Saturday, August 27, 2011

Of Gods and Men

For years now I remember and think about the koan where the monk climbs to the top of the flagpole and he's asked, Well, what do you do now? Daiho Hilbert in his dharma talks always came back to that koan. And that same koan is told in a number of different ways throughout Buddhist and Zen literature. Sometimes, for instance, the monk is hanging on a branch of a flimsy bush at the edge of a cliff. He's holding onto to the branch for dear life. If he climbs back up to the top, a hungry lion is waiting for him. If he lets go, he dies. So what does he do? I recommend watching this French movie Of Gods and Men for a way to consider this koan. It's the best movie about the life of the spiritual practice I have ever watched. A community of Christian monks in contemporary Algeria are confronted with the Mujaheddin on one side, the corrupt government on the other.Their practice has carried them to the very top of the flagpole, to the edge of the precipice. What do they do?

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