zen: wearing clothes and eating food

Zen-Gardens-12

 

“It enters into everything wholeheartedly and freely without having to keep an eye on itself. It does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.

In the words of Lin-chi:

When it’s time to get dressed, put on your clothes. When you must walk, then walk. When you must sit, then sit. Don’t have a single thought in your mind about seeking for Buddhahood… Continue reading

Zen: Voluntary and Involuntary Events

auniverseinside

For those of you who enjoyed yesterday’s post, this is the continuation of Alan Watts‘ text in The Way of Zen:

“The sense of subjective isolation is also based on a failure to see the relativity of voluntary and involuntary events. This relativity is easily felt by watching one’s breath, for by a slight change of viewpoint it is as easy to feel that “I breathe” as that “It breathes me.” We feel that our actions are voluntary when they follow a decision, and involuntary when they happen without decision. But if decision itself were voluntary, every decision would have to be preceded by a decision to decide – an infinite regression which fortunately does not occur. Oddly enough, if we had to decide to decide, we would not be free to decide. We are free to decide because decision “happens.” We just decide without having the faintest understanding of how we do it. In fact, it is neither voluntary nor involuntary.

To “get the feel” of this relativity is to find another extraordinary transformation of our experience as a whole, which may be described in either of two ways. I feel that I am deciding everything that happens, or, I feel that everything, including my decisions, is just happening spontaneously. For a decision – the freest of my actions – just happens like hiccups inside me or like a bird singing outside me.

Such a way of seeing things is vividly described by a modern Zen master, the late Sokei-an Sasaki:”

One day I wiped out all the notions from my mind. I gave up all desire. I discarded all the words with which I thought and stayed in quietude. I felt a little queer – as if I were being carried into something, or as if I were touching some power unknown to me … and Ztt! I entered. I lost the boundary of my physical body. I had my skin, of course, but I felt I was standing in the center of the cosmos. I spoke, but my words had lost their meaning. I saw people coming towards me, but all were the same man. All were myself! I had never known this world. I had believed that I was created, but now I must change my opinion: I was never created;

I was the cosmos; no individual Mr. Sasaki existed.

1940's Photograph of Sokei-an Sasaki

1940’s Photograph of Sokei-an Sasaki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

source: Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, p. 117

There is a story about a Zen master whose monastery was overrun by marauding soldiers. When the Zen master did not appear frightened, the soldier’s captain said, “Don’t you know who I am? I could run my sword through you and not think twice about it.” the Zen master replied, “Don’t you know who I am? You could run your sword through me and I wouldn’t think twice about it.”

Zen: The Net of Jewels

lucid-dreaming

Zen: The Net of Jewels

“Thence it appears that the entire sense of subjective isolation, of being the one who was “given” a mind and to whom experience happens, is an illusion of bad semantics–the hypnotic suggestion of repeated wrong thinking. For there is no “myself” apart from the mind-body which gives structure to my experience. It is likewise ridiculous to talk of this mind-body as something which was passively and involuntarily “given” a certain structure. It is that structure, and before the structure arose there was no mind-body.
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Direct Perception and Choiceless Awareness

Myrtle Creek joins the ocean

Myrtle Creek joins the Pacific

I was out at Arizona Beach Lodge for two days over this last weekend on a private retreat. Here are some of my reflections.

My interest is to connect with those of you who are engaged in their own exploration of consciousness on the background of their direct experience. For me ‘direct experience’ is the same as direct perception. I know that sometimes the term ‘experience’ is seen as that which is recognized by the mind after the fact. For example, I see a tree and then I reflect on that ‘seeing’ and the taking in of the image of the tree. In other words, there is a subject-object relationship.  Direct experience and direct perception for me point to the pure happening of ‘me’, as one integral part of this one beingness coming into contact with another integral part, which I, out of convention, call with the word ‘tree’.
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ZEN: Purpose

Every so often I find myself taking a personal retreat in order to, as I call it, calibrate myself back to zero,  which is for me the quintessence of Zen. Just recently I have realized that this “zero” refers to “zero purpose”. When I go to the Arizona Beach Lodge not far from where I live, I leave behind all the things and people in my home environment that call me to do “this” and “that”. I am always rather amazed at how soon I am able to enter into a space in which I have let go of all purpose and am able to just ‘be’.

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ZEN – Direct Perception

Tibetan monk walking along Manasarovar - 5

Zen – Direct Perception
“In walking, standing, sitting, or lying down he understands that he is so doing, so that, however his body is engaged, he understands it just as it is.… In setting out or returning, in looking before or around, in bending or stretching his arm, … he acts with clear awareness.”
Majjhima Nikaya, I. 56. (Discourses of the Buddha with his chief disciples)
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“Complete recollectedness is a constant awareness or watching of one’s sensations, feelings, and thoughts–without purpose or comment. It is a total clarity and presence of mind, actively passive, wherein events come and go like reflections in a mirror: nothing is reflected except what is.”
Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, p. 53
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This awareness is without any effort, just as a mirror needs no effort to reflect what is in front of it. t.q.

Zen and The Ego

zen circle 8

“For the ego exists in an abstract sense alone, being an abstraction from memory, somewhat like the illusory circle of fire made by a whirling torch.”

In this excerpt, Alan Watts describes more in detail two terms that are of basic importance to a clear understanding of the Buddhist view of existence: the precepts of “impermanence” (anitya) and “no-Self” (anatman), that some of you may be familiar with.

“The anitya doctrine is, again, not quite the simple assertion that the world is impermanent, but rather that the more one grasps at the world, the more it changes. Reality in itself is neither permanent nor impermanent; it cannot be categorized. But when one tries to hold on to it, change is everywhere apparent, since, like one’s own shadow, the faster one pursues it, the faster it flees.
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A Kind Of Ecstasy

Excerpt from The Way of Zen – Alan Watts

alan-wattsMoksha (liberation) is also understood as liberation from maya – one of the most important words in Indian philosophy, both Hindu and Buddhist. For the manifold world of facts and events is said to be maya, ordinarily understood as an illusion which veils the one underlying reality of Brahman. This gives the impression that moksha is a state of consciousness in which the whole varied world of nature vanishes from sight, merged in a boundless ocean of vaguely luminous space. Such an impression should be dismissed at once, for it implies a duality, an incompatibility, between Brahman and maya which is against the whole principle of Upanishadic philosophy. For Brahman is not One as opposed to Many, not simple as opposed to complex. Brahman is without duality simple as opposed to complex. Brahman is without duality (advaita), which is to say without any opposite since Brahman is not in any class or, for that matter, outside any class.
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