Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mumonkan, Koan 16: When The Bell Tolls

Ummon said, "The world is vast and wide. Why do you put on your seven-piece robe at the sound of the bell?"

I think the bell represents something near to us - as opposed to everything else going on in the world - that we invest with importance and hence get dressed up for (i.e., I'm assuming the seven-piece robe refers to putting on your best clothes). We tend to allow ourselves to respond to things close to us based on customs or how we 'should' respond and treat them as if they are all important versus despite how meaningless it might be in the grand scheme of things.

In a way, this perspective skews our view of reality. It is unlikely that the bell being rung really signifies anything of relevance from a world wide view, so why do we assign such importance to it? There are certainly reasons why we might do this, but we should keep the larger view in mind or we could complicate our ability to see clearly.

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