Saturday, April 26, 2014

Zen and Philosophy II

In an earlier post, we looked at Zen and some of the ideas and ideologies that have come out of past masters putting Zen and Buddhism to words. Let's look at philosophy in general.

Philosophy is made by thinking. Just as your entire life, actions, thoughts, and deeds can be summed up as Jim or Cathy. A complex treatise on the human condition can simply be dismissed as Existentialism or Modern Rationalism. In fact, there are people who simply dismiss Zen as Nihilism.

Elsewhere on this blog and on the web there is plenty of discussion regarding Koan practice. In which, a teacher will ask a student a question like "What was your original face before your parents were born?" If the student responds with a philosophical answer (such as "I previously did not exist"), the teacher will not accept it. Why is this? Because waking up is beyond words, beyond concepts, and beyond opposites.

In fact, everything involving words, language, and philosophical ideas can be debated. "Enlightened" teachers have tried to put things into words, but it quickly becomes limited. E.g. Describing reality as "everything is perfect as it is" or "everything is exactly as it should be" may be correct using our limited language abilities. Yet, to the thinking, discerning, comparing, judging, mind, this quickly becomes "So the plague, the holocaust, or even a dog getting run over by a car is perfect?"

Another example is: "There is only now". The mind can simply look at a photograph or an old movie and say "No, there was then." Looking at a building clearly shows a past, too! What about planning for the future? The mind is going, going, going.

And now we are off track. We are not in this moment. We are in a past that doesn't fit with our view of how things should be. We are in a future of how we hope things will be. Zen is keeping clear mind. Zen is living in this present moment. But what is this present moment? There is nothing to hang on to. So we put all this philosophy down. Put down all of our ideas of Shoulda, Woulda, and Coulda. Pay attention to what is in front of us to do in each moment. Just seeing, touching, hearing, tasting, smelling. What is our Situation, relationship, and function in this moment.

If we can put it all down. Return to this present moment without judgment. Maybe we will understand what is being pointed at instead of focusing on the the pointer.