If you look at zazen from the outside, you don’t understand. People sometimes tell me: “But you are loosing your time, sitting there doing nothing…” To practice zazen is to practice the normal condition of the mind. The opposite of the normal condition is madness.
Nowhere are we being taught what to do with negative emotions, such as anger, hate, fear, jealousy, dissatisfaction, the desire to always want more. Neither at school, university or in society are we being taught to free ourselves of afflictive passions. Some people get up with a thought, a desire that follows them all day long. And the next day, they wake up with the same thoughts. Impossible to free oneself from obsessive thoughts, such as the thirst for revenge, regrets, anger – impossible to free oneself from them.
The state of the world depends upon the mind of human beings. Wars depend upon the state of mind of human beings. The state of the planet, the loss of animal species, ocean pollution, all this comes from the human beings’ greed. To practice zazen is to come back the normal condition of the mind.
In the Universe, everything is in the normal condition, except human beings. Everything is interdependent, everything experiences impermanence – except human beings who cannot let go of their greed, sometimes their anger, sometimes their stupidity. In the end, zazen is more important for mankind than breathing itself.
Why is it so difficult for human beings to come back to the normal condition of the mind? Because human beings are thinking beings. This is the greatness of mankind, but also its weakness. By thinking, we can dream up the idea of becoming the master of the world. We can invent all kinds of means to exploit all living beings. We can invent all kinds of ways to destroy what bothers us.
The important point is to think in accordance with the reality of the universe. As Rabelais used to say: “Science – all the human activities – without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.”
But before being a thinking being, we are a living being. We must never forget our living side. Zazen summons us back to pure life, pure existence, zazen reminds us that before being a thinking being, we are a living being.
Zazen requires us to come back to life as it was before thoughts arise. To go from one thought to another to another to another… this is to enter the cycle of madness. It is to move further and further away from reality. Right thinking comes from being alive. It is important to always come back to the living condition, to pure existence. This is to say, to the normal condition of the mind: thinking that comes from non-thinking and returns to non-thinking.
To think from non-thinking, this is the normal condition of the mind. Living, thinking, living, thinking: this is what we do in zazen, where we let thoughts appear by themselves and we let them disappear by themselves. Thinking from the depths of non-thinking. Right thinking is a continuous alternation between thinking, non-thinking, thinking, non-thinking.
To continue from thought to thought leads us to madness. Not to know how to let go of our thoughts is not the normal condition. To be attached to a thought without being able to get rid of it, this is what a young child throwing a tantrum does. We can forgive a young child, but it is tragic when an adult cannot let go of his anger, his desires, his stupidity.
You must understand that right thinking must be at the service of living beings. This is what we learn to do in zazen. Thinking from the depths of non-thinking. A thought comes from non-thinking and returns to non-thinking. This is the normal condition of the mind. To be unable to let go of a thought is madness.
To return to the normal condition of the mind is the most important thing in our life. The guy who goes out into the street with a gun and sprays every person he meets, this is a man who has lost his reason. He went from a thought of hate to another thought of hate, until he acted out.
Please, understand how the mind works. Zazen is more important for mankind than breathing itself. Zazen allows the mind to breathe. In breathing, there are two aspects: inspiration and expiration. It is the same for the breathing of the mind. A thought appears, and a thought disappears. This is the normal condition of living beings, of the living human being. With inspiration, a thought appears; with expiration, the thought disappears.
The normal condition of the mind settles in when you are unconcerned with what appears to the mind and what disappears from the mind.
Taiun JP Faure, June 2021