It is said that ultimate reality is only truly experienced at the point of the mind ceasing to identify and add its mental 'knowing' to any given phenomenon.

How does one practically enter into the space of seeing something with the fresh curiosity of not entirely knowing what it is? I notice that it is very difficult to see anything at all. Immediately meaning is assigned as to what something or someone is - their behaviours, their familiarity, what might be expected - and then my reality seems dull.

Is there a pragmatic practice that can guide me back to the authentic, unlabeled unknown?


If we define pragmatic as dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations, then Buddhist practice, whether it is meditation, work, recitation, koan practice, etc, is entirely pragmatic.

Each aspect of Buddhist practice from all schools has been developed and tuned over centuries to overcome this 'mental labeling"...but I get the sense you're asking if there is a "shortcut"?

This is a question which is difficult to give a personal answer to - it is one of the reasons the relation between teacher and student is deemed so important in Buddhism. Your teacher should know which aspects of practice are most likely to work best for each individual student. So please keep in mind this is an attempt to answer your question in a generic way from the perspective of my own experience.

D.T. Suzuki once said about kensho (Jap. "to see things as they are") that it can take 30 seconds to attain it or 30 years.

Ironically, if attainment is seen as a goal, it is preoccupying your mind, making attainment much more of a struggle. You'll be swimming against the current in stead of letting the current carry you. There is essentially no point "A" where you are and a point "B" you have to "get to".

The ceasing of "naming things" in the mind is related to experiencing non-duality. And since all thoughts are language, and therefore dual, this is not something you can conceive or willfully experience. You kind of have to "surrender" to it.

Once you have experienced it (however briefly), you will know it and you can "steer the currents" to realize this again.


  • HTH? Was this supposed to be a link?
    – Max
    Oct 6 at 9:20
  • @Max "HTH" is a formality, a way to conclude a message -- "I hope this helps" -- like "Kind regards" etc.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 6 at 11:51
  • @ChrisW - right. I see.
    – Max
    Oct 6 at 13:11

Principally and as a layman, I had self-studied a form of shikantaza from the Hongzhi school of thought. Its fundaments are rooted in the Buddha's teaching given to Bahiya and that the subtext of that teaching appeals to a practitioner who is already accomplished in various domains of their mind: steadfast comprehension, virtue and scrutiny. You might recognize these three domains as compounds of the eightfold path, which refer to the naturally occurring qualities of a fairly balanced human. For other practitioners, the aim is for them to become intimate with those qualities before embarking into the deep recesses of the mind. Whilst Zen master Hongzhi might not have been directly influenced by this teaching, his approach was surely a themed corollary to 'in the seen, there is just the seen', with which Hongzhi termed 'Silent Illumination.'

Firstly, as Codosaur has highlighted, one must have an awareness about the terrain we call Buddhism and its teachings. This might occur through self-study or working with a teacher or as a group (sangha) while developing wholesome states and skilful actions. To borrow Codosaurs words, one applies themselves sensibly and realistically. With this kind of exposure, in this kind of context, using these kinds of skilful methods, one ferrets out a pragmatic means to accomplish the primary task of ending psychological suffering - the by-product being that one sees clearly.

Yes, one may take upon a method that propels you quickly, but then one may take upon a slower path - it depends on certain factors I'd rather not go into. In the progressive instance, better to be learning how to access your own inner authentic values than those troublesome values thrust upon you by a society gone mad, and if you don't make it, perhaps you will learn to die peacefully with dignity and mindfulness.

Here is a free copy of Taigen Dan Leighton's version of Hongzhi's Silent Illumination. Perhaps you might take to it quickly, who knows!


Buddhist practice is not some fantasy football that's practiced outside of the real life. It's quite the opposite: our real life situations are the bread and butter of Buddhist practice. Everyday instances of fear, lust, anger, egotism, stubborn grasping at one-sided views etc.

Whenever you have a real-life situation that involves working with other people, there's a chance you are letting your ego drive and ego loves dealing in labels.

That's where the real practice comes in. If you can step out of your ego's limited perspective, its stereotypes, preconceptions, prejudices - then that's a tiny but a very real step in the direction of enlightenment and ultimate reality. Keep doing it for a few decades and the result is almost guaranteed.

As to exactly "how" - is that something that needs explanation? Okay, here it is: always watch yourself and pay attention to your hidden motives. If you see that you are doing something primarily to defend and/or feed your ego - stop and force yourself to try and see things from the other person's perspective instead of just yours and do your best to do what's objectively wholesome, regardless of what that does to your ego.


When we talk about meditation as a practice, we mean that when we sit down to meditate we are practicing the skill of putting down the thinking mind. A meditation period is chosen as a stretch of time where we don't have anything that needs to be done, and part of the practice is stilling the mind that is constantly casting about looking for problems to solve or entertainment to distract itself with.

Without problems to solve, the self rapidly loses meaning...

The goal, however, isn't to return to the infantile state in which nothing has labels or meaning. That mistake is what Ken Wilber called the Pre/Trans Fallacy. Enlightenment doesn't mean that a cat stops being a cat, a dog stops being a dog, or a teapot stops being a teapot. What it means is that one now perceives these things as themselves, not as objects within a web of concerns and potential discomforts. We don't worry that the cat will disturb our meditation; we aren't frightened that the dog might bark or bite; we aren't annoyed or ashamed because the teapot is empty or has a crack. The mind doesn't get involved and make a problem for itself to solve. But we don't discard the pleasure of seeing a cat or a dog, and we don't reject the usefulness of a teapot.

  • Ken Wilber? Ah, well, I suppose he has to make some appearances!
    – Max
    Oct 6 at 18:46

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