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© Nanabozho (the Great Hare)
This page updated May 15, 2003


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I'm on various discussion lists on the Internet. There are times when I seriously wonder what for, 'cause the participants are always the same, and some do tend towards the 'one-track-mindedness'. But sometimes, I get echoes from people who never intervene, the so-called 'lurkers', but who seem to take benefit from the interventions, mine among others. Thus, of late, on a Spanish list, someone did an untimely intervention on Awakening, bringing it back once more to the legendary and the marvelous. So I'd like here to throw a bucket of cold water on that eagerness.

In that intervention indeed, that person started with saying that a monk, once he had got the Illumination, became a roshi. I couldn't therefore restrain myself from quoting Philip Kapleau's, "a roshi is anyone who can convince others to call him that." Nothing to do with awakening. which doesn't mean that those who are given the title are all unworthy of it . After all, it only means 'Old Teacher'. That only means that the cloak doesn't make the monk and that a title does not make the merits.

There was also some delirium about Awakening and the virtues which it gives. To which I replied with that phrase of some Zen teacher (I just can't seem to remember whom), where it's said, "Before one sets forth on the Way, mountains are only mountains and rivers are only rivers. After one has set forth on the Way, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers. Once one has realised the Way, mountains are once more mountains, and rivers rivers."

I'd like to comment this passage. It is very easy, much too easy, to rave on some "Illumination" which would transform its lucky beneficiary into some superman with superpowers and a transcendental and sublime resplendence. I myself could hear people declare that a realised master benefited, just like the Pope, of the doctrinal infallibility. As for myself, just to read the Pali Canon Sutras I know it couldn't be, if even the historical Buddha didn't have that. Even though some might judge this as being sacrilegious.For instance, when the Buddha's aunt and wife insisted that he admit women in the sangha, his initial refusal and the fact that Sariputra succeeded into convincing him to change his mind. You don't change your mind if you're infallible. Just the same, the harshness of his tone when a monk was mistaken about his teachings and had sustained his misunderstandings in public, and his colleagues had convinced him to have the Buddha judge of his ideas, and the Buddha corrected him doesn't fit with our conceptions of the meekness and gentleness of the Buddha who tells his how stupid he is and leaves him obviously annihilated by shame.

But to get back to our comment. I'd say that, indeed, someone who knows not of the Way, be it through ignorance or rejection will see only mountains in mountains and rivers in rivers. That's pretty down to earth and factual, without any imagination. For such people, things are just the way they are, and it doesn't get any further. Materialists see only geological accidents made of various types of minerals, while idealists see them only as concepts. (Obviously, this is an exaggeration. Is anybody that radical? But it's the general idea.

A person who has set forth on the Way might tend to play him/herself movies on Awakening, to expect something else that everyday's dull reality, to screw one's head with magical powers and the sublime and obviously paranormal state which ensue. Those might tend to fantasise and get lost in conjectures about what might happen when the Glorious Day finally comes. They might as much as stray totally with the ambition to be 'recognised' by others and the whole of Humanity, starting with that blessed day. Or yet, might have a relatively correct idea about it, but entirely intellectual, and not at all founded upon the psycho-physical experience.

But those who realise the Way see once more mountains as mountains and rivers as rivers, for what they are, but in a way different to whatever used to be previously. They undestand what they are quite intimately, in the same way that when we understand what it needs to flip a pancake or be successful with omelets, or yet rub your left hand in circles on your belly while tapping the head with the other, or any other such thing where, when you do understand, the only thing that comes to mind is, "Goodness! But of course, that's it!"

So, only one thing left to do: because, if you want to succeed in one of those feats which I just mentioned, you've got to train and train without rest until you succeed. So, just the same, in the Way, you've got to train and train without rest until ytou succeed. To sit, day after dayn without any preocupation about the apparent failure(s), some daily, at times, without ever ever neglecting ethics, since meditation without ethics and wisdom is a waste of time, since wisdom without ethics, is equal to our good old catholic saying "Science without conscience is but the ruin of the soul"; and that the same wisdom without meditation is but a litterary , intellectual wisdom, of dubious efficiency, since it is neither founded upon experience nor intuition; and finally, that ethics without meditation and without wisdom is but a rigid conventional morals, which leads to mental rigidity.



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