The Wisdom of the West Meets the Wisdom of the East

1267 Relax and Succeed - Decartes said I think thereforeThis blog is always about the quotes, sayings and parables and their actual meanings. Because each posts features quotes that essentially point to the same truth, we know we are developing our understanding if we can recognize the common underlying truth in these two quotes.

Taisen Deshimaru was a Zen student and teacher and philosopher. He often remarked that a select few Western philosophers had stumbled into Zen without realising it. It’s unknown whether he meant they understood it intellectually but could not practice it, or if he meant that they were actually practicing Zen but under different names. Either way, his point above still holds.

Descartes was a mathematician and the most famous thing he ever wrote was that the only thing we knew for sure was that because we could ponder existence, we existed, which was pretty smart and his ideas still form the basis of much of Western philosophy. But Descartes was from the world of math and science, where Aristotle’s subject and object reign supreme.

What Deshimaru is saying is that Descartes was referring to the post-present moment’s ego’s existence, not the soul’s. The soul is what Deshimaru is referring to by creating a second existence. (Similar to James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.) But note that Descartes’ version of being requires Deshimaru’s to exist, but Deshimaru’s does not require Descartes. Descartes is smart, and he points out something very significant, but whereas he is saying, I have discovered the spinning lostness of ego, Deshimaru is saying but the real me is still underneath it, actively creating that lostness, meaning even lostness is truly within oneness as well.

1267 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriThe second quote points to the verb indicated by the first quote. Egos think while they do, souls become the doing. So Descartes knows he exists because he can ponder all of his symbolic words for everything he perceives as separate from him, but Deshimaru forgoes that layer of illusory thought and moves directly to action. Rather than think about the world we want to move and be alive as an aspect of it.

Despite these two being famous and capable thinkers, what makes them famous is that their point lives in each of our lives every day. Your suffering lays in your ego’s choice to talk to itself all the time. All of the emotions you feel hours or days after events come from your Descarte-esque thinking about the event, not the event itself. Deshimaru would forgo that suffering by taking original action in his life in the new moments presently unfolding.

Today, live Deshimaru, not Descartes. Don’t think about your day, your week or your life. Just be. Do things. Answer questions then have your mind go quiet and engage back into action. You have so many calories to burn each day. How many will you spend churning thoughts and how many will create more for you or another in this world? Because the former is the path to an egocentric life of suffering, and the latter is a path to peace of mind. Either is yours to take, and you can change direction at any moment.

Surrender your words for actions. Surrender. Words for actions. Words. For. Actions. Make that your habit and you will be free.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.