Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

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Zen, Essentially

Napa, California, USA

November 19, 2020



"Of all the disciplines that I studied, practiced, learned, Zen was the essential  one. It was not so much an influence on me; rather, it created space. It allowed those things that were there to be there. It gave some form to my experience. And it built up in me the critical mass from which was kindled the experience that produced est. Although the est  training is not Zen, nor even anything like it, some features of est  resonate with Zen teaching and practice. It is entirely appropriate for persons interested in est  to be interested also in Zen."
... 
sharing his experience of Zen with Professor William Warren Bartley III, Werner's official biographer, in intersection 4 "Zen", in chapter seven called "Quest" in part II, "Education", of "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man - The Founding of est"
This essay, Zen, Essentially, is the nineteenth in an open group on Zen:

Werner's source quote for this conversation (above) is one of my all-time favorite quotes of his. And if we drill down to the mother lode, embedded in it is one of my all-time favorite slices  of my all-time favorite quotes of his - and given the veritable library of quotable quotes he's ever spoken, that really is saying a lot. This is it:


<quote>

OF ALL THE DISCIPLINES THAT I STUDIED, PRACTICED, LEARNED, ZEN WAS THE ESSENTIAL  ONE.

<unquote>


Man! That's mastery for you. So Zen was the essential  discipline? ... and I'm particularly interested in / enthralled by his emphasis on the descriptor "essential". Why?

Hmmm ... since he's cited Zen as the essential discipline ... I'm asking myself "At what could he be pointing, both with his quote, as well as with its vocally italicized 'essential'?". Given the plethora of intersections  (a term coined by Professor William Warren Bartley III, Werner's official biographer) Werner was exploring / immersed in before that fateful day out of time on the Golden Gate Bridge in March of 1971 when he got transformation for the first time, it's far from trivial that he designates Zen as the essential one. Exactly what did Zen provide before March 1971 which facilitated and contributed to what happened later on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge?

Now to be clear about this, I've not asked Werner personally or directly (at least not yet) what he means by designating Zen as the "essential" discipline. It's not come up in our conversations so far. So I'm wondering if I can come up with a possible explanation for myself. To this end, whatever I've read of what he's spoken about it, I've set aside (at least for now) to see if I can discover why Zen was essential in facilitating (or at least in playing an essential role in) creating the space in which was kindled, for the first time, transformation and the possibility of being transformed. So please allow me to walk you through this next, knowing it's only my conjecture.

The gentle, sublime art of Zen, is having things be the way they are, and the way they aren't - in other words, in having things be ... just ... so. A thing is the thing in itself. It has no intrinsic meaning other than  the meaning we ascribe to it (which is a subject for another conversation on another occasion). Mountains are mountains, and trees are trees, both before and after Zen enlightenment / satori. It's only during our "smart rat" stage between the two, that we insist on trying to figure out what mountains mean  and what trees mean. The art of Zen then, is assigning to things their own space, their own place, and their own time, without adding any meaning or significance. Things are. They just are. The thing in itself, is perfect. And it's of the utmost supremely profound beauty that anything in itself, is perfect. Really it is.

And that, it could be tersely said, is what Zen reveals when it's aimed at the physical universe and all the objects in it. But Zen's also aimed at people, at ourselves, at living, and at Life itself. And when it's aimed at people, at living, and at Life itself, the same sublimity becomes enlivened as when it's aimed at the physical universe and all the objects in it, resulting in the same profundity. But it's when we aim Zen at ourselves  that something truly extraordinary becomes possible, that something truly extraordinary can happen, something truly extraordinary which I'll propose here may have been (just may  have been ...) what gave form to Werner's experience.

The thing as the thing in itself, with no meaning or significance added ... is, given our typical thinking, remarkable. And that's one order of business. Who I am, as the thing in itself, with no meaning or significance added, is another order of business entirely. The way I am, as the thing in itself, with no meaning or significance added, is another order of business entirely. My mind, my opinions, and my interpretations, as things in themselves, with no meaning or significance added, is another order of business entirely. So with Werner aiming Zen at himself, it's just possible it built up in him the critical mass from which was kindled the experience which produced transformation. That may be what happened ie it may be why he cites Zen the discipline, as "essential": no Zen before, no form for experiencing transformation later.

And look: I did say "may  be". All of the above are purely my own speculations. One day I may ask him for a definitive answer. And if I get one, I'll share it with you.



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