Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Burning the Buddha

Americans like to refer to one of the old Zen stories about how a master took a wooden Buddha image, chopped it up, and made a fire, warming himself by its flames. Seeing this, a monk asked, "What are you doing, setting fire to the Buddha?"

The master replied, "Where is Buddha?"

The opposite goes on in America. In America we want to burn the Buddha images to begin with. You see, that monk was stuck on the form. In America, we are antiform, so the pointing goes in another direction. If you're attached to neither existence nor nonexistence, you manifest a sixteen-foot golden Buddha in a pile of rubbish, appearing and disappearing.

John Daido Loori in Essential Zen, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Tensho David Schneider (HarperCollins)

Received as
Daily Dharma from on the 27th of June 2009


And not just in America, also in England and many other places. Perhaps as a rejection of the religion we were brought up with (directly or indirectly) and coming from a cultural situation where religion and it's associated forms
have lost meaning and trust.

Form and formless, internal and external are inseparable. When I saw this, I started shaving on retreat, folding my clothes before sleeping, minding my body as well as my mind. Not everything is always as tidy as it could be but my attention is a little more balanced and not so focussed on the formless at a cost to the form.


Barry said...

Wonderful story about the impact of this teaching on your life. Practice *should* touch our life in concrete ways, I think.

Alice said...

Great post. Thank you! "Appearance-Emptiness" - everything matters!