Re: Books

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Mon, 20 Jan 1997 15:50:43 -0800 (PST)

>> Sounds a lot like Raymond Smullyan's "The Tao Is Silent".
>> Note: Raymond Smullyan also wrote "First-Order Logic".)

> There is no doubt that Smullyan is a mystic and I don't agree with
> everything in "The Tao Is Silent" but it is an absolutely wonderful
> and brilliant book.

I have to agree, and I was also surprized. I can also recommend
Alan Watts' books on Zen, the writings of Zen master Bankei, and
Stephen Mitchell's translation of Tao Te Ching.

I think calling Zen "mystical" misses the point. I must admit that
most of the writings on Zen are quite mystical: I think most Zen
teachers and writers miss the point, too. The experience of Tao,
Buddha-mind, Satori, Bankei's Unborn, whatever it's called in the
various sects, is a real and valuable experience. A kind of mental
state or discipline that excises delusions and prejudices built up
in the mind by life.

The reason I don't see it as mystical is that the mental state
itself, whether reached by zazen practice, or sudden enlightenment,
is not in itself a /means/ to anything: not to understanding, truth,
happiness, fullfillment, or whatever. As soon as you seek something
like that, you've lost it. A man with Buddha-mind who chops wood
and carries water /just/ chops wood and carries water. He can even
still feel tedium or accomplishment or weariness, but his mind is not
attached to them, invested in them, or deluded by competition or
purpose or explanation. Zen is no more mystical than one's fingers.

Where many Zen texts miss the point is that since /attachment/ to
analysis is a frequent delusion, they make the mistake of consciously
fighting reason and analysis itself, rather than just doing /that/
with a clear mind. A true Zen master still needs a bucket to carry
water, and still needs the tool of reason to explain the nature of
reality, but he uses each just as they are.

Zen has no dogma, no particular ethics, no gods, or other trappings
of what we would call religion or spiritual practice. It does have
the traditions of the Buddhists who first discovered it, but one can
ignore such baggage to get to the meat of it. There is nothing truly
incompatible about rational, logical, critical thinking and Zen. In
fact, I find the latter quite helpful to the former.