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III. Also distinctive of Dogen's account of Shikantaza is that it is the practice of "without thinking" (hishiryo): which is also called no-mind (mushin; wu-hsin), the essence of Zen Enlightenment
. Here we shall discuss "thinking," "not-thinking" and "without thinking."
A. THINKING (shiryo): This is our habitual tendency to stay in the mode of conceptualizing thought.
1. About "thinking" a) Noetic Attitude: positional (either affirming or negating); b) Noematic Content: conceptualized objects.
a) Noetic Attitude is positional (either affirming or negating): A subject is adopting an intentional stance toward an object and, specifically, thinking about it in either a positive or negative way: "This is an X" or "This is not an X," "Do X" or "Do not do X."
(1) Consciousness is an intentional vector proceeding from a subject to an object. The subject is a cognitive agent.
b) Noematic Content: X is an intentional object pointed to and conceived through our thoughts.
2. "Thinking" can be pictured as follows:
c) Aspects of "thinking":
(1) Subject-object division present: an active subject thinks an object.
(2) Non-immediacy: We do not experience the object immediately but only at a distance, as removed subjects, and only through the thoughts we have of the object.
(3) Non-fullness: We do not experience the object in its fullness or "suchness" but, rather, only as filtered through our thinking about it.
B. NOT-THINKING (fushiryo): About "not-thinking": (1) noetic attitude: positional (only negating); (2) noematic content: thinking (as objectified).
1. Noetic attitude is positional (only negating): Subject is agent seeking to suppress its thinking.
2. Noematic content: The object is now the "second-order" object "thinking about X."
"Not-thinking" can be pictured as follows:
3. Aspects of "not-thinking": Same as for "thinking."
a) Consciousness is still an intentional-vector proceeding from a subject to the object. The subject is still functioning as agent, even if one trying to bring an end to its own agency.C. WITHOUT THINKING (hishiryo): This is no-thought (munen; wu-nien) or no-mind (mushin; wu-hsin): pure immediacy in the fullness of things as they are.
1. About "not-thinking": (1) noetic attitude: nonpositional (neither affirming nor negating); (2) noematic content: pure presence of things as they are (genjokoan).
a) Noetic attitude is nonpositional (neither affirming nor negating): Consciousness is no longer an intentional vector proceeding from a subject to an object but is, rather, an open dynamic field in which objects present themselves.
b) Noematic content: The object is no longer an object that is the target of an intentional act but is, rather, the object itself as it presents itself within the open dynamic field of consciousness.
c) Aspects of "without thinking":
(1) No subject-object distinction: The subject has disappearedÂ—this being the Zen interpretation of Buddhist anatta or no-mind.
(2) Immediacy: Without a subject standing back, the experience is one of immediacy within the dynamic field of consciousness.
(3) Fullness: Because the object is not filtered through an intentional act, it presents itself in its fullness.
(4) Such immediacy and fullness are genjokoan, "pure presence of things as they are."
It is a serious mistake in the understanding of Zen to refer merely to the "denial" or "cessation" of "conceptual thinking." Regardless of whether or not it can be proven than the pre-Buddhist Sanskrit etymology of the term Dhyana can be shown to have no-thought connotations, the main concern here is the semantic development undergone by the Chinese term ch'an in the course of the production of the Ch'an texts in East Asia.
It is quite clear that in Ch'an Buddhism, no-mind, rather than referring to an absence of thought, refers to the condition of not being trapped in thoughts, not adhering to a certain conceptual habit or position.
The error of interpretation made by many scholars (and by Zen practitioners as well) lies precisely in taking the term "no-thought" to refer to some kind of permanent, or ongoing absence of thought. While this assumption is routinely made, it is impossible to corroborate it in the Ch'an canon. If we study the seminal texts carefully, we do find a description of the experience of an instantaneous severing of thought that occurs in the course of a thoroughgoing pursuit of a Buddhist meditative exercise.
Nowhere in the Platform Sutra, Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, Diamond Sutra
, or any other major Ch'an text, is the term "no-mind" explained to be a permanent incapacitation of the thinking faculty or the permanent cessation of all conceptual activity. (source)