Zen Talk: Zen is a Struggle Against Schema

To set up what you like against what you don’t like — this is the disease of the mind.
Sheng-ts’an

Though defining certain things as those you don’t like is flush with problems, I think the real issue here is the division less than the “like.” The moment we start dividing things into different categories in our minds we only think of them within those categories. The “is” and the “is not” – the blue and the red – the good and the bad – the like and the dislike.

Zen Buddhism is a struggle against what psychology calls “schema,” the convenient categorizing element in our brains that develops in our youth and allows us to recognize the difference between four legged animals and calling some dogs and others cats – and eventually some poodles and others dachshunds.

By breaking down the divisions that we’ve created in our minds to define things – particularly likes and dislikes – Zen allows us to start conceptualizing the world differently …. or not at all, as the case may be.

What does this quote make you think about?

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Zen Talk: Two Ears and One Mouth

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
Baba Ram Dass

This quote echoes a familiar adage with which many of us are familiar – perhaps you recall hearing it from a teacher in elementary school. “You’ve got two ears and one mouth which means that you should listen twice as much as you talk.”

What this indicates, if one continues with the quote of Baba Ram Dass, is that there is an inversely proportional relationship between not talking (or being quiet) and the amount we hear. Want to learn something? Then shut up and listen (I should heed my own advice and stop writing!).

Does this necessarily mean that someone will say something direct and wise to you when I shut my pie-hole? Of course not! It means that when I stop occupying my mind with what’s coming out of my mouth then I become more receptive to hearing what the world has to tell me.

What do you think about this quote?

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Zen Talk: The Fundamental Delusion of Humanity

“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.”
Yasutani Roshi

I feel like I have little or nothing valuable to add to this fantastic quote. It just resonates. Take a minute and read it again:

“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.”

Out there. What is it about those final words?

If you can help us ground this quote in Buddhist or Zen thought, I would be most appreciative.

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Zen Talk: The Zen is In You, It is Not Found

“The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.”
Robert M. Pirsig

Nice one Mr. Pirsig. I like this. It makes you think of how enlightened those monks must be who sit at the top of mountains meditating all day must be – you know, those monks in your fantasies. Boy, they must have a great grasp of Zen, we think.

As Robert Pirsig reminds us, however, Zen is not up there waiting to be found. Whatever Zen you find up there is Zen you brought up there because it’s Zen that was in you in the first place. We talk about Zen like it’s something that can be put in a backpack and carried around with us. Not so much.

What does this quote make you think about? How can you add to our discussion on Zen?

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Zen Talk: A Common Complaint Flipped on Its Head

“So little time, so little to do.”
Oscar Levant

You start reading this and you think you know where it’s going. However, it quickly takes a turn in a different direction.

This quote struck home with me since this is a particularly busy time in my life, and I always find myself with more to do than time to do it in. I wake up promptly at 6 a.m. and begin working until my brain shuts off at 10 at night (though I still attempt to push through a little reading). The Zen of South Park is part of that day, my start-up consumes most of the time and then my newspaper column and other part time job eat into whatever might have remained to take a breath and a break. Day after day. Hence my feeling of no time to do all that needs doing.

But boy did this quote slow me down. So little time – how true – but so little to do. Hmm. Makes you think about what’s really important in life. A little note that you should stop and smell the flowers, huh? Well, I can’t say that I’ll be slowing down any time soon but I would certainly mention that I will try harder to keep in perspective what’s really important. On that note, I’m going to see Modest Mouse tonight. I can’t wait. Should be good times.

What does this quote make you think about?

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