Is Truth Inside or Outside?

Good stuff in the blog world this morning, sorta on a theme – is the buddha way transcendent or immanent?

More simply put, is the truth “out there” or “in here”?

Take a look, for example at the ruminations of James Ford over at Monkey Mind and the bowing of Koun Franz over at Nyoho Zen.

Both seem to be dealing with this central and subtle issue.

In my view, the transcendent view tends to deprecate the utter beauty of the moment at hand. The immanent view tends to deny the possibility of going beyond. What is right?

How this issue is practically resolved and embodied is really important to how we live our lives.

We’re in the Wild Fox koan here – is the person of great practice free from karma or free within karma? Lean one way or the other – or not – and we might find we have a bushy tail and will be fooling ourselves and others (maybe in wild delight) for 500 lives.

One way we fool ourselves and others is that what we think we think might not really be what we think … and how we live.

Really paying attention, as James suggests, is sure important. I’ve seen a bunch of beginning wild fox koan students who espouse an immanent philosophy but actually respond to “What is mu?” through their underlying transcendent framework that really must be addressed. Most of us some of the time are really resistant to meeting our transcendent leanings and just can’t believe that the truth is closer than close at hand.

On the other hand, wild foxedly killing the Buddha by kicking Buddha images out of our practice places might seem to embody the immanent but might just be putting the immanent on a pedestal, making it transcendent. In my process, even though I’d been working with the Wild Fox koan for years, when I encountered it in koan introspection, I got stuck on a one-sided view of the immanent.

Koun aptly points out that to kill the Buddha we must first meet the Buddha. I’d add that what “killing” means in this context is also an important point and is not the ordinary kind of killing.

How can we work with this issue?

The koan that keeps coming to mind – a back door to the Wild Fox issue – is this, “Who is the master hearing this sound?”

The image and smell that keeps coming to mind about this is (speaking of back doors…) my dog Bodhi’s poop as I bent down to pick it up this morning. In that context the koan is “Who is the master that sees this sight? Who is the master that smells this smell?”

Who is it?

Zenshin Tim Buckley Dies: One Heartbeat, Ten Thousand Buddhas
Tracking Bodhidharma
BTW, We Have to Remove Your Feet: Being Mortal, Waking Up, and Dying Together
Restraining the Nevertheless Deluded One: Vine of Obstacles Turns Two
  • Mike Haitch

    Somstimes it appears insIde. Sometimes it appears outside. Sometimes the inside appears outside. Maybe truth itself is illusionary

    Free from, free within, bound within, not blind to – who says it’s the same everyday? What if freedom is just a concept? What if the answer is unimportant? What if the next thing that needs to be done is the same?

    Deep down I don’t know the answer even though I seem to want to know. I seem OK with this wanting and not knowing. Karma and foxes seem to take care of themselves,or maybe it’s my imagination!

  • Harry

    …Bodhi’s poop…”Who is the master that smells this smell?”

    I’ll happily revert to immanence on that koan:

    A. Rather you than me.



  • Mike Fieleke

    P U !

  • Gary

    Mike H may have the nonanswer. The answer is this can’t be answered. Even what I have just said is a concept and this also and so on. So, to get to the bottem of this we throw a bunch of human stuff, and all relgions do this, into the soup in the way of form. Shave your head, bow, holy water, candles, chicken blood and on and on. None of this stuff is going to really answer anything, but it seems harmless and may make people feel better.
    Zazen, just sit and let go of both sides by thinking nonthinking. Do good things and don’t do bad things, or not.

    • doshoport

      What if you’re wrong and all the Zen teachers from ancient times realized something important that you seem to be dismissing?

  • Mike Haitch

    Sorry no non-answer here.

    Dosho has a point.

    On another on religious site that I track they are creating rituals to bring inside and outide together. I too have created special rituals for myself from time to time – like we all do. The things you mention are another language which we all naturally speak!

    Zazen is itself a ritual. I’m also a fan of Zen rituals even if I don’t do them!!

  • Gary

    Mike and Dosho,

    Trying to say anything by this means is just about fruitless. What “I” will say is trying is all we or anyone can do. Who is smelling dog poop can not be answered by anyone. Maybe the answer is in the trying,,,making the effort, “you have to say something.” I’m not saying that rituals are not happening, but what I am saying is that they can become too important and maybe get in the way of letting go, or at least making it harder.
    We all live in both realities and dance within both. Living out there and in here. “I” get concerned when someone has hardened answers. Rituals, forms are an attemp to answer and nothing more. Don’t you think so?

    • doshoport

      Can people get stuck on rituals? Sure. Attachment to “answers” is also a trap – for sure. And it seems you are so hardened on the answer that there is no answer.
      The point of Zen form, imv, is to express the “answer” – that’s it.
      Take care old friend,


  • Larry Anderson

    Hi Dosho,

    “Who is the master that sees this sight? Who is the master that smells this smell?” Poop is the master!!! Poop is the immanence of Truth and the smell of Poop is the transcendence of Truth whether your Bodhi, a Wild Fox, a Coyote or just an asshole.

    Just kidding!!!

    • doshoport


    • Larry Anderson

      Hey Wild Fox,
      After reading your post last week, this silly little ditty has been going through mind. I’ve hesitiated to post it………….until NOW. What the hell????? Being a fellow northwoods mosquito feeder, you’ll probably understand.

      Who is the Master that Sees?

      To really SEE poop
      is to freely BE poop.

      This goes as well
      for the heavenly smell.

      Inside or out,
      beyond or within,

      Where does one end
      and the other begin?

      Bows and Wow Wow Wows,


      • doshoport


  • Michael M

    A voice from the Patanjali yog tradition regarding the ‘conundrum’ of practice/enlightenment. This is from an interpretative translation of the Yoga Sutras by Swami Venkatesananda. (Sutra 2.2)
    “When it is clearly understood that the instant realisation of cosmic oneness which is yoga is not the product of any effort, how can one “practice” such unity?
    Surely, active yoga is taught not because such practice results in the realisation of oneness. However, it can aid in the direction of one’s attention towards enlightenment, and away from the elements that cause mental turmoil, which, as a result of such turning away, are weakened.”

    Practical advice for lug-headed seekers like me.

    • doshoport

      Thanks, Michael! Good to hear from you!

  • Mike

    When I first started practicing I read every book I could get my hands on about Buddhism and especially Zen (Dogen etc.). It took a decade to realize that the path wasn’t going to be followed by intellectual means. When I had my first “mystical” experience I thought I had tapped into the transcendent. I now no longer believe in metaphysics. What I experienced was nothing more than an altered state of consciousness. Also, no need to figure in karma or rebirth as neither can be proven. What led me to post here is a comment made somewhere above about being in your body but at the same time being outside of it. One of the books I had read years ago had described it word for word. Being outside of your body, not in the sense of an out of body experience but of being connected to everything else through an all connected consciousness inside my mind. I had followed the instructions and had had the experience. It was proof enough to me that I had followed a valid path. When I first read the words they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. I had to have the experience in order to understand. Peace