Thursday, March 23, 2006


This is from the Zen Koans link listed on this blog. It's a koan called Trading Dialogue for Lodging.

Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wondering monk can remain in a Zen temple. If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a temple in the northern part of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together. The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.
A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime teachings. The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the younger one to take his place. "Go and request the dialogue in silence," he cautioned.
So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.
Shortly afterwards the traveler rose and went in to the elder brother and said: "Your young brother is a wonderful fellow. He defeated me."
"Relate the dialogue to me," said the elder one.
"Well," explained the traveler, "first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers, living the harmonious life. Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus he won and so I have no right to remain here." With this, the traveler left.
"Where is that fellow?" asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.
"I understand you won the debate."
"Won nothing. I'm going to beat him up."
"Tell me the subject of the debate," asked the elder one.
"Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes. Then the impolite wretch held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we only have three eyes. So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and that ended it!"

The moral here I believe is that one's opinion or perspective is just that, an opinion. One monk believed that the other was enlightened and the other monk was insulted, but neither man understood what the other was trying to say. Both perspectives were flawed because of "a failure to communicate" (anyone remember Cool Hand Luke?). My perspective doesn't mean much because I am one of 6.5 billion human perspectives on this planet at the moment. One divided by 6.5 billion is essentially zero. LOL!.
I think this is a good story for how communication sometimes works over the internet. Several times I've had misunderstandings with people simply because the point wasn't made in the right way, or it was misread, or the tone of voice was projected incorrectly through the typed words.
I suppose it also means that without a common ground or framework, no dialog can take place.
We each have thousands of different perspectives.

Lets see... 6.5 billion times... say 10 thousand. 65 trillion perspectives in the current population.

Now, how many for all of human history?
once was a man who thought he saw a woman
but the woman hid herself from one eye
while she peered at him with both her eyes
and he hid himself not.

one day the woman came out of hiding
and criticized the man for having only one eye,
she made him feel stupid with her two eyes
and called him names with her lying lips

the next day the man looked in the mirror
he saw that he really had two eyes
and he wondered at the names that she had called him
marvelling at her incompetency of mind.

all things go round and round
whether you have one eye or two
round and round they go out from you
and right back in your face they return to you.
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