Only logged in members can reply and interact with the post.
Join SimilarWorlds for FREE »

The Blue Cliff Record

The Blue Cliff Record is a collection of 100 zen koans. Pretty esoteric stuff for the unwary, like myself....😀 As well as the actual book, I also have a commentary on it, written by a couple of zen masters of yesteryear, this called "Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record".

Each koan is called a case, and I have after quite a few years reached case 70 or so. I have to admit that most of the secrets the Blue Cliff Record holds remain secrets, at least to me. Which can be fairly disappointing, but then again, as Dogen says, "Where we do not understand, [i]there[/i] is our understanding." Which takes a bit of understanding, but I think I'm getting there.

So many seem to understand, presuming that they have it sussed. Not just zen koans, but anything else you care to mention. The meaning of life, the one true way, is there a God. You name it, they have the requisite understanding.

But there is a rich potential in not knowing, in not understanding. I think that when we have it all sussed then we basically imprint our little selves and its concepts and its answers onto each and everything we see, read or touch. We can end up living in an echo chamber, hearing and seeing ourselves coming back at us - all of course commended by whatever God we believe in, who nods and says "Well done, your reward is waiting in the next life, my good and faithful servant." Well, maybe it is, but I seriously doubt it.

Anyway, I waffle. Here is a tiny excerpt from one of the Blue Cliff Record's many cases:-

[i]One letter, seven letters, three or five letters, Investigating ten thousand things that are devoid of substance. In the depth of night, the bright moon sets on the dark sea— Seeking a single dragon’s jewel, I find one gem after another.[/i]

Good stuff, hey?

I'll leave that one with you.

If you cannot afford the very high prices that such books cost then I would recommend a little tome which brings the Blue Cliff Record into the 21st Century (where it was before I wouldn't like to say) with a very upbeat commentary. It is by an Irish guy, Terrance Keenan, and includes some very good abstract art that illuminates the text.

One "case" in Mr Keenan's book touches upon the ramblings found above. "Emperor Wu asks Bodhidharma".

[i]Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma, “What is the first principle of the holy teaching?” Bodhidharma said, “Vast emptiness. Nothing holy therein.” Then he asked, “Who is this before me?” And Bodhidharma replied, “No knowing.” The emperor did not grasp his meaning. Thereupon Bodhidharma crossed the river to another kingdom.

Again, make of that what you will. I'm sure that some text driven worthies, knowing nothing of the [i]Living Word[/i] would soon be able to turn it into a New Religion and therefore, very soon, the Inquistion would follow, with the "true" followers and the heretics.

Bodhidharma was the first Buddhist missionary to China. He went to see the emperor, who boasted to him of all his good deeds. "What merit have I earned" he asked Bodhidharma. "None at all" was the answer. I'm sure many Christians here would concur, with their "faith/grace, not works" mantras.

Anyway, whatever, the sad thing about this story is that after Bodhidharma had moved on (possibly to stare at a wall for nine years) the Emperor became desperate to call him back, to have a few more words. But alas, no. There was no second chance.

Is there any moral to this story? Well, I've always loved the line from the late great Robbie Robertson song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down":-

[i]Just take what you need and leave the rest[/i]

What do you take from the story? Always remembering the very next line:-

[i]But they should never have taken the very best[/i]

How do we ever really know what to take? That it is the best? Just thinking about all that I have written here, it is a good question. And really has no answer.

I think Faith and belief are two totally different things. I think that this is the lesson here, at least for me. Faith [i]lets go[/i], while belief [i]clings[/i]. I think we can feel "justified" by believing things. But that is not Grace.

Well, it's New Years Eve and I'm in MacDonald's with a coffee and a chocolate milkshake. Really busy. Just to finish, another few words from Terrance Keenan's little book (very cheap on Kindle)

[i]Joshu spoke to the assembly, saying, “The real Way is not difficult. Just avoid choices and becoming attached. A single word can induce choice or attachment. A single word can bring clarity. I do not have that clarity.”

A monk asked, “If you do not have that clarity, what do you appreciate?” Joshu replied, “I do not know that either.” “If you don’t know, how can you say you don’t have that clarity?” Joshu replied, “Asking the question was good enough. Now go.”[/i]

Saigyo’s comment:-

[i]In the old city
at the head of Grafton Street
a busker plays his fiddle.
First Brahms, then Bach
and a little Paganini for fun.
Fingers run up and down strings.
Is it the vibrating air,
his skill, or the old melodies
that bring tears to my eyes?
Tell me, I need to know. [/i]

Do we need to know, or do we simply need to listen?

Meister Eckhart:-

[i]Love has no why[/i]

Post Comment