Zen meets 9/11

Condoleezza Rice testified before the 9/11 commission and it was her (I think) who used the phrase “hair on fire” to describe the level of urgency the intelligence community felt during the summer of 2001 about the domestic terrorism threat. “Hair on fire” will undoubtedly become one of the most popular phrases of the year.

A well-known Zen aphorism (coming from where?) also uses this phrase, telling us to “meditate as if your hair was on fire.” When I first heard this, I automatically assumed that it referred, in the same sense that Condi used it, to the level of urgency with which you should practice. But that seems kind of strange—meditating urgently. Eventually I came to the conclusion that “head on fire” in Zen probably means something quite different: namely that you should meditate in such as a way as to make your head feel like it is on fire.

2 Responses to “Zen meets 9/11”

  1. AH Says:

    Actually, it just means to not put off practice by thinking you will get to it later, that you have enough time to meet the question of the Great Matter of Birth and Death (Daiji). The Lotus sutra tells the parable of samsara being like a house on fire. Zen says, your head is on fire. Put it out. Go and sit. Now.

  2. Bingren Says:

    Good advice.

    I should be doing that.

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