Dōgen, the moments in a finger snap and ‘A Tale for the Time Being’

Reading about the 13th century Zen master mentioned in Ruth Ozeki’s interesting book, ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ got me thinking.

Dōgen spoke of the granular nature of time with each day having 6,400,099,980 moments. A single finger snap apparently has 65 moments. Try to count them, it’s tough! I looked this up and they are based on a ‘ksana’ (Sanskrit) which is about one seventy-fifth of a second. These numbers seem a bit mysterious (ridiculous?!) and are probably just an invitation to slow down and explore your experience.

Reflecting on this I thought:

  1. We do not notice the subtle passing of time easily
  2. We tend to block time together without looking at the blocks
  3. Meditation seems to be one place where one can explore the nature of time

The biggest hurdle to experience these moments, seems to be our own thoughts. However we know that between every stimulus and response, there is a gap, or a space.

Viktor E. Frankl wrote about this in his life-changing book ‘Man’s search for meaning’:

stim pic.jpeg

We can test this out for ourselves, and find it to be true – though sometimes the ‘space’ is small, very small.

In meditation we try and draw out this space between stimulus (or thoughts in this case) and when it works it’s quite a revelation. This is where we can more closely observe the passing of time without interference from our thoughts (which are nearly always either stuck in the past or dreaming of the future).

Thinking on this, I was reminded of a book written by an Australian doctor, ‘Silence your mind’. Basically he introduced a style of meditation which teaches no-mindedness or ‘mind silence’ from the start and I liked the idea. I later found out the book was based on the teachings of Sahaja Yoga, which looked something like a cult but in any case, the idea was interesting.

I enjoyed reading up on Dōgen and his concept on time. Even if we aren’t quite able to notice the passing of a single ‘Ksana’ (!) perhaps we can slow down, look up and be more present.

The ‘present’ is of course the only time we ever have, it would be a shame to miss out.

Further reading on Ruth Ozeki’s take on Zen here: Zen Buddhism and storytelling merge in novelist’s journey and an interesting article on time here: Being in Real Time

3 thoughts on “Dōgen, the moments in a finger snap and ‘A Tale for the Time Being’

  1. So glad that you are enjoying that book. I love this article and your further readings about Ruth Ozeki, she is a fascinating woman and her other books look good too. Also I loved your insights about the silence between moments, meditation and the Dōgen have made me want to sit down and meditate right now. This was very deep and insightful thank you Jeremy!

    I found yet another Ruth Ozeki book in the charity shop a few days ago. My Year of Meats which is in a way a feminist book about the differences between the expectations on women in America versus in Japan. It looks very interesting will let you know how that one goes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Super feedback! And yes I did enjoy the book. Great recommendation. Had a slight murakami flavour in parts which I loved. I didn’t really warm to ‘Ruth’ at all though, and found myself sighing just a little when the action returned to her 🙂 clearly a great read though, very original n fresh. what stayed with me was the take on time and moments…some of my earlier reading on meditation suddenly made more sense. Quite a thing!


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