Sunday, February 28, 2016

William H. Drummond writes

The Enlightenment

The Buddhist monk
Was in a funk
With tofu in his gut

Fermenting mass
It turned to gas
And burst out of his butt

The novice choked
The teacher croaked
The nuns were all quite sick

"But that's quite mild"
Said Monk and smiled
"And wasn't even thick"

"Give me a flame
I'll play a game
With tofu gas, you'll see"

"Turn out the light
You'll see a sight
Enlightened I will be"


  1. Pyroflatulence is the practice of igniting the gases produced by human flatulence, often producing a blue flame (colloquially known as a "blue angel" or "blue dart")though other colors such as orange and yellow are possible, depending on the mixture of gases in the colon.
    The musician Kenny Williams claims it demonstrates "compression, ignition, combustion and exhaust." Jim Dawson covered the subject exhaustively in his book, "Who Cut the Cheese?: A Cultural History of the Fart."

  2. Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo visited his friend Fo-ying but grew bored waiting for him. He composed some verses and signed them, "Su Dongpo, the great Buddhist who cannot be moved even by the combined forces of the mighty Eight Worldly Winds" [gain, loss, defamation, eulogy, praise, ridicule, sorrow, and joy] before returning home. Fo-ying added another line ("Rubbish! What you have said is not better than breaking wind!") and sent it to Su, who angrily returned to the temple to confront the monk, who replied, "Ah, Su Dongpo, the great Buddhist who claims that the combined forces of the Eight Winds can hardly move him an inch, is now carried all the way to the other side of the Yangxi River by a single puff of wind from the colon!" Buddhist sages, particularly in the Chinese "Chan," Japanese "Zen," and Korean "Seon" schools of meditation, often use paradoxical humor to make their spiritual points, sometimes in very earthy ways. Fushan Fayuan complained that "using eloquence and sharpness of tongue to gain victories, is like outhouses painted vermillion -- it only increases the odor." Mi-an lamented that "those who are acting as teachers of others do not have their eyes and brains straight and true. They have no perception of their own, but just keep fame and fortune and gain and loss in their hearts. Deeply afraid that others will say they have no stories, they mistakenly memorize stories from old books, letting them ferment in the back of their minds so they won’t lack for something to say if seekers ask them questions. They are like goats crapping: the minute their tails go up, innumerable dung balls plop to the ground!" One summer day Zhaozhou Congshen engaged his disciple Wenyuan in a contest to see who could demean himself the furthest. Zhaozhou began, "I am a donkey." Wenyuan countered, "I am the donkey’s buttocks." Zhaozhou replied, "I am the donkey’s dung." Wenyuan continued, "I am a worm in the dung." Stumped for a comeback, Zhaozhou asked, "What are you doing there?" and Wenyuan capped the discussion:: "I am spending my summer vacation!" On another occasion a monk asked Zhaozhou, "What is that which is spiritual?" and was told, "A puddle of piss in the Pure Land [of Amitabha Buddha]." The puzzled monk implored, "I ask you to reveal it to me,” and Zhaozhou answered, "Don’t tempt me."

  3. When monks introduced Buddhism into China and Japan, they also brought the Indian custom of using a śalākā (small stake, stick, or rod) for wiping excrement; they were inexpensive, washable, and reusable. "Shiketsu," the usual Japanese term, is a compound of "stick" and "shit" (written with the characters for "body" and "rice"), is a typical Zen epithet for someone who clings to things or a person who is attached to the world of appearance; curiously, in English, calling someone a "shit-stick" combines the ideas of shit and stick-in-the-mud. "The Gateless Gate" was a compilation of 48 kōans put together by Wumen Huikai (ca 1228); one, referring to Yunmen Wenyan, stated: "A monk asked Yün-men, 'What is Buddha?' Yün-men said, 'Dried shitstick.'" In explanation, Wumen commented, "It must be said of Yün-men that he was too poor to prepare even the plainest food and too busy to make a careful draft. Probably people will bring forth this dried shitstick to shore up the gate and prop up the door. The Buddha Dharma is thus sure to decay." And he appended a verse:
    A flash of lightning,
    sparks from flint;
    if you blink your eyes,
    it's already gone.
    (Robert Baker Aitken, the translator, explained "dried shitstick" is "a soft stick that was used the way our ancestors used a corncob in their outhouses.") [In "The Dharma Bums," Jack Kerouac paraphrased it as, "The Buddha is a dried piece of turd."] Shundo Aoyama interpreted the
    kōan's meaning in this way: "When the abbot or any of the teachers is away from a temple for a week or so, the novices think nothing of it. But if there were no toilet paper, they would quickly feel its absence! Shit-sticks, which were used in former days for the same purpose, could be washed and re-used any number of times. Shit-sticks become dirty to clean us. If these are not buddhas, what is? Out of gratitude for them, I recognize the shit-stick as a buddha." Taking a different approach, Thích Nhất Hạnh says, "The Zen master expressed his disappointment but at the same time used an image opposite of the one we have of the true person. We tend to think of a true person as pure and noble, someone extraordinary, so the Zen master uses this image of a dry piece of fecal matter or dried excrement on a stick to neutralize our view. If we have a set view about what our true person is, then that view has no more value than a piece of dry fecal matter."


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