自分の死に時は自分で決める (I Will Decide When It’s Time For Me To Die)

SenseiI got an email the other day from Eiki Yanagimoto, one of Nishijima Roshi’s closest and most longterm Japanese students. In it he said that Nishijima’s daughter had told him about Nishijima’s last words. A doctor or nurse was attempting to put an oxygen mask on him and Nishijima refused it saying, “自分の死に時は自分で決める” (jibun no shinidoki wa jibun de kimeru) or “I will decide when it’s time for me to die.”

Kimeru is one of those funny Japanese words. There are two forms of any Japanese verb (there are more than that but for the purposes of this discussion I’m limiting them to two). One implies that the person saying the verb has volition in the matter and the other does not. Kimaru is a decision that just happens to be made by someone (usually unstated) or by circumstances. But change it to kimeru (as Nishijima Roshi did) and it means, “I decide” with emphasis on I even though no personal pronoun is used in the sentence.

This is such a Nishijima-esque way to go out. It’s so much like him. He was who he was right to the end.

He always said that death was a natural part of life and not to be feared but accepted and even embraced. He also said, “It is better to live as long as possible.” He had no death wish. But he clearly had no real fear of death either.

Hearing this casts a lot of doubt in my mind about the reports that Nsihijima spent his final years in some kind of vegetative state, uncommunicative and dazed. I’ve often speculated that perhaps he decided it was best to spend his final years with his daughter who he had neglected to a certain extent in his pursuit of the Buddhist truth. Yet even while speculating this I doubted that this was so and thought it most likely the rumors of his sorry condition were true. Now I wonder if my speculation was perhaps correct after all.

It also came out that when he died Nishijima Roshi was no longer in good standing with Soto-shu Shumucho, the central offices of the Soto-shu. Apparently he hadn’t been in contact with (which I translate as “paid his dues to”) the organization for a few years and they took him off the roster. The funeral director — most likely a registered Soto-shu monk — told someone this. That may be why his funeral service and wake will be performed  in his given name, Kazuo Nishijima, rather than in his Buddhist name Gudo Wafu.

I wonder when this expunging took place since my Soto-shu priest ordination happened in 2002 with Nishijima officiating at a registered Soto-shu temple (Tokei-in). Which must mean he had standing with him then. Feh. Who can fathom the workings of bureaucracy?

It’s all further evidence, if you ask me, that institutionalized Buddhism has its collective head so far up its collective ass that there is no hope it will ever have the slightest clue just what it is they are supposedly attempting to uphold and represent in the world. Michel Proulx, another Nishijima dharma heir, said, “It says a lot. If, for them, one’s dedication to Buddhism is marked by the regular payment of dues, I suppose Sensei was right to dissuade us from belonging to that organization.”

A few days after I heard about Nishijima Roshi’s death, the news came that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died of a heroin overdose in his home at age 46. I’m a huge fan of the movie Almost Famous and Hoffman is really good as Lester Bangs. It’s sad to see him go. It’s so confusing too that he died of a heroin overdose. He was an Oscar winning actor, for gosh-sakes!

A webpage called Drinking to Distraction put up  what it called “an open letter I wish I’d sent” to Hoffman saying among other things that, “I wanted to invite you to meditate, to have the experience of sitting with that seemingly solid and immovable discomfort without reacting with drinking or shooting up or even going down the rabbit hole of habitual thoughts. To watch how the pain changes, even if only minutely, from moment to moment. I wanted to tell you that it doesn’t get easier, but it does get better.”

Good advice. Nishijima Roshi lived by it. I try to live by it.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.” I agree. And yet I also agree with Nishijima Roshi who said that we should avoid “wandering around,” meaning that kind of aimlessness that drags our lives down into an abyss of boredom and seeking after fleeting pleasures or numbing ourselves with drugs.

The story from which that Vonnegut quote originates goes like this:

[When Vonnegut tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is we’re here on Earth to fart around.

That’s the kind of farting around that doesn’t violate the often quoted Buddhist dictum that “Life is short so do not waste time.”

Nishijima Roshi farted around with translating Shobogenzo and farted around with a bunch of weirdos like me who wanted to do Zen practice but couldn’t abide by the hierarchies and institutions that usually surround it. And when it was time for him to die he died in his own way.

*   *   *

My farting around in this life depends upon your kind donations. Thank you very much!

• February 18-23 I’ll be hosting a retreat with Kazuaki Tanahashi  at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico

You can see the documentary about me,  Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen, at the following locations (I’ll be at all screenings):

• March 11, 2014 Ithaca, NY

• March 15, 2014 Brooklyn, NY

• April 20, 2014 San Francisco, CA

60 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm | |

    Reminds me of how Charlotte Joko Beck died.

  2. boubi
    boubi February 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm | |

    Kimaru- kimeru ???

    The first sounds as the passive form, while the second sounds as infinitive/indicative … or not?

    1. leoboiko
      leoboiko February 5, 2014 at 6:23 am | |

      No, not quite. The effect is a bit similar to English “I decided it” vs. “it’s decided”, but the grammar works differently than a passive. Kimeru is a transitive verb (it takes a direct object, like “I support gay marriage“); whereas kimaru is its intransitive equivalent (it takes no objects, like “I slept”).

      Many verbs in English can be used either transitively (“I ate bread“) or intransitively (“Thanks, but I already ate”), with no change in the verb form. Archaic Japanese probably distinguished the two cases with different forms, but that’s long gone. This old system left as a remnant some pairs of verbs, like kimeru vs. kimaru, where one is transitive and the other intransitive.

      1. boubi
        boubi February 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm | |

        Thanks, my japanese is more than rusted, it has already fossilized.

  3. boubi
    boubi February 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm | |

    dearest Brad

    ” It’s so confusing too that he died of a heroin overdose. He was an Oscar winning actor, for gosh-sakes!”

    It’s the same for everybody, Zen Masters, Tea Masters, Bowling Masters , Scratching Masers … we are all people.

    Great (allegedly) masters were drunkards, Oscar wineers are addicts (or similar) .. so what?

    He knew his trade (making fake faces and fake voices) but he hadn’t enough of his life, of his fame so he overdosed.

    So what? do we have to cry because an unsatisfied rich guy died in some rich people place while many more poor ones dye every day in a gutter?

    Let’s wake up !

    1. boubi
      boubi February 3, 2014 at 2:08 pm | |
  4. r72rock
    r72rock February 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm | |

    Lovely article. Those are some powerful last words.

    I hate to hear about all that bureaucracy trouble, but Nishijima seems like he had his head on straight about the whole thing.

    Like I said before, I didn’t know him, but he sounds like he walked his talk. I really admire that. Someone who looked at life head on and faced it. Good advice given from that article that you linked as well.

    And now, I’m going to get back to farting around.

  5. mika
    mika February 3, 2014 at 2:52 pm | |

    Ha, what a way to go. Thank you Brad for sharing this.

  6. adam fisher
    adam fisher February 3, 2014 at 2:57 pm | |

    Lovely rumination. Thanks, Brad.

  7. shade
    shade February 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm | |

    I’ve noticed that often times the people who best serve whatever organization they belong to (religious or otherwise) are often those who don’t quite fit in – who’s status is in question or who even end up being actively expelled, occasionally. I remember something I read about it a Thomas Merton book about this 18th century saint named Benedict Joseph Labre who apparently failed in two different monastic orders and ended up dying on the streets of Rome. The church authorities thought he was cracked in the head at the time, but later on he was canonized (Actually, Thomas Merton was something of a square peg in the church himself, come to think of it)

    I’m not saying Nishijima was a saint – do the Buddhist’s have “saints”? Anyway, I didn’t know the guy. What I mean is, just because someone’s tenure in a given organization was full of frustration doesn’t mean it was fruitless or ill-advised. If Soto has lost it’s way in regard to the dharma, then the first thing it needs is someone willing to run against the grain.

    That’s my piece for now….

    (sidenote: As far as oscar winners dying from drug overdoses, I’m confused by Brad’s confusion. Substance abuse is not uncommon among the talented, famous and successful, and artistic types are especially known for it. In fact, I think Brad pointed this out at one point in Hardcore Zen, re. Elvis and Kurt Cobain.
    But yeah, it’s still a crying shame.)

  8. Ken
    Ken February 3, 2014 at 4:20 pm | |

    Unlike Nishijimi’s apparently conscious approach to death, Philip Seymour Hoffman overdosed accidently. I know of nothing indicating that he intended to kill himself. As such, it has about as much significance as falling down a set of stairs or being accidently run over crossing the street – and if drugs weren’t illegal, he would likely not have had the accident.

  9. Daniel
    Daniel February 4, 2014 at 2:05 am | |

    While I’m really sorry about your loss and the one of others I also wonder why Zen-Masters death always needs something added. It’s like they can’t just die as anyone else…there’s always some extra. My guess is that a lot of that is always added to what really happened once they’re gone. As usual with “heroes”…so let’s be cautious about the stuff that will come up now about Nishijima. And more important ask the question “does it matter” and if so why?

  10. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 4, 2014 at 4:29 am | |

    “farting around…” Hmmnnn. Never thought of it as a kind/or part of locomotion.

    Sitting zazen could be considered a kind of “farting in place.”

    With Respect.

  11. Hungry Ghost
    Hungry Ghost February 4, 2014 at 6:08 am | |

    Junkies overdose for two reasons, the first is on purpose and the second is because the concentration is way stronger than what they’re used to or bad, we’ll probably never know which applies to his particular case. I wouldn’t recommend meditation to a ‘practicing’ drug addict – telling someone to ‘just sit with’ the feelings associated with addiction, withdrawal, or whatever stuff lead to the addiction in the first place is ridiculous.

  12. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 4, 2014 at 6:33 am | |

    This also means, if I understand well, that none of the various ordained students and Dharma heirs are recognised any longer by the Sotoshu.

    Maybe you were too hasty in dissolving the DSI…

  13. Daniel
    Daniel February 4, 2014 at 7:57 am | |

    Michel: who cares about the sotoshu?

  14. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 4, 2014 at 8:28 am | |

    No, I didn’t mean it should be a problem, except maybe for the Japanese heirs, since “belonging” is such an important part of their culture.

    I don’t care at all about the Sotoshu, quite the contrary, as I mentioned in the former post about Sensei’s death.

    In the 12th and 13th centuries, in the South of France developed an “heresy” of Xianity called “Catharism”. It eventually gave rise to a “crusade” against the South and to the creation of the Inquisition.

    My point is that they wanted themselves “pure” (the probable meaning of “cathars”). And they considered that an ordination was valid only if he that gave it was himself pure (they were just as sexists as their opponents). That meant that, when it was discovered that some bishop, 50 years earlier, had not been as “pure” as supposed, all his ordinations were ipso facto invalidated.

    The position of the Catholic Church was then much more (in my view) intelligent, as they considered that it was the sincerity of the ordained that was important.

    Just as I consider that, when taking the precepts, it is your own sincerity that matters, then that an organisation should decide, upon the payment of a fee or not, who is what is for me an utter nonsense and something quite stupid. But, anyway…

  15. navybsn
    navybsn February 4, 2014 at 10:41 am | |

    I decide. Words to live by.

    As far as institutionalized buddhism (or religion in general), the example of paying one’s dues to remain in good standing is just one of the reasons I choose to avoid it. Maybe in buddhism, like many other religions, it’s time to strip it back to the foundation and start over.

    And maybe it is just me, but when someone says “institutionalized” I automatically hear Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies) in my head “all I wanted was a Pepsi. Just one Pepsi. And she wouldn’t give it to me”

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm | |

      Maybe in buddhism, like many other religions, it’s time to strip it back to the foundation and start over.

      A function of religious institutions is to preserve and provide the foundation. Until one is well-versed in a religion, can one know what the foundation is?

      I am not defending all or any particular institutions. Periodic renewal seems to be a part of an inevitable cycle.

      1. navybsn
        navybsn February 4, 2014 at 2:12 pm | |

        The foundation of buddhism is the dharma. Not dues, not elaborate ceremony or ritual, not shaved heads or saffron robes. In the beginning, there was the dharma and at the end that is all there will be. Don’t need to be a scholar to figure that out.

        And I would argue that the function of any religous institution is to concentrate and preserve power, not to preserve the foundation. The institution only stides to preserve the institution.

        1. minkfoot
          minkfoot February 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm | |

          The history of Buddhism has been one of continuous rectifying and refining from misconceptions. Not until people with shaved heads and robes came from Asia, or other people went to Asia to learn from robed shaveheads, did we begin to get an idea of what Dharma is. Perhaps the rectifying is still going on.

          Institutions are quite varied. Brad is certainly part of one, even if it’s not the big bad Sotoshu. Although I agree that there is a tendency to accumulate power, that’s not the only force at work. I don’t think all institutions are negative in their effects.

          Some people might get all the Dharma they need from reading a few books or hearing some talks, but where did those books and talks come from? Personally, I still feel I need much more practice and study with people from institutions before I can say I understand the Dharma, despite many years dancing with it.

          1. minkfoot
            minkfoot February 4, 2014 at 7:41 pm |

            The history of Buddhism in the West, that is.

  16. boubi
    boubi February 4, 2014 at 11:38 am | |

    Brad & Michel you are both Nishijima’s dahrma heirs? But Brad seems “more heir” than the rest.

    How comes? Is Brad lineage holder?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub747pprmJ8

  17. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm | |

    brad has known Nishijima for much longer than I and much more intimately. And also, the fact that Nishijima chose him as his main lineage holder speaks a lot too.

  18. Harlan
    Harlan February 4, 2014 at 1:40 pm | |

    I’m more confused by the end of Nishijima’s life than by Hoffman’s.. I wonder if Nishijima didn’t waste his final years in some kind of pique. This would only be true if he was of sound mind as Brad speculated. Why no contact with his students and public? Hoffman got too close to an edge and fell but Nishijima intentionally cut himself off from the world. To withdraw like he did from his closest associates seems very strange indeed even if he wished to devote himself to his daughter.

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 4, 2014 at 6:27 pm | |

      Only outside looking in but there was a lot of bs going on around the time N checked out/withdrew w/in or around the DSI; and his dau/family were never all on board (as I understand it) with his Zen stuff so moving in w/them he might have (had to) downplay(ed) it. He was v. old, there seemed (again in my completely uninformed other than watching his/this blog) to be some confusion, maybe some cognitive stuff failing w/him. His Nagarjuna book BW helped with was a bone of contention too, in other words, coulda been a lot of things that made him decide to…

  19. Fred
    Fred February 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm | |

    If you are not clinging to this body or mind, does contact with others or the
    past matter?

    The world goes on in its own way without any assistance.

    1. boubi
      boubi February 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm | |

      keep it up dude !

    2. boubi
      boubi February 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm | |

      just don’t cling

      try to klang

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RduPZ2FIZPc

  20. boubi
    boubi February 4, 2014 at 3:39 pm | |

    Michel

    How many dharma heirs and how many lineage holders are they around?

    Usually there is one lineage holder, the others are “licenced teachers” so to speak, aka transmission recipients.

    BTW when you recite your lineage what are the last links?

    http://l1.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/xDQW70Yezq3MsRO79tLwKQ–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7Zmk9ZmlsbDtoPTE4NztweW9mZj0wO3E9NzU7dz02MDA-/http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/ucomics.com/dt140115.gif

  21. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm | |

    Fred, if I mindlessly cling to body will I go blind? I’ve heard that…

    1. boubi
      boubi February 5, 2014 at 3:08 pm | |

      It all depends on which part of your body you cling to.

      It’s proven that clinging onto and sliding back ‘n forth your hanging part, will cause blindness.

      http://img.allposters.com/6/LRG/19/1924/8VO9D00Z.jpg

    2. Fred
      Fred February 6, 2014 at 7:22 pm | |

      Haha, you are born blind and become more blind until you wake up, and
      then there’s no one looking but looking itself.

      1. boubi
        boubi February 7, 2014 at 10:33 am | |

        You’re no more born blind than there is a mirror on which dust settles.

  22. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 5, 2014 at 2:48 am | |

    When I recite my lineage, the last links are
    Butsuzan Zuimyo
    Butsukan Myoukoku
    Butsuan Emyo
    Zuigaku Rempo
    Gudo Wafu.

  23. sri_barence
    sri_barence February 5, 2014 at 3:29 am | |

    Excellent post, and a fine eulogy for Nishijima, I think.

    I don’t have a good sense of how the lineage works in the Korean Chogye school. Zen Master Seung Sahn was the 78th Patriarch in his lineage. He gave Dharma Transmission to several of his students, but I don’t know if any of them are considered to be the 79th Patriarch. I know that the Zen Master at the local Zen center is one of Seung Sahn’s dharma heirs, but that’s about it.

  24. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 5, 2014 at 4:38 am | |

    In that sense (and I add this only to put Brad a bit off :)) Brad would be the 91st Patriarch…

    I’m sure he hates the idea.

  25. boubi
    boubi February 5, 2014 at 5:10 am | |

    Sounds as a end of line to me. His next generation looks as if they are going to learn about “Good Jesus Who Sat Under The Bodhi Tree ” kind of thing in some Sunday school.

    But wasn’t Gudo your own ancestor? You’re not supposed to cite Buradu-san, he is on a lateral line?

    So Buradu-san should be on the morning list only of the ones he gave transmission to (any around?).

    Having received transmission you should, on a legalistic point of view, have your own lineage started too.

    Kind of a pyramid scheme without money.

  26. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 6, 2014 at 2:51 am | |

    Navybsn wrote:
    “And I would argue that the function of any religous institution is to concentrate and preserve power, not to preserve the foundation. The institution only stides to preserve the institution.”

    The Lanka Sutra says somewhere (http://lirs.ru/do/lanka_eng/lanka-chapter-3.htm#chap3)

    “Mahāmati, the Tathagatas do not teach the doctrine that is dependent upon letters. (…). Again, Mahāmati, anyone that discourses on a truth that is dependent on letters is a mere prattler because truth is beyond letters. For this reason, Mahāmati, it is declared in the canonical text by myself and other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that not a letter is uttered or answered by the Tathagatas. For what reason? Because truths are not dependent on letters. It is not that they never declare what is in conformity with meaning; when they declare anything, it is according to the discrimination [of all beings]. If, Mahāmati, the truth is not declared [in words] the scriptures containing all truths will disappear, and when the scriptures disappear there will be no Buddhas, Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas; and when there is no one [to teach], what is to be taught and to whom? ”

    Institutions are useful, but being human things, subject to craving for power. It is for that reason that cooperation is so important. In a cooperative state of mind, “leaders” are not bosses, kings or popes. They are delegates, and must account for their decisions. If we, being members of any organisation, let the “leaders” become our bosses, then it is us who failed, just as people who have a dog and treat it as it were a child get what they deserve when the dog starts bossing them.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 6, 2014 at 6:11 am | |

      Raising puppies and raising children require similar skills. Mainly a steely resolve not to give in to the boundary-testing and lawyerly wiles of either. Consistency is of paramount necessity.

      Perhaps leaders can be trained the same way. Unfortunately, consistency is difficult when we have a multitude of trainers.

    2. boubi
      boubi February 7, 2014 at 10:38 am | |

      WOW !!!!

      Thanks Michoux you’re precious

      “Mahāmati, the Tathagatas do not teach the doctrine that is dependent upon letters. (…). Again, Mahāmati, anyone that discourses on a truth that is dependent on letters is a mere prattler because truth is beyond letters. ”

      “ANYONE THAT DISCOURSES ON A TRUTH THAT IS DEPENDENT ON LETTERS IS A MERE PRATTLER BECAUSE TRUTH IS BEYIOND LETTERS”

      Buradu sensei should put it on the header of the site ….

      http://dilbert.com/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/000000/00000/6000/300/6367/6367.strip.sunday.gif

  27. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 6, 2014 at 9:45 am | |

    “Mahāmati, the Tathagatas do not teach the doctrine that is dependent upon letters. (…). Again, Mahāmati, anyone that discourses on a truth that is dependent on letters is a mere prattler because truth is beyond letters..

    …If, Mahāmati, the truth is not declared [in words] the scriptures containing all truths will disappear, and when the scriptures disappear there will be no Buddhas, Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas; and when there is no one [to teach], what is to be taught and to whom?”

    These are the contradictions that arise when a seemingly-endless extent of finite things is considered as a completed, infinite object. For avoiding contradictions and paradoxes, we can avoid considering infinities as completed things. Either that, or we can accept that in one breath we must say one thing, and in the next the logical opposite, sometimes, as in the passage from the Lanka above.

    One of the things I like about the Pali Canon sermons is the careful footwork by Gautama to stick to the finite as he talks about practice and the notion of “self”. One of the reasons I can’t seem to get to first base reading all the sermons composed after the fact is passages like the one above in Lankavatara, but I know that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and that I will have to go on being amazed at what makes sense to most people and deal with my brain.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 6, 2014 at 10:20 am | |

      Are the inconsistencies in the scriptures a bad thing? They help to keep literalists from dominance.

      As is said, “It’s not a bug, etc.”

  28. esfishdoc
    esfishdoc February 6, 2014 at 11:27 am | |

    I’d never heard of Nishijima Roshi until about 4 weeks ago. I’ve been sitting for only about 3 months and stumbled onto Brad’s books about a month ago. I ordered volume 1 of Master Dogen’s Shobognezo translated by Nishijima on or about the day of his death and then the first time I decide to check out this blog I find he is gone. (the thought just came by about whether or not book sales will increase.. )

    I’ve watched a lot of people die and many only go when they are ready. From the outside they seem to be the best.

    Richard

  29. Fred
    Fred February 6, 2014 at 7:40 pm | |

    Mark the truth is without words. It is the Unknowing or Unselfing.

    But the directions for the self to find its own ending is in words.

    So there is no contradiction.

    So without words this self would not sit balancing on a pillow. Yet emptiness
    itself, the ” actualizing of the fundamental point “, is without words.

  30. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm | |

    You’re right, Fred. sitting on a pillow makes my butt hurt, too. And that’s the truth.

  31. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 6, 2014 at 8:13 pm | |

    Now if I drop body and mind, does my butt still hurt? Yeah, but I don’t know what to call it.

  32. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel February 7, 2014 at 1:08 am | |

    Mark Foote wrote:

    ““Mahāmati, the Tathagatas do not teach the doctrine that is dependent upon letters. (…).

    …If, Mahāmati, the truth is not declared [in words] the scriptures containing all truths will disappear, and when the scriptures disappear there will be no Buddhas, Śrāvakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas; and when there is no one [to teach], what is to be taught and to whom?”

    These are the contradictions that arise when a seemingly-endless extent of finite things is considered as a completed, infinite object. For avoiding contradictions and paradoxes, we can avoid considering infinities as completed things. Either that, or we can accept that in one breath we must say one thing, and in the next the logical opposite, sometimes, as in the passage from the Lanka above.”

    A paradox is NOT a contradiction. It is (literally) “something that goes against received doctrines”. And I don’t see the contradiction between saying that the meaning is more important than the text, and that too strict an adhesion to the text is idiotic, and saying that scriptures must be preserved because they are a vehicle for the transmission of the teachings.

  33. boubi
    boubi February 7, 2014 at 10:39 am | |

    WOW !!!!

    Thanks Michoux you’re precious

    “Mahāmati, the Tathagatas do not teach the doctrine that is dependent upon letters. (…). Again, Mahāmati, anyone that discourses on a truth that is dependent on letters is a mere prattler because truth is beyond letters. ”

    “ANYONE THAT DISCOURSES ON A TRUTH THAT IS DEPENDENT ON LETTERS IS A MERE PRATTLER BECAUSE TRUTH IS BEYIOND LETTERS”

    Buradu sensei should put it on the header of the site ….

    http://dilbert.com/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/000000/00000/6000/300/6367/6367.strip.sunday.gif

  34. lcrane1
    lcrane1 February 7, 2014 at 5:59 pm | |

    A paradox will fight ’till you throw water on them.

  35. jiesen
    jiesen February 11, 2014 at 6:59 am | |

    Going over to all the Buddha-lands and assemblages, the Bodhisattvas
    will listen to the Buddhas, discourse on the nature of all things which are
    like a vision, a dream, an illusion, a reflection, and the lunar vision in
    water, and which have nothing to do with birth-and-death, eternality,
    and extinction;

  36. jiesen
    jiesen February 11, 2014 at 7:04 am | |

    typically, ppl refuse food when they get old and ill and wanting death. i’m quite familiar with it.

    but no one typically says “i decide.”

    but there definitely comes a point when you welcome death. i’ve seen and heard that many many times.

    sometimes patients say to me “don’t get old!” i ask them how…they don’t seem to get the joke…or rather, it’s like i don’t seem to get the point. but that’s my way of smoothing things over until tea time.

  37. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer February 20, 2014 at 7:25 am | |

    It might have been interesting to meet Nishijima Roshi but it is just curiosity, I don’t think I would have gained anything from the experience.

    Whenever I feel the desire to meet some great teacher or another I think of Joko Beck. She felt that seeking a certain great teacher or another was a waste of time. I’m paraphrasing her quote but she said something to the effect that it wasn’t worth your time crossing a room to meet that ideal teacher.

    I believe that I understand what she was getting at, we all have to do the work of practice on our own.

    Sometimes that idea seems really, really lonely.

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