Friday, March 20, 2015

Reinterpreting Enlightenment

Though "No-Mind" is a common term found throughout Zen literature, besides D.T. Suzuki's The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind, very little has been formally written about it. I just completed my own short book about the subject, one very different from Suzuki's. It's called No-Mind: Realizing Your True Nature.

In my synopsis, I write that the book is "a new interpretation of Enlightenment called No-Mind," to which someone online playfully asked, "How is No-Mind new?"

Well, let's look at how D.T. Suzuki, who represents the standard interpretation, understands No-Mind. To him, "[when] mushin (wushin) is realised, there is no-mind in all our doings, which is the so-called state of ‘no-mind-ness’; this is a life of effortlessness, letting the Unconsciousness live its life" (116). In this view, No-Mind expresses a state of ease or fluidity, in which the person glides effortlessly through life and circumstances, unencumbered by the chatter of the ordinary, noisy mind.

This is not how I define No-Mind.

To me, we realize No-Mind when we awaken to Non-being, which is our true nature. The basis of reality--what some call the Absolute--is Non-being, the creative Groundless Ground of all existence. The same as the Lao Tzu's Tao, Non-being is also the foundation of consciousness. So No-Mind emerges when consciousness awakens to its own source, Non-being.
This is not done with awareness or mindfulness, but through Non-awareness or Not-knowing. We glimpse Non-awareness by turning our attention away from all that "exists," back to the root of mind itself, that which we do not know.
Implicit in this interpretation is an entirely new way of understanding mind. For while most people equate mind with consciousness, I'm suggesting that the complete mind includes both consciousness and Non-awareness. I developed this view based upon my own experiences of Not-knowing.

Admittedly, No-Mind is far from a conventional Buddhist approach, but Buddhism itself has a long history of re-orientations and paradigm shifts. I hope that the book and this re-reading is helpful.

In my next post, I'll expand upon Non-awareness or Not-knowing. Until then...


  1. Consciousness is a composite thing - several tracks fed into a mixing desk to create a sound-track, With meditation some of the sliders are moved around more easily than before. Sometimes we imagine a mind, sometimes not. Mind is what we see when some of the sliders are set very high.

    There is neither awareness nor non-awareness, instead the soundtrack is too rich to hear all of it. We hear little bits and we call that awareness, but we can choose a bit about what we hear. Right now I've got the heating up high and am relaxing. I've dialed up my awareness of body to more enjoy the warmth. I've dialed back on thoughts - no need for them here. The headaches are almost gone so thinking no longer hurts.

    Really there is just an old biped who wonders how he wonders and creates little stories about it. Fortunately he knows that it's nothing but endless stories so he doesn't take them seriously or worry about which story matters the most. The sun was warm today and that was nice. It felt good to be alive in the world. Another story as is "True Nature". They never end you see :)