What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:54 am

shaunc wrote:Please correct me if I'm wrong, but if a person rejected karma & rebirth wouldn't it be fair to say that they're not buddhist at all.


This is a question that arises continually here and elsewhere: "Can I be Buddhist and not believe in rebirth?"

In Japan it doesn't seem to be an issue. I asked young and old Zen priests about rebirth, and many say they don't believe in it. One of them even teaches his revisionism in classes.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shaunc » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:03 am

Thanks for clearing that up Huseng.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:10 am

Well buddhism in general is "transmigration" not rebirth as such.. Only some lineages have the rebirth thing directly, like in Tibet, huh?

Anyway whether or not one accepts the concept it doesn't really matter, if one is practicing buddhism properly, right?
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:48 am

randomseb wrote:Well buddhism in general is "transmigration" not rebirth as such.. Only some lineages have the rebirth thing directly, like in Tibet, huh?

Anyway whether or not one accepts the concept it doesn't really matter, if one is practicing buddhism properly, right?


Without rebirth Buddhism becomes an exotic hobby without any substantial purpose other than stress relief via meditation and maybe dressing up in ethnic costumes to get some kind of orientalist amusement.

The Buddha's primary concern was how to overcome and halt involuntary rebirth.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Jnana » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:03 am

:good:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:32 am

Astus wrote:However, the title of Zen teacher in the West is given based on a single person's decision. If you have seen how it works in the Soto Zen school in Japan, there it's a bit more complicated. But even that is not exactly like a peer reviewed qualification that they do in academia and in many Buddhist schools (e.g. Jogye, Gelug). So, if you want institutional control then Western Zen is a poor choice in my opinion.




Ahh, ok.

I think I'm sortof getting what you and Shel and Huseng are getting at.

Your comment about peer-reviewed sortof tipped me off.

Ok, so that's not the way it works in Zen.

Zen is a decentralized system.


Once a person becomes transmitted, they are not necessarily required to be dependent upon an institutional authority any more. They have become a new institutional authority in and of themselves. That's the way Zen works.
That's the way our system is.

The reasons it's done that way is to foster diversity, like spreading different seeds to the wind, so that the teaching has the most likely chance of catching hold somewhere and taking root and being passed on.

Each teacher has their own personality, opinions, experience, and way of looking at things and doing things.

The systematic conformity that some people choose, has led to the downfall of some schools of Buddhism when it became to rigid. Tibet comes to mind, they've had a lot of problems there, that they themselves recognize. The fall of Tibet was a huge wakeup call to this.

Sometimes, some of those seeds don't take root. Or they die off because of lack of good conditions, or lack of good teaching.

But that's the way the system works.

So, the question then becomes, "well, if that's the case, then how do you tell a good teacher from a bad one?"

The answer is you have to take them on an individual basis.

Case-by-case.

Use the reputation of the teacher. Do you connect with their Dharma talks? How are their disciples? How is the congregation? If you go on a retreat, do you feel a connection there?

That sort of thing.

The problem here, is that people are viewing "Zen" as some sortof unified organization, which it isn't.
With unified standards.

Zen is a school, and a lineage, not an organization in itself, with a governing body, etc.

Within, Zen, there are organizations, and line's and sub organizations, like Soto and Rinzai, and then within that, there are individual organized churches or whatever, that have their own governing body, and rules and regulations etc.


Zen is not like Tibetan Buddhism, where everyone is subject to the orders of the Dalai Lama, or the Karmapa, or whoever is the head of their huge school with thousands of people.

It's more like each Transmitted Master becomes a Dalai Lama in and of themselves, with the authority to have their own disciples.

Zen is a decentralized system. That's why you get such diversity in opinions from various different Zen Masters.

It's not like some huge governing body. Although, there are individual organizations that have set up their own governing bodies, like the OBC, or the SZBA, or the Soto Shu in Japan, etc.

Does this help?

I hope this helps explain it.

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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:28 am

Regarding the question of misconduct,
If a Zen Master misbehaves, then you complain to the organization that they belong to.
Zen is not an organization in and of itself.

And different organizations have different rules and standards.

The standard of what's acceptable in Japan, is not necessarily what's acceptable elsewhere, or in a different organization.

It's like comparing to the Protestant churches. If a Lutheran pastor misbehaves, you complain to the Lutheran organization.

You don't complain to the Methodists. That's not going to get you anywhere.

And yet they are both "Protestant".

Calling someone a Zen Master, under such a general term like that would be akin to calling someone a "Protestant teacher".

It's a pretty large, and vague term that doesn't really tell you a lot about what their individual rules are with accepted conduct, as it encompasses a lot of different organizations.



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"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:26 am

Sara,

You call for control of who claims what title but then you reject the idea of transparency and rigorous examination. It is true that regarding Dharma-transmission it was always a single person deciding on who to give it to. On the other hand, accepting such a transmission had bonding effects and the receiver then on was recruited into and joined to the giver's family line. And since it was more about collecting the best men under your banner the question was not whether you find someone to give it to you but whose offer you accept. This is quite different in the West where, as you say, receivers of transmission are free to do as they like and have no obligations toward the giver. Teachers here are not held responsible for the actions of their disciples, and the actions of the teacher are not reflected on their disciples, making transmission lack social value and responsibility.

On the other hand, because a teacher is believed to possess some special mystical knowledge and only a teacher can confirm a disciples knowledge he possesses immense and absolute religious authority. This spiritual power attracts people who lack understanding of the Dharma and desire someone else to tell them what to do (which is not bad in itself but is a fertile soil to empower charlatans and misguided gurus). When instead of rational enquiry and analysis only transcendental and otherworldly realisation is emphasised, there is no tool left in the hands of the disciples to measure the worth of a teacher. Again, this generates the opportunity for abuse.

If I understand correctly, your intention with this thread was to point out that a Zen teacher is not superhuman and therefore subject to common passions and errors, and you want to point this out to confront the ideas that generate guru-worship. I think this is not the best approach to solve the problem. The problem lies in how people think about Zen itself and the relevance of Dharma-transmission. This difference in opinion is what created the ongoing debate here.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby muni » Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:01 am

Lets say by labels, whether Zen or other tradition, a so called Master is free from any clinging. In this way the Guru.
Then there may be a lot of teachers.

Up to own mind. :namaste:

"The word Zen means the mind of awakening or miraculous awareness. It has no form. It is also not silent. It doesn’t stay fixed in any one place. It is something one has to experience. If you bring any understanding with you into this practice you will obstruct the path. Zen is the Buddha mind. ". (Hyunoong Sunim)
Easy to read or post, of course but at least it looks good. :smile:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:02 pm

Astus wrote:Sara,

You call for control of who claims what title

What are you talking about? I never said any such thing.

but then you reject the idea of transparency and rigorous examination.

I never said any such thing of that either.

I would appreciate it if you wouldn't put words in my mouth Astus.

I'm being very specific in what I'm saying.

I don't mean anything more or less than exactly what I said. And that only.

It is true that regarding Dharma-transmission it was always a single person deciding on who to give it to. On the other hand, accepting such a transmission had bonding effects and the receiver then on was recruited into and joined to the giver's family line.


Yes, that's true.
Although not recruited a disciple is a volunteer who sought the teacher out themselves.


And since it was more about collecting the best men under your banner

That's not what it's about at all Astus. The point is to teach the Dharma to others, not to collect disciples. How can you know how "awesome" or not a disciple will be when you start teaching them? That's not the point. The point is to help them as a person, as another human being to do their own training.

the question was not whether you find someone to give it to you

Historically speaking, that's not the case, many people had to look around to find someone who could teach them at all.
This is also the case when Zen first came to the west, there were far fewer teachers then.

but whose offer you accept.


You make it sound like there are twenty people lined up in a row, and a potential disciple walks along examining each of them, and then decides, "you, I'll take you" and then picks one of them. That's not the way it has worked historically at all, for one thing, the Master has a say in whether or not they will accept them, it's not just a "buyers market" with the disciple being a "consumer". For another thing, historically, there's been a lot less selection, and if you did hear of a great Zen Master, you might have to travel a ways to get to them, because they were not necessarily located at your home town.

This is quite different in the West where, as you say, receivers of transmission are free to do as they like and have no obligations toward the giver.

That's not what I said. I said I said Zen as a whole is decentralized, I didn't say receivers of Dharma transmission have no obligation toward being responsible toward the giver.

Teachers here are not held responsible for the actions of their disciples,

Oh, yes they are.

and the actions of the teacher are not reflected on their disciples, making transmission lack social value and responsibility.

The heck with that, that's not true either.
You think Trungpa's disciple who had AIDS, and then slept arround with other people knowing he had it, and then killing someone didn't reflect, on Trungpa?

Yeah right.


On the other hand, because a teacher is believed to possess some special mystical knowledge

A teacher in Zen, has had a kensho. And can speak from that perspective. That is actually true.

and only a teacher can confirm a disciples knowledge

Yes, but not just the disciple's own teacher, other teachers can also. There is more peer review here than you may realize.

he possesses immense and absolute religious authority.

See, the above comment, no it's not absolute. The teacher also takes refuge in the Sangha, their disciples, and other Teachers. They are not above criticism. This is not a "guru" thing here, you are supposed to trust your own gut and intuition. That, is what they are teaching you to do.

This spiritual power attracts people who lack understanding of the Dharma and desire someone else to tell them what to do (which is not bad in itself but is a fertile soil to empower charlatans and misguided gurus).


Sometimes that's true. In all Buddhism. But the thing is, desiring power is a form of greed. And people who have greed problems are still welcome to train in Buddhism. That's why Buddhism is there, to help people with greed, anger and delusion.

When instead of rational enquiry and analysis only transcendental and otherworldly realisation is emphasised,

This is not entirely true. Letting go of the ordinary mind is necessarily for realization, but that doesn't mean that you should ignore something when somebody is breaking the Precepts.
It's not "crazy wisdom" Trungpa style here, it's "skillful means" within the rubric of keeping the Precepts.

there is no tool left in the hands of the disciples to measure the worth of a teacher. Again, this generates the opportunity for abuse.

This is why the Precepts are absolutely necessary. As well as taking refuge in all three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.



If I understand correctly, your intention with this thread was to point out that a Zen teacher is not superhuman and therefore subject to common passions and errors,

Yes, that is true.

and you want to point this out to confront the ideas that generate guru-worship.

Yes, because Zen is not about guru-worship.
The point of the teacher is to help you find the Eternal for yourself, not to rely on the teacher for your spiritual training.

I think this is not the best approach to solve the problem. The problem lies in how people think about Zen itself and the relevance of Dharma-transmission. This difference in opinion is what created the ongoing debate here.


Well, I disagree, that providing more information about a subject, that is often misunderstood is not helpful.

And, I have to say, I have yet to see explained why Dharma Transmission is problematic.

I don't quite make the connection as to how certifying someone to teach and adding them to their ancestral line creates a problem.

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Last edited by Sara H on Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
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We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby randomseb » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:05 pm

Huseng wrote:
randomseb wrote:Well buddhism in general is "transmigration" not rebirth as such.. Only some lineages have the rebirth thing directly, like in Tibet, huh?

Anyway whether or not one accepts the concept it doesn't really matter, if one is practicing buddhism properly, right?


Without rebirth Buddhism becomes an exotic hobby without any substantial purpose other than stress relief via meditation and maybe dressing up in ethnic costumes to get some kind of orientalist amusement.

The Buddha's primary concern was how to overcome and halt involuntary rebirth.


Yes this is true, but the rebirth he was referring to doesn't necessarily involve other lives and bodies. There is a certain process that involves a constant series of births, sickness, old age and death, right now, from moment to moment. Study his words carefully in the original cannon! As well as the extensive commentary and sutra documentation.

And you don't need to worry about any other lives to do the proper practice, right now, this lifetime, and thereby escape any cycles of rebirth. Other lives are of no concern and are not part of the methods taught by buddha himself to free oneself.

:spy:
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Sara H » Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:41 pm

To Astus:
I mean people are kinda being like, "Oh noes! Mah Guru is not teh Ceilin Cat I thot they wuz!"
And it's like, "well, no shit sherlock, they never said they were in the first place. It's just your own misunderstanding of what they were saying."
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"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby dearreader » Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:22 pm

Dear Sarah,

This has been an interesting thread and I wonder if some of the confusion regarding the points made by different parties might be resolved if we all understood a bit more about each other's respective training and tradition.

If the Zen practitioners that are active in the thread could answer: In what lineage do you train? Who is(are) your master(s)? I think we might gain some better udnerstanding.

I am not a Zen practitioner so I'll excuse my self from this question.



Sara H wrote:To Astus:
I mean people are kinda being like, "Oh noes! Mah Guru is not teh Ceilin Cat I thot they wuz!"
And it's like, "well, no shit sherlock, they never said they were in the first place. It's just your own misunderstanding of what they were saying."
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And the six sense objects are all included within its covers."
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:30 pm

Sara,

In both China and Japan the Zen school first struggled to take over the Buddhist monasteries and establish itself as the mainstream tradition. They used Dharma-transmission as a way to connect communities via the abbot and lay claim to higher authority. Then, once it was established, different groups within Zen worked for supremacy, again using Dharma-transmission.
You can look all this up in the various stages of the history of Zen in China (or just read the last one as it's short and online):

Seeing through Zen: encounter, transformation, and genealogy in Chinese Chan Buddhism
The Northern School and the Formation of Early Chʻan Buddhism
How Zen Became Zen: The Dispute Over Enlightenment and the Formation of Chan Buddhism in Song-dynasty China
Enlightenment in Dispute: The Reinvention of Chan Buddhism in Seventeenth-Century China
Dharma Scrolls and the Succession of Abbots in Chinese Monasteries

I wrote "You call for control of who claims what title"
because you wrote
"We have credentials in Zen for a reason, for safety and to ensure people are actually being taught Buddhism, and not just somebody's impressions that they read from a book."

and I wrote
"you reject the idea of transparency and rigorous examination"
because you wrote
"Zen is a decentralized system. Once a person becomes transmitted, they are not necessarily required to be dependent upon an institutional authority any more. They have become a new institutional authority in and of themselves. That's the way Zen works. That's the way our system is. The reasons it's done that way is to foster diversity, like spreading different seeds to the wind, so that the teaching has the most likely chance of catching hold somewhere and taking root and being passed on. Each teacher has their own personality, opinions, experience, and way of looking at things and doing things."

You said:
"They are not above criticism. This is not a "guru" thing here, you are supposed to trust your own gut and intuition. That, is what they are teaching you to do."
but before that you compared the Zen teacher's authority to gurus:
"It's more like each Transmitted Master becomes a Dalai Lama in and of themselves, with the authority to have their own disciples."

Making each Zen teacher the local Pope instead of a parish priest. Naturally, attitudes toward a local vicar and the direct representative of the Eternal is quite different. On the other hand, Buddhism in general presents a logical teaching that can be comprehended freely by any intelligent person, it is open to scrutiny and rational debate. In fact, it is a point the Dalai Lama regularly emphasises. And this system that is supported by the idea of transmission from teacher to disciple is problematic.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:03 pm

randomseb wrote:And you don't need to worry about any other lives to do the proper practice, right now, this lifetime, and thereby escape any cycles of rebirth. Other lives are of no concern and are not part of the methods taught by buddha himself to free oneself.

:spy:


You need to seriously sit down and read some sutras.

He was quite concerned with how our actions in this life would result in an unfortunate rebirth AFTER physical death plus all manner of ghoulish things happening in future lives.

In any case, let's not get onto that topic here. We're talking about Zen and Zen Masters.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 4:26 pm

Sara H wrote:I mean people are kinda being like, "Oh noes! Mah Guru is not teh Ceilin Cat I thot they wuz!" And it's like, "well, no shit sherlock, they never said they were in the first place. It's just your own misunderstanding of what they were saying."


Ironically, Sara, you seem to be the one who's not getting the joke.

Bottom line, religion is about meaning. All the recent Zen scandals are corrosive to meaning in the Zen tradition. So essentially what the Zen tradition has to currently deal with is a loss of meaning. There are many ways to effectively deal with that, but unfortunately the ones who seem to care the most, like yourself, seem to be in state of denial, or they are so embedded in their views that they can't take a step back and see what's really going on.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:33 pm

shel wrote:So essentially what the Zen tradition has to currently deal with is a loss of meaning.

Tell me please, how does one create hierarchy without meaning? How can loss of meaning increase complexity?
Religions go from simplicity to complexity. Zen has to deal with false complexity.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby greentara » Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:10 pm

'My master spoke in silence,
my master spoke through his eyes,
my master spoke through words,
All the three languages I have heard'
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby shel » Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:31 pm

oushi wrote:
shel wrote:So essentially what the Zen tradition has to currently deal with is a loss of meaning.

Tell me please, how does one create hierarchy without meaning?

I was not suggesting a complete loss of meaning.

How can loss of meaning increase complexity?

Interesting question. If I don't address this well it's because I don't really understand what you're getting at. But anyway, I think I might have a good example. On Sweepingzen.com there's a recent article written by Nonin Chowaney titled Unethical Practices ( http://sweepingzen.com/unethical-practices/ ). In the article he tries to explain the "complex" answer for Zen masters "going off," as he calls it. If you read the comment section to the article you can see that no one is buying. The author attributes this to everyone not having the capacity to understand the "complex" answer. This is not unlike Sara's claim in this topic that some people just don't get it because they lack Kenshō experience or whatever.

Religions go from simplicity to complexity. Zen has to deal with false complexity.
"Chop wood, carry water"

Generally speaking, complexity can enhance meaning, provided it's based in something that has real value.
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Re: What a Zen Master is, and what a Zen Master isn't.

Postby oushi » Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:17 pm

shel wrote:Generally speaking, complexity can enhance meaning, provided it's based in something that has real value.

No doubt that complexity can enhance meaning, but can meaning enhance reality? Can it make it more ... real?
shel wrote:I was not suggesting a complete loss of meaning.

But I am. :smile:
shel wrote:On Sweepingzen.com there's a recent article written by Nonin Chowaney titled Unethical Practices ( http://sweepingzen.com/unethical-practices/ ). In the article he tries to explain the "complex" answer for Zen masters "going off," as he calls it. If you read the comment section to the article you can see that no one is buying. The author attributes this to everyone not having the capacity to understand the "complex" answer. This is not unlike Sara's claim in this topic that some people just don't get it because they lack Kenshō experience or whatever.

I may be deluded about what Kensho is (who knows?), but for me Kensho experience gives one finding. There is nothing to get. :smile:
I may be even more deluded when it comes to assessing true masters, but in my opinion Nonin is not one. I enjoy reading Sara's posts more, then his articles. I can feel honesty here, and deliberate lies there. Sadly, Nonin is a person that fits Sara list perfectly. That is how I came to conclusion, that this checklist is misleading.
One teaching of Linji comes to my mind:
For a dozen years I have been looking for one (who is suitable), but have not been able to find as much as a mustard seed. I am afraid those Zen teachers are rather like newlywed brides, uneasy and worried about being chased out of their homes and starving to death.Since olden times people have not believed the old masters, and only after they had been driven away did their greatness become known. He who is approved by everyone, what good is he? “The lion's roar shatters the brain of the jackal.”
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