THE QUESTION OF AUTHORITY
- A conversation on The Hour of Judgment radio series -
Copyright (c) 1995 Kevin Solway & David Quinn
- Roselyn Stone - Authorized Zen Master
- Greg Howard - Zen teacher at The Everyday Zen Group
Hosts: Kevin Solway & David Quinn
Please note: This text is not a direct transcript from the radio program. It is possible that Roselyn Stone and Greg Howard may have some claim to the copyright of the words they spoke on our radio program - the law is unclear in this regard. Neither Roselyn nor Greg have consented to our using such a direct transcript of their words here, so we have related the conversation in our own words to the best of our ability.
Both Roselyn Stone and Greg Howard would like it to be made very clear that they do not in any way support our activities.
A couple of years ago Kevin and I attended a talk given by Zen Master Roselyn Stone entitled, "The Sound of One Woman Sitting". After spending considerable time describing her favourite sitting places in Asia, she finally got onto the subject of her qualifications. Yes, she assured us, her Master had confirmed her enlightenment and had certified her, thereby giving her the authority to teach others. And yet what I find most curious is that for some unknown reason her Master, while he gave her the authority to teach, denied her the authority to go on and confirm the enlightenment of others. Work that out if you will!
The following conversation therefore explores the question of authority. How does an individual know they are enlightened or wise? Can we ascertain our own wisdom for ourselves, or do we have to rely on an authorized teacher to do it? And if the latter is the case, then how did the teacher ascertain their own enlightenment? Did the Buddha have to rely on someone else to authorize him as wise? Here we go right to the heart of what is meant by being an individual. Can there truly exist an individual, a person who is an authority unto himself?
Before the show, Roselyn was warning Kevin about some of the traditions of Zen. She described how a student would be having an interview with a Zen Master, which would be abruptly terminated when the Master rang a little bell by his side. Even if the student was in mid-speech, the moment the bell rang he would have to stop, bow and leave the room immediately. Kevin, in his compassion, reassured her that we wouldn't do that to her.
The moment the program ended Roselyn and Greg were immediately absorbed in a frenetic exchange of news about magazines, newletters, people, and all the latest happenings of their lives - all of which they liked to call "Zen Gossip".
Kevin and I would have been either bewildered or disgusted had we not known what to expect.
Kevin: Welcome to The Hour of Judgment. We believe this to be the world's most intelligent program. I'm Kevin Solway, introducing the program just for a change, but my fellow sage, David Quinn, is right here in the studio with me, and together with our two guests this evening we'll be talking about the path to Ultimate Reality. Now, Greg Howard is the teacher at the Everyday Zen group here in Brisbane, and we also have Roselyn Stone, who's an Authorized Zen Master of the Sai-un An tradition - is that right? You'd better tell me.
Roselyn said that her teaching name was Sai-un An and that Sambokyn was the tradition.
Kevin: And you're at the Mountain Moon Sangha in Brisbane, but you hail from Toronto.
Roselyn said that there was also a Mountain Moon Sangha in Toronto.
Kevin: Okay, that's the introductions out of the way. Oh, you also used to be a professor of phenomenology . . .
Roselyn agreed with this and said that in Australia it is called "human movement". She said that she studied the phenomenology of sport and dance.
Kevin: Right. This is just to give us an idea of your background. And you, Greg, work at the Conservatorium of Music.
Greg said that he did and added that he was an "ethnomusicologist", which meant that he was interested in music from traditions other than the mainstream Western tradition.
Kevin: Okay, well, tonight we're talking about a very serious subject, the subject of Zen, which I believe is probably the most difficult and most profound wisdom in the Universe. And we're very fortunate this evening to actually have an Authorized Zen Master in the studio with us. Roselyn, would you agree with my description of Zen as being the most profound and difficult wisdom in the world? And could you give us some explanation of what it means to be a Zen Master. Does it mean being a teacher - or what does it mean?
Roselyn answered this by saying that one becomes a Zen Master when one's own Zen master authorizes one. That Zen Master was similarly authorized by his own Master, and so it goes back down the line. As to the question of whether Zen is the most profound and most difficult wisdom, Roselyn said that it was certainly the deepest. "But", she went on, "I have also said that it is the easiest path and that's what makes it so hard."
Kevin: Okay, let's concentrate more on the Zen Master angle. Presumably, in the normal English language the word "master" means someone who has excelled or mastered a particular subject. Your teacher has obviously authorized you as a Zen Master, does this mean in your own mind that you have mastered this subject?
Roselyn answered in the negative.
Kevin: So, what does--
Roselyn went on to say that the practise of Zen was never-ending. She said that even Shakyamuni (the Buddha) was still practicing.
Kevin: But certainly when you get to a certain stage of understanding, or a certain stage of enlightenment, when you are qualified to speak about Ultimate Reality, and feel qualified to judge the level of understanding of other people, surely the title of "Master" would be appropriate. Do you feel you have reached this level? - from your own mind now, rather than from the mind of your teacher.
Roselyn thought that she has reached a level which allowed her to make judgments about certain things and about people who were a little behind her on the path. She said that if she didn't think this, she would not be in Australia leading a Zen group.
David: Have you reached certainty of knowledge though, Roselyn? I mean, have you experienced full enlightenment, like the enlightenment of the Buddha? When he was--
Roselyn questioned David's use of the term "enlightenment".
David: Like that of the Buddha, who gained a great breakthrough under the Bodhi tree, and who realised the essence of everything. Is this your wisdom, the ultimate understanding of everything?
Roselyn made use of an anology. She likened enlightenment or "realization" to a scratch in a window that was covered in soot. Before one is enlightened, one cannot see through the window at all, but after a good deal of practice a scratch is finally made. With more practice, the scratch becomes bigger and eventually the whole window is clean. Roselyn placed herself "a little beyond a scratch", but reckoned that the "substance" of what she had realized was the same as Shakayamuni's. She concluded by saying that the depth and the clarity of her realization had to be worked on and she still made practices to that end.
Kevin: I take it that you mean the degree to which one's understanding infiltrates throughout the whole of one's life and throughout the whole of one's mind? Because I've met many people who have had some kind of what they would probably call a "religious experience", but they come out of it essentially no different to the way they were before. They continue with their normal lives, which on the whole are very dishonest lives - playing games, playing roles, wearing the fashions of the day, the sexual games, the whole thing. So even though they would believe deep down in their own minds that there's been some kind of breakthrough, it doesn't really change the way that they live in their normal everyday lives. Any understanding of reality, of the real nature of the existence of things, doesn't manifest itself in their lives. So, would you consider this to be a case of a "scratch" having been made?
Roselyn answered in the negative. She said that there were two important things to be realized at this point. The first was that "Zen done without a teacher is not Zen." With a teacher you had someone to whom you could present yourself for regular guidance and/or examination. She went on to say that many people do have "experiences", but these were often "Makyo" or devilish experiences.
Kevin: These are altered states of consciousness aren't they.
Roselyn agreed, but said that they were not the breakthrough into true realization. She stressed that this was where a teacher became critical, because there were many people wandering around thinking that they were enlightened, when they weren't.
Kevin: The statement you made before was interesting, the statement that "Zen without a teacher is not Zen". Now I have personally been practicing Zen for about twenty years, and I have never had a teacher - not a living teacher at least. To tell the truth, I've never met anyone who impressed me as a human being. I've never really met anyone who I thought knew more than I did - and I've been to many different teachers, from different religious traditions. So I've never had a teacher, but I do have my own mind, and ultimately the only teacher anyone can ever have, whether they have a physical teacher or not, is their own mind. Because even if you have a physical teacher who tells you to do twenty hours of sitting meditation, at bottom your own mind has to tell you whether you're going to do what this teacher tells you or not.
Roselyn asked Kevin what he meant by "own mind".
Kevin: I'm just speaking in everyday terms.
Roselyn repeated her question: what did Kevin mean by "own mind"?
Kevin: Well, I know what it is and you know what it is.
Roselyn asked the same question a third time. She added that this was a question Bussui asked a long time ago.
Kevin: You don't know what your own mind is?
Roselyn deflected the question back and asked Kevin if he knew his own mind.
Kevin: I do, yes.
Roselyn greeted this with sarcasm and asked him if that was the case then where was it?
Kevin: It's wherever I say it is.
Once again, Roselyn greeted Kevin's answer with sarcasm. She then asked the initial question a fourth time. "What is this own mind that tells you, "Oh, yeah, maybe I'll do what my teacher told me to do or maybe I won't?" What is this own mind?"
Kevin: Whatever appears to you as your own mind is your own mind.
Roselyn remarked that it sounded to her a lot like ego.
Kevin: People who have an ego live from their own ego - there's no doubt about that. But people who don't have an ego still have a mind, they just don't have an ego.
Roselyn said that she would question such a statement.
Kevin: Okay, you're welcome. Nonetheless, the point still stands, that whether we have a teacher telling us what to do or not, we decide for ourselves whether to follow the teacher or not. So, the ultimate teacher of everything we do - the ultimate guru - is our own self. This bypasses the external teacher.
Roselyn objected to this, saying that Kevin and herself held different assumptions and were arguing from different points of view.
David: Well, we're talking about making decisions, so you could say that is an act of mind - making a decision or a choice.
Roselyn explained that it was certainly true that there had to be a feeling of trust and confidence in the teacher before one could enter into a relationship with him or her. But although one had to be willing to be guided by the teacher, the guidance centred around the practice of Zen and not on being told specifically what to do.
David: Well, I'm talking about something deeper and broader, about making a decision about how to live. Now, the choice of whether to adopt a teacher or whether to adopt one's own mind is an act of will. It's a choice based on experience.
David: The processes are identical in both cases. In fact, what Kevin was saying is that the process of mind, one's reasoning mind, one's conscious decision--
Roselyn objected by saying that it entailed more than the use of the reasoning mind - intuition, for example.
Kevin: If you follow your intuition it is only because reason tells you to do so.
Roselyn disagreed with this.
Kevin: Everyone has gut feelings all the time, to some degree, and we choose whether to act on them or not.
Roselyn allowed that conscience played a part. Greg broke in and said that it wasn't reasoning that was taking place there but merely a conditioned response. He admitted that thoughts were involved in the conditioned response but mainly it was habit. People were always reacting to the environment around them by way of this deep level of conditioning, and this was what was called the ego.
Kevin: Okay, let's say we meet a teacher, for example - I'm just trying to imagine a young person today trying to find the right way to live and they meet a teacher who claims to be a Zen Master. Now let's say that their deep inner voice, their conditioning, tells them that this person has something to tell them. They're fairly convinced this person is wiser and more experienced than themselves, and following their gut feeling, their conditioning, they decide to follow this teacher. Now, they've still made a decision. It doesn't matter where this decision comes from, because ultimately it's been their own mind that's decided. The point is that every person is ultimately individually responsible for themselves. "Themselves" are their own guru. An external guru is no different to a book. A book can tell me to do something, but I don't have to do it.
Greg partially agreed with this. He said that the original Buddha taught us not to accept anything on authority, but to establish the truth of Buddhism from our own experience. But the Buddha didn't say that we should confine this simply to our "rational experience", but to experience it more deeply. While the experience of Zen did involve an intellectual element, its true import involved something else entirely.
Kevin: So, do you agree with me that it is possible to practise Zen without having an external, physical teacher? Or, do you agree with Roselyn that Zen means an external, physical teacher?
Greg replied that this was a very difficult question to answer and he wasn't even sure that he was qualified to answer it. He explained that he couldn't really share Roselyn's point of view because, after all, he was merely a student who had only begun the process of teaching.
Kevin: And yet you have been qualified to teach!
Greg explained that he was merely beginning an apprenticeship. "The practice of teaching has been given to me as a practice", he said. He reckoned that he was learning just as much as his students from the experience, as it gave him many opportunities to reflect on how his life and experience was really no different to theirs. In this way, he saw himself as "a student who teaches". He concluded by saying that this was invariably different to Roselyn's position, even though she probably experienced much the same thing.
Roselyn concurred with these sentiments and added that the best practice she experienced was when she sat in the Dosang room and interacted with her students. She claimed that she was dumbfounded by the way this deepened her own practice of Zen and was deeply grateful for the opportunity.
David: Actually, going back to the point of whether it's possible to achieve enlightenment without a teacher, obviously--
Roselyn broke in exclaiming that "Oh, sure, people do it! People do it!" But she went on to say that without a teacher one doesn't know that one has achieved enlightenment. It is possible, she said, for a person to have achieved enlightenment, but not know it.
David: How do you think one ascertains it then? I mean--
Roselyn replied with a quote: "There are questions that can be asked, and there are things that can be looked at."
David: You've been suggesting that only a teacher or a Master can ascertain your own realization and that you can't ascertain your own realization for yourself. It requires--
Roselyn broke in and said that based on her experience and that of her colleagues and students, and of stories that she had heard, it was rare for someone to know that they are enlightened with deep certainty. Many people had wonderful experiences, but they turn out to be shallow experiences because there has been no change in their lives. Other people had a sense of "something just turned over", nothing else, and yet it was a true experience. She said that she once heard a couple of experiences sent in by people to a radio program which made her wish that she could hear them in the Dosang room.
Kevin: I think we'll concentrate on this subject of how a person ascertains enlightenment. It is obvious to me that if a person is enlightened then they would know it. I'm talking about real enlightenment now - not just a scratch--
Roselyn reluctantly agreed that Shakymuni probably knew he was enlightened.
Kevin: I'm thinking of another example - Bankei. I think that's how you pronounce his name?
Roselyn provided the correct pronunciation.
Kevin: I remember his story - not the exact details - but when he was about nineteen, he knew himself to be enlightened. And he thought: "Well, I want to be a teacher. I want to go out and teach, so I'd better go and get some other teacher to tell me what I already know - just so other people will believe me. They'll think that I'm bonkers if I just go out and tell them I'm enlightened". So he travelled all over Japan. He started by visiting a nearby Zen Master and he realized that the fellow was not qualified to recognize his enlightenment and pass him as a Zen Master. He would ask revered teachers who they would recommend as the wisest Zen Master in the whole of Japan, and he would travel long distances to meet them, only to find that they too were not qualified to pass him as a Zen Master. He went all over Japan trying to find someone of genuine insight. Eventually, he found one person whom he thought just made the grade and accepted his qualification from this one fellow. A short while afterwards, he realized that he'd made a huge mistake and that the person from whom he had accepted his qualification was - according to Bankei himself - not qualified to give it to him! I mean, this is just getting ridiculous! If a person is wise, they know they're wise, and they certainly don't need someone else to tell them.
Greg said that he thought Kevin was misrepresenting Bankei a little. It was quite common in Japan and China back then for people to travel from Master to Master in order to test their own insight, and Bankei was no exception. But it had to be recognized that Bankei was an extraordinary person and it may have indeed been the case that he was disappointed in some of the Masters he met. However, Greg concluded, this did not mean that Bankei considered himself superior to them - or if he did, then it would have been a defect in his insight.
Kevin: Hopefully he was trying to teach them something. The point is that it was very dishonest, even of Bankei to seek a person who was accepted by the general populace to officially sanction him, just so he could get students.
Greg objected to this by saying that Bankei was merely doing what was appropriate for his time and culture.
David: But what does enlightenment mean but liberation? - Liberation from cultural illusions and traditions.
Greg disagreed and said that enlightenment meant the ability to do whatever one wants to do. However, he went on, this didn't mean that one stopped observing the law or doing ordinary things. One of the definitions of enlightenment in Zen was that it was the achievement of "ordinary mind". It was often said that an enlightened person would not be recognized in the street because they were so ordinary.
David: Possibly. But if you're not a wise man yourself, you're just speculating on what is wisdom and what isn't. I mean, at bottom, only a Buddha himself, a wise man, can ascertain what is a wise man, what a wise man would do, and what a wise man values.
Greg said that we could only do our best. Roselyn broke in and said that a wise man or woman made judgments in accordance with her own conventions of wisdom. But Zen was not a wisdom of convention, nor were any of the truly deep experiences on any of the other religious paths. Roselyn stressed that she was referring to wisdom of insight, which is beyond the reach of conventions.
David: Wisdom means standing on your own two feet. If it's going to mean anything, it means being able to make judgments, true judgments - judging, for example, whether you're enlightened yourself, or whether someone else is enlightened. Wisdom is the ability to make true judgments.
Roselyn disagreed by saying that the enlightened person "is not wandering around making judgments". Instead, such a person was "wonderfully clear, aware, and fitting with the circumstances".
David: He makes true judgments effortlessly. He can't stop making them.
Roselyn pointed out to David that he could use the word "she" every now and again. Although she realized that this was a program for "thinking men", there were probably a few women listening.
David: It's just convenient, you know. It would put a spanner in my works if I had to keep going "he or she" all the time.
Roselyn suggested to David that if this was the case then he should just use "she".
Kevin: Okay, let's change the subject a bit, and get on to the subject of emotional attachments. Now I have my own view on the role of emotional attachments in spiritual practice, but I'd be interested to know what your views are. Now, I went to one of your talks once, Roselyn, and I think you said that your teacher in Japan was married? Is this correct?
Kevin: Presumably he had some sort of emotional attachment to his wife. What do you think?
Again, Roselyn agreed.
Kevin: So, what does this tells you about his level of wisdom? . . . I mean, I was bought up to think emotional attachments didn't occur to an enlightened person.
Roselyn replied that the enlightened person was an ordinary person who ate, drank and made love.
Kevin: And who violently kills people as well I suppose?
Roselyn gave a confusing answer which seemed to have said that maybe under some circumstances the enlightend person would perhaps, without making a judgment and without thinking, try and stop something happening. She added that by "ordinary" she did not really mean ordinary, but enlightened and well-practised.
Kevin: Well, my purpose in life is the survival of wisdom, and every wise person has this as their goal. By wisdom I mean the permanent and effortless consciousness of Ultimate Reality. Now, in such a consciousness - or even in a mind that approaches such a consciousness - emotional desire is extremely weak. Even when it does arise occasionally, it disappears very quickly. There's no way that such a person would get into an emotional relationship with a member of the opposite sex, which is the most powerful emotional attachment on earth - the most primal attachment. I put it to you, that if you judge people by the way they live, then whether they are emotionally attached to the opposite sex gives you a very good indication of their level of wisdom, and their level of understanding.
Roselyn gave a grunt of disapproval. Greg said that there was a problem in the way Kevin used the word "attachment". He said that in Buddhism attachment meant being at the mercy of one's emotions. The Buddhist literature didn't describe an enlightened person as being one who was without emotions, but as one who ceased to act blindly from their emotions.
Kevin: Emotions are blinding. If a husband is attached to his wife - be he a Zen Master or whatever he is - and if his brother or his best disciple has a sexual relationship with his wife, then there's a very good chance he's going to feel some sort of anger or grief - and this is very, very damaging.
Greg replied that his own teacher, Charlotte Joko Beck, often talked about this. Beck makes the distinction between two forms of emotion - true emotion and false emotion. False emotions were limiting emotions which come from the ego, our conditioned selves, whereas true emotion flows freely when we give up who we are. False emotion is grasping, but true emotion flows from compassion. Greg said that compassion is one of the ultimate values of Buddhism, and that true emotion doesn't exclude personal relationships or sexual relationships. True emotions exclude nothing ordinary, yet the motivation behind all these activites is different.
Kevin: Okay, we're going have a short musical break now, and we'll be right back to discuss what compassion actually is and whether a mother's love is "true emotion".
David: What is true compassion? What does it mean? To my mind, true compassion is turning someone's mind to Truth. It is causing another person to experience Ultimate Reality. That to me is true compassion, and anything else I would define as "egotism" and "promoting ignorance". I draw a sharp boundary between true and false compassion. I mean, your actions are either promoting wisdom or they're promoting ignorance. Think of the most altruistic person, or someone who is most commonly regarded as an altruistic person - Mother Teresa, for example. She is regarded as a saint by many people. But I regard people like her to be very egotistical - and not spiritual at all. They're not compassionate in the true sense of the word.
Greg enquired why.
David: Because someone like Mother Teresa is not promoting wisdom. In fact, she's definitely promoting ignorance; so she's evil. I define evil as promoting ignorance.
Roselyn asked what kind of ignorance Mother Teresa promoted.
David: Attachment to self, attachment to false concepts of existence.
Roselyn asked David to expand on this.
David: Well, in her case she's promoting Christian dogma, which is based on the preservation of the self. It's a very petty, narrow-minded view that she's promoting, and it causes tremendous harm.
Roselyn pointed out to David that Mother Teresa is also helping people caught in the most abject circumstances and is allowing them to die in an honourable and comfortable way. She said that she thought this was compassion.
David: Well, I'd characterize it as merely an act of social work. She is merely a social worker.
Roselyn asked David whether he thought compassion and social work were mutually exclusive.
David: I think so. I draw the distinction between them. So someone who values wisdom and Zen is only interested in other people attaining this Zen. Helping other people overcome their dying sufferings is not Zen. It is social work. It is not spirituality.
Roselyn gave a grunt of disapproval. Greg came in and said that it depended on how Zen was defined. If one limited Zen to mere mental gymnastics, then he could understand how David arrived at his conclusion. But, he went on, Zen was much more than this. It was about how you live and interact with others. It was about how you deal with everyday situations. Greg concluded that David was using a "very limited and religion-based definition of Zen".
Kevin: Well, I'd like to put a slightly different slant on it than David. I think I have a similar conception, but I'll use different words. When I reason about existence, and indeed when I reason about myself, I very quickly understand that there is no real separation between myself and other people. So when I look at other people, I see them literally as an extension of my own body. Now I've come to the determination that the most important thing in life - for me, the only thing that satisfies me - is absolute perfection, absolute enlightenment. That is, I want to know everything about Ultimate Reality. Now if I want that then everybody takes a part in that wanting, and also in the receiving, because they are part of me. If I help other people to attain the high wisdom that I reach for - that is understanding - it is compassion - it is love.
Greg replied that he didn't disagree with this, except that it was too limited a definition of compassion. "Compassion", he said, "is any action that flows from egolessness, that flows from inside."
Roselyn said that a reasoned compassion was not real compassion but was a contrived compassion.
Kevin: This is a very popular idea in all the New Age philosophies - that is, the idea that reasoning and rationality has a fundamental flaw - that it's not realistic, that somehow it's not natural, that it does draw up these sharp divisions between things which supposedly don't have these divisions, when they don't really exist in nature. But I must say that this idea is badly flawed, because reasoning is a part of the human mind, and the discursive, discriminating intelligence is a part of the way that we're made; it is part of the way we've been hard-wired. For as long as we perceive things in any way at all, for as long as we're able to even talk about things, the discriminating intelligence is operating. This applies to fully enlightened people like the Buddha as well. If a Buddha can talk about "things", then discriminating intelligence is in operation. When a Buddha determines what is the right course of action, what is not the right course of action, what stage of evolution a student is at, then a very, very severe discriminating intelligence is in operation. And in fact, I put it to you, that the wiser a person is, the more severe is their discriminating intelligence - the more "vicious" is the discrimination.
David: You mean the more clarity there is.
Kevin: Yes, the clarity is purer, the sword is sharper. There is a Buddhist Saint called Manjushri who wields the sword of discrimination.
Roselyn said something like, "The sword is sharp, but there is no viciousness in the mind of the swordsman."
Kevin: It's just a word. Just a word.
David: It's a non-emotional discrimination, like that of Bodhidharma. It is a warrior-type viciousness.
Kevin: Yes, such a discrimination is like the sword of a warrior . . .
Roselyn indicated that she understood what Kevin and David were saying because she said something like, "An act of compassion, slashing away at illusion."
Kevin: Certainly. This is what compassion is. This is why we call this program The Hour of Judgment.
Greg quoted a couple of lines from The Sutra of the Third Patriarch: "Do not seek great enlightenment. Do not search for it. Simply cease to cherish opinions." He interpreted "cherishing opinions" to mean being attached to opinions, to sacrificing everything for them. He ended by saying that this is something we all do.
David: I see this "no-opinion" attitude quite a bit these days. It's quite a popular philosophy nowadays, and I find it wanting. Because for one thing, this "no opinion" state of mind is actually an opinion--
Greg interrupted and said that he did not mean "no opinion." He meant, rather, being attached to opinion. He stressed that he wasn't advocating not having opinions, but that one should know them so well that they ceased to rule you. Cherishing opinions is when one is being ruled by the deep-seated conditioning which is the ego. He reminded us that the points we were discussing were subtle and that one of the first principles of Zen was to cease cherishing language.
David: And you believe that this ceasing to cherish opinions is something different to using reasoning?
Greg agreed with this and said that reasoning was important in everyday matters. If he wanted, for example, to get to the other side of Brisbane he would necessarily have to call upon reason and make certain decisions and judgments.
David: Okay, but in the matter of Zen, in the matter of this search for Ultimate Reality--
Roselyn interrupted by commenting that Kevin and David seemed to be using the term "Ultimate Reality" a good deal. She added that in the search for this Ultimate Reality, reasoning is allowed to "fall away".
David: But surely, that's after one has used reasoning!
Roselyn asked David what he meant by "after one has used reasoning".
David: Well, I would say that--
Roselyn interrupted and said that she was talking about practice. She was talking about "sitting and facing a wall" and letting reason just fall away.
Kevin: Reasoning is the finger that points at the moon.
Roselyn and Greg both jumped in and together they said something like, "Don't mistake the finger for the moon!" Greg added that this was a fundamental principle in Zen.
Kevin: Remember what I said! "Reasoning is the finger that points at the moon."
Greg said that reasoning was not the finger which points at the moon. Roselyn added that Kevin was mistaking the finger for the moon. She said that reason may point to the moon, but so did chanting and sutras.
David: Let's talk about this "falling away". How did you arrive at this "falling away"?
Roselyn replied that it was the practice of Zen.
David: Yes, but how did you ascertain that "letting reason fall away" is the right thing to do?
Greg said that people should try it and see if it worked.
David: Some people practise "letting reason fall away" and they end up in a psychiatric ward, because--
Greg objected and said that this would never happen under a good teacher, because a good treacher would make sure that their students never extended themselves beyond their capacity.
David: Alright. So, you've used reasoning to ascertain that a teacher, a good teacher, is necessary to--
Roselyn interrupted by saying that David and Kevin kept using the word "reasoning". She reckoned "experience" was the key determinant - the experience that "has come down through the millenia that allows us to function as teachers, and which has guided us as teachers". She stressed that experience was not solely an intellectual thing, but also an allegorical, right- brain/left-brain thing.
Kevin: But as responsible human beings we always have to test and verify our experience. I mean, the senses give us all kinds of information, but the only way to verify our experiences is by analyzing them and finding out if they agree with reason and logic, and if they're conducive to our goals in life.
Greg asked Kevin what would happen if "we just sat and watched".
Kevin: We'd be no different to vegetables.
Greg thought that this was interesting.
Kevin: A lot of meditation teachers today get their students into a state of what I would call unconsciousness.
Greg said that this was not true Zen practice.
Kevin: Yes, I'm aware of that. And they reach a state of mind which is very clear, where they're reasoning and thinking, and everything is happening so much more clearly, where they're making connections between things which they never made before. They're really alive, they feel so connected with everything. All of a sudden they can make sense out of so much of what has happened in their life, and they suddenly know where they're going in life . . .
Greg replied that if a student came to him saying all this, he would immediately ask him or her that if they met the most difficult person in their lives would they still be able to experience those things.
Kevin: If it was an intense enough experience they probably would be able to continue to experience that clarity of mind.
Greg doubted this.
Kevin: I mean, if someone has just taken a big shot of heroin, the experience can counter most of what can happen in the physical world.
Greg said that this was nothing to do with the consciousness he was talking about.
Kevin: Altered states of consciousness can be very similar to a drug experience.
David: We're talking here of the god realms, as described in Buddhism.
Roselyn asked David to repeat the term he had just used.
David: The god realms.
Greg said that he had never heard of them.
Kevin: If a person has just experienced a very, very profound - I hate to use the word "profound" - altered state of consciousness, which has really permeated them and changed the way their mind is, then that state of mind can stay with a person for a couple of weeks, just through it's own power. But despite its power, this particular consciousness is by no means an enlightened consciousness.
Roselyn questioned whether David or Kevin really knew what they were talking about. She said that she kept on hearing the term "true enlightenment", but she doubted whether there was any real understanding involved. She asked Kevin whether he had "been there".
Kevin: I have, yes.
Roselyn asked if he knew this for sure.
Kevin: Yes, I do.
Rosleyn replied somewhat sarcastically that, of course, she had forgotten that Kevin used his own analyzing mind. She said that what she and Greg had been trying to convey was that the Zen experience could not be told or touched by the analyzing mind. She reckoned that the analyzing mind always fell short.
Kevin: Well, no, you're wrong there. Anything that the mind can conceive of, whether it be enlightenment or Zen or whatever - anything the mind can actually have a word for - can be perceived by the reasoning mind.
Roselyn asked Kevin if he could "perceive skiing". In other words, if he had never skied down the Rocky Mountains, could he nevertheless perceive it.
Kevin: Yes, if I can conceive of "skiing" then I can indeed perceive it. You have to remember that the wiser a person is then the more profound their perceptions are. Wise people can perceive things that ignorant people cannot.
Roselyn replied that she heard a great deal of confidence in the expression "wise person". She enquired if this meant that wisdom came at the expense of the experience.
Kevin: Experience is only on a very, very gross level. It is not to be trusted.
Roselyn thought that this was an interesting word that Kevin had used. Greg added that he thought experience, far from being gross, could be refined endlessly.
Kevin: Well, in a sense, even reasoning can be said to be an experience. But ultimately reason is always required to verify what is true, and what is false.
Greg said that the real question was what would happen if we just sat and watched.
David: Actually, I'm reminded of Hakuin. Hakuin was a famous Zen monk and he lived in a time in which he thought the Zen was in a hopelessly poor condition, because everybody was just sitting and watching, practicing mindless Zen. Everybody was just thinking to themselves, "Nothing is born, nothing dies. Everything is perfect".
Greg objected to this last statement by claiming that they were just thoughts.
David: What he saw was a total lethargy, a total . . .
Greg interrupted by saying that he thought it interesting that out of this lethargy came Hakuin.
David: He came out of it because he stressed the use of the intellect.
Both Greg and Roselyn objected to this strenuously. Greg said that Roselyn probably knew more about Hakuin than anyone else in the studio.
David: He stressed the use of the koan. But in the probing of a koan, the analytical mind is used.
Roselyn said that a koan was not something that was probed intellectually.
Kevin: You really are absolutely wrong there.
Roselyn repeated her claim that a koan was not probed intellectually. She added that Hakuin had thought this as well.
Kevin: That is simply not true.
Roselyn replied that since "wrong" was a concept it didn't bother her to be thought of as wrong.
David: Hakuin's enlightenment arose after years of cultivating the burning desire to pierce through these koans.
Roselyn asked David what the sound of one hand clapping was.
David: I don't have the faintest idea.
Roselyn said that this was one of Hakuin's koans, or, rather, it was attributed to him even though it actually came from an earlier Master.
David: Yes, but he was stressing the burning desire to break through. He often spoke of the "Great Barrier".
Roselyn agreed with this.
David: Right, so I see we're living in an age very similar to Hakuin's age, where nobody believes in the intellect, or in the importance of breaking through any Great Barriers.
Kevin: Our age is even worse than his age in that respect.
Roselyn objected and said that the Great Barrier could not possibly be broken through by the intellect.
Kevin: And do you know that from experience, or from reasoning?
Roselyn said she knew it from experience.
Kevin: And how do you know that your experience is correct?
Roselyn said she knew it was correct because "someone else who had experienced it, and who had had his own experience examined, examined mine".
Kevin: And how do you know that their experience was correct? . . . . You see, you can only judge someone who at your own level of wisdom or below. It is impossible to judge someone's wisdom who is at a higher level than yourself. So it is meaningless that somebody else may have told you that you're at a certain level of understanding, because there is no way that you can verify whether they know what they're talking about.
Greg said that in the practice of Zen, one was verifying it experientially at every moment, but not at a judgmental level. He said that it wasn't a case of sitting around and working out where one was on a scale of 1 to 100. On the contrary, one should just sit and watch, or give oneself over to one's koan. It is a consciousness in which questions are not being asked, but rather one's own consciousness is just being explored. He finished by saying that we will always be exploring it.
Kevin: Well, my reasoning tells me that we'll have to bring this discussion to an end. I'm sure we'll be talking about this subject at length in later programs. So if you enjoyed this discussion then don't forget to tune in in future weeks. Now, David and I have been trying to get a couple of feminists in here to talk with us about the differences between the sexes, which are vast, and to talk about equality - whether there is such a thing as equality and whether equality is moral. And we've had an awfully hard time trying to find someone to come on the program. We must have invited about twenty feminists so far. They sometimes show a little interest at first, but when we tell them this is The Hour of Judgment--
Roselyn reminds the listeners that it is a program for "men only".
Kevin: Which is for men only, and that we want to get down to the nitty-gritty of Ultimate Truth, they always back-out. Actually, we've never had this problem with men, the problem has only been with women. So if any of our listeners out there feel that they're qualified to come in and have a discussion with us about men and women, please drop us a line, we're at: P.O. Box 207, St Lucia, 4067.
David: Or we'll have to get men onto the program.
Kevin: Yes, we're actually seriously considering having some men argue the point of view for women, and we don't really want to do that. So, till next week, goodbye from us.