Wednesday, November 23, 2022
HomeZenThe Peace of the Rhinoceros: A Small Meditation on a Sufi Teacher...

The Peace of the Rhinoceros: A Small Meditation on a Sufi Teacher and an Old Zen Koan





Toward the One,
the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty,
the Only Being,
United with all the Illuminated Souls,
Who type the Embodiment of the Master,

the Spirit of Guidance.

When I lived in the Zen monastery in Oakland, I served on the jisha crew accountable amongst different issues for internet hosting visitors. So, no shock when the roshi advised me we have been getting a VIP customer.

His identify was Samuel Lewis, and whereas he was principally often known as a Sufi grasp, he had additionally been acknowledged for his perception by religious lecturers in a quantity of traditions, one of which was Zen. Ours was a bit extra mainstream Zen Buddhist neighborhood and so most of us have been anticipating for us one thing on the somewhat unique facet, type of a Zen zebra.

We weren’t dissatisfied. When he arrived I answered the door. Standing on the entrance step was an aged man solely a few inches greater than 5 ft tall. He had shoulder size gray hair, a full beard, and outsized black plastic framed glasses. He was sporting the robes of a Korean Zen priest, I later discovered put on particular for the event. Before I might say something, truly earlier than I might take a full breath he brushed previous me and seemed round. His first phrases have been, “Wali Ali, take a letter.”

I recall a younger considerably pudgy man adopted alongside after him attempting to put in writing in a stenographer’s pocket book. As the Zen and Sufi grasp’s entourage of 4 or 5 adopted he proceeded to look at the massive outdated constructing that had been transformed into a Zen monastery dictating his observations alongside the manner, principally, though not a hundred % optimistic.

It was a whirlwind. And when the shaikh Zen grasp and his disciples left, a seen, definitely a tangible echo performed by means of the quiet rooms of our little home monastery for an age to comply with.

Years later, after I left the Zen monasteries, I had a interval of wandering. At some level I ended up in the Khanqah based by Murshid Sam and now led by his disciple Wali Ali Meyer. I studied the intricacies of Inayat Khan’s universalist Sufism with Wali Ali, finally as we parted he to an journey in the American South and me to what I didn’t understand at the time could be a revisioned Zen follow, he gave me what was referred to as the ninth bayat, blessing or initiation.

Yesterday I discovered after some years affected by dementia Wali Ali had returned to the Khanqah to die.

As it occurs, it was on at the present time, the twenty third of November, in 2019 that Imam, the final Sumatran rhinoceros in Malaysia died. Something in the neighborhood of eighty people nonetheless reside in neighboring Indonesia. But the future of the species is considerably previous bleak.

Reading about this triggered a small cascade of ideas, thoughts bubbles. It falls laborious on how we people have simply crossed eight billion people throughout the globe. It can also be linked with the harsh realities of world local weather change. And with it ideas of the years forward, and linked in some methods horrible dislocations of inhabitants and mass migrations.  Death and beginning and, properly, most of all, motion.

I feel of my Sufi instructor, his years educating, his years educating with dementia, and now his educating with loss of life.

It brings to my thoughts a koan. Koans are a meditation factor out of the Zen custom, birthed in China, given some very attention-grabbing shapes in Japan, and now a religious follow engaged throughout the planet.

It’s gathered as case 91 in the Blue Cliff Record and case 25 in the Book of Serenity.

Another of my lecturers, the Australian-American Zen instructor John Tarrant paraphrases the case:

Once upon a time in China, the governor gave a uncommon fan carved of rhinoceros horn to a Zen Master, who forgot about it. Then he remembered. He referred to as to his assistant, “Bring me the rhinoceros fan.” The assistant stated, “It is broken.” The grasp stated, “In that case, bring me the rhinoceros.”

The fan is damaged. The rhinoceros is just not there.

And we’re invited to carry it forth.

The set off for me on this at this second is the query of motion, of achieve and loss.

The Buddha seen this motion of issues. He noticed the way it extends not simply in our ideas however in the materials universe as properly. He seen all issues are in movement, arising, decaying, dying. Reforming. Motion. And data of this rests in the again of each coronary heart. Rest isn’t actually a good phrase right here. Because this movement that’s seen, is the nice buzz of the universe. And it reveals the lack of substantiality. It reveals the reality of impermanence. It exhibits us we’re alive for a second. Gone earlier than. Gone after. Gone. Gone.

And people expertise this buzz as harm. As loss. As a profound dis-ease.

In some traditions this has been referred to as existential angst.

That factor. The fly in the ointment.

The Zen priest Judith Ragir observes “On the surface of life there is duality – broken and fixed. But so many things in this life cannot be fixed. Many deep things in life, we cannot fix. So what can we do? Where does our spiritual life lead us with things that cannot be fixed – with broken hearts that cannot be mended?”

She goes on to notice how additionally this us, the damaged us, is all there may be to hunt the complete.

I feel the vital level, no less than one, is that the damaged searching for the complete is just not meant as a quest for therapeutic in the standard sense. That occurs. Or not. I encourage on the lookout for therapeutic of thoughts and physique.

But this mission, this damaged fan, this rhinoceros is the matter of, to not put too high-quality a level on it, cosmic proportions. This is about heaven and hell. This is about squaring the circle of our lives.

This is an invitation to one thing that extends from earlier than the creation of this solar and this planet and previous the dying embers of the star and the misplaced reminiscence of the planet.

This is about the peace of the buzz. The peace inside life, inside dementia, inside loss of life.

We are usually not totally different that the movement of the universe. We are separate from it. But it’s us, you, me.

What is variety of fantastic is that we of all animals get to, or can discover. It turns into an eruption of the coronary heart. It turns into the peace of the buzz.

It is a bringing forth of the rhinoceros. The one that’s extinct and not.

It raises my gratitude for all my lecturers, though in the second I feel of Wali Ali Meyer. My needs. My regrets. My love.

Gate, gate, pāragate, pārasaṃgate, bodhi svāhā

Gone, gone, gone past. Gone completely past




Most Popular

Recent Comments