I have been reading an interesting book: The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner. Some of the passages echoed things said in the teishos so much that I thought I would put a couple of samples at the beginning of this posting. Throughout the book there was this emphasis on questioning and on ambiguity.
“Mentors are an important component in creativity….. Asked what they had learnt from these mentors the answer could best be described as thinking styles. Not answers, but ways of formulating questions…… Solving a problem is admirable, but what if we don’t know what the problem is we’re trying to solve?”
“Janusian thinking: actively conceiving two or more opposite or antithetical ideas, images or concepts simultaneously. It is not about synthesizing two incompatible ideas, but living with their incompatibility. Hamlet would have been content to be and not to be. Einstein was able to imagine opposite truths coexisting simultaneously – an object that was both in motion and at rest at the same time. Fellow physicist Niels Bohr’s hunch that light is both wave and particle is pure Janusian thinking. How can something be two different things at the same time? Simply asking that question, and not necessarily answering it, is the first step to a creative breakthrough. When you do this, thought is not accelerated but suspended, and Bohr felt that creative breakthroughs are most likely to occur in this state of suspended cognition.
Freedom from the personal self (teisho 1206 -2010)
Nisargadatta: “The reward of self knowledge is freedom from the personal self.”
What is self knowledge and what is the personal self?
Unless we have asked these questions in a real way, we have never come to grips with what this practice is all about. Most people do not allow themselves to realize how radical this practice is. They believe that it is a continuation of the way they have lived life, but in fact a complete turnabout is necessary.
People believe that they are in the world. They see themselves as something in the world. When they come to practice and hear about Buddha nature they look for it in this thing that is in the world. They look for it as a kind of addition, something to be added to what they call themselves.
Everything that is said is heard within the existing state of affairs – they feel the way they have always seen the world is right, but not quite complete. That there is nothing wrong with the way they see the world, but there is something in addition, something missing, and once they have got that, everything is going to be roses roses.
What if you have been living in a vast fairy tale all your life?
Nisargadatta: “You cannot know the knower because you are the knower.”
Nisargadatta first says you must know yourself, and then that you can’t. Have you got time to examine these contradictory statements, question them? savor them?Right there is the heart of the matter: we want to know, we want to grasp, we want to have, all in a hurry. We want to get on with doing the necessary work without having given ourselves time to understand what that work is.
What is knowing? It sounds remote, impenetrable, something mysterious. And yet you hear the bird sing, see the sunlight come through the window, feel your clothes against your skin; what is remote or mysterious about that? Yes, you say, but how can that be the entrance to the Way? You are living in the belief that the fairy tale is the truth, that the world is real; you forget the contribution that you make to that reality. We ignore this. You are the knower. There is no you as an entity, you do not have to be something to know. You do not have to struggle to understand what this means, but to let go of your belief that you do not know what it means.
Knowing is so immediate, so obvious, so direct. What is the entrance to the Way? Do you hear the sound of the bird? that is the entrance to the way. Everyday mind is the way. Not the content of everyday mind, everyday mind. Hearing, seeing, tasting, touching are all ways of knowing.
The knower of the known is not knowable. The knower cannot be separated from the known. What I know is changing all the time, but that I know is no different when one is a child of eight or an old person of 80. It is never absent. You need to discern the difference between what I know and that I know. It is the same with what I am and that I am. That I am cannot be grasped, cannot be studied, cannot be known. What is your face before your parents were born? That I am.
You are living your identification, but it is still you. This is why you are so sure that this identification, this personal self, is real, because it is you. You grant it its reality.