Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Open Mindedness vs Certainty

     "Uncertainty is a profoundly important practice. ... I trained in a South Korean monastery ... where the practice was to learn how to rest in a state of perplexity - a state that is focused, in that tradition, around the idea of great doubt, of 'What is this?' was the question we asked. That was the only meditation we did for 3 months in the summer, 3 months in the winter, we sit on a cushion, stare at a wall, and ask 'What is this?' 
     That was the most powerful practice I think I ever did as a monk. It's not that you then become some kind of thorough-going skeptic. But it's the fact that you acknowledge that fundamentally, you do not know what is going on. That the world is fundamentally mysterious. I think it's very difficult for Westerners to valorize uncertainty. We always want to know the answer. We always want to be right. And this kind of practice, which has been enormously influential in my life, is about learning to not only live with uncertainty, but actually to cultivate uncertainty. To cultivate an ongoing sense of questioning, of curiosity, of astonishment, of perplexity. This is both an act of humility, it's also for me an act of devotion, which might sound a bit strange, and it really throws into question every kind of certitude or conviction or belief that you might have. And it touches something very deep.
     What brings us to Buddhism in the first place, is that kind of existential uncertainty. And yet so often, as in all religions, we prefer to substitute belief for actually the very living pulse that brought us to that place in the first instance. There's a wonderful aphorism that our teacher Kusan Sunim used to recite all the time: 
          'Great doubt, great awakening;
          Little doubt, little awakening;
          No doubt, no awakening.' "                    Stephen Batchelor

     Above transcribed from the YouTube video: "Stephen Batchelor and Ven Brahmali debate in Melbourne 2014" found on: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/americanbuddhist/

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