Saturday, August 10, 2013


“Too much mind”:  the advice given to Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) in the movie The Last Samurai. Algren is drowning his misery in booze and becomes captured by a band of Samurai warriors where he has no choice but to come to terms with his demons. In the process he begins to learn the Samurai way and gets beaten repeatedly before he can let go. Slowly he begins to understand: “Too much mind.”

The way of the Samurai arose in direct response to the rise of Zen in Japan and the way of Zen arose in direct response to Bodhidharma in China. There’s a famous story of a conversation that occurred between Bodhidharma and his student Huike. One day Huike came to Bodhidharma and said: “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.” Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.” Huike said, “Although I’ve sought it, I cannot find it.” Bodhidharma replied, “There, I have pacified your mind.” On hearing this, Huike became enlightened.

Wait a moment. When we hear that story our rational mind gets caught up in its underwear. How, we think, can we have too much mind yet somehow pacification happens by not finding it? That requires some non-thought to comprehend yet when we really understand, we too might become enlightened.

The problem is what we think. The solution is not thinking. I know that sounds puzzling but here is the Rosetta Stone answer: our true mind is always at peace and enlightened and our thinking mind is always restless and unenlightened. What we think is our mind is not our mind because our true mind is the source of thinking and not thinking but is itself neither. Our true mind is transcendent and can’t possibly be one or the other since it is the source of both. There is no discrimination in our true mind so it can’t be one thing or another thing. And our true mind contains nothing, yet everything comes from there. It is an “everything nothing mind.” On the one hand empty yet full at the same time.

When Captain Algren finally gets it he is no longer roped in by his thinking but instead he is just there at which point he stops losing and becomes a true warrior. In the Japanese form of Zen they say that mu shin, Shin. “Mu” means no-thing (emptiness) and “shin” means thinking mind, so putting this together it means that when we lose our thinking mind we find our true mind (Shin). Of course the mind that is being lost is not really our mind but rather is our thoughts and emotions, which obscure and hide our true mind: the source of all thought. It is neither thought nor non-thought. Do you get it? If you really do understand then you too might be enlightened, unless you start thinking about it. Then you must lose that too. So just go crazy and lose your mind,
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