear. Only
      perception remains.

      Nirodha ( extinction) is neither conscious, nor
      unconscious. It’s the very medium in which
      samsara floats. It’s there behind your consciousness
      as you read this. Well, this is the best I could do with
      words.

      Thanks for the opportunity to rant. 😉

      Pete

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