Monday, October 11, 2004

Zen mind...

How are we to know the Truth?

Most of the preceding comments are on the relative level. At the level of the absolute, understanding and clarity about reality, truth, existence, or anything else can only come through experiencing. The operative principle is, however, the same: keep the mind open. Only the open mind is capable of the experiencing that leads to liberation. Beliefs and pre-conceptions of any kind, attachment to opinions and preferences about how things "should be" act as blinders to what is. Even the preceding statement may be an obstacle, as may the current statement. Anything may be liberating or confining. So the only avenue is not clinging.

Clinging, of course, may be okay too, because it can teach you not to cling. Words are so difficult because they tend to stick. Experiencing is teflon-coated. It moves continuously; there's no such thing as 'an experience' because experiencing never stops. 'An experience' exists only in the boxes of the mind where an artificial beginning and ending is ascribed to some segment of experiencing and it is filed away under some category of memory. Thus 'experiences' clung to lead us astray: "Don't waste your time on the foolish pursuit of the inconsequential," Master Yanagi (I think) said. He was speaking specifically of visions and other ecstatic experiences, but his warning applies to any experience that we would grasp onto and make into our ground.

Many years ago I stepped - or was pushed! - onto the Way of Buddha. Very bad things had happened to me, particularly the Vietnam War, yet in the middle of those very bad things, very good things happened, and I discovered in the smile and simple words of a Thai man that the Buddha's Way was my way. True to the conditioning of my cultural upbringing, I tried for years to follow this way intellectually, through reading and study, and thus I continued to wander and stumble in darkness. I learned a great deal about Buddhism, but it was through meditation that I began to understand my self, and thus began to find true understanding of other things. And it was only when I finally began a real practice of meditation, with a teacher and a sangha to support me, that I understood the truth of the Buddha's teachings.

One of the most interesting things to me is the relationship between the absolute and the relative. I think it's entirely possible to be very clear in one and still very confused in the other, and in either direction. There seem to be people who are very clear about the absolute, yet don't have a clue about what's going on in the world, mostly because their social analysis is flawed. That's primarily because of the two factors I've been discussing: conditioning and information. There are definitely lots of people who see what's going on in the world pretty clearly, have clear minds and sophisticated social analysis, and maintain a good clean information flow, yet haven't even considered looking into the absolute - just dismiss it entirely, and thus are subject to all kinds of other problems in their lives, and can't function very well even in the relative realm because of their delusions about themselves.

It's a real challenge to get both going on at the same time. This is the tension between practice and engagement in contemporary Buddhism. I am only just beginning to see all this, so I don't pretend to understand it, but it intrigues me and draws me into confronting my own conceptions. Sometimes it makes me feel schizophrenic, as I seem to hold contradictory ideas about things! I've been trying to do some writing about Buddhist practice lately, and I keep coming up against these contradictions in my mind. That's why writing is good for me, good for all of us: it helps us clarify our thoughts.

The secret is to keep Beginner's Mind, where, as Suzuki said in _Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind_, all things are possible.


Blogger XisX said...


Open mind? The open mind is one that does not settle on any extreme, not even "not settling on any extremes" (a point that you brought out). In other words, "non-abiding." Awakening is not something that one reaches because for one to say that one is awake is to say that there is nothing else possible for one to become aware of, which is absurd. Meditation is not something you sit down to do. It is the natural state of the unattached mind. The unattached mind is the meditative mind; meditation is not something you set your mind to do, but is what your mind should do on its own. The highest form of "attainment" comes through intellectual understanding. But a fully developed intellect necessarily brings expanded awareness in its wake. It allows to keep connecting the dots. It allows us to see that clinging is not the root of the problem, but ignorance. We only cling because we are ignorant of the nature of mind. We only fear that which we don't understand. All areas of life, with understanding comes peace. Once we come to see the conditional nature of "happiness" that we've been taught to strive for, we learn that happiness (though somewhat more desireable for the present state of development of humans) and sorrow are both symptoms of mental affliction. At each moment we pull ourselves from the wheel, we become Buddhas. Each moment we allow ourselves to be pulled back in the cycle of pain/pleasure, praise/blame, pride/jealousy, we are mentally afflicted. Buddhas aren't special people, it is that all of us 'normal' people are deluded. The Buddhas have all along been trying to show us the way to normalcy. And Once the last soul has awakened, there will no longer be any need for the distinction of deluded and awakened, just a highlighted line on a page is not longer "highlighted" when every line on every page has been highlighted as well.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Hoyama said...

Ah, yes...

6:00 PM  
Blogger Hoyama said...

... but then, X is Y. And X is not-X, and X is not not-X. In the unity of multiplicities, the identity of opposites, so then: ah, no. But yes.

8:08 PM  

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