Buddhism and Crack-Cocaine. ~ via John Pappas

Via elephant journal
on Oct 17, 2009
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When the nun Chiyono studied Zen she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.

At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free.

In this way I tried to save the old pail

Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break.

Until at last the bottom fell out.

No more water in the pail!

No more moon in the water!

via Zen Flesh Zen Bones: No Water, No Moon

This reminds me of my own conversion to Buddhism. Years of study (in a laid-back bedside table manner) led up to one explosive moment when the bottom of my pail broke and all the water ran out. That explosive part of anyone’s conversion can be painful and certainly stressful but needs to occur. The reasons will differ from person to person but in the same way an addict needs to hit rock-bottom to see the top, I needed to see my world of attachment and suffering in order to adapt.

In Rinzai Zen this moment can be described as,

A revolutionary experience and insight capable of shattering all categories of thought and sweeping away all academic exercises and turning the world upside down…like a time bomb ticking in the depths of consciousness. – Once Born, Twice Born Zen

This experience can not be realized until the tension, frustration, doubt and confusion in one’s life hits a boiling point, a point where the vessel can no longer contain it.

Enjoyment of one’s intrinsic Buddha-Nature…allowing this Buddha-Mind to well up and flow through all areas of one’s consciousness and life. One does not begin by building up a strong sense of false and illusory ways of thinking and being, but a positive sense of fundamental well-being. – Once Born, Twice Born Zen

Most converts fall along the spectrum of these two extremes. Maybe not necessarily in Zen practice, but as a gradual move to Buddhism through a nurturing of the Buddha-mind or a drastic switch due to the bottom falling out.

I look at this moment as a convert’s initial piece of enlightenment–a fleeting, brief glimpse of kensho as the bottom of our bucket falls out and everything rushes out leaving a husk of the former vessel. Momentarily, unable to hold anything or be filled up again. It doesn’t last a long time but whether gradual or sudden we do feel a sense of the absolute at that moment of conversion, at least I did.

Mine was both sudden and gradual. A gradual and slight nurturing of the Buddha-nature (as well as the increases in tension, confusion, frustration and pain) enveloped in all of that samsaric nonsense. Hidden from view but growing slowly. At that moment of sudden emptying, the Buddha-nature stands very clear and apparent. But only for a moment; a convert’s brief picture of enlightenment, the crack-cocaine of Buddhism.

John Pappas

For more information on the author, John Pappas, please visit his personal blog. You can also reach him at his email, [email protected].


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13 Responses to “Buddhism and Crack-Cocaine. ~ via John Pappas”

  1. I love this. It's very well written and really pulled me in to your world with profound quotes and vivid metaphors. Thanks for writing it.

    My own attempts to learn about Buddhism have been less dramatic and more humorous:

    "A Funny Thing Happened on my Way to Learn About Buddhism"

    I find I'm far more drawn to Yoga than Buddhism, although they are certainly closely related, because Yoga is about ecstatic union with the divine, as in your cocaine metaphor–a natural spiritual high, whereas to me, Buddhism seems to usually content itself with mere contentment.

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. John says:

    Thanks Bob! I find that I get drawn to both Yoga and Zazen and am delighted at the fact that I tend to fart during both. The combo of estatic searching and contentment can be achieved, I think, with both or neither. I think that in that search, regardless of medium,we get a glimpse of the divine.


  3. Couldn't agree more, John. There's certainly something to say in favor of farting, so we don't all get too full of ourselves, so to speak.

    Bob Weisenberg

  4. Martin says:

    Nice post. You might consider changing the picture, which shows ordinary powder cocaine, as opposed to crack cocaine, which comes in small lumps called rocks and is smoked in a glass tube called a crack pipe. If the bottom falling out is the crack cocaine of Buddhism, one might say you picture shows the shamatha meditation of cocaine.

  5. John says:

    Thanks Martin. I did not choose the picture. But I do believe that there is a 30-something, failing Buddhist taking a massive hit off of a crack pipe right behind the cute pink-haired snorter.

    "Shamatha meditation helps to free the mind from disturbing emotions and conceptual thinking processes" – well, I would have to agree with cocaine producing that effect, at least for the short-term.

  6. jody says:

    Good article, John. The "big" experience stands tall for so many. If they only knew that ultimately, enlightenment isn't this kind of experience, they might not get caught up jonesing for higher and higher peaks.

    The notion of enlightenment being a big experience can only occlude the ever-present truth as it shines in our awareness at this moment.

  7. Kevin Post says:

    I greatly look forward to the day when I feel a profound change in my life as you had John. Being completely lost and isolated in the mountains is the only time when life makes sense to me. Otherwise, every other day is just another day waiting to be lost again deep into those mountains. I wish that this wasn't the case.

  8. Good thoughts, jody. I just subscribed to your blog and joined your Forum.

    Bob Weisenberg

  9. john pappas says:

    Thank you for the kind words and thank you for the link to your fantastic blog! I loves it. But back on topic….I felt like I pushed for that big experience for a few years but when I realized that most of the people I sat with were (sometimes) twice my age and never had it, I was alittle discouraged but realized soon that they never had the "pop" because they didn't need it. Beautiful!



  10. John Pappas says:

    Thanks for the comment, Kevin. I had a profound change but I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. It opened up my eyes to my experience of this reality but it was two parts bad to one parts good. Hope you find the mountains again…I find myself wishing for the New Jersey Lowlands sometimes…crazy, huh?

  11. G Moses says:

    well done mr pappas, i see the change of scenary has made you intoa gentler wiser person who still enjoys every opportunity to speak of your farts

  12. John Pappas says:

    Indeed but your pail is much more metal than mine. Brutal, Shawna, Brutal!

  13. John Pappas says:

    I do specifically have an article on farts and Zen. I will be sure to let you know when it is up.