March 03, 2011

Dharma Combat: Roshi vs. Rinpoche

Sometime in the early 1970s, two Buddhist masters met in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of them, Kalu Rinpoche, was a renowned Tibetan meditation master who had spent many years in solitary retreat in the remote mountain caves of Tibet. The other was Seung Sahn, a Korean Zen master who had recently come to the United States and was supporting himself by working in a Providence, Rhode Island, Laundromat, slowly planting the seeds of Zen in the minds of those coming to wash their clothes. At this now famous meeting of enlightened minds, Seung Sahn held up an orange and, in classic Zen dharma combat fashion, demanded, "What is this?"

Kalu Rinpoche just looked at him, wonderingly.

Again Master Seung Sahn asked, "What is this?"

Finally Rinpoche turned to his translator and asked, "Don't they have oranges in Korea?"

- from the introduction to One Dharma by Joseph Goldstein

Image: naama

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DougVieques's picture

Another Seung Sahn story I heard many years ago. One morning upon arising the students in his center found him reading the NY Times while he ate his breakfast. Aghast, they questioned him about his deviation from one-pointed mind and his reply, a classic, was to the effect, "sometimes you eat your breakfast and read the newspaper with a one-pointed mind."

Philip Ryan's picture

Thanks, Doug. This famous tale is often told this way:

Seung Sahn would say, "When you eat, just eat. When you read the newspaper, just read the newspaper. Don't do anything other than what you are doing."

One day a student saw him reading the newspaper while he was eating. The student asked if this did not contradict his teaching. Seung Sahn said, "When you eat and read the newspaper, just eat and read the newspaper."

- as retold in Essential Zen

Monty McKeever's picture

I like that line Anreal! well said.

Anreal's picture

What if the lesson is to just not take things so seriously?

The Demon of Seriousness can be as ferocious as the Demon of Despair.

sharmila2's picture

There is a similar story of Ajahn Chah, the great Thai master, "solving" a koan. Which goes to show that even in Zen, form does matter. You can't play the game unless you know the basic rules.

Anreal's picture

It makes me think of a modern version of RI-ME.
Berry good, berry good!

..."great honesty of introspection" ..... > totally

Truly touching. My heart swells.