Reality? Question the Buddha
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Reality? Question the Buddha

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Everyone is talking or interrupting and not listening much.

People speak what they want to hear. Ignoring all else.

We find inspiration in surprising places if we choose to stop, listen, and reflect.  A few years ago, I heard a thought-provoking singer-songwriter introduce a song with:

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

The words come from a Zen koan and are offered for a metaphorical lesson about the importance of reflection and authentic questioning.  The road, in this case, is your journey through life.  “The Buddha” symbolizes the truth or enlightenment that you believe you have attained.  You believe you have found the final answers.

Not so fast.

At times, it’s hard to see what we think we see.

The koan teaches that “reality is an impermanent illusion” and we need to “throw out that image (kill it)” and keep seeking truth.

Do not get comfortable. Do not become complacent.  Keep asking authentic questions, listening to what you hear, and asking more questions.

In No Barrier: Unlocking the Zen Koan, Thomas Cleary shares translations of forty-eight koans. You will find more metaphors that connect to the figurative expression “kill the Buddha” and the powerful lesson above.  For example:

 “A ship cannot moor where the water is shallow.” (53)
o   We must deepen our thought process to understand. Cleary says “whichever perspective you are absorbed in, it is crucial to be able to go back and forth freely in order to attain both ultimate liberation and objective compassion. Either perspective can kill you or bring you to life.”

“Does sound come to the ear, or does the ear go to sound?” (82)
o   Do you hear the message that is being delivered or do you project and hear what you want to hear?

“If you only know how to open your mouth, you won’t realize when you’re trapped in words.” (141)
o   Cleary reminds us that “we wind up entrapped in our own points of view. We may think we are talking about realities when all we are doing is talking about what we think.”

Community building requires conversation—authentic dialogue.  Unfortunately, we often become trapped in collective monologues. Everyone is talking or interrupting but not much listening. People speak what they want to hear—ignoring all else.  Those behaviors will kill meaningful collaboration.

[Previously published on The Growth and Resilience Network® on August 19, 2018.]

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