September 04, 2009

Koans and Travels

As we'd been speaking at Kannon-do about koan Mu, the first koan, I spoke about the second koan on Wednesday evening. The first koan is Emptiness. The second is that we are subject to causality. We cannot just do anything we want, and if we were truly realized in Emptiness, there would be no question about ethical action. We would simply act ethically, morally, in all our interactions because it would not be in our capacity to knowingly harm.

We've only to look in the news right now to see that many people get to favorable positions in government only to discover that they are not free to behave as they wish. We h
ave standard rules of behavior that we follow in society and we are bound by them because they are guidelines for fair treatment of others. There are consequences for whatever we do. If the butterflies in the eastern hemisphere flap their wings, the eastern hemisphere experiences wind.

I said I thought that the second koan ought to be the first koan. We ought have some development in understanding right behavior before we venture into the experience of the first koan. Tibetan Buddhism, so far as I understand, does their developmental practice in this way. First they study and understand the nature of Buddha's teachings, and later after many years of study, they venture into experience. Zen practice begins with experience and later goes toward study. Perhaps this was all right in cultures that have strong behavioral pressures in cultures such as China, Korea, and Japan. We have few social pressures in America and perhaps it is this that has given rise to misunderstandings about what we can and ought not do. It's not so easy to survive a scandal while living in Japan as one can in the U.S. When Asian teachers come to the U.S. they misread the culture and think anything is okay. This is a great misunderstanding of the Buddha's teachings. We are not free to forget the Precepts, and actually, living the Precepts fully is complete freedom.

We are subject to causality. There are no actions we can take that do not have repercus
sions. For every action there is a reaction. So, the second koan is to fully realize this and to integrate it completely with koan Mu, Emptiness, and understand the Buddha's awakening as one of interrelated activity and relatedness to all beings, past, present, and future.

So, at the same time I was giving the talk at Kannon-do, some family were visiting from the east coast and points north. We went to the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum now known as the Cantor Center for Visual Arts. Years ago I worked at Stanford. An Australian researcher had been offered a position in one of the labs and nearly turned it down because he thought he didn't want to work at a junior college. Someone explained to him about Leland Stanford Jr. and the meaning of Stanford University. Needless to say, he accepted the position.

The museum is wonderful. I was thrilled to see a whole wall of Robert Motherwell collages, although not my favorite works by Motherwell. Nevertheless, ones to be studied and appreciated. Motherwell is an alumnus of the School of Philosophy at Stanford. I was also delighted to see several large Diebenkorn paintings. And, the largest collection they have is naturally the Rodin collection, the largest outside of Paris. Always excellent to take 5 or 6 of them and look closely. If you try to take and study all the Rodin's at once, you'll be overwhelmed as there are three large rooms devoted to his sculpture.

The weather remains golden and dependably fair.