LowComDom Performances Presents
Jonathan Livingston Seagal
Or, What is the sound of one hand slapping yo' ugly face?
Steven Seagal, lethal movie star, was proclaimed to be a reincarnated lama and sacred vessel last week by Penor Rinpoche, the supreme head of Hyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. His elevation has sparked a debate among American Buddhists as to whether Tibetan titles have been put up for sale.
Well, that may well be, but I think it's more likely that this heralds a new direction for Buddhism.
You might remember the story, for example, of the young monk who approached his master with a duck in a bottle. When he asked the master how to get the duck out of the bottle, the master replied, "The duck is out of the bottle." As a mysterious anecdote designed to shake a seeker out of preconceived notions about the nature of reality, this little slice of life is brief and to the point.
Well, I have it on good authority that Seagal was also approached by a young monk who had a duck in a bottle. When he asked Seagal how to remove the duck, Seagal pulled a semiautomatic weapon out of his buckskin jacket and blew the bottle to splinters. "Happy now?" he then asked the monk, who immediately achieved satori.
Another time, Seagal was securing the perimeter around the dojo when a young monk asked him, "Sensei, how do we know that the loss of delusion is not itself a delusion?" Seagal nodded sagely, pulled a bowie knife from beneath his tatami and buried it three inches in the monk's forehead. When the monk fell lifeless to the floor, Seagal turned to the other monks and asked softly, "Anybody else want a piece of this?" They all achieved enlightenment on the spot!
(It turned out that the young monk had been a ninja assassin hired by a corrupt industrialist to do away with Seagal. Later, the entire temple traveled to Chicago, where, under the leadership of Seagal, they took out the industrialist and two rival mobs as well. The entire story will be told in the upcoming "Dojo Rising," coming this Thanksgiving to a theater near you.)
On another occasion Steven Seagal and a rookie cop were on a stakeout by the Yangtze River. A hooker approached them, asking them if they'd help her across the water. Without saying a word, Seagal lifted her up, carried her to the other side, and waded back to join his companion.
Some hours went by, and finally the rookie spoke up: "Look, we're supposed to be on a spiritual quest here. What are you doing messing around with hookers?" "You still carrying her?" replied Seagal. "I set her down a couple hours ago." A moment later the rookie was silenced by a sniper's bullet.
It's not known if the rookie gained enlightenment in his final moments, but Seagal did eventually kill all the terrorists responsible for his death with his bare hands, saving the hooker (really an undercover agent) from a fate worse than death.
It is tales like these, I believe, that have ensured Steven Seagal his place in the Buddhist pantheon, such as it is.
Many seekers, hoping for inklings of kensho, have tried to stump Seagal with old Zen puzzlers like "What was your original face before your parents were born?" and "Does a dog have Buddha nature?"
To which Seagal has an all-purpose reply: "Try and hit me. Go ahead. C'mon."
He has replaced the traditional "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" with "What is the sound of one hand slapping?" The adage, "When you meet the Buddha, you kill the Buddha," has been replaced by "We're taking the Buddha off the streets!"
Of course, for many of his followers, ego death becomes actual death, but those who survive are about as full of Isness as a follower of the dharma can get.
His style as a roshi can best be discerned in the haiku he has written:
You fucking with me? If you want me to hurt you, Believe me, I will.
A frog in the stream. Moonlight on a gun barrel. Look out, O'Reilly!
I know he did it. Evidence? Fuck evidence. His fat ass is mine.
My partners all die In ambush, by trickery. And I fight alone.
Insert the pool cue Into the left eye socket. That'll shut him up.
I know what you think. You think you're above the law. You're not above mine.
Take over this ship? That's just not gonna happen. I'm taking you down.
Former Navy SEAL Vs. mad dog assassin? Hey, guess what -- You lose.
His success as a master, to this observer anyway, seems assured. As Seagal himself has said, "You want satori? I got your satori right here."