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August 02, 2012


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Note to Mei:
In a translation today, I came across the expression 醍醐味. I looked up the history of the phrase and learned about the "five flavors of making ghee 五味相生の譬 , from which it is derived.

See here:

Lastly, Shakyamuni Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra and revealed that the Dharma were taught in three different ways, but all converged to One Buddha Vehicle without any contradiction. For those who obtained the prediction of their future Buddhahood, it is like transforming butter to ghee.

Thank you for this beautiful, beautiful post, my dearest 姊姊! I remember, once when I was going through a deeply blue period (much darker than our Huizong Blue!) - it was completely inexplicable, and just happens sometimes, as I'm sure you remember that period too - I would listen to Faye singing Heart Sutra in Chinese (this exact rendition you posted) over and over again. At night, before trying to fall asleep, I would also repeatedly sing it to myself, silently, in my head. Even during the day I would recite those lines (in particular the final few in Sanskrit) to myself, when I walked on the streets and when I was at home (sure hope no one outside thought I was crazy)... It in fact helped. It soothed me in a way I could not explain. Perhaps it helped me accept and "let go" - of whatever mood or situation one finds oneself in.

I've always loved the Chinese translations of Buddhist sutras and in particular Sanskrit names/terms translated into Chinese - I find them to be poetry in itself. One of Carpet Wallah Prince and my heroes, Shantideva, has such a beautiful name in Chinese: 寂天。

"I offer every fruit and flower
And every kind of healing medicine;
And all the precious things the world affords,
With all pure waters of refreshment;

Every mountain, rich and filled with jewels;
All sweet and lonely forest groves;
The trees of heaven, garlanded with blossom,
And branches heavy, laden with their fruit;

The perfumed fragrance of the realms of gods and men;
All incense, wish trees, and trees of gems;
All crops that grow without the tiller’s care
And every sumptuous object worthy to be offered;

Lakes and meres adorned with lotuses,
All plaintive with the sweet-voiced cries of water birds
And lovely to the eyes, and all things wild and free,
Stretching to the boundless limits of the sky;

I hold them all before my mind, and to the supreme Buddhas
And their heirs will make a perfect gift of them.
O, think of me with love, compassionate lords;
Sacred objects of my prayers, accept these offerings."

(The Way of the Bodhisattva, by Shantideva)

I love how you juxtapose the different ideas. But I have an unformed thought about the word 'faith' - I wrote my undergrad thesis on Kant vs. Tsongkhapa and focused on their ideas of faith. Buddhists define faith as the result of thinking, meditation, and contemplation. You arrive at faith (in the lama, mostly) as a result of examination. Once you come to the conclusion that someone is trustworthy and you haven't any doubts left, then you have faith in someone. In the Christian tradition represented by Kant in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, faith means believing in God even though you can never have rational knowledge about his existence. I 'm not sure if Kierkegaard had a different view.
I'm not sure if this is related to what you were saying, though, so thought i would ask you! ;)

千ちゃん、I thought your comment was so amazing since it really got to the heart of the matter. I mean, not only was it related to what I was saying but it is at the very core of what is on my mind!!!!Like Kant, I think Kierkegaard arrives at the idea of faith in a similar manner but maybe the big difference is Kierkegaard’s existentialist “knight of faith” must take a stand on her defining commitment and then EMBODY it.

This is the heroic mode of being (Aristotle’s “greatness of soul”) stance where the hero is both capable of taking up her heroic task in the first place, but also is courageous to accept misfortunes with fortitude and to shape her life around this homeric necessity.

You know so much more than me on this but I would think the Buddhist tradition would be far less problematic not having to overcome a strong duality between mind and body. Does the Tibetan epistemology have that same Kantian division of human understanding in terms of reason(Vernunft) /understanding(Verstand)/ sensibility(Sinnlichkeit)? I don’t think, for example, Zen has that issue to have to overcome when talking about faith.

For me, though the most interesting aspect of the carpet wallah’s idea of faith is is that it is exactly that of the classic hero, which stresses this idea acceptance of necessity. I know I mentioned that book Providence Lost but it is an absolutely fascinating philosophy book about free will and providence. The two must go hand and hand as when you undermine providence, free will falls apart and turns into this idea that everyting is somehow up to us and threfore inevitably our responsibility (like in New Agey ideas of “karma”)--It is really a form of narcissism which you see in the relentless will to impose one’s ego onto events (rather than sitting back a but and letting things unfold and adapting to necessity, you see people who wanting to “make the most of thier lives” try to force life to fit how they thing it “should” be in terms of Ego.

Hannah Arendt is fascinating on this because she brings it into the realm of the political (as she felt that some of the worst political pathologies of her time were of leaders trying to force a universalist blueprint of the world onto the world, rather than seeing th world how it actually is.) xoxo

Meimei chan, I love every single thing you wrote above so much!!! Especially the poetry of the OFFERING. Your carpet wallah's words touched me so much!! I really do think that this kind of acceptance of things is essentially for happiness and for greatness of soul (aristotle's hero's path). It doesn't mean that one is passive but rather is an aproach to act by trying to quiet/restrain the ego's relentless need to fix things or to try and impose on the world the ego's blueprints for how it thinks the world should be. In Japan, my doctor in the hospital where my baby hippo was hatched said, "remember, every medical intervention leads to another medical intervention so in giving birth we have to strive to be as natural as possible and to give in to the kind of birth that unfolds." It is not being passive but it is a very Japanese kind of stoicism to do one's best in the face of relentless trouble :)))))
That is 美徳 (hehe!!!)

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