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Magid, B. (2020). A Note on Illustrations in This Issue. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(5):283.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(5):283

A Note on Illustrations in This Issue

Barry Magid

The illustrations included in this issue reproduce original calligraphic scrolls by Japanese Zen masters in the private collection of Barry Magid on permanent loan to the Ordinary Mind Zendo in New York City. The first, which reads, “Do not remove delusion; do not even seek the truth” illustrates how our pursuit of any goal at all contradicts the basic Buddhist insight that everything just as it is empty and there is therefore nothing to either purify or attain through practice. However, perhaps inevitably, the dialogue between psychoanalysis and Buddhism has devolved into a discussion of the goals and benefits of each and how they reinforce or contradict each other, resulting in the “confusion of tongues” I refer to in the Introduction. The second illustration is a portrait or caricature of the first Zen Patriarch, Bodhidharma, whose encounter with the Chinese Emperor is the subject of Polly Young-Eisendrath’s article. The third, “A mind like tofu,” is a humorous depiction of a rotund enlightened master who is completely adaptable to every circumstance (“In a round bowl it’s round, in a square bowl, square”). It is intended to subvert our fantasies of the enlightened master as in any way heroic, ascetic or other-worldly in his transcendent wisdom or insight. Continuing this theme, the fourth illustration reads, “Your ordinary mind is the Way (Tao).” It comes from a famous Zen story in which a young monk asks his teacher “What is the Way?” The teacher replies, “Your ordinary mind is the way.” This confounds the monk who thinks his ordinary mind is the farthest thing away from the wondrous Tao. He therefore asks, “How should I pursue it?” only to be told that if he pursues, he will only get farther and farther away from it – a lesson that brings us back to the message of the first scroll, “Do not remove delusion; do not even seek the truth.”

Barry Magid, M.D.


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