Zen and the Art of Astronomy
I have been thinking recently about where logic and reason fits into my practice. On one hand the Dharma is said to be beyond reason alone, and I have had some people (though not from this forum) try to convince me that rationality is the wrong approach to Buddhism.
On the other hand, I see so many individuals that seem lead astray simply due to a lack of proper rationality, whether it is fundamentalist orthodoxy or even cult behavior. The complete denial of reason, to me, seems to be complete foolishness. But if the Buddha’s teachings are beyond human reasoning alone, at what point does it become necessary (and safe) to let go of rationality?
I will admit that I may have spent far too much of my morning sitting thinking this through. But I believe that this pondering may have been fruitful. I remembered a time that, as a child, I went star gazing with the goal of observing the Andromeda galaxy (which can be faintly seen with the naked eye). I came equipped with a star chart, and after locating the closest constellation to the location of the galaxy on the chart, I proceeded to find that same pattern of stars in the night sky. I then, with the aid of the chart, plotted a small chain of stars that would take me away from the constellation toward Andromeda. Only once I reached the end of that chain, the closest star to my target, did I take my eyes off the stars and started gazing into the darkness between them. Sure enough, I soon found the faint blob that was, in actually, an entire galaxy.
I realized that the Dharma is probably like the constellation, fixed, documented, and defined. It is one of many constellations out there that can be used to find whatever celestial body you may be looking for, but for me, this constellation was the closest to what I was seeking. But what I was searching for was outside the immediate confines of this constellation, and so I logically crafted a short path away from it, but still using the constellation as a reference. This seems to parallel my adaptation of the Dharma to my life, my location and my time.
But the stars could only lead me so far, and at a certain point, when I felt I was close, I had to step off the stars and see the darkness of the sky if I wanted to see the more subtle things that resided within it. This, perhaps, represents when it is time to let go of reason.
Then again, maybe not.