"The Supreme Doctrine" by Hubert Benoit is a book that I keep re-reading, because every time I pick it up, fresh insights pop out of the pages. I've highlighted so much of it, in several different colors, that now the words mostly are shaded in yellow and green.
This morning I re-perused The Horseman and the Horse chapter.
The basic notion is that we usually consider that "I" am a horseman (thoughts, will, mind, soul, spirit) who needs to keep control of my horse (body, desires, actions, lower self, emotions).
The belief in this biparite composition expresses itself in all sorts of common sayings: 'I am master of "myself"', 'I cannot prevent myself from...', 'I am pleased with myself', 'I am annoyed with myself', etc....
...The error of our dualistic conception does not lie in the discrimination between two aspects of us -- for there are indeed two aspects -- but in considering that these two aspects are two different entities, of whom one, for example, may be perishable while the other is eternal.
Benoit's Zen analysis of this situation makes psychological sense. Well, it should, as he was a practicing psychoanalyst. He says that the rider never guides the movement of the horse while this movement is taking place.
Meaning, insofar as I understand what he is getting at (Benoit is not always crystal clear), each of us is a single being who becomes divided into two through our capacity to reflect upon our actions -- both inner and outer.
At the moment at which the rider is awakened (and at which the attention which animates him cannot be upon the horse), he sees, thanks to memory, how the horse has functioned the moment before and evaluates this functioning in relation to the ideal norm which he is able to conceive.
This judgement, favourable or unfavourable, constitutes an image, affirming or negating, which flatters or wounds the horse in his need of affirmation. Thereafter, when the attention comes back to the horse, his functioning will be affected by this judgement, by the caress or the blow that it constituted; the horse preserves the memory of it marked in him as a conditioning factor of his reflexes.
This is a pretty crazy state of affairs.
Here I am, trying to control me. Here I am, trying to make myself behave in a certain way. But I'm not two people, I'm really only me! (And maybe not even that one entity, but this is a different subject.)
What's the way out? Benoit says that continued training can't be the ultimate goal, because this is the problem, not the solution. There's a subtlety here, though...
But this advice is hard to understand in the right way. If I see in it a condemnation of training I am mistaken, for this condemnation does not free me from evaluation; it only results in an inversion of training.
In this false understanding I would train myself to train myself no longer, which would change nothing; I would be believing, without escaping from my error, in the efficacy for realisation of a counter-training which would still be a training.
Zen tells us not to lay a finger on life: 'Leave things as they may be.' It is not for me to modify directly my habits of training myself.
So how it is possible to stop being an anxious divided self, a horseman and horse always at odds with each other to some extent, and enjoy the pleasurable simplicity of being a centaur?
It happens naturally. This is how churchlessness evolves out of religiosity: we try various sorts of spiritual disciplines, find that they fail to deliver the promised goods, and reach a dead end.
Which, it turns out, is exactly the place we want to be.
The consciousness of always having been free appears in us when we have exhausted all the attempts, all the training, that we believe may be capable of liberating us.
If the disciplines could not be 'paths' resulting in satori, that does not mean that they may not be paths to be followed; they are paths leading to blind-alleys, all leading to a unique and ultimate blind-alley; but they are to be followed just because satori cannot be obtained unless we have come up against the end of this last blind-alley.
They are to be followed with the theoretical understanding that they lead nowhere, so that experience may transform this theoretical understanding into total understanding, into this clear vision which is the arrival in the blind-alley and which lays us open to satori.
...Little does it matter to me in reality that my horse is schooled to be a 'saint' or a yogi with spectacular powers, or to experience inner states felt as transcendent; my true nature is not there, it consists in no longer being other than one with my horse; then the smallest gesture of my life, however apparently banal one may suppose it, will participate in Reality.