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  • devianandi
    A Classic Dharma Debate between Kalu Rinpoche and Seung Sahn, taken from Thoughts without a Thinker by Mark Epstein, a Buddhist psychiatrist and contributing
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 10, 2003
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      A Classic Dharma Debate
      between Kalu Rinpoche and Seung Sahn,
      taken from "Thoughts without a Thinker" by Mark Epstein,
      a Buddhist psychiatrist and contributing editor of Tricycle.
      Some friends of mine had arranged for an encounter between two
      prominent visiting Buddhist teachers at the house of a Harvard
      University psychology professor. These were teachers from two
      distinctly different Buddhist traditions who had never met and whose
      traditions had in fact had very little contact over the past thousand
      years. Before the worlds of Buddhism and Western psychology could
      come together, the various strands of Buddhism would have to
      encounter one another. We were to witness the first such dialogue.
      The teachers, seventy-year-old Kalu Rinpoche of Tibet, a veteran of
      years of solitary retreat, and the Zen master Seung Sahn, the first
      Korean Zen master to teach in the United States, were to test each
      other's understanding of the Buddha's teachings for the benefit of
      the onlooking Western students. This was to be a high form of what
      was being called "dharma combat," (the clashing of great minds
      sharpened by years of study and meditation), and we were waiting with
      all the anticipation that such a historic encounter deserved.
      The two monks entered with swirling robes – maroon and yellow for the
      Tibetan, austere grey and black for the Korean – and were followed by
      retinues of younger monks and translators with shaven heads. They
      settled onto cushions in the familiar cross-legged positions, and the
      host made it clear that the younger Zen master was to begin. The
      Tibetan lama sat very still, fingering a wooden rosary (mala) with
      one hand while murmuring, "Om mani padme hum," continuously under his
      The Zen master, who was already gaining renown for his method of
      hurling questions at his students until they were forced to admit
      their ignorance and then bellowing, "Keep that don't know mind!" at
      them, reached deep inside his robes and drew out an orange. "What is
      this?" he demanded of the lama. "What is this?" This was a typical
      opening question, and we could feel him ready to pounce on whatever
      response he was given.
      The Tibetan sat quietly fingering his mala and made no move to
      "What is this?" the Zen master insisted, holding the orange up to the
      Tibetan's nose. Kalu Rinpoche bent very slowly to the Tibetan monk
      near to him who was serving as the translator, and they whispered
      back and forth for several minutes.
      Finally the translator addressed the room: "Rinpoche says, 'What is
      the matter with him? Don't they have oranges where he comes from?' "
      The dialog progressed no further.
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