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The Practice of Not Thinking – Ryunosuke Koike

by Venky

(Image Credit: http://www.penguin.co.uk)

Writing for the online publication ‘Psyche’, Jonathan Malesic argued that the biggest bane plaguing the contemporaneous world was the element of ‘knowingness’, rather than the perniciousness of misinformation. According to Malesic, a smug and condescending attitude of purporting to know every answer even before a question is raised creates more issues than providing solutions. Even when contrary facts come to light, the ‘all-knowing’ homo sapiens is unperturbed and unruffled.

Books that have the ability to impact and influence one’s thinking are considerable. Books possessing the capacity to alter behaviour are sparse. But books that birth a paradigm shift in how a life itself is led, or is to be led, are downright rare. The Practice of Not Thinking by former Buddhist monk of the Jodo Shinshu School, and the current master of the Tsukuyomi Hall, Ryunosuke Koike is one of those rare pearls. Contending that the information overloaded world suffers from a debilitating ‘thinking disease’, Koike, subsequent to identifying the deficiencies of the thinking disorder proceeds to provide a set of practical, easy to implement steps to wriggle free of the tentacles of such a disease.

As Koike informs us, there are three ‘poisons’ (kleshas) as per Buddhism that are at the heart of human confusion and boredom. These three kleshas are desire, anger and uncertainty. The Kleshas work through the five senses of touch, feeling, smell, taste, body and a sixth sense of ‘awareness’. The impulsive energy (stimulation) of the mind finds emotional outlet through the six ‘doors’ and the thinking disease runs riot. Thus, we passively see without actively looking, passively touch without actively feeling, passively hear without actively listening, passively notice a smell without actively smelling something, and passively taste something without actually savouring it.

A superficial way of going about life leads to outcomes that are mired in confusion, fraught relationships, frayed nerves and a restless existence. Focused and targeted meditation, when practiced in a sustained fashion might just prove to be the proverbial panacea for all evils. By practising meditation, we can hone and nurture the acts of speaking, listening, seeing, reading and writing, eating, discarding, touching, and nurturing, thereby brining a more purposeful and refined meaning to life itself.

When it comes to speaking, Koike warns us to be aware of our own arrogance that prompts us to talk back to people, eliminate negative thoughts by gauging our responses before releasing them. For example, if a conversation is on the brink of causing us extreme irritation, it would make prudent sense to pause, reflect upon the emotion and then take the emotion out of the equation. (I’m irritated – I think). Removing the think from the equation just leaves the empty shell of irritation. Refraining from engaging in idle banter and putting a stop to talking ill about others also works wonders for one’s sense of balance. While these things seem elementary and the fundamental tenets of common sense, putting them into actual practice is easier said than done.

Similarly when it comes to seeing, Koike exhorts his readers to abstain from watching images or pictures or movies that are violent and have disturbing visuals. The most interesting bit of the seeing aspect is the advise to completely abhor posting anonymous rancid and pungent thoughts on social media. “The apparent hatred that we express while pretending to be someone else is an expression of the true self inside us that we keep tucked away in a deep corner of our mind.”

Koike also urges his readers to get rid of the fear of ‘losing things’. In a Chapter simply and fittingly titled ‘Discarding’, The mind will always have a strong recollection of the fact that we own an object. This recollection also leads to the mind strongly resisting the losing of such an object. “Although we may believe that we may’ve forgotten about the item, our mind remembers it and continues to ponder what to do with it.” With sustained practice, one can come to terms with letting go of the unnecessary and the unused. This practice may be extended to philanthropy as well where a mind free from the clutches of material wealth and having a self-imposed ceiling on desires, is always willing and keen to let go of monetary resources to benefit those who are in dire need of such resources.

The book also has a very interesting and thought-provoking conversation at the end where Dr. Yuji Ikegaya, an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the University of Tokyo, and the recipient of many prestigious awards in te domain of neuroscience, probes Ryunosuke Koike on matters involving neuroscience to obtain perceptions from a philosophical lens.

‘The Practice of Not Thinking’ is an absolutely invaluable and essential companion to negotiating the swamps and thickets in a world where a cascade of 24/7 information more misguides than leads.

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1 comment

Reyikav April 4, 2023 - 6:52 am

When a non-thinking sleeping former Buddhist monk writes a book about the value of non-thinking you get of course only “sophisticated” intellectual non-sensical ideologies.

Humans’s have always engaged for the most part in “The Practice of Not Thinking” (https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html), or sleeping, and so the world does NOT need more of that but more, much much more, REAL thinking. Because it’s this chronic human non-thinking and sleeping that got us to this current horrific state of worldly affairs.

Reviewer ‘Venky’ goes along, and adds more, of that misdirecting narrative. Eg he says “Focused and targeted meditation, when practiced in a sustained fashion might just prove to be the proverbial panacea for all evils.”

Thousands of years of meditation of millions of people got us to where we are and thus is OBVIOUSLY NOT a “panacea for all evils” at all.


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