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In this fascinating discussion between Byron Katie, John Tarrant, and Stephen Mitchell, the three take a deep dive into similarities between The Work and Buddhism, and how these were woven into “A Mind at Home with Itself.”
John begins, “In Katie and Stephen’s new book, Stephen translates and makes very accessible one of the great wisdom texts, the Diamond Sutra, while Katie responds to this text from her inner quiet. Deconstructing your thought forms and what mind is believing is a practice common to Zen Buddhism and The Work, with its four questions and the turnarounds.”
“I loved interacting with the Diamond Sutra,” Katie says. “Stephen would read me a chapter and then ask me to respond. After hearing it, I always felt that I wouldn’t add anything or subtract anything. Stephen encouraged me to respond by asking me questions. It was such a beautiful experience.”
Stephen explains, “My intent was to make the Diamond Sutra text transparent so that the Buddha mind could shine through; accessible, here and now, and radiant. My intent was also to bring Zen and The Work together, because we’ve found that each practice enhances the other. For people doing Dharma practice to learn to question specific thoughts that are causing impediments is of enormous benefit, and likewise, meditation practice, deepening one’s stillness and ability to focus, has great benefit for people practicing The Work.”
“Yes,” says John, “and there are similarities between the Dharma and The Work as transformational practices. One is the understanding that reality is more profound and beautiful than my maps or thoughts about reality.”
“Inquiry is a way to test that over and over and over,” Katie says. “Through the four questions and the turnarounds, we begin to wake up to the mind as creator of all. That all of the apparent outside really is inner.”
John quotes an ancient Chinese Zen master: “‘Zen directly points to the human mind without reference to words or scriptures.’ And of course, scriptures like the Diamond Sutra say that. So inquiry into the nature of mind becomes a practice. There’s really nothing wrong with having a thought, but you can be curious as to whether it’s true or not. So there’s a question mark that happens with it. You’re not trying to get rid of it or contradict it; you’re just wondering about it.”
“Yes,” Katie says, “there’s an excitement about it when each thought ends in a question mark. It’s ‘Is it true?’ without experiencing the actual words. It’s that open, brilliant, fearless state of mind where you come to understand and appreciate the true nature of everything.”
“In a way, that’s a practice,” John says, “because as soon as I start believing something, I can be pretty sure that it isn’t true, because our thoughts are hypotheses about reality. Mainly we think we are our thoughts in a naive sense. We think the world we’ve made of our thoughts is something we’re compelled to live in.”
Any reaction I experience is an invitation to inquiry — an invitation to experience the questioning of thought. — Byron Katie
John Tarrant, Roshi, teaches and writes about the transformation of consciousness through meditation on Zen koans (existential questions than can’t be answered through rational thinking).
Byron Katie shows us how to question the thinking that causes all the suffering, revealing the peace and wisdom within every one of us.
Stephen Mitchell’s many books include the bestselling “Tao Te Ching,” “The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke,” “Gilgamesh,” “The Gospel According to Jesus,” “The Book of Job,” “The Second Book of the Tao,” “The Iliad,” “The Odyssey,” and “Beowulf.