Bankei’s Zen

Bankei (1622-1693) “Devices Zen” (meditation, koan, etc.)

“Generally speaking, Zen teachers nowadays instruct people by setting up rules or using devices. Believing that without devices they can’t manage, behaving as if without them it’s impossible to instruct anyone, they’re unable to teach by simply pointing things out directly. To teach people [this way], unable to manage without devices, is ‘devices Zen.’

“Others tell students pursuing this teaching that it’s no good unless they rouse a great ball of doubt and succeed in breaking through it. ‘No matter what,’ they tell them, ‘you’ve got to rouse a ball of doubt!’ They don’t teach, ‘Abide in the Unborn Buddha Mind!’ [but instead] cause people without any ball of doubt to saddle themselves with one, making them exchange the Buddha Mind for a ball of doubt. A mistaken business, isn’t it!”

The last bit is saying that some teachers (of Zen) believe you can only get students to learn if you make them anxious or doubtful of everything. Bankei says this is not true–if you know it then just show them, don’t rely on devices (teaching tricks like flashy PPTs or inducing self-doubt)  Teach like mindfulness: just show the world and the stupidity language gets us into. He said you CAN do meditation and all ‘devices’ but not actually necessary. It is one way of seeing the mess of language (CBT) by blocking it with meditation but not the only way or for him, not the best way.

Learn to separate seeing the world and talking about the world and stop confusing them. You can of course still talk.  You can talk because it does things usefully. It is when talking and the world are confused that problems start.

I try to think all this now by using the word ‘training’ instead of ‘meaning’. Instead of tacts and mands and things, ask, “What has the listener been trained to do with these words”. That gets us away from the objects and events that seem to be involved in talking. So similarly I think Zen is trying to get people to remember (mindfulness) that when they talk they are doing things to people, they are not affecting anything else in the world. But that training in words is very useful and we should not stop. It is messy when you confuse training to do things when people speak with the actual world which is totally uninterested in your words. Of course, all this becomes WORSE when you consider how we talk about ourselves!! Hence CBT and CT.


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