The Fasting of the Mind

Phenomenal life in an apparent universe is nothing but objectivisation: all that we know as 'life' is only that process.

Living, for the ordinary man, is a continual process of objectifying. From morning till night, and from night till morning, he never ceases to objectify except in dreamless sleep. That is what manifestation is, and it is nothing but that, for when objectifying ceases the objective universe is no more - as in deep sleep.

But when Ch'an monks 'sit' they seek to empty their minds, to practise a fasting of the mind, for while the mind 'fasts' there is no more conceptualisation; then no concept arises, not even an I-concept, and in the absence of an I-concept the mind is 'pure' (free of objects); then, and only then, it is itself, what-it-is and as-it-is. When that is permanent it is objectively called enlightenment, when it is temporary it can be called samadhi.

In that state of fasting the mind is only 'blank' in so far as there is a total absence of objects; itself it is not absent but totally present, then and only then. Nor is 'objectivising' replaced by 'subjectivising'; both counterparts are absent, and the subject-object process (whereby subject, objectifying itself as object, thereby becomes object, which object is nothing but subject), the 'spinning of the mind', ceases to operate and dies down. The mind ceases to 'do'; instead, it 'is'.

In the absence of objectivisation the apparent universe is not, but we are; which is so because what we are is what the apparent universe is, and what the apparent universe is - is what we are; dual in presence, non-dual in absence, sundered only in manifestation.

(© HKU Press, 1970)

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