After reading the chapter “Intellectual, Learn to Die!” in the book “The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky,” I ran into this on Valencia Street. I immediately thought of the anecdote told in the book about Jodorowsky’s Zen master, Ejo Takata, and Master Peter, an arrogant American on a lovely motorcycle who had memorized a book of koans to challenge Ejo Takata and test his wisdom. Instead, he left the Zendo room with his tail between his legs after being caught and pressed to choose between enlightenment and his motorcycle.
In Zen Buddhism, a koan is a paradox that Zen masters offer their disciples in the form of questions, to train them away from reason and help them attain enlightenment. It can take years to find the right answer to these enigmas, which, according to the book
hold a fundamental absurdity, for it is impossible to reply to one by using logic. And this is precisely its purpose: to open our initial point of view to the universal so that we understand that the intellect (words, words, words, and still more words) is useless in helping us find a response. In fact, we do not really live in the world; we live in language. To truly resolve a koan is to undergo a mental cataclysm that causes our worldview, our psychic stance, and any sort of self-concept to crumble, precipitating us into the void — a void that engenders us, enabling us to be reborn freer than before and, for the first time, to be in the world as it is instead of as we have learned it is.
So, could Valencia Street be an enigma that holds a fundamental absurdity? Will we undergo some kind of mental cataclysm? To illustrate Valencia Street’s koan, it might be helpful to take into consideration the incident between Master Peter and Roshi Ejo Takata. Perhaps it is time to decide if we should hop on a motorcycle and ride along Valencia Street — or not. From the book:
A monk asked Master Joshu: “Does a dog have Buddha nature?” Joshu answered: “Mu.” “What do you say?” asked Ejo Takata to Peter. Peter began to stand up, muttering, “Mu in Chinese means ‘no’; it means nonexistence, emptiness — it might as well be a tree, a barking dog, whatever…” Now standing and facing Ejo Takata, he yelled so loudly that the windows shook: “MU!”
“Give me the proof of this Mu”, said Takata.
“If that is so, then how will you awaken?”
“Very well. Now when you have been cremated, what will become of this Mu?”
“Now tell me: How does your enlightenment act with Mu?”
“When I walk, I walk. When I sit, I sit.”
“Tell me your Mu in a way that is so simple that a baby could understand it and put it into practice” “What is the difference between Mu and all?” “Show me different Mus.”
The answer was: MU! MU! MU! MU! MU! MU!”