I've been thinking about this awareness watching awareness thing, the subject of a previous post. Of course, I've been thinking with my mind. And mind is at the root of the whole thing.
So I'm pondering what pondering is about, in much the same fashion as Michael Langford says that awareness needs to watch awareness in order to become aware of what awareness is.
Pretty damn confusing. But seemingly important.
Because the debate over whether consciousness (and hence reality, since a reality with no one aware of it is non-existent for us) is one'ish or two'ish is central to religion, spirituality, philosophy -- any attempt to discern the meaning Of It All.
Tucson and The Elephant have been having an interesting conversation in the recent comments on this post.
I don't claim to understand it's intricacies (heck, they may not either, for all I know). Yet much of the debate appears to be reflected in a classic Zen interchange. I've seen various descriptions and translations of it.
This is the version in Albert Low's "Hakuin on Kensho."
Zen masters frequently use the metaphor of the mirror. A famous example is the interchange involving Hui-neng (Jap.:Eno). The fifth patriarch wanted to pass on the patriarchate. In order to determine who should be chosen, he asked his monks to write a short poem to indicate their level of attainment. The head monk wrote:
The body is a Bodhi tree,
The mind a mirror bright.
Wipe it carefully day by day
And let no dust alight.
Hui-neng realized that the head monk had not seen into his true nature, and he wrote instead:
In Bodhi there is no tree,
Nor a mirror bright,
From the beginning not a thing is,
Where can the dust alight?
...In Zen, the metaphor of a mirror is used to point out that, just as reflections do not have any being in themselves and are dependent upon the mirror for their being, our experiences have no being in themselves and are dependent upon knowing for their being.
This is like saying that form is emptiness. Zen insists upon no substratum, no underlying or Supreme Being. The doctrine of prajna, an aroused mind that abides nowhere, affirms this, as does Buddha's doctrine of anicca, the doctrine of no-thingness.
For Zen, the mirror is knowing, which, although it is not constant, nevertheless constantly and at each instant recreates itself. Knowing is its own being; being is itself knowing. For the Taoist, the mirror is the substratum that makes reflections possible, hence the need for a clean and tranquil mirror. Hui-neng put his fist through this substratum.
Well, I don't understand this discussion all that well either. I get the basic debate here -- is mind/awareness a mirror or nothing? The distinction between Taoism and Zen seems sort of extraneous, a dig at a competing philosophy that doesn't mesh with how I understand Taoism.
In a post earlier this year ("Big waves, small waves: no difference?") I quoted another version of the Hui-neng story. It concluded that the no mirror stance also was the foundation of Taoism. That is:
"The world is always held without effort. The moment there is effort, the world is beyond holding."
So I come back to the notion that awareness watching awareness or mind cleansing the mirror of mind makes reality overly complex.
All this effort to achieve a state that supposedly we already are. I'm decidedly lazy. Thus I'm attracted to "just let go and be" philosophies.
Yet these also seem most likely to be in touch with the nature of being. Be...being. Got to be some sort of connection here.