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Great Doubt As The Way

To paraphrase Descartes “ Doubt is, I Am.” Ah, but who asks?

In each moment much data has to be formalized for actualization, a very fast process indeed! This everyday decision-making is a form of doubt twin-level reduction. In logic, the goal is to assess risk and doubt. Something along the lines of, is there a lion in the bush because there is a roar and branches move,

and what is my risk of being attacked if I select one course of action over another?

We weigh the perceived consequences. Then, act and then counteract as needed. This scenario-building in realtime is the crucible of every moment. The difference is risk assessment. On the granular level this makes sense. But what about the absolute level? These might be called the outer region of doubt, haunting doubt. Jeff Shore addresses this:

Doubt? Like other religions, Buddhism encourages faith, trust. Doubt is usually considered a defilement or poison, along with greed, hatred, ignorance, and pride. Indeed, such doubt is to be avoided: doubt as mere skepticism, a lack of trust, or a hesitant attitude that keeps you from entering the Way

There is good reason it (the absolute doubt), is called Great Doubt. In an introductory section to his text, Boshan briefly describes the barrier (also called the great matter) of life-and-death, the Doubt [疑情; literally “doubt sensation”] that arises from it, how this fundamental religious question differs from ordinary doubt and skepticism, and its final congealing into the Doubt Block[疑團] or Great Doubt[大疑]:

In Zen practice, the essential point is to arouse Doubt. What is this Doubt? For example, when you are born, where do you come from? You cannot help but remain in doubt about this. When you die, where do you go? Again, you cannot help but remain in doubt. Since you cannot pierce this barrier of life-and-death, suddenly the Doubt will coalesce right before your eyes. Try to put it down, you cannot; try to push it away, you cannot. Eventually this Doubt Block will be broken through and you’ll realize what a worthless notion is life-and-death – ha! As the old worthies said: “Great Doubt, Great Awakening; small doubt, small awakening; no doubt, no awakening.” Great Doubt: The Real Koan

In his essay Jeff Shore opens us up to doubt as the interplay of trust and doubt when we wring-out the dualistic nature of the compound words. Spinning and werring, they provide centrifugal balance– great trust = great doubt.

This view is expanded also by Koun Yamada: Great Faith, Great Doubt, Great Determination

The great root of faith naturally activates this great ball of doubt. If the root of faith appears, the great ball of doubt will arise without fail. Spurred on by great doubt, we continue the practice of mu, without seeking or expecting awakening.

So, “Great is the Meaning of Birth and Death…Do Not Waste This Life,” is a proposition.

How is this done? Who is it that asks how, may be more the point. I’ve known this person for seventy-seven years and am still amazed at what he does! Yet my familiarity has become clearer and doubt and trust are within balance at the point of patience of him. This patience is allowing the moment to unfold, not being hasty to declare an opinion, being buoyed by Mu...

Be sure to read the two essays and join our Sangha, this Tuesday October 18, 2022. We’ll explore the teachings with and without a doubt…

At 7:00 EDT:

Password– FSZS



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