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Thread: don't (want to) know mind

  1. #1

    don't (want to) know mind

    As I start, here are some not quite fully formed thoughts (which is appropriate given the not quite fully formed topic) that are somewhat tangential to Taigu's being the flower blooming thread along with some other unclear stuff. Can I be more vague? I will not try.

    We spend a great deal of our lives wanting to know stuff. For example, I am addicted to the weather radar. Now that I can view it online, I want to know what the radar says about the weather more than I can actually know (as in experience) it by looking outside my window. In our lives, I think we often substitute knowledge for experience, and this does not seem to be compatible with Zen. Yet we want to know where we are on the Path; we want to know if we are doing zazen correct; we want to know what this sutra or koan means, and so on. Even when we experience something, we come here to find out (know) whether it was important, or not, or what it meant, if anything.

    It's not that there is anything wrong with this, because there isn't, but knowledge and experience are two different things. Let me go back to the weather radar. It has been sort of rainy here for the past few days, so when I hear thunder and am on the computer (and sometimes when I am not) I go to the radar to see where's the rain. "Is it here? Is it close? How close?" I want to know! So may times lately I see the radar showing that it is raining and then I go look out the window and see that it is dry on the pavement. "But wait," I exclaim, "the radar says it's raining. What's the matter? Is it the rain or the radar?" I wonder for a second or two or more. Where is the reality? In the radar, in the clouds, on the ground, somewhere between the two, perhaps. I don't know. But I want to know, and that desirous separation leads to some suffering, not much, not bad at all, but expectations dashed into the unknown is dukka.

    As a college professor, I am a knowledge geek. I want to know lots of stuff in my field as well as any other field I am interested in. Rather than just experiencing the blooming flower, or this unusual tree near my house that I am curious about, or the rain, I want to know about them. What are their names? How do they grow? What's the radar show? But the more I only grasp for that knowledge the more I miss out on their experience.

    As I said, it's been rainy here, so today I sat outside for about a half hour while it was raining, some of that time actually in the rain. It took a lot of effort, but I did NOT look at the radar before I went outside. While out there was just soaking in of the rain; like the ground, so was zazen. But just putting words to that spoils the experience somewhat, a lot like the Path.


    What path?
    AL (Jigen) in:

    I sat today

  2. #2

    I see a lot of my SELF in what you say and I do what you described with the weather too. I was training to be a college professor and couldn't reconcile that life without the stress of having to know so many things! I'm sure it is doable, but that path was not for me and was in fact being walked for another person entirely. I am quite content now to have given up that life, but you reminded me that I still want to know everything and all that's changed is no dissertation proposals need to be written! Everything else is just the same. It is called practice after all...not performance.

    Deep bows Alan...and eternal gratitude.


  3. #3
    Hi Alan,

    Thank you for another excellent little post.

    Perhaps in Zen Practice ... as in life ... both knowledge and experience have their appropriate places, a time for each.

    Having lived in Florida, I know that the experience of the hurricane was something that cannot be described in words. However, having the radar available kept us informed, prepared and safe. In fact, in ages past, folks with no knowledge of the meteorological causes of rain might have thought that the best way to make it rain/stop raining was to do a dance and sacrifice a poor sheep! On the other hand, only studying the radar image, or reading books on storms in an ivory tower is not feeling the wind and rain on one's cheek!

    Much the same with Zen Practice.

    There are aspects of this Practice ... the central and most vital ... that must be lived and cannot be described in words. In fact, it is much like finding the eye of the hurricane even as the storm blows us and all we love away as it will!

    On the other hand, without proper knowledge of Buddhist teachings and training, we have a tendency to be caught off guard, be unprepared, not know what to do or what something means. We may even fall back into superstition, sacrificing more sheep!

    Only read books on Zazen in one's armchair or ivory tower, however, and one misses the wind and rain of Buddha on one's cheek.

    There is a place for each, sometimes more of one, more of the other, in their moment and time.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-09-2012 at 12:33 AM.

  4. #4
    Great post Alan, thank you.

    Drinking tea and eating rice.

  5. #5
    Hello Alan,

    Thanks for this ... if I may, I would like to add a little something. I am an avid rock climber and love how it allows me to just be ... me and the rock, like me and my zafu. But in this context I feel it is important to have knowledge before experience (or else you could get very hurt or killed). Have that knowledge in place allows me to totally be in the experience ... to trust what I know. Like Jundo said,
    "both knowledge and experience have their appropriate places"

    I too am like you when it comes to the weather ... have to know what to expect when going out to the mountains. Now, I try to just pack for any condition and then just go do it.


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