I must admit koans are a terrible teaching tool. They never did anything for me. They can do one thing tough, if you are aware enough, you can notice your thought processes, and more importantly you can notice what is besides them.
When you think about a riddle like the one I wrote here or any other like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” you can notice what you’re doing. You can also notice that there are no answers to these questions in your mind. Yet, you are trying to solve them with it. Thinking logically is just permuting knowledge you have. If you don’t know something you won’t find the solution. You can only find it with a different mind state, by creating it, out of what seems to be nothing.
Einstein once said that you can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. Good enough but how do you do that? Well this is how.
The other day I was trying to fix a bug in the animation system. Namely the monkeyman bug. Now whenever you are “trying” to do something that is a hint that you’re not anywhere close to getting the thing done. So I noticed that I was trying to hear the sound of one hand clapping and I backed off for a couple minutes.
Now it quickly came to me that the whole animation system has some bad logical errors. The bug was just a symptom of the way I programmed it. Now how does Western civilization thinking solve problems? By curing the symptoms. If it is hot, you buy an air conditioner. If it is cold you buy a heater. There is no question why is it hot in the first place? There are no solutions in our culture, you just buy stuff.
The Why question leads to answers that solve REAL problems.
Unfortunately knowing this does not make you automatically do things this way. Most of the time you’ll rationalize why you should think more about the problem because you sense the solution is right around the corner. You never stop to consider that the whole system is false. You must know how to escape from this system. This is the best way I know to explain how to do this.
Think for a couple seconds about what could be the sound of one hand clapping, then notice what you’re doing and bring yourself back to reality. Take a step back. Focus on what is happening right now. Return to the now or try any other metaphor that you like. The thing is you should become aware of the reality right in front of you and when that happens it’s sort of a snap and you feel pressure let go in your brain and sometimes in your eye sockets. It is a physical sensation of release, like coming out of your own head.
Now believe me or not that immediate state you get when that happens is the most powerful state of mind you can ever be in. And I’m not the first one to tell you this, it has been preached for ages. It is sort of a state of nothingness, of just being. You just are. Meaning there are no thoughts.
This blank state is the source of:
- problem solving
- thinking out of the box
- much more…
99% of people on this planet 99% of the time are in the first state. The state of trying to solve an impossible riddle.
When you are walking down a street thinking about what to do, what to say, where to go, what happened, what will happen, about bullshit… and suddenly a cat runs right in front of your legs. For a moment you just get out of your head and watch the cat running. But quickly you realize it is a cat, it has ears and a tail, it’s black, it’s running, it probably lives here, you start thinking again. You no longer are looking at the cat as it is, you are looking at the cartoon cat you learned from a childrens book at the age of 3 with big letters beneath it C A T. You are looking at the knowledge of the cat you have, you are no longer looking at the real cat that is there.
You, me, most of the time are buried in our thoughts. We are thinking. We are looking at the world through the filter of our knowledge. We see objects instead of just looking and we think about them constantly and don’t consider that we could just let them be and let ourselves be. Some people never in their entire lifetimes enter the state of nothing. They are completely 100% buried in their thought processes. They are eternally stuck in their heads.
Most people don’t listen to you when you’re speaking, they are just thinking what to say next.
The only thing that makes most people snap out of it is something shocking. When they see a leprechaun or when they get hit in the face or when they see Jesus and a penis on one picture. If something is out of their reality, for 1 second they will get out of their heads and stand in awe. That “awe” is just the natural state of being. The shock didn’t make the awe, the shock removed the thoughts.
I consider it natural, cause we are born with it. Children don’t think about stuff they just take everything as it is, experiment with it and learn from it. They are in constant awe. EVERYTHING IS AMAZING! There is no end to questions. No answers can satisfy infinite curiosity. Learning in minutes complex skills is FUN. Playfulness accomplishes everything. At one moment you can be happy at another sad, but there is no rationalization, nothing is better than the other, nothing should be. There are no models in the head.
Everything can be created out of nothing.
We tend to rationalize, objectify and label. Creativity is nowhere to be found there.
But then children slowly get domesticated. They go into public school systems which are places built to deprive people from their natural curiosity and feed them with worthless knowledge. This is reality, this is everything we know about it, stop asking questions and be a good child/worker/consumer/member of society. This takes a long time and most people lose it, they break. And they admit: yes, knowledge is king, I must think about everything because that is rational, this is what is expected from me. I have to know everything, I can’t have my own thoughts because I’m a douche. I have B+ from science I can never invent anything or be creative. Must be good, must be good robot…
If I ask you a question and you respond to me, you’re being a robot.
If you’ve ever seen interviews with Marlon Brando watch carefully what he says and how he reacts. Most of the time he completely refuses to answer a question, he does not hear it at all. Instead of answering the interviewers question he will just comment on her beautiful smile. Was that something he did on purpose? When I saw that I instantly knew he practiced meditation. This is just what happens when you are in a state of just being. You’re just curious about stuff, you don’t react in a mechanical way. Watching the world is more important than some silly voices.
Of course I found out from later interviews that he did indeed practice meditation. When I first read some Zen stuff I had no idea what was going on. I am a very intellectual person and I believe that I just need a certain amount of time to understand anything. Usually it wasn’t long with everything I have encountered previously in my life but Zen was just too hard of a nut to crack. For months I was blind. I had countless theories explaining it ranging from spiritual explanations to quantum physics. I was always wrong, I couldn’t answer what is the sound of one hand clapping. It was the ultimate intellectual challenge (if you’re like me consider it a challenge too!). But when it clicked, wow. It is unbelievable, because it is the simplest thing in the world. Literally there can’t be anything simpler. That’s why any kind of thinking about it backfires when you want to understand it.
I wrote the answer to my koan Riddle – will you win the prize or not if you say “I won’t win the prize”?
The answer was: that if you didn’t respond to the riddle you guessed correctly. But silence is also not the answer.
Koans have only one purpose. To show you that you mustn’t follow.
Now, knowing the answer you would respond by being silent and not writing anything. That is the wrong thing to do, because you’re following.
Following your own thought processes makes you a slave. When you don’t notice that, you get stuck in your reality tunnels. It is a skill to notice bullshit. Because your mind does not see whether a question can be answered or not, it is like a computer, if you give it a task to solve it will try to solve it. That’s why there were many solutions to the riddle. But all of them were wrong because the question itself was whack.
So if you noticed that and wrote that the question is a paradox was it right? No, because you were still trying to give an answer.
So should you not write anything? No, cause somebody already gave that answer and you would be following it.
Should you be like Marlon Brando and don’t consider the question just consider something else like comment on something else or play with your dog instead?
No, if you’re doing what Marlon Brando did, you’re still following.
So you should be yourself? No, because you’re following a concept of yourself.
So do you meditate? No, again you’re following something, in this case a technique, meditation is a technique, not the thing you should be doing.
So you should be completely spontaneous? No, because you can’t be spontaneous by premeditating and thinking about being spontaneous. Again you will be following something.
So where is the answer?! How do you not follow something when everything you do seems to be following!?!? Is it an impossible paradox?!
…now notice that it is your mind that is trying to find the answer to this question…
My mind is doing the same thing right now. Because I am writing about this and I have to think, but I can’t think without following. So I can’t really write the answer to this question.
You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.