Monthly Archives: January 2015

A Chan Buddhist’s few thoughts for sharing on Rumi’s poem

Two Kinds of Intelligence

 There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,

as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts

from books and from what the teacher says,

collecting information from the traditional sciences

as well as from the new sciences.

Utilizing an ‘outside’ means, “one acquired” as Rumi says, we have tools for viewing ours and others existence. These tools come with hefty burdens, but they are also quite useful. We use them to help us understand we’re troubled. We use them to help us understand the reasons behind why we’re troubled. And we use them to help us understand that we can move away from being troubled. We utilize an outside means to help us move inward to practice. Like using a mirror to see that we have eyes to see with. So from the outside, we move in.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.

You get ranked ahead or behind others

in regard to your competence in retaining

information. You stroll with this intelligence

in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more

marks on your preserving tablets.

And yet, is it ever really enough? Can this intelligence guarantee an end to your troubles and give you an everlasting happiness or equanimity? As a culture it seems for while we have hoped this would be true, and it’s certainly easy to see why we would want to think so. Do well on a test or get a good grade… You get a little boost. Score a better paying or higher prestige job…There’s another little boost. From one little boost to the next we go, but it never really last. The rollercoaster goes up, but eventually, it must come down. This is knowledge.

There is another kind of tablet, one

already completed and preserved inside you.

A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness

in the center of the chest. This other intelligence

does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,

and it doesn’t move from outside to inside

through conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead

from within you, moving out.

We use the outside method to bring the mind to a still state. Stilled, all extraneous activities drop away. Clarity and awareness are the natural functions of the mind. When the mind is still and clear, wisdom is it’s natural state. From inside it moves out. It has always been there. We were just too busy to notice, mostly.

“What is the best path to wisdom?” That may very well depend on where you’re standing. Since everyone’s conditions and capacities vary, what’s needed on the path cultivation also varies. But we could look at this another way. To quote the modern Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, “It is wisdom that seeks for wisdom.” One looks for the path not realizing they are already standing on it. Like being in a forest where floor is so think with ferns you can no longer see the trail. The shade loving ferns shrink back and withdraw from the searing sun of your awareness. You can cultivate methods to better your practice. However, each moment itself, and the awareness thereof, is the best and only path.

Here is complementary article on Chan, this idea of our inner innate wisdom, and how it moves from out to in and from in to out.

Kasey Andrist



Subduing Desires

The dragon-subduing alms bowl and the staff that wards off tigers,

With the jangling of its two metal rings,

Are not outer forms of keeping the precepts,

But rather are holding the Tathagata’s staff and treading his path.

A puzzling stanza, yet the meaning is not difficult to discern. These verses describe how an enlightened person interacts with human beings. A monk’s needs for his daily existence are few and simple. He carries a bowl with which he begs for food, and he carries a staff, which has several functions. It serves as a walking cane; it is held across his shoulders to carry heavy objects; it is used as a measuring rod when he wants to cross a river ─ if he cannot find the bottom with the staff, then he knows not to ford the river at that point. The staff can also be used to ward off animals and predators in the mountains and forests.

At the tip of the staff there are usually a few dangling rings. This stanza speaks of two such rings. The short staff I use during retreat interviews has six rings. Wandering monks shook their staff and jangled the rings as they approached houses, letting people know ahead of time that a monk with a begging bowl was passing through.

In these verses, the bowl and staff have special symbolic meaning, as do the dragon and tiger, which the bowl and staff subdue and tame. First, the dragon and tiger symbolize the practitioner himself. An ordinary human being is filled with powerful energies, desires, ambitions and attachments. Yet, if a practitioner possesses only a staff and bowl, then he has reached a stage where he no longer has many attachments or powerful desires. His ferocious ambitions have been tamed. Subduing the dragon and taming the tiger refer to overcoming the attachment to power which is found within all of us. A practitioner who possesses only a bowl and staff has left behind the desire for power and wealth. He has also left behind his family and friends.

Second, subduing the dragon and taming the tiger refer to the practitioner’s ability to overcome the most powerful human beings, ghosts and deities. In order to accomplish this, he must give up everything. If he still relies on or possesses things, then he cannot subdue or tame anything. Instead, he will be subdued and tamed by that which he relies on. A king may subdue his people, but he relies on his power and army to do so. In fact, it is the king who is subdued by his power. Only the person who relies on nothing subdues everything.

The Sword of Wisdom by Master Sheng Yen (page 136)

Thoughts and an excerpt from Di Zi Gui

In Buddhism, there are numerous references to the importance and benefit of cultivating merit, cultivating a virtuous character in action and thought, and being harmonious with all beings. What is not so common is any form of explanation on how one might go about this. Di Zi Gui, a Confusion text, has been taught in China for almost two millennia. Written as a guide for the conduct of children, it offers valuable suggestions and perspectives on how one might conduct themselves even in a modern world.It covers a full range of conduct in relationships: to our parents, to our siblings, for ourselves in daily life, for ourselves in public, to all of humanity, to our friends, and towards our studies.

Though adults may no longer be small children, they still remain children to their parents and elders, and continue to have peers and juniors. How one conducts themselves, and their awareness of it, remains to be of the upmost importance. To be sure some of it is outdated and some might not be seen as culturally significant. But on the whole, it encourages an awareness in all towards a simpler, more virtuous and harmonious lifestyle. A lifestyle that lays less emphasis on maintaining the image of the self and the fulfillment of the self’s desires, and more on a lifestyle that cultivates a thoughtful character and a holistic attitude.

 As long as we are not bound by the forms, and are not binding others by them, as Buddhists there is much benefit here.
Here are few excerpts:
When my parents call me, I will answer them right away.
When they ask me to do something, I will do it quickly.
When my parents instruct me, I will listen respectfully.
When my parents reproach me, I will obey and accept their scolding.
I will try hard to change and improve myself, to start anew.

A matter might be trivial, but if it is wrong to do it or unfair to another person, I must not do it thinking it will bear little or no consequence.
If I do, I am not being a dutiful child because my parents would not want to see me doing things that are irrational or illegal.

When I have loving parents, it is not difficult to be dutiful to them.
But if I can be dutiful to parents that hate me, only then will I meet the standards of the saints and sages for being a dutiful child.

When my parents do wrong, I will urge them to change.
I will do it with a kind facial expression and a warm gentle voice.

When I am careful with words and hold back hurtful comments, my feelings of anger naturally die out.
When I realize that time is passing me by and cannot be turned back, and that I am getting older year by year, I will especially treasure the present moment.
I will always walk composed, with light and even steps.
Rather than talking too much, it is better to speak less.
I will speak only the truth, I will not twist the facts.
When I see others do wrong, I must immediately reflect upon myself.
If I am a very capable person, I should use my capabilities for the benefit of others.
Other people’s competence should never be slandered.
If I do not actively practice what I have learned, but continue to study on the surface, even though my knowledge is increasing, it is only superficial. What kind of person will I be?

-by Kasey