strive to maintain a spirit of joy and magnanimity, along with the caring attitude of a parent


In his Tenzo Kyukun (Instructions for the Zen Cook), Dogen emphasizes the importance of the Parental Mind (roshin) which is an attitude of caring and concern, the heart of compassion. It is one of the so-called Three Minds or sanshin, the other two being Big Mind (daishin) and Joyful Mind (kishin).

The spirit of Zen is the inclusiveness of One Heart/Mind, and Parental Mind conveys this most aptly. An old saying describes it as “seeing the pot as your own head and the water as your lifeblood” (quoted by Uchiyama in his commentary of Dogen's Instructions, p. 53). In modern day Japan, it is conveyed by the popular expression minna no kimochi de (see this article).

But one must be careful not to confuse the One of parental mind with the identification of oneself with another self or some larger body. For example, as a first-time nursing mother, I felt that my head had been screwed onto my infant's body. Though a radical departure from my usual self-involvement, I confess that one mind in this case felt more like being a milking cow, headless but nowhere near enlightened.

From a psychological point of view, children and nations are mere narcissistic extensions, that is, extensions of ourselves. This is not synonymous with No-self, and I doubt it is very different in other cultures though they may profess self-transcendence in the national body.

Nor is parental mind the same as superior mind, i.e. the role of mother, father, teacher or boss. This does not transcend separation; it prohibits it. To stretch the capacity of parental mind, try adopting it with someone you perceive as equal to or more powerful than yourself. Separateness then becomes harder to transcend, and inclusiveness snaps like a rubber band as soon as conflict threatens. It is for this reason that love turns to hate more often in an erotic connection than in a filial one. With two strangers, the inclusiveness ideal recedes even further, unless the two are united in anonymity. Without the glue of desire and attachment, we remain in most cases, two detached solitudes.

Uchiyama describes parental mind simply as the "Self inclusive of the whole world", i.e. as:

nothing other than the very things, people or situations we presently encounter and know, and helps us discover our lives through these things and, in turn, pour all our life ardor back into them.


Popular Posts