Can a cow be Self-realized?
The Sanskrit word moksha and mukti mean liberation,
Self-realization, or enlightenment. It is thought that
one who has attained liberation is absorbed with the
Universal Spirit or Brahman, and has no need for rebirth.
Arthur Osborne's book
Ramana Maharshi (1954)
tells about Ramana liberating his mother
on May 19, 1922 and the cow Lakshmi
on June 17, 1948 (pp. 78 & 118).
Ramana confirmed that their hearts were pure and
free from all vasanas (latent recurring tendencies),
so that they will not be reborn again.
I mentioned the above story to PB saying that Ramana
had liberated his mother and the ashram cow Lakshmi.
PB: How come Ramana didn't liberate
any of his disciples, since when
he died [April 14, 1950], there
was no guru to lead the ashram.
PC: If only Lakshmi were alive,
the cow could have been
PB: Peter, can a cow be Self-realized?
Ramana with his cow Lakshmi
PC: This is like Joshu's Zen koan
"Does a dog have Buddha nature?" and
Joshu's reply was "No!" to the surprise
of all the monks who thought that all
sentient beings have Buddha nature
[see Mumonkan's koan #1]
PB: Forget about what Joshu [778-897]
said hundreds of years ago.
What do you say now?
[Note: PB is reprimanding me for quoting the ancients like Lao Tzu
rebuking Confucius in their meeting:
"The men about whom you talk are dead,
and their bones are mouldered to dust." On the subject of immortality,
Emerson wrote: "I notice that as soon as writers
broach this question they begin to quote. I hate quotation. Tell me what you know."
(Journal, May 1849).
Back in 1978, I still had little experience on enlightenment, and relied on the words
of sages. Ramana Maharshi and Shankara are considered the greatest
Hindu sages. Mencius is regarded as the second greatest Chinese sage after Confucius.
Hui-Neng and Joshu are the greatest Zen Masters.
I also misinterpreted Joshu's "Mu" as meaning "No" that a dog does
not have Buddha nature or a soul like human beings. Now, I realized that
Joshu's "Mu" is more than "No", but beyond our intellectual conceptualization.]
PC: No, a cow cannot be Self-realized.
[See poem: "And Nothing But the Moo" written 12 years later. Just found
this Ramana story
that Lakshmi is in Samadhi, so a cow can be enlightened.]
PB: Then you don't believe in Ramana?
PB: You'll have to be more convincing.
PC: I believe in Shankara [686-718] who said that only
in a human embodiment can one be Self-realized.
That's the first miracle. The longing for liberation
is the second miracle, and finding an illumined
Teacher who will enlighten us is the third miracle.
[See Shankara's Vivekachudamani
or Crest Jewel of Discernment, Chapter I.
Also Plato's view on
metempsychosis that the soul
transmigrate for 10,000 years and enters the human form
when it seeks for wisdom... "the soul of the philosopher
alone should recover her wings" Phaedrus, 248c]
[Note: I was surprised that PB was not convinced by Shankara whom
he spoke with great reverence in his A Search in Secret India (1934):
"Shankara is the greatest of the historical Brahmain sages. He might be
described as a rational mystics, and as a philosopher of first rank. His intellect
was so acute that usually, he was more than a match for those he met... This
remarkable man died at the early age of thirty-two, though one legend has it
that he simply disappeared." (pp. 114-115)]
(371 B.C.-289 B.C.)
PC: Well, would you believe Mencius [371 B.C.-289 B.C.]?|
He said: "How happy I am that
the sages and I are of the same species.
Now with striving, I too can be enlightened."
Works of Mencius, 6A:7]
PB: Very good! Mencius knew. But Mrs. Lee from Hong Kong
sent me a story (an old or new Buddhist tale) about
a certain question which perplexed everyone.
However an animal cried out the correct answer.
PC: How about Clever Hans, the horse who
knew the answers to math problems.
PB: It was a clever horse, he knew through
his master. [In 1907, psychologist Oskar
Pfungst showed that the horse was not
actually performing these mental tasks,
but was watching the reaction of his
human observers.] Mrs. Pierpoint's
daughter works with horses in the
stables and knows horse language,
and can communicate with them.
[See Horse Whisperer]
Wilhelm von Osten & his horse Clever Hans
PC: When a boy called Ramana a Maharishi (great sage),|
Ramana's reply was "Why call me a Maharishi?
Everyone I see is a Maharishi." [October 1, 1936,
in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, 1968, p. 215].
Zen Master Hui-Neng
[638-713] said the same thing:
"To the ordinary man, even Buddha is ordinary.
But to a Buddha, everyone is a Buddha."
[see Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Ch. 2].
So Ramana didn't have to liberate his cow
or his mother. From his viewpoint,
they were already liberated.
PB: Yes, like
Peter Y. Chou
Corseaux sur Vevey, 10-26-1978
formatted Stanford Library, 8-20-2008
|Additional Notes:I was invited to a Protein Folding Conference at the Abbey of
Prémontrés at Pont-à-Mousson, University of Nancy, France (October 16-18, 1978) where I
presented a paper "Future Developments in Protein Conformation Predictions".
I also presented a seminar on "Search for Intermolecular Contact Sites in Sickle Cell Hemoglobin"
at the University of Münster, Germany (Oct. 20, 1978).
I phoned Anthony Damiani expressing interest to visit PB while in Europe. Anthony informed me to write to Claire Pierpont
in Switzerland who knows PB's current address. I wrote to PB c/o Claire Pierpont telling about my Protein lectures in
France and Germany, including phone numbers of the professors for contact. Finally on October 22, Professor Heinz Rüterjans
said someone phoned his lab at the University of Münster and left a number. I phoned and reached PB who told me
that the Swedish publisher as well as the translator of his books are with him for the week. He would not have individual time with
me, but if I was interested in his busy work sessions, I was welcome. Of course I said yes. I arrived at Corseaux on
Monday, October 23, 1978 and stayed till Sunday, October 29, 1978. The above conversation with PB occurred on Thursday,
October 26, 1978 sometime after lunch in PB's apartment. Present at PB's apartment were Anna Bornstein (translator of
several of PB's books into Swedish), Robert Larson (publisher of PB's Notebooks and PB's books in Swedish) and
his wife Brigitte, and a Finnish mystic whose name I'd forgotten. On Sunday, October 29, 1978, PB took us to a Tibetan
monastery on top of Mt. Pèlerin where we had a fruitful session with
Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, who had instructed
the Dalai Lama. Afterwards, I returned with PB to his Corseaux apartment in the evening. PB told me that
Wei Wu Wei would be visiting him from Monaco
the following day and asked me to help him clean his apartment. I told PB that Wei Wu Wei's book
Open Secret got me interested in Ramana Maharshi. When I told PB that Anthony said Wei Wu Wei is an
American, and his real name is Terence Gray, PB said: "No, Wei Wu Wei [1895-1986] is Irish, and he's three years older
than I am. He was instantly enlightened without a guru like Ramana." Unfortunately, I couldn't stay an extra day,
since I had teaching responsibilities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a flight back to Boston
from Geneva. I often wondered how those conversations between PB and Wei Wu Wei went two enlightened
sages with mirror minds reflecting infinite lights. It is interesting that PB ended his conversation with me
with the words wu wei.