Monday, November 23, 2015

Words and Concepts

The followings are excerpts from Thay's book titled "The Sun My Heart".

(Words and Concepts)
With words it is especially difficult to escape from conceptual categorizations; and even if the speaker skillfully avoids them, the listener can still fall into their traps. Remember the empty bottles? They had definite shapes and sizes even before being filled. People who practice Zen often advise not using words.
This is not to discredit words, but to avoid the danger of  becoming stuck in them. It is to encourage us to use words as skillfully as possible for the sake of those who hear them.
In the second century, Nagarjuna wrote The Madhyamika Sastra, in which he used concepts to destroy concepts. He was not trying to create a new doctrine, but to break all the bottles, all the flasks, all the vases, all the containers, to prove that water needs no form to exist. He outlined a dance for us, a dance for us to drop our categories and barriers so that we can directly encounter reality and not content ourselves with its mere reflection.

(Knowledge is a Barrier to Understanding)
Old knowledge is the obstacle to new understanding; Buddhism
calls it "the barrier built of knowledge." Like those who are awakened, great scientists have undergone great internal changes. If they are able to achieve profound realizations, it is because their powers of observation, concentration, and awareness are deeply developed.
Understanding is not an accumulation of knowledge. To the contrary, it is the result of the struggle to become free of knowledge. Understanding shatters old knowledge to make room for the new that accords better with reality.

(Unable to Describe It)
Understanding, in humans, is translated into concepts, thoughts, and words. Understanding is not an aggregate of bits of knowledge. It is a direct and immediate penetration. In the realm of sentiment, it is feeling. In the realm of intellect, it is perception.
It is an intuition rather than the culmination of reasoning. Every now and again it is fully present in us, and we find we cannot express it in words, thoughts, or concepts. "Unable to describe
it," that is our situation at such moments. Insights like this are spoken of in Buddhism as "impossible to reason about, to discuss, or to incorporate into doctrines or systems of thought."

(My commentary)
Notions, ideas, perceptions and words are for separations created by human ego (separate self). They cause separations (discrimination) and prevent people from attaining freedom. (Freedom can be attained only through non-separation, or non-discrimination.) So, they are the source of afflictions which cause people sufferings. That's why we need to throw away all notions to attain full enlightenment. For the extinction of all notions, we (awareness) need to touch the true nature of reality through mindfulness, concentration and insight. 


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