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“If you are seeking, we know that you cannot see.”

 
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25 January 2018 09:48
 
NL. - 17 January 2018 09:05 PM

. . . So realistically, one must seek in order to not seek.

I think it was Krishnamurti who used the illustration of beating a drum in order to be quiet.

 
 
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26 January 2018 20:14
 
unsmoked - 25 January 2018 09:48 AM
NL. - 17 January 2018 09:05 PM

. . . So realistically, one must seek in order to not seek.

I think it was Krishnamurti who used the illustration of beating a drum in order to be quiet.


That a drum vibrates from the emptiness within? I like that, it’s an intriguing sentiment. And I do think there’s a paradox like this with ‘practice’. I was reminded of the need for the zen side the other day when working with horses, ha ha! For the most part, when around horses, I’ve always been with a more experienced bona fide Horse Person, and they tend to do things so intuitively that the mindset becomes part of the scenery. But I was actually alongside someone relatively newer to the area this particular time, and the horse very mildly spooked when something brushed his side. I saw them (in a very well-intentioned way) react with our more typical cultural Type A “Do something!” approach, and kind of had a subjective “Aha” moment about how counterproductive that can be. I mean imagine if you’re a horse, something mildly spooks you, and then you see someone rapid-fire approaching to intervene by ‘calming you down’, vs. chiding “Oh, stop”, and moving on with things. Nihilism is letting the horse run out of control around the barn, I think, Cultural Type A-ism is our kinda intuitive feeling that we will make situations better by really ‘reacting’ to them. So I do like the reminder implicit (I think) in zen that there can be focused doing with a doer, that there can be natural movement without a sort of reactionary stance to every ‘wave’ that rolls along.

 
 
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29 January 2018 09:47
 
NL. - 26 January 2018 08:14 PM
unsmoked - 25 January 2018 09:48 AM
NL. - 17 January 2018 09:05 PM

. . . So realistically, one must seek in order to not seek.

I think it was Krishnamurti who used the illustration of beating a drum in order to be quiet.

That a drum vibrates from the emptiness within? I like that, it’s an intriguing sentiment. And I do think there’s a paradox like this with ‘practice’. I was reminded of the need for the zen side the other day when working with horses, ha ha! For the most part, when around horses, I’ve always been with a more experienced bona fide Horse Person, and they tend to do things so intuitively that the mindset becomes part of the scenery. But I was actually alongside someone relatively newer to the area this particular time, and the horse very mildly spooked when something brushed his side. I saw them (in a very well-intentioned way) react with our more typical cultural Type A “Do something!” approach, and kind of had a subjective “Aha” moment about how counterproductive that can be. I mean imagine if you’re a horse, something mildly spooks you, and then you see someone rapid-fire approaching to intervene by ‘calming you down’, vs. chiding “Oh, stop”, and moving on with things. Nihilism is letting the horse run out of control around the barn, I think, Cultural Type A-ism is our kinda intuitive feeling that we will make situations better by really ‘reacting’ to them. So I do like the reminder implicit (I think) in zen that there can be focused doing with a doer, that there can be natural movement without a sort of reactionary stance to every ‘wave’ that rolls along.

If this was the Christian category and the topic was Jesus’ saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you,” how would you interpret that?  What do you think he meant?

 

 
 
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29 January 2018 18:41
 
unsmoked - 29 January 2018 09:47 AM

If this was the Christian category and the topic was Jesus’ saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you,” how would you interpret that?  What do you think he meant?


An aside… if you’re trying to smuggle in a lesson on “You should be nicer and less judgmental of ‘enemies’ NL.”, recall that I have an unnatural fondness for Putin (as well as his opponents, like Kara-Murza and Gessen, I feel I should add), so I am probably not the best target audience for such sentiments. It’s an INFP thing. We always end up feeling sorry for our enemies (I mean poor Russia, they have this Last Of The Mohicans thing going on, how can you not feel bad in the face of that?) Just a thought. If that’s not your intent and you’re just being random, as I am wont to do, carry on. wink


Regarding what Jesus meant - I think it’s pretty straightforward. He could be a bit ambiguous in places (the fig tree - tribes of Israel or he just really wanted figs?) but that one seems pretty concrete. But then, Jesus probably would have been labeled an enabler in 2018. I was listening to a talk by Gessen the other day when she said that Russians should be understood via trauma psychology, as evidenced by the fact that one of the primary signs of healthy agency is the ability to envision a future for oneself. So much for “Take therefore no thought for the morrow”. Jesus was much too “You’ve got no future you’ve got no past” for 2018 norms, I think.

 
 
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30 January 2018 10:15
 
NL. - 29 January 2018 06:41 PM
unsmoked - 29 January 2018 09:47 AM

If this was the Christian category and the topic was Jesus’ saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you,” how would you interpret that?  What do you think he meant?


An aside… if you’re trying to smuggle in a lesson on “You should be nicer and less judgmental of ‘enemies’ NL.”, recall that I have an unnatural fondness for Putin (as well as his opponents, like Kara-Murza and Gessen, I feel I should add), so I am probably not the best target audience for such sentiments. It’s an INFP thing. We always end up feeling sorry for our enemies (I mean poor Russia, they have this Last Of The Mohicans thing going on, how can you not feel bad in the face of that?) Just a thought. If that’s not your intent and you’re just being random, as I am wont to do, carry on. wink


Regarding what Jesus meant - I think it’s pretty straightforward. He could be a bit ambiguous in places (the fig tree - tribes of Israel or he just really wanted figs?) but that one seems pretty concrete. But then, Jesus probably would have been labeled an enabler in 2018. I was listening to a talk by Gessen the other day when she said that Russians should be understood via trauma psychology, as evidenced by the fact that one of the primary signs of healthy agency is the ability to envision a future for oneself. So much for “Take therefore no thought for the morrow”. Jesus was much too “You’ve got no future you’ve got no past” for 2018 norms, I think.

Azimuth.  I’ll admit that in post #18 I couldn’t understand the paragraph that began with the vibrating drum, and in this post I couldn’t understand either of your paragraphs.  If Nhoj wasn’t so busy I’d see if he was willing to explain these for me, the way he used to explain the Trioon characters Mr. Hippo and Mr. Flashlight.  I couldn’t understand them either, but, like in a fire lookout, if you get a direction on a smoke (that is rising behind a hill), then it helps to get a direction from another lookout.  Where the two lines intersect on the map is where the smoke is coming from.  Where Mr. Flashlight’s explanation intersected with your 2018 norms is where my perplexity is coming from.  I think.

 
 
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30 January 2018 11:28
 
unsmoked - 30 January 2018 10:15 AM

Azimuth.  I’ll admit that in post #18 I couldn’t understand the paragraph that began with the vibrating drum, and in this post I couldn’t understand either of your paragraphs.  If Nhoj wasn’t so busy I’d see if he was willing to explain these for me, the way he used to explain the Trioon characters Mr. Hippo and Mr. Flashlight.  I couldn’t understand them either, but, like in a fire lookout, if you get a direction on a smoke (that is rising behind a hill), then it helps to get a direction from another lookout.  Where the two lines intersect on the map is where the smoke is coming from.  Where Mr. Flashlight’s explanation intersected with your 2018 norms is where my perplexity is coming from.  I think.


No worries, in my work I’m used to breaking things down for the literal minded. Bullet points:


- The Bible verse you quoted had no apparent connection to what we were just talking about. I was wondering why.


- I’m fascinated with Russia right now so many of the ‘things I have observed by living life and looking around’ type inferences are going to involve that, although Russia itself has nothing to do with this thread (the associated observations, however, do.)


- I said I think Jesus’s meaning was very straightforward in that passage. Love your enemies is not a metaphor, like the fig tree, it pretty literally means love your enemies.


- I noted that people generally find this attitude psychologically unhealthy in 2018, however.


- Supporting observations / factoids:

      - I am an INFP who tends to feel sorry for pretty much everyone, and for the most part no one seems to consider this a good trait. (Perhaps I should have added for context that I’m always being told I’m too soft and a pushover.) Example one of ‘loving your enemy’ not playing well in the real world, in my experience.

      - I recently heard Masha Gessen (who I like, btw, although possibly I disagree on this point,) saying that ‘thinking not of the ‘morrow’ (although she didn’t use that exact phrase) is a problematic psychological trait of traumatized people. Example 2 of Jesus’s message not being considered particularly healthy in modern times.


Let me know if you have any questions or that doesn’t make sense.

[ Edited: 30 January 2018 11:31 by sojourner]
 
 
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31 January 2018 11:18
 
NL. - 30 January 2018 11:28 AM
unsmoked - 30 January 2018 10:15 AM

Azimuth.  I’ll admit that in post #18 I couldn’t understand the paragraph that began with the vibrating drum, and in this post I couldn’t understand either of your paragraphs.  If Nhoj wasn’t so busy I’d see if he was willing to explain these for me, the way he used to explain the Trioon characters Mr. Hippo and Mr. Flashlight.  I couldn’t understand them either, but, like in a fire lookout, if you get a direction on a smoke (that is rising behind a hill), then it helps to get a direction from another lookout.  Where the two lines intersect on the map is where the smoke is coming from.  Where Mr. Flashlight’s explanation intersected with your 2018 norms is where my perplexity is coming from.  I think.


No worries, in my work I’m used to breaking things down for the literal minded. Bullet points:


- The Bible verse you quoted had no apparent connection to what we were just talking about. I was wondering why.


- I’m fascinated with Russia right now so many of the ‘things I have observed by living life and looking around’ type inferences are going to involve that, although Russia itself has nothing to do with this thread (the associated observations, however, do.)


- I said I think Jesus’s meaning was very straightforward in that passage. Love your enemies is not a metaphor, like the fig tree, it pretty literally means love your enemies.


- I noted that people generally find this attitude psychologically unhealthy in 2018, however.


- Supporting observations / factoids:

      - I am an INFP who tends to feel sorry for pretty much everyone, and for the most part no one seems to consider this a good trait. (Perhaps I should have added for context that I’m always being told I’m too soft and a pushover.) Example one of ‘loving your enemy’ not playing well in the real world, in my experience.

      - I recently heard Masha Gessen (who I like, btw, although possibly I disagree on this point,) saying that ‘thinking not of the ‘morrow’ (although she didn’t use that exact phrase) is a problematic psychological trait of traumatized people. Example 2 of Jesus’s message not being considered particularly healthy in modern times.

Let me know if you have any questions or that doesn’t make sense.

“- The Bible verse you quoted had no apparent connection to what we were just talking about. I was wondering why.” - NL

I used that Jesus quote because it is very straightforward.  Most Christians that I know find ways to ignore it or circumvent it - “. . . not being considered particularly healthy in modern times,” etc.

I was wondering if you would take that quote at face value, and it seems you did . . . without qualifying it in some way.  But, maybe you are qualifying it by saying, “loving my enemy hasn’t played well in the real world, in my experience.”

Yuanwu said, “If you are seeking, we know that you cannot see.”  This is straightforward.  Has it ever played well in the real world, in your experience?  If an avid birdwatcher, on a solitary walk around a beaver pond, (in a soaking drizzle), sees a yellow-billed loon for the first time - he really sees it.  All his seeking stops.  He is seeing.  Or, a football fan who has spent $5000 for a ticket to the Super Bowl, watching a 101 yard pass with 30 seconds to go.  Along with millions of others he really sees that play.  The pass is caught!  The stadium erupts!

Yuanwu explains:  “Fundamentally, this great light is there with each and every person right where they stand - empty clear through, spiritually aware, all-pervasive, it is called the scenery of the fundamental ground.  Sentient beings and buddhas are both inherently equipped with it . . . it has never been defiled or stained.”  (end quote)

So if ‘this great light’ is there with each of us right where we stand, what are we looking for?  What are we seeking?  Something better than the rare yellow-billed loon?  (We might be the last person to ever see one in the wild).  Something more exciting than the Eagles last chance?  (a great roar rising out of Philadelphia taverns).

Most of life is boring, so we seek?  Who cares about this great light, or the scenery of the fundamental ground?  There’s something better!  Seek and ye shall find?

(Yuanwu quoted from the book, ‘ZEN LETTERS - Teachings of Yuanwu’ - translated by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)

[ Edited: 31 January 2018 11:23 by unsmoked]
 
 
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31 January 2018 19:31
 
unsmoked - 31 January 2018 11:18 AM

I was wondering if you would take that quote at face value, and it seems you did . . . without qualifying it in some way.  But, maybe you are qualifying it by saying, “loving my enemy hasn’t played well in the real world, in my experience.”


I disagree. If I said “Evolutionary theory is fairly straightforward, but has been at the center of mass controversy”, am I ‘qualifying’ the theory of evolution or stating a fact? To my mind qualifying would be if I said “Well, you should love your enemy buuuuut….”, which I didn’t. Again, I think it’s a straightforward passage.

 

Yuanwu said, “If you are seeking, we know that you cannot see.”  This is straightforward.  Has it ever played well in the real world, in your experience?


I honestly don’t think this has ever come up in a real world context for me, so I couldn’t say. I’m searching my memory for an actual example of someone saying “Well if you’re seeking you can’t see” and someone else saying “No way! Baloney!”, and nothing comes to mind. (“Love your enemy” does come into play in the real world quite often, as people tend to be concerned with attitudes towards enemies.) So I guess I’m agnostic on that one, until I see some real world examples.

 

If an avid birdwatcher, on a solitary walk around a beaver pond, (in a soaking drizzle), sees a yellow-billed loon for the first time - he really sees it.  All his seeking stops.  He is seeing.  Or, a football fan who has spent $5000 for a ticket to the Super Bowl, watching a 101 yard pass with 30 seconds to go.  Along with millions of others he really sees that play.  The pass is caught!  The stadium erupts!

Yuanwu explains:  “Fundamentally, this great light is there with each and every person right where they stand - empty clear through, spiritually aware, all-pervasive, it is called the scenery of the fundamental ground.  Sentient beings and buddhas are both inherently equipped with it . . . it has never been defiled or stained.”  (end quote)

So if ‘this great light’ is there with each of us right where we stand, what are we looking for?  What are we seeking?  Something better than the rare yellow-billed loon?  (We might be the last person to ever see one in the wild).  Something more exciting than the Eagles last chance?  (a great roar rising out of Philadelphia taverns).

Most of life is boring, so we seek?  Who cares about this great light, or the scenery of the fundamental ground?  There’s something better!  Seek and ye shall find?

(Yuanwu quoted from the book, ‘ZEN LETTERS - Teachings of Yuanwu’ - translated by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)


I’m not sure what you’re asking exactly, but if you’re talking about whether or not people should seek via ‘practice’, then yes, I think people should ‘seek’ via engaging in practice. The brains of monks and nuns who have engaged in years of contemplative practice show significant changes that the brains of people who get lost in a beautiful sunset don’t. I will say that near death experiences seem to offer some confirmation that a few solitary moments of ‘pure seeing’ (or whatever you want to call it) can in fact create rapid brain changes that seem to approximate those seen in people who have engaged in years of practice (I don’t know that the evidence for this is robust, but I have at least seen it suggested:

Beauregard says it’s as if touching death jump-started the spiritual lives of these people. Their brains in the spiritual state look a lot like those of Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks who have spent tens of thousands of hours in prayer and meditation. Both groups showed extremely slow brain wave activity.


But those are “There was nothing but a bright light” or “I viewed my neighbors down the street from an aerial vantage point” kinda experiences, I think they are pretty far outside the norm.


Given that logic, I think it also follows that less intense versions of this experience could be beneficial to one’s practice, sure. But I don’t think they’re a substitute for practice. That is, of course, just my two cents though. What do I know, ha ha!

 
 
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02 February 2018 11:04
 

Yuanwu said, “If you are seeking, we know that you cannot see.”

This is related to statements like, “If you are daydreaming, we know that you cannot see.”

“If you are distracted, we know that you cannot see.”

“If you are preoccupied we know that you cannot see.”

Traffic police deal with this every day.  Surely it’s not outside your experience.  Searching in the glove compartment while driving?  One little phone call to let your friends know you’re running late?  (lights start flashing behind you). . .

 
 
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02 February 2018 12:30
 
unsmoked - 02 February 2018 11:04 AM

Yuanwu said, “If you are seeking, we know that you cannot see.”

This is related to statements like, “If you are daydreaming, we know that you cannot see.”

“If you are distracted, we know that you cannot see.”

“If you are preoccupied we know that you cannot see.”

Traffic police deal with this every day.  Surely it’s not outside your experience.  Searching in the glove compartment while driving?  One little phone call to let your friends know you’re running late?  (lights start flashing behind you). . .


Oh I see - when you asked if it ‘played well in the real world’, I thought you meant reception of such ideas, but you were talking about how well they seem to work at a personal level.


As I said in the beginning of this thread, I think it’s a paradox. You have to seek in order to learn how not to seek.


Paying attention to a given task means something different in the most enculturated, colloquial sense than it does in a contemplative sense, I think. I think it is entirely possible to think you are paying attention to something without having an inkling of what the deepest possible attention even looks like. So sure, people in a day-to-day sense might say “I was paying attention” vs. “I was distracted”, but I think the contemplative path offers a lot of training in how to truly pay attention more fully. Quieting the background programs humming in our subconscious that we are not even aware of.


For example, if the average person were ‘paying attention’ to the yellow-billed loon you mentioned earlier, they would likely shift their attention very quickly if someone plunged their feet into cold water. Clearly programs set to ‘scan for relevant stimuli’ are still buzzing somewhere in that attentional field, even if they’re not obvious - so it’s not really accurate to say they can give birdwatching their full attentions without any training. This is not the case for extremely experienced meditators, who can maintain a meditative state even throughout such external stimuli [I remember reading a study to this effect although I’d have to look back through my Kindle library to find it if you want a quote.] (A side note, I have seen something like this effect with children and electronics - parents will give them an iPad when they have to have blood drawn, for example, and they will be so attentionally locked on it that they don’t seem to notice the pain of the blood draw - neither here nor there in this conversation, but I find this interesting in that this would seem to be an example of such focus and yet is generally not the kind of thing we try to encourage in kids. I wonder if there is some subtle difference in the nature of focus there.)


I mention this kind of ‘one pointed focus’ because you brought it up above, although I think it may be important to make a distinction here, as one pointed focus is one specific kind of training and open, mindful awareness is another. I think when you’re talking about ‘not seeking’ this would actually be closer to the latter, although again, I think one has to seek in order to learn how not to seek in either area. I think the human mind has layers upon layers of filters and it takes a great deal of practice and teaching to see past them. In Altered Traits, the authors conclude that there are even significant differences between a meditator who has done about 10,000 hours vs. one who has done about 30,000, in terms of how their brain reacts in lab studies.

 
 
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03 February 2018 10:58
 
NL. - 02 February 2018 12:30 PM
unsmoked - 02 February 2018 11:04 AM

Yuanwu said, “If you are seeking, we know that you cannot see.”

This is related to statements like, “If you are daydreaming, we know that you cannot see.”

“If you are distracted, we know that you cannot see.”

“If you are preoccupied we know that you cannot see.”

Traffic police deal with this every day.  Surely it’s not outside your experience.  Searching in the glove compartment while driving?  One little phone call to let your friends know you’re running late?  (lights start flashing behind you). . .


Oh I see - when you asked if it ‘played well in the real world’, I thought you meant reception of such ideas, but you were talking about how well they seem to work at a personal level.

As I said in the beginning of this thread, I think it’s a paradox. You have to seek in order to learn how not to seek.

Paying attention to a given task means something different in the most enculturated, colloquial sense than it does in a contemplative sense, I think. I think it is entirely possible to think you are paying attention to something without having an inkling of what the deepest possible attention even looks like. So sure, people in a day-to-day sense might say “I was paying attention” vs. “I was distracted”, but I think the contemplative path offers a lot of training in how to truly pay attention more fully. Quieting the background programs humming in our subconscious that we are not even aware of.

Do you think ‘seeking in order to learn how not to seek’ is part of the ‘background humming’?  (desire)

 
 
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03 February 2018 11:42
 
unsmoked - 03 February 2018 10:58 AM

Do you think ‘seeking in order to learn how not to seek’ is part of the ‘background humming’?  (desire)


Not really, I’d say that’s more of a foreground feature - a conscious decision. When I say background I mean things like our ability to awaken upon hearing an alarm clock, even though there is nothing in our conscious experience that suggests we are listening for an alarm clock.


Besides, if you eschew any kind of training whatsoever as adding to ‘seeking’ or ‘desire’, then what’s the point in doing anything? What’s the point in your reading zen books and learning zen sayings? Why not just stare slack-jawed at the tv instead?


Again, I think it’s a paradox - roughly akin, maybe, to learning how to float in water by relaxing and doing nothing. You have to ‘do something’ in order to learn how to do nothing.

 
 
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05 February 2018 10:55
 
NL. - 03 February 2018 11:42 AM
unsmoked - 03 February 2018 10:58 AM

Do you think ‘seeking in order to learn how not to seek’ is part of the ‘background humming’?  (desire)


Not really, I’d say that’s more of a foreground feature - a conscious decision. When I say background I mean things like our ability to awaken upon hearing an alarm clock, even though there is nothing in our conscious experience that suggests we are listening for an alarm clock.


Besides, if you eschew any kind of training whatsoever as adding to ‘seeking’ or ‘desire’, then what’s the point in doing anything? What’s the point in your reading zen books and learning zen sayings? Why not just stare slack-jawed at the tv instead?


Again, I think it’s a paradox - roughly akin, maybe, to learning how to float in water by relaxing and doing nothing. You have to ‘do something’ in order to learn how to do nothing.

What is most difficult is to be perfectly at rest, not activating the conceptual faculty.”  -  Zen master Yuanwu

I like your example of ‘learning how to float in water by relaxing and doing nothing.’  Many Zen adepts would probably confess that they ‘thrashed the water’ for 20 or 30 years before catching on.

 
 
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05 February 2018 12:52
 
unsmoked - 05 February 2018 10:55 AM
NL. - 03 February 2018 11:42 AM
unsmoked - 03 February 2018 10:58 AM

Do you think ‘seeking in order to learn how not to seek’ is part of the ‘background humming’?  (desire)


Not really, I’d say that’s more of a foreground feature - a conscious decision. When I say background I mean things like our ability to awaken upon hearing an alarm clock, even though there is nothing in our conscious experience that suggests we are listening for an alarm clock.


Besides, if you eschew any kind of training whatsoever as adding to ‘seeking’ or ‘desire’, then what’s the point in doing anything? What’s the point in your reading zen books and learning zen sayings? Why not just stare slack-jawed at the tv instead?


Again, I think it’s a paradox - roughly akin, maybe, to learning how to float in water by relaxing and doing nothing. You have to ‘do something’ in order to learn how to do nothing.

What is most difficult is to be perfectly at rest, not activating the conceptual faculty.”  -  Zen master Yuanwu

I like your example of ‘learning how to float in water by relaxing and doing nothing.’  Many Zen adepts would probably confess that they ‘thrashed the water’ for 20 or 30 years before catching on.


Do you consider yourself a zen adept, or a water thrasher?

 
 
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07 February 2018 18:58
 
NL. - 05 February 2018 12:52 PM
unsmoked - 05 February 2018 10:55 AM
NL. - 03 February 2018 11:42 AM
unsmoked - 03 February 2018 10:58 AM

Do you think ‘seeking in order to learn how not to seek’ is part of the ‘background humming’?  (desire)


Not really, I’d say that’s more of a foreground feature - a conscious decision. When I say background I mean things like our ability to awaken upon hearing an alarm clock, even though there is nothing in our conscious experience that suggests we are listening for an alarm clock.


Besides, if you eschew any kind of training whatsoever as adding to ‘seeking’ or ‘desire’, then what’s the point in doing anything? What’s the point in your reading zen books and learning zen sayings? Why not just stare slack-jawed at the tv instead?


Again, I think it’s a paradox - roughly akin, maybe, to learning how to float in water by relaxing and doing nothing. You have to ‘do something’ in order to learn how to do nothing.

What is most difficult is to be perfectly at rest, not activating the conceptual faculty.”  -  Zen master Yuanwu

I like your example of ‘learning how to float in water by relaxing and doing nothing.’  Many Zen adepts would probably confess that they ‘thrashed the water’ for 20 or 30 years before catching on.


Do you consider yourself a zen adept, or a water thrasher?

(Overheard in an art gallery during a Cy Twombly exhibition)  (Visitor speaking to Twombly):  “Are you an artist or a paint scribbler?”  https://www.wikiart.org/en/cy-twombly

 
 
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