Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Zen Buddhism and Bart Simpson? :: Exploratory Essays Research Papers

Zen Buddhism and Bart Simpson? Professor’s comment: The following essay is only one of a series of mind-bending ones that Rob wrote for my class, essays that demonstrated not just a quirky sense of humor but also a razor-sharp intellect and distinctive voice. This particular essay was written in response to an assignment asking students to explain a concept. From the first line of this essay, I knew I was on to something special: how many people would choose to explain an element of Zen Buddhism using Bart Simpson? And the essay does not disappoint. Bart Simpson, America’s favorite animated smart-aleck kid, replied to the famous question â€Å"What is the sound of one hand clapping?† by slapping the fingers of his right hand against his right palm, creating a loose flapping noise. Ask around and you’ll find only a few people with this talent (I am one of the lucky ones able to accomplish this feat). But the question becomes: am I and my fellow smug-single-hand-clappers missing the point? That, my friend, is a darn good question. The sound of one hand clappingis a koan. Zen Buddhist masters use these paradoxical stories or questions to force their pupils to slough reason in favor of sudden enlightenment. Koans are designed to be nonsensical, shocking, or humorous. So are koans serious or fun? Another good question, but a strikingly Western one. Why must seriousness and fun be mutually exclusive? Why are we so serious about whether seriousness and fun are mutually exclusive? All koans. We Americans can learn a lot by studying these little buggers. Pure Reason has failed to answer questions of how, or more importantly, whywe should live. Sadly, many people also see learning (or thinking) as a dry, boring act. Perhaps our teachers need to tell us not merely what they do know, but what they don’t know. Zen masters were not afraid to do as much. Koans sneak up on you. Each koan is a well-wrapped chocolate Easter egg of wisdom that reveals itself in layers. The first is either pure titillation, or a slap in the face. Try to read the following without smirking: (1) Wakuan complained when he saw a picture of bearded Bodhidarma, ‘Why hasn’t that fellow a beard?’1 (2) A student asked Joshu, ‘If I haven’t anything in my mind, what shall I do?

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