The other day I was reading a blog by that 没有劍的
, where he cited a short Buddhist verse:
菩提本无树, 明镜亦非台. 本来无一物, 何处惹尘埃?
I'm not sure why he chose PRC style simplified characters, here it is in complified characters:
I was intrigued by what I could only half understand. The Sanchon Hunjang knows extremely little Buddhist vocabulary and even less of Buddhist concepts, so I was looking up some of the words. In the process, I came across a story explaining the background of this verse.
Below is the Reader's Digest version. Anyone who wants to read the whole thing, please go here
There was a great Buddhist Patriarch living at a temple in China. At this temple were many monks, and a certain monk who had been there the longest. This monk naturally assumed that he was next in line to succeed the Patriarch because he had paid his dues in working at the temple for years and years (hmmmm. Something coming to mind here about all of the 부장 at the Sanchon Hunjang's office all lined up to become executives. The senior 부장 naturally
expect to be made vice presidents, without regard to their ability or lack of same, because they've paid their dues by working like slaves at the company for years).
The Patriarch decided that he wanted a meritocracy rather than rely on a potentially mediocre successor who had been around for ever. He decided on a method to assess ability. Each monk at the temple was to compose a poem and the Patriarch would use these poems to pick his successor.
The old 부장, er I mean monk ^^, struggled with whether he was actually expected to hand in a verse, or if this was just some formality to name him as successor. Finally he penned the following:
身是菩提樹 The body is the Bodhi tree,
心如明鏡臺 The heart is as the bright mirror stand.
時時勤拂拭 Constantly, diligently buff and polish,
勿使惹塵埃 So as not allow dust and dirt to adhere.Charles Muller's online dictionary of Buddhist terms
says that 菩提 (보제) is Chinese transliteration for the word bodhi, which is the name of the tree under which the Buddha obtained enlightenment as well as the ground where this happened, and thus as metonymy for enlightenment. The bit about the bright mirror and busily buffing it is also common imagery for improving yourself. I assume this means working toward enlightenment, however that is done.
The Patriarch saw this verse and couldn't help but notice that the monk was as close to seeing enlightenment as penguins are to seeing bikinis on their beaches. He was disappointed because enlightenment means recognizing that there is no division or distinction between the larger universe and the ego, but the monk's poem clearly has an ego slaving away to reach this goal.
One much younger monk, Hui Neng 혜능, wrote:
菩提本無樹 The Bodhi ground originally had no tree
明鏡亦非臺 The bright mirror also no stand.
本來無一物 Originally there was not one thing,
何處惹塵埃 To what place could dust and dirt adhere?
The original text doesn't mention it, but this younger monk was either intentionally correcting or ridiculing the older monk. There's no other way to explain the similarities in these verses.
When the patriarch saw this verse, he knew that he had found his successor, so he spirited 혜능 away lest the senior monk do him harm out of jealousy. The Patriarch taught the Diamond Sutra
to 혜능, whereupon he attained enlightenment and became Patriarch n+1.
All of this appears to mean that the Sanchon Hunjang comes very close to enlightenment after 28 minutes on the stationary bike at the health club, when everything turns to oblivion and I really can't remember there being anything in the universe.