Tag Archives: teaching story

Teaching Story – The Great Warrior

Kabuki symmetry

Kabuki Warrior (S.Calhoun-2014)

There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.

One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.

Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior’s challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed.

Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. “How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?”

“If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it,” the master replied, “to whom does the gift belong?”

from: Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, experiential learning, visual experiments, my art, zen | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Thinking About Tomorrow

The Umbrella

The Umbrella

As Nasrudin and a friend walked, it suddenly began raining hard. The friend noticed that Nasrudin was carrying an umbrella, and said,

“Open your umbrella to prevent us from getting soaked.”

“No,” said Nasrudin, “that won’t do us much good. This umbrella is full of holes.”

“So then why did you bring it?” the friend curiously asked.

“Well,” explained Nasrudin, “I didn’t really think it would rain today.”

 

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Talking

Talking S Calhoun

Talking No. 4 (photograph + manipulation; S.Calhoun 2014)

African parable: A hunter went into the bush and found a human skull. The hunter asked, “What brought you here?” The skull replied, “Talking brought me here.”

Overwhelmed with his find, the hunter ran to tell the king. When the king heard the story he said, “Never in my life have I heard of a talking skull.” He summoned his wise men and asked them about this oddity. But none of them had heard of a talking skull, either.

So the king summoned one of his guards and said, “Go with this hunter into the bush. Find the skull. If it talks, bring it back to me. If the hunter is lying, kill him.”

The hunter and the guard went into the bush and found the skull. The hunter said, “What brought you here, skull?” But the skull was silent. So the guard killed the hunter on the spot.

After the guard departed, the skull opened its mouth and asked the dead hunter, “What brought you here?”

“Talking brought me here,” the hunter replied.

Candles in the Dark A Treasury of the World’s Most Inspiring Parables compiled by Todd Outcalt

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, experiential learning, visual experiments, my art | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Relativizing, Dancing Around Synthesis

Integra-Natura

Paul Kugler came up in a conversation about the problem incurred by supporters of Analytical Psychology as those same supporters age without, in effect and in actuality, having created a socio-cultural succession plan. This leads to a mild synchronicity when I search for Kugler’s ideas and run across very resonant materials; and I mean here personally resonant.

Haeckel

[Paul Kugler tells:] The story is set in a medieval village where the villagers are seated during meetings according to their social rank. The person who holds the highest rank rakes the highest seat. One day the villagers are gathering and the prime minister is setting in his seat when a beggar wanders into the village and takes the seat just above hem. He is, of course, very disturbed by this, and asks the beggar just “ who do think you are to take that seat? Do you think you are the prime minister?” The beggar thinks for a few minutes, and says “No”. So the prime minister asks, “Well, do you think you are the king to take that seat?” The beggar thinks again for a few minutes and replies again “No”. So the prime minister asks “Well then, do you thing you are the prophet to take that seat?” The beggar looked at him and replied, “No.” This time the prime minister asked if he thought he was God to sit there. And again the beggar replied “No.” At this point the prime minister was very upset and he exclaimed “But nothing sits above God”, to which the beggar replied. “Yes, and that nothing I am.”

Sufi meeting

(Note: Nothingness is equivalent to Non-duality.)

Here’s the larger context of the story, excerpted from the full interview.

Editor: What do you mean by ontological?

Kugler: One’s functioning definition of reality. If you change your working definition of reality you run the risk of precipitating a psychotic reaction. Psychosis, as you know, is a disturbance of reality. Psychotic episodes are often accompanied by religious conversions. I have known clinical cases where the patient has undergone multiple conversions during a single episode. Because of the profound psychic disturbances associated with shifts in our belief systems., the bedrock or our personality. Jung was very apprehensive about Westerners taking on Eastern belief systems. When you take on those patterns of thought, you alter your definition or reality

Editor: There is an experience that precedes the verbalization. An experience that is without verbal labels. I think that in attempts to construct that experience verbally, what’s happening is we are finding that the Eastern constructions fit the experience better than the Western constructions, although I think they’re the same. The experience is fundamental, the origin. The Eastern set of symbols, set of concepts, are a better expressions of experience.

Kugler: How do you determine what is “better”?

Editor: It’s the sense of a good fit. I have an experience of lucid dreaming, alright? This is an experiential reality. There’s a verbal element to it: I know I am dreaming, and that it is verbal. It’s quite verbal. It’s a sentence that is said in the dream. But, there’s an experience without verbal labels that is pervasive, deep, profound.

Kugler: I have a sense of what you are referring to, but I have a lot of questions as to how you are going to escape the bias imposed on our understanding by language. The nature of the relation between lived experience and its representations is very complicated. The representational level has a significant influence on how we construct and speak about “reality”. For example, in the nineteenth century the linguistic metaphors and narrative structures we used to construct our discourse were quite different from today. The master narratives of the past century were influenced by the Victorian novel, on the one hand, and the Newtonian fantasy of cause and effect on the other. Much of science is still modeled on these master narratives: begin with a problem or crime, casually follow the clues backward in time through a series of ups and downs in the plot, the parapetia, until you find the cause of the problem or the person “who done it”.

Hunt: Freud’s case histories?

Kugler: Yes, Freud’s case histories. This master narrative dominated 19th and early 20th century literature and science. And in some areas it still is in use today. At the turn of the century James Joyce, almost single handedly, introduced a new form of the novel and with it came a new master narrative. In writing Finnegan’s Wake and Ulysses, he created a novel that could not be read only once. The problem with the Victorian novel was once you know “who done it” the plot was not so engaging. Joyce constructed a novel in which the clues given at the end only made sense at the beginning during the second and third readings.

Editor: A good movie’s that way.

Kugler: Also, Joyce plays so extensively with the polysemic quality of language through endless puns, that every time you reread the text there are shifts in the meaning of the novel. The construction of the narrative is not casual, nor does it have a singular meaning of definite perspective. Joyce was beginning to develop what we now recognize as the post-modern novel. In the post-modern novel the narrative line is not characterized so much by causal connections and plot developments, as it is by ontological shifts. For example, the structure of a post-modern novel might be something like this: As the story goes, you are having dinner with Harry Hunt and Paul Kugler, interviewing them for a journal article. The interview focuses on dreams, question of lucidity, self-relativity, the problems associated with Westerners taking on Eastern belief systems and so on. Part way through the interview you suddenly realize that you are actually dreaming and that your interview with Dr. Kugler on lucidity in dreams is itself only a dream. At this point in the dream you are asked by Kugler the following questions: What will happen to your dream people, the little people as Jung called them, if through your meditation practices you succeed in emptying your dreams of all content? What will happen to this dream content? What will happen to this interview? You suddenly awaken, confused and uncertain as to whether you actually interviewed Kugler of whether it was only a dream. As you struggle with this question you suddenly realize that you are still dreaming…

Now, this type of narrative construction is characteristic of the post-modern novel. Ray Federman’s Double or Nothing and Two Fold Vibration are wonderful examples of this style of composition. The self-reflexive structure with its continuous ontological shifts is very different from the Victorian with its causal structure, stable meaning and singular reality. In many ways the post-modern novel is similar to Japanese movies with their de-emphasis on plot and subtle concern with differentiating the various levels of reality.

As we become more aware of the problems of ontology and the difficulties involved in differentiating levels of reality, we see a greater similarity between our lived experience and the philosophical narratives of the East. Whether we understand the lived experience of the Easterner is another question. There are many ground principles in the Eastern systems of thought that are alien to the Western mind.

Kugler: We, for example, tend to ground our systems of thought on something while the East tends to ground its belief systems on nothing. The idea of using “nothingness” as a first principle is extremely difficult for many Westerners to grasp.

There’s a wonderful Sufi story that plays with the tension between the primacy of a known god-term and nothingness. The story is set in a medieval village where the villagers are seated during meetings according to their social rank. The person who holds the highest rank rakes the highest seat. One day the villagers are gathering and the prime minister is setting in his seat when a beggar wanders into the village and takes the seat just above hem. He is, of course, very disturbed by this, and asks the beggar just “ who do think you are to take that seat? Do you think you are the prime minister?” The beggar thinks for a few minutes, and says “No”. So the prime minister asks, “Well, do you think you are the king to take that seat?” The beggar thinks again for a few minutes and replies again for a few minutes and replies. “No”. So the prime minister asks “Well then, do you thing you are the prophet to take that seat?” The beggar looked at him and replied, “No.” This time the prime minister asked if he thought he was God to sit there. And again the beggar replied “No.” At this point the prime minister was very upset and he exclaimed “But nothing sits above God”, to which the beggar replied. “Yes, and that nothing I am.”

Editor: I love it.

Kugler: it’s a very complicated ending because you can sense how language catches us up in its internal tension between referentiality and significance.

Hunt: In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition I think they’re quite eager, at least now, to press on people the term openness for emptiness or nothing. In other words, if it has a referential sense, it’s a kind of openness. It’s the space that’s filled by structure. The difference, perhaps, between the Eastern relativism and the Western relativism in that in that oscillation between open possibility and the structure that are given birth to the Eastern oscillation would have you end up on the side of the bare awareness.

Kugler: The Eastern relativity ends up with the unknown, while Western relativity ends up with the known.

Hunt: So playing with structure, with the accent on structure, rather than the accent on detachment. Although both are necessary.

Kugler: I’ll tell you two stories which illustrate my point. The first story reflects more of the modernist attitude, which we might call the Western attitude towards relativity. And the second is closer to the post-modern and Buddhist attitude. The first story Jung was very fond of telling as an illustration of his concept of the Self. The story illustrates the function of a transcendental meaning (ref. morning lecture) in relation to relativity. The story is found in the 18th Book of the Koran and begins with Moses meeting Khidr (The “Green One”) in the desert. The two wander together for a while and Khidr expresses his fear Moses will not be able to witness his deeds without judgment and indignation. Khidr tells Moses that if he cannot trust and bear with him, then Khidr will have to leave him. Moses agrees.

After a short time they come upon a poor fishing village where Khidr sinks the fishing boats of the villagers. Moses is upset seeing this, but remembers his promise and says nothing. A short time later they arrive at a decaying house of two pious young men, just outside the wall of the city of non-believers. Khidr goes up to the city wall which is falling down and repairs the wall, rather than the house of the two believers. Again Moses is disturbed by Khidr’s actions, but says nothing. The story continues in this fashion until finally Moses sees something so intolerable that he can no longer hold back from making a comment. This causes Khidr to leave. But, before his departure, Khidr explains why he acted as he did. In the first instance, pirates were on their way to steal the fisherman’s boats and by sinking them, Khidr actually saved the boats from being stolen. In the second instance, by rebuilding the wall of the city of non-believers, Khidr actually saved the two young men from ruin, because their life fortune was hidden under the city wall and about to be revealed and stolen. As Khidr left, Moses realized that his moral judgement and indignation had been too hasty and that Khidr’s actions, which at first he interpreted as bad, were in fact, not.

The second story I would characterize as a narrative representing the Post-modern problematic. It’s an old Taoist story about a farmer who has a son and a horse. One day, the farmer goes outside to find that his only horse has run away. It’s a small town and the neighbors hear about it and come to visit that evening and tell him what a terrible thing it is that happened. The farmer listens to them, thinks for a while, and responds, “I don’t know.” The next week the horse runs up into the mountains and takes up with a herd of thirty wild horses. After running with them for a few weeks, the farmer’s horse leads the wild horses back to the corral. The farmer goes out and finds he now has thirty-one horses and closes the gate. Word gets out and the neighbors come to see him that evening and tell him how wonderful this is. The farmer thinks for a long time and says “I don’t know”. The following day his only son goes out to tame the wild horse. He climbs on the first horse and is thrown breaking his leg, so he can’t work. The neighbors hear about this and come over to the house that evening and tell him what a terrible thing this is. The farmer thinks for a while and responds “I don’t know”. The next day the country breaks out in a war and the man in charge of draft inscription arrives to draft the son to the front line where he probably will be killed. He finds he has a broken leg and tells him he does not have to go to war. And the neighbors hear about this and come over that night and tell the farmer how wonderful it is that his son does not have to go to war. And the farmer responds “ I don’t know”.

Both stories relativize through recontextualization, but where they differ is that the first story has a personification (Khidr) who “knows” the future, while in the second story there is only “not knowing”. There is only the farmer who questions the neighbors’ tendency to fix a specific interpretation to an event. The two stories present very different ways of relativizing.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in analytic(al) psychology, experiential learning, sufism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Cartoon: Two On ‘Timing’ & a Tale

robert-leighton-when-i-was-your-age-things-were-exactly-the-way-they-are-now-new-yorker-cartoon

wasittoday

Only Enough Time to Get Where You Stand, Right

The captain of a ship received a message one night, “Change your direction 15 degrees North to avoid collision”.

A little indignant, the captain replied, “I am the captain of a large ship and recommend you divert 15 degrees South”.

The captain received the reply, “We are a lighthouse”.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in experiential learning | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Development

Dervish Dancer No. 3
S.Calhoun – 2013 – Dervish Dancer No. 3

A boy, very attached to his pet pig, one day decided to enter it in a horse race. Much to his dismay the pig finished last and suffered the ridicule of all the horsemen. The boy was quite surprised, for, as he told one of the horsemen: “it makes no sense that a pig as fast as she was when she was a piglet shouldn’t grow up to be even faster!”

(I first heard this on a cassette of a lecture by Idries Shah.)

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Story: Every Which Way the Wind Blows

Nasruddin Backwards

Mullah Nasruddin was a digging a grave in the cemetery when from afar he saw the sand blowing in the distant desert. His imagination got the better of him and he thought it was a band of brigands. In fear for his life he jumped into the half dug grave site.

In the distance a group of honest merchants were returning home from a profitable business. They saw the strange site of a Mullah in his long flowing robe jumping into a grave. So they went to the cemetery to find out what was going on.

They got to the grave and saw Nasruddin shivering in fright. They asked him, “Mullah, what are you doing there?”

By now the Mullah understood his mistake and was relieved that these were not the thieves he had imagined. The Mullah got out of the grave and said, “It all depends on the way you look at it. I’m here because you’re here and you’re here because I’m here.”

Source: Nasrudin-stories blog

(When I first presented this tale on Transformative Tools I titled it Downward Causation.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in experiential learning, sufism | Tagged | Leave a comment

The impossibility of education

Classroom
Once, the villagers invited Mulla Nasruddin to deliver a lecture on spiritual matters.

When he got on the pulpit, he found the audience was not very enthusiastic, so he asked “Do you know what I am going to say?”

The audience replied “No”, so he announced “I have no desire to speak to people who don’t even know what I will be talking about” and he left.

The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day.

Once again he asked the same question – “Do you know what I am going to say?”

This time when he asked the same question, the people replied “Yes” So Mullah Nasruddin said, “Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won’t waste any more of your time” and he left.

Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mullah to speak the following week.

Once again he asked the same question – “Do you know what I am going to say?”

Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered “Yes” while the other half replied “No”. So Mullah Nasruddin said “The half who know what I am going to say, tell it to the other half” and he left!


(Carried over from Transformative Tools blog; part of the process of transitioning its content to squareONE explorations.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in education, experiential learning, sufism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Zen Story: Cyclin’

Japan Bike Style

src: http://www.selectism.com/news/2009/12/02/stephen-crawford-japan-bicycle-chic

A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the student, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.” The teacher commended the student, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.” The teacher was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, “I am your disciple.”

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in experiential learning, zen | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Two Batesonian Teaching Cartoons

Okay. I mentioned I had this darn insight many years ago: something like a Batesonian metalogue–which are sprinkled throughout his books–seems to be discoverable in the deep structure of particular Sufi teaching stories. This old insight has evolved and this is due mostly to my original apercu not really being the actual case.

I would put it differently now. There is in this kind of story a hidden potential for shifting one’s “base” way of experiencing their being-in-the-world. (This is but one way of putting the experiential ‘trap door’ contained in such stories.) Whereas, Bateson never specified a comprehensive set of applications which could be said–had these been specified–to be implicate in his research and articulation of his understanding. He never, as-it-were, surfaced those kinds of robust edifying activities.

To hold these two different aspects from two different ‘realizations,’ together, nevertheless, reveals similar practical objectives. One simple way to suggest this is to bring in the metaphor of peeling the onion. Certainly this does fine duty with respect to the technology given by the Sufi teaching story. After all, the teaching story is surely a technology for peeling the onion. On the side of Bateson, similarly, but less tried and tested, there is an implicate technology focused on supporting a deep, counter-habitual, and no less subversive ‘environmentally-experiential’ learning.

Now I’m reviewing my archive of teaching cartoons to see which ones elicit these similar aspects.

Stephen Nachmaninovitch’s seminar was terrific. I’m not going to talk too much out of school, except to make a couple of observations. Later, I’ll highlight Stephen’s resources.

He brought Bateson into his mostly experiential presentation in very subtle ways. He insinuated a handful of ideas by softly integrating each into the composition of his program. From my perspective, it seemed he was ‘making ground’ for negative capability. I suppose I’m sensitive to this, so it was striking. Those of course are just my terms.

Among the bright Ph.D. candidates in the room, many seemed to find their way in a situation aiming to be expansive rather than one aimed to feather their (likely) laser-directed professional aspirations!

This leads to my other observation. There is, in the context of the professional academy, a very ripe circumstance for this kind of instigation. There were many moments during the seminar when I was chuckling inside because so many ‘givens’ were coming under a lot of pressure–except this was entirely by deep and indirect implication. This seemed almost tacit, yet obvious too.

And, at the same time, Nachmanovitch was very selective. He interjected Bateson’s sense about the problem with nouns-with reification-with flattening, but didn’t then highlight this applies to ideas as well as people, places, and things. All he said was that this applies to people, places, things, and ideas. It seemed he was seeding a handful of experiences and frames and allied concepts. Briefly, at the end, he wrapped this all up in a mildly didactic closing.

It was masterful for what he didn’t say; for what he left to ‘roam on its own;’ and, for trusting his students to discover what they will. As Bateson would have it: he didn’t close off possibilities.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minding the Mind

My favorite (Gregory) Batesonian teaching story, reconfigured and originally via Idries Shah.

A frenchman is teaching another french rudimentary english.

“So, the word for froid crème glacée is ‘cold ice cream.’ “

“What’s the word for chaude crème glacée?”

“Oh, they have no need for it, so there’s no word for it.”

Although I have an acute memory, I can’t recall which friend of mine did me the favor of bringing the work of Gregory Bateson to my attention. It was a long time ago. (Maybe it was Chris Irion? Pilcher?) I dug into Bateson’s Mind and Nature thirty years ago, when it was published. In another sense, it only matters as a fuzzy starting point. It was definitely in 1996 that I returned to his opus in a re-doubled effort to make some further connections. This was due to meeting my mentor and squareONE partner Judith Buerkel in 1995. During this first meeting it turned out Bateson was our mutual touchstone. Bingo!

It was only then, after a more mature effort to really deal-in, that Bateson’s understanding came to deeply inform my outlook, and to comprise a large facet in my favorite lens. The interesting nexus for this was a weird insight evoked by my trying to make coherent the weaving together of three things, the Sufi teaching story, my new (at the time) fascination with others’ theorizing about experiential learning (this via Mezirow and Kolb,) and, my revisiting Bateson (via his last book, Where Angels Fear. Toward An Epistemology of the Sacred.) About this last visitation, the bookmark stuck a third of the way through the book–when I picked it up again–marked where I had left off nine years earlier.

Judith basically told me to woodshed! Ultimately, we grappled with how to underpin our applications–what was to become the tool kit for squareONE. We spend a lot of time discussing the practical import for our work of our different Batesonian outlooks. We both thought Bateson was an adept designer; (although this is a novel sense about Bateson, who overtly was an anthropologist, psychologist, philosopher, and naturalist.)

Anyway, my insight at the time, excitedly delivered at our weekly meeting at Arabica, was this: it was apparent to me that something like Batesonian metalogues were embedded, even secreted in the structural folds of many Middle Eastern teaching stories. Judith responded: “They’re folded in everything.”

I’ve been revisiting Bateson once again over the last month. This, however, comes long after I added my experience and understanding of his understanding, (well, some of it,) to be, basically, the fundamental facet of my favored lens. By which I mean: some synergy of dynamic ideas-in-interplay make up the essential background frame for my intentional observations. Funny how lens and frame come together!

I use a ‘reduced set’ roughly taken from Bateson. Perhaps it would better to say appropriated from Bateson. I’m not a Batesonian because I’m eclectic, disorganized, not masterly, and, an ol’ hippie. Yet, in another sense, I often turn the world around to experience its different sides using my idiosyncratic (sort of) Batesonian lens.

If I assert that I’m dedicated to being a student of my environment, then in the background of this claim is this lens. You should know this to know where I’m coming from. I’ll have more to say about this soon.

I’ve recently had reason to woodshed some more and revisit the work of Gregory Bateson. I was invited to participate in a seminar at the local grad school. Stephen Nachmanovitch, author of the terrific book Free Play, musician, and student, friend, colleague of Gregory Bateson, is to give a lecture on something to do with experiential learning and play.

Getting back to one of my main people has been fantastic. The Explorations Blog is going to go on a Bateson trip for a spell. Stay tuned. I’ll wrap with a review of resources I’ve discovered out in the shed.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Gregory Bateson, sufism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Common Approach

A recruit was asked by a training instructor, “Give me an example of how to fool the enemy.”

The recruit answered, “When you are out of ammunition, don’t let the enemy know — keep on firing!”

(Idries Shah)

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Knowing Who You Are

A student approached a Zen master and asked, “What happens after we die?”

The master answered, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” exclaimed the student. “But you are a Zen master!”

“That may be true,” the master said, “but I’m not a dead one.”

A zen master lay dying. His monks had gathered around his bed, from the most senior to the most novice monk. The senior monk leaned over to ask the dying master if he had any final words of advice for his monks. The old master slowly opened his eyes and in a weak voice whispered, “Tell them Truth is like a river.”The senior monk passed this piece of information in turn to the monk next to him, and it circulated around the room.

When the words reached the youngest monk he asked, “What does he mean, ‘Truth is like a river’?”

The question was passed back around the room to the senior monk who leaned over the bed and asked, “Master, what do you mean, ‘Truth is like a river’?”
Slowly the master opened his eyes and in a weak voice whispered, “OK, Truth is not like a river.”

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Diplomacy


DIPLOMACY
It had been ordered that the execution should take place in the garden of the yashiki (1). So the man was taken there, and made to kneel down in a wide sanded space crossed by a line of tobi-ishi, or stepping-stones, such as you may still see in Japanese landscape-gardens. His arms were bound behind him. Retainers brought water in buckets, and rice-bags filled with pebbles; and they packed the rice-bags round the kneeling man,-- so wedging him in that he could not move. The master came, and observed the arrangements. He found them satisfactory, and made no remarks.

Suddenly the condemned man cried out to him:–

“Honored Sir, the fault for which I have been doomed I did not wittingly commit. It was only my very great stupidity which caused the fault. Having been born stupid, by reason of my Karma, I could not always help making mistakes. But to kill a man for being stupid is wrong,– and that wrong will be repaid. So surely as you kill me, so surely shall I be avenged; — out of the resentment that you provoke will come the vengeance; and evil will be rendered for evil.”…

If any person be killed while feeling strong resentment, the ghost of that person will be able to take vengeance upon the killer. This the samurai knew. He replied very gently,– almost caressingly:–

“We shall allow you to frighten us as much as you please — after you are dead. But it is difficult to believe that you mean what you say. Will you try to give us some sign of your great resentment — after your head has been cut off?”

“Assuredly I will,” answered the man.

“Very well,” said the samurai, drawing his long sword; — “I am now going to cut off your head. Directly in front of you there is a stepping-stone. After your head has been cut off, try to bite the stepping-stone. If your angry ghost can help you to do that, some of us may be frightened… Will you try to bite the stone?”

“I will bite it!” cried the man, in great anger,– “I will bite it! — I will bite” —

There was a flash, a swish, a crunching thud: the bound body bowed over the rice sacks,– two long blood-jets pumping from the shorn neck; — and the head rolled upon the sand. Heavily toward the stepping-stone it rolled: then, suddenly bounding, it caught the upper edge of the stone between its teeth, clung desperately for a moment, and dropped inert.

None spoke; but the retainers stared in horror at their master. He seemed to be quite unconcerned. He merely held out his sword to the nearest attendant, who, with a wooden dipper, poured water over the blade from haft to point, and then carefully wiped the steel several times with sheets of soft paper… And thus ended the ceremonial part of the incident.

For months thereafter, the retainers and the domestics lived in ceaseless fear of ghostly visitation. None of them doubted that the promised vengeance would come; and their constant terror caused them to hear and to see much that did not exist. They became afraid of the sound of the wind in the bamboos,– afraid even of the stirring of shadows in the garden. At last, after taking counsel together, they decided to petition their master to have a Segaki-service (2) performed on behalf of the vengeful spirit.

“Quite unnecessary,” the samurai said, when his chief retainer had uttered the general wish… “I understand that the desire of a dying man for revenge may be a cause for fear. But in this case there is nothing to fear.”

The retainer looked at his master beseechingly, but hesitated to ask the reason of the alarming confidence.

“Oh, the reason is simple enough,” declared the samurai, divining the unspoken doubt. “Only the very last intention of the fellow could have been dangerous; and when I challenged him to give me the sign, I diverted his mind from the desire of revenge. He died with the set purpose of biting the stepping-stone; and that purpose he was able to accomplish, but nothing else. All the rest he must have forgotten… So you need not feel any further anxiety about the matter.”

— And indeed the dead man gave no more trouble. Nothing at all happened.

Retold by Lafcadio Hearn – Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
source: Project Gutenberg (full text)

for Ken Warren

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning, Kenneth Warren | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Teaching Story – The Ancient Hedge

Every day Nasrudin went to beg for alms in the market, and people used to make fun of him by playing the following trick: they would show him two coins, one worth ten times more than the other, and Nasrudin would always choose the smaller coin. The story went round the whole province. Day after day, groups of men and women would show him the two coins, and Nasrudin would always choose the smaller one.

Then one day, a generous man, tired of seeing Nasrudin ridiculed in this fashion, beckoned him over to a corner of the square and said:

‘When they offer you two coins, you should choose the larger one. That way you would earn more money and people wouldn’t consider you an idiot.’

‘That sounds like good advice,’ replied Nasrudin, ‘but if I chose the larger coin, people would stop offering me money, because they like to believe that I am even more stupid than they are. You’ve no idea how much money I’ve earned using this trick’

(. . .Late finance capitalism in a nutshell; although, it might be better to make reference to the pithy definition of trickle-down economics. It’s where what little money the low class has is drained from their pockets by those that already ‘got’.)

As a teaching story, this works through its seven levels of insight. In the main at the surface, the subject is akin to you get what you pay for.


(hat tip to Bonar; original source Idries Shah?)

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Teaching Story: Putting Your Head Together

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in experiential learning | Tagged | Leave a comment

TOURIST GUIDANCE

Mullah Nasruddin went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and on the way he passed through Medina.

As he was walking by the main mosque there, a rather confused looking tourist approached him. “Excuse me sir,” said the tourist, “but you look like a native of these parts; can you tell me something about this mosque? It looks very old and important, but I’ve lost my guidebook.”

Nasruddin, being too proud to admit that he, too, had no idea what it was, immediately began an enthusiastic explanation. “This is indeed a very old and special mosque.” he declared, “It was built by Alexander the Great to commemorate his conquest of Arabia.”

The tourist was suitably impressed, but presently a look of doubt crossed his face. “But how can that be?” he asked, “I’m sure that Alexander was a Greek or something, not a Muslim. . . Wasn’t he?”

“I can see that you know something of these matters.” replied Nasruddin with chagrin, “In fact, Alexander was so impressed at his good fortune in war that he converted to Islam in order to show his gratitude to God.”

“Oh, wow.” said the tourist, then paused. “Hey, but surely there was no such thing as Islam in Alexander’s time?”

“An excellent point! It is truly gratifying to meet a visitor who understands our history so well,” answered Nasruddin. “As a matter of fact, he was so overwhelmed by the generosity God had shown him that as soon as the fighting was over he began a new religion, and became the founder of Islam.”

The tourist looked at the mosque with new respect, but before Nasruddin could quietly slip into the passing crowd, another problem occurred to him. “But wasn’t the founder of Islam named Mohammed? I mean, that’s what I read in a book; at least I’m sure it wasn’t Alexander.”

“I can see that you are a scholar of some learning,” said Nasruddin, “I was just getting to that. Alexander felt that he could properly dedicate himself to his new life as a prophet only by adopting a new identity. So, he gave up his old name and for the rest of his life called himself Mohammed.”

“Really?” wondered the tourist, “That’s amazing! But…but I thought that Alexander the Great lived a long time before Mohammed? Is that right?”

“Certainly not!” answered the Mullah, “You’re thinking of a different Alexander the Great. I’m talking about the one named Mohammed.”

hat tip

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in experiential learning | Tagged | Leave a comment

NO DO-OVER

Found under Blackfoot Creation and Origin Myths at D.S. Ashiliman’s brilliant, indexed resource of folklore.

Order of Life and Death

There was once a time when there were but two persons in the world, Old Man and Old Woman. One time, when they were traveling about, Old Man met Old Woman, who said, “Now, let us come to an agreement of some kind; let us decide how the people shall live.”

“Well,” said Old Man, ” I am to have the first say in everything.”

To this Old Woman agreed, provided she had the second say.

Then Old Man began, “The women are to tan the hides. When they do this, they are to rub brains on them to make them soft; they are to scrape them well with scraping tools, etc. But all this they are to do very quickly, for it will not be very hard work.”

“No, I will not agree to this,” said Old Woman. “They must tan the hide in the way you say; but it must be made very hard work, and take a long time, so that the good workers may be found out.”

“Well”, said Old Man, “let the people have eyes and mouths in their faces; but they shall be straight up and down.”

“No,” said Old Woman, “we will not have them that way. We will have the eyes and mouth in the faces, as you say; but they shall all be set crosswise.”

“Well,” said Old Man, “the people shall have ten fingers on each hand.”

“Oh, no!” said Old Woman. “That will be too many. They will be in the way. There shall be four fingers and one thumb on each hand.”

“Well,” said Old Man, “we shall beget children. The genitals shall be at our navels.”

“No,” said Old Woman, “that will make childbearing too easy; the people will not care for their children. The genitals shall be at the pubes.”

So they went on until they had provided for everything in the lives of the people that were to be. Then Old Woman asked what they should do about life and death.

Should the people always live, or should they die? They had some difficulty in agreeing on this; but finally Old Man said, “I will tell you what I will do. I will throw a buffalo chip into the water, and, if it floats, the people die for four days and live again. But, if it sinks, they will die forever.”

So he threw it in, and it floated.

“No,” said Old Woman, “we will not decide in that way. I will throw in this rock. If it floats, the people will die for four days. If it sinks, the people will die forever.”

Then Old Woman threw the rock out into the water, and it sank to the bottom.

“There,” said she, “it is better for the people to die forever; for, if they did not die forever, they would never feel sorry for each other, and there would be no sympathy in the world.”

“Well,” said Old Man, let it be that way.”

After a time Old Woman had a daughter, who died. She was very sorry now that it had been fixed so that people died forever. So she said to Old Man, “Let us have our say over again.”

“No,” said he, “we fixed it once.”

Source: Clark Wissler and D. C. Duvall, Mythology of the Blackfoot Indians (New York: Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, 1908), v. 2, part 1, pp. 19-21.

Be Sociable, Share!
Posted in adult learning | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment