Faith to Leap Beyond Fear

First published 29th January 2007.

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.

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2 thoughts on “Faith to Leap Beyond Fear”

  1. Another part of that article that really took my eye was:

    “Somehow however, the more we practice, the more that we see gaps between our intentions, our actions, and what practice has shown us we really are. If we are honest, we can see that our intelligence, integrity, humour and compassion bleed away through these gaps.”

    I recently saw the phrase ‘purifying intention’. Before seeing that, I’d always viewed my intentions as being fairly stuck – along the lines that thoughts, feelings, desires etc are impermanent, but my intentions are somehow fixed and inherently good. I guess they’re just as much part of the ‘little me’ to be let go of as anything else. The idea of taking a serious look at my intentions and allowing them to move seems like a step in the right direction.

  2. I remember asking the question at a spiritual direction ceremony, ‘how may I purify desire’. Meaning, how may I move past the desire for spiritual attainment. I think the answer was something like, that’s a good question which can only be answered within your own heart.

    Actually desire is not a problem in itself, it is the craving and thursting after things which continues suffering.

    Thanks Dave.

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