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Not a Koan curriculum

Discussion of other spiritual or religious traditions with Zen in mind.

Not a Koan curriculum

Postby flutemaker on Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:15 pm

I'd like to start a discussion featuring selected Sufi educational stories, and to inquire how forum members see them related to their life-practice. Having just finished an uninterrupted 150 minutes sit (well, of course changing legs several times) followed by 30 minutes of rest in the "corpse-posture", the first story somehow is already wanting me to post it here. As the sit was caused by a profound desire to have a "rest" (what sort of rest and from what exactly doesn't really matter). Sorry in advance if the formatting will be imperfect. The next post will contain it. Discussion is welcome.
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby flutemaker on Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:28 pm

One day a man came to the great teacher Bahaudin. He asked for help in his problems, and guidance on the path of the Teaching.

Bahaudin told him to abandon spiritual studies, and to leave his court at once.

A kind hearted visitor began to remonstrate with Bahaudin.

"You shall have a demonstration." said the sage. At that moment a bird flew into the room, darting hither and thither, not knowing where to go in order to escape.

The Sufi waited until the bird settled near the only open window of the chamber, and then suddenly clapped his hands.

Alarmed, the bird flew straight through the opening of the window, to freedom.

"To him that sound must have been something of a shock, even an affront, do you not agree?" said Bahaudin.


Taken from "The Way of the Sufi" by Idres Shah
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby flutemaker on Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:45 pm

I want to include another story named The Increasing of Necessity. Taken from a book by Idries Shah, the book is "Tales of the Dervishes". A brief comment [rather a footnote] by Idries Shah is included below the story.

story wrote:The Increasing of Necessity

The tyrannical ruler of Turkestan was listening to the tales of a dervish one evening, when he bethought himself of asking about Khidr.

“Khidr,” said the dervish, “comes in response to need. Seize his coat when he appears, and all-knowledge is yours.”

“Can this happen to anyone?” asked the king.

“Anyone capable,” said the dervish.

“Who more ‘capable’ than I?” thought the king, and he published a proclamation:

“He who presents to me the Invisible Khidr, the Great Protector of Men, him shall I enrich.”

baba-sheikh-faridA poor old man by the name of Bakhtiar Baba, hearing this proclamation cried by the heralds, formed an idea. He said to his wife:

“I have a plan. We shall soon be rich, but a little later I shall have to die. But this does not matter for our riches will leave you well provided for.”

Then Bakhtiar went before the king and told him that he would find Khidr within forty days, if the king would give him a thousand pieces of gold. “If you find Khidr,” said the king, “You shall have ten times this thousand pieces of gold. If you do not, you will die, executed on this very spot as a warning to those who trifle with kings.”

Bakhtiar accepted the conditions. He returned home and gave the money to his wife, as a provision for the rest of her life. The rest of the forty days he spent in contemplation, preparing himself for the other life.

On the fortieth day he went before the king. “Your Majesty,” he said, “your greed caused you to think that money would produce Khidr. But Khidr, as it is related, does not appear in response to something given from a position of greed.”

The king was furious: “Wretch, you have forfeited your life: who are you to trifle with the aspirations of a king?”

Bakhtiar, said: “Legend has it that any man may meet Khidr, but the meeting will be fruitful only in so far as that mans’ intentions are correct. Khidr, they say, would visit you to the extent and for the period that you were worth his while being visited. This is something over which neither you nor I have any control.”

“Enough of this wrangling,” said the king, “for it will not prolong your life. It only remains to ask the ministers assembled here for their advice upon the best way to put you to death.”

He turned to First Wasir and said: “How shall this man die?”wazir

The First Wazir said, “Roast him alive as a warning.”

The Second Wazir, speaking in order of precedence, said: “Dismember him limb from limb.”

The Third Wazir said: Provide him with the necessities of life, instead of forcing him to cheat in order to provide for his family.”

While this discussion was going on, an ancient sage had walked into the assembly hall. As soon as the Third Wazir had spoken, the sage said: “Every man opines in accordance with his permanent hidden prejudices.”

“What do you mean?” asked the king.

“I mean, that the First Wazir was originally a baker, so he speaks in terms of roasting. The Second Wazir used to be a butcher, so he talks about dismemberment. The Third Wazir, having made a study of statecraft, sees the origin of the matter we are discussing.

“Note two things. First, that Khidr appears and serves each man in accordance with that man’s ability to profit by his coming. Second, that this man, Bakhtiar, whom I name Baba in token of his sacrifices, was driven by despair to do what he did. He increased his necessity and accordingly made me appear to you.”

As they watched, the ancient sage melted before their eyes. Trying to do what Khidr directed, the king gave a permanent allowance to Bakhtiar. The First Two Wazirs were dismissed, and the thousand pieces of gold were returned to the royal treasury by Bakhtiar Baba and his wife.

How the king was able to see Khidr again, and what transpired between them is in the story of the story of the story of the Unseen World.


footnote wrote:Bakhtiar Baba is said to have been a Sufi sage who lived a humble and unremarkable life in Khorasan until the events described above.

This tale, attributed also to many other Sufi sheikhs, illustrates the concept of the entwining of human aspiration with another range of being. Khidr is the link between these two spheres.

The title is taken from Jalaludin Rumi’s famous poem: “New organs of perception come into being as a result of necessity. Therefore, O man, increase your necessity, so that you may increase your perception.”
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby organizational on Wed Apr 26, 2017 9:10 pm

Han-shan Is The Cure For Warts
by James P. Lenfestey

My job was eating me night and day,
my wife threatening to leave, taking
even the stroller and the quilt.
A family of warts blossomed on my thumb
so big I introduced them to tellers and clerks.
Then I bumped into Han-shan in the bookstore,
one hundred poems so small I read them all.
We moved to a new place.My wife
smiles out on sidewalks where children ride.
I work in a room so quiet I can hear my heartbeat.
My warts are gone, no marks, no scars.



posted by Carol on Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:39 pm
Re: Poetry - post poems that move you
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:50 am

.
My Sufi teacher was Shahabuddin Less, a great American Sufi Sheikh in New York City.

I also knew Wali-Ali, Shahabuddin's 'cross-country colleague from the West Coast, USA. And of course Pir Vilayat, of upstate New York (New Lebanon, NY). And his young (in those days... ) little son (now an established Sufi teacher himself).

These people were within the tradition of The Sufi Order In The West, under original founding by Hazrat Inayat Khan.

I never became a mureed (sp?) formally, but danced, attended Zikr (Dhikr), and 3-day and 5-day meditation retreats. My then-teacher Shahabuddin claimed he was "close to the spirit of Zen Buddhism", and so ran his retreats like sesshin.

I was the luckiest fellow to have this preparation (1973-1975) before I met my Ch'an master in 1979.

Sufis are "just alright" with me. :lol2:

--Joe

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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby organizational on Thu Apr 27, 2017 1:35 pm

flutemaker

You may want to read:

Surah Al-Waki'ah - Quran

http://sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/Quran/Quran.php?id=56
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby flutemaker on Thu Apr 27, 2017 4:34 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Sufis are "just alright" with me.

I wanted to mean, can you recall any real-life situation wherein such things like "The Increasing of Necessity" or a number of others (there are quite a lot showing in the stories) could apply? Like when crossing (swimming across) a river -- going beyond the point of no-return? Intentionally, I mean. Or climbing a rock. Or traveling across a number of countries on one-way ticket only. Or starting anything when the conditions obviously seem unfavorable (and they do change in the course of your action)?
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:28 am

FM,

flutemaker wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote:Sufis are "just alright" with me.

I wanted to mean, can you recall any real-life situation wherein such things like "The Increasing of Necessity" or a number of others (there are quite a lot showing in the stories) could apply? Like when crossing (swimming across) a river -- going beyond the point of no-return? Intentionally, I mean. Or climbing a rock. Or traveling across a number of countries on one-way ticket only. Or starting anything when the conditions obviously seem unfavorable (and they do change in the course of your action)?

Well, I suppose you must have some quite personal reason for asking such a question, and in the context of the Sufi story, with the input toward the theme by the famous poet Rumi (whom it seems we both admire... ).

Yes. The "increasing of necessities" in my life in the past 10 months has opened and re-opened some perceptions, as Rumi values. The theme and history for me relates to serious health issues. I hope now that there will be improvement, because a new diagnosis has just been made. The previous diagnosis and course of treatment had been entirely, completely, totally, and exactly wrong. So, there's been no progress toward healing. But this has opened in me much compassion for others similarly -- and differently -- afflicted, and has led to the deepening and broadening of medical knowledge in me, as well (much more than I would have learned, had it not been for ..."necessity").

If necessity draws you toward a Zen Buddhist teacher and sangha, I hope you may be similarly made able to exert stubbornly and successfully so that you may present yourself anywhere, and attend to communal practice with those good influences (causes/conditions), those people, all One.

best,

--Joe
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby lobster on Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:31 am

flutemaker wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote:Sufis are "just alright" with me.

I wanted to mean, can you recall any real-life situation wherein such things like "The Increasing of Necessity" or a number of others (there are quite a lot showing in the stories) could apply? Like when crossing (swimming across) a river -- going beyond the point of no-return? Intentionally, I mean. Or climbing a rock. Or traveling across a number of countries on one-way ticket only. Or starting anything when the conditions obviously seem unfavorable (and they do change in the course of your action)?


Do you mean as in getting something out as opposed to putting something in or something else?

Do you want an Islamic Koran Koan knot story?
https://web.archive.org/web/20040808214 ... n/friends/

Some sort of alchemy?
http://web.archive.org/web/200406301802 ... n/key.html

What is the story you are seeking to be a part of?
https://web.archive.org/web/20040815131 ... rg:80/KIT/
http://web.archive.org/web/200410100736 ... ason/deep/
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby partofit22 on Fri Apr 28, 2017 1:44 pm

I jumped onto the back of a motorcycle belonging to a man I didn't know and rode with him for four years- The experience was a gift that continues to give, it was an endless lesson on paying attention- Not that I did- But when I did it was immense and shifted my perception/perspective often- One day it took snakes, hundreds of them- It was a beautiful, super hot and humid day- The kind of day that's so hot you are able to slow down enough to appreciate the moment- Or so you think, or thought, when while walking along the railroad tracks are suddenly awakened by snakes, far as the eye can see, slithering away, across the stones where they were sunning themselves on such a beautiful day-

Image
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby partofit22 on Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:00 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:FM,

flutemaker wrote:
desert_woodworker wrote:Sufis are "just alright" with me.

I wanted to mean, can you recall any real-life situation wherein such things like "The Increasing of Necessity" or a number of others (there are quite a lot showing in the stories) could apply? Like when crossing (swimming across) a river -- going beyond the point of no-return? Intentionally, I mean. Or climbing a rock. Or traveling across a number of countries on one-way ticket only. Or starting anything when the conditions obviously seem unfavorable (and they do change in the course of your action)?

Well, I suppose you must have some quite personal reason for asking such a question, and in the context of the Sufi story, with the input toward the theme by the famous poet Rumi (whom it seems we both admire... ).

Yes. The "increasing of necessities" in my life in the past 10 months has opened and re-opened some perceptions, as Rumi values. The theme and history for me relates to serious health issues. I hope now that there will be improvement, because a new diagnosis has just been made. The previous diagnosis and course of treatment had been entirely, completely, totally, and exactly wrong. So, there's been no progress toward healing. But this has opened in me much compassion for others similarly -- and differently -- afflicted, and has led to the deepening and broadening of medical knowledge in me, as well (much more than I would have learned, had it not been for ..."necessity").

If necessity draws you toward a Zen Buddhist teacher and sangha, I hope you may be similarly made able to exert stubbornly and successfully so that you may present yourself anywhere, and attend to communal practice with those good influences (causes/conditions), those people, all One.

best,

--Joe


Many of us can relate to aging, to health issues- The comedian Robert Klein said something like it's difficult to tell if the pain you experience as you age is normal or if you should be calling the authorities- :) Funny, funny man-
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:19 pm

p., Teresa,

Well, at least we know it won't be fatal, 'cuz our birth certificate has no expiration date on it.

Breathe easy.

--Joe
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:31 pm

p.,

partofit22 wrote:I jumped onto the back of a motorcycle

BTW, heard that the novelist Rob't Pirsig passed away, other day. I think he was 88.

I think his most renowned book concerned Zen Buddhism not at all, and was mostly an example of mental-illness talking, instead (but Kerouac's DHARMA BUMS did, at least a little). What's in a name? Not much. And, yes, "never judge a book by its cover". Requiescat in pacem.

The Pirsig book was rejected by 100 publishers until one took a chance, or took the bait. Funny, same story with Kerouac's!

Kerouac carted his book around to many publishers, but they all laughed in his face. Allen Ginsberg shopped it around for his friend Jack after that, and one finally "bit" (I think that too was after 100 rejections). The manuscript was typed on one continuous roll of yellow Teletype paper, not on sheets of paper. And, there was only one copy. Kerouac had typed it in two or three days, high on dexedrine and marijuana. He was an expert typist, and could manage upwards of 80 words a minute (about 100, he claimed). So he didn't want to take time to change sheets of paper, and used a roll instead. That roll must be worth a million bucks, now (to somebody). Fun book!, THE DHARMA BUMS.

I have in addition a Spanish copy, from Madrid: LOS VAGABUNDOS DEL DHARMA.

--Joe
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby macdougdoug on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:32 am

flutemaker wrote:
One day a man came to the great teacher Bahaudin. He asked for help in his problems, and guidance on the path of the Teaching.

Bahaudin told him to abandon spiritual studies, and to leave his court at once.

A kind hearted visitor began to remonstrate with Bahaudin.

"You shall have a demonstration." said the sage. At that moment a bird flew into the room, darting hither and thither, not knowing where to go in order to escape.

The Sufi waited until the bird settled near the only open window of the chamber, and then suddenly clapped his hands.

Alarmed, the bird flew straight through the opening of the window, to freedom.

"To him that sound must have been something of a shock, even an affront, do you not agree?" said Bahaudin.


Taken from "The Way of the Sufi" by Idres Shah


Reminds me of a couple of quotes by the dalai lama I came across recently where he basically tells people they needn't bother looking for solutions in buddhism, that their own religion and background probably has all the answers they need and better suited.
Don't know if that counts as real life (i was reading a book)?

Here's someone quoting the dalai lama:

"It is very admirable that you western folk have come all this way (to india) to learn Tibetan buddhism. But the grass is always greener on t'other side of fence. Each culture, each religion teaches truth. But we always have the tendancy to think that other cultures must have better values than our own. For some of you, learning about Tibetan buddhism is a good thing, but not for all. Most of you are yearning for something which cannot be found here. To you, I say : go home! Look again at your native culture, dive into your native wisdom and your own traditions" (Daniel Suelo, the man who quit money)

I suppose it means that when we feel cornered because of the troubles we imagine we are in; and that these troubles don't dissapear immediately, we start grasping at all the weird and wonderful solutions imaginable, even buddhism, witchcraft, sufism etc...
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby macdougdoug on Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:45 am

Is Khidr not just the moment you give up thrashing around like a drowning man, and so are able to just continue to do what needs to be done?

I'm looking for Khidr at the moment, having just signed a contract that looked good in theory, but in practise now looks near impossible.
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby [james] on Tue May 02, 2017 2:26 am

flutemaker wrote:I wanted to mean, can you recall any real-life situation wherein such things like "The Increasing of Necessity" or a number of others (there are quite a lot showing in the stories) could apply?


Isn't the real life situation already full to the brim with necessity? There is very little in the scope of human activity that is not about coping with necessity. And isn't the koan curriculum a device or method of capturing necessity in a manageable or workable form that can be examined and investigated, i.e. contriving to increase "necessity" in a way that allows, perhaps, a mastery of rather than only a coping with necessity. "Just sitting" zazen, on the other hand, opens the door to a freedom in the reality of necessity by accepting this reality without seeking to increase it, manage it or control it.

So, to answer your question, no I don't recall a real life situation where an attempt to increase necessity would be useful. In fact I view a journey without a return ticket to be a journey of freedom. We are already fully immersed in necessity.
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby desert_woodworker on Tue May 02, 2017 4:58 pm

[j.],

[james] wrote:Isn't the real life situation already full to the brim with necessity?

I think that the flutemaker was getting at something akin to or the equivalent of skillful means; and the "stories" he refers to are the koans.

Koans are a(n) unique artifice, a practical means (when practiced-with... ), and bring in considerations that are other than the usual doings of everyday life (I mean, one wouldn't be mentating or exerting in the direction of the koan-story if one were not practicing with it). Thus, "use" of the koan brings in some new elements which we might call "necessities"; dunno for sure if that's what FM is referring to, but I think so.

I'd call them "invited and embraced considerations".

Temporary expedients... .

When practicing in Zen Buddhist circles, those practitioners who say as you do, "Isn't the real life situation already full to the brim with necessity?", probably do not choose to do koan-practice (if they have a choice). They might choose shikantaza instead (which, as I like to say is as much a result as it is a practice; that's how I experience it, since 1979, I mean), or else they may chose a practice involving the breathing.

The FM might be able to clarify what in fact he means by "Necessity".

--Joe
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby flutemaker on Tue May 02, 2017 5:05 pm

The following one should be related to the teacher's role/functioning, or?..

Shaikh-Pir Shattari, ??? - 1632 wrote:
The Lamp Shop

ONE dark night two men met on a lonely road.
'I am looking for a shop near here, which is called The Lamp
Shop,' said the first man.
'I happen to live near here, and I can direct you to it,' said the
second man.
'I should be able to find it by myself. I have been given the direc-
tions, and I have written them down,' said the first man.
Then why are you talking to me about it?'
'Just talking.'
'So you want company, not directions?'
'Yes, I suppose that that is what it is.'
'But it would be easier for you to take further directions from a
local resident, having got so far: especially because from here on-
wards it is difficult.'
'I trust what I have already been told, which has brought me thus
far. I cannot be sure that I can trust anything or anyone else.'
'So, although you once trusted the original informant, you have
not been taught a means of knowing whom you can trust?'
'That is so.'
'Have you any other aim?'
'No, just to find the Lamp Shop.'
'May I ask why you seek a lamp shop?'
'Because I have been told on the highest authority that that is
where they supply certain devices which enable a person to read
in the dark.'
'You are correct, but there is a prerequisite, and also a piece of
information. I wonder whether you have given them any thought.'
'What are they?'
'The prerequisite to reading by means of a lamp is that you can
already read.'
'You cannot prove that!'
'Certainly not on a dark night like this.'
'What is the "Piece of information"?'
'The piece of information is that the Lamp Shop is still where it
always was, but that the lamps themselves have been moved some-
where else.'
'I do not know what a "Lamp" is, but it seems obvious to me that
the Lamp Shop is the place to locate such a device. That is, after all,
why it is called a Lamp Shop.'
'But a "Lamp Shop" may have two different meanings, each
opposed to the other. The meanings are: "A place where lamps
may be obtained", and "A place where lamps were once obtained
but which now has none".'
'You cannot prove that!'
'You would seem like an idiot to many people.'
'But there are many people who would all you an idiot. Yet per-
haps you are not. You probably have an ulterior motive, sending
me off to some place where lamps are sold by a friend of yours. Or
perhaps you do not want me to have a lamp at all.'
'I am worse than you think. Instead of promising you "Lamp
Shops" and allowing you to assume that you will find the answer
to your problems there, I would first of all find out if you could
read at all. I would find out if you were near such a shop. Or
whether a lamp might be obtained for you in some other way.'
The two men looked at each other, sadly, for a moment. Then
each went his way.
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby flutemaker on Tue May 02, 2017 5:12 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:[j.],

[james] wrote:Isn't the real life situation already full to the brim with necessity?

I think that the flutemaker was getting at something akin to or the equivalent of skillful means; and the "stories" he refers to are the koans.

Hmmm... well, I'd say, yes.

Sufi schools, orders, and their subdivisions are of a wide variety, but certain ones seem to use the "stories" very much similar like the "koans" are used, as I see it, taking into account the sequence of "working" with them one-by-one, and the manner in which such work/practice is usually undertaken.
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Re: Not a Koan curriculum

Postby flutemaker on Tue May 02, 2017 5:18 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:The FM might be able to clarify what in fact he means by "Necessity".

As in, "He increased his necessity and accordingly made me appear to you.” In fact, quite literally.

Say, I have to undertake something requiring warm weather, and I see the weather is not good, cold, etc. Nonetheless I intentionally am going to wear light closing (that should make my business even more uncomfortable) thus "increasing my necessity" for warm weather... "bodily", so to speak.
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