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23 Chunks of Being:

Gregory Grieve’s Experiments in Transmitting Pure actuality

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7. The Buddha Holds Up a Flower (2013)

Photo-collage on canvas

The Verse
Holding up a flower
The snake shows its tail.
Kashyapa smiles,
And people and devas are confounded.

Through an overt visual pun, in this piece Grieve explores the notion of spiritual hyper-mediation — how it is that different media transmit and communicate insight into actual reality differently. On one hand, the image of the smartphone offers a provocative critique indicating that we are all currently hyper-mediated by our different digital devices, that none of us have a direct connection with actual reality. That is, with the proliferation of digital devices, and social networks, that elevate the “wisdom” of mobs, big data, and computer algorithms over the intelligence and wisdom of individuals, even the spiritual aspect of each of our lives is shaped, for better and for worse by digital media. The flower indicates two things.  First, it alludes to William Shakespeare's adage, from his play, Romeo and Juliet, “What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet.” Secondly, the flower refers to Zen Buddhism, which teaches that one cannot convey dharma with words and letters and that it must be realized through direct transmission.  In fact, the Zen Buddhist lineage starts with Mahākāśyapa, who realized direct transmission from the Gautama Buddha, when the Buddha held up a white lotus. As mentioned in the Flower Sermon (拈華微笑), Holding up a flower and smiling subtly while he showed himself on Vulture Peak, the Buddha held up a flower and just admired it in his hand, without speaking. All the disciples just looked on without knowing how to react.  Only Mahākāśyapa smiled faintly, and the Buddha picked him as one who truly understood him and was worthy to be the one receiving a special direct transmission.

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