Even Carrion is Tasty to Some

Tetsugen Dōkō (鉄眼道光, 1630-1682), often called “Tetsugen” is a somewhat obscure but influential Buddhist monk of the similarly obscure Obaku Zen sect in Japan. Tetsugen was a prolific teacher and writer in his day, and today is best known for his efforts to provide a comprehensive, high-quality block-printed edition of the entire Buddhist canon (the “Obaku Edition” of the Tripitaka) in Japan. The life and teachings of Tetsugen are compiled in the excellent biography Iron Eyes: The Life And Teachings of Obaku Zen Master Tetsugen Doko.

One of his best known writings is a text called the Dharma Lesson in Japanese (鉄眼禅師仮名法語 , tetsugen zenji kana hōgo) which was written for a lay-devotee and is based on the Heart Sutra.

I had read the biography and the Dharma Lesson years ago, but suddenly recalled this quote:

Even though what we think of as painful or pleasant aren’t really pain and pleasure, because we are deluded, we end up thinking they are. The reason for this is that when a crow, a dog, or a fox sees a dead crow or horse rotting or a human corpse festering, they think it is a rare treat. First they enjoy looking at it, then their enjoyment increases as they smell it and grasp it. They think this is the greatest of pleasures. Seen from the human perspective, this seems immeasurably impure and repulsive. If we were forced by others to eat such putrid things, it would be incomparable suffering. What is worse than being forced to eat them is that crows devour such things greedily, and think it is pleasant…(pg. 99)

Translation by Helen J Baroni

Similarly, the Buddha, when observing moths attracted to a flame commented to his disciples:

Rushing up but then too far, they miss the point; Only causing ever newer bonds to grow. So obsessed are some by what is seen and heard, They fly just like these moths — straight into the flames.

Ud 6.9, the Adhipataka Sutta, translation by Andrew Olendzki

It’s not hard to see how this pertains to people as well.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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