I traded a few forum comments over at TGGP's site a while back with a fellow who seems convinced, even in the face of all my brilliant argumentation, that my rather negative attitude towards life stems from depression. It's all about outlook, in his opinion, and I might recognize this if I would only open my eyes to the real world of direct experience, instead of seeing everything through the distorted lens of conceptual thinking. And until I take these steps in order to gain this 'higher' mode of cerebration, I am simply 'wallowing'. He has suggested zen, or some similar mental discipline, as a possible cure for my 'dis-ease'.
Now, I don't want to start a pissing contest here over credentials, or experience. Suffice it to say that I've had an on-again, off-again relationship with zen, in its various flavors, for 25 years or so; old school and new, Eastern and Western, spontaneous versus gradational. I've practiced meditation of various sorts, though I'll confess I've never spent weeks sequestered away in a monastery, observing the rhythm of my breath. And I've read tons of stuff, enough to convince myself that I have the basic ideas down. However, I still possess enough humility to admit that maybe I just don't get it. That being said, I'd simply like to posit here a big, fat 'SO WHAT?!'
Ultimately, 'zen mind' is just another state 'of' mind, and generally transient to a fault. Go back and read what exists of these zen masters' bios, and what do you find? Some of them are assholes, others are depressed, still others show signs of extreme mental imbalance. There are the well-balanced ones, too, and I'd be willing to grant that perhaps that bunch is somewhat more represented amongst the group, than in the general population. But that only means that SOME zen works SOME of the time, on SOME of the people...furthermore, it's a matter of degrees. I don't see evidence of spiritual supermen here, despite the mythological overlays that always grow thicker through the smog of ancient time. Zen is psychological experimentation and manipulation, with mixed results, and it's my belief (arrived at in near to a quarter century of examining this stuff) that most of the changes in consciousness comes about from the extreme changes in lifestyle involved. But the same can be said for any cultic movement...again, so what?
And what does it mean, anyway, to say that zen (or any similar mental conditioning) 'works'? Does human suffering cease to exist? Or is its context merely shifted in the mind of the subject, so that somehow it becomes justified, or at least re-interpreted in a positive light? But just because the subject sees suffering differently, doesn't speak in any way to the suffering that anyone else is experiencing. In other words, how is my suffering lessened simply because you've found a way to psychologically manage it? To discount my anguish just because it's not affecting you, and then to chide me for not seeing it your way, is more than patronizing...it's utter hubris exponentially expanded by your inability to distinguish between your own internal state, and someone else's.
One last thing: part of the original conversations had to do with following the supposedly erroneous path of rational thinking, which supposedly leads to some sort of conceptual cul-de-sac, and that it's this process itself that's actually the cause of suffering. The suggestion is that I abandon reason, and follow a course of meditation, or hallucinogenic drug use (another path with which I am more than familiar...as I'm also personally acquainted with some of the casualties who went down that road, seeking 'enlightenment'). And while I feel some sympathy for certain aspects of that philosophy (less these days than in times past), I'd just like to point out that even assertions supporting irrationality are, themselves, drawn along rational lines. Reason is THE touchstone for me, without which all conversations, arguments and assertions of any kind become ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS. In other words, don't besiege me with calls to abandon reason, unless you can make a good case for it on irrational grounds.
Can't do it? Of course you can't, because the whole idea is self refuting. Non-rational argumentation is a non-concept, like tall color, or leaning against the horizontal, or...or...the god of love, Jehovah. You COULD just put your thumbs in your ears, wiggle your fingers, and stick your tongue out at me, which is pretty much what all this comes down to, anyway. Of course, that might make YOU feel better, and maybe that was the whole point, after all.