Does Enlightenment Make You Morally Perfect?

ww_gi_hug-treeHere’s a question I received via Facebook.

QUESTIONER: Hello Mr. Warner. I have a question for you. Even though we are only human, after we get enlightened, is that supposed to change our life? For example, would I still be a Nazi after I get enlightened?

ME: Are you a Nazi now?

QUESTIONER: No, far from it. I tried to give an example. Let me try and reformulate. If a teacher is said to be enlightened but his deeds are … controversial, can we put his enlightenment to doubt? Is his enlightenment manifested in his deeds?

In one form or another, this is a question that has vexed spiritual seekers of every faith for as long as we have had spiritual seekers to be vexed about things.

The simplest answer I can give is that there is no spiritual experience that can zap a jerk and turn him instantly into a nice person. (Since the questioner’s example was male, I’ll continue to use a male example for simplicity’s sake, but what I’ll say here applies to all genders.)

I don’t like bringing Nazis into questions like these. I don’t like bringing Nazis anywhere, in fact. But since our questioner asked I’ll say that it is highly unlikely that one could be a Nazi and at the same time have what is commonly (and mistakenly) called an “enlightenment experience.” This is because being a Nazi requires a person to expend a huge amount of mental energy trying to justify actions that he knows intuitively to be wrong. Because of this, our hypothetical Nazi would almost certainly miss any kind of “enlightenment” that might come his way.

This is because enlightenment is not an experience. It is something we all possess. It is something we all are. Even Nazis. This is where the answer starts to get very tricky.

Meditation is not a technique to bring about the experience of enlightenment. It is something you do to calm and quiet the mind enough that you might eventually, after lots of practice, begin to dimly discern the enlightenment that already exists and has been there since before you were born.

There is nothing intrinsic to so-called “enlightenment experiences” that instantly fixes all the unfortunate shit you’ve ever done in your life, or erases all the unfortunate shit that’s been done to you. There are loads of koan stories about this. The most famous is usually called Hyakujo’s Fox and it is koan #2 in the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) collection. I wrote about this koan in my book Sit Down and Shut Up.

The moral of this koan is that one is never free from cause and effect, no matter what kind of realization you have. So if you had dendrophilia  – which is a sexual fetish for trees, check the link if you don’t believe me – before realization, due to whatever it is in someone’s personal history that makes them have dendrophilia, you will still have dendrophilia after your experience of realization.

You may have a better understanding of the true nature of your tree fetish and of your relationship to trees. You might come to understand the reasons why it may not be wise to engage in your tree fetish. You may understand the trauma you are causing to those poor trees or whatever. But that will not make your tree fetish magically disappear.

You also will not lose the capacity to mentally shout down your innate sense of ethics. We all have an innate, in-born sense of right and wrong. However, this in-born sense of right and wrong can get messed up in a lot of ways. Sometimes a person gets so damaged that it is much, much more difficult for them to respond to this in-born ethical sense than it is for the rest of us. We have names for people like that, such as “sociopath.” Yet even a person with that kind of damage can still sometimes learn to quiet his mind enough to notice the enlightenment which underlies his existence. It’s uncommon, but it happens.

Another point my questioner raises is the nature of ethical action. He starts off by using the example of a Nazi, who is a person that does terrible things by just about any standard of ethical behavior. But then he asks, “If a teacher is said to be enlightened but his deeds are … controversial, can we put his enlightenment to doubt?”

I’m going to pass over the phrase “said to be enlightened” for the time being. But it’s crucial. Instead, let’s first focus on our hypothetical enlightened person doing deeds that are controversial. This presupposes that ethical behavior will always look to us like ethical behavior. That’s a tough call.

We never know exactly what goes on in someone else’s life. So it’s very difficult to judge the ethics of another person except in extremely broad terms (see the discussion of Nazis above). You can judge whether someone else’s conduct is problematic to the rest of society, though.

Your enlightened master’s dendrophilia is ultimately a matter between him and his chosen sycamore. However, if the sight of him nakedly humping trees outside the temple is disturbing to the community, they may have reason to ask him to stop. Most such controversial behavior works pretty much the same way. To take a more relevant example, if the enlightened master is groping people who do not want to be groped, it is right and proper to tell him to cut it out or, if he won’t cut it out, to tell him you’ll no longer be attending his lectures and retreats.

But even such behavior does not necessarily mean that his experience of realization never happened or that his teachings regarding that aspect of his (and everyone else’s) life are false.

On the other hand, there are people out there who are just plain nuts and somehow manage to convince lots of others that their nuttiness is an example of some kind of “crazy wisdom.” Without closely examining each individual who professes such things, it’s impossible to know for sure one way or the other. And frankly, I haven’t got time for that.

Ultimately, I think what my questioner is asking is whether there is some quick easy way to tell if someone else’s claims of realization are genuine or not. The answer to that is simple; No, there isn’t.

There are a few red flags that clue you in to the possibility that you’re being hoodwinked by a sociopath in pretty robes. Actions that appear to indicate a serious lack of ethics are indicators that maybe your enlightened master isn’t that enlightened after all. But that’s about as far as you can go. There’s no absolute test to see if someone’s supposed “enlightenment” is genuine, not even if he’s kind of an asshole.

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Every Monday at 8pm there is zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!

Every Saturday at 10:00 am there is zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230.Beginners only!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info

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235 Responses

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  1. Mumbles
    Mumbles February 15, 2015 at 2:53 pm |

    Dear Brad, Do you think “Buddha nature” and “enlightened” mean the same thing?

    1. Fred
      Fred February 15, 2015 at 3:15 pm |

      Dear Brad, do you think that Genpo is enlightened.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 15, 2015 at 3:28 pm |

        “Meditation is not a technique to bring about the experience of enlightenment. It is something you do to calm and quiet the mind enough that you might eventually, after lots of practice, begin to dimly discern the enlightenment that already exists and has been there since before you were born.”

        So as you quiet the mind and the thought processes that chase themselves around like a dog chasing its tail, the enlightenment that was originally there
        emerges into the light of day.

        Even though the Buddha discovered this over the course of years, couldn’t it be called Emergism?

  2. Brent
    Brent February 15, 2015 at 4:21 pm |

    Fred, are you enlightened?

  3. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara February 15, 2015 at 4:31 pm |

    Q: Are monks who practice dendrophilia still buddhists?
    A: No, they’re a splinter group.

    badaboom!

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara February 16, 2015 at 9:15 am |

      New range of robes now available for DendroZen practitioners

      http://www.thefilmcell.com/productimages/33596.jpg

  4. Fred
    Fred February 15, 2015 at 4:32 pm |

    The correct answer here is ” I don’t know ”

    In ” enlightenment ” the universe is looking through the eyes at itself. There is no one to be enlightened.

    So asking Brad if Genpo is enlightened is a loaded question designed to get a rise.

    1. Brent
      Brent February 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm |

      Isn’t it always doing that anyways? The universe that is…

  5. sri_barence
    sri_barence February 15, 2015 at 6:07 pm |

    Genpo is definitely enlightened. So are you. So am I. So what?

    1. Fred
      Fred February 15, 2015 at 6:58 pm |

      Well Sri, remember the time you dropped some acid and were going to do some meditation, but you couldn’t find a self to start the meditation.

      If there’s no self to do the meditation, where is this I or you that is enlightened

      1. justlui
        justlui February 15, 2015 at 7:33 pm |

        Right here, Fred. Always.

  6. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 15, 2015 at 6:16 pm |

    Here’s a fine article in the New Yorker from last week, that includes the following:

    ‘“The brain is a hierarchical system,” Carhart-Harris said. “The highest-level parts”–such as the default-mode network–“have an inhibitory influence on the lower-level parts, like emotion and memory.” He discovered that blood flow and electrical activity in the default-mode network dropped off precipitously under the influence of psychedelics, a finding that may help to explain the loss of the sense of self that volunteers reported. (The biggest dropoffs in default-mode-network activity correlated with volunteers’ reports of ego dissolution.) Just before Carhart-Harris published his results, in a 2012 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a researcher at Yale named Judson Brewer, who was using fMRI to study the brains of experienced meditators, noticed that their default-mode networks had also been quieted relative to those of novice meditators. It appears that, with the ego temporarily out of commission, the boundaries between self and world, subject and object, all dissolve. These are hallmarks of the mystical experience.’

    (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/trip-treatment)

    So I suppose that tells us something about why meditators and those who pray as a regular practice might report mystical experiences.

    And from the same article, this:

    ‘David Nichols, an emeritus professor of pharmacology at Purdue University–and a founder, in 1993, of the Heffter Research Institute, a key funder of psychedelic research–put the pragmatic case most baldly in a recent interview with Science: “If it gives them peace, if it helps people to die peacefully with their friends and their family at their side, I don’t care if it’s real or an illusion.”’

    I’ve heard Christians say that they are helpless to do right (without Jesus), and we have Shunryu Suzuki pointing out that “zazen sits zazen”, so there is definitely a dimension apart from mystical experience to being a practicing Christian or a practicing Zen Buddhist– a dimension having to do with action (that is beyond knowledge of right and wrong, or good and evil).

    how does a person stumble into an experience of action in the absence of a doer, with regard to this material self? In such experience, it doesn’t matter if the next person is enlightened or not, a roshi or not, a shaman or not.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot February 15, 2015 at 8:11 pm |

      Look at the final sequence of Space Odyssee again.

    2. Wedged
      Wedged February 16, 2015 at 4:37 pm |

      Mark, i’m always looking for books about psychology/brain biology/physiological stuff but its either too clinical like i’m trying to pass an exam or too bubblegum’ish. Any book suggestions? I love things in the same vein as that article.

      1. mb
        mb February 16, 2015 at 5:17 pm |

        I’m not Mark, but I recommend “Irreducible Mind” by Edward F. Kelley.

  7. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 15, 2015 at 6:50 pm |

    The brain is more like a receptor that picks up the protophenomenological changes in the external world. Sometimes the antenna/receptor messes up and picks up stuff that isn’t there (e.g., hallucination).

    The process of conceptual imputation (or projecting the illusion of inherent existences) is more like retrograde signaling to orient the body for specific goals.

    This is accepted once you understand time is inherently non-differentiated, Dogen’s main teaching.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 15, 2015 at 7:03 pm |

      So a conscious imputation emerges from non-differentiated time

      1. Fred
        Fred February 15, 2015 at 7:09 pm |

        Just so

    2. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 15, 2015 at 8:18 pm |

      Excuse me, I meant “protophenomenal” not “protophenomenological”. I was typing too fast.

      I won’t talk about this topic anymore unless it’s brought up. I apologize.

    3. Mark Foote
      Mark Foote February 15, 2015 at 8:32 pm |

      Just finished reading the last thread. Kind of an echo!

      Hey, S.H., are you aware of the research that I quoted above, into the “default-mode-network”, and the possible connection of the suppression of that network by meditation to “mystical experience”? Maybe that’s what kensho is.

      That I find interesting. What I am waiting to hear is why the participants in the psilocybin studies showed lasting changes in an aspect of their personalities, a year after their experiences, and without additional psilocybin or meditation. Or were they meditating naturally, more mindful naturally, more repressive of the function of their “default-mode-network” naturally? Can they claim to be enlightened?

      Good question, Mumbles. I think he slipped on that one, I do believe he meant we all have buddha nature. Except that dog.

      Good example of a Zen master who, given a proposition A, didn’t accept that either A or not A must be true. Chao-chou gave both answers, when asked if a dog had buddha-nature. An intuitionist!

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 15, 2015 at 8:49 pm |

        I wrote a lot on the Default Mode Network. However it’s not related to metaphysics. I’m still a bit of a panpsychist, but here’s what I wrote on the DMN a long time ago:

        NOTE: I was responding to an email my professor gave. It began with her giving this link talking about happiness and meditation: http://erin.sfn.org/resources/2014/01/07/why-a-neuroscientist-would-study-meditation-hyphen-ted-talk?su=q/%5bmeditation%5d/t//s//a//e//r//dr/0/

        “Thank you for the interesting talk, Dr. XXX!

        I find it interesting how Dr. Britton mentioned happiness has a strong correlation to increased attention and decreased mind wandering. It reminded me about how some neuroscientists argue for the existence of three main modes the brain engages in [1] : the default mode network (DMN), executive network, and salient network (SN). The SN is preferentially active during attention and intrinsic alertness, and it is claimed to have strong activation in non-depressed people during task-related activities; the circuit includes the mid-cingular cortex (MCC), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dCC), bilateral insula, thalamic, basal ganglia, etc., and it is claimed to modulate DMN connectivity. In non-depressed people [2], there is a decrease in DMN connectivity, and it is involved in wandering, spontaneous thoughts, and planning; the circuit includes precuneus and medial prefrontal cortex (MPC). Many studies have explored the effects of meditation on DMN connectivity [3].

        Unlike the divisions in memory (e.g., procedural, episodic, and declarative), these distinct modes of intrinsic brain processing are still not universally accepted by the scientific community. Regardless, research into the DMN indicates that the brain is always intrinsically active and engaging in important processes even during rest, and it leads to the rest-stimulus interaction problem [4]. Recently, a DMN [5] was also claimed to be found in rats, and future possibilities may allow to study the effects drugs have on such network connectivity and its relationships to attention, mind-wandering, and stress.

        I enjoyed the discussion because it made me think of mental habits and its neural underpinnings in terms of intrinsic processing, experience dependent plasticity, and the way different components interact amongst each other to yield a multifaceted network of brain activity.

        I hope you have been doing well, and I enjoyed the class last semester!”

        However, I still consider reductive and emergentist theories of mind ADHARMA from a metaphysical point of view. I consider deeper level practices requiring the abandonment of physicalist and emergentist frameworks of mind, but I do not want to impose my view on anyone.

        ============

        SOURCES:
        [1] www(DOT)
        psychcongress(DOT)
        com/blogs/vladimir-maletic/march-28-2012-1234pm/role-default-mode-network-depression

        [2] www(DOT)
        pnas(DOT)
        org/content/106/6/1942..

        [3] www(DOT)
        pnas(DOT)
        org/content/early/2011/11/22/1112029108(DOT)
        abstract

        [4] www(DOT)
        ncbi(DOT)
        nlm.nih(DOT)
        gov/pubmed/20226543

        [5][www(DOT)
        pnas(DOT)
        org(DOT)
        ezproxy(DOT)
        gsu(DOT)
        ed

      2. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 16, 2015 at 5:37 am |

        Mark, I think it’s a matter of view. There’s a good reason (there always seems to be – ol Shaky thought things out to several levels) why Right View tops the list.

        It doesn’t take more than one light trip to permanently shake one’s faith in conventional interpretations of reality. We spend years (lifetimes, in the traditional teachings) constructing a constriction of experience into a comfortable enough view down to a deep, preconscious level, but one good biochemical whack can shake that complacency to its foundations and open up the possibilities of other, radically different interpretations. Other shocks, from trauma to intellectual conversion, can also do the trick, but psychedelic substances have the advantage of convenience of application, and relative physical safety.

        If you doubt the importance of view, consider the effect on behavior of a belief in the impossibility of achieving an effect. The agent won’t even try, and thus fulfill the truth of such a belief. Coaches know this.

        If you have been unfortunate enough to be raised in a particularly constricting ideology, and then its hold on your mind cracks, the resultant mental and physical relaxation would be great enough to affect brain function permanently, no?

  8. Rose Moon
    Rose Moon February 15, 2015 at 11:06 pm |

    Thanks for this discussion. Early in my spiritual quest I attended an “enlightenment intensive” before I knew what enlightenment was. I was sucked into a cult for 5 years. Red flags went off all the time, but I didn’t see them because I was in a trance. I know lots of people who fell for the same kind of marketing. Enlightened beings are not co-dependent. There is a lot of information about co-dependency. I’d say it’s a pretty good guide. Learning about it will help you stay away from unsavory characters in all walks of life.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara February 16, 2015 at 4:50 am |

      Hi Rose Moon, you wrote that “enlightened beings are not co-dependent”. I guess that could be true. The problem is that many psychopaths are not at all co-dependent either.

      Because of that, I’d say its a very bad idea to pick a spiritual teacher just because (s)he seems to transcend the norms of social behavior. At best you might have found the ‘true man of no rank’, who’ll help you get over your co-dependency – at worst, you could end up alone with Juan Carlos Aguilar

  9. otaku00
    otaku00 February 16, 2015 at 12:43 am |

    “whether there is some quick easy way to tell if someone else’s claims of realization are genuine or not. The answer to that is simple; No, there isn’t.”

    I have a test for it. If he cannot let go, it isn’t genuine. First of all, he would let go of material posessions, than we may look for ideologies etc.

  10. Andy
    Andy February 16, 2015 at 1:37 am |

    Hi Brad,

    This from Dosho Mike Port, in his latest article:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildfoxzen/2015/02/dogen-did-not-practice-shikantaza-and-even-had-a-gaining-idea.html

    The orthodox position also claims that practice and enlightenment are one and so there is no “experience” of enlightenment. This dismisses the truth of immediate experience and the reports of many practitioners ancient and modern, including the likes of not only Shakyamuni Buddha but also Dogen, Ejo, Gikai, Keizan, and Meiho (the first five Soto ancestors in Japan). Even the lesser known Meiho realized enlightenment, by the way, while grappling with the koan, “What is it that makes all things wax and wane?”

    Do Dosho Port’s views on experience/enlightenment diverge significantly from your own/Nishijimas?

    Could the lines of difference in emphasis/characterization be usefully glossed as something like, a) human activity harmonizing with universal activity (enlightenment) vs. b) the echo of a) (“experience” of enlightenment)?

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara February 16, 2015 at 5:16 am |

      I just read the Dosho Port article that Andy linked. I can only assume that Dosho is playing devil’s advocate a bit here: taking Foulk’s essay from Heine’s new book at face value, in the hope of promoting debate and study.

      I haven’t read the book, tbh, and I probably won’t read it any time soon, but my first thoughts on reading Dosho’s review were pretty much exactly what Jundo Cohen (who apparantly has read the book) says here:

      http://www.amazon.com/Dogen-Soto-Zen-Steven-Heine-ebook/product-reviews/B00T3FUVSO/ref=cm_cr_dp_see_all_btm/190-4527839-0689226?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

      1. Andy
        Andy February 16, 2015 at 6:00 am |

        Hi, Shinchan

        While in my ignorance, I don’t agree or disagree with either side of this slow burning point of contention, I think you may be doing Dosho Port a disservice with your suggestion that he’s playing devils advocate etc. Check this article out from Dosho, as well. The comments below it are very interesting, in which he addresses some criticism of his views from Jundo Cohen and Nonin Chowenay.

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildfoxzen/2014/8/dogen-and-koan-the-ultimate-truly-definitive-unquestionable-smoking-gun.html.

        Btw, I think you mentioned someway back that you were going to read Hee-Jin Kim’s Eihei Dogen: Mystical Realist. I’d also check out his other work alongside it, Dogen On Meditaion and Thinking, if you have the pennies to spare.

        I’d be interested to see if reading those works adjust your thoughts on this or any other issue.

        1. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara February 16, 2015 at 7:36 am |

          Hi Andy, you’re were right: after reading that second article, I believe that Dosho is totally in earnest in his statements about Dogen’s use of koans.

          Like you, I don’t take a position on the Dogen/Koans debate. If anything, I just think it’s a daft thing to waste time arguing over: Dogen obviously referrred to old koans everywhere in his writings … but we have no way of knowing for sure whether or how he used them in his own sitting practice, or the instructions he gave to individual followers. There are all sorts of possibilities: maybe he let people who came to him from the Daruma-shu or Eisai’s school continue with koan practices for a while; maybe this, maybe that; maybe something else.

          In linking Jundo’s review of the book, I was more thinking about Dosho’s suggestion that Dogen didn’t promote shikantaza… I certainly baulked at that, and I guessed that Dosho threw that in just to heat up the discussion. I can’t see how deliberately focussing on a koan could be part of the technique described in fukanzazengi… whether or not koan introspection was supported by Dogen as an alternative/extra practice too.

          And thanks for suggesting the other Kim book – it’s added to my reading list.

          1. Fred
            Fred February 16, 2015 at 7:56 am |

            “What he called ‘mental sitting,’ then, would be a kind of concentrated state of mind that could be cultivated in any posture, whatever the practitioner is doing. When the practitioner is no longer attached to any physical or mental phenomena, however, that liberated or awakened state is referred to by Dōgen as the ‘sitting of the body and mind sloughed off.’ In light of this I conclude that Dōgen interpreted Rujing’s admonition to ‘just sit’ as an injunction to ‘just gain awakening.’

            If so, Dogen himself did not practice or teach what is now labeled as “shikantaza” and the great founder himself had a gaining idea, too.”

            Ryushin Sensei discusses koans and enlightenment in an easy, warm manner. It’s too bad he had to step down because of the politics of his sangha.

          2. Andy
            Andy February 16, 2015 at 8:48 am |

            Hi again Shinchan

            I can’t see how deliberately focussing on a koan could be part of the technique described in fukanzazengi… whether or not koan introspection was supported by Dogen as an alternative/extra practice too.

            I think that’s adumbrated in quotes such as this, from Dosho Port:

            Foulk shows that Dogen viewed “just sitting” as a koan. As I’ve noted here before, when explaining zazen, for example, Dogen repeatedly presents the thinking/not-thinking/non-thinking koan. What does it mean that “just sitting” zazen is koan? It enlivens the practice as something to actualize in this vividly hopping along moment, the truth happening point.

            I can’t remember how much Kim addresses it in Mystical Realist, but he does address much to do with it in the latter book.

            I’ll bow out now, in case I start smelling like I know what I’m on about!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3w3Tm2e72g

          3. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara February 16, 2015 at 10:10 am |

            Andy, I bow out too, gassho. Although I don’t mind stinking like I think I know something on this blog… I figure if I put all my daft ideas out there for criticism under an alias, nobody much will hold them against me in real life

  11. Fred
    Fred February 16, 2015 at 8:08 am |

    It’s possible to hold 2 contrary views at the same time, and in the end neither matter, because enlightenment is enlightenment.

    While there is no one to see the enlightenment other than the universe itself, a
    body and mind navigating the waters of duality remember the trace of something that can’t be made sense of in terms of ego.

    So standing on a bridge over the Sengawa, there was a standing on the bridge over the Sengawa.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 16, 2015 at 8:12 am |

      Oh by the way, Brad is enlightened, but Jundo isn’t.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 16, 2015 at 9:12 am |

        “If so, Dogen himself did not practice or teach what is now labeled as “shikantaza” and the great founder himself had a gaining idea, too.”

        Run that by Mike Cross and see what kind of a response you get.

        1. Fred
          Fred February 16, 2015 at 9:15 am |

          ‘sitting of the body and mind sloughed off.’ = thinking non-thinking = actual reality of enlightenment

      2. Fred Jr.
        Fred Jr. February 16, 2015 at 2:27 pm |

        Hey Dad are you done watching my “Mean Girls” DVD yet?

        1. Fred
          Fred February 16, 2015 at 4:54 pm |

          I don’t watch much TV. It’s reinforcement for the trained monkeys

          1. Fred Jr.
            Fred Jr. February 17, 2015 at 3:51 am |

            Oh come on Dad, you’re tapping on your laptop in front of the tube right now!

  12. Strong Practice
    Strong Practice February 16, 2015 at 9:45 am |

    There will come a point when you realize that striving doesn’t work. But not striving won’t work either. As for enlightenment, that takes a long time. Realize that the experience of kensho is only number three in the ten oxherding pictures. It is only the beginning of practice. Even Ramana Maharshi kept meditating in temples and caves after he had his big experience at sixteen. But it does not matter whether you started practicing before kensho or after, because either way the practice must be done. I think everyone throughout history agrees on that.

  13. Michel
    Michel February 16, 2015 at 10:04 am |

    There is the story of “Finger-collar” (Angulimala) who had been “tricked” (a bit, it seems to me, like our modern day jihadists) into killing 1000 persons. The Buddha was to be the 1000th, but showed him his error, and he repented and became an arahant in the Sangha. All right: he got the Illumination. Like 100 watt after a lifetime of idiocy-induced darkness.

    But whenever he was recognised, when he went for alms, people would beat him, throw him rocks and what else; So one day he got back all bruised and bloody and wept to the Buddha that it was hard for him.

    So the Buddha replied something like: “Yeah, but you know, you can’t say you didn’t deserve it!”

  14. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 16, 2015 at 10:56 am |

    Have your senseis ever said “cause is an effect and effect is a cause”?

    There is a bit of the outer in the inner and a bit of the inner in the outer. There is a Zen koan, I forgot (if someone could remind me, I’d appreciate it), that said the light is always in the darkness and the darkness is always in the light. It is about the unity of opposites, and Dogen gets into this in the Genjokoan about the unity of illusion and absolute (i.e., conventional realm has non-dual relation to Absolute).

    Whatever we are mindful towards is also mindful back towards us, as Shunryu Suzuki and Dogen make clear.

    Since a mind-independent reality cannot exist, and a matter-independent reality cannot exist, given their reciprocal dependence upon each other, then it much be concluded that there is an internal mental life of matter: matter-mind.

    Matter always has a bit of mind, and mind always has a bit of matter. Neither has primacy, so it is best to view mind as being more continuous with matter…

    So I guess this is NOT an advaitan or idealist view. It just rejects how matter has primacy. Mind is NEITHER reducible to matter or mind is produced by matter. Wherever there is matter there is a bit of mind, wherever there is mind, there is a bit of matter.

    This is the Soto/Rinzai view, which I agree with.

    Emergentism is a form of adharma.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 16, 2015 at 11:08 am |

      When we just sit without grasping at concepts (i.e., surrender to the practice), that which is neither matter nor mind is experienced.

      Not-matter = neither spatial nor temporal. One aspatiotemporal point.
      Not-mind = non-abiding awareness

      Not-mind and not-matter are the same thing.

      So from this one not-thing, we get the dual relation of matter and mind.

      Therefore, I figured out the Absolute. I’m satisfied. Now I’m going to watch a Jet Li movie.

    2. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 16, 2015 at 11:15 am |

      There is no “my” consciousness.

      There is “no-one” with “my” consciousness.

      Wherever there is matter, there is a bit of mind. Wherever there is mind, there is a bit of matter.

      The complexity of matter dictates complexity of mind. The complexity of mind dictates the complexity of matter.

      Yet there is no-one to own either matter or mind.

      From neither matter nor mind, does matter and mind emerge. Neither matter nor mind is an aspatiotemporal point that is non-abiding awareness.

    3. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 16, 2015 at 11:19 am |

      “The Soto Zen master Dogen also argued for the universality of Buddha nature. According to Dogen, “fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles” are also “mind” (心,shin). Dogen also argued that “insentient beings expound the teachings” and that the words of the eternal Buddha “are engraved on trees and on rocks . . . in fields and in villages”. This is the message of his “Mountains and Waters Sutra” (Sansui kyô).[20]”

  15. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm |

    Good paper I recommend reading. Ultimately reaches Dogen’s conclusion:

    http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1012

    It argues how “reality is experiential, all the way down”. Read it.

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm |

      This is the best philosophy paper I’ve ever read. It analyzes the anti-correlationism/speculative realism of Ray Brassier and Quentin Meillassoux, and it ultimately reaches Panpsychist conclusions by looking at how some of William James and Alfred North Whitehead’s concepts relate in solving the problems in their philosophies. I agree with the conclusion of how “reality is experiential, all the way down”.

  16. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon February 16, 2015 at 2:40 pm |

    I tried to stay out of this. I really did. I tried to maintain what my sensei refers to as a “no bull silence” but I feel that someone must address this serious issue.
    As a proud White Supremacist, I am deeply offended by Brad Warner’s disparaging remarks about Nazis. Furthermore, if he does not issue a sincere apology on this blog and CNN, I will no longer read or comment on his blog and I will file a formal complaint against him with the American Zen Teachers Association. I am sorry that it has come to this, but I see no other way to correct and prevent Brad’s blatant use of “hate speech”.
    88
    14

  17. Zafu
    Zafu February 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm |

    “The moral of this koan is that one is never free from cause and effect, no matter what kind of realization you have. So if you had dendrophilia – which is a sexual fetish for trees, check the link if you don’t believe me – before realization, due to whatever it is in someone’s personal history that makes them have dendrophilia, you will still have dendrophilia after your experience of realization.” ~ Brad Warner

    Any you’ll suffer just as you did before ‘realization’, so what’s the point? The MEANING derived from religious belief.

    “You may have a better understanding of the true nature of your tree fetish and of your relationship to trees. You might come to understand the reasons why it may not be wise to engage in your tree fetish. You may understand the trauma you are causing to those poor trees or whatever.”

    Or you may not have any of these things, it doesn’t matter. Religion is about structured meaning for those who need it. That’s the only thing that matters in religion.

    “You also will not lose the capacity to mentally shout down your innate sense of ethics. We all have an innate, in-born sense of right and wrong. However, this in-born sense of right and wrong can get messed up in a lot of ways. Sometimes a person gets so damaged that it is much, much more difficult for them to respond to this in-born ethical sense than it is for the rest of us. We have names for people like that, such as “sociopath.” Yet even a person with that kind of damage can still sometimes learn to quiet his mind enough to notice the enlightenment which underlies his existence. It’s uncommon, but it happens.”

    You don’t understand sociopathy. Do you think, for example, that gay people are so “damaged” that lose their in-born heterosexual sense?

    People may be born sociopathic and they can basically learn ethics from society. In a way they may be more likely to know your realization than non-sociopaths, because they don’t fret over ethics and the like, and may therefor have a quieter mind. It seems the only prerequisite for your ‘realization’ is a quiet mind.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara February 16, 2015 at 5:18 pm |

      Zafu, wtf? Are you saying that homosexuality is sociopathic? I know there are a variety of opinions out there on the causes of gayness, but I never heard even religious fundies equating it with sociopathy.

      And “People may be born sociopathic…”. Really? Do you have any evidence at all for that? There is a consensus among developmental psychologists that sociopathic tendencies are due in general to a lack of suitable nurture, or to damaging life experiences, rather than to pre-natal or genetic factors (although certain genes might predispose someone slightly to conduct disorder, and perinatal trauma or being born hooked on crack wouldn’t help much).

      1. Fred
        Fred February 16, 2015 at 5:40 pm |

        “People may be born sociopathic and they can basically learn ethics from society.”

        Yes, it’s doubtful they are born that way, and doubtful they can learn ethics.

        ” Do you think, for example, that gay people are so “damaged” that lose their in-born heterosexual sense?”

        Gay people are born gay, and the only damage they have is from the way heteros
        and hetero institutions treat them. I doubt that they have an inborn heterosexual
        sense.

        1. Fred
          Fred February 16, 2015 at 6:25 pm |

          “That I find interesting. What I am waiting to hear is why the participants in the psilocybin studies showed lasting changes in an aspect of their personalities, a year after their experiences, and without additional psilocybin or meditation”

          Why does a drug induce lasting change in an aspect of personality?

          Why are people going to Peru to overload their receptors with DMT, and then post about a totally altered existence on youtube?

          Why did a Sensei who taught koans and gave talks on enlightenment pursue mind altering experiences with shamans and drugs?

      2. Zafu
        Zafu February 16, 2015 at 9:36 pm |

        Hiya Shinchan Ohara,

        You think that homosexual tendencies are due in general to a lack of suitable nurture, or to damaging life experiences, rather than to pre-natal or genetic factors?

        What

        the

        fuck?

        1. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara February 16, 2015 at 10:00 pm |

          Hiya Zafu. You said “What the fuck?” To which I say, what the fuck?

          You originally said: “You don’t understand sociopathy. Do you think, for example, that gay people are so “damaged” that lose their in-born heterosexual sense?”

          To which I replied: “Are you saying that homosexuality is sociopathic?”

          … Your original statement seemed to imply that you think homosexuality and sociopathy are somehow related, or analogous in some way. Do you? Or did I misunderstand?

          ….

          You then replied by asking ME, “You think that homosexual tendencies are due in general to a lack of suitable nurture, or to damaging life experiences, rather than to pre-natal or genetic factors?”

          My answer to that question is “NO”

          1. Zafu
            Zafu February 17, 2015 at 9:28 am |

            You and Mr. Brand are not following your own reasoning. If sociopaths are “damaged” then it follows that other conditions that don’t conform to the norm are also considered to be damage.

            Oh, I get it, it’s not politically correct to describe homosexuals as damaged but it is to describe sociopaths this way.

            Y’all should be politicians.

          2. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara February 17, 2015 at 11:49 am |

            Hi again, Zafu. You still don’t make any fucking sense: no offense.

            What do you think my “own reasoning” is? And who the heck is “Mr Brand”?

            You just said: “If sociopaths are “damaged” then it follows that other conditions that don’t conform to the norm are also considered to be damage.”

            That’s incorrect. It doesn’t follow. Your statement is an example of the logical error called a non sequitur. You might as well say: ‘if sociopaths are damaged, then it follows that I am a donut’, which is also a non sequitur.

            Sexual preferences have ZERO connection with sociopathy. They are different in every respect: except that they fall under the very general class of ‘behavioural tendencies’. So a statement about sociopathy has ZERO implications for homosexuality.

            …………………………………………………………………………………..

            In any case, the best way to gain a reliable understanding of human behaviour and it’s causes is not by using logical deduction (even if you knew how to do that). No, the best way is to use SCIENCE: which uses inductive reasoning, based on repeated observations of real humans.

            >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

            There has been a whole lot of scientific research into the causes of the behaviours that are labelled ‘sociopathic’. The conclusion from that research is that those behaviours are highly correlated with abuse, neglect and trauma in early life. So it’s likely that sociopathy is ’caused’ by that kind of ‘damage’.

            There has been only a little bit of research on the causes of homosexual behaviour in humans (because it’s a political hot potato and biologists are scared to touch it). The tentative conclusion from that research is that sexual orientation is largely due to genetic factors, and hormonal factors during foetal development – and (to a much lesser extent) to social and environmental factors in the first years of life.

            >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

            What modern behavioural biology tends to show is that nearly all human behavioural and mental traits arise from an interplay of genes and environmental factors, in a complex process of the organism adapting to its environment. Nothing is ever just ‘nature’ or just ‘nurture’.

            So in a way, it’s simplistic to say that sociopaths are “damaged”, they’ve just adapted well to what they perceived to be a hostile and uncaring world.

            And gay people aren’t “damaged” either. One theory is that there’s some evolutionary advantage for human society when part of the population is gay. But nobody really knows yet. Once the scientists aren’t afraid of being branded as homophobes or faggots any longer, they may do more research, and we’ll have a better understanding.

  18. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 16, 2015 at 7:28 pm |

    Arguing with ewk on reddit/r/zen is always fun.

    It makes you feel high or something. It’s like a kind of drug that makes you realize how all abstract thought is all retarded. Fuck “The Hard Problem of Consciousness”, I feel high and dizzy in the moment. I’m just going to do some Zazen and roll around on my front yard underneath the moonlight.

  19. otaku00
    otaku00 February 16, 2015 at 8:23 pm |

    So, if Dogen’s shikantaza isn’t goal-less, as Jundo argues, and no Soto zen teacher would deny that there is enlightenment to reach – how is it reached in Soto and how is it acknowledged and confirmed? Let Jundo and Brad answer.

    1. justlui
      justlui February 16, 2015 at 8:42 pm |

      otaku00 wrote: “Let Jundo and Brad answer.”

      No, it’s the internet, we do what we want. 😛

      How is it possible to make a tile a jewel?

      😉

  20. justlui
    justlui February 16, 2015 at 9:13 pm |
  21. otaku00
    otaku00 February 16, 2015 at 11:49 pm |

    See, you answered with a koan.

    1. justlui
      justlui February 17, 2015 at 12:44 am |

      oh but it was in a very non-Chan way this time! 😉

      Zazen isn’t a “path” to enlightenment is all I was saying.

      And since you stated “Let Jundo and Brad answer”, I had to break the rules. 😛

      I read a commenter on here once say that zen was the shortcut to enlightenment. Ha! Holy smokes it’s that kind of malarky that keeps me from being a Buddhist. Which is a shame, because you fuckers got the cool statues.

  22. Conrad
    Conrad February 17, 2015 at 1:59 am |

    This depends on the notion of enlightenment one has. To me, the Buddhist notion of enlightenment is “the cessation of craving and dukkha.” If one’s cravings and dukkha have genuinely ceased, it’s hard to imagine what motive would remain to be a Nazi. Even if one started off as a Nazi, and then applied oneself to the Four Noble Truths, saw the truth of dukkha and tanha, and practiced the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to their cessation, and actually followed through with that to the point of literal cessation, what would be left to motivate a person to be a Nazi? Hard to imagine there being any attachment or clinging to that party’s agenda at that point, much less any identification with its ideals or goals or principles. Perhaps some kind of residual karma to work out with the people one was once associated. That would probably be about it.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 17, 2015 at 6:10 am |

      Otaku said:

      “So, if Dogen’s shikantaza isn’t goal-less, as Jundo argues, and no Soto zen teacher would deny that there is enlightenment to reach — how is it reached in Soto and how is it acknowledged and confirmed? Let Jundo and Brad answer.”

      Do you think that Gudo Nishijima affirmed that there is enlightenment to reach?

      1. Fred
        Fred February 17, 2015 at 6:25 am |

        x
        Otaku said:

        “how is it reached in Soto and how is it acknowledged and confirmed?”

        Gudo:

        “When the subjective existence does never exist at all,

        How is it possible for objective existence to exist actually?

        When something moves relying upon the oneness between the subjective and
        objective existences,

        The Something Real is just the Arrival of Reality itself.”

        No subject, no object; just the arrival of reality itself.

        The answer in black and white, or gray.

        1. Fred
          Fred February 17, 2015 at 6:33 am |

          If “you” require a position in a hierarchy of zen Buddhist seekers, then you might need the word enlightenment.

          But if reality arrives, what is there to confirm that arrival. Reality confirms itself. It is

          1. Fred
            Fred February 17, 2015 at 6:38 am |

            “Well that’s fucked. I want a medal around my neck saying that I’m enlightened”

            Go see Genpo. He’ll sell you one for $50 grand. Or maybe you can pick one up cheaper at the pawn shop.

  23. Strong Practice
    Strong Practice February 17, 2015 at 7:41 am |

    If sitting is truly goalless then why do zen practice at all? For the stress relief? To feel all peaceful and stuff? You don’t need Buddhism to achieve that. Just go to a mindfulness retreat or therapy instead.

  24. Andy
    Andy February 17, 2015 at 8:57 am |

    All my teachers have been women. Although several men have
    taken me aside for an hour to tell me things they know.
    – Don Paterson

  25. earDRUM
    earDRUM February 17, 2015 at 9:43 am |

    Yesterday I read that it isn’t actually possible for humans to live in the present moment. Apparently there is an 80 millisecond delay due to brain processing.

    http://www.salk.edu/news/pressrelease_details.php?press_id=31

    Maybe zazen allows us to catch up to the present moment as closely as possible?
    I wonder what this has to do with observing Cause and Effect?

  26. otaku00
    otaku00 February 17, 2015 at 9:47 am |

    Fred, you asked: “Do you think that Gudo Nishijima affirmed that there is enlightenment to reach?”

    It is Jundo who argued, in his Amazon comment, that there could be a goal in Soto shikantaza, implying … (what?)* But as we will see, he will not clarify that but leave it in “the gray zone”. And so will Brad.

    Gudo could not confirm “enlightenment to reach” because he did not reach enlightenment. That’s how I see it. And that would only be logical and honest.

    Neither will Brad or Jundo confirm it. As they would not know what enlightenment is. So how could they confirm it?

    * (Jundo’s quote from the Amazon website: “Next, Dr. Foulk makes a rather big deal of the fact that Soto folks (or some strawman version he whips up) believe in a “goalless” Zazen in which there is “nothing to attain” thus foresaking “attainment”. Does any Soto Teacher truly believe that there is no marvelous attainment (perhaps attained, however, by non-attaining!)? Is there a member of the SZBA or any Soto Teacher anywhere who actually understands Dogen to be advocating some pointless, dead sitting which foresakes enlightenment? Dr. Foulk seems to take “goalless” as meaning “goalless”, something all of us understand in much more subtle ways.”)

  27. otaku00
    otaku00 February 17, 2015 at 10:03 am |

    Fred: “If “you” require a position in a hierarchy of zen Buddhist seekers, then you might need the word enlightenment.”

    Wrong. You just have to find s.o. who is registered in the Soto-shu and acknowledges you.

    Fred: “Reality confirms itself. It is”

    You quoted Gudo before and relate that to him. To me that is where he is wrong, and I am glad that you exactly hit the spot. Reality is just an illusion. But he makes it into the “thing that just is”. Pretty much like Dôgen in some of his texts – but not early Chan (inspired by Taoism) anymore. Reality, as Gudo sees it, is just a perception of his consciousness and therefore a skandha, i.e. not the self. That is why Dôgen and Gudo could see zazen as a metaphor of “reality” or reality itself, as it just is. They even say that zazen would do itself – although without you consciously sitting down it would never happen. With such rhetorics they fool themselves into a perception of what is “reality” through their body and mind – the same thing that they claim to drop off. It is indeed absurd.

  28. otaku00
    otaku00 February 17, 2015 at 10:23 am |

    Okay, in the meantime Jundo has added a letter to the author Griffin under his Amazon comment (link is given by Shinchan above on 16th, 5:16 a.m.). It shows how infected he is by Gudo’s view on Dôgen. He actually does not know who says that there is nothing to attain in Zen. Well, Kodo Sawaki e.g. said it, the man whom Gudo liked to mention as one of his teachers.

    That Dogen took the title Shobogenzo from Dahui’s work was stated by Carl Bielefeldt. Dogen first studied under a disciple of Dahui in China.

    One thing Jundo got right: “that Dogen was a dancer of Koan”. Dogen sometimes danced around clear answers as his followers often do. Look instead at Kato Roshi, Kodo’s friend, who simply said that animals are enlightened (instead of giving a mysterious mu – or a (n)either/((n)or answer, like Dogen).

  29. otaku00
    otaku00 February 17, 2015 at 10:29 am |

    sorry: The author Jundo commented on is T. Griffith Foulk.
    http://www.sarahlawrence.edu/faculty/foulk-t.-griffith.html

  30. Zafu
    Zafu February 17, 2015 at 12:41 pm |

    The conclusion from that research is that those [sociopathic] behaviors are highly correlated with abuse, neglect and trauma in early life. So it’s likely that sociopathy is ’caused’ by that kind of ‘damage’.”
    ~ Shinchan Ohara

    Regardless of the cause, the interesting thing is that you, and Mr. Brand, consider sociopaths “damaged.” Why damaged? Because they may or may not conform to societal norms? And if that’s the case, who else do you consider damaged? How deviant must a persons be to meet your criteria of being a damaged person?

    1. Fred
      Fred February 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm |

      Otaku:

      “You quoted Gudo before and relate that to him. To me that is where he is wrong, and I am glad that you exactly hit the spot. Reality is just an illusion. But he makes it into the “thing that just is”.

      Is reality an illusion, or the mind snared/trapped by ignorance in illusion in its interpretation of what is.?

      Gudo: “When something moves relying upon the oneness between the subjective and objective existences, The Something Real is just the Arrival of Reality itself”

      When there is no subject, ie., I is seen to be an illusion, there is no viewpoint interpreting what is, ie. objects, and all that exists is just reality itself. The inside is the same as the outside.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 17, 2015 at 1:52 pm |

        When you come to the end of self, ie. to no self, ( to the Great Death ), Gudu’s words are clear.

    2. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara February 17, 2015 at 2:54 pm |

      Fred: please conduct your pointless conversation with otaku in the right place. I’m trying to have a pointless conversation with Zafu here. Jeesh!

      Zafu: still wtf! You are quibbling with semantics here. I have already told you that I don’t think “damaged” is the best word for sociopaths. I said:

      “So in a way, it’s simplistic to say that sociopaths are “damaged”, they’ve just adapted well to what they perceived to be a hostile and uncaring world.”

      But, if I was to thwack you across the skull with a kyosaku, you’d be “damaged”. There might be more precise terms I could use like “injured” or “suffering from mild lacerations, contusions and concussion” – but “damaged” would be generally understood.

      In the same way, someone who gets, traumatised, ignored by his mother as a baby, or whatever – and later displays what we call sociopathic behaviour – can be said to be damaged. It’s stupid to ignore cause and effect. When I say “damaged”, I don’t mean that a sociopath is any less worthy of respect as a human being, or that the behaviour can never change, or that the “damage” is permanent.

      I agree with you that it can be harmful to label someone as a “damaged person”, if the term carries a connotation of “inferior person” or “not worth helping” or “not fully human”. But you are assuming those connotations. It’s not what I mean, and (you’d have to check with Brad, but) I don’t think any of those things were implied by Brad’s original article.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara February 17, 2015 at 3:50 pm |

        And, Zafu, you said “How deviant must a persons be to meet your criteria of being a damaged person?”

        That’s the crux of your delusion. The concept of someone being “damaged” is not related to deviance from some arbitrary social norm. It just means they’re suffering the effects of some harmful cause.

        Language is imprecise: ‘sociopath’ can be used to cover a wide range of characters – from a person who doesn’t shower regularly, to a serial rapist. ‘Damaged’, as I mentioned above, can be understood in a number of ways. The imprecision of language means that if you take something out of context, or overreact to a phrase on sight, you can get really pissed about nothing. Which is what you’ve done here.

        You’re implying that Brad Warner is a normative behaviour Nazi, when in fact it’s you who’s being a politically correct semantics Nazi.

        Plus, using

        Block quotes, when you are actually just paraphrasing someone

        sucks.

  31. Fred
    Fred February 17, 2015 at 1:56 pm |

    “Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    Information

    Dear Mr. James Cohen,

    You do not belong Dogen Sangha at all. Therefore you should not say anything about Dogen Sangha completely.

    Gudo Wafu Nishijima”

    Jundo has an axe to grind.

    1. Fred Jr.
      Fred Jr. February 17, 2015 at 4:32 pm |

      Oh Dad, you’re always up in other people’s business. What about our neighbor Mr. Zimbabwe? Have you returned his hedge clipper yet?

      1. Fred
        Fred February 17, 2015 at 5:54 pm |

        Not until I give you a trim around the ears.

  32. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara February 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm |

    Hi otaku00. Could you please explain a bit what you meant by:

    “Reality is just an illusion. But he makes it into the “thing that just is”. Pretty much like Dôgen in some of his texts — but not early Chan (inspired by Taoism) anymore.”

    Particularly: what do you mean by “Reality”? (how can reality be an illusion? Isn’t that a contradiction?)

    Also: how do you see Dogen’s/Gudo’s view as being different from early Ch’an? (Can you give some examples from early Ch’an that seem to oppose their views?)

    Thanks. I expect I’ll disagree with you. But I like to know what I’m disagreeing with! 😀

  33. Zafu
    Zafu February 17, 2015 at 4:26 pm |

    🙂

    Attributing the quality of ***DAMAGE*** to someone is of course very common and generally understood by the great masses, Shinchan Ohara. But what does it really mean to say this?

    Damage generally means that something is broken or not able to work correctly. Attribute this quality to a person and you are saying that a person is not working correctly in some way. In the context of this discussion, ‘behavioral tendencies’, as you put it, are the expression of the damage. You can only qualify faulty behavioral tendencies of this nature by comparing them to social norms. So what are the social norms regarding sociopathy and homosexuality?

    By some estimates 4% of the population is sociopathic.

    It’s popularly believed that 10% of the population is homosexual.

    Both are low percentages, are generally disfavored, and deviate sharply from the norm. So how can one be considered an expression of damage but not the other?

    Maybe it’s time for you and Brad to drop the politically correct bullshit and just say what you really think, or rather, say what you really feel about those who divert from the norm.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara February 18, 2015 at 6:20 am |

      Zafu, I’m not sure at this stage whether you’re just trolling, of if you mean what you say… in any case I suspect that what we’re REALLY disagreeing about may be worth discussing, so I’ll add a few points.

      1) Zafu accuses me of “politically correct bullshit”. In actual fact, he is the one trying to enforce PC language here: telling me I can’t use the term “damage” to describe psychic injury (that could well be the result of physical injury).

      2) The term ‘sociopath’ is a medical diagnosis, not a sociological category. It describes ill health and suffering – either self-reported by the patient, or observed by the physician. The symptoms that lead to this diagnosis have a well known aetiology: damaging life events. So it is reasonable to say that sociopaths are damaged.

      3) There are many forms of behaviour or appearance that deviate from the social norm, but don’t intrinsically cause mental or physical suffering: left-handedness; homosexuality; buddhism; shortness; freckles; tap dancing; facial tattoos; dendrophilia. It is incorrect to say that people with those behaviours or attributes are damaged – because there is no obvious reason to think that some physically or mentally harmful event caused their condition.

      3) Zafu said, “You can only qualify faulty behavioral tendencies of this nature by comparing them to social norms.” That’s simply not true. I don’t think that sociopaths are ‘faulty’, event though I think that ‘damage’ is useful metaphor for how their condition originated.

      Zafu, of course any label we put on anyone or anything is provisional. Of course normative judgements about correct or incorrect behaviour are culturally relative, and always inaccurate. Of course negative labels can be used by powerful groups of people to stigmatise and oppress minorities.

      Even so, we are social animals, and we have to make some social judgements in order to co-operate and survive. We can say that certain types of behaviour are “damaged” or “damaging” without referring to social norms. Phineas Gage got a steel rod through his skull, and then started gambling and whoring: he was “damaged”, not because gambling and whoring are particularly abnormal, but because they caused him self-reported suffering, and resulted from his injury. Similarly a child molester’s behaviour is “damaging”, whether or not it is considered socially normal.

      What you’re arguing for, Zafu, is a relativist, postmodernist ethical vacuum, where nobody can make critical comments (accurate or not) about anyone else. Meanwhile, banks governments and corporations are raping the planet and impoverishing the population – who have become too touchy about offending anyone to resist.

    2. Conrad
      Conrad February 18, 2015 at 9:45 am |

      One can make these matters very complicated by excessive psychologicizing and sociologicizing. Best to remember that the body-mind is a very fragile, temporary, and imperfect organism. It can definitely be damaged, even severely. And not just with broken bones and cancer, but with neurological problems, both genetically and developmentally. Sociopathy is not just about conforming to social norms, it’s about having a functional neurological and endocrinal biological system intact and able to connect with others through empathy, compassion, and personal and social awareness. A damaged biological system can make that very hard, even impossible. Just as damaged legs can make it very hard to run or even walk, a person with damaged socialization can be so dysfunctional, that there are is virtually no healthy society or set of social norms in which such people can function within. Although parasitic societies of sociopaths, like La Cosa Nostra, can exist, the way viruses do, by preying on others, they require a healthy host to feed upon. But most people are not so severely damaged as to be unable to socialize at all. They are merely on a spectrum of damage. Sickness, old age, impermanence, death. No one gets out without damage.

  34. david s
    david s February 17, 2015 at 4:43 pm |

    I thought that the issue of ‘damage’ being referred to is only acting against the inherent human nature of feelings of connectedness and emotional tenderness, which babies seem dependent upon and express.

    1. Zafu
      Zafu February 17, 2015 at 4:59 pm |

      Religious people are forced to believe in an inherent human nature of this sort. That such qualities become obscured, but never lost.

      People who can think for themselves realize that yeah, stuff can simply be lost. Duh.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 17, 2015 at 5:23 pm |

        “Religious people are forced to believe in an inherent human nature of this sort.”

        Forced by whom?

        “That such qualities become obscured, but never lost.”

        What qualities?

        “People who can think for themselves realize that yeah, stuff can simply be lost.”

        How does one go about thinking for oneself?

        “Duh.”

        1. Zafu
          Zafu February 17, 2015 at 5:35 pm |

          How does one go about thinking for oneself?

          Stop believing clergy like Brad Warner.

  35. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 17, 2015 at 4:45 pm |

    My friend posted an interesting (non-)interpretation of Nagarjuna:

    What if there is NO “building block of reality”? That it’s turtles all the way down, that the recursion never ends. So what appears to be matter, is really just mind. And what appears to be mind, is really just matter. And what appears to be matter, is really just mind, etc.

    It sounds impossible. How could it be? But why should reality be “possible”? Possible means: possible to the common categories of human thought. So it actually makes more sense that the REAL IS the impossible, and the impossible IS the real.

    We assume reality has a fundamental ground. Mind, matter, quarks, electrons, quanta, God, Brahman,… then someone says, like Berkeley, no, it’s perception, it’s experience! Everything is experience! Well, what if reality is just an infinite fractal that has no “building blocks”? No “ontological reality”?

    I think that Buddhism originally meant with emptiness was this idea that reality is an infinite fractal without building blocks or fundament, it’s the infinite recursion that is what creates, without creator or created, it’s just creativity as an infinite process

    1. Fred
      Fred February 17, 2015 at 5:43 pm |

      He left out the emergent properties of para-phenomena in non-linear space-time quantum foam.

  36. anon 108
    anon 108 February 17, 2015 at 5:01 pm |

    I’ve got opinions on this enlightenment business. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past couple of days writing about it. What I’ve written is far too long to post here so I’ll summarise. It’s a crock.

    – A (non)Buddhist.

    Questions?

    1. SamsaricHelicoid
      SamsaricHelicoid February 17, 2015 at 5:06 pm |

      This conventional heap of aggregates, called SamsaricHelicoid, does Shikantaza, man. He surrenders to the practice, so he speaks from a combination of personal experience and conversation.

    2. Fred
      Fred February 17, 2015 at 5:18 pm |

      I can’t find your blog, Mac. What’s up?

      1. SamsaricHelicoid
        SamsaricHelicoid February 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm |

        Me?

        I’ll make a blog soon enough. I’m going to quit smoking, go back to my Zen center and meditate frequently, read good poetry, watch good art-house films, and assist humane societies.

        1. Fred
          Fred February 17, 2015 at 5:38 pm |

          Will you be feeding stray cats and dogs, and taking them for walks?
          They need a lot of love.

    3. Harlan
      Harlan February 17, 2015 at 5:35 pm |

      Yes it’s true.. But it is good business for any teacher to be perceived as enlightened. Book sales, donations, all that.

  37. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 17, 2015 at 5:38 pm |

    Wedged, I can’t say that I have any book recommendations correlating neuroscience and Buddhism for you, only the one article by Blanke and Mohr (here)which I read more for their hypothesize concerning the nature of self than for the particulars of their research.

    Thanks for your response, S.H.

    “…makes you realize how all abstract thought is all retarded. Fuck “The Hard Problem of Consciousness”, I feel high and dizzy in the moment. I’m just going to do some Zazen and roll around on my front yard underneath the moonlight.”

    Good one!

    Minkfoot, I hear you suggesting that there is right view outside of the experience of suffering; I hope that rolling around on the ground will relieve me of all my notions, and then we can talk.

    Make me one with everything, Shakey (no onions, though).

  38. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote February 17, 2015 at 5:42 pm |

    The news is about the angulimalas who didn’t make the grade, and couldn’t accept what the villagers had to offer them, but instead ran to Devadatta and his stricter vision of the Order’s destiny.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 17, 2015 at 5:51 pm |

      They should have returned the fingers to their rightful owners.

  39. anon 108
    anon 108 February 17, 2015 at 5:55 pm |

    Fred – If I understand the way nesting works on this page, you might have asked me a question.

    My blog – http://malcolmmarkovich.blogspot.co.uk/ – has been dormant for some time. I took the last biographical confessional post down when I applied for a teaching job a while back. I am considering putting the enlightenment thing on there. I’ll see how it goes.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm |

      Thanks 108

    2. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 17, 2015 at 7:30 pm |

      Malcolm, Thanks for the link to your blog and I do hope you post your enlightened thoughts there soon, I will def read them/it.

      BTW my new band The Excuses have just recorded 22 new basic tracks, I hope we will finish up at least 10 or so by summer. If/when I’ll link some here or there sometime asap. You still got a gig?

      1. anon 108
        anon 108 February 18, 2015 at 1:59 am |

        I haven’t played bass with a band for a couple of years now, John. No one wants me : ( I have been playing the flute though, putting in lots of practice. I’m arranging a charity concert with a couple of (very) old mates, movers and shakers in the classical world, who’ve linked me with a proper flute player – plays with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra etc. We’ll be doing two- three- and foursomes with a cellist and a pianist. I’m excited and just a little bit scared.

        Your new band sounds exciting. I’ll look out for the link!

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles February 18, 2015 at 4:41 am |

          Wow, the groups with flute sound fantastic Malcolm! Congrats on that!! It’s a crime you’re not playing the bass tho. I know you will eventually…I’m doing a couple of solo acoustic gtr/vox gigs coming up at the end of the month -that stuff is always a bit nervy but fun.

          Will do on the new tunes & now on to your words on enlightenment yes/no, eh?

    1. Fred
      Fred February 17, 2015 at 6:11 pm |
  40. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid February 17, 2015 at 7:30 pm |

    Hey Wedged, do you want me to email you my 5 page essay on how mindfulness meditation positively influences brain structure and function?

    This article also cites some good research:

    http://meditation-research.org.uk/2014/03/meditation-and-neuroplasticity-five-key-articles/

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles February 18, 2015 at 4:43 am |

      Thanks for this article Sam Hel!

  41. otaku00
    otaku00 February 18, 2015 at 1:04 am |

    Shinchan: Reality and illusion would be a classic contradiction in a Zen debate, yes. Illusion or defilement of mind (klesha) would be the opposite of what we experience when our mind is “cleared”: reality! But what is “just what is” exactly, when guys like Gudo talk about it? It is s.th. that their senses experience and their body does, even when they think there is no “I” or “self” anymore. The reality is e.g. their sitting in zazen. If their perception from the training phase of zazen to the phase of relevant insight (“reality!”) would have really changed, why would they do exactly the same? Indeed nothing has changed. What was pre-supposed (Dogen: Zazen is this reality [of enlightenment]) is then just confirmed – like a vicious circle. Gudo’s reality is thus the same as it has been before. He may claim that his “view” has changed – but we will have no good chance to proof that.

    Just look at Fred’s rhetoric: “When you come to the end of self (,,,) Gudu’s words are clear.” Implying that a) I have not come there, b) if one comes there, he will confirm it (and not deny Gudo’s words, as I do). That is a vicious circle. Something we should not easily accept in our search for wisdom and insight.

    The difference to early chan:

    1) Any perception of reality is questioned as maybe still being an illusion (the influence of taoism), s.th. you will also find in Dogen, it would lead to a sentence like: illusion and reality are one (samsara and nirvana are one). Do you still find that in Gudo’s conclusion? Did he know that his zazen was an illusion?

    2) Zazen could be dropped (esp. after enlightenment) and was seen as an upaya for a long time in chan/zen history – but with Dogen and Gudo it became a somehow neurotic obsession. Examples of early chan texts can be found in Jeffrey Broughton: The Bodhidharma Anthology.

  42. otaku00
    otaku00 February 18, 2015 at 1:12 am |

    Fred: Thank you, I did not know that yet. So Jundo was “excommunicated” by Gudo in 2010? Does that mean that he is no longer found in an official Soto-shu lineage or ketsumyaku? Or has he never been there? Has anyone of Gudo’s “appointed” teachers?

  43. Michel
    Michel February 18, 2015 at 3:08 am |

    Few, apart from the Japanese disciples of Old Gudo have official Sotoshu lineage. For the Japanese, it’s some sort of a necessity, but Nishijima had an axe to grind with the Sotoshu and thus didn’t care much that his Western students be registered with them.

    Therefore, neither I nor Brad are “registered masters” in the Sotoshu. And that’s it. When, later, I wrote to Nishijima to ask whether I had not been mistaken in refusing that, because maybe it would earn me better recognition, he very violently dissed it, by saying that being registered in the Sotoshu was totally useless, and even harmful.

  44. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2015 at 3:55 am |

    A grossly superficial subject. I enjoy much of the variety of expression that the digital age has produced, but there’s something about s.th. that grates when I read a post, especially when couched in writing that is otherwise free of that type of contraction.

    Now, I know this is a matter of subjective taste and my own feel for convention, and I’m really not having a go at otaku00, whose use of it got me thinking, or anyone else who enjoys employing s.th. Grate away! I certainly like messing about wi’ la langue n stuff. I also get that such things as texting convenience produces all kinds of interesting and fun effects that often become muscle-memory – as etc. has before it… etc. But.

    For me at least, whatever its provenance, in writing where sits in isolation without support from its brothers, sisters and dizzy cousins, it pops into my reading of a sleeves-rolled-up paragraph like a boo.zy. hiccuping uncle with a baseball cap on backuds.

    s.th. must be done! Therapy session over. stfu Andy.

  45. otaku00
    otaku00 February 18, 2015 at 5:12 am |

    Michel: “saying that being registered in the Sotoshu was totally useless, and even harmful.”

    Are you sure Gudo was/is registered with them?

  46. minkfoot
    minkfoot February 18, 2015 at 5:29 am |

    STFU, he says, to a horseless barn.

    Mark, I wasn’t addressing Right View so much as to use ol Shaky as someone who agreed view is important in the dynamics of self-transformation. This in answer to your wonderment that a single hit of psilocybin can change brain function permanently. I am only saying that a change of view can produce dramatic results pretty much instantly.

    Say you’re a rigid Calvanist awash in guilt and sexual repression. Imagine the vital energy locked up in the thought loops required to maintain such a paradigm.

    Psychedelic substances excel in disrupting thought loops like that. After the ensuing chaos, if the resultant psychic reformation is relatively benign, you will see your previous views as quite uncomfortable, unnecessary, and impotent. That would propagate a long-lasting change in the whole system, including brain function.

    Just offering a reason why a single trip could have a permanent effect on measurable brain activity.

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2015 at 5:42 am |

      Thanks for breezing by.

      1. Fred
        Fred February 18, 2015 at 6:31 am |

        “Just look at Fred’s rhetoric: “When you come to the end of self (,,,) Gudu’s words are clear.” Implying that a) I have not come there, b) if one comes there, he will confirm it (and not deny Gudo’s words, as I do). That is a vicious circle. Something we should not easily accept in our search for wisdom and insight.”

        If you cannot come to the end of self, there is no wisdom and insight. There is the vicious circle of thought giving legs to the illusion of self.

        1. Andy
          Andy February 18, 2015 at 7:09 am |

          I didn’t write that, Fred. Easy to make the odd mistake, eh? (see below).

  47. Andy
    Andy February 18, 2015 at 6:08 am |

    Minkfoot, would you spare a moment for me on the question I asked up above?

    On subject of the ‘experience’ of enlightenment re Dosho Port’s “The orthodox position also claims that practice and enlightenment are one and so there is no “experience” of enlightenment,” in contrast to say Brad’s statement that such was not an experience:

    Could the lines of difference in emphasis/characterization be usefully [for understanding of the positions taken] glossed as something like,

    A. human activity harmonizing with universal activity (enlightenment) vs.
    B. the echo of A (“experience” of enlightenment)?

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2015 at 6:12 am |

      oops, the italics were just meant for the Dosho Port quote

      1. Fred
        Fred February 18, 2015 at 6:36 am |

        ““The orthodox position also claims that practice and enlightenment are one and so there is no “experience” of enlightenment,” in contrast to say Brad’s statement that such was not an experience:”

        Are you stating these “positions” in exactly clear and concise words?

        1. Fred
          Fred February 18, 2015 at 6:40 am |

          If ” you” follow the instructions to a T, then where the sitting is occurring is where “enlightenment” is occurring, if there was such a thing as “enlightenment”

        2. Andy
          Andy February 18, 2015 at 7:01 am |

          No I haven’t Fred, and I made a typo which confused things. You didn’t quote the whole quote though, and you didn’t add the italics I mentioned, which would have helped with your own clarity-making.

          “On subject of the ‘experience’ of enlightenment re Dosho Port’s, “The orthodox position also claims that practice and enlightenment are one and so there is no “experience” of enlightenment,” in contrast to say Brad’s statement that such was not an experience:”

          I was clumsily just referring to the Dosho position, which seems to be that enlightenment is an experience, in contrast to the position others like Brad have expressed or that such an event is not an experience.

          I value some of your contributions Fred, but sometimes it comes across as merely destructively inclined. Please stop that with me.

      2. minkfoot
        minkfoot February 18, 2015 at 7:17 am |

        I like what Fred says.

        The more positions get refined, the less likely they are to be close to anything as it is. It’s especially ironic in the context of Zen, which typically destroys any assertion, and then it’s opposite.

        I haven’t spent much time on “Practice leads to Enlightenment” vs. “Practice is Enlightenment.” Personally, I favor “Practice does not lead to Enlightenment, but you can’t get Enlightenment without it,” though, of course, that’s just as wrong.

        It’s all to get you on the cushion to learn to do without doing, and unlax the grip on your cravings, attachments, and identifications. Meanwhile, there’s lots of contradictory bullshit to wrap your thinking up in knots until it recognizes its situation and gets the joke.

        Normally, I wouldn’t talk this way, but you deserve it.

        🍪

        1. Fred
          Fred February 18, 2015 at 7:22 am |

          Oh no, Minkfoot, that is perfect.

          1. Fred
            Fred February 18, 2015 at 7:26 am |

            “I value some of your contributions Fred, but sometimes it comes across as merely destructively inclined. Please stop that with me.”

            Could you be more exact with that.

        2. Andy
          Andy February 18, 2015 at 7:37 am |

          Thanks for replying. I get the point about positions being refined. But I don’t appreciate the way Fred sometimes goes about it with me and didn’t find it conducive to what was a sincere question.

          I practice in isolation from any sangha, and have made a point over this last year of not reading any more zen stuff – books and the like, beyond the odd glance at some blogs like Brads. Just being mainly open-hearted towards my practice on and off the cushion.

          It was out genuine curiosity that I asked the question about how some teachers expressed an ‘enlightenment event’/kensho as an experience, whereas some regarded it an not an experience. If it had anything to do with how I practice, I suppose it was from some vague sense that in the future I might decide to find a group in either the rinzai or soto tradition and such questions seem valid pointers.

          I’m sorry if I have offended you or others here or in the past.

          I detect some contempt in your last sentence. I would appreciate you being open with me on that, as I respect your voice.

          1. Andy
            Andy February 18, 2015 at 8:05 am |

            (My last was not bait for some argument. Or some set-up for how the world has got me all wrong. I mean it when I say my practice is and has been about open-heartedness. And if you don’t follow up, that’s ok by me too!)

          2. Fred
            Fred February 18, 2015 at 11:36 am |

            Andy, there is no contempt, and I wasn’t picking a fight.

            Open hearted can also mean to just say anything, without weighing whether someone will go off because the statement isn’t p.c.

  48. Fred
    Fred February 18, 2015 at 7:34 am |

    Ken Wilber says that the Buddha was only half enlightened in comparison to what the possibilities are today.

    If his words represent what is true, then when Dosho Port says that he is only half enlightened, his illumination could be equal in strength to the Buddha’s.

    1. Fred
      Fred February 18, 2015 at 7:37 am |

      Half enlightened, philosophically,
      Must, ipso facto, half not be.
      But half the Dosho has got to be
      Vis a vis, its entity. D’you see?

  49. david s
    david s February 18, 2015 at 8:02 am |

    “ “The orthodox position also claims that practice and enlightenment are one and so there is no “experience” of enlightenment,” in contrast to say Brad’s statement that such was not an experience:”

    I may be overly logical in my reading of this, but I do not see much of a difference between these positions.

    Isn’t practice a way reorienting how one is relating to one’s experience? It follows that if how one relates is what is being referred to, whether in a singular kensho or on-going, then would it be talked of as an experience itself? Probably not. And if this way of relating is what is being referred to then couldn’t it also be said the practice and the goal (enlightenment) are one?

    1. Andy
      Andy February 18, 2015 at 8:10 am |

      Just to be clear: my own question was about some teachers expressing an ‘enlightenment event’/kensho as an experience, whereas some regarded it as not an experience.

      The full quote from Dosho Port:

      “The orthodox position also claims that practice and enlightenment are one and so there is no “experience” of enlightenment. This dismisses the truth of immediate experience and the reports of many practitioners ancient and modern, including the likes of not only Shakyamuni Buddha but also Dogen, Ejo, Gikai, Keizan, and Meiho (the first five Soto ancestors in Japan). Even the lesser known Meiho realized enlightenment, by the way, while grappling with the koan, “What is it that makes all things wax and wane?”

      1. david s
        david s February 18, 2015 at 10:09 am |

        I do not claim to know the answer, but in addition to what I’ve already said about the relation being the issue, it makes sense to me that if for some people kensho helps shift one’s orientation deeply enough, then it may shift a relation to experience fundamentally, while for others kensho may not have this deeper effect after its fading. Here different views may arise regarding the value of kensho.

        Such differences between people is to be expected. Like using the example of an achoholic in reaching their ‘bottom’. One person’s ‘bottom’ may be drastically different than another’s. The question why are they different is too complicated to know really. For some it is quite momentous and for others a more gradual realization.

        I do not discount how singular events can have deep effects, but what may be over-looked in such moments is all the practice which lead up to that moment. I would expect that for most the gradual manner may be all they experience. In general, practice is a gradual training in shifting one’s relation to experience and this in turn effects one’s daily relation to experience in an on-going relationship, with no singular moment in which can be said that the entire shift occurred. This same on-going shifting may also lead to more momentous shifts, and in fact be the necessary ground for them to occur.

        These differences would seem to me to account for the different views regarding ‘enlightenment’. One doesn’t have to negate the other.

        Aside: I don’t like the word ‘enlightenment’ because it only leads me into imagining what it represents. And considering that if I also thought it came in an instant and it never came then I would only have disappointment. So it seems best to leave it aside and let come what comes.

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