There was an English academic, Professor Reginald Bentley-Smyth I believe his name was, who thought he knew a thing or two, a real scholar with a philosophical twist, and he had heard about a Wise old Monk known only as Zen-Tao, who lived in the mountains of Tibet and he was meant to be pretty enlightened. Anyway the professor made a decision to pay the old sage a visit while on his next holiday in Asia.
The great sage welcomed the professor into his humble bungalow, which overlooked the breathtaking scenery of the Tibetan wilderness, and he listened as the scholar aired his views and ideas on religion and philosophy for the best part of an hour. Eventually Zen-Tao asked his new found friend if he would like a nice hot cup of tea (Being English he wasn't going to say no, was he? Don't worry, it was probably herbal, but if it bothers you then I suggest that you fill in the gaps yourself and give me feedback! Perhaps you could put me out of my misery by informing me if there was any milk involved and did they indulge in a sweetener and if so . . )
So the monk started to pour out the tea while the professor rambled on but when he got to the top of the cup he continued to pour and began to create quite a spillage as it splattered all over the table! "Stop, STOP!" shouted Zen-Tao's visitor, "The cup's already full, you can't get any more in there! "The old sage stopped pouring and as he turned to the scholar he replied, "Quite right my dear professor, the cup is so full that it will hold no more, and so it is with your mind. You are so full of concepts, notions, ideas and ideals . . . so full of your own opinions and beliefs that you are unable listen to the simple truth."
(You'll have noticed at this juncture that Zen-Tao speaks remarkably good English for a Tibetan Monk living on his own in the middle of nowhere, perhaps you can explain this to me? For example, was he educated in the west but decided to sell his Ferrari and adopt a more spiritual way of life, or did he buy a copy of that wonderful book 'English For Tibetan Monks Who Are Gonna Need It One Day?' Right . . .)
The wise old man put down the tea pot and mopped up the mess on the table while his visitor sat there looking bewildered. Finally the old man sat down next his guest and added, "Before you can realise enlightenment or experience the wisdom of self-knowledge you must first empty yourself of everything you think you know. Only when you have taken the time to remove the conditioned thinking from your mind, and dissolved everything you have come to believe in, will you be ready to hear and recognize truth and wisdom. Then and only then will you be ready to realise the enlightened state." The wise old sage knew from first hand experience that enlightenment, truth and wisdom are available to those who are prepared to move beyond the surface of themselves, beyond the thinking mind, which "thinks" it knows so much and yet is limited by its experiences in the man made world. The sage understood that the thinking mind is simply the past in you, it is everything you have gathered as your individual past experience and accepted as being real and true. He knew that only when the thinking mind is perfectly still, and peaceful, does true wisdom begin to unfold.
The trouble is that "You're so full of it . . . aren't you?" Belief and opinion I mean, or haven't you taken the time to look into your thinking mind for a long enough period of your life to discover what's really going on in there, or ask the most vital question of all: "Where does all my thinking come from?"
I forgot to mention from where our wise old sage got his name. He is Zen-Tao. But Zen-Tao is not a name, it is a state of being. It is an integrated, whole and complete state known as the enlightened state. The things he says might have been uttered by Lao Tzu or Tai Gong or Chuang Tzu, oh, but they were all Chinese Taoists weren't they? Sometimes he sounds similar to Suzuki, a modern Zen Master. On other occasions you'll swear that he sounds just like a teacher of Vedanta. Often he can seem harsh, but always his words are wise and enlightening to those of you who have ears with which to hear . . . ears that are not inflicted by old and worn out beliefs and opinions. Anyway, it all adds up to a mixed bag of eastern tradition that leads us up the garden path . . . so why call our old sage "Zen-Tao?" Because as Zen-Tao says;
"Tao expresses itself as the multiplicity of beings"
so he could be anyone, anywhere, really, couldn't he?
Zen again maybe not!
Zen again maybe not!
Back to Reggie, sorry, Professor Reginald Bentley-Smyth, from England. There he was sitting with Zen-Tao when he had this sudden realisation that everything he had ever considered to be important was being brought into question by this old Tibetan Monk. After all he was a thinking man, his whole education had been based on learning and acquiring knowledge along with the ability to reason and come to conclusions. Having opinions and developing a belief system through which to express them had been his way of life since he could remember. And here was this old sage telling him to let it all go, how was he meant to do that, how was he meant to remove all his past conditioning as the old man had requested he should do?
Zen-Tao looked at the exasperated and perplexed expression on the professors face and with a smile he asked "How do you feel about what I've just said?"
RBS: Well, it's hard to put into words actually, I'm a thinking man, a scholar with an academic background and here you are telling me that, well . . . I don't really know anything at all.
ZT: What you know is of the world and stored in your thinking mind, it is not of yourself, and enlightenment and wisdom are not found in the world or the thinking mind . . . they are even beyond "self".
RBS: Beyond "self", but how can that be, there is only self, what do you mean? In my experience my mind is an aspect of myself.
ZT: First you must stop trying to work everything out. The problem is in thinking. You think you have to think in order to receive wisdom but this is not the truth. First comes stillness and everything else follows.
RBS: But all I know is thought and reason, how am I supposed to move beyond them and into stillness? And what do you mean by stillness, I've always believed that a still mind is an empty mind and that an empty mind is, well, vegetating! It's going to waste, isn't that true?
ZT: If you are sincere in your search for wisdom then it is necessary, above all, to stop all discursive thinking. The still mind is not vegetating because in the stillness is hidden a great secret, one that the thinking mind is unable to discover, it's a secret so great that even if I share it with you, you will not understand it. The only way you will be able to understand it is if you bring your mind to a point of perfect stillness. The still mind is a silent mind filled with inner peace, undisturbed by thought, and yet simultaneously wide awake and fully alert.
RBS: I don't understand. How will I know how to identify this great secret? What is it that is hidden within the stillness of my mind?
ZT: What you are, your essence, is hidden there in the stillness of your mind. The truth of your very being . . . or your reality, the secret of what the Taoists called the Tao, is hidden there. It is the truth discovered by all the founders of all the great religions. In the stillness of your being . . . that is where wisdom is discovered . . . The enlightened do not think, my dear professor, they perceive.
RBS: They perceive? What, perception without thought? I see, that would be a state of pure perception or awareness would it not, like a blank canvass . . . but what about memory? They must use their memory, you must use your memory Zen-Tao, how would you know how to use language or how to make a cup of tea or remember your way down to the local village without your memory?
ZT: Memory is not the problem, memory is always available even for the still mind. Memory is simply past experience and learning that has been stored in the mind and when you need to remember something it will arise out of the stillness within you. Also, when you need to remember an important fact and your mind is silent, up pops the memory. The problem is that your mind is not perfectly still, it is full of belief and opinion, and so you struggle to remember where you left your glasses when they are in fact on the end of your nose! The reality is that there is much aimless and problematic thinking taking place within your mind . . . if it is not still. And did you know that aimless and problematic thinking drains your energy? Every mind that is not "stilled" is poisoned by the disease of aimless thinking and this in turn depletes the bodies energies. The thinker in you is also very confused because it is, once again, trying to work everything out. It does this because it wants to avoid the point.
RBS: The point . . . what is the point?
ZT: The point is you have to bring the mind to a point of perfect stillness. Then and only then will the answer to all your questions become perfectly clear. Stilling your mind is the solution, that is the point, and the thinking mind wants to avoid that at all costs because it is afraid of the consequences.
RBS: What are the consequences?
ZT: Stillness will bring about the 'death' of the thinker in you . . .
. . . but you must be aware that the thinker does not want to die! It will do anything and everything possible to stay alive, like a wild animal trapped in a corner it will fight till the bitter end.
RBS: You speak as if the thinker, or that which is thinking within me, is not meant to be there. Can you clarify this for me?
ZT: Anything that you can observe in your mind such as worry, self-doubt, fear and anger are not a natural part of you. They may well be normal conditions that each of us are familiar with but that does not make them natural. What each of us has to do is become aware of all our normal conditioning and in the process of expanding that awareness we can dissolve and dissipate all that is not real and true within us so that only our natural state remains. This is a mighty undertaking and it is not for the faint of heart for it requires true dedication. Also, you cannot do it through an act of personal will . . . you are either ready for this great undertaking or you are not.
The small bungalow in which Zen-Tao and the Professor sat was silent once more. Zen-Tao sat in the stillness of his being and the Professor sat in quite contemplation of the "reality" that he had just been introduced to and yet he was totally relaxed. Reginald Bentley-Smyth was being introduced to the meditative state first hand. There was no noise here in the foothills of Tibet and the internal noise of the "thinker" in his mind had been brought right down to a whimper. His mind fell silent for several minutes before Zen Tao spoke again . . ."Preoccupied with the quest to learn what they do not naturally know, men lose the intuitive knowledge they already naturally possess," Zen-Tao was looking right into the Professors eyes. His reality seemingly piercing like a knife into the ignorance of his guests thinking mind. "In truth it must be said that someone who seeks learning knows more and more, but someone seeking The Ways of Wisdom or a Greater Integrity knows less and less . . . until things just are what they are."
"Sorry Zen-Tao but I'm still stuck on what you said earlier, when you talked about the consequences of stilling the mind, and about me missing the point," answered the professor.
ZT: Yes, I see that you are, perhaps we need to address that first?
RBS: I think so! How do we do that?
RBS: Meditation! You want me to learn how to meditate? Surely that's a load of old mumbo-jumbo, are you serious?
ZT: I see that our esteemed professor thinks that he is too good for meditation . . . or that he has nothing to learn from our eastern traditions?
RBS: Now don't get me wrong, I just thought I would pay you a visit for a couple of days and share some ideas with you, I didn't expect to be enrolled in some sort of Tibetan meditation cult or some such! No offense meant but . . .
ZT: None taken . . .
Zen-Tao sat silently while the professor awaited his response . . . there was none. Reginald Bentley-Smyth waited for what felt like an eternity but still the little old sage sat there in silence with a contented look on his face.
RBS: I seem to have put my foot in it!
Still nothing . . . there was no response.
RBS: Why don't you say something if you are not offended by my comments?
ZT: Professor, I am regarded by my people as a sage who proffers wisdom and that is why you are paying me a visit, is it not?
RBS: Yes, but of course it is and . . .
ZT: . . . and sometimes Wisdom is knowing when to stop talking because language is inadequate.
RBS: I see . . . I think!
ZT: Here you are sitting in the stillness of your being with me. Your mind is very quite and you are relaxed is that not so?
RBS: Er, yes . . . that's true . . . I hadn't realised . . . how . . .
ZT:What do you think meditation is?
RBS: As I understand it, meditation is a way of focusing the mind and relaxing, hm . . . I understand that it is also used in natural healing and it's especially good for people who are stressed I hear!
ZT: That is true but it is not the whole truth. Meditation is a state of attention or perception beyond the thinking mind. It's a state of pure consciousness, which leads to an expansion of your awareness. It does bring with it the benefits you just described but they are simply side effects of the process. True meditation is a state of mind that is perfectly still . . . no thought. Remember what I said about the consequences of stilling the thoughts in the mind?
RBS: Yes, the death of the "thinker", is that right?
ZT: That is correct and meditation is your weapon with which to kill your enemy . . . thought!
RBS: Thought is my enemy?
ZT: And the battleground is your mind, yes.
RBS: Who am I then? I mean if thought or the thinker is my enemy and my mind is the battleground . . . well, who the hell am I?
ZT: That is the very question that self-knowledge and the subject of wisdom addresses my dear professor!
RBS: Yes, I see, of course it is . . .
ZT: Professor, you will need to test this for yourself if you are to discover if there is any truth in what I say, and it may seem fairly obvious to you when you hear this. You are the one observing or watching all those thoughts in the mind. You are the one who perceives, you are the intelligence behind it all, and your enemy is anything that moves within your mind. You must have your "attention" standing on guard the whole time saying "Halt, who goes there?" Not by meditating for ten or twenty minutes twice a day but by being fully "PRESENT" every moment . . . like NOW!
Reginald Bentley-Smyth, esteemed English Professor of Philosophical Thought, sat in the little hut that was the home of this wise old man known only as Zen-Tao. Here he was in the foothills of Tibet listening to the sound of silence, even his own mind had fallen into a state of inner peace and quite contemplation in the presence of this little mans wisdom and self-knowledge."You know Zen-Tao," began the professor, "as you spoke about being the observer of thought and watching the mind, I caught my own mind thinking and I actually felt as if I had stepped back from my mind for a moment. As if there were two of me, my thoughts were there in my mind but I was also seeing them active within me for a moment, how is that possible . . . but I keep losing that awareness, how does this happen?"
ZT: Are you thinking now?
RBS: Yes and no. I seem to be still for awhile and then I suddenly become aware of my mind thinking . .
ZT: When you catch the mind thinking are the thoughts factual, practical and of value or are they of a more or less trivial nature?
RBS: They seem to be my opinions, what I think is right or wrong about everything you've said to me today. Some of them are just plain rambling along with no particular value at all really. The mind seems to be chattering on and on . . . as if it has a will of its own. Then there is silence for a short period and then I catch it thinking again. Why have I never noticed this before?
ZT: You haven't noticed because you have not spent a significant amount of time watching how your mind operates and no one has been there to point out that there is something of importance for you to become aware of. What you are doing is observing the mind in action, which is thinking, and then separating your intelligence from what you are observing; thought. You are experiencing your "Intelligence" observing the "thinker" in action within your mind. It is a beginning.
RBS: A beginning?
ZT: Yes, it is the beginning of an awakening.
RBS: Please tell me Zen-Tao, what is it that is awakening?
ZT: It is the Awakening of Intelligence . . . this point of awakening is where the Intelligence in you begins to turn inwards and become aware of all the aimless, wilful and problematic thoughts that are going on within your mind. These are thoughts that appear to be yours but are actually observable as being separate and apart from you; you being the Intelligence that is watching those very thoughts.The first time you clearly see or perceive the "thinker" in action within your mind is when you have your first realization that it, thought, is not you, and that thought is observable as something that is separate and apart from you. Your Intelligence and your thoughts are separated, there is now some space between the two and this space between the thoughts you are observing, and you as the observer, is stillness itself.The problem is that at the beginning of this process you will find it difficult to remain aware of the thinker in you. Your intelligent state of Attention will become lost in the thoughts of the mind and then you will have lost your state of Presence. You have to keep bringing your attention back into the present moment, into this moment here and now, which is where thought is not. Thought is never in the present moment, if it were it would go still, and that would be the end of thought. Then you would be in a state of pure and clear perception, which is intelligence itself. The problem is that the thinker is always in the past or future, never in the present moment, the here and now, look closely enough and you will see this for yourself. But remember please, never believe a word I say . . . always verify it for yourself by observing the action of thought in your own mind.
RBS: Yes I'm doing that Zen-Tao and I see it all so much more clearly now. But let me see if I've grasped this correctly. What you are saying is that my intelligence is not the same as my thoughts, and I'm seeing this for the first time and this is an awakening of my Intelligence?
ZT: Yes, that is correct. Every time you, as your intelligence, catch the mind thinking you create some space within your mind. That space in the mind is known as Stillness or Inner Peace. Intelligence is discovered or realised within this space and stillness of the mind . . . it is divine intelligence, which simply means intelligence beyond the normal level of experience. It is a deeper spiritual level of intelligence. This intelligence is your very nature and true character . . . it is the perception of being and it contains within it no thought.
RBS: Are you saying that what I have always regarded as intelligence isn't really intelligence at all?
ZT: What do you think, is it?
RBS: I don't know. I'm very unsure at the moment. I have spent a lifetime learning, using the ability to reason and store facts in my memory. In my experience intelligence is of the intellect, which is a faculty of knowing and reasoning. It also equates to the quickness of my understanding but I get the feeling that what your talking about is a level of intelligence beyond that, am I correct?
ZT: That is so. What you have done with your life is very clever, but don't mistake it for being intelligent, for intelligence is beyond thought. It is beyond the ability to memorize facts and reason things out. Intelligence isn't something you use, do or have . . . intelligence is what you are my dear professor!
RBS: Intelligence is what I am?
ZT: Yes you are the quickness of your understanding, what you say is quite correct, you are that intelligence but you must see that it does not move. Intelligence is perfectly still, so still that it moves at the speed of stillness.
RBS: Intelligence moves at the speed of stillness . . . well, you just told me that stillness does not move, erm . . .
ZT: Yes, intelligence is so fast that it moves at the speed of stillness. Do you know what that speed is Professor?
RBS: No, but I get the feeling I'm in for a surprise Zen-Tao!
ZT: Intelligence is so fast that it moves at the speed of present moment awareness, which is this moment NOW and it is instantaneous!
RBS: What does that mean?
ZT: It means that the moment of awareness, which is this moment NOW, is the speed that intelligence is moving at. Only the still mind can realise "The Now." The now is so fast that it is INSTANT . . . . . . . . . like NOW! You will notice, if you still the mind, that the now contains within it no past and no future. This is because the past and the future exist in only one place, do you know where that is?
RBS: Yes, I believe I do, you implied earlier that it is within the mind.
ZT: Exactly, and what do the past and future exist as within your mind?
RBS: Ah, that would be my thoughts, wouldn't it?
ZT: Yes, all your thoughts are sitting within your mind, your sub-conscious mind. They include all those hardened layers of thought which can be observed as your beliefs and opinions, all those things that you have become attached to such as concepts, notions, ideas and ideals. Along with all of your emotions, they also exist there, including fear, frustration, worry, impatience, anger, resentment, moodiness, bitterness and jealousy for example. They all exist within your sub-conscious mind and they form a blockage in the system. All your thoughts have gathered within your mind and they have created a blockage there. Do you know where your thoughts have come from?
RBS: Do you mean where my thoughts originate from?
ZT: Your thoughts are in your mind, yes? No doubt is there, you can observe them moving within your own mind, is that correct?
RBS: That is true Zen-Tao, I cannot deny that, it is an observable fact.
ZT: But where have they come from? Go still for awhile, do not think, just be. See what happens, ask the question "From where do all my thoughts originate" and go still, perhaps the answer is within you . . . . .