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Thread: Thinking, not thinking

  1. #1

    Thinking, not thinking

    Good morning Treeleaf sangha!

    Recently I sent Jundo an email that he thought might have been good to share with everyone.

    Me:
    Can you explain, in a nutshell, the thought behind the purposeful contradictions that are written fairly often? For example "The (non)Need for Zazen" or "A pre-existing (non pre-existing) condition."
    Jundo:
    ...these types of expressions are used so often in Zen Practice.

    A key aspect of our way is, for example, to have goals and work diligently, yet simultaneously (on another mental channel, perhaps), to drop all goals and thought of anything to achieve. Such might then be called sometimes "goalless goals" or "non-goals". That is not a goal ... and it is not not having a goal ... so it is a "non-goal". :-)

    Perhaps the most basic description is of Zazen, in which we are neither "thinking" (lost in streams of tangled thoughts) nor "not thinking" (a blank) ... so we describe this as "non-thinking" or "thinking not thinking".

    Thus, as we drop all needs ... and thus have a need to sit needless Zazen without goal or need ... I called it a "non-need for Zazen".

    Much of this is based on the Buddhist vision of the relationship of the "absolute" (all mental categories and divisions dropped away) and the "relative" (this world in which the mind perceives countless categories and divisions, this and that which we label, separate and judge, like and dislike). Our Buddhist practice is a kind of dance of the two in which we come to see how they relate, and how the "relative" is not so divided as we may think. That is the "non" view. Shikantaza, so many of the Koans and such are about mastering that dance ... not just intellectually or as a formula ... but really coming to see and experience that. Even the experience of Phil being a "separate self" is kind of a dream in Buddhist understanding and so there is no "self" ... but, of course, there is our experience of "self" too ... so we might call that, for example, "non-self".
    This helped me out a lot, actually. In fact I made my own analogy when I thought "I am trying to progress in my career which requires self study and ambition, while at the same time I need to be just me, just as I am, right here and right now with nowhere I need to be other here."

    Thank you Jundo!

    I apologize (don't apologize) for quoting our email without asking for permission first.

    Gassho,
    Phil

  2. #2

    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Hi Philip,

    Not at all.

    Here is another recent talk on thinking-not thinking-nonthinking ...

    viewtopic.php?p=53511#p53511

    ... and a little more on the relationship of the relative and absolute by the great Dogen scholar and Zen teacher Shohaku Okumura, in his introduction to Genjo Koan ...

    There are two ways of viewing this one reality. One is to see things as a whole, the other is to see things as independent. these two ways of seeing things are really important in understanding Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. In Mahayana Buddhist philosophy the two aspects of this one reality of our life is called "the two truths," one is absolute truth and another is conventional truth.

    For example, in the Heart Sutra emptiness is considered to be absolute truth, there's no eyes, no ear, no hand, no nose, no tongue, no anything because this reality is just working as one; emptiness. Yet, from the other side, each has form, eyes are eyes, nose is nose, tongue is tongue; this person, Shohaku is Shohaku; I'm not you and you are not me. Even when you eat delicious food my stomach is not filled or vice versa. So we are completely different individual people. And yet, as a whole, we are living the same life; as living beings, we are interconnected completely together with all beings. This whole universe is just one thing, as five fingers are just one hand.

    In Zen this reality is called sabetsu (distinction, inequality) and byodo (equality). Everything is different and independent on the one side, and everything is equal and interconnected on the other side. To see one reality from those two sides is the basic view of Mahayana Buddhism including Zen. As a form, everything is different. Everything has different form and yet those forms are empty; empty means no discrimination and separation. And yet this emptiness is form. We see one reality as an intersection or merging of equality and uniqueness.

    In Chinese Zen literature, such as the Sandokai (merging of difference and unity) composed by Zen master Sekito Kisen, it says these two sides are called difference and unity. this difference and unity should merge. In Sandokai, Sekito expresses this side of oneness or unity as dark, and the other side is light. When it's bright outside we can see things and different forms, different colors, different names and different functions; when it's completely dark all beings are there but we cannot distinguish them. As a whole, it's one darkness. These are two aspects of one reality. ...

    This is the basic way we see reality in Buddhism and Zen. It's important to understand this point to understand any Zen literature or Buddhist philosophy.

    In the case of Dogen, however, to see one reality from two sides is not enough. We should express both sides in one action. For example, in the Heart Sutra two sides are expressed as "form is emptiness and emptiness is form." But, Dogen Zenji said in Shobogenzo Makahannya-haramitsu, "Form is form. Emptiness is emptiness." When we say form is emptiness and emptiness is form, there is still separation of form and emptiness. If form is really emptiness and emptiness is really form, we can only say form is form and emptiness is emptiness. When we say form, emptiness is already there. And when we say emptiness, form is already there. If we understand this basic point we can understand the first three sentences (paragraphs) of Genjokoan.

    When we study and practice according to Dogen Zenji's teachings, it's important not only to understand with our intellect those two aspects; ...

    In the Genjo-koan, Dogen Zenji expresses individuality as " a drop of water," and universality is expressed as "moonlight," and he said that even in a small drop of water, the moonlight is reflected. This is the reality of our life. We are individual and yet universal. The vast, boundless moonlight is reflected in us like a drop of water. The point of our practice, according to Dogen's teaching in Genjo-koan, is how we can keep awakening to that reality of individuality and universality together. Through our practice, we try to actualize one reality which has two sides. We go to extremes when we cling to our thinking. Thinking comes out of our experience, that is our karma. Depending upon our past experiences, we have tendency to think that this side should be important, or the other side should be more important. And we lose sight of the reality as a whole.
    In our practice of zazen and also our practice in our daily lives, we awake to reality as a whole. We are free from either side and find the middle path. Both sides should be really there. This is the most vivid and healthy way of life.
    http://www.usm.maine.edu/~pauln/MainSit ... _Koan.html

    Gassho, J

  3. #3

    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Quote Originally Posted by Shohaku Okumura
    In the Genjo-koan, Dogen Zenji expresses individuality as " a drop of water," and universality is expressed as "moonlight," and he said that even in a small drop of water, the moonlight is reflected. This is the reality of our life. We are individual and yet universal. The vast, boundless moonlight is reflected in us like a drop of water. The point of our practice, according to Dogen's teaching in Genjo-koan, is how we can keep awakening to that reality of individuality and universality together. Through our practice, we try to actualize one reality which has two sides. We go to extremes when we cling to our thinking. Thinking comes out of our experience, that is our karma. Depending upon our past experiences, we have tendency to think that this side should be important, or the other side should be more important. And we lose sight of the reality as a whole.
    In our practice of zazen and also our practice in our daily lives, we awake to reality as a whole. We are free from either side and find the middle path. Both sides should be really there. This is the most vivid and healthy way of life.
    How breathtaking the view must be from the mountaintop.

    I'm so grateful for this practice. I can't wait to get to the top of the mountain, but every step along the way is exactly the perfect, the only spot for me to be, nowhere to go, nothing to realize. And yet, and yet...

    Thanks for posting this Jundo.

    gassho
    ghop (a drop of water)

  4. #4

    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip
    This helped me out a lot, actually. In fact I made my own analogy when I thought "I am trying to progress in my career which requires self study and ambition, while at the same time I need to be just me, just as I am, right here and right now with nowhere I need to be other here."
    Hi again, Non-Phil! 8)

    Yes, this formula works for a lot of Buddhists (me too). Heck, the Buddha did not just keep sitting under the Bodhi tree contemplating his belly button, but got up ... taught, walked across half of India! Dogen and many others wrote, taught and built great monasteries as teaching institutions! Monks like Paichang taught that a day without labor or rounds meant a day without food. The Dalai Lama and others don't just "sit around", but get moving for a better world! A friend of mine, a Zen practitioner and medical researcher in a lab, sometimes speaks of "working hard for a cure, knowing there is nothing ultimately to cure!"

    These are not "passive" folks!

    Same in worldly careers and lives, as bread winners, fathers and mothers. There are things to do, places to go, people to see (we can't just stay in bed all day, letting everyone starve) ... yet how we do so makes all the difference (and sameness) in the world! Can we "move forward" all the while experiencing that there is also "no place to go"? Can we have reasonable goals and targets ... all while keeping them positive, beneficial, and holding them lightly ... all while also experiencing "nothing to achieve"? Can we have some "ambition" without being a prisoner of desire, or letting ambition go to extremes and excess ... all while seeing that things just "need to be just as they are, just as I am, right here and right now with nowhere the world needs to be other than here."

    Yes, a good non-analogy, non-Phil!

    Gassho, J

  5. #5
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Even though I feel I understand the thinking, not thinking principle and that I live to the fact that I use it every day on my career and personal life, it never stops bending my mind.

    I specially liked:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Monks like Paichang taught that a day without labor or rounds meant a day without food. The Dalai Lama and others don't just "sit around", but get moving for a better world! A friend of mine, a Zen practitioner and medical researcher in a lab, sometimes speaks of "working hard for a cure, knowing there is nothing ultimately to cure!"
    How true! We are consumed in a world of work, learning, study, social and play. But at the same time we are one. We achieve when there's nothing to achieve. We work towards a better humanity, but at the same time we work within our minds, for our minds.

    Mind bending topic. And a fantastic teaching.

    Thanks,

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    What mountain ?? :shock:

  7. #7
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Read Jundo's comments and then read the Diamond Sutra. A light may come on (and go out - har-dee-har!).

  8. #8

    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Very good thread, thanks for starting it Philip

    Gassho,
    Tom

  9. #9

    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Thank you for sharing, Philip!

    Jundo, thanks for posting that commentary on Genjokoan, very enlightening.

    On a related note, he repeatedly says "this is the worldview of Mahayana and Zen." Dumb question: does the Theravadan tradition not have such a relative/absolute viewpoint?

    Gassho,
    Matt

  10. #10

    Re: Thinking, not thinking

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    On a related note, he repeatedly says "this is the worldview of Mahayana and Zen." Dumb question: does the Theravadan tradition not have such a relative/absolute viewpoint?

    Gassho,
    Matt
    Hello Matt,

    While there are exceptions (I maintain that Ajahn Chah taught Zen to his disciples, i.e., "Who is this that comes to meet me?"), when I was practicing Theravada, everything was taught in dualisms at the beginning. However (and again, I can only speak to what I personally practiced), it was all toward the goal of penetrating insight and wisdom, seeing things as they are.

    So, it depends on how you look at it. As far as I have ever been able to tell, the main difference is that the Theravada is concerned primarily with personal liberation, whereas Mahayana is concerned with saving all beings.

    Please take this with a few grains of salt, though, as I am no authority on any of this. Just personal observations.

    Metta,

    Saijun

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