Oakville Zen Meditation

#405 How to practice doubt July 10 22

                                              If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully           

Japanese Zen teacher Hakuin loved to repeat:

"At the bottom of great doubt lies great awakening.

If you doubt fully, you will awaken fully, if you never doubt you will stay asleep with a frozen mind"   

This is one of these paradoxical, and obscure Zen statements driving us puzzled.

Soon in life our mind becomes full of knowledge, ideas, concepts, and opinions, beliefs from which we analyze, make decisions, behave socially and judge.

It is said that all this accumulation of knowledge and ideas cannot and should not be challenged and that having doubt is a hindrance and a sign of weakness.

On the contrary, Zen is teaching that doubt is necessary to progress. Having a frozen mindset in everything is a factor of stagnation in our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual journeys.

The Buddha always asked people to doubt about his teaching in order to progress.

  1. The reactive & emotional doubt:

It is the primary subject of the Buddha's teaching on hindrances better-called blockage.

We may doubt almost everything such as our own intelligence, skills, lifestyle, relationship, work, qualities, thoughts, feelings, etc... They may trigger a strong and painful doubt, source of relentless questions, and negativities such as poor self-image, disappointment, uncertainty, the experience of failure, guilt that plague our life.

We must realize this doubt is impersonal, that is not you. You are not that doubt. You have it.

Doubt is simply a mental state that arose because the proper conditions were present.

Therefore, when reactive/emotional doubt is striking, it is helpful to understand its causes and conditions to see them more clearly.  

Doubting does not mean insecurity or confusion. It means opportunity. Accept it, and be curious about

it rather than fighting it.

Treat yourself kindly while doubt is present.

Use your mindfulness meditation practice to recognize doubt as just doubt. Label it as an emotional thought that is generating negative feelings, and see how it starts.

Once you start to see the doubt in a mindful way that is clearly and kindly.....it becomes a much less formidable mind-state. In Zen, doubting opens the door to this question: “ Hum, can I be/do better?”

The cynical & negative doubt:

The second kind of doubt is nihilistic. Those people are negative, pessimistic, destructive, suspicious, and convinced that everyone and everything is inherently flawed, deceptive, or exploitive. This is not a genuine doubt. It is a belief system, an opinion, and judgment disguised as doubt. It is a dogmatic attitude in which these people are trapped.

      The skeptical & inquiring doubt:

This third type of doubt is the least common and poorly understood. Being constructive and not destructive like the 2 other kinds of doubt, skeptical or inquiring doubt can often be very beneficial. For instance, in many spiritual traditions including Zen Buddhism you are encouraged to be skeptical and not just have faith that is to blindly accept everything taught and read. Skeptical doubt helps us to what is real and what is an illusion. "Be a lamp unto yourself" said the Buddha.

Skeptical doubt is healthy and useful because it opens our minds to further exploration and discovery.

Summary: Having doubt is not mean negativity about x, y, z.It means having an opportunity

to open your mind rather than having it frozen in labeling and various opinions.  THANK YOU