the heart of reality

A Cup Of Tea

“According to Buddhism, one can only reach reality through direct experience. … Study and speculation are based on concepts. In conceptualizing we cut up reality into small pieces which seem to be independent of one another. This manner of conceiving things is called imaginative and discriminative knowledge (vikalpa).

“The faculty which, on the contrary, directly experiences reality without passing through concepts is called non-discriminative and non-imaginative Wisdom (nirvikalpajnana). This wisdom is the fruit of meditation. It is a direct and perfect knowledge of reality, a form of knowledge in which one does not distinguish subject and object, a form of knowledge that cannot be conceived by the intellect and expressed by language.

Experience Itself

“SUPPOSE THAT WE ARE TOGETHER at my house and I invite you to have a cup of tea. You take your cup, you taste the tea which is contained in the cup, and you drink a little of it. You seem to take pleasure in the tea. You put your cup on the table and we continue our conversation.

“Now, suppose that I should ask you what you think of the tea. You are going to use your memory, your concepts, and your vocabulary in order to give a description of your sensation. You will say, for example, It is very good tea. It is the best Tieh Kuan Ying tea, manufactured at Taipei. I can still taste it in my mouth. It refreshes me.” You could express your sensation in many other ways. But these concepts and these words describe your direct experience of the tea; they are not this experience itself. Indeed, in the direct experience of the tea, you do not make the distinction that you are the subject of the experience and that the tea is its object; you do not think that the tea is the best or the worst, of the Tieh Kuan Ying of Taipei. There is no concept or word that frames this experience, this pure sensation resulting from experience. You can give as many descriptions as you wish, but it is only you who witness this direct experience of the tea that I have given you. When someone listens to you he can only recreate for himself a certain sensation, basing this on experiences that he might have had himself in the past concerning tea. And you yourself, when you try to describe your experience, are already no longer in the experience.

In the experience, you are one with the tea, there is no distinction between subject and object, there is no evaluation, there is no discrimination. This pure sensation can be presented as an example of non-discriminative knowledge. It is that which introduces us to the heart of reality.”

source: Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Keys, p. 39 – 40

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