zen — count to 10
It seems an eternity ago
when I first began exploring the practice of Rinzai Zen directly.
It’s not splashy or exciting, and has more in common with
thoroughly cleaning a toilet than it does with charismatic sages
bantering on in parables about the mysteries of creation.
The practice hinges on the
ability to sit still for long periods while breathing a strange
sort of question in and out, usually with a group of similarly
disposed buddhists. Theoretically, one is attempting to resolve
this question. In reality, the whole idea of the question and
activity soon renders itself absurd.
At the age of 24, I thought
the idea of formally studying insoluble riddles was fascinating
and mysterious — but in hindsight I can admit that part
of me was attracted by a seductive misapprehension about how
easy it would be for me to resolve them. Truth be told, I was
hoping this might be a way to gain credentials of one sort or
another — a kind of thermometer of my real intelligence.
I figured myself for a quick study. In this particular dimension,
however, I wasn’t.
The problem with these riddles is simple: they do not
conform to any common logic. So disastrously uncommon is their
logic that the same answer given twice may fail — yet
it is possible to give an adept and accurate answer. In
essence, the application of common logics to this pursuit will
merely serve to cause the canny practitioner great frustration.
Eventually. this leads to
the necessity to re-invent all forms and positions of logics
— which in turn leads into a spiraling cognitive process
that plays a game of swapping out retarded elements in favor
of momentum and new ways of proceeding. Effectively, this aspect
of Zen practice contains a hidden ‘intelligence lens’
— a learning-toy of inestimable value and efficacy. Yet
few Zen practitioners will taste or speak of this matter. It’s
considered materialistic, in a sense, to seek after some element
of the product of practice.
Early in the process of
learning to ‘sit zazen’, the student is commonly
taught the practice of counting breaths. One might count in
1, out 2, or in 1 out 1 &c. At 10, the count begins again
at 1. This activity is about as intellectually stimulating as
eating gravel, and my novelty-hungry mind was never very pleased
about this way of settling into the sitting posture and the
body before taking up the koan.
Now, many years later —
I understand and enjoy this practice. There’s something
quite profound about those first 10 numbers — in general
— in at least 7 dimensions.
at ten t ion
‘A the tenTree ion’