You are not your thoughts? Or No separation between them?

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  • Douglas
    Member
    • May 2017
    • 59

    You are not your thoughts? Or No separation between them?

    I've been listening to Zoketsu Norman Fischer's book "The World Could Be Otherwise," along with other works that point out the idea that "you" are not your thoughts. However, doesn't this assertion depend on how we define "you" from an intellectual standpoint? Many books and my own observations during meditation suggest that I cannot find a clear separation between "you" and your thoughts.

    Is it as simple as saying that from the perspective of the expansive, non-dual "you," thoughts are indeed part of your experience and awareness? But from the perspective of the ego "you," the limited sense of self, thoughts are seen as separate and distinct? Yet, in making this distinction between the expansive "you" and the ego "you," are we not falling into the trap of creating a dualistic separation, a "this or that" mentality?

    I think you can probably tell from my posts that I suffer from over-analyzing things. it's a thing my mind does. Not much I can do about it I guess other than just sit!

    - Will Sit today
    Last edited by Douglas; 05-19-2024, 05:49 PM.
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39237

    #2
    Hi Will,

    Yes, one must avoid falling into over-intellectualization and "armchair" philosophizing about many of these teachings, something like mentally analyzing what is "swimming" vs. diving in the water and experiencing "swimming."

    However, thoughts ... to the extent that they represent your personal "me" which divides the world into "me vs. the rest of the world, this which is not that, separate moments of time, coming and going, rising and falling, birth and death, good bad and in between, etc. etc." keeps us from realizing some aspect of our nature free of the divisions of "me vs. the rest of the world, this which is not that, separate moments of time, coming and going, rising and falling, birth and death, good bad and in between, etc. etc." Your sense of being an individual "me" with its own position in space and time and judgements is largely experienced by you through your thoughts. Without such thoughts, you would not experience yourself such way. So long as we are alive in this body, we will have our small "me" thoughts (I leave aside what might be when these brains are dead and buried), but Zazen helps us experience some taste of reality beyond all the "me" created divisions and subjective judgements.

    Gassho, Jundo

    stlah
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-20-2024, 01:36 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • Seiko
      Treeleaf Unsui
      • Jul 2020
      • 961

      #3
      I am a novice priest with much to learn, so please take my words with a pinch of salt.

      In business, people can become hurt/offended/bitter if their ideas or proposals are rejected. We have a tendency to associate our thoughts and ideas very closely with our egos, then any criticism of our ideas is felt as a terrible personal insult. In the process we cause ourselves needless suffering. After all, our thoughts and ideas are just opinions. Just opinions. Nothing to be so attached to.

      Gasshō
      Seiko
      Stlah
      Gandō Seiko
      頑道清光
      (Stubborn Way of Pure Light)

      My street name is 'Al'.

      Any words I write here are merely the thoughts of an apprentice priest, just my opinions, that's all.

      Comment

      • Rich
        Member
        • Apr 2009
        • 2596

        #4
        I don’t want to discount my thoughts because many of them become my actions. Its like a faucet of thoughts constantly runs. Like everything constantly changing. But there is something beyond that which is not changing or moving. And thats where i rest and find peace

        sat/lah
        _/_
        Rich
        MUHYO
        無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

        https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

        Comment

        • Douglas
          Member
          • May 2017
          • 59

          #5
          Originally posted by Rich
          I don’t want to discount my thoughts because many of them become my actions. Its like a faucet of thoughts constantly runs. Like everything constantly changing. But there is something beyond that which is not changing or moving. And thats where i rest and find peace

          sat/lah
          I understand what you're saying, but isn't saying "there is something beyond" falling into the trap of making distinctions?

          Every time I dig into my conceptions and what I "think", if I dig deep enough, I run into contradictions and no way to justify a real distinction.

          We talk about our conceptual thinking as if it were somehow separate from reality, not real. But it seems to me that it is, in fact, real but real in the sense that it's "real conceptual thought".

          I often wonder where my thoughts come from, and this is another example of where I really can't see any distinction when I dig deep enough. There is a shallow answer, and that answer is easy; you might say, "it comes from your brain." But then, how does the brain decide to have a thought? Is there a "you" that decides that "you" is going to have a though (if you think "you" is your brain)? If you try to follow the logic of what causes thinking to happen, I ALWAYS end up somewhere external to my body!

          In another example where I dig into my conceptual distinctions, I've asked myself, "Where does a tree branch end and the trunk begin?" Once again, the shallow answer is that I can point to some point seemingly in between the branch and the trunk, but why exactly where I pointed? Why not an inch to the left? Or an inch to the right? When I dig into why I choose that location, I can't find any reason. I chose it arbitrarily. There really isn't any separation between the branch and the trunk, yet conceptually I experience both at the same time. In justifying separation with any concept, I end up with contradictions.

          It seems to me that thoughts just happen. There is no "something" "doing" the thinking. Just like the wind, there is no "it" doing wind, or rain, there is no "it" raining.

          So, wrapping this up (and apologies for rambling!), my stream of conceptual thoughts doesn't seem "separate" from everything anymore than anything else is separate when I look deeply at them.

          I mean... it's separate, but not? But not, but separate? But separate, but not? But not, but separate?

          That last part is what happens in my mind when I try to think about it. There is something profound there, and honestly, I can't really explain why it's profound, but it seems like there is some sort of truth beyond my ability to explain going on there.

          You know, I wonder if someday I'll just "snap out of it" and be able to feel all this deeply, but even there it seems like if I engage in that "want" I'll be waiting a LOOONG time. When I write posts like this, I feel like I'm so close that I can't really "see". It's like searching for your glasses you've thought you've lost but you are wearing them and forgot.

          I have yet to sit today as I write this, but I'm sure that last part will be looping in my brain as I do today. I often wonder when I might stop chasing my tail regarding this, because that is what it feels like. I have to laugh a little though regarding it.

          If Dogen were here he would probably look at me, shake his head and say “Too much Thinking!”

          - SAT/LAH
          Last edited by Douglas; 06-08-2024, 01:40 PM.

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39237

            #6
            Douglas, you are way overthinking this, overthinking "thinking." It is something like overthinking where tea comes from, whether the tea is in every drop or better in the whole cup, whether the tea cup is the tea or not the tea, rather than just sitting and silently savoring the tea.

            This is not engaging in Zen practice, but in armchair philosophizing.

            Gassho, J

            stlah
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Douglas
              Member
              • May 2017
              • 59

              #7
              Originally posted by Jundo
              Douglas, you are way overthinking this, overthinking "thinking." It is something like overthinking where tea comes from, whether the tea is in every drop or better in the whole cup, whether the tea cup is the tea or not the tea, rather than just sitting and silently savoring the tea.

              This is not engaging in Zen practice, but in armchair philosophizing.

              Gassho, J

              stlah
              Thanks Jundo. The simple answers are the best. I need a good shake sometimes!

              Gassho,
              SAT/LAH
              Last edited by Douglas; 06-08-2024, 01:40 PM.

              Comment

              • Rich
                Member
                • Apr 2009
                • 2596

                #8
                Originally posted by Douglas

                I understand what you're saying, but isn't saying "there is something beyond" falling into the trap of making distinctions?

                Every time I dig into my conceptions and what I "think", if I dig deep enough, I run into contradictions and no way to justify a real distinction.

                We talk about our conceptual thinking as if it were somehow separate from reality, not real. But it seems to me that it is, in fact, real but real in the sense that it's "real conceptual thought".

                I often wonder where my thoughts come from, and this is another example of where I really can't see any distinction when I dig deep enough. There is a shallow answer, and that answer is easy; you might say, "it comes from your brain." But then, how does the brain decide to have a thought? Is there a "you" that decides that "you" is going to have a though (if you think "you" is your brain)? If you try to follow the logic of what causes thinking to happen, I ALWAYS end up somewhere external to my body!

                In another example where I dig into my conceptual distinctions, I've asked myself, "Where does a tree branch end and the trunk begin?" Once again, the shallow answer is that I can point to some point seemingly in between the branch and the trunk, but why exactly where I pointed? Why not an inch to the left? Or an inch to the right? When I dig into why I choose that location, I can't find any reason. I chose it arbitrarily. There really isn't any separation between the branch and the trunk, yet conceptually I experience both at the same time. In justifying separation with any concept, I end up with contradictions.

                It seems to me that thoughts just happen. There is no "something" "doing" the thinking. Just like the wind, there is no "it" doing wind, or rain, there is no "it" raining.

                So, wrapping this up (and apologies for rambling!), my stream of conceptual thoughts doesn't seem "separate" from everything anymore than anything else is separate when I look deeply at them.

                I mean... it's separate, but not? But not, but separate? But separate, but not? But not, but separate?

                That last part is what happens in my mind when I try to think about it. There is something profound there, and honestly, I can't really explain why it's profound, but it seems like there is some sort of truth beyond my ability to explain going on there.

                You know, I wonder if someday I'll just "snap out of it" and be able to feel all this deeply, but even there it seems like if I engage in that "want" I'll be waiting a LOOONG time. When I write posts like this, I feel like I'm so close that I can't really "see". It's like searching for your glasses you've thought you've lost but you are wearing them and forgot.

                I have yet to sit today as I write this, but I'm sure that last part will be looping in my brain as I do today. I often wonder when I might stop chasing my tail regarding this, because that is what it feels like. I have to laugh a little though regarding it.

                If Dogen were here he would probably look at me, shake his head and say “Too much Thinking!”

                - SAT/LAH
                Before thinking, before words, what is it? May you be well with joy and ease

                sat/lah
                _/_
                Rich
                MUHYO
                無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                Comment

                • Douglas
                  Member
                  • May 2017
                  • 59

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Rich

                  Before thinking, before words, what is it? May you be well with joy and ease

                  sat/lah
                  Thank you! And may you be as well!

                  Comment

                  • Hōzan
                    Member
                    • Dec 2022
                    • 413

                    #10
                    Conceptually you are your thoughts.
                    But as everything is empty there is no self to be your thoughts.
                    Yet, when there is no self, everything is self, so again you are your thoughts.
                    1+1=1=2=3.
                    How strange, how wonderful

                    Gassho, Hōzan
                    Satlah
                    Last edited by Hōzan; 06-08-2024, 07:04 PM.

                    Comment

                    • Jundo
                      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                      • Apr 2006
                      • 39237

                      #11
                      Originally posted by Hōzan
                      How strange, how wonderful
                      How strange, how wonderful

                      Gassho, J

                      stlah
                      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                      Comment

                      • Tai Do
                        Member
                        • Jan 2019
                        • 1357

                        #12
                        Hi Douglas, I also like Philosophy (I teach Philosophy of Law for a living, so...) but I try to keep my practice apart from philosophical thinking. If you like to think about philosophical stuff like these, it is good to have a little background in Buddhist Thought — there is a great selection of books on Buddhist Philosophy in the Suggested Books thread. I'm just a lay Sangha member with little experience in zen, though; so don't take what I say too seriously.
                        Gassho2,
                        Tai Do
                        Satlah
                        Hi, The following is a recommended book list for our Sangha. It covers a variety of works on Zen, life, “Just Sitting” Shikantaza Zazen, Master Dogen and Buddhism in general. Thank you to all who provided input, and the list is still open to new suggestions and additions. Please email or PM me (Jundo) with any
                        怠努 (Tai Do) - Lazy Effort
                        (also known as Mateus )

                        禅戒一如 (Zen Kai Ichi Nyo) - Zazen and the Precepts are One!

                        Comment

                        • Douglas
                          Member
                          • May 2017
                          • 59

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Hōzan
                          Conceptually you are your thoughts.
                          But as everything is empty there is no self to be your thoughts.
                          Yet, when there is no self, everything is self, so again you are your thoughts.
                          1+1=1=2=3.
                          How strange, how wonderful

                          Gassho, Hōzan
                          Satlah
                          Yes!! ???? I like it!

                          Thank you!

                          Gassho,
                          SAT/LAH

                          Comment

                          • Kaitan
                            Member
                            • Mar 2023
                            • 442

                            #14
                            Mr. John Hush proves, using an infinite series, that 0 = 1. Wait, what?! How is that possible?




                            stlah, Kaitan
                            Kaitan - 界探 - Realm searcher
                            Formerly known as "Bernal"

                            Comment

                            • Douglas
                              Member
                              • May 2017
                              • 59

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Jundo
                              Douglas, you are way overthinking this, overthinking "thinking." It is something like overthinking where tea comes from, whether the tea is in every drop or better in the whole cup, whether the tea cup is the tea or not the tea, rather than just sitting and silently savoring the tea.

                              This is not engaging in Zen practice, but in armchair philosophizing.

                              Gassho, J

                              stlah
                              Hi Jundo,

                              Just wanted to thank you for the talks you did recently about Keizan Zenjii;s Zazen-Yojinki. I've found it a helpful perspective, and interestingly there are items you touched on which apply to my over thinking things.

                              Gassho,
                              SAT/LAH

                              Comment

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