Wednesday, December 01, 2010


With the news that has kow-towed to jingoist Joe Liberman and disassociated itself from any connection to Wikileaks, it is time to boycott An organization as strong and successful as Amazon that is so afraid of a fascist like Liberman doesn't deserve any support from the progressive community. If you ever wondered how the Communist scare and Joe McCarthy got started, this is how. If people don't stand up to the anti-democracy forces in our own government then people like Joe Liberman are able to use their fascist fear mongering to undermine our democratic freedoms. Without the ability of heros like the whistleblowers who give us the truth, we will not have either liberty or democracy. What we have learned from the Wikileaked documents is that it is our own government that is the anti-democratic global force.

I went to to terminate my account and give notice that I will be boycotting Amazon until I hear that they have changed their policy about Wikileaks. However, the first thing I discovered is that Amazon does not make customer feedback easy. I could not find any "contact" links prominently displayed on my account pages. I couldn't find any way to notify Amazon about my dissatisfaction with their policy against Wikileaks, and I couldn't find any way to terminate my account. If you know of how to terminate an Amazon account please post it here to share with others.


Okay, I found the contact us link on the "help" page. If you are an Amazon customer you can contact them through this link. Here's the message I sent them.

I want to terminate my Amazon account because of Amazon's policy of bowing to Joe Liberman's anti-democratic scare tactics and because Amazon is not supporting Wikileaks in its time of need.. Wikileaks deserves a medal not to be removed from the cloud. Please tell me how I can terminate my Amazon account because from now on until I have heard that Amazon has changed its policy on supporting freedom of information I will no longer support Amazon.

They say they will respond within 12 hours so I'll post their response when I get it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Platform Sutra, 1st Section of Chapter 10

Here's my recent translation of the first section of Chapter 10 of the Platform Sutra of Huineng. This section is especially noteworthy because it is an outline instructing how to explain Zen. Since at the time there was nothing known as the "Chan" (Zen) school or lineage, Huineng called his school "this Dharma Gate."

Huineng's direct teaching about the functioning of the opposites as mutually causative and conditioned became highly condensed and concentrated in the Zen school through the interactions of questions and answers. Huineng's admonition to "not leave your own nature" when responding to student's questions created the context in which the Zen master's pithy and brief responses directly pointed from the condition of one-sidedness inherent in the student’s question to the nondual nature. The recorded collections of these interactions became taken up by others for inquiry into the one-sidedness of mind that each interaction pivoted upon and is how koans came into usage as a methodology.


Platform Sutra of the Dharma Treasure of the Great Master Sixth Ancestor

Tenth: Handing Down Instructions

The master one day summoned the people of the gate, of the rank of Fahai, Zhicheng, Fada, Shenhui, Zhichang, Zhitong, Zhiche, Zhidao, Fazhen, and Faru, saying, “Your rank is not the same as the rest of the people. After my nirvana, each [of you] will become the teacher of one region. I now teach you to explain the Dharma, so the lineage does not lose the root.

“First, [you] must raise the three sections of the Dharma Gate, [next] take up the functions of the 36 paired opposites arising and sinking, then leave both extremes. In explaining everything, do not leave your own nature.

“If there is a person asking you about the Dharma put forth words to exhaust the polarity, and in all cases take hold of the Dharma of the paired opposites and the mutual causation of their coming and going, getting to the very bottom and wiping out the Dharma of duality, while still being without leaving or dwelling.

“The three sections of the Gate of the Dharma are the shadows, realms, and entrances. The shadows are the Five Skandhas, one by one: form (rupa), feelings (vedana), conceptions (samjna), doings (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana). The entrances are the Twelve Ayatanas: the external Six Dusts are, one by one, color (rupa), sound, fragrance, taste, touch, and thing and the internal Six Gates are, one by one, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and idea. The realms are the 18 Dhatus, which are the Six Dusts, the Six Gates and the Six Consciousnesses.

“The ability of one’s own nature to contain the 10,000 things is called the containing Storehouse Consciousness (alayavijnana). If considering and measuring arise, then consciousness evolves and comes into being as the six consciousnesses (vijnanas) emerging through the six gates viewing the six dusts. Thus are the 18 Realms in all cases following from the function of the arising of one’s own nature. If one’s own nature is wrong, then 18 wrongs arise. If one’s own nature is right, then 18 rights arise. If it is the function of evil, then it is the function of the multitude of beings; if the function of virtue, then it is the function of Buddha. What category is the cause of the functioning? The cause is that one’s own nature has the Dharma of paired-opposites.

“In external phenomena of the insentient, the five paired-opposites are:
the pair of heaven and earth;
the pair of the sun and moon;
the pair of the bright and the dark;
the pair of the shady and the sunny (yin and yang, negative and positive); and
the pair of water and fire.
These are the five paired opposites.

“In the language of the characteristics of things (dharmalaksana), the twelve paired-opposites are:
the pair of language and things (words and thingness);
the pair of existence and non-existence (having and being without);
the pair of having form and being without form;
the pair of having characteristics and being without characteristics;
the pair of having leakage and being without leakage;
the pair of form and emptiness;
the pair of motion and stillness;
the pair of clean and muddy;
the pair of the worldly and the sacred;
the pair of monastics and laity;
the pair of old and young; and
the pair of great and small.
These are the twelve paired opposites.

“In the arising and functioning of one’s own-nature, the nineteen paired-opposites are:
the pair of long and short;
the pair of wrong and right;
the pair of stupidity and wisdom;
the pair of foolishness and intelligence;
the pair of disturbance and samadhi;
the pair of kindness and malice;
the pair of morality (sila) and wrongdoings;
the pair of straight and crooked;
the pair of true and false;
the pair of rugged and even;
the pair of afflictions (klesa) and enlightenment (bodhi);
the pair of permanence and impermanence;
the pair of compassion and cruelty;
the pair of happiness and anger;
the pair of giving and stinginess;
the pair of advance and retreat;
the pair of birth and cessation;
the pair of the Dharma body (Dharmakaya) and the physical body (Rupuakaya); and
the pair of the transforming body (Nirmanakaya) and the reward body (Sambhogakaya). These are the 19 paired-opposites.”

In the words of the master, “If one can untie and use this Dharma of the 36 paired-opposites, then it is the Way that threads though the Dharma of every sutra, and [one’s] going out and entering are then separate from both extremes.

"In the active functioning of your own nature and in conversations with people, while outwardly in appearances, separate from appearances; while inwardly in emptiness, separate from emptiness. If you wholly attach to appearances (i.e., the view of materialism), then your perverted views broaden. If you wholly grasp emptiness (i.e., the view of nihilism), then your ignorance broadens.

"People who grasp emptiness have slandered the Sutras [by saying] “direct words do not use written words.” Since they say “Do not use written words” these people too are not united with [their own] speech, simply as this speech then is the appearance of written words. Again, to say, “The straight Way is not established by written words,” then this “not established” are both words and are written words. On seeing a person who explains, then immediately they slander the other’s words as being attached to written words. You who are ranked [as Dharma heirs] must know self-delusion like this is able repeatedly to slander the Buddha’s Sutras. Do not desire to slander the Sutras; the hindrances of the sin are countless.

“If [one] attaches to external appearances and then seeks the truth in the activity of things, or [one] widely establishes places of the Way (i.e., temples, monasteries, etc.) and explains the mistakes and suffering of existence and nonexistence, people who are like this are unable to see the nature for accumulated aeons.

“Yet to listen to and take refuge in the practice of cultivating the Dharma, while [you] also cannot not think of the 100 objects, nevertheless, in regard to the Way is an obstruction of the nature. If [you] listen to explanations and do not cultivate, [you] cause people to flip-out and give birth to perverted thoughts. Yet taking refuge in the practice of cultivating the Dharma without dwelling in appearances (without stopping appearances) is giving (dana) of the Dharma.

“You who are ranked [as Dharma heirs], if you awaken in accord with this explanation; in accord with this functioning; in accord with this practice; and in accord with these doings; then you do not lose the root of the lineage.

“If there is a person asking you about a meaning, and asks about having one, go to the paired opposite of being without one; if asking about being without one, go to the paired opposite of having one. If one asks about the worldly, use the paired opposite of the saintly; if asking about the saintly use the paired opposite of the worldly. The mutual causation of the Way of dualities, gives birth to the meaning of the Middle Way. So, for a single question, a single pair of opposites, and for other questions the single [pair] that accords with this fashion, then you do not lose the principle.

“Suppose there is a person who asks, ‘What is taken for and called darkness?’ Reply and say, ‘Light is the proximate cause and darkness is the contributory cause. When light is ended, then there is darkness. By the means of light, darkness manifests; by the means of darkness, light manifests. Their coming and going are mutually proximate causes and become the meaning of the Middle Way.’ Other questions are without exception like this. You who are ranked among the descendents transmitting the Dharma, by relying on this teaching of turning around the characteristics you do not lose the taste of the lineage.”

[End of first section of Chapter 10.]

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yongjia's Song of Confirming the Way

Here are several versions of the opening lines of Yongjia Xuanjue’s “Song of Confirming the Way” (A.K.A. “Song of Enlightenment,” 證道歌, C. Zhèngdào gē, J. Shodoka,) comparing my translation with six others.

The title is interesting to me, especially because I don’t understand how or why it has been translated as “The Song of Enlightenment” and become most widely known in English with that title. It may be D.T. Suzuki’s responsibility as this is the title he used in his book Manual of Zen Buddhism. Suzuki often took such liberties with translating text in order to achieve his proselytizing goal of making the Dharma accessible for English speakers. The character for enlightenment or awakening (覺) is in the text but not in the title. The title begins with the character 證 which means “to confirm, certify, testify, evidence, or prove,” and any of these terms are valid translations. The second character is 道 which means “the Way, the Tao” and appears in the opening lines with the phase “person of the Way” or “man of Tao” etc. The third character 歌 means “sing, song. chant, praise,” etc. Because Yongjia’s verse is not only about his own testimony of the Way confirming the Way for us, but also about how each of us can confirm the Way for ourselves, I have chosen “Confirming the Way” as the best translation for 證道.

Yongjia Xuanjue (Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh, J. Yoka Genkaku)( d. 713) was a dharma successor in both Tiantai and Zen lineages. He was heir to the Dharma of Tiankong, the 7th Ancestor of Tiantai, and heir to the Dharma of Huineng, the 6th Ancestor of Zen. He had mastered the meditation practice of samatha-vipassana (stopping and insight)(C. zhi guan, J. shikan) in the Tiantai lineage. After having a profound awakening when reading the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, he then completely realized the true suchness of mind with his inquiry of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. He was advised to get confirmation of his awakening by visiting the 6th Ancestor of Zen, Huineng, and he did so. His encounter with Huineng is memorialized in the Platform Sutra of Huineng where it is related that Huineng confirmed his awakening and invited him to stay overnight at the temple of Caoxi. In Zen circles he was thus known as “the overnight enlightened one.”

There are no stanza breaks in the original Chinese, so each of the translators inserts breaks where is seems appropriate to them for the ease of the reader. Some of these ancient verses have an obvious format such as couplets or quatrains, but I don’t see an obvious structure to the “Song,” so any breaks must be inserted based on the content and not the structure. It seems to me like the stanzas vary into 2, 4 or 6 lines. Since the different translators vary the stanza lengths, for now I have not inserted any stanza breaks in my translation here, leaving it to the reader to decide where breaks should occur if at all.

Here are the opening lines in Chinese [from T48n2014_p0395c06(00)] used for my translation.


#1. Trans by Gregory Wonderwheel

“Yongjia’s Song of Confirming the Way”

Composed by Sramana Xuanjue of Shenshui of the Tang

Don’t you see?
The person of the Way who renounces study and is without activity and idleness,
Does not get rid of erroneous concepts and does not seek truth.
The real nature of ignorance is immediately the Buddha nature.
The empty body of changing illusions is immediately the Dharmakaya
Complete awakening to the Dharmakaya is without a single object.
The root source of one’s own nature is the true Buddha of heaven.
The drifting clouds of the five skandhas emptily come and go,
The water bubbles of the three poisons vainly arise and sink,
Confirming that the character of reality is without person or thing
Is the state that extinguishes the karma of falling into the Avici Hell.
If this is using false words to deceive the multitude of beings
Then by myself, I call for pulling out my tongue for eons of dust and sand.
In the Tathagata Zen of complete sudden awakening,
The essence of the six paramitas and the 10,000 practices are within its fullness.
Inside of a dream, it is clearly clear there are six destinies.
After awakening, in empty emptiness there is no Great Chiliocosm.

#2. Trans. by D.T. Suzuki, in Manual of Zen Buddhism, from


1. Knowest thou that leisurely philosopher who has gone beyond learning and is not exerting himself in anything?
He neither endeavours to avoid idle thoughts nor seeks after the Truth;
[For he knows that] ignorance in reality is the Buddha-nature,
[And that] this empty visionary body is no less than the Dharma-body.

2. When one knows what the Dharma-body is, there is not an object [to be known as such],
The source of all things, as far as its self-nature goes, is the Buddha in his absolute aspect;
The five aggregates (skandha) are like a cloud floating hither and thither with no fixed purpose,
The three poisons (klesa) are like foams appearing and disappearing as it so happens to them.

3. When Reality is attained, it is seen to be without an ego-substance and devoid of all forms of objectivity,
And thereby all the karma which leads us to the lowest hell is instantly wiped out;
Those, however, who cheat beings with their false knowledge,
Will surely see their tongues pulled out for innumerable ages to come.

4. In one whose mind is at once awakened to [the intent of] the Tathagata-dhyana
The six paramitas and all the other merits are fully matured;
While in a world of dreams the six paths of existence arc vividly traced,
But after the awakening there is vast Emptiness only and not even a great chiliocosm exists.

#3. Trans by Lu K’uan Yu (Charles Luk), from Chan and Zen Teachings, Third Series, p. 116-118.

“Yung Chia’s Song of Enlightenment”

Have you not seen a man of Tao at his ease
In his non-active and beyond learning states
Who neither suppresses thoughts nor seeks the real? To him
The real nature of ignorance is Buddhata
And the non-existent boy of illusion is Dharmakaya.
After his awakening, his Dharma body owns not anything,
For each thing in essence comes from his true self-natured Buddha;
The five aggregates are just floating clouds that aimlessly come and go,
While the three poisons are but bubbles that appear and vanish.

When the real is attained, neither ego nor dharma exist,
And in a moment the avici karma is eradicated
If knowingly I lie to deceive living beings, my tongue
Will be pulled out for aeons uncountable as dust and sand.

When at once awakened, the Tathagata’s Ch’an is perfected in self-substance
By any of the six paramitas or myriad methods of salvation.
When dreaming, clearly there are six worlds of existence,
When awake, not even the great chilocosm can be found.

#4. Trans. by Robert Aiken Roshi, from

“Song of Enlightenment”

There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is Buddha nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.

When the Dharma body awakens completely,
There is nothing at all.
The source of our self nature
Is the Buddha of innocent truth.
Mental and physical reactions come and go
Like clouds in the empty sky;
Greed, hatred, and ignorance appear and disappear
Like bubbles on the surface of the sea.*

When we realize actuality,
There is no distinction between mind and thing
And the path to hell instantly vanishes.
If this is a lie to fool the world,
My tongue may be cut out forever.*

Once we awaken to the Tathagata Zen,
The six noble deeds and the ten thousand good actions
Are already complete within us.
In our dream we see the six levels of illusion clearly;
After we awaken the whole universe is empty.

#5, Trans by International Institute For The Translation of Buddhist Texts, Dharma Realm Buddhist University, From [The original is in all caps, so I haven’t put it into regular case not knowing where they would use initial capitals.]





#6. Trans at Dragon Flower Zen Meditation, from

“The Song of Enlightenment”

Do you not know the ease of the man of the Way who has gone beyond learning, and whose state is "non-action",
Who neither suppresses thoughts, nor seeks the "Truth?"
To him the reality of ignorance is the Buddha Nature;
The empty illusory is the Dharmakaya.

When one who is awakened to the Dharma body, there are no objects;
The essence of all things comes from the self nature Buddha!
The Five Aggregates mere floating clouds aimlessly coming and Going;
The Three Poisons bubbles that appear and disappear.

When Reality is attained, there is neither ego nor object,
And within that instant, the karma of eternal suffering is wiped away.
If this is a lie to deceive living beings,
For ages as numberless as dust, let my own tongue be plucked out.

When the mind is once awakened to the Ch'an of the Tathagata,
The Six Paramitas are also fully perfect, as are the Ten Thousand Expedient Means .
In dreams, the Six Realms are vivid;
When one awakens, not even a Universe of Universes can be found.

#7. Trans by Yasuda Joshu roshi and Anzan Hoshin roshi, from

“Shodoka: Song of Freedom”

Have you ever seen one of the Way?

Beyond action and beyond learning,
one is at ease,
not struggling against delusion
or grasping after the truth.

One sees the nature of ignorance
to be itself Essential Awareness,
and the illusion of one’s own body
is the Realm of Reality.

Completely realizing
the Realm of Reality to be objectless,
one finds oneself the source of all things
and one’s own nature to be Awake Awareness.

The five aggregates arise and decay
like aimless clouds,
the three distorted orientations come and go
like bubbles on water.

Realizing Suchness, neither self nor things exist;
in one moment cause and effect are liberated.

If anything I say is untrue
may my tongue be pulled out for countless eons.

In a single moment of direct awakening
to the Zen of Reality as a continuous presencing,
the six perfections and countless skillful means
are complete.

The six realms of existence are a dream,
in waking they are nowhere to be found.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Zen Words on Words

Here's a selection of words on words from various sources including Sutras, Treatises, and koans.

Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Great Vehicle
(Mahayana-Sraddhotpada Shastra 大乘起信論 Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun)
Taisho Tripitaka Vol. 32, No. 1666
Chinese Translation by Paramartha
Translated to English from the Chinese by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

[I. The Two Doors of the One Mind]

The basis of the Dharma of the One Heart-Mind has two kinds of doors. How are the two stated? That which is first is the door of the Heart-Mind’s True Suchness (bhûtatathatâ). That which is second is the door of the Heart-Mind’s birth and death. Indeed, the two kinds of doors, each and entirely, fully include all things (sarvadharma). How is this meaning stated? Because it is considered that the two doors are not mutually separable.

[A. The First Door of the Heart-Mind’s True Suchness]

That which is the Heart-Mind’s True Suchness, then, is the great universal characteristic and essential Dharma Door of the One Dharma-realm (dharmadhâtu). That which is designated the Nature of the Heart-Mind is not born and does not die. There is differentiation of all the various things only by relying on deluded thinking. If one is free from deluding thinking, then one is without the whole objective realm of appearances. This is because all things have already come from the root free from the characteristics of verbal expressions, free from the characteristics of names and words, and free from the characteristics of the mind’s cognition, and in the ultimate equality they are without the transformations of existence and are unable to be destroyed. Because they are only the One Heart-Mind, they are called True Suchness. By considering all verbal expressions to be relative they are called unreal, yet because they follow deluded thinking one is unable to get it.
In that which is the true suchness of words, likewise, there are no characteristics of existence. Designating the limit of verbal expressions causes words to banish words. Here, in the embodiment of True Suchness there is no existence able to be banished, because of considering all things as completely True; likewise nothing is able to be established because of considering all things in all cases as identical with Suchness. One should know that because all things are unable to be explained and unable to be thought they are called the activity of True Suchness.

The Lankavatara Sutra
A Mahayana Text
Translated from the original Sanskrit by

Further, Mahamati said: Blessed One, is it not because of the reality of words that all things are? If not for words, Blessed One, there would be no rising of things. Hence, Blessed One, the existence of all things is by reason of the reality of words.
Said the Blessed One: Even when there are no [corresponding] objects there are words, Mahamati; for instance, the hare's horns, the tortoise's hair, a barren woman's child, etc. (105)—they are not at all visible in the world but the words are; Mahamati, they are neither entities nor nonentities but expressed in words. If, Mahamati, you say that because of the reality of words the objects are, this talk lacks in sense. Words are not known in all the Buddha-lands; words, Mahamati, are an artificial creation. In some Buddha-lands ideas are indicated by looking steadily, in others by gestures, in still others by a frown, by the movement of the eyes, by laughing, by yawning, or by the clearing of the throat, or by recollection, or by trembling. Mahamati, for instance, in the worlds of the Steady-Looking and in those of Exquisite Odours, and in the Buddha-land of Samantabhadra the Tathagata, Arhat, Fully-Enlightened One, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas by steadily looking without a wink attain the recognition of all things as unborn and also various most excellent Samadhis. For this reason, Maha- [92] mati, the validity of all things has nothing to do with the reality of words. It is observed, Mahamati, even in this world that in the kingdom of such special beings as ants, bees, etc., they carry on their work without words.

Again Mahamati said: It is said by the Blessed One that from the night of the Enlightenment till the night of the Parinirvana, the Tathagata (143) in the meantime has not uttered even a word, nor will he ever utter; for not-speaking is the Buddha's speaking. According to what deeper sense is it that not-speaking is the Buddha's speaking?
The Blessed One replied: By reason of two things of the deeper sense, Mahamati, this statement is made. What are the two things: They are the truth of self-realisation and an eternally-abiding reality. According to these two things of the deeper sense the statement is made by me. Of what deeper sense is the truth of self-realisation? What has been realised by the Tathagatas, that is my own realisation, in which there is neither decreasing nor increasing; for the realm of self-realisation is free from words and discriminations, having nothing to do with dualistic terminology.

Further, Mahamati, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who is conversant with words and meaning observes that words are neither different nor not-different from meaning and that meaning stands in the same relation to words. If, Mahamati, meaning is different from words, it will not be made manifest by means of words; but meaning is entered into by words as things [are revealed] by a lamp. It is, Mahamati, like a man carrying a lamp to look after his property. [By means of this light] he can say: This is my property and so is kept in this place. Just so, Mahamati, by means of the lamp of words and speech originating from discrimination, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas can enter into the exalted state of self-realisation which is free from speech-discrimination.

Blue Cliff Record
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Case 65. One Outside the Way Questions Buddha

Raised: One outside the Way questioned Buddha, “I do not question with words; I do not question without words.”
The World Honored One was respectful a long time.
The one outside the Way said in praise, “The World Honored One’s great compassion and great pity have opened my clouds of confusion and allowed me to gain entry.”
After the one outside the Way departed, Ananda questioned Buddha, “What did the one outside the Way have in the place of evidence and accordingly the words ‘gaining entry’?”
Buddha said, “Like a fine horse of the world, he sees the shadow of the whip and goes accordingly.”

Blue Cliff Record
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Case 84 Vimalakirti Sutra’s Non-Duality

[Yuanwu’s] Appended pointer says:

Just say, does this person also possess eye(s) or not? If you are able to judge this person, then I approve that you have come to personally see the people of old.


Vimalakirti asked Manjusri, “How do those ranked as being bodhisattvas enter the Dharma gate of non-duality?”
Manju(sri) said, “So this is my idea, in everything (sarvadharma) to be without words, without explaining, without instructing, and without knowledge, and to leave aside all questions and answers, is the act of entering the Dharma gate of non-duality.”
Thereat, Manjusri asked Vimalakirti, “Each and every one of those equally ranked and myself have explained already. You who are virtuous and equally ranked explain, how do those ranked as being bodhisattvas enter the Dharma gate of non-duality?”

Xuedou said, “What did Vimala(kirti) say?”
Repeating he said, “Investigate and expose completely!”

Gateless Checkpoint
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Case 6. The World Honored One Picks a Flower

The World Honored One a long time ago at a convocation on top of Spirit Mountain* picked up a flower and showed it to the multitude. At that time all the multitude were thus silent. Only Arya Kashyapa gave a broad smile and laughed a little.
The World Honored One said, “I possess the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye, the wonderful heart-mind of Nirvana, the formless true form, the subtle Dharma gate, not established by written words, transmitted separately outside the teaching. I hand it over and entrust these encouraging words to Kashyapa.”

Wumen says: Golden-faced Gautama acted audaciously. He shelved the good to be cheap. He hung a sheep’s head and sold dog meat. How many are ready to say this is peculiar? But supposing at that place and time the great multitude had all laughed, how could he have put forth the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye in a living transmission? If Kashyapa was not caused to laugh, how could he have put forth the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye in a living transmission? If you say the storehouse of the correct Dharma eye can be imparted, then the golden-faced old mister gives deceiving advise at the village gate. If you say it is not imparted, then verily how can it be that Kashyapa alone was approved?

The Ode says:
As the flower was picked and raised,
The python’s tail was already revealed;
When Kashyapa cracked a smile,
People and gods [devas] were collected in the net.

[* Spirit Mountain is the euphemistic name for Vulture Peak (Mt. Gridhrakuta) where the Buddha taught several important sutras including the Heart Sutra and the Lotus Sutra. In Chinese lore the vulture is sometimes called the “spirit eagle” because it eats the dead, and a sort of euphemistic tradition developed of calling the site “Spirit Mountain” instead of Spirit Eagle Mountain or Vulture Peak.]

The Platform Sutra of the Dharma Treasure of the Great Master Sixth Ancestor
Translated by A. Gregory Wonderwheel

Chapter 10 Handing Down Instructions

"In the active functioning of your own nature and in conversations with people, while outwardly in appearances separate from appearances; while inwardly in emptiness separate from emptiness. If you wholly attach to appearances (i.e., hold materialist views), then your perverted views broaden. If you wholly grasp emptiness (i.e., hold a nihilist view), then your non-illumination (ignorance) broadens.

"People who grasp emptiness have slandered the Sutras (by saying) “straight words do not use written words.” Since they say “Do not use written words” these people too are not united with (their own) speech, simply as this speech then is the appearance of written words. Again, to say, “The straight Way is not established by written words,” then this “not established” are both words and are written words. On seeing a person who explains, then immediately they slander the other’s words as being attached to written words. You who are ranked (as Dharma heirs) must know self-delusion like this is able repeatedly to slander the Buddha’s Sutras. Do not desire to slander the Sutras; the hindrances of the sin are countless.

“Sayings and Doings of Pai-chang” (Baizhang)
Translated by Thomas Cleary

You must discern the words of the complete teaching and the incomplete teaching; you must discern prohibitive words and non prohibitive words; you must discern living and dead words; you must discern medicine and disease words; you must discern words of negative and positive metaphor; you must discern generalizing and particularizing words. (p. 37)

From The Record of Linji (Lin-Chi Lu).
Translated from the Chinese by Irmgard Schloegl

"Followers of the Way, do not seek for anything in written words. You will tire your heart and inhale icy air without profit."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Review of "Inquiry Into the Origin of Humanity"

Review of Inquiry Into the Origin of Humanity, translated with commentary by Peter N. Gregory.

Peter Gregory’s book, Inquiry Into the Origin of Humanity, has a wealth of information about the Buddhist and Chinese cultural context in which Guifeng Zongmi (Gregory uses the Wade-Giles form Kuei-feng Tsung-mi)(780-841) wrote his famous treatise. As truth in advertising, Gregory informs the reader that the book is intended for college students already acquainted with Buddhism or Chinese thought and for scholars of other fields. His goal is to use the framework of Zongmi’s treatise to construct a general introduction to Chinese Buddhist thought. As such, Gregory generally succeeds in his aim of presenting explanatory material to the academically minded who are interested in Buddhism. Though not intended for those with no background in either Buddhism or Chinese thought, I think Gregory’s commentary gives even those unacquainted with Buddhism enough context to feel moderately oriented.

Gregory’s forte is in providing references and quotes from other texts, especially those by Zongmi and the classics of Confucian and Taoist schools, which relate to Zongmi’s text. Yet, however well Gregory meets his aim of providing a contextual introduction to Chinese Buddhism, the reader should be aware that Gregory is, after all, an academic scholar whose frame of reference appears confined to the academy. For all of Gregory’s many and insightful connections between texts, Gregory’s overall result is that he misses the forest for focusing on the trees. His greatest error is that he fails to see that the essence and purpose of Zongmi’s work is to present a manifesto of One Vehicle (Ekayana) Buddhism.

Gregory recognizes that Zongmi’s treatise is in the framework of Buddhist doctrinal classification and that Zongmi’s use of that framework is uniquely practice-centered, but Gregory misses the point that the center and content of Zongmi’s practice is the Ekayana. Gregory views Zongmi’s practice orientation as being “based on Tsung-mi’s cosmogonic vision,” but for Zen master Zongmi it is the other way around: Zongmi’s cosmogonic vision is based on his practice experience. Gregory, as a philosopher, sees philosophy in Zongmi that isn’t there.

Zongmi too was a scholar, but he epitomizes the practitioner scholar rather than the academic scholar, and his aim is to present the One Vehicle of Buddhism so that people may know to “return to the root, and turn your light back upon the mind source” and recognize for themselves that the mind is the One Buddha Mind. Gregory consistently misinterprets Zongmi’s One Vehicle in terms of Tathagatagarbha doctrine. Gregory’s near obsession with Tathagatagarbha doctrine colors his discussion of Zongmi’s message throughout Inquiry Into the Origin of Humanity. What Gregory misses, is that just because Zongmi’s One Vehicle includes Tathagatagarbha doctrine doesn’t mean that Zongmi’s One Vehicle is any more determined by or informed by Tathagatagarbha doctrine than by the other Buddhists doctrines, such as emptiness or karma, that are also included within the One Vehicle. So the reader must be warned that whenever Gregory mentions “tathagatagarbha doctrine” that it must be taken with liberal doses of salt, revealing more about Gregory’s biased view than about Zongmi’s actual message.

For example, the term “tathagatagarbha” is only mentioned three times in Inquiry Into the Origin of Humanity, and each time is it only mentioned in passing as another label for the particular aspect of true nature that is being discussed, and it is not raised on its own as the content of Zongmi’s central teaching. What is Zongmi’s central content? In his own words it is “The Teaching of the One Vehicle That Reveals the Nature holds that all sentient beings without exception have the intrinsically enlightened, true mind.”

Zongmi’s position as both a Zen (Chan) master and Huayen master provided him with a unique perspective to appreciate the One Vehicle. however, Gregory misses the importance of Zongmi’s Zen context. The founder of the various Zen lineages in China was the Indian monk Bodhidharma, who was said to have taught the Lankavatara Sutra according to "the One Vehicle Lineage of Southern India." This is an important connection for understanding Zongmi’s treatise and is three-fold: first, the Lankavatara Sutra is one of the core scriptures upon which the Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana is based and Zongmi based his treatise largely within the context of the Awakening of Faith; second, the One Vehicle perspective of Bodhidharma, the Lankavatara, and the Awakening of Faith is the perspective that Zongmi used to release the One Vehicle teaching from the confines of those schools that associated the One Vehicle with a single sutra such as the Huayen or Lotus sutras. and third, Zongmi’s doctrinal classification of five stages is directly derived from Bodhidharma’s famous treatise called Outline For Discerning the Mahayana and Entering the Way By Four Practices and Contemplation.

Bodhidharma’s Outline presents Buddhist practice in the context of five categories that directly correspond to the five levels of Buddhist teaching outlined by Zongmi. Bodhidharma says that one enters the Way by two kinds of cultivation, that is, one enters by principle or by practice, entering by practice means entering by one of the four practices. The first four levels of Buddhist teaching in Zongmi’s outline correspond to the four practices described in Bodhidharma’s Outline, and the most profound teaching of the One Vehicle presented in Zongmi’s outline corresponds to what Bodhidharma calls “entering by principle” and says means “to rely on the lineage of awakening and to bear profound faith that the one true nature of beings is the same.” Thus Bodhidharma’s teaching of “One True Nature” is precisely what Zongmi is describes as “The Teaching of the One Vehicle That Reveals the Nature.”

Thus Zongmi’s innovation in the Inquiry Into the Origin of Humanity is not in creating from whole cloth the five categories of the teaching that he presents there, but in adapting the five teachings of Bodhidharma’s Zen that he inherited in his Zen training to the systematizing practices of doctrinal classification that were accepted in his day in the other Buddhist schools, and in showing how the five teachings are related to the creative process of consciousness which is, in fact, the creation of the universe itself as far as our awareness is concerned. Gregory fully appreciates the importance of Zongmi’s Buddhist “Genesis story” as being related to the importance of practice, but Gregory over emphasizes the question of the origin of humanity in the literal sense and thus sees Zongmi’s practice orientation to be “grounded on his cosmogony” when it is the cosmogony that is secondary and grounded in the practice.

As for the technical aspects of the translation, in my view, Gregory’s frequent use of brackets to insert words he feels should be implied is overdone to the point of distraction. The translator has a responsibility not to insert such material without brackets, so I am grateful when he uses them, but the overuse of brackets to insert the translator’s words just becomes evidence of the translator’s failure to translate the author’s words adequately. I also find fault in Gregory’s propensity to use different English words when translating the same Chinese word, as well as his using the same English word for translating different Chinese words. I feel an accurate translation should not mix and match the Chinese words with English words. The author must be presumed to be picking his words carefully, and as such the English words used to translate them should be used in correspondence to the Chinese so the reader of the English will know which words are used. If the same English word appears in two different paragraphs, the English reader should be able to know that the Chinese author used the same Chinese word in each paragraph, in this way the reader comes to learn how the author intended the words, not how the translator intends them.

Lastly, and least, I would quibble with Gregory on the translation of the title. I read the title as speaking about the “original person” not the “origin of humanity” and would translate the title as “The Original Person Debate” or “Treatise on the Original Person.” I accept that Gregory’s translation of the title is within the range of validity, however, it focuses on what Gregory sees as Zongmi’s emphasis on cosmogony, while I read Zongmi as being focused on directing each of us to realize our original person rather than our deluded person and that each of the deepening levels of the teaching is bringing us closer to the original person that is our true nature. .

In conclusion, while I am very critical of certain aspects of Gregory’s academic biases and his infatuation with Tathagatagarbha doctrine along with some of his translation techniques, I still recommend the book for its wealth of Chinese sources, with the caveat that the reader needs to read critically and not take Gregory’s interpretations of Zongmi as gospel. Zongmi’s sole goal is to bring us to the realization of the Teaching of the One Vehicle that Reveals the Nature and if the reader can keep this in mind while reading Zongmi, then the reading will be most beneficial.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hogfather Zen

Zen in the film “Hogfather”

SPOILER ALERT! This discussion of the film Hogfather reveals much (but not all) of the plot and the ending. If you want to experience the full joy and surprise of the film, along with all the puns and sci-fi and fantasy references, then rent the DVD (or watch on instant Netflix as I did) and then come back to read this.

Hogfather is a wonderful film with a mythic Mahayana Zen quality. I have no idea about the back-story of the apparently 37 or so comedic fantasy novels written by Terry Pratchett, one of which the film is based upon, nor do I know anything about Terry Pratchett, the person, other than that he has been knighted under the British system and called “Sir Pratchett” by those who care about such titles. Fortunately, as an American who believes that we revolted from the British monarchy in large part against the system of nobility and such, not one bone or pour feels compelled to call him “Sir.”

The film, though, is centered on a deeply profound issue of human nature, which as it happens, is also the fundamental question in Buddhism that led to the development and rise of Mahayana Buddhism, namely, what is the role of imagination in the world if our delusions, false beliefs, and such are taken away?

The story takes place on Discworld, a flat earth that is held up on the backs of four giant elephants who are standing on the shell of a giant turtle that is flying through space. The “auditors of reality” want to do away with all beliefs so that they don’t have to put up with myths, fairytales, and such things causing reality to be uncertain and messy. They hatch a plan to have the Hogfather (the Discworld equivalent to Santa Claus) killed on Hogswatch night while he is delivering his gifts to children. The idea being that if they can get the Hogfather killed then all other myths and beliefs can be eliminated in turn and reality will be made neat and tidy and run like clockwork thus making their jobs as auditors of reality easier.

The Auditors go to the Guild of Assassins and commission the hit on the Hogfather. Mr. Teatime (prounanced “Tee-ah-ta-me” as he tells everyone) is an assassin-in-training and chosen for the job because he is the only one crazy enough to think it can be done. He has even studied whether it is possible to kill death himself, but “merely as a hobby” of course, since if there were no death then there would be no Assassins Guild. Mr. Teatime comes up with the brilliant plan of going to the tooth fairy’s castle and using the collected teeth of all the children in the world to undo the belief in the Hogfather, thus assassinating him because if the children don’t believe in him then he won’t exist anymore.

Death and his granddaughter Susan are the central heroes of the tale. Death discovers the Auditors’ plan to kill the Hogfather and enlists the aid of his estranged granddaughter Susan to help him because the Tooth Fairy’s Castle is one place Death can not enter.

Susan discovers that the Hogfather himself has mythic roots and, before he became the Hogfather that he is today, he was an ancient demi-urge to whom sacrifices were made each year in the dead of winter to bring back the sun, and now if the Hogfather is assassinated, then the sun won’t rise again.

There are also Wizards of the Unseen University involved and gnomes and pixies and such.

The Mahayana Zen connection comes in with the understanding of polarities and the role of beliefs and rules in human society. The role reversal of having Death as the hero is the first indication of something really profound going on in the story. The question at the heart of the film is “what is reality” which of course is a quintessential Zen question. The Auditors of Reality want to take away all the imagination and belief out of reality so the world will run smoothly without unnecessary complications.

In the history of Buddhism, the desire to put an end to suffering by taking the imagination out of life became associated with the Early Schools of Buddhism whose exegesis of Buddhist scripture became perceived as anti-imagination, because all imagination and belief became defined as delusion and “wrong view” per se. Whether or not the criticism was precisely deserved, Mahayana developed, at least in part, as a way to understand imagination without completely denying it or repressing it. Of course this maneuver itself may be criticized, as the Mahayana has been and still is, as being too undisciplined in allowing the imagination to carry itself away and believe what it produces. However, between denying imagination and getting carried away by imagination lies the Middle Way, which is one variation of the Middle Way that the Mahayana and Zen, is at home with.

In traditional terms, it is the question of dealing with the characteristics of reality. The criticism of what was known as the Early Schools of Buddhism was that to realize the Buddhist aim of ending suffering they advocated turning away from characteristics into a nirvana of extinction of all characteristics. The goal of “right view” became the view that denatured reality and the characteristics of reality. This became perceived as a one-sided or dualistic view that actually bound people to suffering rather than providing freedom from suffering. From the Mahayana and Zen views true freedom from suffering meant above all else freedom from dualistic views upon which all suffering is based and conditioned.

As stated in The Platform Sutra, Zen Master Huineng says, “Outwardly, to be free from characteristics is immediately zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is immediately samadhi.” That is, zen is not a program to do away with the world of characteristics, including the characteristics of the imagination, but a path to be free and unperturbed by characteristics even while engaged with characteristics.

Using a different style of voice, in Hogfather, Death is the voice of this same wisdom. His “granddaughter” Susan has a certain magical side to her which she is trying to keep out of sight as she tries to live in the human world as a human. After they have rescued the Hogfather Susan asks her grandfather Death:

Susan: “Now tell me. . . “
Death: “What would have happened if you hadn’t saved him?”
S: “Yes”
D: “The sun would not have risen.”
S: “Then what would have happened?”
D: “A mere ball of flaming gas would have illuminated the world.”
S: “Alright, I’m not stupid. You’re saying that humans need fantasies to make life bearable.”
D: “No. Humans need fantasy to be human, to be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.”
S: “With Tooth Fairies, Hogfathers.”
D: “Yes, as practice; you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.”
S: “So we can believe the big ones.”
D: “Yes, justice, mercy, duty, that sort of thing
S: “They’re not the same at all.”
D: “You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy, and yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world as if there is some, some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.”
S: “But people have got to believe that or what’s the point?”
D: “You need to believe in things that aren’t true; how else can they become?”

Death here is presenting basic Buddhism when he says that by breaking things down into their constituent parts we can’t find any such substantial things as justice, mercy, etc. and they too are shown to be “false views” in the sense of being actual things. To see reality as it really is, we must see that there is no objective ideal order by which the universe may be judged. This is the elementary Buddhism and is called “conditional origination.”

But Mahayana Buddhism, like Death in the dialogue above, adds the important point that though the search for an objective order like the ideal “justice” is only a false view projected onto the world by our belief, still humans believe in such things, not because they are true, but precisely because they are false in order to make them become manifested in reality. In Zen Buddhism this is called “nature origination”, that is, all things arise from our true nature.

The inherent “falseness” or “untruth” of such things like “justice” is what is meant when Buddhism says things are empty. And the very much alive paradox is that it is because things are empty that they can become manifested. In Zen, the way to perceive this paradox as a direct experience, and not just as a thought-formation or another belief system, is called: “Don’t think good, don’t think evil. Right now, what is your original face?” This admonition to not think “good” or “evil” is the Buddhist version of seeing that “good and evil” are just like the Tooth Fairy and the Hogfather and should not be thought of as literal things. And to see one’s original face is to see directly and personally how things that are not true can become.

At the end of the film, Susan and Death have a final exchange.

Susan: “Granddad. Why? I mean, why did you do all this?”
Death: “Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom. Quite astonishing.”
S: “Oh.”
D: “Well then. Happy Hogswatch.”

Or as Zen master Yunmen said echoing the comprehension of living in a universe so full of wonders, “Every Day is a good day.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ancestor's Zen and Tathagata Zen

Discussions of Zen's relationship to Mahayana Buddhism often raise the dichotomy of how words are taken and used in Zen. One of the famous mottos of Zen is that it is "not established on written words." This motto is intended to direct our attention away from searching written words for the truth to be found in our own mind or own nature. However, this motto itself becomes a sort of icon that is then mistakenly used by some to say that the Buddha's Sutras can be ignored.

In the Zen context, this dichotomy comes under the labels of "Ancestor's Zen" and "Tathagata Zen."

On the one hand, Ancestor's Zen acknowledges that words don't cut it and that we have to let go of discursive thnking models in order to focus on the direct pointing to our own nature of true suchness. This of course is where the so called "anti-intellectual" tendency arises in Zen. This movement of Zen began in full force with Nagarjuna's radical analysis of emptiness that took away all reliance on words in order to shove our noses into emptiness so we could experience the "revolution at the basis" of our awareness. Ancestor’s Zen removes the props of our conventional truths to show us where we stand on zero at any moment.

On the other hand, Tathagata Zen acknowledges that Zen comes through the Mahayana branch of the Tathagata's teaching of true suchness and so there is a fundamental need in the Bodhisattva's vow to remain in Samsara and give aid to beings of all capacities which includes talking about the structure and function of consciousness in order to help beings have the faith to practice and experience the “revolution at the basis.” Tathagata Zen shows us the functioning of Dharma in the plus and minus, expansion and contraction, of all activity that arises from zero.

The functioning of Ancestor’s Zen comes out most fully in the living interactions retold in the koans where we see the direct manifestation of true suchness that does not get caught up in the discriminatory meanings of words. The functioning of Tathagata Zen comes out most fully in the teishos and teachings of the Zen teachers from their “platforms” or “high seats.”

When we read works such as the The Sixth Ancestor’s Platform Sutra, John Blofeld’s great book The Zen Teaching of Huang Po or the various translations of The Record of Linji we see both Tathagata Zen and the Ancestor’s Zen represented in the sections on the teachings in the hall and the events in the field.

For example, a thorough reading of the Platform Sutra shows Huineng’s Ancestor’s Zen and Tathagata Zen. His Ancestor’s Zen is revealed in his famous poem

菩提本無樹 The root of Bodhi is treeless
明鏡亦非臺 The bright mirror also is not a platform
本來無一物 The root comes without a single thing
何處惹塵埃 What place can attract dust?

as well as in the famous interaction under the flag when he said “It is neither the flag nor the wind that is flapping; it is your mind flapping.”

Most of the Platform Sutra, however, is his exposition of Tathagata Zen from the high seat of the Platform. Here he is expounding on the great many themes of Mahayana including samadhi and prajna, confession and repentance, how to read and interpret the Sutras, the 5 aggregates (skandhas), the 12 entrances (ayatanas), the 18 realms (dhatus), and the transformation of the 8 consciousnesses (vijnanas) into the 4 wisdoms (jnana-prajna). Any view that Zen is anti-intellectual (in the generic sense) or anti-written word is destroyed by the Platform Sutra.

Tathagata Zen is all about reorienting the intellect from being lost in discursive thinking to turning the intellect toward true Suchness (Tathata). Experiencing and being aware of the coming and going (gata and agata) of suchness (tathata) is the meaning of the word contraction tathagata as it is used both for an epithet of the Buddha as the Tathagata and in the label Tathagata Zen.

The problem with misunderstandings of Tathagata Zen and the mistaken notion that Zen is non-intellectual comes from the belief that Zen is not involved with discrimination. However, this is a deep misunderstanding of the nature of Zen as a realization of the essential Mahayana tenet that the way of the Tathagatas and Bodhisattvas is to not abandon samsara but to realize the Path by remaining in the discriminations of samsara to show the way of liberation from samsaric suffering. In the Mahayana system of the “two truths”, the Tathagata Zen stance is that the ultimate truth exists only in relation to the One Suchness. What can be “called” ultimate truth is the constructed and relative conventional truth that points to the non-dual true nature of emptiness. However, if emptiness is itself taken literally to say that the Sutras are not part of Zen it is a grave error.

Huineng himself, though he was called “illiterate” was well versed in the Sutras. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 10 the Platform Sutra, “Handing Down Instructions,” in which he warns against taking the Zen admonition about not establishing written words too literally.

In the active functioning of your own nature and in conversations with people, while outwardly in appearances separate from appearances; while inwardly in emptiness separate from emptiness. If you wholly attach to appearances (i.e., hold materialist views), then your perverted views broaden. If you wholly grasp emptiness (i.e., hold a nihilist view), then your non-illumination (ignorance) broadens.

People who grasp emptiness have slandered the Sutras (by saying) “straight words do not use written words.” Since they say “Do not use written words” these people too are not united with (their own) speech, simply as this speech then is the appearance of written words. Again, to say, “The straight Way is not established by written words,” then this “not established” are both words and are written words. On seeing a person who explains, then immediately they slander the other’s words as being attached to written words. You who are ranked (as Dharma heirs) must know self-delusion like this is able repeatedly to slander the Buddha’s Sutras. Do not desire to slander the Sutras; the hindrances of the sin are countless.

In my view, those who say that Zen can be separated from the Mahayana are focusing on the One Suchness of the root of Zen. That is, the one mind of true suchness transcends the colors and designs of the robes of any single religion. Admittedly, there are Bodhisattvas who walk among us in every religious or non-religious cultural context pointing to the root of mind, but to explain the structure and functioning of consciousness without reference to the Mahayana Buddhist Sutras or to Mahayana Tathagata Zen seems to me to be a difficult proposition at best and a self-crippling impossible nightmare at worst.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hitler's Birthday

I was reminded that today is Adolph Hitler's birthday, April 20, 1889.

Hitler is, of course, the guy everybody loves to hate. However, from a Buddhist perspective hate itself must be penetrated with insight and wisdom. To merely hate Hitler is to objectify what Hitler represents, and that objectification itself becomes a reinforcing and self-fulfilling prophecy that continues the cycle of hate. In other words, we can't really understand Hitler until we are fully aware of the Hitler within ourselves, and when we are aware of the Hitler within ourselves then the very character of hate toward Hitler, or anyone else for that matter, as an object is transformed.

That is not to say that one then comes to loves Hitler in the conventional sense either. The social power of a Hitler, is collected in the "person" of a Hitler by the ability of people to deny the Hitler in themselves. A Hitler doesn't worry about people not liking him as long as people are afraidd of him. People fear a Hitler for so many different reasons, but a common denominator of that fear is that people disassociate from what it is that makes them fearful in the image of a person like Hitler. At the same time we recognize the guy may be saying something a little kooky, we admire that he says it with conviction more than we are willing to disagree with the content of what he says.

I suggest that everyone read Hitler's manifesto, Mein Kampf, to learn about the world view of the fascist mentality.

If you want to see if you have discovered your inner Hitler then test yourself by asking if you believe in advertising? Do you think that advertising is a simple communication to consumers. or is advertising the essential propaganda tool of our American Brand of Fascism? If you don't see how advertising creates the Brave New World of the American Brand of Advertising, then you have definitely not seen into your own inner Hitler.

For example:
"The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the result is weakened and in the end entirely cancelled out....The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly."
- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, chapter six.

A person who doesn't hear the drum beat of sloganeering in today's advertising, and especially in the political advertising of Republicans and the so-called "Tea Party" movement is just blind their inner Hitler. The people who are doing the propagandizing with such slogans as "tax and spend liberal elites" and "Big government is bad; small government is good" and other such single pointed slogans are taking their propaganda methods directly from Hitler's play-book.

Here's another fun Hitler quote:
"We stand for the maintenance of private property... We shall protect free enterprise as the most expedient, or rather the sole possible economic order."
Now any such feelings that one has for "private property" as the sine qua non of the so-called "free" enterprise economic system must be seen in the context of one's inner Hitler to be appreciated for how this sentiment becomes a bedrock of the American Brand of Fascism.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Scary Mother Image

Someone said,
Apparently I'm still scared of my own mother and I'm past 35 years old. This is important so I thought I would post it although I'm not sure if it is appropriate. Just that the last few weeks I have not felt able to meditate and it centres around her it seems. I had some idea that my feelings about Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva are affected by my mother.

When we are conceived, we face the world without any discriminations. Our self-consciousness develops as we are able to form discriminations. The primary discrimination is the one that coalesseces into the "mother" (in most cases) as the "caregiver" and provider of sustanance, warmth, security, love, etc. Who could not have some trepidation in confronting what this image means residing at the very foundation of our map of reality that we have been constructing since day one of conception.

When we meditate, we are beginning the journey of confronting our map of reality with our awareness of reality. We can't deal with the mental model we have constructed of reality wihtout confronting in some manner the image of "mother" that is at the core of our mental map of reality. It is the internal image of mother in our own nature that we are dealing with as adults, not the external mother, in terms of coming to terms with mother. So an important part of the journey is to see that the image of mother embedded in the structure of our self-conscious identity is not actually our biological mother, but the mother we have constructed based on the years of interaction, both within the womb and after being born, with our biological mother.

This mother is the primal protectoress and provider of basic security for our childhood fears. When this image begins to bubble up and we start to be conscious of it as a feeling-toned image rather than a literal externalised individual being, it carries along with it as it rises into consciousness all the fear-feelings that the image was created to protect us against. In Buddhist imagery, this challenge is conceived as the attack of Mara and the delusions of Maya. There are real dangers in the world, but in order to be present we have to distinguish the dangers that are actually present from the incorporated dangers of our inner system of insecurity that we have embodied into the image of mother.

This is no easy journey, and in Zen it is said that ignorance is father and greed is mother, and so we must kill our mother and father. This of course is not talking about killing literally, but killing that fixation upon which these internalized images are built, that is, dismantaling the rafters and beams of the house of reality modeling that sustains these images as the father and mother of self-conscousness fixated on a "self" as a separate entity. The mother image seeking to maintain the separate ego fixation will assail the mind with fearful and scary images in order to maintain the status quo of the map of reality.

No one can tell another how to do this work in particular, only that it is the normal process on the path, and as you discover that the images that scare you are in fact "only" residual images upon which one's self-consciousness itself is built, than with determined perseverance you will say along with Buddha, "I see you, oh Housebuilder!"


What is called the clear and clean Dharmakaya Buddha?

Here's a section from Chapter 6 Repentance of the Platform Sutra of Huineng that I just translated.

"What is called the clear and clean Dharmakaya Buddha? The nature of worldly people is at root clear and clean. The 10,000 things are secondary to one’s own nature. By consideration of every evil matter, then you give birth to evil practices. By consideration of every good matter, then you give birth to good practices. Thus, are all things located within one’s own nature, like the sky being always clear. Though the sun and moon are always bright, when they become covered by floating clouds, then above is bright and below is dark. If suddenly they encounter a puff of wind, the clouds disperse, above and below are bright together, and the 10,000 images all appear. The nature of worldly people is always floating and drifting like those clouds of the sky.

"Learned and virtuous ones, innate-intelligence (jnana) is like the sun, and intuitive-wisdom (prajna) is like the moon. This intelligence-wisdom (jnana-prajna) is always bright. By externally attaching to conditions, false thoughts are a cover of drifting clouds, and one’s own nature is not able to show one’s brightness. If one encounters a learned and virtuous one to hear the true and right Dharma and by oneself eliminates delusion and falsehood, then the internal and external are bright and unobstructed, and the 10,000 things all appear from within one’s own nature. A person’s seeing-nature (J. kensho) likewise is indeed returning to thusness. This is called the clear and clean Dharmakaya Buddha."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Zen Samadhi

Two lines from Hakuin Ekaku Zenji's "Ode to Sitting Meditation" (J. Zazen Wasan) read,
As to the zen-samadhi of the Mahayana,
There is just too much to praise.

What is Zen-samadhi?

In the Mahayana, meditation practice is technically called zen-samadhi (in Sanskrit, dhyana-samadhi), or the samadhi of meditation. In practical language it is simply called sitting zen (J. zazen) or sitting meditation. Zen-samadhi is the primary solution to the Buddhist question of the spiritual search. The historical Buddha realized enlightenment by sitting zen-samadhi, and as taught in the Parable of the Wayward Son in the True Dharma of the White Lotus Sutra, though Buddha preached and taught many truths, principles, and doctrines they all amounted to the skillful means of a wealthy father (Buddha) who wanted to return his lost and poor son (all beings) to his true inheritance to be gained by zen-samadhi. Thus all the words of Buddhism amount only to various means of convincing us to sit and meditate like Buddha did to realize enlightenment for oneself.

The difficulty of translating the Sanskrit term samadhi adequately into English is one reason the word has been used without translation and incorporated into English dictionaries. It is commonly, though erroneously, translated as “concentration”. Among the problems with the term “concentration” is that it is weighted too much on the “one pointedness” aspect of attention training which is only the beginning step of initial samadhi practice, and it creates the false impression that the whole of samadhi is the act of concentrating on a single object. A better translation would be “focus” in the sense that when awareness is concentrated on the focal point of awareness itself, rather than on a single object, then everything else (i.e., all things or ''dharmas'') comes into focus.

In the way that a camera or one’s eye does not reach out to things to bring them into focus and clarity but makes an inner adjustment of the focal point, so too, does the practice of zen-samadhi make an inner adjustment of the focal point of awareness. This inner adjustment is sometimes called “turning the light around” to draw attention to the fact that zen-samadhi does not reach out to focus on objects but turns inward to be aware of themeless or objectless awareness itself. Whether one is practicing zazen as “only minding doing sitting” (J. shikantaza) or as inquiry into “the source of speech” (Ch. huatou) with koans, the common denominator that makes them both zazen is that the zen-samadhi in the practice is not a concentration on an object but a themeless or formless focus on the focal point of awareness itself without the externalization of an object of form or thought used to act as a mediated object of awareness. Though “just sitting” zazen may start with concentration techniques such as focused breath counting or breath awareness and “koan inquiry” zazen may start with focused awareness of the focal point of the koan (e.g., a huatou such as “What is it?” or “Who hears?” or “Mu”) neither method of zazen becomes real zen-samadhi until the awareness is “turned around” from reaching out to objects to “focus” on the true suchness of awareness itself.

Another acceptable translation is “contemplation” in the sense of considering, observing, or noticing with steady attention. In Christian terminology contemplation can mean the state of mystical awareness of God’s being or the Godhead, which in Buddhist terminology would mean the direct awareness of the ground of being, that is, the Dharmakaya of the Tathagata.

From the etymological root of samadhi meaning “putting together,” “to join,” and “to combine,” other valid translations of samadhi are “union”, “unification”, and “absorbtion” in which all discriminations are joined or combined into a realization of the great non-dual harmony of true suchness.

Essentially, samadhi is the inherent state of steady or unperturbed awareness of one’s true nature. In the Platform Sutra Huineng describes zen-samadhi (i.e., the samadhi of meditation) in this way:

Learned and virtuous ones, what is called zen-samadhi (dhyana-samadhi)? Outwardly, to be free from characteristics is doing zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is doing samadhi. Outwardly, if one attaches to characteristics, inwardly, the heart-mind is immediately perturbed. Outwardly, if one is free from characteristics, the heart-mind is immediately not perturbed. The root nature by itself is pure, by itself is samadhi. Only by seeing conditions and thinking about conditions is one immediately perturbed. If someone sees various conditions and the heart-mind is not perturbed, this is real samadhi. Learned and virtuous ones, outwardly, to be free from characteristics is immediately zen. Inwardly, to not be perturbed is immediately samadhi. Outwardly, zen, inwardly, samadhi, this is doing zen-samadhi.

The Parable of the Lamp

In the Zen lineage of the Mahayana, the Three Trainings (or Threefold Learning, i.e., sila, samadhi, and prajna) are presented in the Parable of the Lamp using the ancient form of a lamp made up of a dish of oil with a lighted wick resting at the edge. The resting place of the table (or floor) is the body, the dish is the conscious mind, the oil is sila (moral conduct), the wick is samadhi (unperturbed contemplation), and the flame is prajna (intuitive wisdom). That which is called a "lamp" does not exist without all of the parts present and functioning. If there is no oil, then the wick is dry and the flame won't stay lit. If there is no wick, then there is nothing for the flame to be centered upon and anchored to. If there is no flame, then it is not actually a lamp but just a bowl of oil with a piece of string in it. The wick of samadhi does not become a true wick until it is lit with the flame of prajna, and the flame has no ability to combust until it has a wick through which to draw oil.

Of course metaphors can only be taken so far, but in line with this mutual identity of wick and flame, that is, the physical lamp and it's light, Huineng taught in Chapter 4 of the Platform Sutra that samadhi and prajna are essentially not different:

"Learned and virtuous ones, In this Dharma door of ours samadhi and prajna are considered to be the root. Great assembly, do not be confused. The words “samadhi” and “prajna” are different, but samadhi and prajna are one substance and are not two. Samadhi is the substance of prajna; prajna is the function of samadhi. Immediately at the time of prajna, samadhi is in prajna. Immediately at the time of samadhi, prajna is in samadhi. If one knows this meaning, then samadhi and prajna are equally learned. You various people who study the Way, do not say, 'First samadhi, then comes prajna,' or 'First prajna, then comes samadhi,' to separate them. Those with this view make the Dharma have the characteristic of duality."

3/11/10 ADDENDUM:

Having begun with Hakuin's mention of zen-samadhi and then gone back to Huineng speaking about zen-samadhi, let us go further back to Bodhidharma, the man who brought the Ekayana Zen lineage to China. In the treatise titled "Great Master Dharma's Discourse on the Nature of Awakening" (達磨大師悟性論) Bodhidharma discusses zazen and zen-samadhi in what appears to be a direct foundation for Huineng's teaching. Here's the passage:
If a person knows that the six roots (i.e., 6 sense organs) are not real and the five accumulations (skandhas) are provisional names and that always to go seeking it in the body is necessarily to dwell without samadhi, then one should know that such a person expounds the words of the Buddha. A sutra says, "A home in the cave of the five accumulations is called the courtyard of zen. When the inner illumination is opened and unbound, then the gate of the Great Vehicle could not be brighter!"
` Not recollecting all things (sarvadharma), therefore, is called doing zen-samadhi. If someone understands these words, then walking, standing, sitting, and lying down are all zen-samadhi. Knowing the mind is empty is called the act of seeing Buddha. What is considered the reason? For all Buddhas in the 10 directions, in every consideration there is no mind. Not seeing in the mind, is called the act of seeing Buddha.
To unstingily renounce the body is called Great Charity (Skt. mahadana). The samadhi of detaching from the various activities is called Great Sitting Meditation (J. dai zazen). Because why? Worldly people are singly directed toward activities, and the Small Vehicle is singly directed toward samadhi. Namely, to pass beyond the worldly people and the sitting meditation (zazen) of the Small Vehicle is called the Great Sitting Meditation. If those who act with this realization, in all the various appearances, do not seek to release themselves and, in all the various illnesses, do not cure their own errors, then this is entirely the power of Great Zen-Samadhi.

So, as taught by Bodhidharma, Huineng, and Hakuin, the realization of zen is zen-samadhi. Everything that zen teachers have to say is nothing more than the great tapestry of brocade used to guide students to the realization of zen-samadhi.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Case 95 Baofu Drinks Tea

Here's my most recent translation.

95 Baofu Drinks Tea

[Yuanwu’s] Appended pointer says:

Where there is a Buddha do not get there and stop; to stop manifests a life of horns on the head. Where there is no Buddha, quickly run by; if you do not run by, the grass is ten feet deep. If you are abundantly upright, clear and all naked, red and all washed, with external affairs being without machinations, and the external being without affairs, you do not escape sticking by the stump waiting for a rabbit.
Just say, altogether, is treading the living walk not like this or is it like this? A test is raised for examination:


There was a time Changqing said, “I would rather there be talk about arhats having the three poisons; don’t talk about the Tathagata having two kinds of language. I don’t say the Tathagata is without language, only is without two types of language.”
Baofu said, “How do you make it alive to be the Tathagata’s language?”
Qing said “A deaf person struggles to be able to hear it.”
Baofu said, “I know for sure you are facing towards the way of the secondary head.”
Qing said, “How do you make it alive to be the Tathagata’s language?”
Baofu said, “Go drink tea.”

[Xuedou's] Ode says:

Oh, the head! Primary. Secondary.
A resting dragon does not reflect on the still water.
Having the moon without a place, the waves settle.
Having a place, the billows rise up without a wind.
Zen traveler Leng, Zen traveler Leng!
In the third month at the Dragon Gate of Yu, he incurred a spot on the forehead.

[My Comments:
Changqing Huileng (854-932) and Baofu Congzhan (d. 928) were both disciples of Xuefeng Yicun. It is said in the Zen records that “Baofu often inquired of his Dharma brother, Changqing Huileng, concerning ancient and current expedient methods of teaching.”

As Yuanwu’s pointer implies this koan is about the three levels of teaching in Zen. Yuanwu designates the three levels as (1) where there is a Buddha, (2) where there is no Buddha, and (3) the pure naked state without any outside entanglements.
Baizhang Huaihai (Pai-chang Huai-hai, Hyakujo Ekai) (720-814) taught the three steps of the teaching this way:
The words of the teachings all have three successive steps: the elementary, the intermediate, and the final good. At first it is just necessary to teach them to create a good state of mind. In the intermediate stage, they break through the good mind. The last is finally called really good—‘A bodhisattva is not a bodhisattva; this is called a bodhisattva. the truth is not a truth, yet is not other than truth.’ Everything is like this. Yet if you teach only one stage, you will cause sentient beings to go to hell; if all three stages are taught at once, they will enter hell by themselves. This is not the business of a teacher. (Thomas Clearly translation)

The first step then is the teaching “there is a Buddha”. This is the elementary step of dwelling in the good that affirms and teaches using positive metaphors, but staying in this stage is still living under the duality of good and bad and is thus a life with horns on the head. The intermediate step of not dwelling in the good is taught by negative metaphor such as the teaching of “there is no Buddha” to lead the student to transcend the former duality. However, to dwell in this stage is to allow the grasses of confusion caused by attachment to emptiness to grow. In the third stage, the transcendent unified synthesis of the first two stages is without even the conception “not dwelling.” Having no conceptions about Buddha or no Buddha, it is called being pure, naked, and completely washed. Though this third stage can be said to be the first stage of Zen, having a conception of being naked and clear is still a last attachment. The fruition of Zen is to go beyond the three stages, and this realization is the meaning of this koan.

“the Tathagata having two kinds of language” In most Mahayana Buddhism other than Zen, such as Tiantai (Tendai) and Pure Land, it is said that Buddha speaks two types of truths: the relative and the absolute, or the conventional and the genuine. Another way of saying this is that Buddha speaks in the two languages of affirmation or positive metaphor and negation or prohibitive words of negative metaphor. The relative or conventional language of positive metaphors affirms the Dharma as a good: that there is practice, that there is realization, that the mind itself is Buddha. The absolute truth uses the language of negative metaphor: there is no practice, no realization, no mind, and no Buddha.

“The Tatahagata is without two types of language”. From the Zen point of view, the two types of language correspond to the elementary and intermediate steps of the teaching and do not reach the third step that simultaneously synthesizes and goes beyond these two steps to speak the bare naked language of the nondual, beyond assertion and denial. Tathagata Zen speaks the nondual language of the Tathataga.

“How do you make it alive?” This is a Zen idiom that refers to using language in an alive manner and not in a dead manner. Baizhang Huaihai instructed, “In reading sutras and studying the teachings, if you do not understand their living words and dead words, you will certainly not penetrate the meanings and expressions therein." Asking “How do you make it alive?” is synonymous with asking for “turning words” that turn the mind around from externality and dualism to realize the nondual.

“A deaf person struggles to be able to hear.” This is a double entendre pun as the term “deaf” (聾) is also used in Mahayana (Great Vehicle) jargon as a depreciative term for a sravaka, a disciple of the Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle). In the frame of reference of the three vehicles of Buddhism, the people of the three vehicles are termed 聾, 緣, and 菩, that is, śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas. So, when asked about the language of the Tathagata, Changqing's comment is also saying the disciples (sravakas) of the lesser vehicle struggle to be able to hear it, meaning they only hear the spoken words and are deaf to the meaning. He is thus pointing to one of the primary foundational issues of the Mahayana that says all beings are Buddha by nature and all things (dharmas) preach the Dharma, so there is no need to struggle or strive to hear the language of Suchness because whatever we hear is that language once we know the true Tathagata.
Changqing is being slippery and cutesy. When asked to make the nondual language ot the Tatagata come alive, he avoids both the affirmative statement about what it is and the negative statement about what it is not. In the context of Zen's three levels of teaching, Changqing is attempting to speak from the position of the third stage of being "naked and bare” by not asserting or denying any conception about it, while at the same time pointing to it by saying those who are not of the Mahayana struggle to hear it.

“facing towards the way of the secondary head.” Baofu is correcting Changqing because Changqing’s response still has the odor of attachment to the conception of not having a conception of not dwelling. “The Way of the secondary head” is the language still within the first or second stages and has not yet realized the nondual, that is, not reached the primary principle of the One Vehicle (Ekayana) as taught by Bodhidharma. By saying a deaf person "struggles," Changqing is implying that he and others in the know do not struggle because they hear the Tathagata’s language everywhere from everything. But the dualities of struggling and not struggling, hearing and not hearing, are still lingering conceptions clinging to Changqing’s words. He’s bragging that he doesn’t objectify the Tathagata’s language, but he is bragging based on pointing to others who do objectify the Tathagata’s language, and so he still has the whiff of “self and other” in his words and has not reached the nondual language of the Tathagata.

“Go drink tea.” Baofu is echoing Chang of Baizhang (not to be confused with Baizhang Huihai his teacher) who had a favorite saying when teaching the assembly,
“Baizhang has three tricks of the trade: ‘to drink tea’, ‘to cherish it’, and ‘to take a rest.’ By intending to discuss it further and to use comparative reasoning one knows you still have not penetrated.”
“To drink tea” is to hear and speak the Tathagata's language in the deepest sense. This tea is never exhausted. Baofu is telling Changqing he doesn't need to stir up waves with his comments about the deaf struggling to hear; it is enough to drink tea with the Tathagata, to cherish the drinking and the tea, and to let the waves rest on their own.

"Zen traveler Leng" This is an informal and comradely way of addressing Changqing Huileng using only his shortened personal name "Leng."

”In the third month at the Dragon Gate of Yu, he incurred a spot on the forehead.” This line uses a pun to eulogize Baofu’s words that Chingqing remained in “the secondary head”, by saying that “Zen traveler Leng”, i.e, Changqing, is bumping his head against the barrier of the nondual Tathagata’s language. The Dragon Gate of Yu is a legendary gate created in the mountains by Emperor Yu over 5,000 years ago for the Yellow River to pass through. The Gate is a narrow passage through the mountains where the river rushes through exceptionally fast. The third month is the month when the river is highest and the water is most turbulent as it passes through the gate, and it is said that if a lowly carp is able to swim upstream and pass through the gate on the third day of the third month it is transformed into a dragon, hence it is called the Dragon Gate. Xuedou is saying “Changqing, you wanted to be a dragon but you just bumped your head and remained a carp.” He is confirming that Baofu was the dragon in the interchange of that koan.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Case 87 Yunmen’s Medicine and Disease

Case 87 Yunmen’s Medicine and Disease

Raised: Yunmen said in teaching the assembly, “’Medicine and disease cure each other.’ The entire great earth is medicine. What particularly is oneself?

Xuedou's Verse:

“The entire great Earth is Medicine.”
From ancient times to the present, how extremely wrong!
Don’t make the cart behind closed doors.
The path through is naturally desolate and empty.
Wrong. Wrong.
Yet, nostrils as far as heaven are also pierced.

Though Yunmen is considered a Dharma heir of Xuefeng, he first studied and came to awakening with Muzhou who (along with Linji) was a student of Huangbo. So Yunmen must have been well acquainted with the teaching of Huangbo’s teacher Baizhang. When Yunmen said to the assembly "Medicine and disease cure each other", he was quoting from The Extensive Record of Baizhang 《百丈廣録》. “Medicine” and “disease” were among the favorite teaching images used by Baizhang; for instance, he said, “Form and emptiness are also examples of medicine and disease curing each other.” Baizhang also said, “Ignorance is father, greed is mother. Self is the disease, yet self is the medicine too.”

Baizhang instructed,
“You must discern the words of the complete teaching and the incomplete teaching; you must discern prohibitive words and nonprohibitive words; you must discern living and dead words; you must discern medicine and disease words; you must discern words of negative and positive metaphor; you must iscern generalizing and particularizing words.”

And Baizhang also said,
“Yet all verbal teachings just cure disease; because the diseases are not the same, the medicines are also not the same. That is why sometimes it is said there is Buddha, and sometimes it is said there is no Buddha. True words cure disease; if the cure manages to heal, then all are true words--if they can’t effectively cure disease, all are false words. True words are false words insofar as they give rise to views; false words are true words insofar as they cut off the delusions of the many beings. Because disease is unreal, there is only unreal medicine to cure it. The words ‘the Buddha appears in the world to carry across the multitude of beings’ are of the nine-part teaching. They are words of the incomplete teaching. Anger and joy, medicine and disease, are all oneself; there is no one else.”

So, Yunmen was teaching the assembly from the true words of Baizhang and then to drive home the point, he distilled Baizhang’s teaching into the turning words of his koan: “What particularly is oneself?”

Yunmen was famous for his one word responses and in Case 87 of the Blue Cliff Record he gave such a response to his own question saying, “Cure” This could also be read as “The Cure” or “A Cure” if inserting an article. Unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason, the Clearys left this out of their translation. In the Blue Cliff Record, Yuanwu’s comment on this one word of Yunmen’s is, “Cutting up clarity; attacking principle too! The noise is maintained.” ]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Past Life and What the Hell is Heaven?

Okay this is a two-topic post

Topic one: Past Life

Wow! I was watching a new TV show called “Past Life”. Given the measure of programs that are allowed on corporate controlled TV it is a great program. And on Fox of all places.
Replays are available on line for a short while at
Past Life Episode 2

In episode two, “Dead Man Talking”, a woman is distressed by visions of herself dying in strange circumstances and she begins taking drugs to try to stop the pain of her visions. Her younger sister takes her to a past life therapist and she discovers information that relates to the innocence of a man wrongly convicted of murder and on death row facing his impending execution.

"Free at last! Free at last! “

I admit I teared up at the end of both episodes. I'm a sucker for these types of dramatic themes where the person is liberated or finds their true home at the end.

Topic Two: What the Hell is Heaven?

At the climax of episode two of Past Life a song plays that I think expresses a great ecumenical spirit, equally Christ and Buddha. Many of you will have already heard of Brett Dennen, but I had never heard of him until hearing his song in this program.

He seems like such a youngster, but in a YouTugbe interview he says quite maturely that the song is not about a heaven somewhere else but asking why, if we believe in an afterlife like heaven, arn't we trying to create that afterlife here on earth?

I especially like the line “where fact and fiction meet” as a reference to the zero point where the opposites connect in unification.

What a wonderful song!

Listen at Heaven featuring Natalie Merchant



"Heaven" by Brett Dennen

Beyond the rules of religion
The cloth of conviction
Above all the competition
Where fact and fiction meet

There's no color lines, caste, or classes
There's no fooling the masses
Whatever faith you practice
Whatever you believe

Oh, Heaven, Heaven
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?

Throw away your misconceptions
There's no walls around Heaven
There's no codes you gotta know to get in
No minutemen border patrol

You must lose your earthly possession
Leave behind your weapons
You can't buy your salvation
And there is no pot of gold

Mmm Heaven, Heaven
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?

Heaven aint got no prisons
No government, no business
No banks or politicians
No armies and no police

Castles and cathedrals crumble
Pyramids and pipelines tumble
The failure keeps you humble
And leads us closer to peace

Oh, Heaven, Heaven
What the hell is Heaven?
Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?

Is there a home for the homeless?
Is there hope for the hopeless?