Letting Things Marinate

Some teachings in Buddhism seem a little strange to newcomers. The teachings on rebirth for instance, are hard for many people to swallow.  Peace, compassion, meditation … and such are big sellers, but ‘detachment’, ‘dispassion’ , or even ‘enlightenment’ are much more tricky concepts. Consider the second Noble Truth – suffering is caused by desire. Does that mean someone can be without desire? All kinds of desire or only some kinds? Does that mean I am entirely to blame for any suffering I experience?

These kinds of questions are good to ask, and to keep in mind. If nothing else, Buddhism is a religion that invites the enquiring mind. You do not have to take a  lot on faith.

But too often questioning leads to opinion forming. Views and beliefs start to take over from the questioning mind. And these beliefs become restrictive. Where the questioning mind is encouraged, the deciding, judging mind is not. Your opinions are always formed based on what you like, rather than pure rationality.

Take rebirth, do you like the idea? Some people are offended by the promise of something after you die. They see the being as carefully arranged physical matter, that returns to the elements from whence it came.

Others are offended by the idea that physical matter is all you are, that this life is all there is.

Either way the subsequent view that arises is based on feeling – what concepts you like or dislike, and not on real enquiry.

There is another way to approach those teachings that do not make sense. We take on trust that there is a truth in them somewhere, something useful. And it is our job to find that truth, find that benefit. In the mean time it is perfectly ok to not know.

You do not have to make a decision about everything. Is there a God or not? Is He finite or infinite. Will the world have an end? And all the similar questions ….

It is quite ok to simply ‘not know’. Then teachings can sit and marinate. At some point in the future things that did not make sense at first click into place. You find a way to put the concept to use.

And all Dhamma is tools. Dhamma is just concepts in place to aid and assist practise. A way of looking at experience and the world (which are the same thing in Buddhism) to light up the way to live and die. Those parts of Dhamma that do not make sense, let them marinate. See what happens. Keep the Questioning mind alive without the judging, opinion-forming mind taking over.

2 replies on “Letting Things Marinate”

  1. “I don’t teach Korean or Mahayana or Zen. I don’t even teach Buddhism. I only teach don’t know. Fifty years here and there teaching only don’t know. So only don’t know, okay?”

    – Zen Master Seung Sahn

    “I hope from moment to moment you only go straight, don’t know, which is clear like space, try, try, try for ten thousand years, non-stop, get enlightenment, and save all beings from suffering.”

    – Zen Master Seung Sahn


  2. I have a lot of questions in my mind, and I have started to find answers to them, one by one. Not all questions answered yet, and the more I learn, the more questions will arise. But I believe that if I keep open-minded and follow the flow, then everything will fall into their places. Thanks for the post.

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