Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Stop the War' & Monkeys.

Last night we looked at the old Japanese koan 'stop the war' which appeared recently on John Tarrant Roshi's blog.

What 'war' or conflict is the koan talking about? How does this conflict start? Can we stop it?

The koan came about from a troubled time in Japan's past when there was a lot of actual feudal conflict in the country, but it seems clear that it's also referring to 'war' as a more immediate situation in our own lives.

We also had a look at this story from Peter Rocca Sensei's blog:


Once there was a monkey with two-eyes who lived on an island. One day there was a terrible storm and the monkey got washed out to sea on a log. The monkey drifted on the log for weeks until he was washed ashore on another island far away from where he used to live. The monkey was hungry so he ran up to the edge of the jungle to look for food. At the edge of the jungle he saw another monkey. But the other monkey had only one eye, so the two-eyed monkey was very surprised. But when the other monkey saw the two-eyed monkey, the other monkey began laughing and howling. Then more and more monkeys came to see what was going on. All the monkeys who came had only one eye. When those one-eyed monkeys saw the two-eyed monkey they all started laughing and howling. They all pointed at the two-eyed monkey and said “Look, look, he's got two eyes! He's got two-eyes! Ha, ha, ha, ha...”


...It seems sort of related to the 'war' koan: how do we construct an 'other' in our mind by the way we perceive the other? Even though the monkeys are all monkeys they only see each other in terms of their slight difference when they look at each other.

Someone noted that it's a bit funny that the story turns the norm around: the one-eyed monkeys were the accepted norm on their island while the two-eyed monkey was seen as a freak! Maybe this says something about how we construct our accepted 'norms' and how those norms might be based on a limited, if comfortable and widely accepted, view.
The 'war' or conflict can be very subtle it seems. For example, in Zazen we might notice that we're thinking something like "I'm not doing this right, this is a waste of time!" or something like that. In this case there's already a 'right' opposed to a 'wrong' and a 'me' opposed to what I'm already doing and a 'doing' that is opposed 'time' etc etc etc. We might notice that such a situation, before we let it go, causes a sort of friction or tension that becomes manifest as a feeling or sensation in the real world, in our physical bodies.
In Zazen we can let all our thoughts and perceptions just come and go. We can take a break from that situation where we might latch on to views of both ourselves and others which cause friction or conflict in both our selves and the world.


  1. Maybe the two eyes monkey and the one eyed monkeys should have tea and sit Zazen together. :-)

  2. Hi Jundo.

    Maybe, or maybe not. That's really a matter for them. When my monkey business is really my own then I can't be fooled by others.