Saturday, November 08, 2008

Addendum to: To know without knowing...

In a previous post "To know without knowing" was a brief mention of the six sense organs and their objects stemming from this brief section of The Heart Sutra:

No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind.
No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, phenomena.

This morning I read a further exposition of this that may clarify it a little for folks not as familiar with this important piece of Zen thinking.

From The Zen Teaching of Huang Po:

The term unity refers to a homogeneous spiritual brilliance which separates into six harmoniously blended 'elements'. The homogeneous spiritual brilliance is the One Mind, while the six harmoniously blended 'elements' are the six sense organs. These six sense organs become severally united with objects that defile them - the eyes, with form, the ear with sound, the nose with smell, the tongue with taste, the body with touch, and the thinking mind with entities. Between these organs and their objects arise the six sensory perceptions, making eighteen sense-realms in all. If you understand that these eighteen realms have no objective existence, you will bind the six harmoniously blended 'elements' into a single spiritual brilliance - a single spiritual brilliance which is the One Mind. All students of the Way knows this, but cannot avoid forming concepts of 'a single spiritual brilliance' and 'the six harmoniously blended elements'. Accordingly they are cained to entities and fail to achieve a tacit understanding of original Mind.

John Blofeld adds a note at the end of this reading:
"This points to those people who are capable of understanding the doctrine intelligently but who have not yet entirely succeeded in throwing off the burden of concepts."

Chan Master Sheng-Yen explores this further in his book There is No Suffering - A Commentary on the Heart Sutra:

In the opening passage, the Heart Sutra first proclaims the emptiness of the five skandhas as a whole. In this passage it now goes on to state the emptiness of each skandha, analyzing them into the six sense faculties, the six sense objects, and the six sense consciousnesses, thus comprising the eighteen realms (dhatus)....

In addressing the interrelations of these three sets of phenomena, we divide physical forms into inner and outer. Inner form refers to the six sense faculties. Outer form refers to the six sense objects. The six sense consciousnesses arise through the interaction of sense faculties and sense objects. Seeing is one faculty, and shape, size and color make up its object. The same is true for the nose and smells, the tongue and taste, the body and physical sensation. These, the five ordinary senses, we clearly understand; the sixth faculty, the mind, is harder to understand.

First of all, the mind faculty
(mana) contains a physical and a mental component. The mind's sense objects are the mental phenomena people identify with, and include all kinds of thinking and tones of emotion, plus the symbols we use to understand and communicate these ideas and feelings. In fact, besides the five sense faculties and the five corresponding sense objects, all phenomena are sense objects of the mind. They range from enthusiasm to dread, desires to erroneous views, lethargy to distraction, verbal language to icons. One characteristic of these mental objects is that they always connect to the past or future, and are never in the present. Only sensation - a sense organ contacting a sense object - happens in the present. The consciousness aspect of each sense organ - that related to perception, interpretation, and response - is already past. And, as we stated earlier, the consciousness aspect of each sense organ is actually part of the sixth consciousness....

The rest of the chapter can be finished at the link above to google books (highly recommended).

My eye... sees... an object. The eye is one faculty. The object is another. Seeing is the action, or more accurately, the interaction between the eye and the thing the eye sees. The same with the nose and the things it smells. Five senses, five types of objects sense, five interactions between sense faculties and sense objects. Fifteen in total.

All of these however, are faculties of mind. I don't know about you but I generally think of mind and eye as being one. The visual sense seems to predominate and the mind is sensed as being located directly behind the eye. But this is not in fact the case. The eye is but one sense faculty. The mind is something separate. The eye does not think. The eye does not interpret. The eye does not differentiate. The eye does not name. The eye does not know it is an eye. All of tht belongs to mind.

The eye sees. That happens now, in the present. The eye sends data to the mind. After mind receives the data from the eye the process of interpreting the data begins. Color is named. Shape is differentiated and compared to previous experience and a determination is made. Square, rectangle, round, big, small, long, short, far, near. Friend, foe. Self, other. Safe, danger. Etc. This all happens after the fact in the discriminating mind.

So the mind is a sixth sense faculty. The data input from other sense faculties is the object and the process of discrimination is the action or interaction of the faculty with the object.

This is the process of knowing. Discriminate, compare and contrast, catagorize, name.

Non-discriminating mind simply receives the data as is. The process of discriminating, comparing and contrasting with previous experience, and catagorizing through the filter of pre-conceived notions of fear and desire is not activated. Reality is perceived exactly as it is rather than being attached and distorted by other not currently existing realities. It is what it is. Nothing added, nothing subtracted.

I once listened to an Al-Anon speaker tape in which a woman describes coming home all upset and discovering her husband had done or not done something. She then proceeds to get upset with him saying, "This is just like the time that you...." Which he interrupts part way through by saying, "Wrong husband." As it turned out she was taking out on him a long held resentment she had from the actions of her previous husband many years before.

The thinking process is a conditioned one. The conditions are that which has come before as stored through our limited and already onditioned understanding of these previous phenomena.

As Blofeld commented:
"This points to those people who are capable of understanding the doctrine intelligently but who have not yet entirely succeeded in throwing off the burden of concepts."

I know myself to be in the process of understanding this doctrine intellectually. I can compare and contrast it to experiences in my own past similar to this woman and say, "Yes, that explains it. Yes, I can see that in action." But to perceive without discriminating. To know without knowing... that may take awhile longer.

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