I left meditation this evening thinking about cats and what a comfort they can be. Since I don’t have one living close by I thought I’d publish this photo of Ms. Marple, an American cat. It makes a good lead into the teaching of Nanzan and the cat.
There is a famous koan about a Chinese Chan master called Nanquan or Nanzan, who cut a cat in two in order to teach his students about grasping. It appears in many different koan collections and is the ninth case of the “Shoyoroku” :
“One day the monks of the western and eastern halls of Nanquan’s monastery were squabbling over a cat. When Nanquan saw this going on he seized the cat and held it up before them and said, ‘Say one true word or I’ll cut it.’
“No one could say anything. Nanquan cut the cat in two.” (sadly the link I published in 2007 no longer points to this quote.)
One will never know if this event actually took place. It was after all a long time ago and far away. However the koan (problem) is still alive because it is, like all the koans, an expression of the condition of the human mind which grasps at things, concepts, ideals. At base the purpose of koans, and the naturally arising koan of daily life, are presented to propel the mind past the grasping.
The answer to all of the koans, and problems of daily life, is faith. The faith to let go of even this. And then attempt to be the best person one can be.
This story linked to below has touched me. A young air traffic controller staying put in his tower to guide a plane to take off safely. As a consequence saving the lives of a plane load of passengers and losing his.
Time to contemplate. Time to offer spiritual merit. Time to remain open hearted. Could become numbed. Time to sit still, very still.
Will Pegg. The poem is an offering of thanks and gratitude to Wills friends, family and fellow 12 Steppers, as well as fellow life travelers. The poem comes at the beginning of a long post on Facebook by a man who is facing death. Very soon. He is saying goodby. godde is his word.
i thank You godde for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is YES
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Unimaginable You, the infinite ungraspable! Indeed. A poem; a prayer echoing in the hallways of all existence, where the idea of a separate self dissolves. Sir Edwin Arnold in The Light of Asia says it seeking nothing, he gains all; foregoing self, the universe grows “I.” What is there to say? Well lots as it turns out. We can imagine a Bodhisattva as superhuman, but watch out when they blaze in! However no, a Bodhisattva, this chap Will, is no super human. He’s every bit human with the human frailty that comes with this state. Countless people have benefitted from his living his life and countless people have taught him too. Humility is the watch word.
I met Will in a cafe in Victoria, Canada July before last. In the way that it can happen between people our eyes met, and a deep spiritual connection comes about, well past words or understanding. So it was and so it will be. Here I sit in England, Northumberland. Merit and meditations winging their way to a far off bedside. Join me why not.