Friday, October 15, 2010

Five Films You Might Want To Watch With The Buddha Before Killing Him

To thine own self be... ouch! Via.
"If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha."
Linji Yixuan, Ch'an Master (? – 866)

Zen practices help people achieve serenity, better focus and greater understanding of the self. But as with everything in life, light must co-exist with darkness.

Enter Japan Society’s Zen & Its Opposite [watch the trailer], five classic films that show the relationship between Zen and violence, often overlooked when discussing Zen philosophy. Historically we can look to samurai meditating in order to center themselves before violent combat. Metaphysically, we can look at the constant battle between our spiritual selves and earthly desires.

A good example of the latter is the 1964 supernatural Japanese fantasy/horror film Kwaidan, which launches Zen & Its Opposite tonight. Each film illustrates one or several of the "Six Planes of Existence" in Buddhism's realm of birth and death. Kwaidan is four ghost stories elegantly strewn together, but at its core represents "The Realm of Humans", where beings are both good and evil--enlightenment within their grasp, yet blinded and consumed by their desires.Each of the short stories that comprise Kwaidan creates worlds where one must be on constant alert – something Zen Buddhism strives to improve upon – and nothing is as it seems.

Though the film was made by Japanese people, who might readily understand these Eastern concepts, the book on which the film was based was actually written by noted 19th century Japanologist Lafcadio Hearn, who was British-born and naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 1895, taking the name Yakumo Koizumi. So great was Hearn’s affinity for Japanese culture that his stories read like a born and bred native Japanese who has never stepped foot in the West.

After Kwaidan Zen & Its Opposite continues through February with screenings of Onibaba, Fires on the Plain, Hell  and Sword of Doom. Tickets are $12 or $9 Japan Society members, students and seniors.

For those who can’t get enough ghost stories before Halloween, Japan Society invites you to check out OBAKE! on October 29 for an evening of fun with ghosts, costumes and one of the most insane Japanese horror films of all time. More on that later!


1 comment:

Jeff H said...

Of course, Lin Ji only meant to "kill" the Buddha in a figurative or metaphorical way. For Lin Ji, the bindings of traditional Buddhist conditioning and convention that prevailed in his time were obstructions to the enlightened mind. He advises to free oneself in one's mind by "killing" such conditioning and religious conventions.

This is the quote in a larger context:

"Followers of the Way [of Chán/Zen], if you want to get the kind of understanding that accords with the Dharma, never be misled by others. Whether you're facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a buddha, kill the buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch. If you meet an arhat, kill the arhat. If you meet your parents, kill your parents. If you meet your kinfolk, kill your kinfolk. Then for the first time you will gain emancipation, will not be entangled with things, will pass freely anywhere you wish to go."

Here is another quote from Lin Ji that may be more descriptive of his intention, one which stresses the importance of disentangling one's mind and its misperceptions.

"A true student of the Way never concerns himself with the Buddha, never concerns himself with bodhisattvas or arhats, never concerns himself with the blessings of the three-fold world. Far removed, alone and free, he is never entangled in things. Heaven and earth could turn upside down and he would not be perturbed. All the buddhas and of the ten directions could appear before him and his mound would not feel an instant of joy, the three realms of hell could suddenly confront him and his mind would not feel an instant of alarm. Why is he like this? Because he knows that things in the phenomenal world are empty of characteristics. When conditions change, they come into existence; when there is not change, they do not exist. The threefold world is nothing but mind, the ten thousand phenomena are nothing but consciousness."