Friday, August 08, 2008


Lately this Zen blog site has received some excellent comments. Several of them question the mention that Zen tends to avoid logical thinking. One query asks: “How can Zen can apply reason, yet jettison logic at the same time?”

Zen does not condemn logic. It cautions against depending on logic, or on rationalization, to try to clarify various aspects of Zen.

Take, for example the koan that asks, “What is the sound of one hand?” A logical answer might be, “It depends on what the hand is doing.”

Giving such a response to a Zen master would result in immediate dismissal. Perhaps also a clout on the head.

If you are puzzled by a koan, don’t try to figure it out and come up with a clever response. You either fathom it or you don’t. Logic will only get in your way.

I once knew a fellow who wrote How-to books that dealt with plumbing, electricity, and carpentry. His motto was, “When you have a guy up a ladder installing a fixture, you don’t want to mess with his head.”

Zen does not mess with your head.

Zen is not intellectual.

Zen is intuitive.

This does not mean the essentials of Zen must be accepted on blind faith. Not at all. Zen has no rules, no doctrine. Admittedly, Zen—like life itself—is loaded with inconsistencies and contradictions. To grasp Zen, you have to look beyond the discrepancies. Zen has to be not just explored or analyzed. Zen has to be lived.

Thanks to those of you who comment on or question these lectures. Your observations help keep the talks—and the blog—alive.



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