Friday, 1 June 2012

Zen Questions

(i) In the Zen Group, someone read a passage referring to a "Lord of the House", then asked if there were any questions. I asked what was the Lord of the House and was given reasons for referring to the Buddha as "Lord". I responded that I had wondered how the House crept in. I was told not to worry about it. I replied that I was not worried but just wondered what it meant! I was now getting frustrated because I was having to ask for a third time.

After further discussion, an interesting scriptural passage was quoted. The Buddha at the moment of Enlightenment says, "Now I have seen you, builder of the house of ego! Your rafters are broken! Never more will you build!" I was satisfied with this.

The following week, the Senior Lay Minister, who had not been present on the evening when the question was asked, said that he had been told about the previous week's discussion and wanted to say that questions should be asked from spiritual concern, not from intellectual curiosity. So I had had to ask the question three times and was now being told that I should not have asked it! - But I had received an answer.

(ii) The Buddha differentiates between Arhats and Pratyeka-Buddhas on the one hand and Boddhisattvas on the other. I was familiar with the distinction between Arhats and Bodhisattvas but not with the term "Pratyeka-Buddha". I should have just asked what it meant but I phrased my question as "What is the difference between an Arhat and a Pratyeka-Buddha?" The answer I received was simply an account of the Buddha differentiating between A's and P's on the one hand and B's on the other. This was the account that had made me ask the question so it was not an answer to it. I repeated the question and received the same response.

On replying "I understand that but...", I received the reply "Then I don't understand what you are asking." I could think of nothing to say but to repeat my question and now encountered mere incomprehension. Someone else defined "Pratyeka-Buddha" but, for a long time afterwards, I could remember only the frustration of having to repeat the question and not what the eventual answer had been. I have since confirmed that a Pratyeka-Buddha is someone who realises Enlightenment independently, not by practising the Buddha Dharma.