Though I am a westerner, Zen’s fundamental tenet is still a fascinating one. The idea that the only way to have a pure and perfect mind is to maintain a state of no-mind. This is not to say you should be a zombie. It means you should approach the world each day as a child, uncritical and accepting. My own personal philosophy incorporates the philosophy of rationalism to this child-mind. Imagine how you would think towards solving a problem if you had no past basis to distort your perspective. This is also not to say you should forget the past, since you need historical backing to aid your reasoning, but utterly shutting out disruptive effects that knowledge of the past would have on your thinking, such as “you can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way.” If you were a perfectly rational child, capable of assessing with utter objectivity this strange world you now find yourself in, what would you think? If presented with a problem which needs to be solved, and being presented with all the necessary information, how would such a philosopher-child resolve it? The converse of this state would be the pure bureaucrat, assessing through glasses so tinted he is virtually blind, and incapable of reason except insofar as his aim could be supported by bending it from truth and backing it with outright fabrication.
I dislike using the word child, as it runs counter to the maturity necessary for a perfectly rational mind to function. In order to be perfectly rational, you need to accept your own unimportance except in terms of your own consciousness, and your position as an observer (and damn is that another post). If you can’t do that, your thinking will be limited by the self-viewpoint. In any case, the child comparison is effective at capturing one facet of the state I am attempting to elucidate. The state I’m referring to is difficult to describe, so I have to do it one facet at a time, resolving one contradiction after another into the middle ground that is not the center. I am by no means experiencing zen reason, but I reason that such a state is the target of an intelligent, rational being which wishes, as such a being must, to become more intelligent and rational in order to better solve the problems it faces. So my target becomes this state, and the closer I get to it, the better.
So now I’ll lodge a little zen koan/Stoic quote combo in the back of your brain:
Shuzan held out his short staff and said, “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?”
“Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them. If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone.” – – – Epictetus