Feb. 20 – 26

To be simply what we are is the last thing we want to do….Master [Linji] said, “Do not spend even one thought in chasing after buddhahood.” That means to be ourselves as we are, in each moment, moment by moment. It’s all we ever need to to do.

– Joko Beck

This Week’s Koan

Blue Cliff Record, #13: Baling’s “Snow in the Silver Bowl”

A monk asked Baling, “What is the school of Kanadeva?”

Baling said, “Snow in a silver bowl.”


Baling (“Haryo” in Japanese), b. 895?
14th Generation
Lineage: Shitou > Daowu > Longtan > Deshan > Xuefeng > Yunmen > Baling
Dharma Siblings: Deshan Yuanming, Xianglin, Dongshan Shouchu
Dharma Descendants: None of note
Appears also in: BCR #100

Kanadeva (“Kanadaiba” or just “Daiba” in Japanese) was, according to legend, an Indian Buddhist master about 13 generations before Bodhidharma — i.e., around the year 200 BCE. Kanadeva was a student and disciple of another great Ancient Indian Buddhist philosopher, Nagarjuna. Kanadeva is said to have brought Buddhist philosophy to completion. Zen teaches that true nature cannot be understood by logic, can’t be explained in words, can’t be grasped by reason. Philosophical concepts cannot express but only obscure the true nature of things. So what about this Kanadeva fellow? He was strong in philosophical argument and adept at constructing — and deconstructing — elaborate conceptual schemas. What, if any, is the place of such debating skills on the Zen path?

Baling — placed about as many generations after Bodhidharma as Kanadeva was before — answers, “snow in a silver bowl.” If Buddhism is a silver bowl, the snow represents philosophical sophistication about Buddhism. Yes, the bowl will hold it. And, yes, it is rather pretty. It’s also quite cold.

Xuedou’s verse:

Remarkable, the old man of Shinkai Temple;
It was well said, that “Snow in the silver bowl.”
The ninety-six can learn for themselves what it means;
If they cannot, let them ask the moon in the sky.
The school of Kanadeva, Kanadeva’s school —
Scarlett banners flapping, the wind is cool!

This Week’s Reading

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, “The Paradox of Awareness,” p. 149.

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About mgarmon

b. 1959; grew up VA, NC, AL, GA; also lived in TX, TN, MN, and now in FL; m. 1979; 1 daughter, b 1980; 1 son, b. 1982; div. 1997; m. 2000; Honduran son, b. 1987, adopted 2004; schooled: U West Ga, Emory, Baylor, UVa; UTS; MLTS. Former philosophy professor, now a UU minister and zen student.

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