Sunday, June 24, 2012

Words cannot open another's mind...

That's in a koan somewhere (Case 27 of the 無門関 (Mumonkan, or The Gateless Gate), to be exact.) Also see here for a different source.)  I have heard different commentaries on Case 27, but this one has seemed so apt for me when dealing with certain people.  Here is the case from the second source, which I'm using because it has the Chinese original, from which it's possible tease out meanings that I haven't seen yet :

Case 27 Nansen's "Not Mind, Not Buddha, Not Things"                   二十七 不是心佛
A monk asked Nansen, "Is there any Dharma that has not been preached to the people?"
Nansen answered, "There is."
"What is the truth that has not been taught?" asked the monk.
Nansen said, "It is not mind; it is not Buddha; it is not things."

Mumon's Comment無門曰、南泉被者一問、直得揣盡家私、郎當不少。
At this question, Nansen used up all his treasure and was not a little confused.

Mumon's Verse 頌曰叮嚀損君徳 Talking too much spoils your virtue;
無言眞有功 Silence is truly unequaled.
任從滄海變 Let the mountains become the sea;
終不爲君通 I'll give you no comment.

The operative phrase, "無言眞有功" can indeed be translated in various ways; perhaps in another way to put it, once can say, "Words have no merit," or, conversely, silence has accomplishment.

This is a ridiculously useful teaching.

We in the USA are somehow silently,  unconsciously inculcated by Dale Carnegie, it seems.   It seems we are taught we should "influence" people, by appealing to their desires, including, but not limited to, a "feeling of importance" and "life in the hereafter."  I know that I'd been taught that I need to try to both reach people and also submit - surrender - to "legitimate authority."  About the latter, well, that's a subject for another post - it has political implications where I do not wish to go right now. 

But, as far as "getting through to people" is concerned, it is undeniable that there are people with mindsets, very educated people in some cases, that you simply cannot rationally reach. They're true believers, or so they present themselves to the world.

It doesn't quite matter what they believe in; I have met doctrinaire communists with the same mindset as  Republican conservatives - they are so close psychologically it's astonishing, except that I think the latter more consciously tries to ape the mannerisms and public paranoia as the former from time to time.

(And no I do not put New Atheists in the same category as doctrinaire fundamentalists, but that's another digression.)

How to deal with such people?

To open your mouth (or keyboard) to try to hammer home the truth with them will do nothing.   To speak kindly and as persuasively as one can will also accomplish nothing - at least not at first.

It seems the best strategy is not avoidance of the issues here, or acquiescence to odious things presented matter-of-factly.   That is, I'm not saying let hateful words simply be accepted.  But do not expect such people to be taught.

This line of thought had its origin in some on-line thing by a relative who posted something on line that led me to a series of links that led me to a website for some right-wing talk radio demagogue that I'd never heard of before.  The website points to the usual hateful, ignorant stuff that appeals to the baser instincts, that seeks to motivate by appealing to resentment.  (See these photos for a sample of the mindset involved. Ugh.)

Why, I thought, would any sensible person spend their lives cultivating such anger and resentment? IT MAKES NO SENSE!  I mean, I can imagine folks driving home in a long commute, with this sewage bubbling on through from from the AM band, feeding resentments that provide the narrative to the worried lives that they lead. But it also MAKES NO SENSE to think that there is anything I can do or say that can "change" that relative's mind, because such a person will try to respond with the "walls" of reasoning they've put up.  Any such words might challenge their entire reason for being.  Moreover, exposure to such things teaches one to respond to such challenges with hatred and resentment - it is learned in an almost (maybe more than almost?) Pavlovian way.

There's no point in taking that head-on;  it's bad 功夫 (kung fu).  It's also in a way not compassionate; and it is ineffective at removing the poison of hatred such people may have.  And, as the 公案  (koan) notes, 無言眞有功 - in silence there is truly merit or accomplishment.

It is a far better strategy to practice being the person of accomplishment one rarely encounters.  Such a person could not be harmed also by words of hatred either, though they may defend against them. That takes effort.

All of the above is going through my mind as I will be visiting relatives and friends for a couple of days.   Many words will be spoken amongst us.  Some folks I know are pretty set in mindsets I wish no one was trapped in. If one sentence comes for from their lips the profound acute suffering of the world is shouted with thunderous echoes that reverberate through the heavens as does the soundless sound.    And if I say the wrong thing such a thunderous reverberation will result that will only amplify the misery of all beings.  While part of me is concerned about what to say, when to say it, and what not to say, I know have enough familiarity with 話頭 (watoh) practice that I'm fairly confident there won't be major problems. 

I mean, geez, I've seen this stuff work in practice.  I wish others did too.

Here is a good link re: 話頭  practice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oops, the last link (about Watoh practice) doesn't work... .