[MD] Does every thing have a why?

David Harding davidjharding at gmail.com
Sun Dec 2 22:57:43 PST 2012

Hi Dan,

Our discussion continues..

> Dan:
> I believe the forgetting is presented in a context of zen
> enlightenment, which is of course a matter of extensive practice and
> mastery, sure. Check it out:
> "For example, you would guess from the literature on Zen and its
> insistence on discovering the "unwritten dharma" that it would be
> intensely anti-ritualistic, since ritual is the "written dharma." But
> that isn't the case. The Zen monk's daily life is nothing but one
> ritual after another, hour after hour, day after day, all his life.
> They don't tell him to shatter those static patterns to discover the
> unwritten dharma. They want him to get those patterns perfect!
> "The explanation for this contradiction is the belief that you do not
> free yourself from static patterns by fighting them with other
> contrary static patterns. That is sometimes called "bad karma chasing
> its tail." You free yourself from static patterns by putting them to
> sleep. That is, you master them with such proficiency that they become
> an unconscious part of your nature. You get so used to them you
> completely forget them and they are gone. There in the center of the
> most monotonous boredom of static ritualistic patterns the Dynamic
> freedom is found.
> "Phaedrus saw nothing wrong with this ritualistic religion as long as
> the rituals are seen as merely a static portrayal of Dynamic Quality,
> a sign-post which allows socially pattern-dominated people to see
> Dynamic Quality. The danger has always been that the rituals, the
> static patterns, are mistaken for what they merely represent and are
> allowed to destroy the Dynamic Quality they were originally intended
> to preserve." [Lila]
> Dan comments:
> See, he is using this example in the context of socially dominated
> ritual practiced religiously rather than an intellectually dominated
> endeavor like motorcycle maintenance or any artful practice. Yes, the
> mechanic masters skills essential to the ideal of a perfect running
> motorcycle, and yes, there comes a point when those skills become so
> attuned to the bike that there is no separation between the subject
> and the object. But there is always a reference point, a why if you
> will, that guides the mechanic.
> On the other hand, by following a prescribed set of rituals the zen
> monk is seeking freedom from all thought, so in that context a literal
> reading not only makes more sense but is really essential to the whole
> notion of the practice they seek to master.

Excellent articulation.   I have a couple of questions that your writing raised in me that I suppose we will continue to discuss.. But I'll also offer my tentative answers for these questions as well.

1. Is Zen social and Motorcycle Maintenance intellectual? 

Yes, they are these things, though in my opinion Zen is better described as a cultural(social + intellectual) religion whose goal is DQ. 

Motorcycle Maintenance is best described as an intellectual activity whose goal ought to be (though as RMP discovered isn't always) DQ.

2. Why is there no 'why' for Zen but there is one for Motorcycle Maintenance? Isn't Motorcycle Maintenance a Zen activity after all?

The question of why can have an intellectual but also a DQ answer.   All static things including meditation can be questioned.  That is not their goal but they can all be questioned with a 'why?'  Zen does have a why whose answer is DQ. That's what Koans are aren't they?  What about sitting without Koans? Why do we sit? Don't we find the answer to this question by sitting?  In this regard, Zen doesn't ignore the role of the intellect but it's goal is not intellectual. It shows us how to 'overcome' the intellect by putting it to sleep.  The same *can* be true for motorcycle maintenance.   Through mastery of motorcycle maintenance we can put the intellect to sleep as well. In fact that is the mastery of it.  When it goes to sleep we go 'aha' and we have a breakthrough and discover what is actually wrong with the machine.

> dmb:
>> This is why we can't take those lines about killing the intellectual pattens literally either. Pirsig is not advocating drunken butchery or emtpy-headed nihilism. Obviously. And so the more poetic interpretation makes tons of sense, where this forgetting and killing is about a certain kind of groovy proficiency, while the literal reading cuts against the grain of his thought and leads to really bad conclusions.
> Dan:
> Yes, I agree with you here, and this is what I am on about as well. In
> any rational working of art there is always that intellectual
> reference point that guides the artist and their actions. Yet at the
> same time zen monks take the killing of the intellect as a very real
> and hoped for ideal in their quest for enlightenment. And this is not
> in any sense empty-headed nihilism, as you say. In obtaining a
> quieting of the mind the world manifests itself in all its naked
> glory.
> The second one begins thinking, however, the pure experience of
> Quality is covered once again in a veneer of desire. It might even be
> likened to the stuckness a mechanic might experience when the head of
> a bolt shears off or the threads become stripped out. Suddenly real
> thought is needed... a survey of all possible solutions, a reference
> of the motorcycle manual might even be in order. The truly artful
> mechanic knows that when all else fails it is better to walk away. The
> solution will present itself in time.

Well predictably I disagree here. There is no difference between sitting on a cushion doing Zen meditation and fixing a motorcycle!  To me that is the whole point of ZMM.  Both the Zen Monk and the Motorcycle Mechanic begin what they are doing by thinking.   The aim of what they are doing is to reveal the DQ which is there all along(no thought).  It is through the mastery of what either of them are doing, whether it be sitting on a cushion or thinking through what might be the problem with their motorcycle that the DQ will be revealed.  "What is wrong with the motorcycle?" is nothing other than a Zen Koan of the same variety as "Does Lila have Quality?"

> dmb:
>> I don't want to equate this with enlightenment, exactly, but we can see how at-one-ment and just sitting and just fixing can all be equated or at least related.
>> "Phædrus felt that at the moment of pure Quality perception, or not even perception, at the moment of pure Quality, there is no subject and there is no object. There is only a sense of Quality that produces a later awareness of subjects and objects. At the moment of pure quality, subject and object are identical. This is the tat tvam asi truth of the Upanishads, but it's also reflected in modern street argot. ``Getting with it,'' ``digging it,'' ``grooving on it'' are all slang reflections of this identity. It is this identity that is the basis of craftsmanship in all the technical arts."  ZAMM 290-1
> Dan:
> Yes, a perfect quote here. Phaedrus nails it exactly. We might well
> interject Dynamic Quality, or pre-intellectual awareness, in place of
> Quality in keeping with MOQ terms. It is sort of like discovering what
> one was meant to do... our face before we were born, so to speak. It
> is when we become so attuned to our work, our art, our life, that we
> no longer experience a sense of doing. Rather, what is done does
> itself in a very real way. The self falls away, the sense of time
> ceases, and even the object of our desires ceases to be a thing
> separate and apart the way we normally think of it as being. We mov
> and we act but our movements and actions are no longer ours.

No disagreement here.

I do enjoy the intellectual challenge of chatting with you. 

Thanks Dan, 


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