REALIZING Beginner’s Mind – Father’s Day June 21, 2015
This month’s one-day retreat (J. zazenkai) was held Saturday the 20th from 9 to 3 as usual; please watch for these each month and plan to attend. The subject was “Beginner’s Mind — the Zen Approach to Working with Mind.” We also recognized Father’s Day in passing, but did not dwell upon it, and we touched upon the depressing news of the day, which gets ample coverage in the media. It certainly raises the question of the Zen mind, and how we can maintain sanity and calm in the face of insanity and chaos all around us.
As a simple answer to the challenge we often hear, questioning whether Zen Buddhists just passively accept the horrors of the world in their nondualistic, absolutist worldview, I tried to make the point that Buddhism is not passive but active, and that meditation is the most we can do, as Matsuoka Roshi often pointed out, to engage reality. So the resolution is actually that proposed by the founder, Shakyamuni Buddha, and the Ancestors of the lineage. Those people around the world who are committing atrocities are primarily proponents of world views that are diametrically opposed to that of Zen. The central problem is the reification of the self and its belief systems, and the logical extension of enforcing them on others in the world. This is, of course, in the misguided belief that they will bring about the kind of world that their religion or philosophy envisions as ideal.
In Zen we speak of “not-knowing” as the preferred alternative to knowing, and the “don’t-know mind” as an aspiration to the highest accomplishment of human consciousness. Just to say knowing is to imply its opposite, in the conventional sense, and to raise obvious questions, such as what do we know, for sure, and what do we not know.
Knowing is usually associated with intellectual knowledge of various kinds. There is the kind of knowledge that can be gained through practice, such as how to sit in zazen or how to drive a car, involving motor muscle memory. There is the kind that can be gained through study, such as history or a second language, involving mental, or conceptual, memory. And there is knowledge of another kind, that is, knowing in the sense of apprehending our present reality, which may involve a kind of memory of past experience of previous periods of time that made a lasting impression on us, and which form a benchmark for comparison.
There is also the knowledge of how we know what we know, that is, the study of learning and consciousness itself, gained intellectually through the scientific examination of cognition, i.e. “brain science.” The study of the brain is a good example of what we think we can know, and how we can know it. Technology has been developed to allow imaging of the brain in real time, illustrating the firing of neurons in various areas of the organ theorized to control or associate with the functions of the body as well as the mind, such as memory.
Abbot's Message for the New Year: ROMANCING THE STONE
No, it's not about the 1984 movie staring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. When I was working for a design firm that specialized in designing and implementing environmental programs for brick-and-mortar retailers in the 1990s and early 2000s, this term was frequently used to describe what we did for our clients.
Most companies in the business of selling hard and soft lines of merchandise, banking, automotive and other products and services, were then and are still today faced with the dilemma of a competitive climate in which it was more and more difficult to distinguish yourself based on the unique products you sell, the "stones," owing to the fact that others in your niche had the same or similar ones.