Thinkers 25

Zen/0 -- Explore Thinkers, Pirsig, page 25

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Page 206: "'Quality is a characteristic of thought and statement that is recognized by a nonthinking process. Because definitions are a product of rigid, formal thinking, quality cannot be defined.'
The fact that this 'definition' was actually a refusal to define...
'But even though Quality cannot be defined, you know what Quality is!'"

Page 215: "'A thing exists,' he said, 'if a world without it can't function normally.. If we can show that a world without Quality functions abnormally, then we have shown that Quality exists, whether it's defined or not.'" 1

Page 230: "Philosophical mysticism, the idea that truth is indefinable and can be apprehended only by nonrational means, has been with us since the beginning of history. It's the basis of Zen practice."

Page 246: "The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there."

Page 253: "'The quality that can be defined is not the Absolute Quality. ...It is the origin of heaven and earth When named it is the mother of all things. . . . Reaching from mystery into deeper mystery, it is the gate to the secret of all life.... An image of what existed before God. Looked at but cannot be seen... Unceasing, continuous It cannot be defined And reverts again into the realm of nothingness That is why it is called the form of the formless The image of nothingness'" 2

Page 256: "To discover a metaphysical relationship of Quality and the Buddha at some mountaintop of personal experience is very spectacular. And very unimportant....What's important is the relevance of such a discovery to all the valleys of this world." 3

Page 257: "No, he did nothing for Quality or the Tao. .. He showed a way by which reason may be expanded to include elements that have previously been unassimilable and thus have been considered irrational." 4

Page 264: "Poincare then went on to demonstrate the conventional nature of other concepts of science, such as space and time, showing that there isn't one way of measuring these entities that is more true than another; that which is generally adopted is only more convenient."

Page 278: "Now I want to show that that classic pattern of rationality can be tremendously improved, expanded and made far more effective through the formal recognition of Quality in its operation. ...however, I should go over some of the negative aspects of traditional maintenance to show just where the problems are. The first is stuckness, a mental stuckness that accompanies the physical stuckness of whatever it is you're working on."

Page 279: "A screw sticks... This is the zero moment of consciousness. Stuck. No answer. Honked. Kaput. It's a miserable experience emotionally. You're losing time."

Page 280: "...It's just outrageous that a tiny little slot of a screw can defeat you so totally. What you're up against is the great unknown, the void of all Western thought. You need some ideas, some hypotheses. Traditional scientific method, unfortunately, has never quite gotten around to say exactly where to pick up more of these hypotheses. ...Creativity, originality, inventiveness, intuition, imagination--'unstuckness,' in other words--are completely outside its domain."

Page 281: "The difference between a good mechanic and a bad one, like the difference between a good mathematician and a bad one, is precisely this ability to select the good facts from the bad ones on the basis of quality."

Page 284: "Value is the predecessor of structure. It's the preintellectual awareness that gives rise to it. ...With Quality as a central undefined term, reality is, in its essential nature, not static but dynamic. ...It has forms but the forms are capable of change."

Page 285: "Let's consider a reevaluation of the situation in which we asume that the stuckness now occurring, the zero of consciousness, isn't the worst of all possible situations, but the best possible situation you could be in. After all, it's exactly this stuckness that Zen Buddhists go to so much trouble to induce; through koans, deep breathing, sitting still and the like. Your mind is empty, you have a 'hollow-flexible' attitude of 'beginner's mind.' You're right at the front end of the train of knowledge, at the track of reality itself. Consider, for a change, that this is a moment to be not feared but cultivated. If your mind is truly, profoundly stuck, then you may be much better off than when it was loaded with ideas." 5

Page 300: "The effort of fathoming what is in another's mind creates a distortion of what is seen. I'm trying, I suppose, for some situation in which whatever it is emerges undistorted." 6

Page 317: "Zen has something to say about boredom. Its main practice of 'just sitting' has got to be the world's most boring activity---unless it's that Hindu practice of being buried alive. What is it at the very center of boredom that you're not seeing?"

Page 320: "...there's a third possible logical term equal to yes and no which is capable of expanding our understanding in an unrecognized direction. We don't even have a term for it, so I'll have to use the Japanese 'mu'" 7 'Mu' means 'no thing.' ...No class, not one, not zero, not yes, not no.... 'Unask the question'."

Page 321: "It's a great mistake, a kind of dishonesty, to sweep nature's mu answers under the carpet."

Page 322: "When your answer to a test is indeterminate it means one of two things: that your test procedures aren't doing what you think they are or that your understanding of the context of the question needs to be enlarged ...Don't throw away those mu answers! They're every bit as vital as the yes or no answers. They're more vital. They're the ones you grow on!" 8

My comments on this book: Zen is only mentioned a couple of times in this book. But the premises, setting, and action are Zen incarnate. Or at least partly.


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