Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Currency Of Ideas

I recently took an unprecedented step: although one of the perks of living in community is almost guaranteed access to other people's New Yorkers, when I was sent an unsolicited offer of a subscription at what seemed like a paltry price for something that is my main source of mental nourishment, I though it was only decent to fork out for my own copies (which I can then make available to others).
In the first issue I received, I was taken with an article on the Iliad. For all my fancy education, I have not read it (nor the Odyssey, come to that, though I did make it through Ulysses over the course of one summer a few years ago), and I am not so animated by the topic of different schools of thought on authorship and translation that was the point of the article - though of course there are interesting parallels, as with anything that old, with the authenticity of Buddhist sutras and whether or not it matters.
The one thing that most captured my imagination was this: "the verbs and pronouns used in the scene are of a special type called the 'dual' which can be employed only for pairs of things (eyes, legs, oxen, etc)". What an amazing linguistic concept - one which, me being me, brought to mind Dogen, and his notion of 'only a Buddha and a Buddha': "Buddha dharma cannot be known by a person. For this reason, since olden times no ordinary person has realised Buddha dharma. No practitioner of the lesser vehicles has mastered Buddha dharma. Because it is realised by Buddhas alone, it is said only a Buddha and a Buddha can completely master it" (Yuibutsu Yobutsu). We were saying something not so dissimilar in Young Urban Zen this week - while you have to do the work yourself to develop your wisdom and compassion, it doesn't amount to anything until you are meeting another person face-to-face.

Gratuitous moon shot from before afternoon zazen


Lynn Burnett said...

That is fascinating - I like that it highlights the fact that things work together, and I imagine with common usage such language would deeply effect the mind and culture - and I like how your mind automatically jumps to the dharma as a form of togetherness :)

Shundo said...

Of course it does Lynn, but thanks for the comment - I had been sitting on this post for a few days, not sure whether to polish it up or not...