Thank you Daitetsu! Wonderfully said. And yes Neo, that's the other aspect of all these things. When I mentioned no-self before it's true, but also not the big picture. Zen is a this and that frame of mind. Duality falls away in light of a practical paradox. There's no self because we're composed of non-self parts which are constantly in flux, but there also is a self. I am Nameless and John... not two. In the Heart Sutra it's said, "form is emptiness, emptiness is form," yet it's just as true that form is form AND emptiness is emptiness, simultaneously.
This is why one is the other because they are each themselves at the same time. The sea is the sea and the wave is the wave at once, and the sea is the wave and the wave is the sea, ya dig? (Sorry, felt I had to throw a 1960s colloquial in there for some reason). So in this way there is the ego, and there's no ego... together. The ego is broken, and it's not broken. There's Neo and no-Neo. This experience and its resulting behavior is why Zen is called the Middle Way. To fall into neither extreme of the spectrum of duality. This is why Zen doesn't fall into nihilism, and why it cannot integrate the more self-godliness of existentialism.
The no-duality paradigm extends into all concepts. "To go east one mile is to go west one mile." In this way, the ego continues one without anything extra. The sorrow, the concern with self, any anger or greed... they fall away because they're unessential. So experience of the non-self lets the ego realize that its always been at peace beneath all the BS.
I'd like to thank you for raising the questions you have and sharing your struggles of trying to make sense of all it in your head. The response you've gotten have been really helpful to me. I too constantly do philosophical juggling in my head and my mind loves to analyze, create theories and meta-theories. I want to get an A on the exam and a pat of the back from the professor; it's what my mind does best. When I started Zen I sat down and wrote down and numbered list of what I "knew" to be true, Descarte's First Meditations style. (I should probably throw that away!)
So thanks for you questions and your courage. Maybe together we'll start a philosopher's anonymous chapter here at the sangha.
An old Zen story ...
Some comments on a version of this story by our friend Nonin of Nebraska Zen Center ...There is a Zen story that tells of a university professor of Philosophy who comes to visit a famous Zen master. While the master is serving tea, the professor begins talking about all the things he knows of Zen and its principles, Existentialism and Positivism. The master, who remains quiet throughout the time that the professor is speaking, keeps pouring tea until it overflows the cup. Even then, he keeps on pouring. Seeing this strange, irrational act, the professor asks the master to stop pouring, as the cup is unable to hold any more and the overflowing tea is just wasted. Only then the master replies, “Exactly. You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup.”
ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
As a 'university professor of Philosophy' I teach Nietzshe to my students but not Zen, so here I keep quiet and drink my tea!
PS If anyone is interested there is a book by Robert G. Morrison entitled Nietzsche and Buddhism.
Think about why you posted at the first place.
Listen to the teaching without trying to make it conform to your own self-centered viewpoint; otherwise, you will be unable to understand what is said....
Thank you, Master(s)
Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng
I've read a lot of philosophy, and a lot of Nietzsche and quite a bit of Sartre (though not his big giant book). In any case, there are similarities between these guys and Buddhism, and I personally don't find Nietzsche or Sartre to be nihilistic - I think that's an interpretation that they're often boxed into.
More importantly though is this, at least for me: reading these philosophers was great, and sometimes fun, and sometimes made me feel awful, and etc, but the thing that I noticed, pretty quickly, was that with all of them, there was nothing to do. There was just more thinking, more reading, like an infinite regress. An almost purely intellectual thing. Insofar that thinking is an act, that's pretty much all that is there with these guys, these great thinkers - think, consider, and there's even an element of "believe" what they're saying. But with Buddhism, there is something to do; there is physical activity (and also mental activity) to be taken, which is zazen. The problem with these guys, to me, is that they do a great job of talking about the world, of trying to interpret it, but much of it is unhelpful in every day life. Seriously, how is Nietzsche's idea of an Unbermensch going to be helpful in every day life? I mean, it's a great idea, but many people disagree about what exactly he meant by it. How can anything be helpful in every day life, in concrete reality, if people can't even agree on the meaning of it? Same with the "will to power" - a lot of different interpretations. In the end, you're not running with Nietzsche or Sartre, it's just you and this world that is you, that is living through you, that you are living through.
Zazen is doing the dropping of "finding meaning" in the world and "interpreting the world." By dropping all that, we find there is no need for meaning or not, no need for interpretation. Though meaning and interpretation can be fun, the trick is not getting tied up into trying to figure it all out - pulling our hair out about the meaning of it all. Zazen is not about stopping and not advancing and not being creative and not being intellectual - it's about opening to whatever we are and letting our intellect and creativity be what they are, freely, unimpinged by existentialism and Nietzsche or father figures or culture (as much as this is possible), etc.
Last edited by alan.r; 01-25-2014 at 06:04 PM.
So in not studying philosophy, it sounds like I didn't miss much -)
Kind regards. /\
btw, great thread. Thanks for starting it! I love this kind of stuff.......
There is absolutely nothing wrong about being interested in Nietzsche, Existentialism or Western Philosophy while Practicing "Zen", no more than there is anything wrong with throwing oneself diligently into gardening, cooking eggs or reading Agatha Christie mysteries while Practicing "Zen". Each is lovely, and when tending roses in the garden do so with great energy ... when reading Nietzsche, just do that!
Of course, we have our Shikantaza in which ... while sitting ... we drop all thought of Plato, Nietzsche, roses and eggs and Agatha Christie ... all to realize a Realize which fully transcends even while dancing all that!
But rising from the cushion, get back to the philosophizing, mystery solving and rose pruning should one wish! Lovely! There may be times to stop, times to advance, pull one's hair out, be creative or intellectual. Have at it! It is Buddha pulling out Buddha's Hair!
Know those times when we pick up the book or garden sheers, and those times when we put them down and head for the Zafu. Perhaps one will then sense a Reality where there is Plato and Nietzsche and roses and crab grass and eggs and Miss Marple, ... a Reality where Plato is found in every egg, where advancing is sitting perfectly still and Miss Marple tells us who killed Neitzsche. ... a Reality in which every Mystery is solved as so many mysteries remain!
I find great meaning and direction in life through Zazen. How to describe the feeling?
For me, life is something like being born on a mysterious sailboat sailing on the sea. Through this Practice, one finds that the key point is in the sailing, not the destination ... that there are good directions and bad (those that head into storms and onto rocks, those that go with the wind) ... and that water, sun and wind, wheel and mast, storms and clear skies, sails and this sailor are each separate, yet each one. Very Existential! (And there are even times to sit on the deck with a good book of German Philosophy!)
That is enough direction and meaning for me.
Last edited by Jundo; 01-26-2014 at 06:51 PM.
ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
"Not knowing is most intimate."
Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.
"Here the way unfolds."