zen and mindfulness: no dualism


This is the seventh in a series of topics from the seminal book on Zen: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. I’m going chapter by chapter and offering my thoughts on the subject Suzuki addresses. You should definitely check out Suzuki’s book. It has changed many lives.

Are your body and mind separate? Do they exist in the same plane? This, I think, is not the central question regarding dualism and yet it is. It is the way I first experienced the problem that I am conscious of, though I am sure I am forgetting something.

As children we experience a lack of ability to control our limbs as we learn to run, throw a ball, write, etc. As old people we begin to lose our range of motion as well. Even now, when I am in the prime of my life, I still lack the fine motor skills to write as neatly as I would like.

This is not and yet is the same question. There is a difference between the intended action and the action. That is two universes. That is dualism. To be without dualism, I would not think about writing in some perfect way and then attempt that. I would just write. It’s a subtle difference.

I have talked before about the loop of consciousness and the need for renewal. The end game of that is no dualism as the loop tightens to a mere point. Think of reality as coming into your mind via some aperture or opening (please note this is not how a Zen Buddhist would describe this). Only a certain amount can get in because it has to fit through this opening that is only as large as the mind can process. The rest doesn’t get through and is essentially discard.

This difference between discard and perceived is also dualism.

In a non-dualist scenario, your entire mind becomes nothing but an opening. Everything is let in and processed immediately. In fact there is no process. It just is.

This is an image, as far as I can tell, of no dualism.

Of course, the mind being “nothing but opening” is oxymoronic, seeing as there would be nothing left. This, to me, is something like the form is form and emptiness is emptiness and form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Again, I don’t believe this is how a Zen Buddhist would describe it, but this is an image that makes sense to me and so I have shared it with you here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. zen and mindfulness: the marrow
  2. zen and mindfulness: breathing
  3. zen and mindfulness: posture
  4. zen and mindfulness: mind weeds
  5. zen and mindfulness: mind waves
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