Connecting with our intuition
This week we're looking at case 34 in the Gateless Barrier - and if you think it looks a lot like the previous koan, case 33, you'd be right! So this week we'll go in a slightly different direction and look at intuition and the Zen ideal of how a person should be put together. I've even made pictures! So without further ado, let's get into it.
Knowledge is not the Way?
In the previous case, we saw Zen master Mazu rejecting his earlier saying, 'The very mind itself is Buddha', and instead taking the more contrarian stance 'Not mind, not Buddha'. This week Nanquan cranks the handle even further, telling us not only that 'mind is not Buddha', but furthermore that 'knowledge is not the Way'.
I've also seen the second phrase translated as 'wisdom is not the Way', which is even more subversive. If we've been hanging around in Zen circles for a while, we might have got the idea that intellectual, scholarly 'knowledge' is not what Zen is all about - rather, we're supposed to do Zen meditation practices, like koan study and Silent Illumination, in order to have insights and cultivate... wisdom... right? Isn't wisdom the point of all this? Wisdom, after all, is one of the six Mahayana virtues (paramitas, along with generosity, ethical conduct, patience/forbearance/endurance, energy and concentration/focus). And yet here's Nanquan, telling us that even wisdom isn't the way to the Way? So what the heck are we supposed to do, then?
Zen's view of the ideal person
Before we answer that directly, let's take a moment to look at Zen's idea of a well-put-together person. This is something I've heard my Zen teacher Daizan talk about many times, although it's taken a while to sink in to my thick skull, for reasons that will become apparent as we get into the details!
This way of looking at a person divides the body into three sections - head, heart and hara (lower abdomen) - corresponding to the three major energetic centres of the body (upper, middle and lower tanden/dantien). Let's take each one in turn, look at the attributes associated with each section, and see what happens when that aspect of the person is overdeveloped and hence too dominant.
Matt teaches early Buddhist and Zen meditation practices for the benefit of all. May you be happy!