Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Armadillo, Mushin and the 5 Skandhas

  • 10:00 pm Monday night, Back from Karate and Zen, driving home on 431 North between Dothan and Headland. Clear sky, the road a long band of black asphalt lit up by the headlights.  
  • Something on the road. It should not be there. Small, moving - it's alive, brownish color. Obviously an animal, it could be a cat, a possum, a raccoon, an armadillo. By its color, the way it moves, more likely an armadillo. But not enough time to say.
  • Numerous animals killed on our roads, impossible to avoid this one, likely going to die. Bad Feeling.
  • Stir the car - keep the wheels on both side of the animal, fortunately in the middle of the lane.
  • To escape predators, armadillos jump up to 4 feet vertically in the air, and then run away. When a car drives over them, they jump, they hit the bottom of the car - they die. No noise from under the car. This one must have survived. Good...

At 55 miles per hour this whole story lasted probably less than 2 seconds. While the whole event was happening, there was absolutely no ego, no "I" involved. Now that I am telling the story, I use the concept. But at the time, there was just the sudden awareness of a shape on the road, the recognition that it very likely was an armadillo, a bad feeling about it, the expectation that it was going to die, and the automatic move of the hands to try to keep the wheels of the car away from the creature.
Now that I am telling the story, I can say that I saw something, I identified it as an animal, probably an armadillo, I felt bad about the fact it was probably going to die, I tried to avoid it...
But these are just figures of speech, when it happened there was no "I" involved.

  • A form on the road
  • Awareness of it
  • It's an armadillo
  • Bad feeling
  • Hands adjust direction on the steering wheel. No Bump.

The 5 skandhas at work. 

I realized last night they actually are a very accurate way to describe that sort of experience. And that in fact, there really is no need of an "I" to describe what actually happens.

When something happens fast, the introduction of the "I" - separate from the action - is a waste of time. If someone attacks you or your car starts skidding on a slippery road and you wonder what you should do - it's probably too late. You need to act without having to think, somehow "you" are not even acting, but the action happens through you. I know it sounds funny, but if you have been in such a situation before, you must know what I mean. 

And this is why training is important...

Mushin - Empty Heart - is the ability to react to a situation without prejudice, without fear, without the interference of ANY concept.

Yesterday's Armadillo encounter clearly showed me one thing : "I" is a concept, a figure of speech. And for lack of a better way to word it, I can actually operate without it.

1 comment:

oz said...

i was wondering who the calligrapher was. this is a beautiful rendition of "mu shin"