Friday, March 24, 2006

Too much thinking

Brad's response prompted these thoughts -

Zensters tend to emphasise not thinking or at least not getting lost in thinking. Yet there is nothing written in books or online which is not thinking including the many admonishments not to think so much. And there are great Buddhist thinkers such as Nagarjuna who are as abstract as any western philosopher. So, where do we draw the line? When does thinking become 'too much' thinking?

My Godo, Guy Mercier, doesn't teach that we should stop thoughts, just always to pay attention, so when there is thinking, there is just that thinking without absorption into that thinking. I like the idea of thoughts as just another bodily function.

I would suggest that too much thinking is when thought is treated as if it was reality, when we 'enter the Matrix' as it were. The purpose of Nagarjuna's abstract thoughts is not to believe a philosophy of emptiness, but to direct us back to emptiness, to reality, by showing the emptiness of all phenomena including his own views.

9 Comments:

At March 24, 2006, Blogger me said...

I agree totally. I particularly like the idea of thoughts as just another bodily function.

If there was some 'ban' on thoughts or verbal communication about Buddhist realization such that all we had was zazen alone with no books, lectures, or blogs. etc., I'm certain the realizations would never have gotten out. Buddhism would be extinct.

I see it as perception is heavily influenced by one's perspective. You can't really have pure perception - all sensory input must be processed so some degree. The 'perspective' that one uses to process these inputs is built in part from one's intellectual understanding of reality - thus thoughts are necessary.

Zen (and science for that matter) provide a perspective that has a VERY tight fit to reality.

I guess we could return to the idea of balance. When does thinking generate an unbalanced state? Is this idea of balance just that - an idea? or is there some reality to it?

 
At March 24, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

What is the right amount of thinking? What is too little thinking?

Having experimented with these ideas over the previous months I think I would conclude that there is probably no such thing as "too much" thinking - or any other absolute.

Some part of me likes to think. If I don't get caught up in these thoughts then they seem to arise and depart on their own. Sometimes contiguous, sometimes with gaps.

If anything I have noticed that deliberately choosing to think more or to think less is moving away from harmony/balance and so I tend not to do it.

Sometimes thinking is useful and sometimes not.

 
At March 24, 2006, Blogger Bob J. said...

I can no more stop my mind from thinking than I can stop my lungs from breathing; both will happen when I die. But I am no more my thoughts than I am my breath.

 
At March 24, 2006, Blogger Brad said...

I'm not saying these are "bad thoughts" or anything. In fact, I agree with some of what was written in that last post. But the problem with it was also pretty easy to see. It's like any "Eureka!" moment. It has its value. But we tend to fixate on those moments. You need to be very careful about this. ALL INSIGHTS are ultimately just moments of mental excitement. They are not the real point. Don't back into the garbage cans at the end of the driveway while revelling in your marvelous insights.

 
At March 24, 2006, Blogger Gareth said...

:) Excellent.

I don't drive, just walk, so it's my body that's taken a beating and not my bumper (fender?)...

...a real wake up call...

 
At March 24, 2006, Blogger me said...

Thanks Brad. Maybe I should find a teacher... you demonstrate their value perfectly.

 
At March 24, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

Buddhism is a path. It takes us from a more confused to a less confused state of mind (hopefully.) It's not a question of whether thinking is right or wrong, it's how is thinking useful in the path. Philosophy does have a role in Buddhism. But philosophy can be a trap if we expect more from it than it can deliver, or alow it to monopolize our time and attention.

 
At March 25, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Sounds about right to me.

 
At March 25, 2006, Blogger Element said...

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