Thursday, August 22, 2013

'Zen' as Shoddy Byproduct.


Zennist injured after making terrible shampoo choice.

Oooooh, "Zen".... sexy word.

What does it promise with its tantalizing zing of stripped-down Eastern sophistication? An exotic experience; a psychological trip; a cure to how I currently am; an insight into the mysteries of the Orient; an attractive enigmatic philosophy that no one can disagree with (or quite agree with); a powerful and effective New Me who will never look back, never doubt and never fear; an updated version of myself that I can lord over the deluded masses grovelling at my feet; something to believe in, and identify with/by, that will console me..?

If 'it' is working at all it'll disappoint in all these regards again and again, although, in doing so (and if I can continue to take it's bitter pill), maybe it can be said to have some faltering purpose.

I don't believe in Zen. I don't practice Zen. It seems to me, at this stage, that it's more often a load of less-than-useless latter day psychobabble employed to bolster people who have, and want to maintain, personality disorders and/or stagey quasi-religious guru personas. That may be a big part of 'its' attraction.

And, to end on a positive note, I'm glad to say that sitting on a cushion is actually just exactly sitting on a cushion. So there will always be that option of not getting caught up in the squalid little misery industries that have sprung up around that rather attractive and intoxicating word 'Zen'.

Regards,

Harry.

17 comments:

Andy said...

Bitter pill?


ST. KEVIN AND THE BLACKBIRD

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.

The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

*

And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in Love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

Seamus Heaney
The Spirit Level (1996)

Harry said...

Hi Andy,

'Bitter pill' might seem a bit harsh, but I can't say I've often joyously skipped to the zafu like a kid skipping to the ice cream parlour with a pocket full of coins. I do it because I've trained myself to do it like a slobbery doggie, and I'm glad that I do it, but it is a 'bitter pill', especially when looked at from the point of my unreasonable expectations of it.

I enjoy Heaney's poem above (although some of his other stuff seems to me to be a bit overdone in terms of language and a bit underdone in terms of revelation), particularly this revelation which really brings it up a notch by landing it square in the lap of the reader:

'And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,/
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?"

Regards,

H.

andy said...

I know that bitter pill! Sitting at 5 Am like a man out of tar, and making sure I go the dull-witted distance,if only because it's the only thing keeping me just about on the right side of sanity amidst mobs of unforgiving teenagers.

I think I know what you mean about the overdone language. Always shapes and ballasts his words, and in his early works this was perhaps bogged at times with nostalgic/romantic drama/sentiment. From 'seeing Things' onwards his verse is more often counterpointed with lighter touches. A cautious honesty to his voice which I trust - appropriate to those often gentle and melancholic revelations.

I think he's letting us know about how far he'd got then, and what he'd like move towards, in the one below:

xxxvii

In the famous poems by the sage Han Shan,
Cold Mountain is a place that can also mean
A state of mind. Or different states of mind

At different times, for the poems seem
One-off, impulsive, the kind of thing that starts
I have sat here facing the Cold Mountain

For twenty-nine years,
or There is no path
That goes all the way
- enviable stuff,
Unfussy and believable.

Talking about it isn't good enough
But quoting from it at least demonstrates
The virtue of an art that knows its mind.

Seamus Heaney,'Seeing Things'. 1991

Harry said...

Hi Andy,

Yes, maybe I need to read the later work with that in mind. There is a certain 'poetic gravity' to his voice at times that seems a bit too cocksure for me to warm to completely, like he's working from some sort of assumption as to what the poet's voice should be, or do... he seems to me at times to take on a sort of neo-bardic poetic authority that is maybe not more than the sum of his considerable poetic talents... but I can't imagine how hard it is for him not to play up to the image that is projected on him and his work. I think he's great really, and a great person it seems, a very sincere and ethical poet, despite the little things that rub me up the wrong way a bit. And this poem maybe contains a good example of what I mean...

"But quoting from it at least demonstrates
The virtue of an art that knows its mind."

Now, Heaney has just quoted Han Shan a few lines ago before saying this... is there something just a tad smug about that, to pronounce on 'the virtue of art' like that in such a self-referential way? ...Or maybe he is right and only expressing his rightness as he sees it?

Regards,

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

Hmm, this post sounds like another way of saying, "my understanding is better than those so-called zen fakers". You know, the too-cool-for-school attitude.

You might possibly be able to get away with it, if not for the dozens of references to "zen" throughout the blog, the quotes from Dogen, and the advertisement for a "Zen meditation retreat"! If you're so ambivalent (nay, disgusted) by the connotation of the word zen, why not expunge it from your lexicon?

But anyway, you don't believe in zen or practice zen. What do you believe? What do you practice? Previously, you said you practice zazen just like Dogen told you to do; I'm pretty sure he wasn't ambivalent about zen, and he probably believed in a lot of things.

To me this sounds like the same kind of cognitive dissonance that Brad Warner used to engage in: deriding "zen" while prominently identifying himself as a "zen monk". He seems to have cooled that internal argument since he found GOD, however. :)


Harry said...

Hi, Dave.

Sorry I'm not more convincing (not!).

I actually quite like the word 'zen', but it means a lot of things (from a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, to an electrical device, to a chain of restaurants...)and, clearly, I'm criticizing it in certain contexts (if you take the time to consider the title of this post then this might be more apparent: "Zen as Shoddy By-product") .

You'll find plenty of people that will be happy to convince you of their own version of 'zen' (or 'God' for that matter) in very unambiguous and easily grasped terms terms, but I think zen is essentially about very thoroughly unconvincing ourselves, and being comfortable and effective in that. As Nagarjuna put it so well (via translation):

"I pay homage to Gautama,
to he who out of compassion,
Taught the true dharma as the relinquishing of all views."

That's what I practice, so as to engender right views... oh dear, I just contradicted myself again! ;-)

When you find something that Dogen seems to advocate as a certainty, you will generally be able to find a statement from him to seemingly contradict it. I'm afraid his bowl of spaghetti isn't very conducive to gleaning comfortingly simple and reassuring 'truths' from (although it doesn't stop people trying!) He looked at things from several different perspectives, so the 'contradictions' are maybe implied by that part of us that can't really take in that two contradictory statements are simultaneously 'true', especially if we are emotionally attached to one of those statements (consider, for e.g., 'The USA is a force for good and democracy in the world' and 'The USA is one of the most aggressive and domineering powers in the world' or 'I am a fucking looser and I will always be a looser' and 'all thinking, regardless of its content, is just the original, untainted radiance of the mind').

What good somebody thoroughly convincing you about zen (or God, or the USA, or whatever) would do you I'm not sure, but that's really your business. If there can be said to be a 'Truth' I think it is more complex and broad than we can comprehend. That in itself points to a certain human 'truth' I think. Unfortunately 'zen' is often interpreted to be presenting a metaphysical absolute 'Truth', but it can actually only indicate the truth of our condition, as we use the self to understand it. The self is actually not that convincing when we quiet down and go looking for it, certainly not in the way that we might habitually think of a 'self'.

Regards,

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

Actually, I don't quite understand the title. Of what is zen a shoddy by-product?

I'm confused by your comment, which seems mostly to be about convincing or being convinced or not being convinced. Looking back at your older posts, this is a regular theme – you quite often say (to your adoring readers) "you won't convince me one way or the other". Does that need to be said at all? What do you intend by repeating that so often?
It seems like a way of holding onto a "view of no-view" or something like that. You're so determined not to have views that you're blind to the multitude of views you carry around. It must be exhausting! :)

There's a certain lack of receptiveness. Doesn't the practice of relinquishing views entail openness? I recently read the Lankavatara and was blown away by several things, but what this first reading exposed was my own rigidity when it came to acknowledging the more psychedelic aspects of the Mahayana texts. I realized that I had previously been too sure/too materialistic. That doesn't mean I believe every word of the book now, but another aspect of buddhism opened up where previously it had been papered over (by my stubborn thinking!). For instance, your post on "the absolute" comes across as almost confrontational. Paraphrasing: "I don't believe this mumbo-jumbo, but I want to hear what other people think, but I won't believe them, and to prove it, I'll make light of the whole topic!"

Interestingly, your posts from a time last year read as refreshingly less cynical: "I will clarify Bussui Zenji's Great Matter. That's all I ever wanted really, to 'turn the light round an illuminate the self', so, to work."
What happened to that seeker? And what about that pregnant question: "what is this"?

Moreover, I couldn't have been more direct in asking what you believe, yet I've found in your responses that you take refuge in the abstract. Your posts, which have a lot of bravado, are followed by comments which can be quite squirmy. The metaphor that came to mind (speaking of pregnancy) was that you deploy some kind of spermicide as a defense mechanism when responses get too close. I dunno...

At any rate, your posts are more interesting when you're not employing the Brad Warner cynical schtick. In my VIEW, anyway!

Harry said...

Hi Dave,

I just wrote a lengthy response, but I deleted it because it was just more satellite bullshit and time wasting.

Let's cut to the chase:

What, Dave, is the great matter of life and death?

You have, I assume, a life of your very own that you can use to answer that question (i.e. not my life), so I look forward to having a dialogue with you about that important question, or some phrasing of it, if you like.

Take care, Dave.

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

Hi Harry,
I write about my experience (infrequently and poorly) at my own blog.

As to the "great matter", my view is that it's the pursuit of transcendence, to know god, to cut through the "satellite bullshit" and eliminate the gap between seer and seen. The matter is of life and death because we are confined to this frail human form that constantly obscures "the bigger picture" and has a finite duration. So, the direction seems to me (as I said in another comment) to be to clarify just who's in charge of this corpse. And the purpose of the clarification is to help everybody else, of course! It's not sufficient to practice meditation diligently – you have to manifest "it" in your comings and goings and the things you create. That's one helpful aspect of koan practice; it can be a mini-laboratory or proving ground.

But anyway, I know you don't have much taste for mystical stuff, so I don't want to get carried away... I feel an affinity for the Taoists, whose ideal was the fool. Becoming a fool seems to be a lifetime affair. At this point in my life, I've sloughed off a lot of cruft, but it's plain to see how easy it is to re-accumulate. There's a ways to go.

For right now, I'm going to try to become intimate with a chocolate milkshake.

Take care, Harry.

Dave

Harry said...

Hi, Dave.

That's an interesting statement. Now it's my turn to ask some questions about *what you said* that, hopefully, you won't take personally:

"to cut through the "satellite bullshit" and eliminate the gap between seer and seen."

What makes this gap?

"The matter is of life and death because we are confined to this frail human form that constantly obscures "the bigger picture" and has a finite duration."

That sort of observation may be based on our very limited/limiting perceptions and processes. I think we can experience those perceptions in another, much broader way from right within this frail body. The linear perception of time itself is created by our function of memory and thinking about the future. When we cease that activity what is the implication for the finite nature of things?

"So, the direction seems to me (as I said in another comment) to be to clarify just who's in charge of this corpse."

When we stop wilfully 'being in charge' of this corpse who is left? Or, in 'Buddhist speak', who is then 'holding up the head of a buddha'?

"And the purpose of the clarification is to help everybody else, of course! It's not sufficient to practice meditation diligently – you have to manifest "it" in your comings and goings and the things you create."

The old koan says that the function of Kannon is like groping in the dark of night for a pillow for your head. Do you agree? And/or what do you think that koan may be indicating; and what might the implication be for the perception of self/other?

Yunyan asked Daowu, “How does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion Kannon) use so many hands and eyes?”

Daowu said, “It’s just like a person in the middle of the night reaching in search of a pillow.”

Yunyan said, “I understand.”

Daowu said, “How do you under-
stand it?

Yunyan said, “All over the body are hands and eyes.”

Daowu said, “What you said is all right, but it’s only eighty percent of it.”

Yunyan said, “I’m like this, senior brother. How do you understand it?”

Daowu said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”

Loori's capping verse:

All over the body, throughout the body.
It just can’t be rationalized.
Deaf, dumb and blind — virtuous arms, penetrating eyes Have always been right here.

Regards,

Harry.

Dave St.Germain said...

"What makes this gap?"

the almost constant stream of thoughts and interpreted sense perceptions. A little while ago, there were moments of intimacy with that milkshake, but how easy it was to get carried away with other things. Then, the wind blew the scent of a pot of flowers. Bam! The universe finds a way.

"When we stop wilfully 'being in charge' of this corpse who is left? Or, in 'Buddhist speak', who is then 'holding up the head of a buddha'?"

I don't think anyone can say for sure. Can you?

"The linear perception of time itself is created by our function of memory and thinking about the future. When we cease that activity what is the implication for the finite nature of things?"

Memory and thinking about the future seem to be only part of the equation. I've felt a kind of cutting off of time while absorbed in various samadhis, but that's not an abiding state for me. And besides, the fact is that our physical form is finite, whatever the state of mind. Even some advanced yogi who never leaves meditation will eventually die. Since I've not experienced the truth of transmigration, as far as I'm concerned, the clock is constantly ticking down for this particular manifestation...
Of course, things don't have discrete beginnings or endings (or as can be said, there's only ever been one "happening"). I can't say much about that as it's beyond my understanding at the moment.

"The old koan says that the function of Kannon is like groping in the dark of night for a pillow for your head. Do you agree? And/or what do you think that koan may be indicating; and what might the implication be for the perception of self/other?"

It's a nice image – the hand groping for the pillow. Interesting turnaround in there, too: “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.” This "body" referred to is the Dharmakaya, the body of the Buddha, the entirety of what is. Another way to look at it is that the pillow reaches out to the hand.
The implication for self and other is that they go together. "Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them all"; when you save yourself, all beings are saved.

Harry said...

"the almost constant stream of thoughts and interpreted sense perceptions. A little while ago, there were moments of intimacy with that milkshake, but how easy it was to get carried away with other things. Then, the wind blew the scent of a pot of flowers. Bam! The universe finds a way."

Hi Dave,

If thought and perceptions themselves created the gap then I think there would be no hope of disengaging from them, but I think we can learn in practice that that isn't the case. So I think the gap is not created by thoughts and perceptions which just come and go if we leave them to do what they do... and then they do something else entirely.

"I don't think anyone can say for sure. Can you?"

Depends on what we mean by 'for sure'. It has been expressed many times. Today I'd say: someone who never tires of knowing all these things.

"Memory and thinking about the future seem to be only part of the equation. I've felt a kind of cutting off of time while absorbed in various samadhis, but that's not an abiding state for me."

Good, as we likely couldn't function very well in the world without a conventional sense/perception of time.

"And besides, the fact is that our physical form is finite, whatever the state of mind."

What gives you that impression? Is it a reliable refuge? Where does our physical form end? I think our sense perceptions give us a very limited impression of our real form.

"Of course, things don't have discrete beginnings or endings (or as can be said, there's only ever been one "happening")."

...And yet people disappear from the world and never come back the same. That seems to be part of our real form too.

"I can't say much about that as it's beyond my understanding at the moment."

I think so many things are beyond our understanding, so that might be a good attitude with which to continue!

Regards, Dave.

Harry.

andy said...

Hi Harry

Again, I think I get what it is that rubs you up the wrong way about Heaney's voice, and you've put your finger on what much post-modernish crit seemed to critique in Heaney (if my memory serves me right).

Heaney often wrote about the position of the poet as one with a pubic responsibility. And the gravitas you speak of has much to do, for me, with that sense of not just speaking to, but of speaking for (that ethical projection/project seems very much wrapped up in that - one which can grate against certain Death of the Author vibes and its correlates. Sometimes perhaps it might just rub up against that latent Authorial Alpha in us.

Within the lyrical modes he often takes up, this strain in his voice might sit uneasily, and has at times seen him accused of having one foot too stuck in the Romantic tradition.

I for one, always liked Heaney in small doses, for perhaps similar reasons to your own. And my accommodation of that kind of authorial voice has never quite grated against me as it might have others.

And I wonder if, in the two lines you quoted, that you might have overlooked the perhaps little trap there. As I read it the writer is saying that the very act of quoting Han Shan's words indicates a meeting of minds, and that meeting of minds is the virtue seeing the virtue. In such a way the assuredness and certainty with which the writer asserts his claim, is counterpointed with what he is certain about. A certainty in the quality he finds in Han Shan's writing which nevertheless effects a putative humility (one lyrically ambiguous); and a certainty in the writer's accommodation of it through the sharing act of quotation/ it's rightness as part of the poet's own authorship whose self-assertiveness is undermined somewhat (again lyrically ambiguous) by the backgrounding (dropping off?) of both 'Han Shan' and 'Heaney' where the 'virtue' of the 'mind' expressed in quotation is indicated.

To my mind, Heaney is gently undermining/interrogating his own authorial voice, its ambitions, assuredness, and its evocations of of rightness in the midst of his using those very things to make the poem. That that authority has the overlaying and final note, is perhaps what leaves it still open to kind of the questions/responses that you make, but one's which I think Heaney is often aware of and always trying to resolve.

If I may be so bold, I find a similar dynamic at work in your own writing. A quite strong tone of authorial confidence quite often negotiating and accommodating its very opposite. One which creates it's own compelling ambiguities and tensions - those which, in my view, play out in my and everyone's writing in various ways and to differing degrees, and yet which appear in perhaps a higher contrast in your own.



Harry said...

Hi Andy,

Yes, good points there (although any remote comparison between my blather and Seamus Heaney's work deserves to be shot down in flames immediately... :-).

I'm not sure it's an *inevitable* result of being influenced by the Romantics (although that sort of 'poet as natural, moral authority' might surely be a valid feature in the classic perception of Romanticism), but it seems likely that it has some sort of bearing coming from that. Derek Mahon (a man also influenced by a key Romantic in no small way, in his case Coleridge, while Heaney is more a Wordsworth man) said a thing that resonates with me around this, and this may be what I'm getting at:

"Heaney is very sure sense of what he’s about. I haven’t that certainty. Each poem for me is a new beginning. With Seamus each poem is an accretion, an addition, a further step along a known road. [... H]e is performing a task the dimensions of which seem to be fairly clear. He knows what he is about is the best way I can put it. I only know what I’m about when I’ve done it.’

From: http://www.ricorso.net/rx/az-data/authors/m/Mahon_D2/comms/Interviews.htm

...A common, counterintuitive instruction from established poets to beginners these days is 'write what you don't know' which, as I'm sure you know, is a play on the old writing adage 'write what you know'. Paul Muldoon and Ciaran Carson advocate this sort of approach, for example.

... and regarding 'that sort of thing' being present in what I say... I say 'yes'! I think there is a lot of truth in the 'mirror principle' as observed by our dear old Buddhist ancestor Mike Cross. It basically points out that, when we criticise an other, we are basically pointing out things that we don't like about ourselves. I think that is often a valid perspective... it's not necessarily the ONLY thing going on there; but I think there's often truth in it.

Regards,

Harry.

andy said...

Hi Harry

Yes, that Mahon quote really nails it.

(I agree on your point about 'Romantic' influence, and those critics of Heaney certainly had a Romanticism in mind which reflected their own critical agendas.)

I must say though that I think the sort of binary generalisation which Mahon indulged in and which does correlates somewhat to the contrast you outline between writing what you know/what you don't know can only take us so far. I useful rule of thumb in certain contexts, but can often end up creating fashionably misleading valorisations, if not also involve little self-delusion.

As Eliot once expressed, weak writing is often the result of the writer being conscious where they should be unconscious. In my experience of both writing in workshops and in holding writing classes of my own, what leads one into this process can be very different for each person, and different within the individual depending on the kind of thing the mind wishes to express. In find a voice, it seems to me, a writer discovers the kind of dominant attitude and processes which work well for them, and the results as well as the methods can often run against the grain of what the writer wishes them to be.

Taking Mahon's astute vignette of Heaney as an example, I think it would be wrong to assume that although Heaney evinces such a pre-emptive attitude, such a 'sure sense', a kind of exemplary 'writing [from/to/with/against?] what you know', if you like, that his writing and his processes aren't incorporating the processes and results we might assign to its supposed opposite.

Next to a poet like John Ashbery, Mahon's poems might appear quite programmatic to the point where we might rephrase Mahon's contrast with Heaney as one where Heaney is much more comfortable with his knowing, his intentions and agendas, and so strategically incorporates them as his most fruitful modus operandi; whereas Mahon might find them inhibiting and thus to a large extent ignores them - whilst they nevertheless have a formative influence, and 'appear' at the end of the process, within Mahon's own narrative of self-discovery. Of course in doing so, Mahon allows for the work to invite and evince many unexpected/ turns and twists.

I think all this has much to do with our expectations of poetry and the 'poetic', when it is really defined by what people do and have done. I think we find ways into it, both in the creative acts of reading and writing it, that tickle us into variously rich engagements.

Many folk seem to swear by Jorie Graham, but for the life of me I don't know why. And as much as there I things I like about Muldoon, he seems eternally prepossessed by his own very knowing tricks and trivia - but then if either he or Heaney thrust the 'write what you don't know' right into the heart of their knowing processes they might come up as unstuck as struggling to find a way to express that which wishes to expressed whatever form it finds its best nest as/in/from etc.

Btw, as to that 'mirror principle' I agree that there's certainly more going on, and the parallels I was drawing in reading your own rather than being a core comparison, are probably better expressed as the tangential heart of the subject I was addressing. Ie we're always doing something akin to what we like/don't like/critcise/applaud. There's that hall of mirrors play of similarity and difference in which often a high contrast similarity returns a very different image on its more subtle or less supposedly significant features.

By which I mean Heany and Harry play their very own flutes.



Harry said...

"As Eliot once expressed, weak writing is often the result of the writer being conscious where they should be unconscious. In my experience of both writing in workshops and in holding writing classes of my own, what leads one into this process can be very different for each person, and different within the individual depending on the kind of thing the mind wishes to express. In find a voice, it seems to me, a writer discovers the kind of dominant attitude and processes which work well for them, and the results as well as the methods can often run against the grain of what the writer wishes them to be."

Hi Andy,

...don't start me on Eliot! ;-)

To put a Dogen twist on it, I think a truly unconscious writer would just lie down as if dead. Maybe Eliot could have done with contextualising consciousness/thinking like Dogen did (i.e. thinking/not-thinking/non-thinking). This was seemingly a very important distinction to make for Dogen.

I agree that it is all an individual thing. Some people, for example, seem to be very visual; they 'think' in images and write from them, while others write from the rhythms and other sounds that come with words (i.e. people who receive a line and take it from there). I fully accept that maybe a writer like Heaney (who all of Ireland is grieving for today) was honing and clarifying an innate drive/intention through his work, and what he said in result was very influential. I think there is a lot to be said for the idea that writing is expressing things that we didn't know we thought until we wrote them (however laborious it may be to uncover and refine them).

"And as much as there are things I like about Muldoon, he seems eternally prepossessed by his own very knowing tricks and trivia - but then if either he or Heaney thrust the 'write what you don't know' right into the heart of their knowing processes they might come up as unstuck as struggling to find a way to express that which wishes to expressed whatever form it finds its best nest as/in/from etc."

Muldoon does come across as quite wry-bordering-on-smartass at times. I think the 'write what you don't know' line might have to be qualified by seeing the process it indicates itself as being a different type of 'knowing'. Again, a bit after the distinction that Dogen was keen to make, I don't think that adage is asking us to 'not-know'.

Regards,

Harry.

andy said...

What's a bitter-sweet resonance! Bless the man,as he so often will through all those he speaks through.

Reminds me of the time I was discussing Ted Hughes' 'The Day He Died', on the day he died.

I think the 'write what you don't know' line might have to be qualified by seeing the process it indicates itself as being a different type of 'knowing'.

Yes. What I was circling around was that what it indicates in the context of a contrast between the usual phrase 'write what you know', and when illustratively aligned to a writer like Heaney, is often not so consonant with thinking/not thinking/non thinking and related notions like samadhi/postive samadhi, or Keat's negative capability etc.; for one could say that focus on intentional/intuitive thinking processes applies as much to a Heaney as to a Mahon or an Ashbery, in both process and result.

Here's the Eliot quote in more context,where he uses Wordsworth's and Coleridge's notion of 'emotion recollected in tranquillity' to bounce off.

The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him. Consequently, we must believe that "emotion recollected in tranquillity" is an inexact formula. For it is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning, tranquillity. It is a concentration, and a new thing resulting from the concentration, of a very great number of experiences which to the practical and active person would not seem to be experiences at all; it is a concentration which does not happen consciously or of deliberation. These experiences are not "recollected," and they finally unite in an atmosphere which is "tranquil" only in that it is a passive attending upon the event. Of course this is not quite the whole story. There is a great deal, in the writing of poetry, which must be conscious and deliberate. In fact, the bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him "personal." Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.

That last line gave me a chuckle.

Maybe not quite Dogen, but to my young mind a real eye-opener when I first read that piece, and something that helped me see poetry as something that encompassed the intellect as well as the intuitive and emotional.

Apart from the obvious and usual gripes against Eliot, he and Pound did much to encourage those who baulked at their politics and exclusivities. But let's leave Pound out of this...

The Poplar

Wind shakes the big poplar, quicksilvering
The whole tree in a single sweep.
What bright scale fell and left this needle quivering?
What loaded balances have come to grief?

(Seamus Heaney)