Let me get right to the point. Everything I have to say here is summed up in the following, over 1,000 year old, quote from the sage Sengts'an in the Hsin-Hsin Ming:
"It is really not necessary to search after the Truth, but it is necessary to eradicate preconceived notions."
Most people tend to just assume all sorts of things, without any proof, without any valid reason. Because it has been fed into us from childhood, because we have been convinced. For whatever reason. We believe in the texts that belong to a certain religion or political belief, or because someone powerful claims it, or because it somehow suits us, or because it fits in with what we already believe anyway. We believe things because it gives us comfort, or hope. Oh, we love to believe. Some of these beliefs are so deeply ingrained, we don't even know anymore that they are 'only' thoughts, and not actual knowledge. We feel certain, because everyone appears to be sure of it. But is that certainty really valid? And what is the price we pay for our (good) faith?
There was a Japanese Zen master named Nan-in who lived during the Meiji era (1868-1912).
During his days as a teacher, he was visited by a university professor curious about Zen.
Being polite, Nan-in served the professor a cup of tea.
As he poured, the professor’s cup became full, but Nan-in kept on pouring. As the professor watched the cup overflow, he could no longer contain himself and said, “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
Nan-in turned to the professor and said, “Like the cup, you are too full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Should you have a heart for reality and not be satisfied (anymore) with what has been said and written by anyone, including the words on these pages, I suggest that you take Sents'an's statement to heart and investigate what is real and what is in fact no more than preconceived opinions and beliefs that have no other function than to just obscure reality and keep you from the naked reality of your existence.
And that is the subject of this treatise: to 'empty your cup', investigating what is mere belief and what is true knowledge. It takes courage to get to the bottom of this investigation, this dis-covering. And at the bottom awaits the raw, naked reality, stripped of all frills and little (and big) lies. At the bottom also awaits the end of despair, of neurosis, of awkwardness, of never being enough or having enough: the other side of our faith, of every faith.
I would be lying if I claimed to have already 'landed' myself. Perhaps it's even true that there is actually no real bottom and dis/covering is an endless undertaking, or as Adam J. Pearson says:
"In my experience, free falling into answerlessness, surrendering all the authorities and their doctrines to the vastness of not-knowing, feels like a delightful vulnerability, an exquisitely unknown openness, with no promises and no guarantees.
Nothing broken, nothing fixed. Just the fall.
This fall into nowhere, this fall into here, is at once a tumble into now, a stumbling into life that shakes the dust of ideologies, both spiritual and political, from the rawness of our eyes.
To my astonishment, in this vista of unknowing, I find everything wide open again, so open that not even the Gurus can close it up, for here, even they, are totally at a loss." 1)
I am, however, aware of the direction of this falling. To dis/cover, you have to be alert, and especially curious about what comes to mind and then relentlessly question whether what you think is really true. Not an easy task!
"We human beings love smooth sailing. We crave assurance and comforting concepts. We want our beliefs supported and approved, not challenged and possibly discredited. That psychological fact is called the “confirmation bias.” To state it briefly, human beings tend to give too much weight to evidence that corroborates what they already believe or desire to believe, while giving too little weight, discounting out of hand, or even forgetting entirely, evidence that tends to contradict what they already believe or desire to believe."2)
1) Adam J. Pearson, Views from the grave
2) Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things, Chapter 29