See that this—the immediate, everyday, and present experience—is IT, the entire and ultimate point for the existence of a universe.
From all historical times and cultures we have reports of this same unmistakable sensation emerging, as a rule, quite suddenly and unexpectedly and from no clearly understood cause.
The central core of the experience seems to be the conviction, or insight, that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living. Surrounding and flowing from this insight is an emotional ecstasy, a sense of intense relief, freedom, and lightness, and often of almost unbearable love for he world.
Insight, when clear enough, persists; having once understood a particular skill, the facility tends to remain.
The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.
What we call things, facts, or events are after all no more than convenient units of perception, recognizable pegs for names, selected from the infinite multitude of lines and surfaces, colors and textures, spaces and densities which surround us.
If, therefore, consciousness ceases to ignore itself and becomes fully self-conscious, it discovers two things: (1) that it controls itself only very slightly, and is thoroughly dependent on other things—father and mother, external nature, biological processes, God, or what you will, and (2) that there is no little man inside, no “I” who owns this consciousness.
Man overcomes his feeling of dividedness or separateness—not only from himself as the higher controlling self against the lower controlled self, but also from the total universe of other people and things.
The adept in Zen is one who manages to be human with the same artless grace and absence of inner conflict with which a tree is a tree. Such a man is likened to a ball in a mountain stream, which is to say that he cannot be blocked, stopped, or embarrassed in any situation. He never wobbles or dithers in his mind, for though he may pause in overt action to think a problem out, the stream of his consciousness always moves straight ahead without being caught in the vicious circles of anxiety or indecisive doubt, wherein thought whirls wildly around without issue. He is not precipitate or hurried in action, but simply continuous. This is what Zen means by being detached—not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling is not sticky or blocked, and through whom the experiences of the world pass like the reflections of birds flying over water.
He therefore has a vivid sense of himself as identical with what he sees and hears, so that his subjective impression comes into accord with the physical fact that man is not so much an organism in an environment as an organism-environment relationship. The relationship is, as it were, more real than its two terms.
But cannot we be embarrassed by our very natural environment of sky, earth, and water, as by the marvel of our own bodies, into making a response, into acting in a way that is commensurate with their splendor? Or must we continue to buffet them blindly with bulldozers, fancying ourselves as the independent controllers and conquerors of what is, after all, the greater and perhaps better half of ourselves?
He knows himself to be one with all, for he is no longer separating himself from the universe by seeking something from it.
As Chuang-Tzu said, “Those who would have good government without its correlative misrule, and right without its correlative wrong, do not understand the principles of the universe.”
Our attempt to master the world from outside is a vicious circle in which we shall be condemned to the perpetual insomnia of controlling controls and supervising supervision ad infinitum.
This level of human life may also be seen to be just as marvelous and uncanny as the great universe itself. This feeling may become particularly acute when the individual ego tries to fathom its own nature, to plumb the inner sources of its own actions and consciousness. For here it discovers a part of itself—the inmost and greatest part—which is strange to itself and beyond its understanding and control. Odd as it may sound, the ego finds that its own center and nature is beyond itself. The more deeply I go into myself, the more I am not myself, and yet this is the very heart of me. Here I find my own inner workings functioning of themselves, spontaneously, like the rotation of the heavenly bodies and the drifting of the clouds. Strange and foreign as this aspect of myself at first seems to be, I soon realize that it is me, and much more me than my superficial ego.
Zen is above all the liberation of the mind from conventional thought, and this is something utterly different from rebellion against convention, on the one hand, or adapting foreign conventions, on the other.
Things are terms, not entities. They exist in the abstract world of thought, but not in the concrete world of nature. Thus one who actually perceives or feels this to be so no longer feels that he is an ego, except by definition.
What is separable in terms, in words, is not separable in reality—in the solid relationship between the terms. Whoever sees that there is no ultimate choice between these opposites is irrelevant because he cannot really participate in the politician’s and the ad-man’s illusion that there can be better and better without worse and worse, and that matter can yield indefinitely to the desires of mind without becoming utterly undesirable.
We ignore and screen out the physical fact of our total interdependence with the natural world. We are as embodied in it as our own cells and molecules are embodied in us. Our neglect and repression of this interrelationship gives special urgency to all the new sciences of ecology, studying the interplay of organisms with their environments, and warning us against ignorant interference with the balances of nature.
The world is a self-moving pattern which, when its successive states are remembered, can be shown to have a certain order. Its motion, its energy, issues from itself now, not from the past, which simply falls behind it in memory like the wake from a ship.
If there is in any sense a reason for the world’s existence it must be sought in the present.
The intricate organization both of the plants and of my own nervous system, alike symphonies of branching complexity, were not just manifestations of intelligence—as if things like intelligence and love were in themselves substances or formless forces. It was rather that the pattern itself is intelligence and is love, and this somehow in spite of all its outwardly stupid and cruel distortions.
A man can perform actions which are truly moral only when he is no longer motivated by the fear of hell, that is, when he grows into union with the Good that is beyond good and evil, which, in other words, does not act from the love of rewards or the fear of punishments. This is precisely the nature of the world when it is considered as self-moving action, giving out a past instead of being motivated by a past.
Our brains and the patterns in them are themselves members of the concrete, physical universe, and thus our abstractions are as much forms of nature as the structure of crystals or the organization of ferns.