The Loud Laugh

Is it not all a great joke - which has been made a mystification by the devotionally-minded, no doubt because the suffering consequent on identification with a pseudo-entity (which so deeply impressed the Buddha), invites compassion (affectivity)?

But it is the huge joke that we should see, and loud laughter that should greet the seeing, for it is the simplicity and the obviousness of it, in contrast with the monumental superstructure of superfluous mystification that has been built round it, that calls forth the laughter.

The Ch'an Masters saw this, and said it? Saw it they certainly did, but they rarely did more than imply it. They were monks in monasteries and had their own particular conditioning. But whenever the sudden seeing of it was greeted with laughter by the see-er - the Master joined in the jest.

In a sense all Ch'an practice tends towards this irreverent revelation, for devotion is limitation, and so a binding, like any other. A superficial scaffolding of religiosity was maintained by these outwardly pious Buddhists, but the essential irreverence of their teaching, of their wen-ta (Jap. mondo), was the method by which they taught.

This is still the case today as regards the devotional background, but the reverential element has re-established itself at the expense of the straight-seeing, and to just that degree Ch'an has lost its efficacy and its appeal.

Philosophy can only reach it when the limit of rationality (dialectics) is reached, and the philosopher allows himself to pass over into pure metaphysics.

(© HKU Press, 1966)

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