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My own writing about 'The function of thinking'. Feedback ?

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My own writing about 'The function of thinking'. Feedback ?

Postby zenJazzist on Thu Jul 28, 2016 3:01 am

Dear Teachers

I wrote the following because the question of 'what is the correct function of thinking' came up when I was sitting zazen this morning. I wrote this as a self-prescription, medication for myself. What I want to ask is, is this medicine ok? Is this correct understanding, providing that this understanding is useful for me right now? If I ask you, what is the correct function of thinking, what would you say?

The true function of thinking
Ideas are delusion – we all make our world. What we believe is arbitrary, none of it is truth. Dependent Origination teaches this. What then, is the true function of the thinking brain? What is this really for, once we stop using it to make a delusional world?
When you need to dig a hole, you use a spade. Once the hole is dug, you do not carry the spade around with you on your back because it has been used for its correct function – to dig the hole. You are not attached to the spade. When Seung Sahn teaches, in his lectures and in his books, he does not actually believe that anything he is saying is true. These are not his beliefs. Later, when he has finished teaching and is doing something else, he has completely let go of those ideas he expounded, and does not hold any of what he taught – he has only don't know mind. He does not carry the spade on his back. What is happening here? Seung Sahn is not attached to ideas, but he freely uses ideas only to help others. He can use words freely to help because he doesn't believe in them – they are just a tool that he can use to help others come off their own delusions. This is why he contradicts himself so much in his writing – he doesn't care if he uses good words, bad words, illogical words, correct words – to him, they are all of the same function, the same underlying direction – how can I help? It is like having many different sized spades - all of them can be used to dig a hole, and anyone of them should be used if it is more helpful for digging. But someone who is attached to their spade will believe it is the only one right for the job. Instead of using all the spades freely, they will worry if the sizes are the same, if the colours match, if the type of metal is the same and so on. But Seung Sahns world is not dependent on thinking, so thinking is no problem for him, it can come or go, be used or be discarded – it does not represent the entire structure holding his existence together, his understanding is much deeper, beyond words all together.

Like Seung Sahn, if we see that our world is not what we think and we do not attach to our thinking, we can become free to skilfully use thinking only to do our best to help, freely using speech to only help others. When Seung Sahn talks, he creates concepts, situations, values, reasons and purposes. None of these things actually exist, nevertheless, he perceived that writing such a book would be helpful (yet he still admits that maybe it would be better to burn all books and get rid of understanding all together!). There is a teaching that says 'use hot medicine for hot sickness, cold medicine for cold sickness'. So he is using thinking medicine to cure thinking sickness. This is his self belief and his try mind. That is his compassionate action - you can only keep clear and try nonstop!

So what happens when we wonder 'what kind of decision should I make?' If our direction is clear – only help others – then any decision is ok. You can become a monk, that would certainly be helping others, do any kind of day job, or just do nothing from here onwards, and only accept what happens, a bit like the aimless Bodhidharma, and that would still be ok. As long as you kept clear, it doesn't really matter what you do, only that you do it 100%, only keeping clear so that the persistent cloud of delusions do not appear. Making a decision is only one small part, the biggest part is to really do it. If you feel the need to make a decision, then as long as any decision is based on how you believe you can help the most, which is your try mind, then you can use thinking however you like to make that decision, and then just do it.
So like Seung Sahn, we freely use thinking to make decisions, and that influences our actions – where we are going, what we choose to do to help this world. When a student comes into the interview room, Seung Sahn asks 'do you have any question?' The student responds with a problem, a situation, an exposition of his attachment to thinking. In that moment, Seung Sahn only tries to help, he perceives freely, from a place of profound love and compassion that only wants to help, and begins communicating. Sometimes he doesn't use words, he just stays silent, hits the student or shouts KATZ! If we couldn't communicate as a species, we would have to work it out by ourselves,
so we are lucky there are teachers who can guide us! And maybe, what Seung Sahn says first is not correct, maybe his first teaching was not what the student needed – maybe he even confuses the student more! But he can only try, try, try, as he did non stop for his whole life. That is true compassion.

So when you perceive that you need to make a decision, just use thinking in any way you can to make what you feel is the best judgement you can make, which will be one made with clarity and selfless aspiration, from a place of only trying to help. Maybe you don't even use the thinking tool – some people find they make decisions out of nowhere, from some kind of gut instinct, or some other reason. Some teachers recommend not thinking and just being with feeling itself and allowing that to point you in the right direction. Sometimes this is useful because often we can only think in a self-centred way, we don't know any other way because our thinking is too caught up in a torrent of self-serving habits disguising themselves as good deeds. We don't make decisions to make destinations, nor to affirm a sense of self. Anything you choose to do in this world only ever provides you with your never ending direction of helping others and that never stops, not for one moment. Never arriving anywhere, we only continue to stay present and clear, using our intellect and judgements clearly to help guide our actions in the correct way.

After a decision is made – after you have used thinking correctly, come back to reality, what really is, what is truth. Do not carry the spade on your back. Thinking about things, which is to make something, is just a means. But you cannot remain in that created world and start to believe that it is real. For example, if I perceive that I have a set of music skills that I could use to help others, and I think about that for a while, maybe even visualise it, that is fine – then maybe this leads me to make the decision to keep developing these skills, to go to university, and so on. But once that thinking has served its purpose, put it down! Do not make a world from that thinking - to really believe that I am a 'musician that helps others' – this is making something, a delusion, a cloud obscuring the clarity of the moment. You can make up stories about who you are all you like, none of it is the truth; right now, the sun shines through my window, that is all. Where is the 'me' in that? A man on the street falls down, and as your helping him up, are you still a 'musician' or not?

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Re: My own writing about 'The function of thinking'. Feedbac

Postby Judy Roitman on Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:32 am

Hi, zenJazzist. I'm glad you like my teacher. Your analysis is fine as analysis, but analysis, as you yourself note, is always wrong. As my teacher would say: too much thinking! You are trying to nail something down. You can't. It will always escape. Please practice hard, both music and Zen, and use your practice to cut through thinking, not to produce more of it. Best, Judy
Judy Roitman (Zen Master Bon Hae), Kansas Zen Center, Kwan Um School of Zen
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Re: My own writing about 'The function of thinking'. Feedbac

Postby Guo Gu on Wed Nov 23, 2016 5:40 am

zen jazz,
if a man falls down, you help him up. the question whether you're still a musician is irrelevant!
when when you are playing your music, you are the musician. you are music through and through.
context determines significance, meaning.
guo gu
Founder and teacher of Tallahassee Chan Center of the Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism
Received inka from Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) in 1995
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Guo Gu
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