Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
IDYLLS by Sayan De
Monday, August 16, 2010
TALES FROM THE BUDDHIST LORE
BODHIDHARMA CROSSING THE YANGTZE
[Click on picture to enlarge]
Shengguan felt most ashamed, and ran after Bodhidharma to apologize to the latter. But Bodhidharma was long gone. He soon arrived on the banks of the Yangtze. There he found that there was no way to get across the river – no ferryboats, no dinghies, no one in sight. He looked up and down the river bank, and presently saw an old, decrepit lady sitting close to the shore. She had a sheaf of reed piled up next to her. Bodhidharma approached her and said most kindly: "Esteemed Lady, is there something I can do for you?"
The woman smiled and said: "The proper question is what I can do for you."
Bodhidharma became confused. What could this decrepit woman do for him? As if to answer this thought, the woman took a single reed from the sheaf, and offered it to Bodhidharma: "You want to get across the river, and have no way of doing so. Here, take this reed; lay it on water and step on it. It will carry you safely across."
Bodhidharma did exactly as he was told, without any misgivings. As he laid the reed in water, it seemed to swell to a large log. Bodhidharma stood on it. It plowed through water like a swift boat, and delivered him to the other bank. As Bodhidharma stepped off the reed, it changed to a dragonfly, and flew back to the old lady.
Bodhidharma would go forth from here and do the Buddha's work with great distinction, and step right into history.
Now, the monk Shengguan had by now caught up with Bodhidharma. He was standing at a distance as he witnessed this whole phenomenon. He now came to the old lady, and without even speaking to her, took a reed. He floated it on water and stepped on it. Directly he did so, he fell in the river and nearly drowned. Seething with anger, he came to the old lady and said: "What is the meaning of all this?! I saw that you gave the other monk your magic reed. Why did my reed not work?"
The old lady answered: "That monk came to me, said kind words to me, and showed me respect. You, on the other hand, did not even bother to ask me if you could borrow one of my reeds. You simply stole one. You have not learned the Buddha's way of humility. It is you who should apologize to me."
Shengguan saw the light, and profusely apologized. He then left with his head lowered. But on an afterthought, he turned his head to have another look at the lady. She had disappeared. For she was none other than a Bodhisattva, an incarnate of the Buddha himself.
THE MONK AND THE BUDDHA STATUE
[Click on picture to enlarge]
This is also a story of the power of faith. A very old and frail Buddhist monk resolved to a carry a heavy stone statue of the Buddha a great distance through the woods, to install it in a far monastery. Naturally, it was an impossible task for him, but he did it anyway. The story goes that the monk dragged the statue by fits and starts – a few inches at a time. Then at night, when no one was looking, the statue carried the monk great distances.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
"WHAT IS THE QUESTION?"
It seems that the goal of many of these quests was to find one holy man, one guru, who could give you a single thought of some type to become the guiding light of your life. If you went to the holy places like Varanasi or Hardwar and asked around, you would hear about many such gurus of many descriptions. One might live in an inaccessible forest. One might be completely in the state of nature. One might have taken a vow of silence. One may have chosen to remain standing for a year. And so on. So you decided to trek and visit the one that most caught your imagination.
Once you came to the place of your would-be master, it was never clear that he would receive you or speak to you. You might be tested as to how sincere your quest was. But if you were past all these, and were in presence of the man, what did you do then? I understand that you remained silent and let the man take the lead. If he spoke, you listened. If he did not speak, you waited. But if you were truly in luck, an opportunity would present itself somehow for you to ask what you came to ask.
Now comes the important part. There was also an existing protocol for this process. I do not know how that protocol came about or how it got promulgated. But it was very much there. You did not just shoot off questions. You had the opportunity to ask one question. One question. You had better make that one shot count. So you had to formulate the question with great forethought and great cleverness, and then put it to the man. And hope for the best.
So what would you ask? I have heard two formulations of the question that could elicit the 'maximum' answer. One is: What is the way? And the other is: What is the journey? These are both well thought out questions. What do you think? Can you best this formulation? Probably not. Unless of course you wanted to be cute and asked:
What is the question?