What are you doing?

The Taliban are in process of destroying all the statues of the Buddha. And people are outraged, buddhists are outraged.

There’s a story about the Zen master Mu-nan who had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had finished his training, Mu-nan called him into his room. “I am getting old,” he said, “and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship.”

“If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it,” Shoju replied. “I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is.”

“I know that,” said Mu-nan. “Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here.”

The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals.

Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: “What are you doing!”

Shoju shouted back: “What are you saying!”

In Tibetan Buddhism there’s the art of the Sand Mandala, which is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.

Objects are impermanent. The Taliban’s ritual is full of anger. You can read more about it here. This is an important part of Buddhist history. It is upsetting to many people. Yet perhaps it is time to create new art for a new time.

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