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Kannon (Guan Yin)

The Gap Between the Six Worlds and the Seventh, Cont.

If he finds himself in pain amongst the dead and the dying, the drugged, the drunk and the mad, and he at last cries out begging the Lord to help him, he has entered the Seventh World of Chan.

For, the first of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths is just this: Life is bitter and painful. Unless this Truth is understood... not accepted on faith, but known.. not studied, but testified to... not assumed by reason, but verified by experience, absolutely and without qualification, unless a person knows from his scalp to his toenails that life is indeed bitter and painful, he is not even a candidate for Buddhist liberation.

The First Truth must be comprehended before the Second Truth can be revealed. To live in Samsara is to suffer. Life under the ego's tyranny is an endless battle which cannot end in victory. For so long as the tyrant lives, he tyrannizes us. We are whipped. Salvation, therefore, begins with an admission of defeat. (Not with an act of contrition, as some would have it, but merely with an admission of defeat. Contrition is second.)

A little bolder now and with a little more curiosity, the candidate may show up at a Chan master's door saying that life as he presently knows it is not worth living and that he seeks to invest it with something of value; or, he may say that somehow he lost his way in life and finds himself in a place where nothing jibes, where nothing is synchronized, and where everything seems alien and devoid of meaning. He regrets everything that he has ever done and blames no one for his troubles but himself. He begs for any direction that will lead him out of the hostile, sorrowful terrain. He may use the metaphors of battle and say that his world is in ruins, that his struggle with life has left him wounded and bleeding badly, and that he has no strength left to continue the fight. He may add, almost as a final challenge, that he comes to Buddhism because he has nothing else to lose and nowhere else to go.

At the sound of these words the master's heart will begin to stiffen and snap like a prayer flag in a strong wind; and in whatever language he speaks he will whisper, 'Thank you, Lord.'

The master knows that the life of the ego is truly bitter and that a man must learn for himself the folly of ever believing otherwise.

In the lexicon of salvation, Disillusionment comes before Awakening.

The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism
Chapter 6: The Gap Between the Six Worlds and the Seventh, Page 7 of 7

Last modified: July 11, 2004
©1996 Ming Zhen Shakya (Chuan Yuan Shakya)