Beings are impermanent. Being is permanent. If we accept as conventional Buddhist wisdom that beings are without exception of the nature of impermanence (and its corollary, devoid of the transmigrating soul escape hatch), then we must accept that something (not some thing), some quality of existence of equal weight with impermanence, is of the nature of permanency. We have eliminated all beings from that consideration, so permanency cannot be conflated with a being as entity. It must be the state before the big bang, the empty kalpa. Which are simply big ideas we throw against the wall, hoping something sticks.
Some would argue that we cannot really know that being is permanent, or whether it too arises with a big bang, for example. In which case, nothing would be before the bang. Which would raise the question, then, how did it come into being from non-being? It would constitute a reverse tautology, a logical self-contradiction, would it not, for what is, after all, a being to argue the reality of non-being. It would amount to, as Matsuoka Roshi mentions in passing, analyzing oneself out of existence. Or positing a notion of time in which for the time being, there is being; but at another time-being, there is, or was, no being. Or, further, to argue that there is a time in which there is no time.
On or about my 60th birthday, when I first heard that the Taliban had destroyed the monumental Buddha statues at Bamiyan, my first thought was, “How ignorant!” Not in the sense of the kind of arrogant ignorance (or ignorant arrogance) that leads to religious prejudice, the mere preference for Islamic teachings over those of Buddhism. Not even the ignorance that leads to the interpretation of the statues as “graven images” of a God, apparently prohibited by Islamic teachings. Buddha is not a god, not even in Buddhism.
Taliban Destroy Buddha Image — 2001
The Buddhas of Bamiyan were two 6th century monumental statues of standing buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, situated 230 km (140 mi) northwest of Kabul at an altitude of 2,500 meters (8,202 ft). Built in 507 AD, the larger in 554 AD, the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art.
Before continuing the exegesis of what is meant by monkey mind in Zen, and its intractable condition of being imbedded in what we are coining as the corollary, monkey body, let us consider a couple of comments contributed to the dialog by dear readers of this blog, earnest practitioners and students of Zen, followed by my comments in response:
I wonder if after repentance comes forgiveness? Sort of a Christian notion, except for Christians God forgives. I think I forgive myself and go on. I'm sure not going to ask if that (going on) is "ok" of anybody. Sincere repentance, then we go on. Another patch in the robe to remember not to do it again. I think I'm more patient with people for my practice, less judgemental about them and me. From what I read here, I'm inevitably going to disappoint myself, probably soon, so I'll have more practice in repentance and forgiveness, and going on. So what does Zen say about forgiveness, is it ok to forgive yourself?
I think forgiveness has a place in the Buddhist context, but it is not given the warm and fuzzy or near-magical powers attributed to it by other worldviews, philosophies and religions, reaching its apotheosis in the doctrine of the absolution of one's sins (by a priest) in the Catholic doctrine.In Zen, the effect of forgiving another for transgressions might amount to extracting oneself from the exacerbated karmic entanglement that ensues when one obsesses over the "somebody done me wrong" song. However, we would never arrogate to that act the power to absolve the offending person(s) of the karmic consequences of their actions, though we might intercede to mitigate the social and legal consequences (rejecting the injustice of humankind's "justice").
This is the third—and hopefully last—installment of Monkey Mind—Monkey Body (MMMB). If there are any further comments calling for a response, we will publish an appendix to honor those. In the prior installment, one of the last things I mentioned is this issue of people publishing commentary about meditation who apparently have not done much. Let’s dispose of it early on, so we can get to some of the more interesting and germane aspects of the Zen monkey.
ZEN AS THEY UNDERSTAND IT
It is troubling to me when some leading lights in psychiatry publicly caution against practicing meditation without access to a therapist. It seems a bit self-serving, from the perspective of an admitted amateur. The concern, as I get it, is that individuals may confront negative emotions, suppressed memories, and aggravate latent impulses, which may lead to negative consequences. This may be a legitimate point, for fragile individuals, but I think not for the great majority.
Many of us who have practiced Zen Buddhism beyond the point of all reason (right discipline—effort, mindfulness and meditation); and reached the turning point where one might reasonably expect to notice some significant changes in one's behavior and attitudes (right conduct—speech, action and livelihood); and perhaps overly hopefully, a profound degree of alteration in one's own attitude (right wisdom—view, and thought or understanding); suddenly come to the realization that any such expectations or aspirations have failed to materialize. We find ourselves falling back into the same compulsive and sometimes or somewhat destructive behavior patterns that were part of the complex of syndromes that drove us to seek out the practice in the first place.
This has come up often enough in my own experience and that of members of the Sangha of the Silent Thunder Order, going back literally over decades of dialog and correspondence, and more recently in email and dokusan, that I decided to attempt to address the phenomenon in a more comprehensive manner than usual.