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#2164 - Saturday, June 4, 2005 - Editor: Gloria

“I have always noticed that deeply and truly religious persons are fond of a joke, and I am suspicious of those who aren't.”
Alfred North Whitehead, (1861-1947).

In this issue we are bringing you a joke so old it was actually made by God.  Folks, these are hard to come by, so I'll tell you it was found (where else?), right in our own archives. If you are fairly new to the highlights, say in the last four years, you might check out that first year when the highlights were undated and the editors unnamed (unless you peek on the yahoo list and see it was 1999), just to see how we have evolved. From the early days, issue 257:

(Okay, we know you are busy and or lazy like us, so this one is from Wed, Feb 16, 2000.) 



THE Definitive Historical, Biblical and Literary Explanation of the Origin of the Saying "I AM What I AM" as told by Laura Olshansky:


The answer finally became clear to me after I read Harold Rosenberg's wonderful volume, "The Book of J," a translation and interpretation of the children's stories in the Old Testament.


Yes, I said "children's stories." Rosenberg suggests -- and once you read what he says and take a fresh look at Genesis and Exodus, you realize that of course he's right -- that all those wonderful weird stories about Adam, Eve, Sarah, Jacob, Isaac, Rebecca, Joseph, Moses, etc., are being told by an adult to a child.


Moreover, the adult is telling those children's stories in the special way a person uses when another adult is in the room listening. The teller puts in jokes that go over the child's head, but make the other adult smile.


The reason hardly anybody notices this is because most of the jokes in these stories are puns. Word play. The author of these stories was crazy about puns. And unfortunately, puns don't translate. So when the Old Testament went from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to modern languages, the jokes were lost. (Also, people don't expect a religious book to have jokes in it. But when these stories were written, they weren't "religious" in the modern sense.)


This is exactly what happened with "I Am What I Am." It's a joke, a kind of pun, for an adult who is overhearing a story being told to a child. And the joke got lost because you only hear it if you know the original Hebrew. But if you look at the place where it occurs in the Bible, Exodus 3.13, and you know the original Hebrew words, you can hear the joke for yourself. It goes like this:


God tells Moses to inform the other Israelites that Moses has been sent to them by God to free them from bondage.


Naturally, Moses is worried that the other people won't believe him. Why should they? It sounds a little grandiose, don't you think? So Moses asks God, "If they ask me your name, to prove I really talked to you, what should I tell them?"


This already is a kind of joke, because the ancient Israelites thought it was wrong to say God's name.


So even if God were to answer Moses's question, what good would it do Moses? He wouldn't be allowed to go back to his people and tell it to them!


You see, it's the setup for a joke.


But in this story, God is a great comedian. Here's how he answers Moses's question.


Instead of saying his name, God says in Hebrew, "Ehyeh-asher-ehyeh," meaning, "I am that which I am." Meaning, in other words, "I'm just whatever I am." (You could also translate it, "I will be what I will be," etc.)


Imagine God saying this with a shrug. Moses asks, "What's your name?" God shrugs and says, "I'm whatever I am." He's avoiding the question, saying he doesn't need a name.


Now here's the punchline.


God then says, "So if they ask you my name, just say, 'Ehyeh.'" In other words, say the first part of the sentence "I am what I am." As if God's first name is "Ehyeh," meaning, "I am."


This is a joke because in the language that God and Moses were speaking, and the language the story is written in, "Ehyeh" is very close to "YHWH," which is the *real* name of God that nobody was allowed to say! (The root of the verb form "ehyeh" is "hayah," "to be." The author here is giving a jocular folk etymology for "YHWH.")


It's a joke! God is finding a way for Moses to say "YHWH" without anybody getting mad at him.


Imagine you are an adult in a room while another adult tells this story to a child. Both adults know God's real name is YHWH, but the child does not. From the child's point of view, it's just a story about God's name being "Ehyeh."


Because the author of this story was a literary genius, it's not only a joke, it's a joke that carries some real spiritual weight: Ramana Maharshi said this one little joke is all you need to get enlightened.



(Laura Olshansky) Editor in Chief



"There's an old Zen story that I like very much: A monk comes to the
monastery of the storied Master Zhaozho.  Diligent and serious, the
monk asks for instruction, hoping for some esoteric teaching, some deep
Buddhist wisdom, or, at the very least, a colorful response that will
spur him on in his practice.  Instead the master asks him, 'Have you
had your brekfast yet?'  The monk says that he has.  'Then wash your
bowls,' the master replies.  This is the only instruction he is willing
to offer.

Although the Zen master's response might seem gruff, odd, and cryptic,
it actually makes a fundamental point.  Zhaozho wants to bring the monk
back to the immediate present.  'Dont look for some profound Zen
instruction here,' he seems to be saying.  'Open your eyes.  Just be
present with the actual stuff of your ordinary, everyday life' - in
this case, washing bowls."

Norman Fischer

From the article, "Wash Your Bowls," published in The Sun magazine,
June 2005.

by W. Kelly on Daily Dharma


Tsutsuizutsu (OoIdo)


Kourai Jawan were used by Korean people of the Yi dynasty as daily use necessaries originally. Kourai Jawan were an offering dish which was being used every day as a rice bowl or a soup bowl.

Ido Jawan (Ido Chawan) was said to be the most inferior offering dish in many kinds of Kourai Jawan . It was considered that Kairagi (the shape of typical shark skin around the foot) of Ido Jawan was a failure as its glaze did not melt well by a low temperature firing. However, in Japan, the simple vessel was esteemed as a symbol of Wabi-Sabi (Taste for the simple and quiet).


Sen no Rikyuu (1522-1591) who completed the Wabi-Cha tea ceremony at Azuchi-Momoyama era, promoted frequently the Japanese or Korean daily use plain necessaries to be Cha-Dougu (tea-things) in the world of Wabi-Sabi of the Japanese Sa-Dou (way of tea=the tea ceremony).

Murata Jukou (1442-1502) is the founder of Wabi-Cha which is different from the gorgeous Shoin-Cha, and promouted Jukou Seiji Jawan which are yellow-brown celadon bowl with combed patterns, mass-produced as daily use necessaries by Dong-an Kilns or related Kilns in south China, , and exported to many countries.


Jukou Seiji


Till then, gorgeous Karamono Jawan (chinese teabowl-Tenmoku, Ceradon, etc) were the leading role in the world of Shoin (living room-cum-study room of a Shoin-zukuri style samurai residence) of the Muromachi period. However, Kourai Jawan and Raku Jawan came to occupy the mainstream as it moved at Momoyama Era and Cha-Kai (tea party=a tea ceremony) in Sou-An (grass hermitage: a tea ceremony cell) prospered.

Especially, Kourai Jawan were equipped with natural beauty of local customs, and indescribable individual dignity that was not shown in the Karamono Jawan of Soong , because of the vessel of So (crude; plain; simple). Its beauty was born since potters were unintentional. Its beauty could not be expressed if potters are conscious of beauty.


The hearts of Korean potters had not separated to beauty and ugliness. Those beauty Kourai Jawan has were born in a world where there was neither the aesthetic attachment nor the dislike to ugliness. The Zen leads to the mind of Sa-dou just in this world of heart, and this heart gives this unique beauty to Kourai Jawan.

This appearance was called Sabi, and Rikyuu found out the beauty of "Mushin Musaku" (innocent and unintentional) which Zen explains in the Kourai Jawan, and discovered Sabi.



article and more photos at:



Do everything with a mind
that lets go.

Don't accept praise or gain
or anything else.

If you let go a little you will have a
little peace;

if you let go a lot you will have
a lot of peace;

if you let go completely you will have
complete peace.

Ajahn Chah



       Don't look for peace.  Don't look for any other
       state than the one you are in now; otherwise,
       you will set up inner conflict and unconscious

       Forgive yourself for not being at peace.  The
       moment you completely accept your non-peace,
       your non-peace becomes transmuted into
       peace.  Anything you accept fully will get you
       there, will take you into peace.  This is the
       miracle of surrender.

       When you accept what is, every moment is the
       best moment.  That is enlightenment.

                   - Eckhart Tolle

       ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `

"Practicing the Power of Now"
Eckhart Tolle
New World Library, 2001

from Along the Way



photo from my rock garden by Gloria Lee



Here's your Daily Poem from the Poetry Chaikhana --

Song for Nobody

By Thomas Merton
(1915 - 1968)

A yellow flower
(Light and spirit)
Sings by itself
For nobody.

A golden spirit
(Light and emptiness)
Sings without a word
By itself.

Let no one touch this gentle sun
In whose dark eye
Someone is awake.

(No light, no gold, no name, no color
And no thought:
O, wide awake!)

A golden heaven
Sings by itself
A song to nobody.

-- from Selected Poems of Thomas Merton, by Thomas Merton



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