Zen Buddhism and Bart Simpson?

Zen Buddhism and Bart Simpson?

Length: 1134 words (3.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Zen Buddhism and Bart Simpson?

Professor’s comment: The following essay is only one of a series of mind-bending ones that Rob wrote for my class, essays that demonstrated not just a quirky sense of humor but also a razor-sharp intellect and distinctive voice. This particular essay was written in response to an assignment asking students to explain a concept. From the first line of this essay, I knew I was on to something special: how many people would choose to explain an element of Zen Buddhism using Bart Simpson? And the essay does not disappoint.

Bart Simpson, America’s favorite animated smart-aleck kid, replied to the famous question “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” by slapping the fingers of his right hand against his right palm, creating a loose flapping noise. Ask around and you’ll find only a few people with this talent (I am one of the lucky ones able to accomplish this feat). But the question becomes: am I and my fellow smug-single-hand-clappers missing the point? That, my friend, is a darn good question.

The sound of one hand clappingis a koan. Zen Buddhist masters use these paradoxical stories or questions to force their pupils to slough reason in favor of sudden enlightenment. Koans are designed to be nonsensical, shocking, or humorous.

So are koans serious or fun? Another good question, but a strikingly Western one. Why must seriousness and fun be mutually exclusive? Why are we so serious about whether seriousness and fun are mutually exclusive? All koans. We Americans can learn a lot by studying these little buggers. Pure Reason has failed to answer questions of how, or more importantly, whywe should live. Sadly, many people also see learning (or thinking) as a dry, boring act. Perhaps our teachers need to tell us not merely what they do know, but what they don’t know. Zen masters were not afraid to do as much.

Koans sneak up on you. Each koan is a well-wrapped chocolate Easter egg of wisdom that reveals itself in layers. The first is either pure titillation, or a slap in the face. Try to read the following without smirking:

(1) Wakuan complained when he saw a picture of bearded Bodhidarma, ‘Why hasn’t that fellow a beard?’1
(2) A student asked Joshu, ‘If I haven’t anything in my mind, what shall I do?

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Zen Buddhism and Bart Simpson?." 123HelpMe.com. 02 Apr 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Zen Buddhist Perspectives on Modern Education Essay

- Zen Buddhist Perspectives on Modern Education ABSTRACT: Many articles and books on Buddhism have been published in recent years, but publications dealing with Buddhist educational views are rarely available. In this paper, I wish to expound on Zen Buddhist perspectives on modern education. The history of Buddhist education is long and complex. In early centuries (400 BCE- 800 CE), Buddhist monasteries in India and China functioned as educational centers where vinaya, sutras and other subjects were taught....   [tags: Educational Buddhist Zen Essays]

Research Papers
3345 words (9.6 pages)

Essay on Racial Stereotypes : The Simpsons

- Merriam-Webster defines Stereotype as, “to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.” Cliff Notes defines Gender Stereotypes as, “generalizations about the gender attributes, differences, roles of individuals and/or groups.” Homer Simpson from the TV show “The Simpsons” he sometimes does set himself for living the American Dream, but in an funny and humor way of teasing it in a good way, not a bad way. According to IMDb, The Simpsons has been a running show since 1989 and half of the original cast is continuing to play their own character since its opening....   [tags: The Simpsons, Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson]

Research Papers
1010 words (2.9 pages)

Essay about The Simpsons ' The Longest Running Cartoon Of All Time '

- The Simpsons, the longest running cartoon of all time, is another cartoon that can affect children desire to participate in physical activities. Homer Simpson is another cartoon character who displays gluttony and inactivity. Homer Simpson is known for over-indulging food, such as doughnuts, burgers, pizza, ice-cream, candy, hot dogs, cupcakes, and beer; however, the main characteristic of Homer is his laziness. Homer is frequently seen asleep on a sofa or bed. Homer “laziness” can influence children that there is nothing wrong with sleeping “all day” and inactivity....   [tags: The Simpsons, Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson]

Research Papers
1349 words (3.9 pages)

Impact Of The Chinese Thought Had On Buddhism Essay

- Two significant impacts that the Chinese thought had on Buddhism Introduction Buddhism, which is a system of thought that originated in India, was transmitted to the rest of Asia including China by Central Asian traders as well as by the travelling Buddhist monks during the first century A.D. From China, it was also transmitted to Korea towards the fourth century, and then on to Japan by the sixth century A.D. According to history, the entry of Buddhism in China was most likely caused by the wide expansionist policies that were espoused by Chinese Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty that reigned during the period 140-87 B.C....   [tags: Buddhism, China, Zen, Mahayana]

Research Papers
1296 words (3.7 pages)

Essay about The Religious Teachings Of Buddhism

- The teachings of Buddhism have impacted on the lives of many Buddhist adherents seeking personal fulfillment in the world. The XIV Dalai Lama has been able to re-energise the Buddhist faith through his many contributions to the Buddhist society. Temple Puja has been a significant practice observed as a way to develop an individual into a better Buddhist. The subject of Bioethics has become a significant issue in relation to abortion and euthanasia today. The ethical teachings of Buddhism have taught Buddhists how to live gracefully and at one with the world around them so they can ultimately reach nirvana....   [tags: Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, Karma, Zen]

Research Papers
1416 words (4 pages)

Essay on Zen Buddhism

- Zen Buddhism was first introduced to China by a South- Indian man called Bodhidharma in around 520 CE. Bodhidharma, according to tradition, was a man so epic that he removed his own eyelids in order to win a staring contest with a rock wall (from his severed eyelids sprang tealeaves, and thus, the connection between Zen Buddhism and tea-drinking). The main teaching of Zen is that of zazen, or seated meditation, and that only through meditation and action, rather than cogitation, can one achieve enlightenment (Elwood, 127-132)....   [tags: Religion]

Research Papers
1209 words (3.5 pages)

Following in the Ways of Zen Buddhism Essay

- Following in the Ways of Zen Buddhism I fell in love with the first Buddhist I ever met. That is to say I fell in love with a man who is a Buddhist. I, however, am not a Buddhist. I have faith in what I find to be right rather than committing to a religion that I would not wholeheartedly believe in. It would seem that a difference in our spiritual practices may be a strain on our relationship, but in truth our faith lies in similar areas. The biggest difference between us is that I lack the knowledge and self discipline to be a practicing Buddhist....   [tags: Essays Papers]

Research Papers
1389 words (4 pages)

Zen Buddhisim and Japan Essay

- Zen Buddhism and Japan Japan and the development of Zen Buddhism went hand in hand towards the beginning of the sixth century. Buddhism was in full bloom in India and the Chinese were adapting it to there Lifestyle when several Japanese clans began picking it up. Zen Buddhism Zen Buddhism is a combination of Indian and Chinese thought process revolving around the world as it is and the discipline of finding enlightenment. The idea of enlightenment or Satori as the Japanese called it was the central point of Buddhism The Chinese had several ways of looking at the things that were contradicted by Indian lifestyles and thus you have the creation of Zen Buddhism....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
1849 words (5.3 pages)

Zen Buddhism Essay

- Zen Buddhism No other figure in history has played a bigger part in opening the West to Buddhism than the eminent Zen author, D.T. Suzuki. One of the world's leading authorities on Zen Buddhism, Suzuki authored more than a hundred popular and scholarly works on the subject. A brilliant and intuitive scholar, Dr. Suzuki communicated his insights in a lucid and energetic fashion. Diasetz Teitaro Suzuki was born in Japan in 1870, received his philosophical training as a Buddhist disciple at the great Zen monastery at Kamakura, and was a distinguished professor of Buddhist philosophy at Otani University, in Kyoto, Japan....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
1183 words (3.4 pages)

Zen Buddhism Essay

- Ch’an and Zen Buddhism Throughout the early years in many East Asian countries, there were many people who were looking for answers to this world’s, and otherworldly, questions. When Gotama became enlightened, and began preaching the practices of Buddhism, it came at such a time when the Han dynasty was collapsing, citizens were tired of Confucianism and looking for a new ideology that they could put there hearts and souls into. Over the years, Buddhism proved to be much more than just a religion; it became a way of life....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
1937 words (5.5 pages)

Related Searches

Joshu replied, ‘Throw it out.’ ‘But if I haven’t anything, how can I throw it out?’ continued the student. ‘Well,’ said Joshu, ‘then carry it out.’2
(3) A monk asked Unmon, ‘What is Buddha?’ Unmon answered, ‘A dung-wiping stick.’3

All have some joke or inconsistency that throw you for a mental loop. The outer layer of the koan draws us into the next, that of nagging questions. What does Wakuan mean by asking why a clearly bearded man doesn’t have a beard? If you can’t throw out nothing, how can you carry it out? How can Buddha, the Enlightened One, be a vulgar dung-wiping stick? Can we disregard koans as the simple fancy of undisciplined minds? I don’t believe so. Although koans may be non-sense, they are not nonsense.

Each question generated by a koan can eventually be answered either through meditation or sudden insight. Koans encourage a fresh approach, a new direction. Indeed, in Koan 1, Wakuan is asking the hearer to precisely give up all his preconceptions of Bodhidarma. (For Americans, granted, the number of preconceptions is small.) The point, however, is perhaps that although Bodhidarma has a beard, the beard does not characterize him. Yet with each answer comes another question: what, then, can we say characterizes any given person? Answer this question, and another lurks behind it. Koans crack reality ever so slightly. If disturbed, if pondered, the crack widens and torrents of questions pour out.

Zen masters specifically designed koans to be so engaging and universal. Indeed the word koan comes from the Japanese “ko” plus “an,” literally “public record.”4 Koans are a way of passing knowledge down as well as initiating new monks. Masters saw koans as having three parts: (1) the box and lid,(b) cutting off the flow of delusions,and (c) waves following waves.5 As I analyzed my own reaction to reading a koan, I felt these three stages at work. The box and lidmeans giving an unexpected response. Cutting off the flow of delusionsis the stage where one takes stock of how the koan has affected one’s previous thought on the issue. Finally, waves following wavesrefers to the endless questions and answers flowing out to infinity.

Let me back up for a second though, way back. As soon as you start ticking things off a list, you’re in trouble. I have begun to paint koans into a corner with classic Western analysis, the very illusion that koans seek to destroy:

(4) Nansen said: ‘This mind is not Buddha. Learning is not the Way.’6

Zen Buddhists don’t believe Reason to be the ultimate key. Nonetheless, Zen is a very intellectual and meditative approach to Buddhism. Koan 4 merely highlights Buddhist non-attachment. One must not fall into comfortable attachment to any one form or one way.

Although often unfamiliar with the word, Americans are not wholly unversed in koans of their own. Physics, a cornerstone of our world-view, has recently been riddled with, well, riddles. Einstein’s Relativity kills absolute time, distance, or space. Objects change shape and size based on their speed. Compare these quandaries to:

(5) Shuzan held out his short staff and said, ‘If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?’7

But we don’t even need to stretch to crazy physics to find Western koans. Who hasn’t heard, Which came first—the chicken or the egg?,or Why did the chicken cross the road?or (for a non-chicken-oriented example) How many angels can you fit on the head of a pin?Or maybe Descartes’ Cogito ergo sum: I think therefore I am.Western koans, however, are not standardized, and so only a few pass predictably from generation to generation.

Ultimately koans are word arrangements that evoke an entire paradigm-shift, phrases that go head-over-heals beyond communication, turn a triple somersault in the void and land with a resounding redefinition of reality. In the end, maybe we’ll all find ourselves...

Empty-handed, yet holding a hoe;
Walking, yet riding a water buffalo
...and merrily clapping just one hand as we go.

Works Cited

1. Translated in Kubose, Gyomay M. Zen Koans. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1973. 14.

2. Kubose, 188.

3. Kubose, 75.

4.Kubose, xi.

5. Kadowaki, J.K. Zen and the Bible. Translated by Joan Rieck. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980. 93.

6. Kubose, 72.

7. Kubose, 5.

8. Miura, Isshu and Ruth Fuller Sasaki. The Zen Koan. New York
Return to 123HelpMe.com