A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Riding The Ox

More great advice from the Zenrin, a classic collection of Buddhist wisdom -quoted in David Brazier's inspirational book The Feeling Buddha, which I've just finished reading:

In life, seek no heaven;
In death, fear no hell.

Enter the woods without disturbing a blade of grass;
Enter the water without making waves.

Meet the enlightened one on the street;
Do not greet him with words nor silence.

For so long, like a bird in a cage;
Now fly free like a cloud in the blue sky.

Hold the hoe with empty hands;
Ride the ox by standing on your own feet.

Brazier comments: These verses point to an innocence of mind that is yet fully mature. The enlightened person is mature enough to enjoy life as it is and by doing so liberates the creative fire within. The ox is an age old symbol for the wildness in us that is also the basis for our spiritual life. If we can catch and tame the ox, we will be in command of our power.

Brazier's book is a radical new look at Buddhism, going back to the Buddha's original words and intentions (so far as it is possible to tell them). It's a refreshingly simple, psychological, common sense approach to the subject.

These are Buddhism's Four Noble Truths as Brazier interprets them:

DUKKHA: AFFLICTION, burning, adversity, suffering, provocation, ill-being: SPARK

SAMUDAYA: RESPONSE, welling up, passion, feeling, reaction, spirit: FIRE

NIRODHA: CONTAINMENT, holding firm, harnessing, sheltering the fire, applying the energy: TENDING THE FIRE

MARGA: TRACK, making tracks, way, trace, the completed work, the undefeated life: THE COOKED MEAL

Throughout his book Brazier makes helpful analogies with the fire symbol - an image which the Buddha himself used constantly.

I quoted another poem from the Zenrin here.


Dominic Rivron said...

Looks like a clever take on the Four Noble Truths to me. Sounds a good book.

Talking of oxen, my most well thumbed Zen book (Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, ed/by Paul Reps) has "10 Bulls" in it.


Dan Gurney said...

I like the spark, fire, tending the fire, the cooked meal imagery. I may post soon about another reframing of the 4NT that, I think, may make the Buddhist path more appealing to modern sensibility.

Thanks, Robert!

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love this Robert and intend to print it out and put it on my wall - I am sure it will help me every day to get into the habit of living one day at a time - something I am finding very hard to do.

George said...

I love the quote from the Zenrin and I look forward to reading "The Feeling Buddha." I have quite a few books on Buddhism, but I don't think I''ve come across that one. "For so long like a bird in a cage; now fly free like a cloud in the blue sky." I'm sure that speaks to every human who walks the earth.

Friko said...

For me the verses are the most meaningful, they give guidance for a life lived with the lightest of footprints, for leaving no destructive imprint on the earth at all.

Alive said...

Having trained with both David and Caroline Brazier in Psychotheraputic Buddhist terms at Amidatrust, I was delighted to read the moment to moment words that you have clearly carefully choosen, Free like a cloud in the blue sky.
For me like dancing upon the waves. Thank you Robert for reminding me of the Truths, the teachings from Pureland.

Ruth said...

I am interested in the fire tending too. It reminds me of my belief/statement, which is: Inspiration is a spark from the bonfire of love.

This fire progression and the cooked meal is a useful way to comprehend Buddhist teachings.

The Solitary Walker said...

Dominic - I used to sell that book. Published by Weatherhill, USA?

Dan - Brazier is very illuminating with that fire image and uses it consistently throughout the book.

Pat - I'm glad that quote from the Zenrin meant so much to you.

George - it's very well worth reading. I've read another excellent book of his called 'The New Buddhism' (about practical Buddhism in action), and I also have here on the shelf Caroline Brazier's 'Buddhist Psychology', which I haven't yet looked at.

Friko - that phrase 'the lightest of footprints' recalls my recent poem!

Thanks, Alive, for your interesting comment about David & Caroline Brazier.

And Ruth - the fire analogy is key to this book, and works very well, particularly since the Buddha himself also used it so much. Fire is probably humankind's most useful resource, the basis of so many things when you think about it. Yet it can also be one of the most dangerous and destructive of forces, if uncontrolled. But to harness that energy, to tend the flame, to temper the passions - can be life-preserving and soul-preserving.

(Wild Romanticism is all very well and good, but it inevitable brings about a spell of ultra-orderly Classicism in the end. Perhaps the Middle Way between the two is the most satisfying and productive of states - with the rewards of both but without the excesses of either?)

am said...

"Ride the ox by standing on your own feet."

I had just been reading about Nirodha in Bringing Yoga to Life, by Donna Farhi. The imagery from The Feeling Buddha of "Tending the Fire" is wonderful. Thanks for posting this.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for visiting, am, and nice to see you.