Big Planet

In the mood for Zen

In philosophy on July 16, 2009 at 4:23 pm

How to transform your pessimism into a resource: see the glass as already broken.

“You see this goblet?” asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master. “For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”

The quote is from this source. Another blogger explains the Zen habit:

So when the nice glass you bought inevitably falls and breaks, someday, you might get upset. But not if you see the glass as already broken, from the day you get it. You know it’ll break someday, so from the beginning, see it as already broken. Be a time-traveler, or someone with time-traveling vision, and see the future of this glass, from this moment until it inevitably breaks.

This sounds like the ending of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, where the hero wakes up from the illusion of time and sees all past, present and future in one object or moment. It’s not simple pessimism, but a glimpse of eternity.

Jorge Luis Borges, in his essay entitled A History of Eternity, reports about an ancient conception of eternity not as time without end, but the conjunction of all moments. Ludwig Wittgenstein is more parsimonious: eternity is simply the here and now, because it is timeless, and the present moment is always a state of timelessness.

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  1. […] posts: Paradise Lost In the mood for Zen « Before Kafka, Borges and Perfection July 20, […]

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