When I was first interested in Zen, I read Alan Watt’s “The Way of Zen”. After reading it I was hugely disappointed. This was not because the book lacking anything. Rather, it was because what I gleaned from the message of the book was that I was further from being Zen by having read it. You see, Zen is about being; and in being there isn’t all the thought about how to be. When you read a book (or in this case this post), you have more information about how to be, which then muddles up your ability to tap the source of being.
Recently I’ve been reading “Mindfulness, Acceptance, and the Psychodynamic Evolution”, edited by Jason M. Stewart, PsyD. In a passage that relates to our natural ability to just be, Michael Fayne, PhD, writes about a monk who long ago, when facing his death, said “For forty years I’ve been selling water at the river. Ho, ho! My labors have been wholly without merit!” (p.38). This was meant to indicate that all along he’s been talking about and helping people engage in what was already theirs.
Michael Fayne, PhD’s argument is that mindfulness suffers the same fate. We write about it, read about it, teach it, and all the while there are those that are naturally engaged in it. In fact everyone engages in it from time to time. People are naturally mindful at times, such as when learning a new activity or being fully engrossed in what they are doing.
This relates a great deal to my last post, about essential freedom. It is within everyone. The ability to just be, to choose who you are in every moment, is inherent within. But conditioning leads us away from it. Dogs are Zen masters (as are most animals). Many children are more their “Buddha Selves” than even those that write about how to be so. It becomes ironic that the best way intelligent human life can find to overcome conditioning is to recondition.
Krishnamurti knew this was a failed path, yet there are a number of books credited to him as well. He provided knowledge about overcoming knowledge. In at least one such book (The First and Last Freedom) he talks about effort coming from the ego, from the “I”, which is the problem to begin with. If the “I” is involved, you are not transcending it. He writes that the ‘truth” that we seek cannot be found through knowledge, but only within an uncluttered mind. Yet the only way we can think of to transcend the ego is to read about it. This further provides the ego knowledge, which equates to it gaining power.
If you haven’t already shut the browser window, you might be wondering how to reconcile all of this. The answer is difficult to transmit. The way to achieve an uncluttered mind is simply to allow it to clear, but without effort of the ego. The theory is that the source of being lies within. To access it the levels of the ego must be transcended. However, the final transcendence must be without ego involvement. So we continue to read to learn, the ego leads part of the way, then the learning is let go and this allows the source to emerge.
It’s ironic that a couple of thousand years ago a Zen monk shouted an analogy announcing where you are trying to go already exists inside of you. For centuries others have written the same message. Recently I read the story in “Mindfulness, Acceptance, and the Psychodynamic Evolution”, written with the intent of enlightening others. And here I am writing it again. All to the effort of helping people become more mindful, more present, more in touch with the energy within. But all along, you’d have been better off just being.
Copyright William Berry 2015
Krishnamurti, J; 1954; The First and Last Freedom.
Stewart, Jason M; 2014; Mindfulness, Acceptance, and the Psychodynamic Evolution; Chapter 2, The arrival of what’s always been: Mindfulness meets psychoanalytic psychotherapy; by Fayne, M.
Watts, A; 1957; The Way Of Zen.