[MD] Does every thing have a why?

David Harding davidjharding at gmail.com
Tue Dec 4 22:55:12 PST 2012

Hi Dan,

> I am delighted to see your reply! Even though my work hasn't let up I
> did finally finish my latest book. It's such a great feeling, for
> about a day. And then I get right back into writing again.

The sign of a born writer… 

> I must say I missed our discussions here ..
>>> 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?
> Dan:
> It can be, sure. When one's practice ripens to such a point everything
> becomes a zen activity. The why of motorcycle maintenance is much the
> same as the why in music and in writing and in painting portraits...
> we envision an end point and work towards it.

How are end points related to why's? You mean to say that we need an end point before we ask why? Why do we even ask why?

I think that we don't need an end point before we ask why.  As the title of this post suggests, I think that every thing has a why including Zazen. The reason is that we can always ask - Why does x exist? That's about as fundamental a question as you can ask.  But that's not how all why's come to us.   One of the first things we empirically experience is a certain level of quality.  If the level of quality is low, such as with a broken motorcycle, we will ask, 'why is the motorcycle broken?'.   In other words - we don't need an end point to ask this question!  The point is that we are moving *Away* from the low static quality situation and towards some undefined betterness.  It is this movement away from static quality and towards DQ that can be found as the goal of all things. 

> In motorcycle
> maintenance, maybe the bike is misfiring or perhaps an oil leak has
> appeared. If there was no need of maintenance, no why, no reason to
> fix it, then we wouldn't have to work on the bike. There would be no
> value in it.

Right, the only reason why we feel the need to fix the bike is because of the quality of the situation.  We can't ignore it.  Value is everything.  We first notice the sudden change in value when the bike breaks and we go, "oh", and then we realise it is a low value situation we are in with a broken bike.  We then have to work out how to get out of this low quality situation..

> On the other hand, one might say the cessation of suffering is the end
> point of zen. Or perhaps the sense of relaxation meditation confers.
> Or the peace of mind that arises.

That's right.

> But that isn't right. Zen has no end
> point as such. One may start out with the notion that it does but over
> time it becomes apparent that there is no why there at all. It is sort
> of like asking why we are here. There is no reason in the rational
> sense of the word.

Right, but we're here talking about things intellectually. So in that case I say the answer to the why of Zen is DQ.  That's the best intellectual answer I can give to that question.

>> The question of why can have an intellectual but also a DQ answer.
> Dan:
> Would that be a non-answer?

A DQ answer as I explained above.

>> 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.
> Dan:
> When an artful mechanic acts they do so by thinking to fulfill an
> inadequacy in the machine they are fixing. A mystic through non-action
> reveals the world without thought. What you seem to be asking is: can
> they be one and the same? I would say it is possible but doubtful
> while another person might say it is very likely. I suspect we might
> both be both right and wrong... probably at the same time.

I don't like that answer as it is non-intellectual.  I like philosophy because it attempts, however badly or well it might do so, to capture the impossible and give some intellectual meaning to our existence.

>>> 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?"
> Dan:
> I would say knowing what is wrong with the motorcycle is a rational
> act while working a zen koan is an irrational act, or non-action, if
> you will. Allow me to expand on that a bit...
> The artful mechanic has great peace of mind in the skill sets they
> have developed over the years. They might reach a point where they can
> just listen to a bike, smell the exhaust, see the care an owner has
> taken, feel the ride, and know what is amiss. From that point it is
> merely a matter of rationally breaking down the bike, fixing the
> problem, and reassembling it before testing it once again. If the
> problem is solved, if the customer is happy, and one gets paid, the
> job is complete.
> I tend to believe there is no such rational set of actions one can
> follow to solve a zen koan. Rather, as one delves deeper into it, the
> answers overwhelm the mind to the point it just shuts down.
> So, the overriding concern of an artful mechanic is that they do not
> think the problem through properly and misdiagnose the solution while
> the overriding concern of the mystic is they think too much and get
> lost on the way.

But Dan, does the artful mechanic really think rationally the whole time? It's not a rational thing. Nor is looking at a bike and knowing 'rationally' what to look at when something goes wrong with the bike as you show above.  So I think that neither fixing a motorbike nor a zen koan are entirely rational activities.  They are nothing other than two problems of a different variety who both involve the settling of the intellect and sq to reveal the DQ there all along..

>>> 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.
> I feel much the same way. I thank you too,

No problem,

Thanks again Dan,


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