Zen is an adequate way of thinking. How is this “adequacy” manifested?
All processes existing in the world are infinitely more complex than human thinking is. If we see “simple processes” in the world, it's just because of dullness of our thinking. When we “see any processes”, we see only “pictures of these processes”, i.e. our models.
Being used to a certain mode of life, we rationalize our intellectual activity, simplify processes of vision and our models of these processes to such an extent that makes it convenient for us to work with them, so they are not too ramified, not too deep and not too detailed. This simplification allows us to carry out our vital functions rather easily when we are in society, and even more so when we are outside society.
When, as a result of our activities, we enter a zone of uncertainty and high complexity, at that very moment we can see the branchinness of a process, its complexity and natural inconsistency. This vision arises because in situations of uncertainty and ambiguity we can not use our standard models, i.e. the models those have been deliberately simplified and tuned in the process of our living, like stones in a river are formed into pebble, “an adequate contour”.
Let me note that sufficient skills and matured thinking enable seeing processes with additional depth, so any even a “simple” process is seen as a complex and paradoxical one. Your own life is an example of such a “simple” process.
Your reading of this text about Zen now is a result of a certain number of your own choices, both external active and internal moral ones. I mean the entire chain of choices made by you in all your incarnations, including the present one.
There were external choices, where it was necessary to show activity, susceptibility to certain activities, and also the mastery not to act when it’s not needed to act. You had to show some internal qualities those are eventually tied to the moral and ethical choices you had to make in your life. Your life can be considered as a chain of millions of unique steps.
The small Buddhist number of infinity is 18 thousand, and the large number is 72 million. The significance of these numbers is that they are illustrative. This is too abstract saying “this moment will never happen again”. But if I say “72 million years will pass before that moment happens again”, this specificity allows us to better understand the uniqueness of each moment.
You have made 18,000 big choices and 72 million smaller choices during your life. If not all, but many of these choices have determined your path, depending on decisions you have made. This “chain of choices” can be viewed as a process where an error at any point, just similar to DNA, causes a mutation, a genetic disease and the trajectory leaving. In this sense, your life is a chain of very thin and accurate choices; and it is obvious that your life and the situation in which you are now are shaped by yourself.
Each person is born with a certain level of personal power. Every person can be represented as a glowing ball filled with a certain amount of energy. The glowing ball flies at a certain height above the territory of his or her life and meets obstacles. They can be represented linearly via their height from the surface, as a higher or lower barrier. Every obstacle works as a test: “passed – did not pass”, “come along – or not”. Every obstacle is a point where a “choice” is made.
The ball flies at the same height. The height of its flight is the energy level of the certain human. You fly above some obstacles having a certain level of personal power that was given to you at birth, which means you will obviously pass them; each result of the “test”, each “choice” that is made is predetermined by the level of personal power. The ball passes some of the obstacles, and does not pass others. This means that you are not doing any “conscious choices”, that each of your “choices” is just “a projection of your personal power that was given to you at birth”.
Each person is individual, he or she looks at his or her life and sees that “this result in my life is associated with this choice of mine, and that one with this and that choices...” Nothing of the kind! He or she is just flying at a certain height above the “field of obstacles”. Regardless of what he or she is thinking. A person can not overcome the obstacles, above which he or she is flying. There is no “choice”!
Your whole life comes down to adding an extra portion of power during this flight, and then you find yourself on a higher trajectory in the next life, and in such a way you can move to the enlightenment.
Here are two pictures. One of them says that the role of your conscious choice is extremely high and that you must not make any mistakes at any link of the chain, and it is a very sophisticated task.
The other picture - internally consistent, like the first one, but absolutely opposite to it – shows that all your “fine choices” are phantom and illusion, they are just the level of personal power given you at birth, and you are the same as you were at three years of age.
Seeing these two descriptions above, something inside you feels that neither the first model nor the second one is true and that the truth is some combination of these models. But the intellect can not connect these models into a single structure, as they clearly contradict each other. But somewhere inside there is still a feeling that there is some sort of connection, but what?
The ability to see a process at the depth where it can be described by two models, internally consistent and at the same time completely contradicting each other (which excludes construction of an integrated model of this phenomenon) - this is “the limit of the human intelligence”.
In simpler things – cutting down a tree, eating, or hunting – these are simple models. But when the intellect faces a deep enough level of consideration of a phenomena, this simplicity of models does not work, the description cohesiveness disappears and a paradoxical, multidimensional, containing something implicit picture appears. To work with such a picture and rely on it in your actions, some specific consciousness is needed.
This type of consciousness first emerged in China. It was named Chan, school of Chan. The man who got the understanding that the world can be seen in this way, originated the third way of the Buddha's teaching.
The first two ways are known as Hinayana - only for the monks, constantly practicing, the Small Chariot, - and Mahayana, the Great Chariot, stating that not only monks but also laity of right practice can move to the Enlightenment. Eventually, in 1000 years after Buddha’s life, Vajrayana, Diamond Chariot, appeared as the Way for those who have outstanding abilities, the Way of Bodhisattva.
At first, those who were able to comprehend phenomena at such a level of depth were not even asked to “comprehend and act on that basis” - just to comprehend. However, it became clear very soon that if you do not act, you can not comprehend at this level, that in order to really comprehend the world at this level, you necessarily must act on this basis.
Apart from the fact that action gives additional experience, there is another important methodological point, directly related to thinking and formulated as Zen-paradox: “an action as an element of thinking.” I will explain this later.
Thus, there is “adequate thinking”. A person can turn it on at the moment he/she is approaching the limit of capacity of his/her mental organ, intelligence, when the intellect enters the area of complexity that somehow begins to resemble a real morphology of the processes, those, I repeat, in turn are much more complex than any human’s models or ideas of the processes.
The size of consciousness of God - who has created all of this - the volume of his model, the height of complexity - can be imagined as a 3 kilometers high cliff. And any human models then will be seen as rouleaus at the foot of the cliff. Some of them are 3 centimeters high, others are ten times bigger, 30 centimeters. This is all a human is capable of. This world is ultramundane for perception not because you can not pull out the formula by which it operates, but because the intellectual machine built into the man has its limits and limitations.
God has two objectives. The first-level task is to prevent extinction of the substrate, i.e. of humanity. This is the immediate goal. And the ultimate goal is to bring the substrate to the “boiling point”, to make ideas and thoughts develop, new lyrics and new technologies appear, the progress go on, and the substrate evolve in this sense, so that the human race reached certain heights, having accumulated what is called ‘historical experience’ - ideological, philosophical, and technological.
In this sense, humanity is like an ocean; a kind of “foam” is formed on its surface, which is a thin layer of consciousness that perceives actuality in a complicated way.
Some part of the “foam” has fluffed to the level where its perception of actuality is close to the “limits of human intelligence capacity”.
This is “an adequate way of thinking”, this is the “Chan thinking” that was later slightly changed and narrowed and appeared in Japan as “Zen”.
The same hieroglyph is read as “Chan” in China and as “Zen” in Japan. Historically, the term is derived from the Indian word “dhyana”, meaning “breathing”, which at some point has become synonymous to “meditation”. If you read the word “dhyana” in Chinese, you get “Chan-na” that in a truncated transcription sounds like “Chan”, and in Japanese is pronounced as “Zen”.
Buddha lived 2500 years ago. Chan did not emerge with the advent of Bodhidharma in China; he laid down only the first seed of all this. At full power, as a separate branch, Chan arose around 670 AD, with the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, who said: “Guys, you understood everything in a wrong way. Buddha comprehended, now I comprehend, and you have been doing wrong things for 1000 years”. Nobody liked him because of this, and he was recognized as a patriarch only in 50 years after his death.
However, only the Sixth Patriarch’s speeches were subsequently equated to the speeches of Buddha by the Buddhist world. The Buddha’s speeches are called “sutras”. And the only other person whose words were called “sutra” as well was the Sixth Patriarch Huineng. They were recorded by his followers and we now know them as “the Sixth Patriarch’s sutra”.
My trip to Huineng is described in Russian language here…
In 200 years after Huineng, there was another great patriarch, who was slightly lower, but still very high. His name is Linji. All Japanese Zen originates, in particular, from Linji. Japanese Zen that started developing in Japan in the X century is based on the collection of Linji’s words, texts “Rinzai-roku” (“Sayings of Linji”). In this sense, Zen is somewhat narrower than the entire Chan, taking into consideration the fact that Chan had been powerfully developing for over 200 years before.
The period of active development of Chan took 200 years. The things done afterwards were done with a smaller scale, with less talent, and the Chan branch thinned out. The branch of Zen in Japan thinned out as well about 300 years ago. The last great national Zen teacher Takuan Soho was a very good and honest man, and he said before his death: “Do not print my texts; I am not a Zen teacher”. But the emperor had officially vested him with the title of National Zen Teacher, and one had to obey the emperor, at least to respect, so it’s impossible to refuse the title, and that's the way he went down in history.
In XX century Europeans introduced the theme of Zen into European civilization, which, among other impacts, was instigated by some Japanese researchers, but everything said on this subject by the Japanese and by the Europeans are just very simplified models of Zen.
An adequate way of thinking is “thinking at the degree of complexity which is adequate to the highest degree of complexity of phenomena.”
Being more exact, a degree of complexity of phenomena is always higher than a degree of complexity of thinking, or, in other words, “a phenomenon is always more complicated than its model”, then an adequate way of thinking is just the thinking superior in its adequacy to “everyday thinking”.
This way of modeling the world is the essence of Zen (Chan) thinking.
When I am modeling some process (a phenomenon) and conveying my model to you by telling you something, when I’m trying to present a four-dimensional model in the form of two-dimensional images to you, it will always be an interesting and paradoxical picture.
Try to describe a hypercube in a two-dimensional plane - it will be a strange and paradoxical structure, won’t it? Your life is “a unique chain of your choices” or “the complete absence of choice, covered with an illusion of choice”?
A note on paradoxicality of a two-dimensional image of a hypercube. The sides of a four-dimensional cube are formed by our ordinary three-dimensional cubes. There are only eight sides-cubes. Search Google for an image of “a hypercube unfolded” - there are eight cubes. Now search for a “hypercube projection” picture. Let’s count the sides-cubes. That is right, there are seven of them. Where is the eighth?
Europeans, seeing the world in terms of simplified models, consider Zen and each koan in particular a paradox, and those who are simpler see it as an intellectual exercise on “how to combine them”.
But the sense is not in finding “a solution of a paradox”. The idea is get away from this simple level of thinking, where the actuality is modeled at the level of “paradoxes”, i.e. at the level of intellectual constructions those are inherently flat. The idea is to go “beyond the limit of human intelligence operation capacity.”
This can be formulated also via a paradox: “to lead one’s own human intelligence beyond the limit of human intelligence.”
A person who is facing Zen has the task not to solve a task, riddle, or paradox, which can be done only intellectually, but to bring his consciousness to that level of thinking where it begins to see the actuality in a fundamentally different way in terms of complexity, begins to model the reality with an “ultramundane” degree of adequacy.
In Zen (Chan) this is named the “Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom”, Prajnaparamita.
I deliberately use the word “actuality”. The distinction between “reality” and “actuality” appeared in the European scientific tradition, in quantum physics, in 1910s. The difference is that “actuality” is what exists, and “reality” is what exists for a particular observer. Another thing is that there is a delicate point: our current “actuality” does not exist without an observer at all.
What is the actuality for you? You have 5 senses - only five! - and each organ of sense is limited in its range. And this very limit of sense organs by range gives you the opportunity to see green grass, to hear the crunch of twigs in a forest, to feel the comfort of an ambient air temperature, to perceive flavors, smells and tactile sensations. The essence of any form is limitation. Take away the borders, and you will take off the form - an object will disappear and something strange and incomprehensible will appear instead.
Also you can not perceive processes in the past and the future, but only in the present moment, in the subtlest time slice. In addition, you have your own “typical for human” time scale. If your inner time were 1000 times faster, or 1000 times slower, then the world would be different. Also it’s a matter of your linear sizes: if you were in size of atomic nucleus or a galaxy, then the world would be also different for you.
You are a creature balanced in size, scale of time, in perception of time intervals, plus the five senses. And you see the world exactly like that.
We can see the world in a fairly narrow spectrum of electromagnetic waves: some nanometers from here to there. The red color goes farther into infrared, the violet converts into the ultraviolet; if we go further and reduce the frequency of the waves, we arrive to the hard X-ray radiation, and if we go over the range in the opposite direction, we come to radio waves, first high-frequent, and then farther, farther, farther including kilometer-long radio waves used for distant galaxies studying.
So, if your vision had been expanded to the whole range, the trees would have become transparent for you, radio waves pass through them and the whole world would have became ghostly for you. The color would have disappeared, because the difference between the red and the green would have been about one-millionth of your range, you just would have not been able to get it. Similarly, if all ranges of all your senses had been increased, then the whole world would have eventually become a sort of “silver twinkle”. This is just a conventional phrase, because “silver twinkle” is a visual image, but there would have been something like that.
You have probably played some computer games. And have you played a computer game when you are running with a gun through the jungle?
So, the fact is that while you are seeing a virtual game the process of reading a code is going on, and the code reading takes place at the “iron” level, at the level of computer hardware, which is nothing but a number of cells. Some of them have the positive electric charge, and the others have the negative charge. Thus a binary code is being formed, and any computer code is decomposed to this level.
I said two years ago: “Imagine that there are no hardware cells, but these cells form some field structure - not iron but some specific modulated field in which it is written”. And then I was told: “You are behind the age. These devices will come on sale next year”.
What does this mean? If charges are recorded not on an iron structure, but on a field one, then the reality you see on a screen and a field modulated by electric charge are the same thing and both exist simultaneously.
Let’s now transfer this model to our world. Our world is these trees, grass, walls of houses, and at the same time it is a complex modulation of a complex field in some multidimensional space. If you don’t have a human body with the human ranges of senses, you will not be able to see this word at all, because it is just a field modulated in some way, the emptiness with some kind of scalar and vector fields.
This world with all its sun, birds, etc., just does not exist without an observer, - despite the fact that it does exist. In other words, the world is only a field modulated in some complex way, and that’s why, if there is no specific observer who has the human senses giving the time scale and other dimensions of perception, then that’s all - there is nothing, just somehow multidimensional and stirring emptiness.
When I said that the limits of intelligence exist, I wanted to say that these are the same boundaries as we have in any channel of the senses. The intelligence is not an organ of sense, but it also has restrictions, as limits are necessary to let a form exist. Any device, whether it is an engine or a human mind, has some boundaries, because when there are no boundaries everything is spreading out.
When human mind, in its attempts to puzzle something out, starts from a certain height and gets higher - this is the way of thinking that is adequate, this is Zen as a way of thinking and a way of perceiving the world.
The point is that the Enlightenment is needed for nothing. Thinking that the Enlightenment is needed for something is very natural for the European consciousness, where something is always needed for something. But we must understand that the Enlightenment is the supreme value, and using it for something, for example in marketing, is just “propping up a slimpsy wooden hut with a diamond column”. However, the simplified way of modeling of the European consciousness, which is brought up on the principles of rationality and usefulness, refuses to accept this concept.
And there is another aspect here as well. Besides everything, there is also God, and He wants something from people. This “foam” on the surface of the ocean ... – it is for the sake of it that the ocean was created! And for the sake of this human ocean the entire Universe had been created.
It is absolutely no coincidence that we have such linear dimensions and everything. We are a very balanced project, and we are the maximum that God is capable of as the result of all experiments, which have been conducted before. In this sense, we are perfect; we are the highest grade of perfection for Him to complete His tasks.
Moreover, this does not mean that He uses us as a tool, there is nothing of the kind. “Using someone else's consciousness as a tool” is human, not godly, and in this case... – in this case this is “the only way for Him to get under way, in a certain sense”. Therefore Zen is very necessary, at all the uselessness of this activity.
There is an issue in the tradition, it has been around for thousands of years and it sounds like: “What is the meaning of Zen?” And there is also a figurative version of this issue, it sounds like the question “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?” All Buddhists, especially all those who are in the Chan branch, know that this is an analog of the question “What is the meaning of Zen?”
This wording of the question enables putting it in a concrete personal form, just like you’ve asked: “And what is a trick? What is all this good for? The column that you cannot use to prop up anything – why is it necessary?”
The world is unknowable. If one person, though rather it is almost always a group, enters that layer – it’s enough to trigger the following transformation of all consciousnesses immediately in historical scale. Why? Because the problem will be solved, the channel will be punched. God’s task will be solved, the channel into new space will be punched – and that’s all, in this sense, the known history of mankind will be finished.
In the Diamond Sutra Buddha speaks about it in such words: “Our task is to lead all living beings to annihilation - the annihilation that is not annihilation but still it is annihilation.” Buddhists don't quote these words, but the Diamond Sutra is the fundamental, the most important document in the civil code of Buddhism, – this is what all others sutras are based on in the philosophical aspect. And it contains this main thesis. God’s task will be completed if this is done successfully.
Only human creatures have Consciousness, all others are robots, bots, they do not have the point that can see the blue color or can hear the crunch of a branch. It's like a video camera - despite the fact that it can record color images, there is no point that can see the red color. This is a pipe, and till no observer is put to look through it, it is just a recording of some pulse on some atomic surface, just a trace. This concerns the fact that animals are not to be enlightened.
Historically, Zen was born in that very era and in that very country, which possessed that very cultural context, set of ideas, forms, including clothing and forms of art.
Those who do not understand now what Zen is, reproduce blank void forms, just like "a party of a new type" was born by Lenin for solving certain tasks, and all attempts to reproduce this party nowadays are nonsense, all these parties are a pity parody.
The top of parody has been reached by Sergey Shoigu, who once declared at a congress of the “United Russia” party that the party unites all people "without distinction of age, party, ethnicity, religions and political views." I thought, well, Shoigu, a good man, has made a slip in his speaking. Then in some years he was speaking at a party congress again, and he said the same thing. Well then it became clear that it had already grown just absurd: a political association that unites people irrespective of their political affiliation. This is because they only reproduce forms.
The same thing goes on with the bicameral system of parliament: it made sense in the Netherlands, it made sense in France, in England in those days when the Third Estate made its way. And it only provokes questions under the present conditions of democracy, especially in Russia. – Should governors be appointed? - But they represent executive power, how can they be appointed to a "legislative authority"? What about the "principle of separation of power" that underlies the whole idea of "parliamentary"? - So who should be appointed? There are no more peers by right of birth. - Let us then appoint representatives of the regions. - And who are they, independent politicians? - No, only those supported by governors… And here we go again.
Reproduction of forms is common for mankind, because it thinks with “pebble”, with these checked models, and it can not be guided by anything other than “judging a book by its cover”.
There is a whole layer of critics, art historians, film critics, literary critics, it’s a true respected profession. What do they do? They just put up frameworks for others’ minds how to perceive one or another phenomenon, offer them a comfortable, well-balanced model of perception.
You can rarely meet a man who looks at something and says: "What a great song, music!" or "What a cool movie!” who just sees something and says: "Oh, that’s it!” All others need to first consult someone to form an idea of what has flashed before their face.
There is a principle in Zen: "a sincere person makes a false doctrine true, and an insincere person makes a true doctrine false."
What does it mean? - As soon as there is some complex structure – domino! Everything then depends on the person, how he prepares this internal structure in accordance with himself.
But this has also a deeper meaning: this implies the principle of "it’s not important WHAT to do, but WHO is doing".
The founder of Society of Jesus, Ignatius of Loyola, was a clever man. He said that when two people are saying or doing the same thing this does not mean what they are saying and doing the same thing.
In Chan it’s put as "Not WHAT, not HOW, but WHO!"
This is the "core of consciousness" with everything it has, including the body, smile, charm, knowledge, thinking, experience, will, sense of balance and tact, – and this is how it can do it!
Berdyaev, when describing the absolute truth, drove the principle: "The Absolute Truth can not be decomposed to any simpler truths. The Absolute Truth is closed in itself."
But he did not take the final step to enter the zone of Chan. As soon as you say: "the Truth is closed in itself - just remember that the Truth can not exist anywhere except the human’s consciousness. Then the complete formula is: "the Truth is closed in itself, considering that everything takes place exclusively in a human’s mind. This human’s conception about this is the Supreme Truth, there is no greater truth anywhere."
But this is a revolution - just like political parties grow and turn into a parody, the philosophical "objectivism" gets to the highest level, where everything is clear... and suddenly the system jumps into the crude "subjectivism".
It is important to note that all the philosophical part of Buddhism is rejected by modern philosophers of objectivism (positivists, Gnostics) as an extreme manifestation of the philosophical "subjectivism."
Chan teaching had the task of the highest complexity level, it was just an impossible task. Methodologically it looked as follows:
A disciple of Chan must be an ideal disciple: he is completely subordinate to the teacher. And he must be grown up into a man who has no authority, in the sense that he does not take any thought or concept on faith, he reconsiders everything, and everything, all thoughts and concepts, is his personal property, and all that he gets from the world is only building material for his own model.
What is the paradox, the contradiction here? If you are cultivating an obedient submissive creature, it will grow obedient. You hand on the tradition, but how to pass the fire of ultramundane freedom to a submissive creature?
And if you grow up a free creature, for whom there are no rules and regulations, then you can not convey the tradition, the doctrine to him - you can not give him the school of thought.
o, you must do one thing and, at the same time, another thing opposite to it. You must create a hyper free creature, and you must give him the whole school, and he will become absolutely free, exactly thanks to this school.
This riddle was solved by Chan and by no one else.
There is one more issue. Buddha saw the following thing (and this is why he is the founder of Chan, and Huineng said: "We are the only followers of the Buddha's teachings; we are keeping the core of the teaching of Buddha"):
As soon as a man rises to higher levels in his development, the presence of forms of teaching begins to slow him down.
This is a problem! It is like "a barrier layer" and "a saturation curve": the higher you climb, the more you are hampered by any form.
At the initial stage it’s unnoticeable: you are supposed to read this and that books, pronounce this and that postulates, do this and that, study by heart and carry out other requirements. But if you fly a pitch, this all begins to retard you, the karma of consequences of the system makes the thin layers of consciousness stiffen, quietly and surely, not allowing for a breakthrough.
But the fact is that moving without any form is impossible at all! And then Buddha formulated the principle: "The teachings that is a non-teaching".
This is a profound principle, because “a teaching” means a "tradition", “an obedience”, and "non-teaching" means the absence of it. Just try to do it: "the teaching that is a non-teaching”?! And this was done in practice indeed.
Accordingly, a consciousness without the proper depth looks and says: "Here are some trainings, there are some practices, they can bring me to the enlightenment, to the highest state of understanding, the highest state of freedom."
No, they can not bring you there! No teaching can ever bring you there, no trainings, no practices can help! Because after some level of development this will lock you, this will impede you, and then spoil you at all. That is the problem!
And the masters of Chan broke through this problem to that level (that had been locked by this problem), so this is why it is called “Prajnaparamita”. "Paramita" originates from the word "ferry, crossing", and "Prajna" is translated as “the ultramundane wisdom”. And this wisdom is “ultramundane” not in the metaphorical sense, but literally: this wisdom, or the thinking, is “beyond the human intelligence capabilities”.
Naturally, when a "simple mind" looks at Chan, it translates what it’s seeing to its own simple language of models: “Here are some practices, here are some steps, and this is the way to the enlightenment (that has this and that characteristics). But anyone who is actually in the branch of Chan knows quite well: "There's no way to achieve the enlightenment!"
Buddha said in the Diamond Sutra 2500 years ago: "There is no way to achieve Annuttara Samyak Sambodhi!”
And at the same time, in the same source, Buddha said there: "There is a way to achieve the enlightenment, and Chan knows it”.
"What is "no way"? There is no sequence of steps, which I can tell you: "Do this and you will be enlightened!"
But if you're the right man, and I'm the right teacher (i.e., I know, feel and understand all these things), I will lead you. Attention! The key words are following! I will lead you through such "a field of external events" that will cause such shifts inside you, such patterns of shifts, that as a result you will be flipped. I don’t know how it will happen, but as a result it will happen! This is not "a practice" at all, and this is not a set of "trainings", but this is like that. And they understood this, they solved this problem - and what a delicacy of perception and an unprecedented beauty it is!
I will finish my statement with saying that the only analog Zen (Chan) has in the European culture is the dialectical thinking, but, during the entire history of mankind, the dialectical thinking has had only two bearers: Karl Marx and Lenin. But they were busy with other things; they were not focused on ideological, religious and philosophical fields. But having such a power of consciousness, they advanced (in the European field) to this level of perception modeling. I’ve nothing to add.
Translated by Minchelina and AnyMe.