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17. The Three Jewels (2019)

Mixed Media


There was an old lady who swallowed a fly;

I don't know why she swallowed a fly - Perhaps she'll die!


In this piece, Grieve contrasts Buddhism’s Three Jewels (Triratna) with the common Housefly (Musca domestica). In Buddhism, the Three Jewels indicate the Threefold Refuge, comprised of the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (community). The Three jewels also have an inner aspect, known as the “Three Roots” the Guru (or Teacher), the Yidam (accomplishment), and the Dakini (enlightened goddess). The House Fly is a well-known cosmopolitan pest that is always found in association with humans. What is the meaning of the flies? Grieve believes it is a reference to the children’s “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” Or, perhaps alludes to the Sōtō Zen monk, Shunryu Suzuki’s book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. In this book, Pages 68-69 are blank and feature only a single fly which is easy to mistake not for an illustration but for the actual animal.  Suzuki was very fond of frogs, so maybe the fly is there for the frog? Often the fly is seen as a symbol of evil. Beelzebub is Lord of the Flies. Visitations by demons are supposed to be presaged by hordes of flies, proliferating with unmanageable and terrifying fecundity. In Buddhist teaching, flies are sentient beings who may have been your parents and grandparents, and should therefore be treated with tenderness and respect. The fly-whisk is one of the traditional symbols of Buddhist monastic hierarchy and represents the symbolic "sweeping" of ignorance and mental afflictions.

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23 Chunks of Being:

Gregory Grieve’s Experiments in Transmitting Pure actuality

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