Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mu II: Neither Mu Nor U

Scott Bradley


The object of the Mu koan, we are told, is to provide a mechanism whereby we are cast into "the abyss of Great Doubt" from which we can only emerge when transcendent of the discriminating mind. "The barrier of the ancient Zen Masters is the barrier of Zen, and the obstacle to transcend is the dualism of yes and no, subject and object," writes Zenkei Shibayama.

It is this discriminating mind, our normal, given way of relating to the world, which excludes us from an altogether more peacefully integrated way of being. Discrimination is division and dualism. Things are understood as either/or, right or wrong, this or that, self or other. It is this latter, however, which lies at the heart of the matter; the fundamental reality of self is that it is not-other; without other there is no self. Normal human consciousness is dualism. For this reason, Zenkei equates the transformation of satori with the realization of no-self, or True Self.

I have designated this essentially dualistic human consciousness as given; this is, for me, a point of great importance. It is not sin, the consequence of some Fall. It is contiguous with the development of the human being. It is not some net of delusion cast over us by a devil. It is not evil, anymore than it is evil for a spider to suck the juices from a fly. It is how we have evolved, and we needn't make our efforts to transcend this given into some kind of cosmic battle between forces good and evil. Wouldn't this betray the very principle of Unity?

I am presently struggling through a book on Sufism (The Sufis; Idries Shah) — struggling, because there is hardly a page that does not denigrate those who are of different opinion or tradition; these 'others' are "ordinary", "deluded", "unconscious”, "not true men". The tone of the entire book, so far, is a contradiction of the path of love and inclusion which it purports to explain. Perhaps if we were to look at and begin a path of 'spiritual' growth as simply an incidental, alternative, happier way of expressing our humanity, instead of as an issue of cosmic implication, moral or otherwise, we might be able to proceed with less judgmentalism and sectarianism.

It is 'incidental' because it simply arises as a possibility, not as some God-directed imperative. It is an 'alternative', not only with respect to our present, normal and yes, affirmable, way of relating to the world, but also as simply one among countless alternative approaches. If an alternative proves effective, this does not give it a cosmic seal-of-approval, nor does it obviate the validity of other possibly effective alternatives. Indeed, it does not obviate the validity of decidedly ineffective alternatives. There is neither one way to be, nor one way to get some place else.

I am about to chase this rabbit off the bottom of the page without having addressed the discriminating mind as intended. But perhaps I can somewhat pull it together here and suggest that the effort to transcend Mu (no) and U (yes), our belief that to accept one thing is to reject another, and our seeming need to do so, might best begin with at least a theoretical vision of the sanctity of every expression. Cosmically speaking, all is well, even the apparent given imperfections of humanity.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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