Human mind consists primarily and originally in action — in living in the concrete world of “suchness.” But we have the power to control action by reflection, that is, by thinking, by comparing the actual world with memories or “reflections.” Memories are organized in terms of more or less abstract images — words, signs, simplified shapes, and other symbols which can be reviewed very rapidly one after another. from such memories, reflections, and symbols the mind constructs its idea of itself. This corresponds to the thermostat — the source of information about its own past action by which the system corrects itself. The mind-body must, of course, trust the information in order to act, for paralysis will soon result from trying to remember whether we have remembered everything accurately.
But to keep up the supply of information in the memory, the mind-body must continue to act “on its own.” It must not cling too closely to its own record. there must be a “lag” or distance between the source of information and the source of action. This does not mean the source of action must hesitate before it accepts the information. It means that it must not identify itself with the source of information. We saw that when the furnace responds too closely to the thermostat, it cannot go ahead without also trying to stop, or stop without also trying to go ahead. This is just what happens to the human being, to the mind, when the desire for certainty and security prompts identification between the mind and its own image of itself. It cannot let go of itself. It feels that it should not do what it is doing, and that it should do what it is not doing. It feels that it should not be what it is, and be what it isn’t. Furthermore, the effort to remain always “good” or “happy” is like trying to hold the thermostat to a constant 70 degrees by making the lower limit the same as the upper.
In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit . Above all, do not wobble. The mind cannot act without giving up the impossible attempt to control itself beyond a certain point. It must let go of itself both in the sense of trusting its own memory and reflection, and in the sense of acting spontaneously, on its own into the unknown.
In acting, just act. In thinking, just think. Above all, do not wobble. In other words, if one is going to reflect, just reflect but do not reflect about reflecting. Yet Zen would agree that reflection about reflection is also action — provided that in doing it we just do that, and do not tend to drift off into the infinite regression of trying always to stand above or outside the level upon which we are acting. Thus Zen is also a liberation from the dualism of thought and action, for it think as it acts — with the same quality of abandon, commitment, or faith. Wu-hsin is action on any level whatsoever, physical or psychic, without trying at the same moment to observe and check the action from outside. This attempt to act and think about the action simultaneously is precisely the identification of the mind with its idea of itself. It involves the same contradiction as the statement which states something about itself — “This statement is false.”
The same is true of the relationship between feeling and action. For feeling blocks action, and blocks itself as a form of action, when it gets caught in this same tendency to observe or feel itself indefinitely – as when, in the midst of enjoying myself, I examine myself to see if I am getting the utmost out of the occasion. Not content with tasting the food, I am also trying to taste my tongue. Not content with feeling happy, I want to feel myself feeling happy – so as to be sure not to miss anything.
Whether trusting our memories or trusting the mind to act on its own, it comes to the same thing: ultimately we must act and think, live and die, from a source beyond all “our” knowledge and control. But this source is ourselves, and when we see that, it no longer stands over against us as a threatening object. No amount of care and hesitancy, no amount of introspection and searching of our motives, can made any ultimate difference to the fact that the mind is like an eye that sees, but cannot see itself.
In the end the only alternative to a shuddering paralysis is to leap into action regardless of the consequences. Action in this spirit may be right or wrong with respect to conventional standards. But our decision upon the conventional level must be supported by the conviction that whatever we do, and whatever “happens” to us, is ultimately “right.” In other words, we must enter into it without “second thought,” without regret, hesitancy, doubt, or self-recrimination.
But to act without “second thought” without double-mindedness, is by no means a mere precept for our imitation. For we cannot realize this kind of action until it is clear beyond any shadow of doubt that it is actually impossible to do anything else. Men are afraid to forget their own minds, fearing to fall through the void with nothing on to which they can cling. They do not know that the void is not really the void but the real realm of Dharma…. It cannot be looked for or sought, comprehended by wisdom or knowledge, explained in words, contacted materially (i.e. objectively) or reached by meritorious achievement. Men are afraid to forget their own minds, fearing to fall through the void with nothing on to which they can cling. They do not know that the void is not really the void but the real realm of Dharma…. It cannot be looked for or sought, comprehended by wisdom or knowledge, explained in words, contacted materially (i.e. objectively) or reached by meritorious achievement.