The rhythm of the mind

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Rhythm of work” means when we are settled into daily work routines we are in a daily repetition of very much the same tasks in the same ways at the same hours. Likewise, the rhythm of the mind means the same ways we think every day about the same things, a daily repetition of what we call thinking. Nonetheless, it is not thinking. It really means sleeping, a mere repetition of formulas about things and activities that have been programmed into our nervous system to work like robots, no more no less.

People say “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” If you don’t use your bike, eventually it will get all rusty and the mechanical parts will not work. If you don’t use, say, your arm muscles, eventually they will become so weakened that you won’t be able to use them for any normal task.

If we don’t use our nerve system to think, eventually the mind can’t think very well. Unfortunately, many things we do throughout the day actually are not thinking exercises, such as:

– Greeting: How are you? Fine, thank you and you? Fine. That is not thinking. It is automatic programming.

“This guy is a liar. I don’t believe him.” That is automatic prejudice, not thinking.

“China is nasty and bad.” Another prejudice.

– Reciting Ave Maria or The heart sutra. That may just be automatic sound making. No thinking.

“These shoes are very good. It will last you 5 years and the price is very low for that quality.” That may just be automatic lying.

It is so interesting that Zen masters always think. “This is a beautiful flower. Wow, these five petals look like crimson velvet. And this pistil looks like it is covered with gold dust. And these greenish stamens are so thin. Wonder what its name is.” Or, “I suppose you left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella is on the right or left side of the clogs.” Or, “Oh, you’re from Kampuchea. I love to know more about Kampuchea. Tell me about it.”

People may think Zen masters don’t think, but every master indeed observes everything very well, taking in all the appearance, the details, the beauty and the meaning of what they observe. They observe well, thanks to the quietness of their mind – no noises from greed, anger and ignorance, and the fact that everything entering their mind is a conscious work of the mind, not the subconscious attacks of external stimuli.

Many people clog up their mind with programmed noises and emotional turbulence from greed, anger and ignorance. And they think that they think too much. No, they actually are not thinking at all, but simply reacting reflexively to stimuli. They may be good in reflex, but not in thinking. Thinking is the conscious task of the mind.

So, my friends, don’t fall asleep in the daily rhythm of your mind. Make your mind work. Observe, look, see, hear, listen and touch attentively, to really see and understand what you observe.

When you observe closely and attentively, the mind sees clearly. And seeing clearly by itself is true information and knowledge, not mentioning what the mind will further achieve by turning such materials into true wisdom.

Wish we all think and be wise.



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Trần Đình Hoành
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