During the development of Buddhism in China towards a more Taoist style and approach there lived the wonderful seven monks of the bamboo grove. These Seven Sages have a historical significance to play in their role in the school of pure conversation.
The Seven were all, well-to-do, men of distinction, however they were never persuaded by wealthy pursuits, rejected fame and ambition and idealised the recluse life of simplicity.
The seven would gather to indulge in lively conversations , writing poetry and music whilst drinking wine.
It seems our Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove liked a tipple. This is seen as an abandonment of the sense in Buddhism. However they did master a level of enlightenment unparalleled by their closest rivals of the time. This is demonstrated in the two stories below about three of the Sages
The Legends that made The Seven Sages Of The Bamboo Grove
There is a story that one of the Seven Sages, a man named Liu Ling (221-330bc.), continuously received guests while completely naked. His response to adverse comment was to declare,
“I take the whole universe as my house and my own room as my clothing. Why, then, do you enter here into my trousers.”
It is also told that two of the sages (Juan Chi, 210-63, and his nephew Juan Hsien) often sat drinking with their family in such conviviality that they skipped the nuisance of cups and just drank directly from a wine bowl on the ground. When pigs wandered by, these too were invited to sip from the same chalice.
If one exempts all nature, including pigs, from distinction, discrimination, and duality, why exclude them as drinking companions?
But perhaps the most significant insight of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove was their recognition of the limited uses of language. We are told, “They engaged in conversation ’til, as they put it, they reached the Unnameable, and ‘stopped talking and silently understood each other with a smile.’
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