Rely on Direct Experience only – “Cease to cherish Opinion”

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No
more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

In a poem Seng-ts’an writes: “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.”

Try this: bring up one of your fondest beliefs and see if you can drop it. Bring up any belief. Try it with a desire–a desire is a belief that when we get something in the future, we will be happy. What is it that you desire right now? Do you want to win the lottery? Do you want someone to love you? Perhaps you love someone who doesn’t love you back? Do you want control or security or approval? Perhaps you want disapproval. Do you believe in God? Do you believe in religion and rituals? Do you consider yourself spiritual? Do you believe that thoughts create reality and the universe will give you what you want? Do you want to save the world? Do you believe you are depressed? Anxious? Do you feel lost?

Whatever your fondest belief or desire is—bring it up. Can you drop this belief? Try to imagine who you would be without this desire. Can you drop this belief or desire temporarily for one minute? If you give it an honest try, you will probably feel a great deal of discomfort or resistance. You don’t even have to try to drop it. Just bring up its opposite. Imagine that you will never get whatever it is that you want. This isn’t hard to do because the opposing belief already exists. A desire can only exist in the context of lack, and beliefs are always supported by doubt. Feel the visceral resistance that comes up in thinking that you will never get whatever it is that you want.

We don’t understand the fundamentalists who defend their dogma with menace and prejudice. That energy however exists in all of us. Try to give up your fondest desire, and you can feel that movement of deep resistance in the gut. There is an instant movement towards rationalization or defensiveness.

Seng-ts’ realized that the attachment to beliefs and ideas is subtle obstacle to direct experience of reality. He also realized that we can’t help but fall into the trap of clinging to ideas. So he suggests in his Zen-like manner: instead of chasing your idea of natural being, just give up cherishing beliefs. Develop reliance only on direct experience instead of clinging to opinions.

Of course, most of us cannot directly subvert beliefs and desires. Awareness and Releasing does it for us by allowing us to see through the structure of belief and desire.

Reality is not what we think it is. Aristotle and Plato, or someone earlier, started the western paradigm that reality is a dualistic subject-object world. There is you and there is perceivable reality. Newton and science solidified this paradigm mathematically. But the paradigm is no longer standing up. Einstein cracked it with special theory of relativity and Quantum Mechanics is the big pink elephant in the paradigm. It won’t go away.

In the east, the paradigm of reality was more gestalt and mosaic. There is a sense of an invisible reality beyond the comprehension of the mind. Hindu and Buddhist traditions are based on what is beyond the mind; but this hasn’t really helped much, because the unexamined mind can’t help but form concepts and complicated ascetic practices and rituals.

Until we experience truth directly, it is a mistake to harbor any beliefs about truth. All we can say is that reality is not what we think it is. It is not the dualistic, separated, subject-object world our mind believes it to be. No more can be said. It can only be experienced directly.

“Cease to cherish opinion.”

9 thoughts on “Rely on Direct Experience only – “Cease to cherish Opinion”

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi positivelypresent! You left this comment a few days ago, but I think wordpress put you in the spam queue. I just saw it and fixed it, so it shouldn’t happen again. Sorry about that!

  1. Patti/Trisha

    My fondest beliefs….I love animals. So I imagined my beloved pets hating me..scared of me and avoiding me…or trying to hurt me. It REALLY showed me how strong my love of animals really is.

    The fundamentalists we don’t understand…I guess I can understand the underlying concept of religious “nuts” fighting their hardest for what they believe in… but I don’t think they really believe in it. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

    1. Kaushik Post author

      “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”…that’s very insightful.

      But this energy exists in all of us. We believe for example that reality is objective…we believe we are separate from the reality we perceive. We also believe that reality is what the mind puts together symbolically–divided with cause and effect and linear time. In awareness, all this seen very differently.

      Your love for animals is not a belief or a desire…it simply is who you are…a human being radiating your awareness to living beings around you, without conditions or expectations. As Rumi said, it is the way the Sun loves the Earth!!!

      The beliefs I talk about are the beliefs that we invest our selves in. Many of us believe we will be happy when we have this or that. It is always happiness in the future. The only time we can possibly ever be happy is now.

      Good stuff, keep the comments rolling!

  2. Alexander

    Wow, what a clarity!
    That is what I call talking from truth and not about truth.
    However you uplifted me immediately, Thank you so much!

  3. LEAH AVRAHAM

    A HUMAN SKULL IS LIKE A BOWL FULL OF A B C’S PUT TOGETHER INTO WORDS. A IS NOT A, B IS NOT B, C IS NOT C AND WORDS ARE NOT WORDS. TO SEE THE BEGINNING OF THE ALPHA IS TO OPEN THE “A” AND THE FIRST TWO KOREAN ALPHAS APPEAR. OPEN THE “B” TO SEE “I’M” OF “I AM”. OPEN THE “C” AND SEE “U” OF YOU AND I”. OPEN THE “WORDS” AND SEE THE “LORD OF LORDS”.

    TO HAVE AN OPEN MIND IS TO HAVE AN OPEN TONGUE. A TONGUE IS “NOT TWO”. IN THIS NOT TWO NOTHING IS MISSING. TO KNOW OR NOT TO KNOW. TO MONK OR NOT TO MONK. KNOWLEDGE IS A WHEEL OF FORTUNE, SPIN THE WHEEL TO GET THE FORTUNE BUT CHANCES ARE YOU MAY GO BANKRUPT. ETC.

Comments are closed.