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April 24, 2009


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Ah! The question! I had a feeling yesterday that we give ourselves too much importance as human beings, we think we have to accomplish, without us the world would't function etc etc. But we are no different from any other part of Universe and we "just" need to be. Nothing more. Well, that was a thought and I am sure my ego will take over in no time and I will be back to my self-importance.

Nice reminder. Thanks for posting.

doug rogers

The question of Why do we come to this Earth, is curious. Because you have to examine the underlying assumption... whether that is us making the assumption, or whether it's an insufficiency in his English, or is it what he actually means...

So, Why/When did we come to this Earth is interesting, because beneath it, may be the assumption that there was some act of will, some act of mind or consciousness in the 'we', that there was something before 'we' were born.

Is he asking about Eternalism? Reincarnation?

I shouldn't think so.

I think he is pointing to Dependent Arising.

In this case 'Don't Know' as answer has many meanings. It could mean his audience doesn't understand. It could mean that the 'we' which is born was lost, wandering, unformed, and just fell into place. It could mean born into ignorance. It could mean that there is no answer to the question. It could mean there is a non-verbal inarticulable answer that 'Don't know' merely points to.

Perhaps it's not fair to say that I don't see any of the attendees expressing understanding. Perhaps that's best done one on one. I can't say what is going on in the minds of anyone there.

But this teaching moment seems a bit more of training than instruction. "Don't Know' is Seung Sahn's answer.

I don't have one.


Hi Barry,

Enjoyed catching up on your posts from the past couple of weeks. "So you're stupid...everybody's stupid." :-D! Not-knowing obviously has many levels of meaning, but nothing's a better call to practice for me than knowing that I'm a complete moron. Thanks for the wonderful reminder!

Have a nice weekend!

Barry Briggs

Hi Molly - I have so many ideas about what it means to be a human being. And, yet, most of these ideas remain just that - good ideas that don't really affect my behavior in meaningful ways. So how do we change our behaviors in ways that benefit this world? For me, that's our work as practitioners.

Hi Doug - Your comment is astute, I think. Dependent Arising was often behind much of ZM Seung Sahn's teaching. In this video, the focus of his teaching is what would occur in an interview room during koan training. A student would come in and he would say, "Who are you? (Actually, he might shout it!) The result of this might be a moment of "don't know" - which is before thinking. "Don't know" arises from the root of the zen tradition - when Bodhidharma responded to the emperor's challenge with "don't know." "Don't know" is a version of *prajna* - literally, 'before thinking.'

ZM Seung Sahn used to say that when someone was thinking, then their mind and his mind was different. But when someone wasn't thinking, then their minds were the same. That's a wonderful thing - no separation!

Hi Alice - Let's be stupid together! Actually, let's just *admit* that we're stupid and then get on with it...

By the way, congratulations on Veritas - I will leave a comment soon...when I'm feeling a little more with it... ;-)

Barry Briggs


MyoChi - I apologize for reading a bit too quickly and seeing your name as Molly. Sending bows your way...

doug rogers

His question is, essentially, "Show me your face before you were born."

Barry Briggs

Yes, this question ("Show me your face") comes to the same place as "Who are you?" and the others. (Although the questions have different answers, they point to the same "place.") Thanks, Doug!


Thanks for the congrats, Barry. Now you know one reason why I've been MIA in the dharmasphere lately. Going through a career transition, and needless to say, there's lots to be done!


Thank you so much for posting this

Barry Briggs

You're most welcome, Lawrence!

Lauren Crane

Just a wave arising from the ocean,
When I'm done, I'll fall back in again.
Just soba, boiling in a pot,
They come up this way, it's me.
They come up that way, it's you.
Dust and leaves swirling in the wind.
See me now.
And see me then.
An "I" knitted from a million million million particles that happened to run together, to aggregate, to fly away again.
A thousand streams of dominos, falling in cause and effect, to pop me into existence, and soon to pop me out again.
To recycle, rechurn, reboil, reagregate into another part of another me.
And will I know?
Stupid Mistaken Human Being!

Barry Briggs

Lauren, thank you so much for this wonderful poem. Let's be stupid, mistaken, human beings together!


Just don't get into thinking too much about being stupid or a mistake... that's just another way of thinking we're "special" ;-)

Just get on with it.

Glad some of these historic moment were captured on film ans=d thanks for sharing Barry.


Barry Briggs

Hi Puerhan - well, any kind of thinking is only going to make the mistake much worse! Just get on with it, indeed!

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