Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

The Abbot’s Gift

The following anecdote is quoted from John Vorhaus and Tony Guerrera’s book on poker strategies (Killer Poker Short-handed, 2007). It illustrates the buddhist approach to value judgements. It also makes for interesting poker table banter.


The Abbot’s Gift

A Zen monk, early in his training, is preparing to leave the monastery and switch locations, for that is common in the Zen practice. Before he leaves he goes to the abbot of the monastery to say goodbye. He does so, but the abbot says he has a gift for him. Now, it is part of the Japanese way to accept gifts and be appreciative; to do otherwise is rude and, therefore, wrong. The abbot takes a pair of tongs and picks up a red-hot coal from the adjacent fire pit on which he has a teakettle.

The young monk starts to contemplate what he should do, and after a few moments, runs out of the hall distressed, for he cannot figure out how to act. He can take the coal and be burned, or he can refuse the gift of the abbot and be rude. Both in his mind, are things he cannot do.

He meditates on the problem for the next week, and comes back to say goodbye. However, the same scene is played again, and the same frustration blooms when he tries to figure out what the abbot wants him to do.

He meditates further on the subject and feels he has discovered how to respond to the abbot’s gift. He returns, for the third time, to say goodbye to the abbot, and as before the abbot picks up a red-hot coal and presents it as a gift to the young monk. The young monk simply replies, “Thank you.”

The abbot breaks into a grin, nods his head, and returns the coal to the fire pit. “You may go now,” he says.


Further reflection on this anecdote by Vorhaus and Guerrero:

Accept what is offered you, say the Buddhists. A thing is not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing that is. If someone successfully bluffs you off a pot, even if he gloats and taunts, simply accept the outcome, make appropriate adjustments, and move on. In the swirling dogfight of shorthanded poker, the minute you let your ego get engaged, you’re toast.

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I am reposting this from my other blog

The blog entry is Reason, Gut Feel, Or Faith

This is to add to a previous blog entry in this website: If Critical Thinking Were A Religion.

A lot of religions are faith based. I got surprised when I found out that one was not. Buddhism claims to be logical. Buddha even went to an extent to show how logical he was by instructing the kalamas with what is known now as the Kalama Sutta:  

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing ;
nor upon rumor ;
nor upon what is in a scripture ;
nor upon tradition
nor upon surmise;
nor upon an axiom;
nor upon specious reasoning;
nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over;
nor upon another’s seeming ability;
nor upon the consideration, “The monk is our teacher.”
Kalamas, when you yourselves know: “These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,” enter on and abide in them.’

I find the writing, very nice, concise and direct to the point, something I frankly woulnd’t expect from a religion. Buddhism though did not stop at rationalization, how then would buddha be able to explain his views on the afterlife and even his previous reincarnations. Although the public was urged to test ideas given by faith with logic, it seemed that the more enlightened ones would acquire knowledge from still other sources. 


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