The Birth of Zen

The text on the painting reads: Hui-K’o, the great general, (retired), was troubled in his search for the way. Many times he beseeched the Daruma to teach him and to pacify his mind.

Always, The Daruma refused.

To show his utter sincerity, Hui-K’o cut off his own left hand.

“What do you seek?”, asked The Daruma.

“Peace of mind”, replied Hui-K’o.

“Show me this mind of yours”, said The Daruma, “and I will pacify it”.

“But when I seek my mind, I cannot find it”, was the reply.

“THERE!” , said The Daruma, “I have pacified your mind!”

----- “YES!”, said Hui-K’o, and laughed.

    Hui-K’o retired about 525 C.E., I think, and after the very first “satori” or “sudden and complete awakening,” (pictured here), became the second Patriarch of Chan, or Zen, Buddhism. Satori is a central and defining characteristic of Chan, or Zen, Buddhism. In the painting, The moon-filling tile patch, (where an agonized Hui-K’o holds his severed hand and the Daruma’s back is turned to him), is a Penrose P-3 tiling. That is to say, it is based not on the darts and kites, (p-2), but on the fat-and-skinny rhombs, (P-3). A plot for the moon covering patch is shown on a scrap of paper on the ground in front of the Daruma.

    I think Paul Steinhardt called this patch a “seed” in his Physics Review Letters piece de-mystifying how quasi-crystals might form without somehow reading the future.

    Replete with mysticism though it is, I have much more respect for Zen Buddhism than for any other religion. And not merely for its aesthetics. Zen is the only religion I know of that gives the intelligent or creative individual person a sort of permission to transcend its teachings. Thus: Zen says, “If you meet the Buddha on the path to enlightenment, Kill him.” Here one finds no equivocation or uncertainty about what to do if doctrine or dogma or specifically religious values of any sort or sanctity should interfere with your progress toward wisdom and enlightenment. In short: Don't let Buddhism interfere with your enlightenment!

    If anyone knows of anything comparable in any other religion, please let me know.


2000 John A.L. Osborn