Tuesday, August 22, 2006

AUDITING SCHMAUDITING!

Before we get started, I wanted to let all three of you who might be contemplating coming to the weekly Zazen class in Santa Monica about our upcoming schedule. First off, there WILL be Zazen classes on August 26th and on September 9th. I'll be there on Aug. 26th and Kevin Bortolin, a fellow student of Gudo Nishijima, will take over for me on Sept. 9th. For most of September I will be in Japan. Our annual Zazen Retreat in Shizuoka is September 2-4. I'll be returning to Los Angeles on Sept. 17th. So I'm planning to start the regular Zazen classes again on September 23rd. I'll update the webpage once I've confirmed everything.

OK. Now on to today's rant.

The other day someone wrote and asked my opinion about a process Scientologists use, known as “Auditing.” This guy thought that most of Scientology was pretty hokey. But he was intrigued by their claims of having created a technology of spiritual awakening. He asked if I thought we could apply this kind of approach to Buddhism.

Apparently Auditing is where you go in and a trained Scientologist leads you through a series of pre-ordained steps, at each point monitoring your responses on a doo-hickey called an “E-Meter.” The E-Meter tells your Scientologist guide how you’re doing and helps him determine how to proceed. Here’s what their website says about the principle upon which this technology is based.

“In Scientology it is known that there are many states of existence beyond that of so-called normal man. This has been touched on by earlier philosophies but what is new about Scientology is that one can predictably attain these higher states of existence.

“Although some savants in the Himalayas have worked in this direction, Gautama Siddhartha (Buddha) spoke of it at length, at least fifteen or twenty years of hard work were required for what was, at best, an uncertain outcome.

“With Scientology, there are no such uncertainties. Higher states of existence are attainable through auditing.”

Of course this is all a load of bullshit.

I think it’s important to address this matter because I get variations on this question a lot and I’m aware that there are entire schools of thought and practice based around the same idea. Some of these even present themselves as “Buddhism.” But they aren’t. Sometimes I’m asked if bio-feedback might be a good way to ascertain if one is making proper progress in Zen practice. Once I spoke to a guy who was certain one day we’d develop a drug that would balance the autonomic nervous system. I’ve seen various trademarked processes like Big Mind™ that claim to have distilled Buddha’s teachings into an easy to follow system which can speed us on the way to spiritual fulfillment.

The basic idea behind this kind of thinking goes like this. First, we assume that there is a better state than the one we have now. Then we assume that someone else has experienced this state and knows how to get us to it. It therefore follows that, if such a person devised a process or a machine or a drug that could induce this state, we could then use that process, machine or drug to experience the state ourselves quickly and easily. Thus we do not have to waste loads of effort on dreary, time-consuming practices like meditation and will have more time to sit around watching Three’s Company reruns or whatever. Moreover, since the process has been devised for us by an expert and tested on others who offer glowing testimonials to its effectiveness, there is no danger that we might spend a lot of energy on something which will fail us in the end.

Here’s why this is not Buddhism, and, more importantly, why it is not true. Let’s start with the idea of higher states of consciousness. How, exactly, is a higher state of consciousness defined? First of all, we assume that there is something called “consciousness.” We have consciousness. Or we are conscious. In any case there is “me” and there is “consciousness” which is experienced by “me.” But consciousness is really just an idea. Just like the idea of self. How do we separate "me" from "consciousness?" Even if you say "I am a being of pure consciousness" you're still conceiving it as 2 distinct things. This is what the brain does. It must carve things into pieces. It can never envision wholeness. Buddha tried to find the line where one can separate "consciousness" from the things one was conscious of. He found there was no line between them at all. Consciousness may be a faulty idea at best.

Even if we accept that consciousness is real, or at least that the word, however limited, describes something real, then we have the problem of higher and lower. Who is to say that one state of consciousness is any higher than another? After all, there is no way to experience two states of consciousness at the same time and compare them. In fact, comparison itself is a pretty dodgy thing. In the case of consciousness, you have to compare the state you have now with whatever you imagine a higher state must be like. Your imaginative ideas about that higher state are drawn from your own stew of memories, ideas and fantasies. In other words your conception of "higher states" is based only upon your experiences with "lower" ones.

Then we have the problem of our expert who says he knows all about those higher states and how to guide you to them. In every case I have ever encountered, these experts seem to charge a lot of money for their secrets. It’s not hard to see that the only higher state they’re really interested is a higher tax bracket.

Buddhism rejects the idea of higher states completely. Furthermore, it rejects the idea that one can ever progress from any level to any other level. Nagarjuna even questions the idea of “change” as we commonly accept it.

Buddhism has nothing to do with attaining higher states. Higher states are just a fantasy. You may be able to create a pretty fantasy and devise ways of attaining it. But what you have attained is only the fulfillment of your fantasy. It is never the reality of here and now.

What is really needed is not the ability to induce temporary lapses into so-called "higher states," but the ability to understand thoroughly and exactly what this state we have right here and right now truly is (and is not). This is the key to everything. When anger, hatred or greed arises and one understands them fully for what they are, they have no power. You will never understand the truth of these things by running away from them into fantasies of "higher consciousness." They will always, always, always come right back and bite you on the ass as soon as your vacation in the astral plane is over. The reason is simple. It was greed for spiritual power, anger at your lack of progress and hatred for those less "spiritual" than you that got you to your so-called "higher state" in the first place.

There are serious problems in the world right now! Stop farting around with toys and games!

17 comments:

Jinzang said...

From my notes:

The movement of mind and its stillness are not separate from the nature of mind. When you see the arising of thoughts and do not cling or follow them, or believe that they are permanent or true, this is calm abiding or shamatha. Just being aware of whatever thoughts arise, without suppressing them or blocking them, watching them without attachment or rejection is vipashyana. So we come to understand that whatever arises is not separate from shamatha and vipashyana.

When thought arises and you see its vivid nature that is shamatha. When you maintain that vivid awareness free from conceptual labelling and judgement, that is vipashyana. So they are inseparable within the awareness of thought. When a strong afflicting emotion arises, not being controlled by it but watching it is shamatha. And recognizing that there is no separation between the watcher and the watched emotion and maintaining this awareness is vipashyana. So again we see that shamatha and vipashyana are inseparable. Whatever arises in the mind, whether it is calm or disturbed, is the inseparable union of shamatha and vipashyana, as long as you recognize its nature, not clinging or following it, not accepting or rejecting it, and recognize it as the display of the mind.

Reckless said...

I think the reason why some people leave zen for other sects of buddhism, is because whilst zen dismisses higher states of awareness, other sects highly encourage it in their retreats.

To these buddhists, the normal form of awareness is quite mediocre compared to the highest and ultimate empty awareness. Its all a ploy to prop up peoples egos and to reassure them that they will be liberated from the cycle of samsara.
Dependent origination is a theory that never held for me. It just seems like backwash from indian classical thought.

kshingo said...

"First, we assume that there is a better state than the one we have now... What is really needed is... the ability to understand thoroughly and exactly what this state we have right here and right now truly is (and is not). This is the key to everything. When anger, hatred or greed arises and one understands them fully for what they are, they have no power. You will never understand the truth of these things by running away from them..."

Anger, (hatred and greed)--- so how to understand them fully for what they are?! Anger seems like just a bunch of ideas, thought clouds piling up like a great thought storm. But when the storm hits, it sure feels like more than passing thoughts. And to see anger don't we have to see compassion and patience too? Ideas that define each other (interdependent) based on "our own imaginative stew". So what ingredients go into the stew today?

kshingo

Ryuei said...

For some time now I have stopped worrying about enlightenment and more about just maturing as a human being by fully settling into the present/presence of causes and conditions and responding wholly to them. This has been the major theme of my work with Taigen Dan Leighton over the last couple of years.

When I read over the Buddha's teachings in the sutras and in the commentaries of Chih-i, Miao-lo, Vasubandhu, Buddhaghosa and others what I see is not esoteric metaphysical speculation and shortcuts to enlightenment. Rather, I see an ongoing deeply empirical observation of human nature, of causality, and of the various practical methods that can lead to a more wholesome and mature life. This cannot be rushed, though depending on causes and conditions there are occasionally dramatic breakthroughs - but even then the breakthroughs are either preceeded or followed by a lot of heart work to integrate insight and actualization. That is why Taigen emphasizes genjo (actualization) over kensho (realization). Really the two probably shouldn't be seen as separate but as two aspects of a whole which composes our life. But for practical purposes it has seemed to Taigen and to me that it is better to emphasize the follow-through of concrete actualization rather than the insight which could come in a flash or as a gradual dawning of maturation as a human being.

Bottom line of this ramble: I think we need to talk more about maturation than enlightenment, and more on how we live rather than on some ephemeral insights or passing states of consciousness (altered or not).

Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Ryuei

Anatman said...

"Dependent origination is a theory that never held for me. It just seems like backwash from indian classical thought."

Reckless, can you expand on this a bit? My understanding of dependent origination is that it refers to the natural system of causal relationships... nothing exists in and of itself. Seems pretty straight forward to me.

Jules said...

Hail Xenu

Reckless said...

"Reckless, can you expand on this a bit? My understanding of dependent origination is that it refers to the natural system of causal relationships... nothing exists in and of itself. Seems pretty straight forward to me."

Isn't dependent origination a theory to explain rebirth without the context of a soul.

"From Dependence on Ignorance arise Karma Formations.
From Dependence on Karma Formations arises Consciousness.
From Dependence on Consciousness arises Mind and Matter.
From Dependence on Mind and Matter arise the Six Sense-Bases.
From Dependence on the Six Sense - Bases arise Contact.
From Dependence on Contact arises Feeling.
From Dependence on Feeling arises Craving.
From Dependence on Craving arises Clinging.
From Dependence on Clinging arises Becoming.
From Dependence on Becoming arises Birth.
From Dependence on Birth arises Decay and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. "

The first half is sound, but later on I get skeptical of the rebirth scenario.

Anatman said...

Reckless, I think of dependent origination as a principle that merely describes the nature of "things"... eg. the existence of any thing is dependent on other things, and therefore nothing exists in and of itself.

The principle does not specifically refer to rebirth, but the excerpt you cited is an application of the principle to the concept of rebirth.

In my opinion, this concept of rebirth is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Buddhism, by many non-Buddhists and Buddhists as well.

My understanding of the concept of rebirth is that it does not refer to life after death after life after death (reincarnation), but rather refers to the arising/birth of "self" and identification with "me", in real-time.

I think the quote you cited illustrates a chain of events that can lead to identifcation with, and clinging to, a sense of self, ultimately resulting in "sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair."

Reckless said...

Thats very interesting Anatman.
I guess we are being reborn every moment, because thats how it feels like the more I practice zazen.
I think this is the reason why we emphasise the present moment.

3468 said...

In one of the Philip Kapleaus books, there is nice story of Philip Kapleau testing one of the biofeedback machines. PK was plugged in and he was supposed to concentrate on the sound coming from headset (feedback form his theta EEG or somethingn like this). When he started, the sound frequency shifted wery fast over the scale of the machine and PK lost his consiousness for short time. When ge game back he asked "What happened?". Engineer showing off the machine had never seen anything like this.

All peole who have been meditating a lot can concentrate wery fast. No magick here. The book describes this kind of biofeedback as mental mastrubation. You just go into nice feeling and stay there. No spiritual significance.

Biofeedback is good tool for medical purposes. ADHD patients can learn to concentrate using biofeedback devices, etc.

Lone Wolf said...

When I woke up this morning, I turned on the TV and Dr. Phil was on. They had people on who were sexually abused from as young as 2 to thier teenage years. There parents were aware of this taking place but did not do anthing to stop it. Why? Because these teenagers were being rasied in a cult that their parents were a part of. I was baffled how people could commit or allow such sexual abuse to take place and think it was part of some divine higher state of being. Thats just fucked up. So it made me think of Brad's teachings on Buddhism.

Tonight I come to the site and see he has yet again cut through the bullshit of fairy tales and higher states. It's always helpful to hear such teachings over and over again, because it's very easy to turn practice into striving for something better then what is already here.

Gesus said...

Nice post.

althought when it comes to Scientology, best leave it. 'Fool who persist in his folly will grow wise' and all that...

Post on 'higher plain' and stuff reminded me of an interveiw.
This reporter in 1970s(me thinks) was asking a master, what enlightment was like.
'Its just like the normal world' he replied, 'but three inchs of the ground,'

yinny said...

hey i'm the guy that e-mailed you about the whole auditing thing. i'm flattered that you made an entire post out of it. that's really cool. i partly agree with the whole concept of auditing. i dislike the way wording that scientologists use and their philosophy rediculous but auditing is something that i think can help buddhism. here's why... buddhism is all about accepting the here and the now as you say. obviously there have been times in your life where were very much not in the here and now. some times you have been farther from it than others. it's also safe to say that these instances have an effect on you in the present. say i got bit by that dog when i was 12 now whenever i see a dog a piss myself. it's automated reaction that is now ingrained in you. in auditing you basicly have someone go over with you these past moments over and over again which releases the "chage" that they have over you. it's just a compex type of regression therapy. it kind of makes sense. i relive the moment of getting bit by a dog enough times to no longer be terrified about it (become in the here and the now, but in the past lol confusing) and now i don't piss myself when i see a cocker spaniel.

yinny said...

hey i'm the guy that e-mailed you about the whole auditing thing. i'm flattered that you made an entire post out of it. that's really cool. i partly agree with the whole concept of auditing. i dislike the way wording that scientologists use and their philosophy rediculous but auditing is something that i think can help buddhism. here's why... buddhism is all about accepting the here and the now as you say. obviously there have been times in your life where were very much not in the here and now. some times you have been farther from it than others. it's also safe to say that these instances have an effect on you in the present. say i got bit by that dog when i was 12 now whenever i see a dog a piss myself. it's automated reaction that is now ingrained in you. in auditing you basicly have someone go over with you these past moments over and over again which releases the "chage" that they have over you. it's just a compex type of regression therapy. it kind of makes sense. i relive the moment of getting bit by a dog enough times to no longer be terrified about it (become in the here and the now, but in the past lol confusing) and now i don't piss myself when i see a cocker spaniel

Edward-xzsoj3a2q said...

It's a crazy world we live in. Here it is now and did you know that over 70 years ago this guy named Royal Rife figured out how to eliminate cancer with electronic frequencies. Yeah - it was even verified at USC in 1934.

replicant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
replicant said...

"Audting" (acording the Hubbard and the rest of his folks) is the process of getting rid of "body theatans", which are basically some ancient tortored souls. The wiki's have some really interesting (and scary) details:


Body Thetans


All hail Xenu!!!!

nutty stuff ..