Monday 10 July 2017

"The Joker" poem -- can you see what's wrong?

Read this, and then if you can't figure out what's wrong with it, you can scroll down...

At the centre
of the spinning circle
sits the joker
with a mirror
in his hand,
reflecting all to everyone
to help them understand.
His face is fierce, yet gentle,
his eyes, they pierce you through,
you cannot escape his gaze
no matter where you go,
no matter what you do.
His smile is warm, he draws you in,
he is so calm, why are you
so confused by him?
Your thoughts are like a raging storm
between the whirling sky and sea,
nothing seems certain any more,
nothing’s how it used to be.
Once things were clear in black and white,
you thought you knew the wrong from right,
you drew the line, and cut it fine,
between the day and night;
but now your world is crumbling,
there’s nowhere you can call your own,
nothing’s solid anymore,
not even cities made of stone,
not even your own body,
not even flesh and blood,
not even skin and bone.
The sun and moon are falling on your head,
the stars are tumbling down,
flowers sing like angels,
in the winter town.
The dead are living, the living dead,
fire turns to water, water burns instead,
silence is so full of sound, time stands still,
you hear the earth turn round.
Your life flashes before you,
is that thunder, or the beating of your heart,
you don’t know if this is the end,
or something new about to start.
You don’t know if you’re dreaming
or if you are awake,
and as you go on spinning
you see the joker’s mirror
reflecting every move you make.
You show him good,
and he will show you evil;
you show him truth,
and he will show you lies;
you show him life,
and he will show you
how all that’s living dies.
You show him happiness,
and he will show you sorrow,
you show him yesterday,
and he will show you tomorrow;
you show him poverty,
and he will show you wealth;
you show him sickness
and he will show you health.
You fall as if forever, falling
spinning round and round,
tumbling into empty space,
without up or down
and thus you will go on falling
until you understand
how opposites arise mutually,
then you and the joker
will dance, hand in hand.
Then you will know the truth:
that all is of one taste;
then you and the joker
will have the same face.
- Unknown


figured out the problem?




This poem comes from the perspective of Advaita philosophy, where there is a divine source to all of duality, and that source is itself Awareness (or we can call it your "True Face" a la Zen). You'll find a lot of that talk in Zen and other Mahayana sects of Buddhism, because the original teaching of Anatta was not easy to understand, and so later Buddhist schools mostly lost it.

In Theravada, the closest to original teachings we have from Buddha, there is no divine source, no original face, no true "you." There is no awareness behind appearances. Nor is there unity to everything. Just the opposite. If you read the Bahiya sutta, Buddha clearly explains that Nibbana, the nature of reality, is: When in the seen, there is only  the seen. In the heard, only the heard. In the cognized, only the cognized. There is no awareness that binds it all up into one experience. Nibbana is also known as "unbinding."

However, tho I find the Bahiya sutta to be abundantly clear, I've noticed it can seem to mean whatever people want it to mean. So, does it mean nothing? I'd argue that it has a real, specific meaning just like any worthwhile teaching, but one has to be open to hearing it or else they will miss it entirely.