Saturday, September 7, 2013

Made by Thinking

Zen Master Seung Sahn constantly tried to get his students to "wake up," that is to say, to realize their True Nature which exists before thought. He returned to "What is this? Don't know," in order for the student to see that thinking creates all dualities, that dualities lead to suffering, and that the "Don't Know" state was in and of itself enlightenment...but enlightenment that doesn't "know" it is enlightenment.
Huineng said, "You should not think of good and of bad; cut all thinking and all speech. Right now, what is your Master?'' Sin Hae bowed, saying, "I don't know.'' The Patriarch said, "Keep this 'don't know' mind at all times, and you will understand your Master.''
After the passing of a few years, Sin Hae said, "The 'don't know' mind is origin of Buddha and of my Buddha-Nature." Huineng said, "The 'don't know' mind is no name and no form. Why do you say 'the origin of Buddha and of my Buddha-Nature'?" Sin Hae just then understood, stood up, and bowed three full bows. He went to the South, and became a great Zen Master.
Hui Neng also described the state of no-thinking as being as dead as a rock. But as with the Buddha and Hui Neng, Seung Sahn would often use emptiness to counter a student's attachment to form, or use form to counter one attached to emptiness. Form and emptiness in and of themselves weren't necessarily the problem, it was the attachment to both or either that presented the hindrance, and that attachment was the end product of thinking.
"The mind is that which knows the object! The object is that, which is known!
These two processes always arise and cease together simultaneously...
Neither inside, within, nor apart from, outside these two is any observer agent,
person, I, Me, or other assumed entity as a hidden variable, ever involved!
The mind is immaterial, formless and invisible. The object may be designated
or named 'material', 'physical', 'formed' and even 'visible' only and exactly
to the extent and in so far as it is experiencable by the mind!"
~The Buddha

The Buddha himself taught that attachment to nama rupa i.e. "name & form" was a hindrance that would prevent one from attaining enlightenment. Name and form are merely constructs of thinking, and have nothing to do with that which is being named or identified. They are the essence of duality.
Nagarjuna states, "O Realizer of the Transitory World. Don’t have as objects of your mind.
The eight transitory things of the world:
Namely, material gain and no gain, happiness and unhappiness,
Things nice to hear and not nice to hear, or praise and scorn.
Be indifferent (toward them)."

All these things that Nagarjuna refers to are products of thinking, creations of the discriminatory mind. Seung Sahn might say along these same lines that gain and no-gain, etc. are made by thinking, are a separation between the one experiencing something, and making a value judgment of it. A person might think, "Gain is better than loss, so I'll strive for gain, and then once I've gained, I'll cling to that which I've gained, because that will result in my happiness, and it will last forever, and I will be eternally happy." This would be wrong on so many counts--better than, desire, clinging, not recognizing impermanence, and the "I." And all these are created by thinking, and all are impermanent and delusion.
Hua-yen Buddhism from China developed into Korean Hwa-om, and probably the major teaching of that school was the identity of all dharmas, i.e. that all dharmas are identical (not “identity” in terms of name and/or form). Fazang had his teaching to the empress using the metaphor of the golden lion statue not being separate from its golden nature, nor its nature as a lion statue. Seung Sahn used the cookie-dough teaching, that regardless of the different shapes forms may take, or the different names we might give them, when it is all distilled to its most basic original nature, it's all the same, it's all "Don't Know."
If a student gave “the same” as his/her answer to Seung Sahn's question “are...the same or different?” the answer that they are the same might have worked as incompletely as "different," as the Tao is "Don't Know," the before-thought instant. Again, the name-and-form implies a duality that will lead nowhere, attachment to “same” and “different” implies duality. And depending on where on the Zen Wheel the student was, either could demonstrate insight or delusion. Pencil may be pencil, book may be book, pencil may be book, and pencil may be not-book, to bring Nagarjuna's tetralemma in (partially). The only acceptable answer was however “Don't Know” was demonstrated, be it through “KATZ!,” slapping the floor, or if appropriate to the situation, through words. In the Relative, dharmas are different, in the Absolute, they are one and the same cookie cough.
Possibly the greatest example of "Don't know mind" is in the Vimalakirti-Nirdesa Sutra, where Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, asks Vimalakirti to give his own 'entrance into Non-duality', Vimalakirti's answer being the famous 'thunderous silence'. But is that any more "Don't know" than mosquito lands on arm, hand slaps mosquito?
After having taken this course and others, having heard numerous Dharma talks, and just from my own experience, I have come to certain conclusions. One way I have of looking at the way the mind often works is that there is direct experience, followed by the noticing of the experience, followed by the commentator describing the experience as if it were the sportscaster doing a play-by-play of the experience. This also leads to my observation that “Zen” is reflexively reacting to whatever situation one is in, and being acutely aware of the situation and the reaction, but without the commentary, and with not much more than a noticing that there was a reaction, and then letting go of both the reaction and the noticing. And this is all well and good, but only as an intellectual exercise.
Exercise is a good thing, it keeps one in shape mentally and physically, but it is no substitute for real action. A baseball player can swing in the batting cage or against a batting practice pitcher, but when the game is actually being played, thought has to go out the window and the reflexive response to the pitch has to take over, or all the practice is for naught. (In baseball, one can “fail” seven out of ten times in a real game and be looked upon as successful).
Life and death is not necessarily so forgiving as baseball. It is all about birth-and-death, and the suffering in between. Zen Master Seung Sahn's teachings weren't for the benefit of the individual to become “enlightened” for the sake of their own individual enlightenment. Any number of times he would urge his students to “become enlightened” in order that the enlightened one could save all other sentient beings as a great bodhisattva, to end their own suffering, and in turn the suffering of others. The “Sitting practice” of meditation would be of no more use than “Batting practice” in a baseball game if their practical application was limited only to the batting cage or the Dharma hall. To further grind this metaphor into the ground, one has to “step up to the plate,” and become actively involved in the daily, the mundane, the moment after moment opportunity to save all sentient beings, be it by holding a door open for someone else, feeding the hungry, or spreading the Dharma.
Meditation is most effectively practiced when sitting, standing, walking or reclining away from the cushion, when the distractions, the “noise,” and the obstructions are there to be seen as opportunities rather than impediments. But opportunity/impediment are just more dualities, thinking of how one perceives dharmas rather than the experience of them is placing yet another layer between one and his/her True Nature. When one realizes this True Nature, one is best equipped to help another, seeing that any distinctions between self and other, between good and bad, are artificial impositions that are directly related to "thinking about” reality, not Reality. In the Relative, words are a convenient, if provisional, way to help someone else. In the Absolute, there is no “someone else” and no helping to be done. But, as we live in the Relative, we use the convenient and provisional, the impermanent, the empty, and other expedient means to help others to realize their own True Nature, become enlightened and save all sentient beings. In order to do that, one must return to the “before-thought” state, the “Don't Know” state, where the natural action one takes would be to act with lovingkindness toward all others.