Coming to the end of conscious thought

Buddhism basically teaches that we cannot realize the absolute by using conscious thought or in Sanskrit vijñāna.  The Sanskrit term is very interesting.  It is really saying that knowing can only be in two parts (vi).  For example, the perceiver and the perceived; the observer and the observed; or the thinker and the thought.

This implies that Buddhism is also saying that consciousness must be transcended in order to realize the absolute.  We could even add a Pythagorean twist to this:  that we cannot reach the monad by way of the dyad.

The various schools of Zen reveal that they were built, more or less, upon the tradition of how to make a transition from conscious thought to direct intuition.  Even a superficial appraisal of Zen reveals that it is not mediated by reason but instead by intuition. 

I can personally attest to this and looking back over the years know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we live in an age in which intuition is being ignored.

Intuition only begins when conscious thought, like a driver, is forced to get out of their car because there is no more road.  Now the driver has to walk in a mysterious land that is perpendicular to the previous roads.  But in this example the perpendicular is not just roadlessness.  There is the mysterious vertical to it which will lead to greater and greater heights.  Only the unexpected and the new come out of this.  The only way to test this out is drive until you can go no more.  You’ve reached your wits’ end.  And that is only the beginning for Zen.

Traditionally, a good student of Zen is always on the verge of going to their wits’ end.  They are about to run out of road (which is why they have come to Zen).  They are ripe for intuition.  But just because the sign on the temple suggests that Zen is to be found here, it is not.  It defies all expectations.

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The Zennist

Author of The Zennist blog since 2007.

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