The Flickering Candle in the Dark (Updated 26-11-2012)

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The Flickering Candle in the Dark (Updated 26-11-2012)

Post by Thelos on Sun Oct 28, 2012 10:01 am

The Shado-pan are different from the average pandaren citizen in many ways. Most obvious is how they have learned to suppress their emotions in order to effectively combat the Sha without succumbing to their evil.

In this thread I will play with certain Buddhistic themes and forms to give you a taste of what I would consider to be a suitable philosophy and frame of mind for the Shado-pan. With their disciplined and composed outlook on life, the teachings of Zen Buddhism is an obvious one, empowered by the oriental flavor it naturally comes with.

One form in which Zen Buddhism teaches its students its wisdom is trough so called Koan, riddles that befuddle and confound the mind and imagination trough perplexing logical puzzles and nonsense. The aim here is not to find awnsers for questions, but rather in the pure act of transcending one's mortal vocublary of thought and transcending into a pure state of Mu, or nonexistance. Trough bewilderment, the student comes to unasking the question; for there is no language of thought in which these questions can be adequately awnsered.

I am going to take the leap and actually use the word Zen in these writings. After having come across the words Mantra, Karma and Sutra, I am now comfortable enough with the jigsaw pieces of Buddhism that Blizzard has sprinkled on the Pandaren cake for flavor's sake to add some of my own.

Consider this thread in some ways to be a spiritual successor to the writings I have done on Draenei spirituality.


Everyday Life is the Path

Joshu asked Nansen: "What is the path?"

Nansen said: "Everyday life is the path."

Joshu asked: "Can it be studied?"

Nansen said: "If you try to study, you will be far away from it."

Joshu asked: "If I do not study, how can I know it is the path?"

Nansen said: "The path does not belong to the seeing world, neither does it belong to the unseeing world. Thought is a delusion and non-thought is senseless. If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as the sky. You name it neither good nor not-good."

At these words Joshu was enlightened.

Muu's comment: Nansen could meet Joshu's frozen doubts at once when Joshu asked his questions. I doubt that Joshu reached the point that Nansen did. He needed thirty more years of study.

A Philosopher Asks the Emperor

A philosopher asked the Emperor: "Without words, without the wordless, will you you tell me truth?"
The Emperor kept silent.

The philosopher bowed and thanked the Emperor, saying: "With your loving kindness I have cleared away my delusions and entered the true path."

After the philosopher had gone, Zhu asked the Emperor what he had attained.

The Emperor replied, "A good virmen runs even at the shadow of a turnip."

Mu's comment: Zhu was a disciple of Shaohao. Even so, his opinion did not surpass that of outsiders. I want to ask you monks: How much difference is there between disciples and outsiders?

Two Monks Roll Up The Screen

Hogen of Tian monastery was about to lecture before dinner when he noticed that the bamboo screen lowered for meditation had not been rolled up. He pointed to it. Two monks arose from the audience and rolled it up.

Hogen, observing the physical moment, said: "The state of the first monk is good, not that of the other."

Mu's comment: I want to ask you: Which of those two monks gained and which lost? If any of you has one eye, he will see the failure on the teacher's part. However, I am not discussing gain and loss.

Bells and Robes

Ummon asked: "The world is such a wide world, why do you answer a bell and don ceremonial robes?"

Mu's comment: When one studies Zen, one need not follow sound or color or form. Even though some have attained insight when hearing a voice or seeing a color or a form, this is a very common way. It is not true Zen. The real Zen student controls sound, color, form, and actualizes the truth in his everyday life.

Sound comes to the ear, the ear goes to the sound. When you blot out sound and sense, what do you understand? While listening with ears one never can understand. To understand intimately one should see sound.

Last edited by Paozi on Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:45 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: The Flickering Candle in the Dark (Updated 26-11-2012)

Post by Thelos on Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:48 am

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Mu (Nothingness)

Paozi Wulong, forlorn and fatigued, climbed the steps to the pagoda in solitude. Though he had not visisted the Monestary in many years, his fellows had not forgotten his face and name. Each and every Shado-pan, from the lowliest recruit to Lord Zhu himself, knew one another by name. Beyond the wall, their fellowship was their greatest strength; animosity their biggest weakness.

So they let him climb alone, unaided, forlorn, and respectfully kept heir distance, bowing their heads as he passed them.

Paozi Wulong panted with haggard breath as he felt his trembling knees slowly give way under the weight of old-age.

In its younger years, the fur of Paozi Wulong would not yield to the slicing winds.

In is younger years, the claws and feet of Paozi Wulong would not go numb from the cold.

Many strangers had been arriving on Pandaria since the mists dispersed. Where they to be trusted? To be shunned? To be welcomed, to be cast out? The animosity between the Horde and the Alliance was great; their war, inevitable. The battle of Serpent's Heart, with all its disastrous consequences, was but a shadow on the wall cast by the flame of the coming conflict. Should he, Paozi Wulong, like one of his nephews, don a color and pick a side, to end the conflict swiftly with one of the two competitors as the victor? Or should he stay neutral, and continue waging the war of wars, the battle inside the battle: the unyielding struggle to suppress the Sha?

In its younger years, the resolve of Paozi Wulong would not fetter and doubt, for the path was clear.

Paozi Wulong reached the pagoda at last and seated himself at the center, as was custom. He had been at this particular pagoda only once before. It bore the name of Mu, or Nothingness, and it was here a form of meditation was practiced that was feared and avoided even by the Shado-pan.

It is said that, if one's resolve was not unbreakable, and one's will unyielding, one would surely perish while attempting the technique of Mu, or absolute nothingness. The frozen corpses of a-great many Shado-pan seeking wisdom been found up here, with a look of absolute terror rather than of serenity fixated on their faces. But there would be no corpse to find today.

Paozi Wulong did not waver or doubt. Not here, not at this; never. He sat down in the lotus position, as had many of the frozen corpses before him, and rested his wrists on his thighs and weaved his fingers together so that they may form a blooming lotus; the mind opening to the celestial energy the monastery was rife with. He did not close his eyes; for the object of meditation is not to close oneself off from the sensory world, but rather to close the self off to itself; to destroy the receiver, and allow it to dissolve into the received. No longer would there be a see-er of sights, a hearer of sounds, a feeler of feelings. Thoughts would flow trough the cosmos without a thinker thinking them. His spine was to become a conductor for the Cosmic, as the energy flowed in from the heavens at the crown of his head and flow straight back into the earth itself trough the belly and into the wishbone.

To cast aside one's burdens and to become one with the land: that was the Way of Shaohao and the Way of the Shado-Pan.

Paozi Wulong breathed deep the incense and felt its magic taking a hold of his mind, and gladly allowed it. Slowly but surely, his surroundings began to waver and dance in blackening mists. Before him rose a great dark figure taking on the form of a pandaren silhouette. The figure spoke in a terrible voice that made the whole world tremble. Paozi Wulong could feel his entire body shake when it spoke, as the voice filled the entirety of his mind.

“Paozi Wulong,” said the spirit, “as you have called, I have appeared before you. I am the spirit of your ancient lineage. Rise, so that you may receive my boon; but know that no boon is given freely.”

Paozi Wulong looked upon the phantom, but did not tremble. He rose to his feet and faced the creature, that was several heads taller than he, and looked him straight in his black eyes that bore the liking of the endless void.

“Paozi Wulong,” continued the spirit, “you seek enlightenment. This I shall bestow upon you. But in return, I will take your legs, so that you will no longer be able to stand. You will proceed trough life kneeling, for ever forced to humble yourself before your peers and have them gaze upon your crown from above, as they carry you from place to place and secretly loathe you for it”.

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong answered: “I do”.

Paozi Wulong screamed in agony as the spirit broke his legs. He could feel every individual bone snap and crack, and in great pain, he fell head first on to the ground, presenting his crown for the spirit to leer at. Yet, with great strain, he pushed himself up with his arms to look at the spirit, for his resolve was not yet broken.

“Paozi Wulong,” the spirit continued, “Now you can no longer walk or stand, as your legs are broken. Next I will tear your arms off. Without your arms, you will no longer be able to block or deal blows, and be forever forced to take beatings, with no way of retaliating.”

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong answered: “I do”.

Paozi Wulong screamed in agony as the spirit tore of his arms and he once more fell to the ground, no longer having anything to support him. Yet, without arms, he managed with great strain to tilt his neck, so that he was able to continue looking at the spirit, for his resolve was not yet broken.

“Ah...Paozi Wulong,” the spirit continued mockingly, “Without arms or legs, all you can do is lie there. Now, I shall cut your ears and tongue off. Without arms or legs, you could still dedicate your life to the enjoyment of merry song and the perfection of philosophical rhetoric, but without ears, you will no longer be able to hear others sing or speak, and without a tongue, you will no longer be able to sing or speak yourself. You will be alone with your thoughts, unable to receive those of others, or to express those of yourself.”

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong answered: “I do”.

Paozi Wulong felt a great stab of pain as his ears and tongue were cut off, yet he could no longer scream, for he had become dumb; nor could he have heard it, for he had become deaf. Yet, he continued looking the spirit into its eyes, for his resolve was not yet broken.

By forming floating words out of the mists, the spirit continued his trial.

“Paozi Wulong,” the floating letters read, “Without hearing or speech, you are isolated from others. Next I shall gouge out your eyes and feed them to the crows. With them, you can still see and appreciate nature's beautiful bounty, and though you can no longer hear their joyful cheers, you can still watch the children play. Without your eyes,you will live in eternal darkness, forever cut off from the beauty of this world. Without sight, this too will be lost to you; and you will be properly alone”.

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong nodded his head.

Paozi Wulong felt a great stab in his eyes as the spirit gouged them out. Now he could no longer stand, speak, hear or see, but for the voice of his own thoughts and that of the spirit that resounded in his mind. Yet, his resolve was not yet broken.

“So, Paozi Wulong!” the spirit sounded in his head, “Now I can only communicate directly to your mind, as your thoughts are all you have left. In the end, I will take your mind, though you probably don't want to allow that, do you? You need only to speak up for me to stop.

The spirit paused for a moment, before saying: “So...You can't answer? You cannot speak? You cannot see me or hear me, and you can't even move? Are you sad? Are you lonely? If you lose your mind, you also lose any feelings of sadness. Do you accept this?”

The spirit paused for a moment, before saying: “I will take your mind, Paozi Wulong! Now that I will forever posses it...”

Paozi Wulong rose from his meditation, enlightened.

Paozi Wulong felt the winds slice trough his fur, yet did not yield to it.

Paozi Wulong's claws and feet were numb, yet he not did he feel it.

Paozi Wulong's resolve did not fetter and doubt, for the path was clear.

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Re: The Flickering Candle in the Dark (Updated 26-11-2012)

Post by Thelos on Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:45 am

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The great keep that guarded the gate of the Setting Sun was shaking. From the walls there trickled down thin streams of dust with every blow that shook the keep with the monotonous frequency of a ship heaving on stormy waves. Pao's small study was barely lit by a faintly flickering fire that was fighting to stay lit under the dust that fell down the hearth trough the chimney and had nearly extinguished the fire. The room itself was very soberly furnished with barely any furniture besides a large low table. Along the wall stood many shelves that had spilled their scrolls during the rumbling siege. Pao's trusty scarf and helmet still hung defiantly on their hooks next to the entrance, and he himself sat in uniform; standard black, red and iron.

On the table rested a large map of Pandaria. The map was divided into many vertical and horizontal lines with geometrical precision. On some of the intersections small red and blue tiles were placed. The beaches of Karasarang in particular were almost entirely filled with tiles. Long lines of red tiles seemed neatly aligned to blue lines that ran parallel to them in a steady, logical pattern.

Pao was sitting silently amidst the heaving and sighing of the great garrison, picking up and dropping tiles across the board and sipping from his lukewarm tea, when a young Shado-pan recruit, fresh from the garrison, burst in carrying a tray with a still steaming-hot pot. The recruit hurried to place the trey on the floor next to Pao and hurried back to re-enter the fray outside when his eyes caught the board. Though Pao could not see the boy's eyes under his hood, he could tell that he disapproved of his game by the assertive posture the boy took. Yet, the recruit had been raised well and knew better than to judge his elders. Pao drained the rest of his tear and poured two cups.

“I really shouldn't, sir” the recruit said in response. His voice was blunt and direct, brutally efficient, a voice that fit a grizzled veteran more than a green rookie.

“I insist.” Pao said, offering tea to the recruit who, having been raised well by a prosperous family, could not refuse. The recruit accepted the cup and sat down opposite of Pao, as if he were taking on Pao in his game.

“You are going to have to lower your scarf if you want to drink, son” Pao said slowly, smiling gently. The gray circles of fur that surrounded his tiny jade eyes made it seem like he was tired and weary, and about to doze off into a deep slumber. He looked like a man who was long overdue for his retirement.

The recruit obeyed what he perceived to be an order and lowered his scarf. His fur was of a dark brown hue, thanking its rich and vibrant color to his youth.. He raised the cup to his mouth and took a sip and, in spite of himself, could not help but breathe a sigh of relief as the warm brew swirled trough his parched and cold throat to eddy around in his belly. Pao picked up a blue tile from the board and placed it on the field, next to a red one, equaling the amount of red and blue tiles that ran parallel to one another.

“Pardon me for asking, sir,” the recruit said after some time, “but isn't Go usually played with black and white? I just mean to say, sir, that I have never seen anyone play with red and blue. It is quite extra-ordinary, sir, in the truest sense of the word.” the recruit passed for a while, and, not getting any response out of Pao, added: “I do not mean any offense of course, sir, if you'd pardon my insolence”.

Pao reached inside of a small box on the floor and took out a single black tile. “Very perspective...Li, was it?”

“Firebrand” Li quickly added, “Li Firebrand, son of Mandurin of the Firebrandy”.

“Li,” Pao said, “do you know how this game is played?”

“Of course, sir.” Li said, “The objective is to conquer as many squares as possible by putting your tiles down wherever the lines interject. However, your opponent has the same aim and can capture your troops by encircling them, an action commonly referred to as 'capturing'” Li took a moment to observe the board, before saying: “It looks like both players are playing very aggressively this game. Neither side is letting up, and both seem to be more focused on capturing, then on conquering land. The tiles are thickly concentrated instead of widely spread.”

“Very keen observations,” Pao said approvingly in between sips, “Who do you think is likeliest to take the game in this scenario?”

“It's hard to say, sir.” Li said, “It looks pretty even.”

“That it does, Li,” Pao said, “That it does”. Pao started playing with the black tile, tapping it on the side of the board in a steady rhythm. “Did you ever consider how this game would change if a third player were to enter it?”

“Can't say I have, sir.” Li said, “I suppose it depends on the rules. I mean to say, sir, that you can't exactly do a lot of capturing, sir, if you enter the game when there are already so many tiles on the board. To capture a tile or group of tiles you need to surround it. You can't do much surrounding when the board is almost full already.”

“That does sound rather unfair.” Pao said, smiling. Li knew the old Shado-masters loved playing tricks on the young recruits, and suspected that the craft old Wulong was leading him into some sort of intellectual trap. In the way in which Pao was asking questions, it was unlikely that Li would be able to awnser in way different than what the old master was anticipating. He was being lead to some sort of pitfall of wisdom, no doubt. He was eager to fall in.

“I'll tell you what,” said Pao, “How about we let the black player choose?”

“What do you mean, sir?” Li said, a little anxious, sensing the trap forming around him.

“How about,” Pao said, “Every time black places a tile adjacent to a row of either of his enemies, he gets to choose which color he wishes to complement. For example – ” Pao placed a black tile at an impasse between red and blue, and proclaimed: “I wish for this tile to complement the blue tiles”.

Li bent forward to examine the board. The black tile would, if placed like Pao has just put it, help the blue tiles capture a long line of red ones. The common impasse of both players extending the line ad infinitum would be interrupted, since, placed like this, it would be impossible for the red player to break out of the blue-aided-by-black stranglehold.

“A single tile by black,” Pao said, “could break the impasse between red and blue.”

Ji pondered this a little, taking several sips of his tea. The master would no doubt be expecting something profound and insightful, yet all he managed to say was: “That may be well and good, but how will black decide which player to assist? How can black win the game – by helping another player win? That doesn't seem very fair to the opponent that will be playing two against one.”

“You're quite right, Ji. I hadn't thought of that yet,” Pao said, though he obviously had, “that hardly sounds fair at all, and therefore can't be much fun for anyone. An unfair game may be fun for the favored, but rarely for the unfavored, unless there is a great disparity of skill between the players”.

“Are you talking about playing with a handicap, sir?” Li asked keenly.

Pao smiled, visually growing more enamored with the boy's smarts, said: “Yes, handicaps can help alleviate any disparities in skill and can allow there to be a fun and fair game even between a master and a novice. Do you know a handicap commonly used by experts?”

“The most common handicap would be,” Li said as if he were reading from a textbook, “For the lesser player to be allowed to set up a few extra tiles before the game even begins. That way the novice will have an advantage in numbers and, if the handicap is cleverly used, of positioning”.

“So, when playing with a handicap, the advanced player enters a game where there are already some of the opponent's tiles on the board?” Pao asked.

“Indeed it does,” Ji said, and, sending where the conversation was headed, added: “In that fashion it would be similar to a third player entering a game half-way trough.”

“Another keen observation.” Pao said, “A third player entering an ongoing game would indeed be much like a player with a handicap entering a game with without.” Pao paused to sip from his tea that had by now lost its scalding properties and had become generally pleasant to the throat, “However, that does little to alleviate the greater unfairness.”

“That of the third player being the tie-breaker and thus outnumbering a player of his choosing.”Li was quick to add. “Allowing the other two players to set up some of their pieces before the third player enters would only make it easier for the third player to break a stalemate and grab a victory by declaring fealty to one of the warring parties”.

Pao frowned deeply. “Warring parties? Fealty?” he said, “We are still talking about Go, I hope?”

Li was taken aback by this comment and lowered his head in silence, not knowing what to say.

“Good.” Pao said, “We discuss one thing at a time, without muddling up the subject with any interference from other matter.”

The students shuffled around anxiously, showing the uneasy signs of a mind struggling to suppress a pedantic comment. It was most disrespectful to correct a superior on intellectual matters. Trough great effort, Li remained vigilant in his manners and remained silent, waiting for the old master to address. Pao watched the youngster with a gentle smile and, after some time, addressed him in a thin, quiet voice.

“It's all right, Li. Speak freely.”

“But the noble game of Go not have its origins in Mogu war simulations?” the students aid breathlessly as his comment was finally allowed to slip out. Pao nodded briefly, but did otherwise not acknowledge the student's excellent point. With a great gush of shame arising in his belly, Li realized that he had diluted the point of the Master's impromptu lecture, merely for the sake of impressing him with his knowledge. He hung his head low.

Mercifully, Pao did not allow him to wallow in doubt for too long and interrupted his meandering in a cheerful tone. “You raised the point that, for the third player, breaking an impasse between two players would be easy. Earlier you asked the question what the victory conditions for the third player would be. We have already established that, if the third player was allowed which of the two already competing players to support and in doing so share in his victory, the game would be unfair for the unfavored player. An unfair game is no fun. How about instead of letting the third player side with one of the two, he choses none?”

“What do you mean, sir?” Li asked meekly, “Are you suggesting that the third player needs to beat both the first and the second in score?” Li pointed at the board and said: “That would be impossible in the given scenario. And, given that we have discussed the option of a third player joining in an already ongoing game, and, given that we are pursuing the spirit of fairness, this hardly seems like a viable option.”

“Very thorough and convincing,” Pao said approvingly. “Yet another option we must discard on grounds of unfairness.” Pao took the black tile from the board and balanced it in his palm. “Allow me to suggest a third option”.

“Please” Li blurted out.

“How about,” Pao said slowly, “We make it the objective for the third player to ensure the game between the first two ends in a tie?”

Li considered this for a while in silence. Due to the nature of the third player's position in the game, the strategy of tie-breaking was a logical and sound choice. However, if the objective were to force a tie, rather than to break one, the third player would have to carefully weigh his support, as to not give one player an advantage over the other. In the given scenario on the board, this would be tricky indeed: assuming the black player was forced to put a tile down every turn, just like the other two players were, it would be difficult indeed to place the tiles in such a fashion that neither of the two factions benefited from them.

“That's...” Ji started, but was interrupted by Pao saying: “Fair, is it not?” Pao placed the tile on the board somewhere on Krasarang where it would prevent two parallel running red and blue lines of tiles from joining one another, making the likelihood of either of the two players winning any ground on the other significantly smaller. Pao finished his tea.

“You should return to the battle, son.” Pao said calmly, looking up from his game. Li snapped up from dreamily staring at the board. Looking at and beyond Paozi, he now noticed for the first time several sketches hanging on the wall of different games of Go, each with blue, red and black dots on the many intersecting lines.

“Yes sir.” Li said. He turned around, expecting to head back into the fray alone, when he noticed Pao had stood up and was binding a crimson scarf around his mouth and donning his weathered hat.

“Well then.” Pao said, “Time go go. Lead on, son.”

The pair departed, leaving the game alone, unfinished in a still rumbling and heaving study.

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