Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hey - Is that a beard your growing?

Does this man look like he has a beard to you? Yes? If so, why did Wakuan say, "Why does the Western Barbarian have no beard?" What's going on here?

Most folks looking at this picture would be rather puzzled by Wakuan's question. They might think to themselves, "But he does have a beard ... what do you mean WHY?"

From the perspective of our usual way of understanding our world - of course the Western Barbarian has a beard. Its as plain as the hair on your chinny chin chin!

Viewed from another perspective, the Western Barbarian not only has no beard, he also has no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind ... in fact, there is no such thing as the Western Barbarian.


That's right. Viewed from the perspective of the interconnectedness of life, also known as the Dharma, "beard", "Western Barbarian", "eye", "ear", "nose", "tongue", "body", "mind" or any other "thing" that you verbally describe is simply a verbal label. What it is describing cannot be captured in a word, ten words or by language itself.

Why? Because everything owes its very existence to, well actually, everything else. Yep, that's right. Nothing can exist on its own. There isn't anything we could point to or name that is not part of the interconnectedness of all life. The Western Barbarian's beard is the interconnectedness of all things. Call it a beard if you want to, you could just as easily call it a popsicle, if you get my drift.

The interconnectedness of life is another way of saying that we are empty - empty of any permanent, unchanging nature. We and all things in the universe are a manifestation of the interconnectedness of life which is always present and always changing (I knew there was something different about me today!). Yes!

It is in that sense that we can now understand why the Western Barbarian has no beard or anything else for that matter. We can also understand that whatever can be said about anything will unfortunately be only a verbal representation of something that in fact is no thing. Not nothing - no thing. There are no things, only processes - ever changing processes - alive processes. Words and language are just tools that help us relate all this relating - a kind of skillful  means like a finger pointing at the moon when someone asks, "where is the moon this evening?"

So if you think you are a "loser", "abuser", "alcoholic", "criminal", [insert your own self loathing descriptor here] because you or someone else has labeled you as such - your wrong. You are, in fact, a unique manifestation of the entire universe: past, present and future.

You are perfect and complete just as you are and, as Shinryu Suzuki Roshi used to like to say, "you have some things you could be working on."

The bad news is that as long as you stay ignorant of this truth; i.e. believe you are separate from all things,  you will continue to act in ways that cause you and others to suffer.

Ouch! Did you just cut yourself shaving?

By the way - love the beard!

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