In his “Lancet of Seated Meditation” (“Shobo genzo zazen shin”), Dogen quotes a conversation:
Once, when the Great Master Hung-tao of Yueh shan was sitting in meditation , a monk asked him,
What are you thinking, sitting there so fixedly?
The master answered, “I’m thinking of not thinking.”
The monk asked, “How do you think of not thinking?”
The master answered, “Nonthinking.”
Here’s a question that came up in an online discussion group:
What is nonthinking? Is it something we do or is it something that happens when we cease to do? If it is something we do, does it require a touch of effort? Please assist me.
In “Genjo Koan”, Dogen wrote: “When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point.”
To “find your way at this moment” is to feel all things without exception engage with “your place where you are”.1 The feeling of each thing without exception engaging in support of “the place where you are” is “nonthinking”.
In his commentary on Hung-tao’s conversation, Dogen wrote:
There is someone in nonthinking, and this someone maintains us.
I wrote previously:
Once I find centrifugal force at the location of my awareness, I can find the appropriate counter from everything that surrounds the place of awareness, even things outside the range of my senses.
Things beyond the range of the senses are present in the length of my inhalation or exhalation, at the place where I am, as I find my way in this moment. If I am open to things outside the range of the senses as I comprehend the long or short of my current inhalation or exhalation, the elements of Gautama’s way of living unfold for me.2
Does nonthinking require effort? If so, I think it’s only the extension of the mind of compassion beyond what is sensed in all directions.
1 “Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation”, Carl Bielefeldt, Document 3 “Lancet of Seated Meditation”, pg 188-189;
2 “Your place where you are”, also “Genjo Koan”;
3 See Old Habits for the sixteen.