One of the oldest of zen sayings has considerable challenges for us and that is - ONLY MIND MOVES.
As you read the words the message seems quite intellectually understandable, but the experiential ramifications are enormous and will provide the student with the first great challenge. The intellect has little difficulty in grasping the premise but conveniently ignores with every thought of mind that there is not an 'I' or 'me' existing to have these thoughts. That is, that I or me exists separately and is not simply another thought. Yet not a shred of evidence exists to show that a 'me' or 'I' exists separate to our minds, but every action we take makes that assumption. This illusion of a separate self, consciousness, I, me or whatever we want to call it is very important for our survival. Without it we would have no sense of existence. It has the function of separating the brain from an object and providing us with the sense of existence.
In Vipassana Meditation the student learns that each sense of the body is defined as the sense base and each object is defined as the sense object. For example if you look at an object the observation is defined as eye base and eye object. The eye base is the visual perception of the brain and the eye object is whatever the eye is looking at and so it is with all the senses of the body, touch, smell and so on.
The great challenge that emerges in the practise of zen is that there is not an Observer, Thinker, or Feeler, but simply a process by brain of observing, thinking and feeling. I am often accused in my work of being a great intellectual who has no feeling. I am told that I think with my head and not my heart. Often the student will say, "You just do not understand me, I feel from my heart!!" Such a statement demands that there is a Feeler with a heart and it is not seen as a process of feeling by brain.
This contradiction is the basis or datum of zen; it shows the student even in the early stages of work, that a paradox exists. On the one hand this illusion of a separate self is an essential aspect of brains existence, on the other hand there is no one to experience that existence, only the process of brain itself.
This paradox forms the basis of the work between master and student, which is known as mondo in zen. It is interplay between the two hands with no outcome other than to force a confrontation with the paradox. This paradox manifests as a koan, a statement by the master, which eludes resolution by means of thinking. This forces the student to realise the limitations of thought and eventually transcend the process of logical contradictions and dualistic modes of thinking, whereby brain itself realises that there is no separate nature of self.
Such a realisation is called kensho, it may seem very simple and indeed
it is, but it is also very profound, can take years to achieve and many students just give up - because we are not dealing here with an academic achievement, but an experience of brain devoid of
concept and not explainable.
© David Ferguson 2022
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