Tuesday, June 02, 2009

SOLIPSISM

First, although there is Zazen at Hill Street Center this coming Saturday June 6, 2009 at 10 am, you cannot park in the Hill Street Center parking lot that day since there's a parking lot sale sponsored by the church going on.

Second, I managed to kind of solve my AT&T problems. I wasn't entirely happy with the solution. But I managed to get most of the charges knocked off. The woman I spoke to on the phone was very sweet about the whole thing. I'm sure she got hired there because she's got the kind of voice you don't want to scream and yell at. Not that I would have. Anyway, it's OK now. And thanks to the people who donated money. I think I got about $17 from that little mention. So that was cool.

I just wanted to say a little bit here about solipsism as it relates to Buddhism. I was looking at some of what's written on the Internets about Buddhism in English and noticed there's a great deal of confusion. It used to be that people figured Buddhism was a form of Nihilism or a form of Atheism. Those two ideas are kind of out of fashion, though they still persist. Yet the idea that Buddhism, particularly Zen Buddhism, is a form of solipsism still remains.

Lots of people, including lots of so-called "Buddhist Masters," are confused by the idea, which is present within Buddhism that the inner world and the outer world are one and the same. From this idea, they generate the mistaken solipsistic notion that there is no real outer world and that everything we experience is all in our heads. This is not Buddhism at all. It would be just as crazy to say there is no inner world and that everything we experience takes place outside ourselves. We know that's bullshit. Yet somehow it's easier to believe the opposite is true and think that there is no outside world at all.

In Nishijima's translation of Nagarjuna's Fundamental Song of the Middle Way, Nagarjuna says, "The four reliable facts are reason, the external world, the present moment, and reality -- this world -- which seems to be similar to God. A fifth reliable fact can never exist."

So the external world is very real in Buddhism. Do not doubt its existence.

I say this because it's pretty scary to think there are folks out there teaching people not to believe in the outside world. This is a very dangerous notion. If you cease to believe in the outside world you can commit all kinds of horrendous actions against whoever you please, since they don't really exist after all.

In a way this kind of dovetails into my reservations about "cyber-sanghas" -- and even about this very forum you are reading right now, dear friend. Interactions with computers tend to lock you into your head. I see a lot more solipsism in the world of Internet Buddhism than I do in the world of flesh-and-bone Buddhism.

There is a real world "out there." Your perceptions of that world may be limited and faulty. But that doesn't mean it's not there. And it doesn't mean the outside world is exactly the same as your inner world. This is a very important point.

There is just one world, with no division between inner and outer. Yet the two sides are not the same.

Get it? Got it? Good!

95 comments:

Harry said...

Marry me!

raded6 said...

I can't visit buddhist message boards anymore. The flaming is worse than on a normal site. Its depressing.

Anonymous said...

Expand, please, on your comment that “the external world is very real in Buddhism. Do not doubt its existence.” The "ideas-only" Buddhist tradition, as I understand it, holds that the world we live in is made up of unreal imaginings. Less radically, the Madhyamaka school holds that the external world is, along with everything else, “empty.” In either case, shouldn’t we at least doubt that the world exists the way we think it does?

Mysterion said...

There is this "thing" called reality. And whether it is an illusion, a hologram, or a dream, we still must "deal with it."

If you leap from a tall building, you will not fly like Superman or Neo. You will fall. Gravity sucks, that way.

Not that THIS has a clue...

Reality is invalid, but we don't generally understand that concept.

Read: "Chasing Reality" by Mario Augusto Bunge and get back to me.

Mumon said...

Outside world → ← Inside world.


Nishijima's translation is a bit worrisome if it has "God" in it, IMHO. Never came across it in the Tibetan Buddhist translation I use.

The concept's not a Western monotheistic deity.

Anyhow, yeah, solipsism = narcissism = more suffering.



And it doesn't mean the outside world is exactly the same as your inner world. This is a very important point.

It's not exactly the same but the boundaries are fuzzy; they are not completely disjoint sets.

Harry said...

I think it is much more reasonable to call Nishijima Roshi's 'translation' of MMK an 'interpretation' as I believe he has incorporated his 'Four Philosophies, One Reality' system into it as well as autonomic nervous system theory if my memory serves.

All perfectly valid and interesting as an interpretation and/or a commentary, but a 'translation'...?

Regards,

Harry.

It's a shame said...

Nishijima's translation of the MMK, if it's in any way similar to that published on his blog recently, is simply NOT a translation. It's a highly idiosyncratic, pretty incomprehensible interpretation, that includes much material of his own invention, that doesn't exist in the original sanskrit he purports to work from.

Not his finest hour, IMHO.

Cowboy Pete said...

Greetings,
You wrote, "I say this because it's pretty scary to think there are folks out there teaching people not to believe in the outside world. This is a very dangerous notion."

Diamond Sutra
Sectionxxx11 : (the Buddha speaking)
"Thus shall ye think of this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream
A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream."

I am not sure about now, but there sure used to be people preaching this!

The dangers and pitfalls of misunderstanding "voidness", are certainly real, but are not remedied (there are other means)by reinforcing people's view that the "relative world" is solid and real, and not a projection of the mind.
Perhaps if you said " Even though, ultimately, appearances are merely projections of the mind, and "you" are a projection of the mind, the interaction of both can affect the mind, as karma("action")giving rise to suffering of the mind."

regards

Cowboy Pete

Harry said...

"I can't visit buddhist message boards anymore. The flaming is worse than on a normal site. Its depressing."

... is that a 'no' then?

:-(

Anonymous said...

Less radically, the Madhyamaka school holds that the external world is, along with everything else, “empty...”

That is, empty of 'svabhava', or 'self-being' (self-nature'). Nothing exists that is not 'dependently originated'; that didn't come from something else (another form) and will go to something else. So, there is no unchanging (Platonic) essence of which the individual things we percieve as 'things' are comprised. It is in that sense all things are 'empty'.

But that this nexus/flux is real, and exists external to us is asserted by all schools of Buddhism other than the Yogacara (otherwise known as 'ideas-only) school).

As I understand it.

mtto said...

Hi 5:14,

...shouldn’t we at least doubt that the world exists the way we think it does?


Just because the world doesn't exist the way we think it does, doesn't mean there is no world outside of our ideas.

mtto said...

I don't think Yogacara (mind-only) is solipsism, either. But it is commonly misinterpreted that way. I don't have the time or expertise to back this up, though. :)

I think Brad wrote about Yogacara in one of his books. And Thich Nhat Hahn has a gnarly book on it "Transformation at the Base" in hardback and "Understanding our Mind" in paperback. Also, "Buddha Mind, Buddha Body", less complicated.

In brief, the ideas in your head are not the same as reality.

Anon @ 5.59pm said...

Yep. I was wrong about yogacara - I couldn't be bothered to check it properly. Sorry.

This, paraphrased from Paul Williams "Buddhist thought" -

Yogacara (aka cittamatra = only, or merely mind), maintains that SOMETHING must be a "primary existent" (as opposed to all things being empty of self-nature), and that something is mind, or the mental side of being. Only mind has self-nature and is a primary existent. But there is an external reality.

So mtto is right that yogacara is not solipsism either. Twould appear that Buddhism is not solipsism. At all.

Big Bopper said...

The "Reality" of Rock and Roll is almost unbearable.

It's a shame said...

re "god", mentioned in Nishijima's MMK:

This must be Gudo's interpretation of the sanskrit "adhipateyam" in chapter 1, verse 2: adhipati/a = literally, "overlord" or "ruler", with "iyam" (or ayam - the "sandhi" combining of letters isn/t clear to me) = "this, here", sometimes used to indicate the real world we live in. The compound is usually translated as "universal" in the context of the verse, which lists the 4 conditions [under which entities arise]. But in this case, even if the interpretation is questionable, it is clear where Nishijima gets "reality -- this world -- which seems to be similar to God" from.

Unfortunately, the source of much of the rest of Gudo's version cannot be so easlly located in the original text.

Brad was supposed to be working on it. I sincerely hope he's rendered it comprehensible, if not faithful to the original. I'd like to read it.

rossignol said...

i forgot to eat my klondike bar, and now it's time for bed. i can have it for breakfast. anon makes me smile shamefully. a kite is moar fun to fly, than a blog to respond. i must not be well today.

Mumon said...

My preference when things like "adhipateyam" ≈ "God" is that it's better to either a) leave "adhipateyam" as it is, with a footnote to your effect (and perhaps with as it was taken in Nagarjuna's time) or a more idea-based translation of what Nagarjuna would have meant without the anachronism.

I know, I sound like either a fundamentalist Christian or a literary critic, but as long as a text as authority is introduced, the question around whether the text's spectrum of meaning has fidelity to the original author's is appropriate I'd submit.

And while we Zen folks are doing proof texts to say what Buddhism is and what it isn't (?????) I'd submit that the Lotus Sutra admits a much broader interpretation of what is Buddhism than many would admit, which is a double edged sword.

Having said that I'd still agree sollipsism is a problem.

pkb said...

Good article, Brad. The case below states the same thing:


" After spending some time at the monastery being introduced into
this "don't know", Poep An decided he would continue on his pilgrimage. He told the Master, "Tomorrow I'll be leaving here to become a wandering monk again". Ji Jang said, "Oh, do you think you're ready?". Poep An said, "Certainly!" "Then let me ask you a question," said Ji Jang. "You are fond of the saying that 'that the whole world is created by the mind alone'. So, you see those big boulders over there in the rock garden? Are they inside your mind or outside?" Poep An said, "They're inside my mind. How could anything be outside it?" The Zen Master said, "Oh, well, then you'd better get a good night's sleep because it's going to be hard travelling with all those rocks inside your mind"! Peop An was undone and taken aback, and stayed there with this Master and finally attained great awakening.


Or as Harry might say, "found his unicorn".

floating_abu said...

Lots of people, including lots of so-called "Buddhist Masters," are confused by the idea

Which "Buddhist Masters", Brad?

rgn said...

This is a fasciating area for me. The same group teaching the world is unreal says you are not your body. This, to me, is absurd. I am most definitely my body. The thing to be grasped is that I am also everything else. As to the reality of it all, try to define reality. It is impossible. How can you proceed without a clear definition? Fortunately we can operate without one.:)

floating_abu said...

It is me, but I am not it.

What a shame said...

Hi Mumon,

Re the great adhipateyam controversy (everybody's talking about it!): FWIW, I agree with your submission. I was explaining what I believe to be the source of Gudo's strange expression, rather than trying to justify it.

There are a few good, "straight" translations of the MMK out there, not least the one by Gudo's dharma-heir Mike Leutchford, entitled "Between Heaven and Earth" (Windbell publications - I believe you can still get it direct from the man himself via http://www.dogensangha.org.uk/nagarjuna.htm ) - which includes the original text with word by word translation and parsing, a literal translation, a more interpretive translation and a commentary on each chapter, seeking to confirm "the common base between the teachings of Dogen in the shobogenzo, and the teachings of Nagarjuna in the MMK".

The book started as a joint project between Mike and Gudo, of which Mike writes, "Finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the problems that naturally arise in working with three radically different languages (Sanskrit, English, and Japanese), I decided to make my own translation from the Sanskrit." I dare to suggest Mike might be being a little diplomatic. One might be tempted to read between the lines.

Still, I look forward to reading Gudo's MMK when the final version appears; not as a translation, but as an interpretation of an important ancient work by a great contemporary Buddhist master. If it's been rendered into comprehensible English, it won't be a shame at all. Not at all.

What a shame said...

That's Luetchford (not Leutchford). I'm sure he's used to it.

Jinzang said...

Ow, ow, ow! This is such a bad translation of the MMK that it makes my head hurt! Nagarjuna is referring the four conditions, which come straight out of Abhidharma and would be well known to the audience of his work. It shows the importance of having a background in Buddhist philosophy when translating Buddhist works. It's not something that can be just with a Sanskrit dictionary in hand.

Mumon said...

What a shame:

I also mean in no way to disparage Nishijima Roshi nor anyone else in this project.

Regarding "God" and western philosophical ideas, both Soen Roshi and D.T. Suzuki also had some difficulties; and they're more immediate in my lineage.

The particular text in question is devilish to interpret even as an English text, though incredibly rewarding to read, if only to see the depth of Nagarjuna's thought.

Anyway, to bring up one more point, FWIW, I'm sitting at a keyboard typing in response to characters I see on a Blogger webpage.

Palms together after I hit "Publish."

chrisold97 said...

ive always thought the "world is illusion" business was silly, the explanations of what reality is in hardcore zen resonated (i hope i havent overused that word in all my posts) with the "reality" of the perception of reality

Harry said...

If you want to see a precedent for radically interpreting doctrine and the records of previous Masters then check out Dogen's Shobogenzo where he turns hundreds of years of crusty, dry old Buddhist doctrine and koans (and the occasional zinger... and he enthusiastically acknowledges those) on their heads to put 'em pointing back in the right direction... all IMO of course.

Regards,

Harry.

What a shame said...

Jinzang -

Don't fret, Gudo is very well aware of the four conditions of the Abhidharma, I confidently suspect. Certainly I know from personal experience, and from his own translation, that Mike Luetchford is - and, as I mentioned, they worked together in the early days of transllating MMK. Thing is that Gudo has his own ideas about these things; vide his interpreation of the Four Noble Truths. So the issue is not one of ignorance, but, perhaps of well intentioned iconoclasm.

Blake said...

Excellent post although I think that it needs to be stressed that this stuff is not a thought experiment. We can talk about it all day, try to make "sense" of it and even quote something that someone wrote down that thought maybe the Buddha said this. But it still comes down to your experiencing it.

What a shame said...

@ Mumon -
Yep :-)
@ Harry -
Yep :-)
@ Blake -
Yep :-)

What a shame said...

BTW, for those of you concerned with blog identity, veracity and honourable conduct, I clarify that "It's a shame" and "What a shame" are both me. I got sloppy. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Not that there's any way you can verify that, of course.

There again, to quote another ancient sanskrit text:

"I see You everywhere, infinite in form,
With many arms, bellies, faces, and eyes;
Not the end, nor the middle, nor yet the beginning of You do
I see, O Lord of all, whose form is the universe."

Y'get me?

What a Sham said...

I got it wrong and now I hate my non-self.

Really a shame said...

Only some mind's can be known. Mine is easy.

Shameful said...

@ Really a shame -

Close. The larger part of a small cigar.

Anonymous said...

Dogen said it.
I believe it.
And that is that.

It's zazen only
this I know
for the shobogenzo tells me so.

There is no Buddhism but Soto Buddhism and Dogen is it's prophet.

Anonymous said...

Anon @8.09 -

Welcome Brother or Sister! So glad that you've finally seen the light!

Would you like to take part in our regular ritual burning of all non-True Buddhism texts? We hold an event every weekend. Bring the family.

We are also offering flying lessons for those of you who are truly committed to the cause.

You silly billy.

Harry said...

"There is no Buddhism but Soto Buddhism and Dogen is it's prophet."

Actually, there is lots of Buddhism, but a lot of it isn't true Buddhism.

Shock! Horror! Why would I suggest such a nasty, terrible, dualistic thing! The Dalia Lama must be turning in his sun bed!

Well, it is patently clear that many forms of Buddhism are effectively merely elaborate means of fooling ourselves... certainly this include Soto Zen, "Dogen's Zen" or whatever, as it is adopted and held by some people.

True Buddhism, on the other hand, has got 'not fooling ourselves' as its standard. Personally speaking Dogen's Records are the most conducive to this that I have encountered, and I have looked about a bit.

Regards,

Harry.

Justin said...

A woman wrote to Russell: "I think solipsism is such an attractive position. I wonder why more people don't believe it."

True Buddhism, on the other hand, has got 'not fooling ourselves' as its standard. Personally speaking Dogen's Records are the most conducive to this that I have encountered, and I have looked about a bit.

The notion of 'not fooling ourselves' is rather dependent on what we take to be 'fooling ourselves' and what we take to be 'not fooling ourselves' isn't it? People fool themselves with Dogen too.

Justin said...

BTW I don't know of many sects or viewpoints that have 'fooling ourselves' as their standard

Harry said...

"BTW I don't know of many sects or viewpoints that have 'fooling ourselves' as their standard"

Hee hee, yes, there's a reason as to why the problem is quite pervasive.

Regards,

Harry.

Harry said...

BTW,

I quite agree on 'fooling ourselves with Dogen'. Like I said in the original post:

"Well, it is patently clear that many forms of Buddhism are effectively merely elaborate means of fooling ourselves... certainly this include Soto Zen, "Dogen's Zen" or whatever, as it is adopted and held by some people."

Regards,

H.

Jinzang said...

Gudo is very well aware of the four conditions of the Abhidharma, I confidently suspect.



Confidently suspect?



... a precedent for radically interpreting doctrine



You can't baptize ignorance and call it iconoclasm. This translation shows all the signs of someone trying to beat a verse he doesn't understand into submission with his copy of Monier-Williams. I've been there myself too many times.

Anonymous said...

This statement “[The idea that] there is no real outer world and that everything we experience is all in our heads … is not Buddhism at all” seems incorrect in at least two ways. First, the ideas-only tradition, which is undeniably Buddhism, endorses just this idea. Second, human physiology dictates that all individual experience is “in our heads,” because that’s where the mind is physically located.

Sean said...

@rade6: sounds not uncommon in the development a conventional online message board, "flame-wars" and all that. I think I've been avoiding such "virtual communities", out of concern that it could be like that.

Not to sum it all up, but I wonder how much it may become an ego-battle, at times -- as in the face of such a simple means of communication of at least one's own ideas, and where the presence of other people on the other ends of the line is not readily apparent (not readily apparent, at least, as without considering the nature of this online medium).

/me still has to read up on what salopsism is, didn't do the homework ... *shrug* ... but finding that I'm curious about whether it could relate to a possible cultural development (widespread, possibly, and possibly quite long running, maybe even so far back and so far abroad to the US as in Nietzsche's time and Germany and England, then) a long, broad running development of individual narcissism? That is, to put it one way -- of psychological "me" centeredness, in another way of putting it.

Not to say as if "me" had no merit, though.

I digres....

Mr. Reee said...

I have a genuine (not snarky) question that's related to the topic, and I'd really like a hand with answer (I've been wrestling with this one for fun while out driving):

In the Heart Sutra, you have "Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form" (or 'Form does not differ from Emptiness, etc.)

I grok the "Form is Emptiness" part--that things are 'empty' of the qualities we assign to them via our perception; i.e., these qualities have no self-existence.

But I'm having a hell of a time grokking "Emptiness is Form"

It's running me in circles because I've tried understanding "is" to mean either "the same thing" or "equal to" and neither seem to make sense with the first statement.

Eric Omega said...

No. I don't get it at all. I thought I was getting somewhere in my practice and thinking and readings - reading a lot of your stuff too. What you just wrote is very unclear to me and I don't get it at all. All I have is the fucking internet so I suppose this is to be expected.

Harry said...

Mr. Ree,

Tomes have been written, and I suspect that we're going to hear about them in a minute.

Just to say that the reality those words attempt to describe is not a philosophy or any such product of human thought.

Regards,

Harry.

Mr. Reee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Reee said...

"Just to say that the reality those words attempt to describe is not a philosophy or any such product of human thought."

This would explain why I'm having a hard time figuring it out. :)

Thinking about that which can't be thought about.

But I'm stubborn.

Maybe 'Emptiness is Form' means that we wouldn't know of 'empty perceptions' without a form to hang it on?

Or maybe it just means what it says; A = B and B = A and that's all, Kemosabe.

Pillettelawoffice said...

Is our physical reality a product of human thought? From where I'm sitting right now--in a chair, at a table, at a keyboard, in a carbon-enriched atmosphere--It looks like it is. Certain phenomena may arise independent of human thought, but can we legitimately separate them from the totality of all world phenomena?

Harry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harry said...

No, we can't separate anything from the totality, because it's the totality it must include everything.

That doesn't mean that the contents of a tiny human head (a philosophy) accurately represents the whole of the totality though... or even represents the reality of it's own human headiness.

Regards,

Harry.

Mr. Reee said...

"Is our physical reality a product of human thought?"

Good question, but what if we step back and say "Human thought is a product of physical reality?"

This would jive with the idea that the individual is simply an expression of here and now (the Buddhist observation.) In other words, there's no way to distinguish between "here," "now," and "me."

It's a shame said...

Mr Reee -
"Or maybe it just means what it says; A = B and B = A and that's all, Kemosabe."

I think so.

Or like saying: "form is empty" - ok, fair enough, as you say. But in order to have an understanding of what that means, we (surely) have some notion of 'emptiness'; what it is to be "empty" of the qualities we assign to [things] via our perception.." (even if we can't visualise it). THAT notion, whatever you think it might be, IS NO DIFFERENT from form: there is no "emptiness" that exists other than the form we perceive.

Like saying "Form is emptiness. So what's emptiness? I just told you: form. None other than.


Not the best expression, I think, but My tuppence-worth.

Connor Hollenback said...

I went to this page and the ad in the "ads by google" section was for Genpo Roshi's 'Big Mind'. Haha, I think that's funny.

Mysterion said...

Nishijima's translation of Nagarjuna's Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way or anybody's translation of Nagarjuna's Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way can safely be considered an opinion.

Nagarjuna alone knew what he meant to say. Any translation, at best, is speculation.

Mūlamadhyamakakārikā

David said...

I chased that unmentionable ad and played a video. The guy I heard sounds a little like a Xenuphobic to me. He seems to speak of of really simple things in a rather condescending way.

rossignol said...

i was blind at birth. a rose is no differnt than a pile of shit. they both smell.

i slit my throat and my world ends. you're in it. too bad for you.

floating_abu said...

Can't get it by speculation

floating_abu said...

Harry said:
True Buddhism, on the other hand, has got 'not fooling ourselves' as its standard.


It's hard for the thief to see the thief though, need a bit more than that. Zazen helps the lucky ones.

Rich said...

I don't understand Buddhism, I just sit every day.

"i slit my throat and my world ends. you're in it. too bad for you."

Sometimes it's not that bad.

"There is just one world, with no division between inner and outer. Yet the two sides are not the same."

Balanced ANS

Jinzang said...

anybody's translation of Nagarjuna's Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way can safely be considered an opinion

All translations are interpretations. But that doesn't mean all translations are equally good. Jay Garfield's translation of the MMK is the best in my opinion, but it sticks pretty closely to the Gelugpa party line.

Justin said...

Garfield's is the only translation I've read fully. I found it readable, coherent and well-annotated.

The only other I have is Stephen Batchelor's which I don't recommend (he tries to turn a systematic rational discourse into something more wooly and poetic).

As for this:

"Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form"

It is all about the Buddhist concept of Sunyata, which means roughly 'absence of self' ie lack of indepent nature or identity. Everything is interdependent.

Form is Emptiness
Means that physical form (and all other phenomena) are empty of self-nature

Emptiness is Form
Means that this emptiness does not exist as a separate thing either and is inseparable from physical form (and all other phenomena)

There are many guides to the Heart Sutra available.

Mr. Reee said...

"Emptiness is Form
Means that this emptiness does not exist as a separate thing either and is inseparable from physical form (and all other phenomena)"


That seems about right--I kept stopping at that station to look every time I passed it. :)

And taken together, it does point to the indivisibility of all things (no forms perceived without emptiness; no knowledge of emptiness without a form.)

Jinzang said...

So the external world is very real in Buddhism. Do not doubt its existence.

Form is emptiness; emptiness is form

These two statements can't be reconciled. "Form is emptiness" means that form, roughly everything in the physical world, doesn't exist independently of the mind that conceives it, in other words, it's a concept with no reference, a mere imputation. ("Emptiness is form" means that there is nothing else to the concept of emptiness than this.)

This just shows why Buddhist philosophy is important. Through studying the philosophy we can understand the insights of the greatest Buddhist masters of the past. Even though this is only an intellectual understanding and does not substitute for practice, it's an important guide for those who practice. Without this guide, one is likely to fall into all sorts of misunderstandings about experiences in meditation, and since these experiences often carry an emotional charge, one's misunderstandings are taken as self-validating and not in need of any external check.

Anonymous said...

66

pkb said...

Jinzang said:

"This just shows why Buddhist philosophy is important. Through studying the philosophy we can understand the insights of the greatest Buddhist masters of the past. Even though this is only an intellectual understanding and does not substitute for practice, it's an important guide for those who practice. Without this guide, one is likely to fall into all sorts of misunderstandings about experiences in meditation, and since these experiences often carry an emotional charge, one's misunderstandings are taken as self-validating and not in need of any external check."

An excellent point, Jinzang. It's exactly why the Buddha and countless masters didn't just teach 'go sit in the right posture'.

Jesus Christ almighty said...

"the Buddha and countless masters didn't just teach 'go sit in the right posture'."

Correct. They didn't. And they aren't. So WHY keep bringing it up like SOMEONE is?

JC almighty said...

..and apparently you have to be pretty clever to get yourself enlightened. Because spending some time every day, quietly, in a balanced posture, is a pretty useless thing to do: only for thickos.

Anonymous said...

The “How to do Zazen” link above reminds me of the Steve Martin joke, “How to earn a million dollars and not pay any taxes … Step one: earn a million dollars; step two … .” It tells you how to sit, but not what to do while you’re sitting there.

Granted, knowing how to sit is crucial. Take a tennis lesson and they’ll tell you not to hold your racket like a hammer, so meditation instructors should at least tell you to balance your head on top of my spine. After my first daylong I nearly needed an epidural cortisone injection because nobody bothered to do this.

Moreover, after telling you how to hold the racket, tennis instructors don't then say, "OK, now play tennis!" But more often than not "how to meditate" instructions do just that.

Just a thought said...

I.59pm -

I hear ya... But did you rectify that mistake/find out how to sit by yourself; by getting to know yourself?
Tips are useful, but in the end, it's about learning, and only you can learn how to teach yourself. But, yes, with help.

Anonymous said...

Good point. I think that's what "turn your light within" might mean.

Mysterion said...

Today, one of my students asked about calming one's mind in zazen. I told him that it might take 8 or 10 or 12 years to experience the effect and that even then, the moment would be fleeting at best.

He asked: "Why bother?"

I said: "It's no bother."

Smoggyrob said...

Hi everyone:

I ran across this quote from Hillel the Elder (a famous Jewish dude), and liked it enough to share:

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And when I am for myself, what am 'I'?
And if not now, [then] when?"


And Mysterion, your student totally pwned you in dharma combat. Instead of answering. you should have smacked him. That's why I got into Buddhism, the opportunity to get away with smackin' people. I love this religion. 8^D

Rob

Anonymous said...

Have him try sitting after a hard 90 mins of Yoga.

Mysterion said...

"the opportunity to get away with smackin' people."

You are correct. I should have said: "For me, it's no bother."

Anonymous said...

bother.
no bother.

both? er...

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Jinzang

So the external world is very real in Buddhism. Do not doubt its existence.

Form is emptiness; emptiness is form


These two statements can't be reconciled. "Form is emptiness" means that form, roughly everything in the physical world, doesn't exist independently of the mind that conceives it, in other words, it's a concept with no reference, a mere imputation. ("Emptiness is form" means that there is nothing else to the concept of emptiness than this.)


Yes they are reconciled.

Form is emptiness does indeed mean that the physical world does not existent independently of the mind. However it is not just form that is empty it is also sensation, cognition, volition and consciousness - all very much what we call psychological phenomena - in other words, these aspects of mind do not exist independently either.

Independently of what? The mind? 'Empty of independent existence' doesn't just mean no existence independent of mind, it means no existence independent of anything. That is, matter is not independent of sensation, cognition, volition, consciousness. But consciousness is not independent of matter, sensation, cognition, volition and so on. Or in simpler terms, mind and matter are interdependent.

This is not the same as saying that 'everything is mind'. 'Everything is mind' is a monist philosophy called Idealism in the west. This isn't Buddhism (some literalist interpretations of Yogacara aside). Buddhism is not monism. And the Heart Sutra gives no indication that 'all is mind' - it does not say 'form is empty of independence from mind' it says.

form [rupa, the Buddhist concept of physical form, or body, the first of the five khandas or aggregates] is emptiness [sunyata, possessing no essential, enduring identity] and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

No Idealist undertines are there. No priority is given to mind. Everything is interdependent. Matter is matter, mind is mind and at the same time, they form a whole.

Justin said...

Anon

human physiology dictates that all individual experience is “in our heads,” because that’s where the mind is physically located.

You are basing you belief that everything is ultimately dependent on mind on the observation that mind is dependent on brain physiology.

Doh!

floating_abu said...

Jinzang:

"Form is emptiness; emptiness is form"

These two statements can't be reconciled.

Intellectually yes or no, but through practice definitively.

Which is why I think sometimes Zen Buddhism is more of a practice oriented tradition. Nothing wrong with study but who can study the taste of mango juice. Some can spend a life doing so I guess.

Rich said...

Jinzang said:

"This just shows why Buddhist philosophy is important. Through studying the philosophy we can understand the insights of the greatest Buddhist masters of the past. Even though this is only an intellectual understanding and does not substitute for practice, it's an important guide for those who practice. Without this guide, one is likely to fall into all sorts of misunderstandings about experiences in meditation, and since these experiences often carry an emotional charge, one's misunderstandings are taken as self-validating and not in need of any external check."

I think the function of Buddhist philosophy as taught by past and present masters is to continuously motivate and establish in you the will to the truth which is actually the practice of sitting daily. Resolving any 'misunderstandings' is part of the practice and having a teacher is helpful for this.

Anonymous said...

It appears that learning to sit
is very much like learning to juggle
or learning to ride a unicycle.

You have to get the hang of it
and no one can do it for you,
but sometimes a well-timed tip
can help you discover the hang of it
just a little more efficiently.*

But not much...

Drop your balls, pick them back up.
Fall off, get back on.
Good luck and don't give up.


*(and a zendo is sort of like
a circus where assclowns can
help each other learn by
osmosis ;)

Anonymous said...

The World as Emptiness and Form
Schopenhauer?
Gesundheit!

pkb said...

Justin, I agree with your explanation of mind / matter. Just as zen isn't solipsism. Neither is it nihilism or monist idealism.

But...

The word "mind" (ch. hsin) can also be used to denote the ultimate nature of reality itself. This can be misleading because so many people confuse this 'mind' with the thinking mind (which is the point of the story about the monk with rocks in his head). But mind (usually with a capital M) can indeed be used in the same way Buddha is used. Not to mean the historical person, but ultimate reality (Brad and Nishijima seem to prefer God, but this can be even more misleading than Mind).

Here's an extract from Huang Po:

" All Buddhas and all ordinary beings are nothing but the one Mind. This Mind is beginningless and endless, unborn and indestructible. It has no color or shape, neither exists nor doesn't exist, isn't old or new, long or short, large or small, since it transcends all measures, limits, names, and comparisons. It is what you see in front of you."

Huang Po goes on to say that this Mind isn't really mind. Similarly, if you're going to use the word God, maybe it should be qualified that this God isn't really God.

Anonymous said...

U forgot next line...

"Begin to reason about it and you at once fall into error."

Justin said...

pkb

Valid points.

Huang Po goes on to say that this Mind isn't really mind.

Yes this 'Mind' isn't really mind. 'Mind' is just a word that is used to point to the whole interdependent shebang - this original reality before there is mind/matter - aka Buddha, God, Emptiness, Mu, Dependent Arising or Impermanence. Personally I prefer 'Dave'.

Anonymous said...

Stop Dave, I'm Afraid

pkb said...

anon @ 8:43, I didn't forget the next line, the quote is a tiny bit of the writings of Huang Po and was only used to make the relevant point. Not practical to quote the entire book.

But yes, reasoning about it would involve speculation, analyzing, philosophizing and this would end in a dead concept such as monism or idealism instead of the living reality of the One Mind.

And Justin, that is funny because I prefer to call it Ralph. But Ralph isn't really Ralph.

Anonymous said...

Hi folks,

I don't really understand Buddhism or non-Buddhism. And should really be sitting more regularly.
Anyway, here's my contribution:

Try not to get reality and non-reality mixed up. Both are not different from this very computer screen right now. Please don't get caught up in this sort of stuff, there is just no point.

Get real and live - reality and non-reality are as bad as each other if they keep us locked into our heads. The buddha didn't hold up a flower for no reason.

Edward said...

These discussions of what is real and is the inner more real that the outer, just prove to me what the fundamental truth of Zen is: that the Truth can't be grasped by the mind i.e. concepts - that Reality is apparent in every moment but can't be contained in the this and that of ideas.

Nate said...

If I drink Drano, it will dissolve the construct that is my esophagus. I cannot believe it to be iced tea with any credibility to my internal organs.

Wolf said...

If I have understood it correctly that solipsistic notion, that comes with the concept of "emptyness", is the main reason why the Rinzai people in those Koans always punch each other in the head...

Chris A said...

I believe:
Life is but a dream. It would be dualistic to believe that dream life and reality were opposite or dualistic. The mind, body, everybody and everything are also part of the dream. Just by saying "the internal and external world" creates duality. As far as harm, there is no harm in this belief as long as you know the physical body and mind that you often claim to be the I, is not really the I that is dreaming and that all is really a creation of the real I. All is one, and it makes no sense to harm oneself.

Tell me your thoughts!

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