The Lohan figure


This is an arhat in the chinese form (the Lohan figure) is one of the best of them.  There is something special about this image.  If we look at even a photo of it, or better still go and sit in front of it, for a time, we receive something. Here is a little hint about one point of this remarkable figure. It is something which will rarely be noticed:  if it is noticed, it is not understood and is forgotten.   Look at the curve of the mouth. If you look carefully you will see that at each end, there is a faint line going directly downward.  The maker of the image is giving a concealed hint: the two lines are pointing down towards the navel.  It is also said that the curve of the mouth is a tiny bit of a circle whose centre is the navel.  By these are hidden indications that he is meditating on the navel point.  Someone who has himself done the practice might well pick up this point from just looking at the figure. There are other hints in the figure of the Lohan, which I leave to you. The idea is to make an emptiness and one of the teachers has said that while you have the ideas of winning and losing and planning and bringing out your favourite trick you may be technically expert but it is no help for life.

In Judo you may have a clever technical strategy worked out that wins you a contest but, as Tokusai says, it is absolutely useless for life. You will simply be good at winning contests. All ideas have to be dropped. It is no use thinking ‘Oh well, I’m giving up thoughts of winning and losing and coming out all spiritual’, because then you are flat on your back! The mind has to be made like the blue sky and then without any thought something will happen and you will be nearly as surprised and your opponent is. This is one reason for practising some art, along with pure spiritual practice because in a small field, and Tokusai talks about the small field of Kendo, but it can be the field of calligraphy or another art. There are artist references to the blank sheet which can be like an enemy. There is a technical term when a first stroke is made – the dropping of the brush – but if you practice a little bit with a brush you will know what it means, and in the same way the first note of a piece of music. These things are meant to be against a background, as Tokusai will say, of clear and empty awareness. When there is emptiness you have freedom to do things. Otherwise when you want to do things you gear yourself up to do them, say this is force 7 power, but opposing that there is a feeling that you do not want to do it, force 3 – short-term comfort – but you resist this. It goes through, but it is reduced at force 4 – it goes through against resistance. When the mind is empty then the one thought comes in with no resistance. And it does not then have to be a furious passion of thought, full of adrenaline and hatred and determination to win, or do something, or show somebody something, or get one in about something, or in fear: ‘What the devil is going to happen if I don’t pull this off’.

© Trevor Leggett

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Sword and Mind

Part 2: Give up all idea of winning

Part 3: Get people to practise

Part 4: Freedom from reactions and endless planning

Part 5: The Lohan figure

Part 6: Make the mind empty

Part 7: Cut off before and after

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