Wednesday, March 12, 2008

One beautiful strawberry

In Buddhism the word "illusion" is mentioned often, illusion not in the sense that the material world is unreal, but in the sense that the appearance of ourselves and the world, that which we humans perceive, is illusionary. You could understand this to mean that person-hood is the near infinite composite of everything from molecules to thoughts, the entire perceived unity that Locke would call self-awareness, that is the "illusion" or that which the mind creates in order to make sense of itself. The "real" is the infinite matter (and non matter) of the universe, we but part of the ALL. In Buddhism it is ego that causes the illusion, therefore if one "overcomes" the ego, the self dissolves into the ALL.

A man is running from a tiger, he comes to the edge of a cliff and the only escape is to grab some vines and climb down, but while climbing down the man sees another tiger at the bottom awaiting him. Looking up at the vine above, which he is hanging from, he sees two mice eating away at the vine, one mouse is white and the other black (yin and yang), now he sees no escape, a tiger above, a tiger below, the vine about to unravel. Then suddenly appearing in front of him, growing from the cliff side is a strawberry plant, and one beautiful strawberry. With great delight he plucks the strawberry and eats it, and it is the sweetest strawberry that he had ever tasted.

End of story.

Ah, don't you just love Zen tales. And an answer to our puzzle? The puzzle? Of course, how could the man delight in the taste of a strawberry when in a moment he is going to die? ... (long pause) ... Because at that moment he was suddenly transformed from the unenlightened being to an enlightened being. He realizes that the sweetness of the strawberry is the same as the sweetness of himself to the waiting tigers. Yes, the strawberry, himself, the tigers, they are all part of the ALL. And at that moment the illusion of "self" disappears. And with that, no fear of death, for nothing really dies.


From my experience, Buddhism is a retreat from the outside world, Christianity is a confrontation with the outside world. Buddhism attempts to alleviate suffering with the mind, Christianity faces suffering with eyes wide open, and then asks, what can I do? Of course this is a generalization, for Buddhists do have soup kitchens and Christians do pray for the homeless.


jzr said...

I think your perception of Buddhism is a huge generalization! It is so sad that in our time that religions are "compared" with each other. That is where the split begins and eventually helps to bring about fundamentalist movements. If one were to go back through time, one would find that our religious roots are all similar. Our basic beliefs in love and goodness are common to all religions.

One of my favorite teachers calls religion a "costume party." The costume you wear depends on which theology you happen to represent. It is how you treat yourself and others that makes each of us, not religion.

Throughout history religions have been politicized time and time again. Unfortunately this great Christian nation of ours and some of it's fundamentalist leaders continue to lead us down the path to war and genocide. l do not however believe that all or most "Christians" are like that.

As for that "one beautiful strawberry," it would be a challenge for anyone, Buddhist or Christian, to let go into death so easily. That little story simply shows us how much control we have over our lives. And if we realize we have no control, then why not try to go smiling, tasting that heavenly piece of fruit. I believe that when it's our time we will all go, enjoying that delicious strawberry and being afraid (as in suffering,) all at the same time.

All of the Buddhists I know face life head on as most Christians I know do. They simply try to work things out in their minds before they bring about a cataclysm.

Bro. Bartleby said...

Yes, a huge generalization. Perhaps my dabbling in the world of science lately has created this interest in comparisons, for without comparison, the scientific method would not be.