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a particular utterance

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a particular utterance

Postby desert_woodworker on Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:32 pm

Dear Teachers,

What is the meaning(s) of people in recorded Ch'an- and Zen-Buddhist literature, where one person, teacher or student, says to the other, "Thief!, thief!" ?

(would it be "speaking-too-plainly" for you to answer this, here?)

Thanks, for your kind consideration.

--Joe
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Re: a particular utterance

Postby jundo on Mon Apr 24, 2017 3:46 am

desert_woodworker wrote:Dear Teachers,

What is the meaning(s) of people in recorded Ch'an- and Zen-Buddhist literature, where one person, teacher or student, says to the other, "Thief!, thief!" ?

(would it be "speaking-too-plainly" for you to answer this, here?)

Thanks, for your kind consideration.

--Joe


Hi Joe,

I think that other folks will have other ways of catching this thief, and this is a true "just sit, and find out (rob) oneself" question. However, here goes when I should know better, like wandering around in a dangerous crime filled neighborhood at night when one should know better! There are stories such as this ...

“An elderly monk came for an interview with the master. Before he had finished the customary greetings, he asked, ‘Would it be right to make a formal bow? Or would it be right to do without the bow?’
Linchi shouted.
The elder monk made a formal bow.
Linchi said, ‘Quite some thief-in-the-grass!’
The elder monk said, ‘Thief! Thief!’ and left the room.
Linchi said, ‘Better not think that that ends the matter!’”


Sometimes phrases such as "thief" have very opposite or "double entendre" (not one not two entendre?) meanings in Zen-speak from our normal understanding. So, for example, a thief usually takes away, but a Zen "thief" might take ignorance away and give Wisdom and Compassion to his "victim" leaving them better. Or, better said, how does one "steal" or give a treasure that is present for all of us with nothing to take or give, yet this "never lost" is all gain and loss and ups and downs in life? How does one say "this is a stick-up, your money or you life" when no words of up or down, birth and death? (Oh well, now I say too much, robbing the life and death threat of its power, stealing the punch!)

The Precepts guide "do not take what is not given", while no thief and no victim can be found ... yet "giver gift and given" are one beyond one, live generously. Nothing ever to lose yet, if we live filled with excess desires, anger and divisive thinking of ignorance, our "self" robs oneself ... which is such a crime!

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of the mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You may have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”


A thief cannot steal the moon. How would you imprison this "thief" even if caught, and what wall can hold her? Robin Hood takes from the rich and gives to the poor. This thief gives Robin Hood to Robin Hood.

Anyway, sorry to steal your precious time, but it is gone and you will never get it back. :peace:

Gassho, J

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Re: a particular utterance

Postby desert_woodworker on Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:44 am

Thank you, Jundo. You've done me quite a nice kindness.

I'm unsure, in some cases, some places, where this expression "Thief!", appears. I'm really quite slow and stupid, in usages where I don't have direct experience. I only did koan-practice briefly; and afterward, sporadically, with several teachers, not systematically. I've read Linji again and again over decades, but I think I remain refractory to a good deal of the import of some dialogues. The "Thief!, thief!" utterances had me particularly scratching my head.

On the other hand, I came to understand well enough, it seems, what my root teacher meant when he would sometimes say, "If you find yourself on a pirate ship, the best thing to do is be a pirate." (this was Sheng Yen).

jundo wrote:"this is a stick-up, your money or your life"

You knew I'd mention this, didn't you?. When Jack Benny related the story about how his mugger put this threat to him, he told us that he hesitated long when it was put, making the thief nervously reiterate the threat, to which he famously replied, "I'm THINKING it OVER!"

jundo wrote:Anyway, sorry to steal your precious time, but it is gone and you will never get it back. :peace:

Thanks, sir, there's no lost time in the Dharma.

:rbow: sincerely,

--Joe
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