Not follow thoughts, not avoid thoughts, just don’t worry about it: this is what we do in Zazen. To say that Zen is against thinking is to be a bit hasty. Buddhism is concerned that we use our mind, in all of its forms, in the right way: consciousness, reflection, consideration, thought. Some schools of Buddhism can be defined as schools of thought, others as schools of consciousness. In Zen, two aspects of thought are considered. The first one is: How to think? The second one is: With what intention do we think?
How to think? To wave about thoughts taken here and there do not make us a thinker. Thinking has its foundation in reality, in becoming aware of reality. To think on the basis of one another’s thoughts, to wave about thoughts, is pointless. A thought that is not based on awareness of reality is worthless. It is like a doctor who would prescribe remedies without having made a diagnosis.
In zazen – that is at the root of all all psychic activity – the first point is to clean our consciousness. This is the most important thing: to clean our consciousness of all defilements, of all limits. Then, to let reality being reflected on our consciousness. Then, to consider certain aspects of this reflection. Then, to organize these elements of reflection and with this, pensare: weigh, under-weigh. What is right? What is wrong?
Thus, thought without foundation is pointless; much more, it throws us into disarray.
Thinking from the depths of non-thinking. The great French philosopher Alain said: “In the art of thinking, non-thinking is one part, and it is not the least.” To become aware of reality, with a consciousness cleaned of any point of view: This is the foundation of a right thought.
The second point that Zen asks us to consider is: What is the intention behind this thought? Why do you absolutely want to share your thoughts with others? Most of the time, it is to be recognized; sometimes even to show that we are superior; sometimes even to be a leader; sometimes even to destroy others, to make war. In Buddhism, a useful thought is a beneficial thought, for the good of all existences, a thought that helps you see things clearly.
When our way of thinking is right, when our intention is good, we must express this thought at the right moment, at the right place, in the right way, taking into account the person to whom we want to present it.
In the practice of thought, wisdom is important. The right way to think is necessary, but not sufficient. The right intention is necessary, but still not sufficient. Awakening to the situation is important. These three aspects, this is what the Buddha Way teaches.
Taiun JP Faure, August 2023