An interesting note to make; I was looking for a quote for another post when my eyes trolled across this in ZMM (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance):
“But about the Buddha that exists within analytic thought, and gives that analytic thought its direction, virtually nothing has been said, and there are historic reasons for this.”
Given Pirsig’s supposed experience with Buddhism I’m not sure how he can actually make this comment…
Up until the time of about the 6th century, the mirror idea of the mind prevailed in Chinese Buddhism; the basic idea of Zen meditation was to essentially wipe the dust from the mirror such that the Buddha and one’s self nature could be seen clearly. Zen at this time would spilt between two schools of thought; one school, that of Shen-hsiu’s which taught dust-wiping, and the other Hui.neg’s who taught that the Buddha exists in everything. If from the mind the world arises, why not let the latter rise as it pleases.
There is no Bodhi-tree,
Nor stand of mirror bright.
Since all is void,
Where can the dust alight?
If this isn’t a rejection of the mirror of nature, I don’t know what is (I should note here that the mirror analogy is not one borrowed from Rorty in this instance, but strait from Buddhism at the time of the 6th century and prior). Again, the dominate idea prevailing in Buddhism up until the time of Hui-neng was that the Buddha-nature which is contained within all things is completely pure and undefiled in it’s self being. The idea of Zen meditation then, was to bring out the self-nature and restore it to it’s original purity. This sort of meditation, however, or better put this sort of conception often lead to the thinking that, by meditating as such one can clear the mirror of consciousness and thereby see the underlying form of his self-nature. Hui-neng’s protest was strongly against this view as he believed it had a suicidal effect on life – let the world arise as it arises. It is completely against the idea of Zen to have such a conception that one is restoring purity, that one is seeing past appearance to reveal the true reality of oneself.
Hui-neng proclaimed, “From the first not a thing is.” And this would stand as a cap stone to his Zen teaching and is meant to do away with the idea of attaining, or seeing purity, an underlying form.
Hui-neng rather, focuses on the world, of seeing and being. There is the seeing as one conceives objects as separate from himself, as recognizing two separate entities; and there is the seeing into the ultimate nature of things. The sort of seeing that can be aligned with “ultimate nature” is the sort which does away with notions of separate entities (subject object views), and rather insists that one see the seer and the object together, as becoming indentified with each other.
When one takes Hui-neng’s statement “From the first not a thing is” in substitution of previous Zen thinking as with the statement, “The self-nature of the Mind is pure and undefiled”, it's meant that all notions of the appearance/reality distinction disappear and one has nowhere to stand. It is this experience that is central to Zen Buddhism, the whole notion of seeing, yet having nothing to stand upon; under one’s feet is not the notion that something underlying is being represented, or that the Buddha is being revealed, the Buddha exists in everything.
So then, if we knife through Pirsig’s statement above and consider what Hui-neng is saying, I believe he would rightly agree that analytic thought, as a tool and manner of seeing and being in the world, vary much contains the Buddha. To say that analytic thought is not part of a Buddhist conception is (from the Buddhist perspective) simply to say that such conceptualizing, in terms of specificities, is not a necessity. When one blurs distinctions about purity and underlying form and focuses upon seeing and being within the world yet having nothing to stand upon, there’s no reason to develop philosophies around certain sorts of discourses, whether rhetoric, dialectic, analytic, so on, as this conception arises prior to the analytic. To put it another way, once one does away with appearence/reality distictions, one can let the discourse fall where it may, again, there's no reason to conceptualize about it. Pirsig seems to zero in on this point not due to the absence of a discussion considering a certain sort of discourse in Buddhism, but to reconcile his own specific thought process with one he seems to lean towards.