Saturday, May 2, 2015

Zen Culture By Thomas Hoover

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This teaching of meditation and vast emptiness shared very little with other branches of Chinese Buddhism. Ch'an had no sacred images because it had no gods to worship, and it de-emphasized the scriptures, since its central dogma was that dogma is useless. Handed down from master to pupil was the paradoxical teaching that nothing can be taught. According to Ch'an (and Zen), understanding comes only by ignoring the intellect and heeding the instincts, the intuition. Thus Zen became the religion of the antirational, what might be called the counter mind.

The counter mind has taken on more concrete significance in recent years with the discovery that the human mind is not a single entity but is divided into two quite different functional sections. We now know that the left hemisphere of the brain governs the logical, analytical portion of our lives, whereas the right hemisphere is the seat of our intuitive, nonverbal perception and understanding. As far back as the ancient Greeks, we in the West have maintained an almost unshakable belief in the superiority of the analytical side of the mind, and this belief may well be the most consistent distinguishing quality of Western philosophy.

By contrast, the East in general and Zen in particular have advanced the opposite view. In fact, Zen masters have deliberately developed techniques (like illogical riddles or koan) to discredit the logical, verbal side of the mind so that the intuitive perceptions of the right hemisphere, the counter mind, may define reality.

What is the counter mind really is?

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