Darkness Visible!

07/07/2014

I have been studying Mahayana, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism for the past eight years, which on a higher level of intuitive perception and insight qualifies neither as religion nor philosophy but as advanced psychology.

Here at least, we have the opportunity to explore significant insights into the Great Matter of life and death without resorting to artificially constructed, dualistic or discriminative abstraction. Because that form of conceptual mind activity and intellectual reflection is the real obstacle in our efforts of trying to explain our existence in this world or the universe at large:

Because there is nothing!
Because there is!
Because!

The moment we engage in the discriminative analysis of our sense perceptions combined with our minds intrinsic capacity to operate primarily as a difference engine – analysing the endless stream of sensory information as presented to us by a perceived external reality – we are already Lost in Translation. And that is because from a Buddhist perspective, the external expanse of reality as recognised by us as distinctly separate from our internal mental continuum, is nothing but a projection of our own dualistic and discriminative mind activity.

What can we possibly ‘see’ or ‘find’ out there but… Mind itself?

I am currently working my way through classic Chinese literature such as Lao-Tzu’s Taoteching and I can honestly find no real differences between Taoism and Zen Buddhism – other than the semantic use of words and language to describe the exact same thing. Let’s look at some of the more important quotes in this context. First, Verse 1 of the Taoteching plus comments from ancient masters as translated and compiled by Red Pine:

The way that becomes a way
is not that Immortal Way
the name that becomes a name
is not the Immortal Name
the maiden of Heaven and Earth has no name
the mother of all things has a name
thus in innocence we see the beginning
in passion we see the end
two different names
for one and the same
the one we call dark
the dark beyond dark
the door to all beginnings

Comments by ancient masters:

Confucius says ‘The Tao is what we can never leave. If we can leave it, it isn’t the Tao.’

Te-Ch’ing says ‘Lao-tzu’s philosophy is all here. The remaining five thousand words only expand on this first verse.’

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Right, I would agree with the above assessment. If we can’t derive an intuitive – or even just an intellectual – insight from this first verse, the rest of the Taoteching is not going to explain it to us either. Let’s see what Zen has to say by comparison. First a quote from The Lankavatara Sutra as translated by D.T. Suzuki, compiled and edited by Dwight Goddard:

[…] the Lankavatara is to be classed with the intuitional scriptures of the Orient, rather than with the philosophical literature of the Occident. In China it combined easily with the accepted belief of the Chinese in Laotsu’s conception of the Tao and its ethical idealism to make the Buddhism of China and Japan eminently austere and practical, rather than philosophical and emotional.

And this is what the Buddha had to say about religious and philosophical believe systems in general. This quote is also from The Lanka:

As for the teachings: there are priests and popular preachers who are given to ritual and ceremony and who are skilled in various incantations and in the art of eloquence; they should not be honoured nor reverently attended upon, for what one gains from them is emotional excitement and worldly enjoyment […] Such preachers, by their clever manipulations of words and phrases and various reasonings and incantations, being the mere prattle of a child, as far as one can make out and not at all in accordance with truth nor in unison with meaning, only serves to awaken sentiment and emotion, while it stupefies the mind. […]

Then there are the materialistic philosophers. No respect nor service is to be shown to them because their teachings, though they may be explained by using hundreds of thousands of words and phrases, do not go beyond the concerns of this world and this body and in the end they lead to suffering. As the materialists recognise no truth as existing by itself, they are split up unto many schools, each of which clings to its own way of reasoning.

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I have to say the above assessment, written over 2.000 years ago, is by far my favourite abstract analysis of religious and philosophical believe systems. Next a quote from Ch’an Master Hui Hai – Zen teaching of instantaneous awakening as translated by John Blofeld:

Question: Do Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism really amount to one doctrine, or to three?

Hui Hai: Employed by those of great capacity, they are the same. As understood by those of limited intellect, they differ. All of them spring forth from the functioning of the one self-nature. It is views involving differentiation which makes them three. Whether a person remains deluded or gains illumination depends on that person, not upon differences or similarity of doctrine.

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Any form or school of Buddhism I can think of ultimately qualifies as nothing but… a Can Opener? A power tool, a means to an end, an expedient means, whatever terms and definitions we would like to staple to this particular proposition (I tend to have only sledge hammers in my tool kit), Buddhism in principle serves only one objective: to show us the door that leads us back into our own mind! And by ‘going there’, or ‘nowhere at all’ allows us to find all the answers we are looking for right in our own mind!

Because Mind is all there is!

The Matrix6

And since the ‘doctrine’ of Buddhism – if one must call it that – can very often be expressed in one-liners or even just a single word or shout, here my favourite quote from Zen Dawn as compiled and translated by J.C. Cleary. This quote is credited to Zen master Daoxin:

Always contemplate your own bodily existence as being empty and pure as a reflection – it is visible, but it cannot be grasped. Knowledge is born from among the reflections, ultimately without location.

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And my final quote for today is not actually from any sacred scripture but from a song by U2, It’s a Beautiful Day:

What you don’t have you don’t need it now!

What you don’t know you can feel it somehow!

Karamoja, Uganda 09

Welcome to the Real World!

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