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August 30, 2022


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Interesting how the 'no mind' became distorted. Many writers on Zen have pointed out exactly the way Chinul writes about it. The same with the 'no self' statement. I have heard Zen practitioners say they were actually afraid of the idea of being with 'no mind' and 'no self' - as though they might cease to exist. To understand the mind as merely information that has accrued in the brain over one's lifetime, is to liberate it from the realms of mystery, of being something separate from the body/brain organism.

The same goes for the 'self' which on on investigation can be seen as an aspect of mind - of information – that begins to coalesce at an early stage of life to become 'my' identity, of who I am – or rather, who I think or believe I am.

It is said, and probably true, that once the shackles of conditioned (and perhaps wishful) thinking that the mind/self is something separate from our physical selves drops away, then a whole new world of reality becomes apparent – which is simply the world as it is, just this, here and now, before the distorted affects of the years of conditioned cultural thinking, fears and beliefs interfere.

Probably, such realisation is the only enlightenment - and something he layman can realize.

Enjoyed this article, very much.

I've either not read the other, older article you've linked here, or if I have then I've forgotten. Cool technique, that, and on the face of it simple enough: I'm going to take it out for a spin later today.

Very important clarifications, those, about no-mind and no-self. True, people do sometimes view these terms differently than they mean; and if they do, then part of the blame must lie with the guys who came up with such misleading terms in the first place! I mean, if you SAY "no mind", can you really blame the listener if he came away thinking you did mean "no mind"? Likewise " no self"? (On the other hand, there's a nice kind of ring to "anatta"; and I guess, to Japanese ears, to the somewhat less familiar "mushin" as well; so I guess they made for cool sounding shorthand mottos, back when. Even if they didn't actually mean what they said, those terms.)

Austin talks about what no-mind represents: - “It doesn't mean a vacuity, a mental blank, a state of unconsciousness. . .” “Consider the Zen phrase mu-shin, meaning "no-mind." It doesn't mean a vacuity, a mental blank, a state of unconsciousness. 
Instead, it refers to the basic clarity and receptive nature of our mind once we liberate it from discursive thoughts driven by unskillful emotional reverberations.”

There is a Zen koan that talks of the liberated mind: -
Joshu asked Nansen, “What is the Way?” 
“Ordinary mind is the Way,” Nansen replied.
 “Shall I try to seek after it?” Joshu asked. 
“If you try for it, you will become separated from it,” responded Nansen.
 How can I know the Way unless I try for it?” persisted Joshu. 
Nansen said, “The Way is not a matter of knowing or not knowing. Knowing is delusion; not knowing is confusion.

Nansen seems to be talking of the ordinary mind being the mind free from knowing, the mind free from the multitude of opinions and beliefs we hold that we almost automatically superimpose on the everyday realities.

Austin explains from Chinul's 'Straightforward Explanation of the True Mind:- “Chinul carefully explained what this no-mind was. It was a mind not deluded by errant thinking. This mind could still access its full range of subtle discriminative mental functions.
Thus, "no-mind" refers, not only to our being keenly aware of each present moment in a calm, clear manner, it can also include our normal allied capacities for calm, clear, objective mindful introspection.” 

Actually much of the apparent incomprehensibility around these things seems to stem from the weird-ass terms these guys used. The whole wise beyond explanation, inscrutable, Tao can't be spoken of, weird-ass shtick.

What I've understood of these things, if someone sat down to talk of them, that both knew their subject matter well, and that were equipped to and aiming to clarify and communicate rather than mystify, then they could be explained in straightforward enough words. And yes, many are doing just that, clarifying, with bits and pieces of it. Would've helped if the source material weren't so impossibly --- and entirely unnecessarily --- confusingly and convolutedly worded in the first place.

I'm picturing wise Zen masters sitting there teaching, and a student going around with a Zen stick, and hitting those old fogeys, hard, on their bald domes, every time they used high-flying poetry and obfuscation and plain sloppy constructions to express what could, with some discipline, be said much more simply and clearly!

I can empathise with AR's feelings toward Zen and Tao speak. Is doesn't help that Eastern thought is quite different from Western thought, let alone their teachings from centuries ago which often have a different meaning from present day thinking.

I've delved into some of the classic Zen masters work but generally find them incomprehensible for my brain. Luckily, some modern-day writers and commenters on Zen and Taoism make it more understandable. Writers such as Joko Beck, Tony Packer, Steve Hagen and particularly Stephen Batchelor who has made it his life's work to translate Buddhist texts bringing it more in line with today's more psychological approach.

I do think though, that the mind can be understood by anyone who is sufficiently interested and likes to enquire and question assumptions. And of course, it does help along the way to be open to new information.

I would think that the most difficult thing that prevents the understanding of the mind is the various religious and 'spiritual' conditioning factors that many are subjected to from birth. It makes it difficult if not impossible to break away from such mind manipulation.

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