Zen without Cats

In the spirit of Zen, let’s look at a quote that I like.

>Chao Chou, teaching the assembly, said,  "The Ultimate Path is without difficulty; just avoid picking and choosing. As soon as there are words spoken, ‘this is picking and choosing,’ ’this is clarity.’ This old monk does not abide within clarity; do you still preserve anything or not?"

Some people might think it hypocritical for me to like this quote, repeat this phrase more often than others, when the quote itself suggests not to pick.

In my defense, I didn’t pick it.

In the same vein, I did not choose to like /r/zen/. There was just something wrong with me such that, when I happened upon it, I started to like it.

So in the spirit of not picking and choosing, I’m letting other people pick and choose some topics for my monologuing today. Let them accumulate the karma on my behalf or whatever.


So let’s start off with “There are no levels in Zen. Read a book.” Which I’m not entirely sure was a suggestion for discussion for today but who cares what the person intended.

What can I say about this? 

Let's go to one of my favorite tools, the Google dictionary. 

Level - noun - 

1. >a horizontal plane or line with respect to the distance above or below a given point.

2. > a position on a real or imaginary scale of amount, quantity, extent, or quality. 

I think it's something to do with that maybe the 2 more than the 1.

So maybe the suggestion was akin to, "There is no 'Zen scale' on which you can put a 'Zen value' of 1, 2, 0, or 10,000.  There is no such thing as a thing being "more Zen" or "less Zen". Something is either related to the tradition of Zen or it's not related to the tradition of Zen.

I suppose I could compare that to Christianity. 

Some people criticize the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses as not being Christian. 

It's not that they're "less Christian" but simply that they are not Christian at all, that they have broken away from the tradition supposedly started 2000 whatever years ago with my main man Jesus. 

If it comes from Jesus, it's Christian. Otherwise, GTFO.


Free will is up next.

Let's see, always seemed suspect to me. I think I generally filed it along with a lot of religious stuff. That is to say, it's an idea that I have no real evidence for but apparently a lot of people believe in it and I don't want to dismiss it lightly.

But the more I learn about the world, the less sense the concept makes to me, and the more comfortable I am in dismissing the vast majority of people's opinions as insane or ignorant or what-have-you.

Where is this will? Why do people suffer from addiction? Why can the human body be explained as chemical/electrical/whatever reactions that seem to follow strict rules?

Cause and effect. That is a concept that makes a lot of sense to me. But it doesn't seem compatible with free will. 

A person's will does not alter cause and effect. A person's will is part and parcel with cause and effect. Just one more link in the chain.


Power (or lack thereof) of words.

This reminds me of a girl I met, her name was Julia, in a psych ward, 7 or 8 years ago. 

She would occasionally yell out words. 



seemingly in the hopes of affecting the world in some way. 

She would also tell me that she could see trees growing that other people couldn't see. 

I do not think that words have the kind of power that she seemed to think they have. 

Because nobody ever seemed to die when she said die. 

Her repeating the words, "JUSTICE" or "THE LAW" or whatever, never seemed to do anything but mildly annoy the people around her, which I think would have just as easily been accomplished by shouting out incomprehensible non-word gibberish or noise. 

On the other hand, sometimes speaking different words does have different effects.

If I say to my mother, "Please pick me up some sweet potatoes." then she'll typically come home with some sweet potatoes from the grocery store. If I had, instead, said, "Please pick me up some pears." then she'd have come home with pears, and not sweet potatoes. 

If I had instead just spoken nonsense noise to her, idk what she'd have done. Maybe started to worry and called the cops or something. 

So clearly the patterns of sounds/text/whatever we use has rather dramatically different consequences. 

Perhaps our minds are somehow like those children's toys with holes of different shapes and blocks of shapes.

Some blocks only fit into some holes. 

And in the case of a human being, I imagine those analogous different holes all lead to different mental mechanisms. Sounds complicated.


Favorite beers - 

Let's see... my favorite qualities in beers...

  • Sweet
  • Cheap
  • Low-Cal
  • Gluten-Free
  • High Alcohol %
  • Cold

 Stuff like that.

Favorite animals - 

  • Unicorns
  • Tigers
  • Lions
  • Dragons
  • Hawks
  • Falcons
  • Sharks
  • Whales
  • Dolphins
  • Wolves
  • Leopards
  • Rhinoceros Beetles 
  • Sloth
  • Pikachu?
That's all I can think of for now.

What is concept of emptiness?

I think I'm going to need Google's help with this one, make sure I'm talking about the right kind of emptiness. Gonna google "Zen and Emptiness" and see what comes up. 

Wikipedia's entry on "sunyata" seems like a good spot.

Oh! Look at this!

>concept which has multiple meanings depending on its doctrinal context. 

Clearly I made the right choice in double checking WtF I was being asked about. 


>Zen teachers still mention the Buddha-nature, but the Zen tradition also emphasizes that Buddha-nature is Sunyata, the absence of an independent and substantial "self".

Hmm.... I seem to remember there being no teachers of zen or something... but fuck it close enough.

The absence of an independent and substantial "self". 

Let's see. Well, sounds right to me, yeah?

Like, for instance, a human being. 

What is that? 

Very hard to demaracate what, precisely, counts as "Me", even if I pick something relatively specific to identify as, like a human being. 

How to you delineate a human being? Do you just include the cells? 

But which cells? 

There are dead cells constantly in the process of flaking off. You can chop off a human's arm and incinerate it and I'm pretty sure it's still a human (just a human without an arm). 

I feel like, if you were to ask me what the essence of a "human being" is, I'd just make something up to get out of the conversation because you seem like a boring person.

So clearly there's stuff here. A human, cells, organs, whatever. But "human" is a bit of an arbitrary label. That label was created well after what-it-refers-to existed. The label "human" not being an exact demarcation of a "thing" (because that seems impossible) but rather a technique, a method, a tool.

We use that label in order to point in a direction. Towards the essence. Towards the person we're talking to. Towards the arms and legs and head and torso. It's not the arm. 

So maybe that's what emptiness is vaguely talking about. Beats me. I didn't come up with the concept.

But it does make intuitive sense just reading that description. 

There is no "self" that the label "human" applies to. The "label" never applied to anything at all. 

Maybe like "Pokemon". 

Originally, that label referred to something like 151 different monsters. 

But perhaps it's more accurate to say that earlier in the development process of that video game, it referred to the hopes and dreams of the developers to make a successful game.

And that words merely became a tool/method to focus ideas and actions and efforts into making a game, and, in time, making an Anime, and more games, and a million other things, and a hell of a lot of money.


The futility of pulling up the root.

This one is another on of those questions I'm not entirely sure I understand what I'm being asked.

But that's okay. People are free to correct what they meant and maybe I'll get around to answering the revised meaning of whatever blah blah moving on. 

So pulling up the root.

The root. 

My immediate response to this was the visual-novel-game-anime-franchise-thing Fate

"The Root" in Fate, also known as Akasha, refers to a specific metaphysical principle that is essentially the force "above all". The source of all events outside of space and time and basically everything.

This also reminded me of the Eight Consciousnesses, specifically the 8th. The foundation consciousness. The mind ground. The source. Something like "the essence of all". 

Also, the bible,

John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Now, I'm not 100% sure I know what these people are talking about. I can only talk about ideas I've had and make a best guess that maybe we're talking about the same stuff. 

Maybe not. 

But let's work from the premise that we are, for fun, and because otherwise idk what I'd talk about.

The maybe/maybe-not analogous principle that I feel like I have the most experience with is scientific Law. 

Now, that's admittedly not quite the same thing.

Scientific laws can be changed. They are human approximations attempting to describe how reality works. 

The dharma that can be spoken is not the true dharma kind of deal.

If someone created a literally perfect "Theory of Everything" then perhaps it'd be like "the Root". 

But that is how I see the Root.

If it were a thing, it'd be "Everything". 

So for a human being to interact with "the Root", it'd be like a perfect understanding of everything and the natural consequences that follow from that understanding. 

What does a human being that perfectly understands everything do? Fuck if I know. 

Now that is just me attempting to explain what I vaguely understand "the Root" to mean when being asked about it. (Might be totally wrong, sorry whoever)

But the actual question was something like, is it futile to attempt to reach it?

Is it even possible?

Is a theory of everything possible?

Can a human being be "enlightened" into complete, perfect understanding?

Sounds like a pipe dream to me. 

To understand everything seems like it'd require you to *be* everything.

So in that sense, 'everything', if we are to label it as a "thing" or"self", is the only thing that's understanding itself. 

All of its parts are inevitably just that, limited parts, and only understand themselves (to one degree or another). 

But that isn't to say that trying to pull up the root, trying to get at the essence of all, the perfect understanding of the principle(s) of the essence of things, is futile (or at least, a waste of time).

Perhaps reality is infinitely complex, and a limited being can only ever approximate it. 

Still, "trying" can serve a purpose. 

Like trying to lift heavier weights. 

The purpose isn't to literally to be able to lift all of creation.

You're not necessarily going to be disappointed if you only ever manage to bench press 500lbs. 

The purpose can be to look good, improve your health, and potentially improve your ability to do some other task that requires the use of those muscles.

The task of lifting more is one that has consequences beyond the task itself. 

I would think futility is in hoping to be able to bench press all of creation. 

Or futility is in working on your bench press without reason or context. Just to bench press. Not for yourself. Not for some greater good. Not necessarily even because you want to. Just because, somehow, bench pressing has become a fixation and obsession.

Understanding some aspect of the nature of reality in one way or another can have practical consequences for a human being. Science is big on that. But there's a difference between pursuing information for the sake of information and pursuing information because it can be good/useful.


Why are we here?

 Well, I'm a fan of the "primordial ooze" idea. 

The ultimate laws/principles that govern all things, that brought about stuff like stars and the big bang, also just happen lead to life and intelligence. 

Lucky us, I suppose. 



I'm just going to open up some random zen book now and look at some random quote and say something about it. 

Let's Google "Zen pdf" and see what comes up.

Oooo, there's a blue link. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind! UH OH SOMEBODY MIGHT NOT LIKE THIS ONE HEHEHEHE

Let's just jump right on in here.

Page 76. starting at the big STUDY YOURSELF part. 

"To have some deep Jeeling(sic? is that supposed to be Feeling?) about Buddhism is not the point; we just do what we should do, like eating supper and going to bed. This is Buddhism."


Seems simple enough. The point of something or other isn't to be really excited about Buddhism. 

Because why would you get really excited about Buddhism? 

Is Buddhism not just a tool? Some means to an end that some people have thrown together and been using to do stuff for a couple thousand years?


And, also, apparently, Buddhism is about doing what we "should" do.

Whatever that is. 

I guess it's good stuff?

Whatever good is. 

I guess whatever I think is good.

What else is good supposed to be ?

It's not like I can write down the true dharma and call it "the essence of good". 

I think it's more about improvisation and winging it and whatever. 

And that may or may not include what people call buddhism. 

Because hey, some people just don't resonate with Bodhidharma or Buddha or Buddhism or Zen or The Way. 

I guess they'll have to do something else. 



Feel free to make suggestions for next time! If you have any complaints about how I didn't understand what you were trying to ask me, please complain! 

And not to forget, here's a picture of a cat that's not my cat because I don't have a cat my mom has a cat AND HE'S NOT MY CAT MOM! HE'S YOUR CAT! TAKE CARE OF HIM! PET HIM MORE OR SOMETHING!


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