Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Don't think: Look! (Zen)

"The language used by Zen is therefore in some sense an antilanguage, and the “logic” of Zen is a radical reversal of philosophical logic. The human dilemma of communication is that we cannot communicate ordinarily without words and signs, but even ordinary experience tends to be falsified by our habits of verbalization and rationalization. The convenient tools of language enable us to decide beforehand what we think things mean, and tempt us all too easily to see things only in a way that fits our logical preconceptions and our verbal formulas. Instead of seeing things and facts as they are we see them as reflections and verifications of the sentences we have previously made up in our minds. We quickly forget how to simply see things and substitute our words and our formulas for the things themselves, manipulating facts so that we see only what conveniently fits our prejudices. Zen uses language against itself to blast out these preconceptions and to destroy the specious “reality” in our minds so that we can see directly. Zen is saying, as Wittgenstein said, “Don’t think: Look!”"
-Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite, pp. 48-49


  1. The complexities of Zen really boil down to "being" as opposed to thinking. Our dual nature can either be thought-based where we seek for an answer, or being-based where we simply look.

  2. Not both, Larry?

    I know that I get tired of looking for something; is it hunger? But I wonder if that hunger is not somehow a part of my Being.

  3. Hunger - is it visceral or rational? The rational hunger I understand as the questioning mind, or dividing mind. I remember a roshi :"you say 'O.K., I get it, but I'm still searching for something, I'm still looking'..then Shut Up! and Sit down! and do...zazen, zahhhazen!"

  4. Didn't they also have a stick that they could whack you with when you got carried away with rationalizing?



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