Sunday, October 14, 2012

"pointless point"

In the course of interviewing my Zen teacher, Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, a long time ago, I tried to ask the questions that anyone not familiar with Zen might ask. One of those questions was about religion:

Q. Is Zen religion?
A. If I say "no," then others say, "Ah, Zen is not religion." If I say yes, they say, "Ah, Zen is religion." I can't really say yes or no, but Zen is mostly religion. Zen is religion without the dualistic point of view.
Q. Does Zen have one point of view? Is it monistic?
A. Maybe the best way to say it is pointless point. ...

And this morning, while talking with a young woman who is dipping her toes into the possibilities of Buddhism, it was much as usual for me -- "how do I know what I think till I see what I say?" All I knew was that I was trying to give her some reassurance and some encouragement, much as others had done for me in the past. And in the course of talking, I found myself saying that really, it had nothing to do with big surprises.

"A tremendous sense of joy or a sense of awful horror are both just indicators that you are not yet at home, at peace."

Did I say that? Well, yes I did and I felt at ease saying it. It seemed obvious to me, but Zen training is just a matter of going over the obvious again and again until anyone straightens things out. But reflecting on my own words were like reflecting on the words someone else had spoken: "How do I know what I think till I see what I say?" I didn't feel smug or sage or as if I ought to rush out and charge people money for my pearls of wisdom.  It had nothing to do with "right" or "wrong." It felt more like a termite casually exiting from some rotten carrying beam...just going for a walk.

Only later did I remember my teacher's "pointless point." Who could get excited about or shudder in horror about a point that had no point? It simply doesn't compute.

But the paradoxical, ooooeeeeooo feeling of a "pointless point" -- the wondrous, confusing, non-sensical flavor of it all ... it was pretty wowsers during the interview. At the time, it left me scratching my mental head and scurrying here and there, looking for a meaning I could call my own.

Big stuff comes and big stuff goes, pretty much like the little stuff.

Yum-yum-yum and ouch-ouch-ouch.

But really?



That'll be five cents, please.

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