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“In the Tao, there is nothing to discipline oneself in. If there is any discipline in it, that is not the Tao. But if there is no discipline whatever in the Tao, one remains an ignoramus.” – Mazu

Discipline and Zen seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Images of shaved head monk sitting ramrod straight, not moving, inside or out, were certainly in my mind when I heard about Zen. Also there are stories about encounters between Zen Masters and the world that reinforce the image. Like when an angry samurai drew his sword and threatened a Zen teacher by saying, “Don’t you know I can run you through with my sword without a thought!” The Zen teacher replied, “Don’t you know that I can let you run me through with your sword without a thought?” Sounds like some pretty heavy duty discipline.

Mercedes-Benz, linked itself to discipline and the qualities associated with it in a commercial featuring meditating Zen monks a while back. The monks were meditating, sitting in a circle, on the runway of an airport. Sensors attached to their shaved heads. As they were meditating, a couple of drivers in a Mercedes were doing wheelies on the runway around them and between them. A double feat of precision driving and precision meditating. The commercial next showed a control room located some distance away. White coated lab technicians carrying clipboards, monitoring gauges and watching screens showing scenes of the runway, as well as inside of each of car. There was also one elderly Zen monk monitoring a separate bank of screens, which were showing the brain waves of the meditating monks. Each of the monitors showed a regular rhythm apparently undisturbed by what is going on around them. Except one, which draw the attention the elderly monk, who immediately ran out to the runway with a stick and hit the monk whose brainwave was erratic. Discipline.

I believe what Mazu is talking about regarding discipline and the Tao is more accurately demonstrated in a different experiment involving meditating monks and brainwaves. In that experiment, experienced meditators, monks, were hooked up to monitors, as well as non meditating people. As they sat quietly in a room, periodically, the sound of a loud explosion would be played over the sound system. The assumption was that the meditators, having the power of concentration on their side, would soon tune out the distractions from the silence, whereas the non-meditators would be unable to do so. They expected to find the evidence in the brainwaves they were monitoring.

What they found was the opposite. The brainwave information indicated that after some time, the non-meditator’s brain waves stopped responding to the sound of the explosions, whereas the meditating monks responded like the first time every time. It takes discipline, to be present like the first time every time. We have to forget the discipline that allows us to access that experience.  We must also forget that we have forgotten.

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