I have a new favourite book: The Oxford English Dictionary! With our “economy” going to hell in a hand basket fairly quickly, I have started looking up the words the press commonly uses to transmit their message. The recent headline “economy about to collapse” spurred me on to enquire about what that actually means. While it sounds threatening enough, the two words that caught my attention were “economy” and “collapse”. So, let’s see what my dictionary has to say, shall we?
Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no relaization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”
Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.
“If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from?”
Every day I scour the Internet for interesting news about the mind, body, psychology,…pretty much anything that this blog is about. As I was cruising around today, I found an article on Discovery, that summarized the biggest study on how the mind set of cancer patients influences their recovery or lack thereof. Now, before reading any further, what do you think?
Since the beginning of time, different roles have been given to the unconscious in different cultures. Of course, all this changed with the advent of one coke sniffing therapist from Vienna, and suddenly the unconscious was bad, very bad indeed. Add another 80 years, and suddenly, we are told that the unconscious decides things for us a few milliseconds before we are consciously aware of it. Damn, does that mean that evil thing is now also running my life…RATS! Add another 5 years, and more research appears suggesting the opposite…that the unconscious only decides things for us in simple motor tests…phew! saved by the bell there. But hold on, there is another piece of research that might just blow your mind….
Thoughts. We all have them, most of the time at least. Monks and spiritual leaders train themselves to shut their thoughts up, and get into a state of not-thinking. A state Carlos Castaneda referred to as “Stop the World”. Yet, this is not what we are aiming for today. What has recently caught my interest is the process of thought that leads to innovation and progress. Caught somewhere between daydreaming and number crunching, so to speak, we find the pendulum of progress, swinging politely in the background of our culture.
When I was 12 years old, I remember looking around and being asked: “And what do you want to be when you grow up?” While I deeply love my family and friends where I was raised, I felt something deep inside me stir, as I responded: “I don’t know what I want to do, but I know where I want to be: Not here!” And so it was that at the age of 19, I moved out, of the house I was raised in, out of the country I grew up in. Nowadays, I tend to go back home for vacation every once in a while, and in doing so, I have noticed a disturbing tendency: at the same time as I am part of that place I call home, I am also just an outside observer looking in.
After centuries of presiding over the monastery, the zen master passed away. Upon his death, all his pupils, some had been there for their entire lives, convened to discuss who would follow him. Of course, the question who would become the new zen master, led to a discussion of what qualities make someone a master. Perseverance? Clarity of thought? Enlightenment? For days and days the monks discussed.
At one point, they were sitting at the dinner table. They had been stuck for days now, and desperation slowly made the rounds. While the cook walked in, they said: “Ha, why don’t ask the cook about what makes a zen master?!” They all laughed, and then one turned to the cook and said:” Cook, what makes a zen master?”. They laughed.
Upon hearing the question, the cook froze. In his hands, he held the full pot of soup that he made to feed the monks. As their laughter died down, he still stood looking at them. Once they were silent, and without a word coming out of his mouth, he just let go of the pot, and as it fell he turned and walked away. When it lay shattered on the ground, they knew what made a zen master, and the one who would lead them forward.