That Dirty Word “Buddhism”

Nolotusflower“Fred,” a commenter on this blog, quoted an article by Sam Harris from 2006. In it Sam Harris said, “Worse still, the continued identification of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world. At this point in history, this is both morally and intellectually indefensible–especially among affluent, well-educated Westerners who bear the greatest responsibility for the spread of ideas. ”

A few paragraphs on in the same piece, Mr. Harris continues thus:

“What the world most needs at this moment is a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the species as their moral community. For this we need to develop an utterly nonsectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration. We need a discourse on ethics and spirituality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourse of science is. What we need, in fact, is a contemplative science, a modern approach to exploring the furthest reaches of psychological well-being. It should go without saying that we will not develop such a science by attempting to spread ‘American Buddhism,’ or ‘Western Buddhism,’ or ‘Engaged Buddhism.’

“If the methodology of Buddhism (ethical precepts and meditation) uncovers genuine truths about the mind and the phenomenal world–truths like emptiness, selflessness, and impermanence–these truths are not in the least ‘Buddhist.’ No doubt, most serious practitioners of meditation realize this, but most Buddhists do not. Consequently, even if a person is aware of the timeless and non-contingent nature of the meditative insights described in the Buddhist literature, his identity as a Buddhist will tend to confuse the matter for others.”

The article in full is worth reading. I found it here on Shambhala Sun’s website.

This is much like what my teacher, Nishijima Roshi, would say sometimes. He said, “Buddhism is just realism.” He said he believed eventually the word “Buddhism” would no longer be necessary. But he took it a different direction from Mr. Harris. When you’d ask Nishijima Roshi why he still used the word “Buddhism” himself, he would say that he had to call it something and that, currently, “Buddhism” was what it was called.

The very word “Buddhism” is a British invention (if you don’t want to buy the book somebody made a PDF of it). It came from people who researched the cultures of the Asian countries which they colonized and tried to define them in British terms. Thus the things that Indians and Tibetans and Chinese people did that resembled what British people did at church were a religion. That religion was founded by a guy called Buddha. So these British researchers called this religion “Buddhism,” just as they called Islam “Mohammedism.”

Whether Asian Buddhism is a religion or not is debatable. Certainly much of it is wrapped up in superstition and unfounded belief in supernatural forces just like our own religions. But much of it is not. Just like our own religions.

There are two big unanswered questions I see with Sam Harris’ points. They are, 1) What are you gonna call it then? and 2) Do you mean we have to get rid of all the rituals since rituals are too “religious?”

Question one is problematic but solvable. We have to have names for things in order to communicate with each other about them. If we were to call what is now called Buddhism “realism,” as Nishijima Roshi suggested would one day happen, this could be confusing. These days the word “realism” generally seems to be synonymous with “materialism.” And Buddhism isn’t materialism.

We could just make up a new word. But that has drawbacks. It’s like the people who are concerned about the grammatical necessity of using gendered pronouns in English who propose to use new words like zhe, ze or zir instead of he or she. It’s awkward and nobody knows what the hell you’re talking about.

Maybe eventually we’ll get a word that works. But not yet. So we’re stuck with “Buddhism” for now.

The second question is trickier. In order to create “an utterly nonsectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration” a lot of folks these days have sought to create a ritual-free Buddhism, which doesn’t call itself Buddhism but pretty much is Buddhism anyhow. MBSR is like this as is lots of the philosophy of Ekhart Tolle.

In fact my own two teachers sort of did this themselves. They taught meditation only and avoided most of the other ritual stuff like chanting, prostrations, services and suchlike. Neither of them eliminated these things entirely. That’s significant. They both did some of the rituals. But they played them down considerably.

I only discovered the problem when I started going to Tassajara Zen Monastery in Northern California. There I was required to do a lot of rituals. At first I found this to be extremely problematic. Intellectually I saw these rituals the way I think Sam Harris does, as promoting sectarianism and ultimately religious warfare. A few years ago I probably would have agreed with Mr. Harris that promoting or even engaging in such nonsense was “morally and intellectually indefensible.” If I’d seen his piece six years ago when it was new and I’d only just started going to places where Buddhist rituals were regularly performed I might have written a very different response to it.

Harris never actually addresses the matter of ritual in this piece, nor in any of his other writings about this matter that I know of. I suspect he’s largely ignorant of the ritual aspects of Buddhism and would probably consider them, as I used to, as irrelevant or even damaging.

In Bendowa, Dogen seems – at least superficially – to agree. He says, “After the initial meeting with a [good] counselor we never again need to burn incense, to do prostrations, to recite Buddha’s name, to practice confession, or to read sutras. Just sit and get the state that is free of body and mind.Yet for the rest of his life Dogen burned lots of incense, did plenty of prostrations, recited Buddha’s name a whole bunch of times and read loads of sutras. I don’t really know what “practice confession” means. But I’ll be he did that too.

These rituals are an important part of the practice. They are part of its realistic approach to human life. They are necessary in order to experience the fullness of Buddhist practice.

It’s true that these rituals are more-or-less arbitrary. Yet part of what makes them work is that they connect us not only to the community with whom we perform them. They connect us to a tradition and to our human past, to the wider community of humans who lived and died long before us. A tradition takes a very long time to come together. The rituals have to be old and established. So we have to look to our past to find them.

Still, we are free to understand these received rituals in our own way. In fact we have to, since there is no other way to understand them. The way this works best for me is to understand the rituals as arbitrary and fairly flexible.

I often tell the story of being at Tassajara one morning in which a whole lot of things went wrong with the daily chanting service. Bells were rung at the wrong time, incense wasn’t lit when it should have been, we even had to stop one chant and start it over again because it was such a train wreck.

Afterwards, Leslie James, the abiding teacher (like The Dude, she abides) said, “That’s OK. It shouldn’t be too perfect.” That’s when I started to feel OK about the whole thing and eventually started to actually like it.

What Sam Harris says here is important and relevant. But I think it really leaves these two very crucial matters unresolved. To me it seems like we have no real choice but to keep calling it “Buddhism” and hope that the word itself gets redefined by subsequent generations and to keep on doing the rituals the way they’ve been done before, while defining them in ways that don’t involve superstition or worship of the supernatural.

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83 Responses

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 15, 2014 at 10:57 am |

    We do need our rituals. “Need” being maybe too strong. We’re better off with our rituals.

  2. Daniel
    Daniel April 15, 2014 at 11:02 am |

    Hey Brad,

    nice article but it has it’s problems. You write the word “Buddhism” would need to be replaced to call it something. But you don’t write why. And truth is, it isn’t necessary to create a new -ism.

    You can just offer a meditation practice, backed up by science (especially neuroscience) and let people know this way that this works. Anyone can just do it, no special clothing, no chanting weird stuff, no rituals needed at all. But I’m sorry I think the issue here is that you’re too deep in Buddhism to even see it for what it is and what damage/problems it causes.

    Let me show you one example here. Let’s say someone starts doing Zazen at Tassajara or another Soto-Zen temple. He gets in touch with lots of stuff there, Dogens writing, Buddhas stuff, the heart sutra etc. Now after a while if he/she makes progress in meditation the person will have the experience of consciousness realising/becoming aware of itself. With all the quite esoteric buddhist context around like emptiness, “body/mind drop off” or whatever…you name it, it’s like that simple switch in the brain of the person can easily be interpreted in ways that are way off with what science is telling us. And that’s the problem. Now you’re probably believing yourself that these sort of experiences are not just a change, even if it’s a very useful one in your brain – but that you somehow connect to the universe or emptiness or whatever you want to call it.

    And that’s the point where you’re off science and that’s what Sam is going against. To promote a religion, Zen-Buddhism for example that does interpret introspective experiences as a reality, not for what it is, a switch in your brain.

    In other words, “body and mind dropping off” is in science terms “consciousness, generated in your brain gives you the experience of your body and mind dropping off, but of course it’s still there and it is what’s causing you that experience”.

    But let’s come back to this…I don’t see why you would need to make a new -ism or whatever out of it. It’s just that…you can meditate (and Sam and others did a great job in showing you how to do that without sitting in the full lotus posture with weird clothing and kyosaku hitting you in a room that looks like it’s from a movie that plays in medieval japan) and see for yourself. No need at all to have what you experience in meditation being put in a religous context.

    Regarding the rituals…you have been right a few years ago. You don’t need them. At least not to meditate. And Dogen kept them because it was his job. He was a buddhist priest and that’s how he made a living. Like all the other priests out there…and couldn’t they do something more useful for society instead of reciting the heart sutra x times a day? Cmon…

    Also 99% of people who might be interested in meditation will right away walk out of the door if they’re put in a traditional zen-dojo. You might not be aware of it because you’re in that special scene for many years now…but looked at from the outside if you’re not a zen-nerd there’s hardly anything more weird than what’s going on in a zen-temple. But I can’t imagine you don’t know/see that… – so in other words: is it worth to keep the 99% away from meditation just to stick to the rituals and stuff? Do they help that much when you finally got used to them after a couple of years and didn’t run away in that process because your wife/husband/children/collegues are wondering if you’re finally totally nuts?

    So rituals needed….if you think about it I guess not. At least not in that context. And yes “Buddhism” is a word that’s totally loaded with a hippie/new-age/religion/esoteric stuff. I mean…just take the thing with a soul that reincarnates etc…and I know that’s not the soto-zen-view – at least usually not. But that is exactly what the average guy thinks of when he hears the word Buddhism.

    It’s time to get rid of it! The name, the rituals, the weird meditation instructions, the whole autority-thing with a master and the students…the weird names you give each other, weird languages being used (I always wonder why no one in japan recites the heart sutra in indian language?!)…the strange and esoteric ways to interpret meditation experiences….and with all of that what’s left would be the really useful stuff.

    Just some thoughts…thought in a provoking way. Without wanting to offend anyone or anyone’s religious feelings. But hopefully provoking enough to get the thinking going. We’re living in 2014 guys…cmon!

    1. CosmicBrainz
      CosmicBrainz April 15, 2014 at 11:40 am |

      Look at my criticism, below, of “science”.

  3. SwordSoul
    SwordSoul April 15, 2014 at 11:02 am |

    Good blog. Long time no read! Glad to be back here.

    It’s funny to me, a few years ago I kind of “fell off” the buddhism wagon in favor of a lot of the writings by Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, et. al…. I still sit zazen and do yoga, but I found the ritual sometimes appealing and sometimes very silly, silly enough to keep me from practicing.

    I pay very close attention to Sam Harris when he speaks. He seems very honest at all times. I think (I think, I think) he is a practitioner of vipassana meditation, which makes some people jump ship from his camp.

    Harris’ next book is titled “Spirituality without religion.” I’m definitely going to give it a spin, because I’m curious as to how he will address meditation and mindfulness yada yada yada…

    I don’t think he would say that ritual is useless. There are lots of rituals that have lots of meaning, even though they are arbitrary to some (sports). I bow before I meditate both because I want to show respect to buddha and all o’ that good stuff, but also because “that’s how it’s done” and I like to play for team zazen sometimes.

  4. Dunkindogen
    Dunkindogen April 15, 2014 at 11:03 am |

    Brad, I understand exactly where you are coming from on what you identify as Harris’ second question, but I have to confess he totally loses me when he starts objectifying what needs to happen and what we should be doing. There is no need or should in reality … although I would strongly suggest sitting down and shutting up. Then again, the spiritual anarchism that is Zen is what got me to the wall in the first place.

  5. RickMatz
    RickMatz April 15, 2014 at 11:04 am |

    It seems to me that “Buddhism” is more like a system of psychology than a religion.

  6. buzzard30
    buzzard30 April 15, 2014 at 11:06 am |

    Liturgy is important. Like a basket to support your practice but with a loose weave.
    I think you can also make a distinction between Zen and Zen Buddhism. Jesuits and other religious have stolen it and just substitute their own liturgy. It’s pretty much deity optional; can plug one in if you are so inclined or not.
    Just try to hit the bell’s not the start of a prize fight.

  7. CosmicBrainz
    CosmicBrainz April 15, 2014 at 11:39 am |

    “We need a discourse on ethics and spirituality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the discourse of science is. ”

    Even MUCH of contemporary neuroscience is constrained by dogma and cultural prejudice. When you get funding, you are generally “pushed” to gather experimental data, in a certain direction, that validates your hypothesis. Also, the field is extremely “scattered”, with computational neuroscientists and molecular biologists having little overlap in order to connect and synthesize their ideas. What I’m saying is Paul Feyerabend had a point: science is very messy and not as unified as people think. It is not good to derive metaphysical conclusions from empirical science because hypotheses are always “operationalized”. Thus, trying to get “certainty of objectivity” or “proof” from Science is going to leave you doubtful and at lost. My point is, you’re going to have issues when you divide culture, researcher’s mindset, and the whole caboodle of life from “Science”. What I mean is, “institutionalized science” is not necessarily anymore or less dogmatic than other perspectives, especially because many scientists take reductionism and physicalism as axiom.

    The Platonic urge of “finding truths” really has to be done away with. It makes more sense to consider them provisional and only useful insofar as the results they bring (i.e., manipulating reality and stuff). The models themselves do not contain any “truth value”. There you go: 90 percent of Analytical Philosophy has been negated. When one clings to any belief system – doesn’t matter which – there is an element of bias and oversight.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 15, 2014 at 11:45 am |

      Uhm…yes science is messy, the results are not clear, and there is no “truth” in science. That’s what makes it science. Otherwise it would be a religion. The thing is that it’s very good that it’s messy, unclear, open, chaotic, can change anytime, has no certain results, never can be sure…etc. Welcome to reality and trying to deal with it.

      Also I agree that sometimes, science is pushed in a certain direction by fundings etc. But…while this is a state that is not perfect it’s still so much better than anything else we have at this point in time.

      1. CosmicBrainz
        CosmicBrainz April 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm |

        “Welcome to reality and trying to deal with it.”

        Not easy at all.

        The path is definitely muddy, murky, and painful. Sometimes there’s an epiphany of selfless Love for the totality where there is no “me”, but it is never within the narrow confines of the path itself. Clinging onto it for a sense of security is going to destroy oneself… It’s the undivided dirt that gives the sustenance to the path, and we draw paths with flimsy twigs, metaphorical for our conditioned minds, only sensible to ourselves…

        Lots of wildlife, nature, and so forth die never understanding these scribble in the dirt that only our minds can make sense of.

        The dirt is always changing too… At least it can give rise to trees, shrubbery, and so forth. At least we can make an attempt to understand the morphology of the soil, the ion channels of roots that can take up their nutrients, and so forth – much like the gray and white matters of our brain, being a kinda soil.

        But spray some pesticides and it’s going to be all gone. Doesn’t matter if you understand it if you keep doing it. Doesn’t matter if I learn about the brain if one continues eating crap filled with HFCS, BHT, GMOs, and other toxic stuff. Mankind has been drawing in the dirt for a long time, and the non-existent dance around the non-existent boundaries is painful. One can spend a lifetime contemplating whether one is even dancing, and before they know it, they collapse from exhaustion and die, going back to this “inexplicable” soil.

        I wish something like Shodan from System Shock II could be born…

  8. shade
    shade April 15, 2014 at 12:14 pm |

    damn that was fast.

    I’m gonna refrain from offering my big fat opinion on Sam Harris here. But I think part of the problem with how to define Buddhism (religion, philosophy, ideology, uh lifestyle, whatever) stems from a outsiders tendency to view it as something more monolithic or consistent than it really is. Or, put it another way, a failure to recognize it’s complexity and contradictions. And by outsiders I just mean those who don’t practice or identify as Buddhists

    This is a problem I had myself when I was younger, but as I’ve become more familiar with Buddhism (though still from the outside) I now realize that people who identify as such as just as multifarious and diverse in their practice and doctrines as any group who lay claim to a given ideology. For example, the Tibetan Buddhists seem to be a whole other kettle of fish from Zen Buddhists. Frankly, from what I can tell the Tibetan Buddhists are borderline pagan in their beliefs, and thus easier to classify as a “religion” than, like, the Soto school.

    There also seems to be a certain amount of strife among self-described Buddhists about what constitutes an “authentic” Buddhist. In this Buddhism isn’t too different from Christianity (or any social faction, really. Muslims, socialists, punk rockers…). I’ve never seen the word “heretic” used, but some of the criticism that gets thrown back and forth does carry the scent of that sort of accusation. Though Admittedly Buddhists don’t seem to resort to mass homicide to work out these internal disagreements as much as a lot of other “proper” religious groups.

    1. mb
      mb April 15, 2014 at 12:25 pm |

      Frankly, from what I can tell the Tibetan Buddhists are borderline pagan in their beliefs
      And for good reason! Buddhism has been enormously adaptable to the local cultural milieu and in Tibet, it grew out of the existing Bon religiious tradition. Thus the pagan elements remain.

  9. woken
    woken April 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm |

    Along with is other buddies who make a good living out of the whole atheistic thing, Harris is stunningly arrogant, reductionist, ignorant and racist: In fact he, along with Hitchens, Dawkins et al, perfectly epitioise the white colonial mindset. Witness this quote:
    “At this point in history, this is both morally and intellectually indefensible–especially among affluent, well-educated Westerners who bear the greatest responsibility for the spread of ideas. ”

    Must be tough shouldering the white man’s burden, eh Sam? IMO, these people have been sorted out even on their own terms (i.e in the western intellectual tradition) By Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and the American trancendendalists and European Existentialists. The most seditious thing about these guys is that they are resolutely anti-culture: anything that falls outside their definitions is dismissed as backward, outmododed, irrelevant and “primitive” (as if that’s a bad thing). As Brad pointed out, the logical alleyway for “spiritual” practice following these guys ends up with Eckhardt Tolle. It’s like reducing the history of human cuisine down to taking vitamin pills.

    1. shade
      shade April 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm |

      “Must be tough shouldering the white man’s burden, eh Sam?”

      Ah, look at that, someone expressed my big fat opinion for me. That’s exactly the phrase that came to mind.

  10. mb
    mb April 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm |

    OK, a couple of prickly questions come to mind:

    1) Do you need “religion” in order to have a “sangha”?
    2) Is “religion” the “bathwater” in the baby/bathwater divide?

    My initial exposure to Buddhism when I was teenager was totally within the context of beatniks adopting Zen in America, Alan Watts, The 3 Pillars of Zen,
    and Chogyam Trungpa.

    But I have Japanese-American Buddhist friends whose familial Buddhism had nothing to do with meditation or had any spiritual connotations whatsoever. There are Buddhist churches you can go to on Sundays and it’s 100% ritual.

    Likewise, hey it’s Passover for Jews right now. I gave up on attending seders over a decade ago because I personally saw no point in endlessly recounting the story of the Egyptians persecuting the Jews in ancient times ad nauseum. But having a seder ceremony does fulfill the “religious” aspect of “binding people together”, i.e. it has a religious purpose.

    Thirdly, I attended 1 year’s worth of Ashtanga yoga classes a couple of years ago, which I found to be immensely beneficial. The opening of each Ashtanga class includes reciting the “Ashtanga chant” in Sanskrit. When I looked up the translation into English, it was a lot of fanciful verbiage about “jungle doctors” and “a thousand white heads”, i.e. ritual. I actually told the teacher that I didn’t like that part of the class and that I would always remain silent during it, which was OK with her.

    And yet, I’m not completely on board with Sam Harris’ POV either. Science can also be treated religiously, as in “scientism”. All I can say is some people need their rituals and their beliefs – it seems to set up an agreeable emotional state that is conducive to practice – if indeed you practice at all.

    For myself, I find I can take benefit from the baby w/o the bathwater, i.e. the meditation practice, the psycho-physical aspect of Ashtanga practice and dump the nonsensical parts just fine. Others are either comforted by the ritualistic aspects, or just feel better following rules, or perhaps (and I say this with much skeptical reservation) there’s a whole “synergistic” effect that only comes about from a pragmatic combination of both, as Brad has come to discover? I dunno, I tend to think not, that the bathwater is just extra cultural baggage that can be effectively dispensed with.

  11. mika
    mika April 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm |

    “They connect us to a tradition and to our human past, to the wider community of humans who lived and died long before us.”

    Isn’t Harris’ point that we need something that lets us connect to the whole of humanity, not just the folks who happen to like the same traditions as we do?

    1. mtto
      mtto April 15, 2014 at 8:08 pm |

      I don’t know if that is Harris’s point or not, but it is certainly the central point of Mahayana Buddhism.

  12. Fred
    Fred April 15, 2014 at 2:04 pm |

    Daniel said:

    “Now you’re probably believing yourself that these sort of experiences are not just a change, even if it’s a very useful one in your brain — but that you somehow connect to the universe or emptiness or whatever you want to call it.

    And that’s the point where you’re off science and that’s what Sam is going against”

    The change is that there is no one there, the realization that the self is an illusion

    There’s no way that science can deal with this realization, or accept it.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 15, 2014 at 4:11 pm |

      Hi Fred,

      you said: “The change is that there is no one there, the realization that the self is an illusion. There’s no way that science can deal with this realization, or accept it.”

      I’m happy to give you an update here but science has figured that out quite a few years ago already. Neuroscience has proven this on the level of “brain”, phyics have proven it on the level of the material things consist of, and astrophysics figured that out since big-bang etc. (we’re just stardust) years ago. For further reading you might check out recent books by Thomas Metzinger or Lawrence Krauss for example. They offer good introductions into this in scientific terms.

  13. MuChak
    MuChak April 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm |

    Been reading Mu Soeng’s commentary on the Heart Sutra, and he gets into the epistemology of “Buddhism” early on in the book, which echoes Brad’s British references. This topic of discussion came up among some Sangha chums recently too. At the end of the day, should we pitch out the term “Buddhism”? Yes and no. If it’s used to sure up ego-stuffs, pitch it out. Taking refuge in the Three Jewels, listening, reflecting and meditating on the teachings for self-growth and maturation on one’s path in life, “Buddhism” does offer sound (proven) methods for growing into an overall decent human being. Yet, the more I study and practice the teachings of “Buddhism” (what I would consider more of lifestyle than anything else), is not to label myself as anything. I mean, if I can lend a helping hand and offer presence of mind thanks to years of cultivating focused concentration through the result of sitting meditation practice, does the term “Buddhism” apply here? Can’t I just be decent human being giving my best like pretty much the rest of us without ANY label? I do admit, having browsed through a couple of volumes of books on “Buddhism” (actually a good number from the Warner Canon–thanks Brad, keep crankin’ out those Dharma books) over the years and trying to maintain a somewhat-consistent-sitting meditation practice, the teachings that fall under “Buddhism” do resonate; so call me a Buddhist–no problem. The more I try and follow these teachings, the more I can begin to see and appreciate what the past masters and the historical Buddha were driving towards, but it’s really a slow go. Perhaps it’s my own limitations and comprehension, but until I have an actual experience of applying these teachings in real life–nothing doing no matter what label we give these teachings.

    So do we drop “Buddhism” and come up with something better? Hey, language is a tool, a pointer; so if it helps to point to a set methods to basically to get out of one’s self and serve others, then the term “Buddhism” will do for now. Though, ultimately, like anything else, “Buddhism” is just a label–a concept, nothing more or less. Can atoms and all that little quanta stuff that those mad physicists come up with ever hold/maintain something called “Buddhism” anyway? Whether or not I can grasp this or not, “Buddhism” is simply something between the ears…Just another concept to help us along on our journey for those who are drawn to this sort of thing.

  14. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon April 15, 2014 at 3:38 pm |

    “There are two big unanswered questions I see with Sam Harris’ points. They are, 1) What are you gonna call it then?”

    It would be called “Harrisism”. The three pillars of Harrisism would be “Harrisethics,” “Harrisontology,” and “Harrisfulness Meditation”.

  15. mjkawa
    mjkawa April 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm |

    “These days the word “realism” generally seems to be synonymous with “materialism.” And Buddhism isn’t materialism.”

    Not quite sure how “realism” or “reality” is not “materialism”

    I know that you don’t go in for the “supernatural”. So if there is nothing supernatural, then why the antipathy for materialism??

    Isn’t materialism just the idea that there is nothing other than this reality??
    (and dont confuse materialism with matter, there are plenty of real things that are not matter)

    Seems like your saying that I dont believe in the supernatural, but there is still something more that only the natural.
    Doesn’t quite jive.

    1. Fred
      Fred April 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm |

      Hee-Jin Kim published a book about Dogen calling him a Mystical Realist.

      Mystical Realism would be a good replacement for the word Buddhism.

    2. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer April 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm |

      While studying the Shōbōgenzō, Nishijima developed a theory called “three philosophies and one reality”,[7] which presents his distinctive interpretation of the Four Noble Truths, as well as explaining the structure of Dogen’s writing. Brad’s teacher was Nishijima. So I’d suspect that Brad is using the terms materialism and reality as his teacher taught.

      From the Wiki :

      According to Nishijima, Dōgen carefully constructed the Shōbōgenzō according to a fourfold structure, in which he described each issue from four different perspectives.

      The first perspective is “idealist”, “abstract”, “spiritual”, and “subjective”; Nishijima says this is the correct interpretation of the First Noble Truth.

      The second perspective is “concrete”, “materialistic”, “scientific”, and “objective”.

      The third perspective is described as an integration of the first two, producing a “realistic” synthesis.

      The fourth perspective is reality itself, which Nishijima argues cannot be contained in philosophy or stated in words.

      I copied it as written because I would pretty hopeless at paraphrasing it.

      In my understanding of Nishijima’s teaching, reality is beyond description.


      1. DelusionandVanity
        DelusionandVanity April 15, 2014 at 6:22 pm |

        That, exactly.


  16. DelusionandVanity
    DelusionandVanity April 15, 2014 at 4:18 pm |

    Wow — great thread! Thanks, everyone.

    1. Fred
      Fred April 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm |

      “Seems like your saying that I dont believe in the supernatural, but there is still something more that only the natural.”

      Yes, Brad has stated that there is an underlying ground.

      Do you think that it can be examined by conceptual thought?

      I believe that he calls it God.

  17. CosmicBrainz
    CosmicBrainz April 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm |

    Daniel, Neuroscience hasn’t proved anything…

    “I am a neuroscientist and so 99% of the time I behave like a materialist, acknowledging that the mind is real but fully dependent on the brain. But we don’t actually know this. We really don’t. We assume our sense of will is a causal result of the neurochemical processes in our brain, but this is a leap of faith. Perhaps the brain is something like a complex radio receiver that integrates consciousness signals that float around in some form. Perhaps one part of visual cortex is important for decoding the bandwidth that contains motion consciousness and another part of the brain is critical to decoding the bandwith that contains our will. So damage to brain regions may alter our ability to express certain kinds of conscious experience rather than being the causal source of consciousness itself. ” “I don’t actually believe the radio metaphor of the brain, but I think something like it could account for all of our findings. Its unfalsifiable which is a big no-no in science. But so is the materialist view- it’s also unfalsifiable (Lieberman, 2012).”

    Since we are playing at the level of abstract substances…It can still be the case that there is a kind of internal mental life of matter, or that it coalesces itself into certain material forms, or any number of other scenarios, because these abstract, substance-based answers/questions simply don’t have the sort of connection to empirical matters that their proponents would like to believe. I reference my friend Manolito’s article for more information.

    So like Lieberman is suggesting, don’t make an “either” out of two arbitrarily picked options.

    I am a Neuroscientist RA, and I have a read Metzinger’s Ego Tunnel. He never explains what “informational content” ‘is’ or how it “arises” from physical systems. It’s an assumption he takes for granted, Daniel.

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 16, 2014 at 1:42 am |

      @Cosmic: Well let’s say there’s a good amount of evidence in science that there is no “I” as most people imagine, as a fixed entitiy, a soul etc. Is it 100% proven? No, and it probably will never be, like you won’t be able to prove 100% that there is no god sitting somewhere watching us. You simply can’t prove it scientifically. But there’s huge evidence that both God and “I” are not true 🙂

      Also again…while science isn’t perfect, it’s much better than saying “It is so because a guy wrote it down thousands of years ago.”…

  18. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 15, 2014 at 11:28 pm |

    1) Call them the teachings of Gautama, and look to the teachings that are echoed in Taoism, the Gospel of Thomas, the practices of the Sufis and others; there’s fun in the real heart of the human experience, or as Gautama put it, happiness, that’s some kind of guide.

    2) Kodo Sawaki inspired a lot of people by dispensing with Zen ritual, am I right, but it’s hard to relate how there could be happiness in a body-posture challenge to someone who has never experienced it, and Westerners are so busy looking for a mystical, otherworldly uber-state that they fail to cognize the descriptions of their eyebrows being horizontal and their noses being vertical– and that’s not even mentioning the lips in a grin!

    haven’t got the sense they were born with;
    need to knock some sense into these people;
    aw, they’re gonna come to their senses (I’m not talking Gautama’s six).

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 15, 2014 at 11:30 pm |

    (’bout the time their breath is cut off)

  20. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel April 15, 2014 at 11:34 pm |

    CosmicBrainz quoted: “Perhaps the brain is something like a complex radio receiver that integrates consciousness signals that float around in some form.”

    That would explain how I could foresee events (and write them down weeks before they happened) at some point in my life. Otherwise, there would be no logical explanation.

    Changing subject, my take is that monotheistic religions are, by nature, totalitarian. They cannot tolerate the parallel existence of other beliefs, be they monotheistic like theirs, or not. Hell! They even have problems tolerating a difference in rites!

    The Japanese, who are an advanced civilisation, are, for the most part, not monotheistic. Their religious attitudes would seem to be at best superstitious (by the way, “superstire” in Italian means “to survive”) and certainly not a matter of much faith. This is not to mean that even that sort of religion would never foster intolerance, it does, but certainly never on the ontological level that is that of the monotheists.

    So I think rites are important, as Man is a ritualistic animal (but aren’t dogs who go on their master’s grave every day ritualistic themselves?). We need not do them, as Dogen says, but we do them just the same. That’s also the theme of one koan with Obaku/Huangbo Xiyun where the Emperor’s son who lives in the monastery apostrophes him for doing prostrations, reciting sutras and lighting incense, since he’s supposed to be awakened. Obaku bluntly answers (after slapping him, of course!) that being awakened, he does those things, even though they’re useless.

    1. CosmicBrainz
      CosmicBrainz April 17, 2014 at 11:24 am |

      The quote wasn’t pointing to New Age explanations…

  21. Andy
    Andy April 15, 2014 at 11:45 pm |

    Daniel is CosmicBrainz.

    1. CosmicBrainz
      CosmicBrainz April 16, 2014 at 10:46 am |

      We didn’t even agree. I’m definitely not Daniel. I am not that, and I am thankful for that.

      Also, I think his response was dumb. He made a straw man out of what I said. I wasn’t talking about the “I” or religious belief… I was talking about the hard problem of consciousness…

      It’s like a jump of topics.

  22. Bizzle
    Bizzle April 16, 2014 at 4:33 am |

    I am not!

  23. Bizzle
    Bizzle April 16, 2014 at 4:34 am |

    I am Andy.

  24. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 16, 2014 at 6:30 am |

    The Buddhist word for Buddhism is dharma, or Buddha dharma. Might try using that.

    1. mtto
      mtto April 16, 2014 at 8:58 am |

      Buddha dharma. The same thing occurred to me. At the very least this creates a question for some folks who might incorrectly assume they know what “Buddhism” is.

      However, language is created by use, not the dictionary, or how we’d like it to be. I have a feeling we’re stuck with Buddhism because that is the word people actually use.

  25. shade
    shade April 16, 2014 at 8:17 am |

    Proulx Michel said:
    “My take is that monotheistic religions are, by nature, totalitarian. They cannot tolerate the parallel existence of other beliefs, be they monotheistic like theirs, or not.”

    I’d take a certain amount of issue with that statement. I guess it all depends on what you mean by “tolerate”. It’s true that a monotheist will, by definition, reject a belief system that is polytheist or atheist. I don’t see how one could believe in both One God and many (or none). One who places their faith and devotion in a Supreme creator has to regard all other putative “gods” as either non-existent (i.e. a delusion) or else some other lesser supernatural being (such as demons). So yes, monotheists are intolerant of non-monotheist belief systems in so far as they regard them as erroneous.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t necessarily follow that all monotheists are interested in persecuting those who adhere to different belief systems. I’ve known several devout Christians in my life who made no attempt to convert me whatsoever. In fact, most people I’ve met who adhere to a monotheistic doctrine (Christian, Muslim or Jew) refrain from proselytizing unless they’re baited.

    I realize my personal experience can’t being taken as an indicator of the entire history of religious strife. Obviously monotheists have a woeful track record of abusing pagans, atheists, animists, ect. But I disagree that that makes them “by nature, totalitarian”. That seems to me reductive and well, just inaccurate. I’d also like to add that polytheists have proven just as adept at slaughtering those outside their fold. The Romans pretty much turned into an olympic sport, as I understand.

  26. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel April 16, 2014 at 9:19 am |

    “The Romans pretty much turned into an olympic sport, as I understand.”

    It would seem that those persecutions of Xtians were a bit exaggerated. They were anyway more of a political thing, since those prosecuted would not swear allegiance to the Emperor, which made them traitors. The fact that that oath would be taken by burning incense in front of the image of the Emperor is significant only for Xtians, but was not for the political authorities of the time.

    I readily admitted in my previous comment that polytheists were not necessarily that benign, but again I must underscore the political aspect. As for modern times, of course, iin our countries, the various brands of Xtianity non longer have the power to prosecute other religions, but you ought to remember that the election of JFK was considered a première, since he, being a catholic, could never have been elected in pre-war times. Then, in Orthodox countries, the stance towards other religions is rather hard, mind you. And Algeria and Morocco still prosecute those of their citizens who are found in the possession of a Bible.

    1. shade
      shade April 16, 2014 at 12:15 pm |

      In regards to the Romans campaign of conquest and slaughter, I meant again all religious outsiders, Christian, Jew and pagan alike. But I must confess I’m not exactly an authority on the subject.

      I appreciate what you’re saying about the political aspect of these persecutions, but trying to parse out where politics end and religion begins is very sticky business. Seems to me that the Spanish Inquisition, The English conquest of Ireland, the squabbles between Sunnis and Shiites the world over are testament to that (just to name a few). I would argue that any act of violence or exploitation again a person on the basis of religious difference done by or in the name of an authority figure – whether clerical or secular – should be defined as “political”.

      And that works both ways. Christians refusal to swear allegiance to the Roman emperor was motivated directly by their religious beliefs, the same way the civil disobedience of people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi stemmed from theirs. It wasn’t just the fact that they were trying to overthrow the present regime or gain power for themselves (after all, all these people were killed for their actions). They considered these regimes to be an affront to God and the will of God within the temporal sphere. Whether that assessment is correct is a whole other matter, but I can’t see anything “totalitarian” about personal martyrdom.

      I guess what I’m saying is – monotheism can be authoritarian and opressive, certainly, but it isn’t necessarily. Anyway, due to the limits of time and space and my own knowledge of the subject, I think I’ll stop there. Once again I’ve gone on far longer than I intended. Sorry.

  27. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 16, 2014 at 10:14 am |

    “That would explain how I could foresee events (and write them down weeks before they happened) at some point in my life. Otherwise, there would be no logical explanation.”

    “The Gödel metric is an exact solution of the Einstein field equations… also known as the Gödel solution.

    This solution has many strange properties, discussed below, in particular the existence of closed timelike curves which would allow for a form of time travel in the type of universe described by the solution.

    …Einstein was aware of Gödel’s solution and commented in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist that if you can have a series of causally-connected events in which “the series is closed in itself” (in other words, a closed timelike curve), then this suggests that there is no good physical way to define whether a given event in the series happened “earlier” or “later” than another event in the series:”

    (Wikipedia, “Godel metric”)

    My theory is that UFO’s are not aliens from other planets, but folks from Earth’s future. That would account for the ability of their “spacecraft” to do things that defy the laws of physics; they are distorting time, so they may appear to turn at extreme velocity on a dime.

    Substituting dharma or Buddha dharma for Buddhism yields the same problem as before, to my mind (which is clearly heaving, swaying and rolling here): the statements of Gautama with regard to things other than suffering, mindfulness, and the meditative states then get lumped in with his teachings about suffering, mindfulness, and the meditative states.

    We’re all fascinated with the supernatural, with the miracle of walking on water (one of six miracles Gautama spoke of), with mental telepathy or clairvoyance. Folks tend to assume that the explanation of these things is a completed, continuous infinity underlying our incomplete sense of reality and accessible to individuals born with a particular sensitivity and talent.

    Gautama emphasized consciousness as the result of sense organ and sense object only, which is better suited to a focus on the experience of proprioception, or consciousness generated by particular muscle or ligamentous tissues in a given instant having to do with placement and orientation/movement relative to the whole.

    The sense of proprioception requires relaxation with the movement of breath in order to take place, relaxation sometimes to the point of relinquishment of volitive activity in the body altogether. Chen Man-Ch’ing said that when the entire body is relaxed, then the chest is relaxed, the chi can sink to the tan-tien and circulate; I would say that in Zen practice, the description is more like the heart-mind sinks to the tan-tien and circulates. Here we are talking about proprioception and equalibrioception taking place simultaneously, the kind of movement in the location of awareness that takes place with the eyes closed just before falling asleep, taking place with the eyes open and while waking up. Any volitive action returns the maintenance of equalibrioception to the eyes, and the experience of location informed by proprioception and gravity can disappear like the stars in the morning in favor of the sun.

    John Upledger speaks of how he learned to feel what he says is the rhythm of the cranial-sacral system with his hands, about how he can feel where the rhythm is moving well and add a pressure equivalent to 5 grams of weight to that movement to open places in the body that are stuck, not responding to the cranial-sacral rhythm (the change in fluid pressure in the fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord, which he says constantly flexes and extends the entire body). When I say that I am setting up mindfulness of pitch, yaw, and roll at the location of my awareness, I mean I am looking to experience an opening of places that are stuck as a natural consequence of adding the sense of gravity at the location where my awareness is now taking place, a location of awareness that is informed by proprioception. In the movement of breath, proprioception and equalibrioception along with the sense of gravity at the location of awareness sits or stands the body-posture challenge.

    That’s the science I’m looking at. It isn’t Buddhism, per se, because the only faith is in the knowledge that comes out of necessity with the movement of breath and in the simultaneous freedom associated with the experience of action without volition.

    Look, ma, no hands!

  28. Conrad
    Conrad April 16, 2014 at 11:51 am |

    San is trying to get everyone to believe and think and act according to the same set of ideas that he has, because he thinks he (and science) knows best.

    And on top of that, he’s laying a major guilt trip on anyone who doesn’t go along with his ideas. Sounds like a religion to me.

  29. BobbyByrd
    BobbyByrd April 16, 2014 at 1:01 pm |

    Thanks, Brad. This is a good piece. Used to be I didn’t like the rituals too much. But over time something changed, I got old and now I very much enjoy our rituals with our small group. They act as reminders, and after a few years they began to reverberate in daily life. Besides, it’s good to be with people sharing some words. Also I have my morning private rituals. The refuges, Joko Beck’s Four Principles of Practice, and I pray for the good health and spiritual well being of my friends and family and for everybody else who walks the earth. The first two help me settle down into zazen and afterwards into my day, and the last, the prayers–there’s nothing I’m praying to and I don’t pretend that it helps anybody. But it does help me remember people, aka RE/MEMBER. Sometimes, all alone in the morning, reciting the refuges and the 4 principles of practice, then doing these prayers, it can be quite powerful.

  30. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer April 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm |


    On the UFO subject I an compelled to point out a wonderful XKCD cartoon by Randall Munroe.

    He frequently has a delightful twist on things.

    He calls attention to the fact that in recent years the number of cell phone cameras has gone through the roof. These are high quality cameras that can takes pictures in conditions that would leave an old school film camera in the dark.

    With such an explosive growth in the number of people carrying cameras everywhere they go you would expect a corresponding increase in the number of provocative UFO pictures.

    But there aren’t…

    One characteristic of a non-existent phenomenon is that the more carefully you study it, the less you see.

    Kind of like meditation, the more attention you pay to yourself, the less self you find…


    1. mb
      mb April 16, 2014 at 2:25 pm |

      I saw a UFO once, in 1978, near the northern Calif. town of Geyserville. There was even a short article in the local newspaper the next morning which reported that the local police dept. received several calls from residents about a UFO sighting.
      Never seen one since…

      Yet…I have a couple of friends who absolutely believe in the reality of UFOs even though they’ve never seen a single one in their life (unlike me). The power of belief is amazing.

  31. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer April 16, 2014 at 2:36 pm |


    I have never been lucky (?) enough to see one.

    A few weeks ago a guy here at work told me about an lengthy sighting that happened to him a few decades back. He said that after the fact he read about another UFO abduction claim that closely paralleled his sighting.

    I obviously can’t prove that UFOs are real or not.

    However, even if I had a completely verified encounter with an alien style UFO, afterword the excitement died down I’d still need to figure out what to eat for breakfast and what shirt to wear to work.

    Life would just keep going on…


    1. mb
      mb April 16, 2014 at 2:54 pm |

      yep. Even though I actually saw one 35 years ago, it’s had absolutely no effect on my life otherwise, except as an interesting memory. No abduction. No contact with an alien. Zippo.

      And yet my aforementioned friends in the previous post, although they have never seen a UFO, nor been abducted, nor had any contact with any alien beings whatsoever, still swear up and down that the aliens are here now, working to prevent catastrophe on earth and evolve humanity to a “higher spiral of existence”.

      It’s a new religion, I swear.

  32. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer April 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm |


    Is there any money in the UFO business??

    Kidding aside, getting stuck on one idea can be a problem. It reminds me of the zen exhortation not to hang onto experiences, positive or negative.


  33. Daniel
    Daniel April 16, 2014 at 4:06 pm |

    Sam Harris is the MAITREYA.

    And so he has JUKI as Dogen wrote in Shobogenzo about the maitreya.

    This might sound weird, but it’s just one of those views/ideas that you simply can’t disprove. If you just meditate long enough on Sam Harris you will see this for yourself, one day for sure. Just think the thought of thinking of Sam Harris while sitting. How do you think the thought of thinking of Sam Harris? MaitreyaShiRio. …And easily could you come up with all the details to make it sound like…you know the truth. Welcome to the world of religion.

  34. Fred
    Fred April 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm |

    Sam Harris is doing basic mindfulness, while being attached to his intellect.

    There is a wall of conceptual thought and no JUKI.

    His arrogance supercedes Gimpo.

  35. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 16, 2014 at 5:59 pm |

    mb, if in fact they are humans from the future, maybe your friends could be right.

    I cleaned up my post above over on my own site, here’s the relevant bit:

    “John Upledger speaks of how he learned to feel what he says is the rhythm of the cranial-sacral system with his hands, about how he can feel where the rhythm is moving well and add a pressure equivalent to 5 grams of weight to that movement to open the places in the body that are stuck. I often look for specific feelings of pitch, yaw, and roll in my awareness; as my sense of location registers the movements that are always present in my balance, proprioception and the sense of gravity enter into my sense of location and exert the kind of slight pressure where things are moving that Upledger used, allowing the sense of location to act to open and align the body.”

    To me, that would be the action that Nishijima referred to as zazen. I think about how my back comes into it, too, but take no action. Like Bodhidharma said, “if you go right ahead, you cannot move a step.”

    1. mb
      mb April 16, 2014 at 6:40 pm |

      mb, if in fact they are humans from the future, maybe your friends could be right.
      Well, they’ve never mentioned anything about “humans from the future” either! In fact specifically-named star systems of alien origin are sometimes mentioned: the Pleiades, Zeta Reticulum, Arcturus. Are those the places where the future humans went to? I saw symmetrical colored lights gliding silently through the sky and then suddenly disappearing in a flash in 1978. Can’t say that one experience has saved the planet in any discernible fashion and it’s kind of hard to vouch for my particular state of evolution.

      Regarding Upledger etc. did you know that the C1 vertebrae (I guess it’s called the axis-atlas joint also) is singularly responsible the head being able to turn left and right? And that the C2 vertebrae is singularly responsible for being able to move the head up and down? I learned this in yoga class this morning – thought I’d pass it on as it’s somewhat related to what you’re talking about…

  36. Muddy Elephant
    Muddy Elephant April 16, 2014 at 7:21 pm |

    Buddhism without the ism and without the ritual could be called

    honest awareness,

    Cognition incognitO,

    Turtles all the way down…


  37. mai_neh
    mai_neh April 16, 2014 at 7:46 pm |

    I don’t have to read all the comments above in order to leave one, do I? 😉

    “What the world most needs at this moment is a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the species as their moral community.”

    I fell off right there. How can he or any one person know what the world needs most at this or any moment? The world is too vast, populated by too many people, nobody can really know what everybody else needs most.

    And a means to convince others sounds like a form of totalitarianism to me. Thomas Merton once wrote something like, “Trying to change somebody’s opinion is a form of aggression.”

    What exactly is a moral community anyway?

    Sure, having a nonsectarian nonreligious way of thinking about other folks sounds great, but you can’t control how other people will view your views. Try as you might to be nonsectarian, others will use a word to describe you, and as soon as words are used we got sects. Somebody will try to distinguish her brand of nonsectarianism from yours, and you can’t stop her. Who will be in charge of who is considered the True Nonsectarian!

    So, yay 🙂

  38. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 16, 2014 at 9:55 pm |

    I yam the nonsectarian… I yam the egg man… Popeye.

    mb, no, I’m thinking these people are coming from earth. No way to cross a billion light years, now or in the future, but time… right there in the equations, somehow. You saw lights that disappeared in a flash. Maybe they disappeared in a flash because they moved across time, rather than space, is what I’m thinking? Why would people from a distant galaxy be concerned to disable nuclear missiles in their silos, cross a billion light years to do that?– but humans who knew the history traveling in time, seems more plausible to me somehow. Among implausibilities.

    Yes, the neck and skull have the around rotation and a lot of the forward and back. Side to side, though, that’s T12-L1, right? And in the spine, forward and back is in the lumbar area, not the thoracic.

    Lots of folks wonder why I am so keen on kinesthesiology, when everybody knows it’s possible to travel out of body, and what about that golden tunnel and the bardo? I’m not saying I know about that, although Olaf Blanke’s research into the artificial production of out-of-body experience and how a combination of senses give us the impression of a self is pretty amazing (guess which senses!).

    I began to make progress with the lotus when I realized that the sense of location, proprioception, and gravity could do what Upledger was describing in terms of adding weight to a rhythm to open the body, provided I could relax “from the tailbone to the headtop” in inhalation and exhalation both. I didn’t know these were particular senses, but I knew that support for the lower spine in inhalation and exhalation is in two different sets of ligaments, vertical on inhalation and horizontal on exhalation, and I came to distinguish the same senses Blanke describes somehow. There are moments when I’m relaxing when I’ve arrived at just relaxing the lower abdomen in general to tower up inhaling and exhaling, and moments when I am relaxing particulars that nobody thinks they should have to know about just to breath.

    Maybe I studied too much, but it was never about finding a way for myself through intuition and luck, although that always plays a part; it was always about being part of the transition to science this blog post is vaguely about, so find the right relationships and a way to communicate them effectively.

    As Issho Fujita said up on Sonoma Mountain a few weeks back about zazen instruction, “I try to make it fun”.

    1. mb
      mb April 17, 2014 at 3:08 pm |

      Yes, the neck and skull have the around rotation and a lot of the forward and back. Side to side, though, that’s T12-L1, right?
      ————————————————————————————————–Well, I meant that C1 (axis-atlas) is responsible for left-right movement of the head, not the trunk. And C2 is responsible for up-down movement of the head. And C3-C7 aren’t responsible for any particular movements, they’re just there for skeletal support. I suppose that T12-L1 is responsible for side-to-side movement of the trunk, as you mention.

      You sound like you’ve invested some time in being able to discern these fine kinesiological distinctions. I’m kind of new to this – became somewhat interested in anatomy through the yoga lens. Some experienced yoga teachers also can get to be very subtle about how they can initiate specific physical movements with more efficiency than the average person.

      As to “a particular body-position challenge”, doesn’t just being alive constitute a myriad of “particular body-position challenges”? I think so. Even sleeping positions can be stressful…

  39. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 17, 2014 at 4:58 am |

    Haven’t read this, but it might be germaine to the discussion (not that this has ever stopped me!), although I haven’t had time to read much of it (the post or/comments) either yet though both/all look interesting…

  40. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer April 17, 2014 at 8:48 am |


    I follow some of what is happening in modern cosmology and less in consciousness theory. That said, the scientific ideas outlined in the article you linked to are real, but very, very, very speculative at this point.

    Linde and Penrose are real giants in their fields, but the theories mentioned in this article are unproven.

    The other people quoted in this article are taking these speculations and piling a lot of additional stuff on top. Which is fine, but I wouldn’t treat it as anything other than a S.W.A.G. (super wild ass guess).

    About as much technical substance as an average Deepak Chopra essay. The title alone is just plain wrong.


  41. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 17, 2014 at 8:56 am |

    “If the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies. But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then of course consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle.”

    1. Daniel
      Daniel April 18, 2014 at 4:14 am |

      Ow sweet, we all do so wish don’t we? 😀

  42. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm |

    mb, concerning pitch, yaw, and roll with the sense of location; it all comes down to this:

    Recalling that the phenomena of reciprocal innervation happens when the stretch of a ligament generates nerve signals that contract muscles to relieve that stretch, and the subsequent stretch of the agonist/antagonist ligament then triggers a contraction to relieve its stretch that reinduces the stretch on the initial ligament, and so on, what we have is reciprocal activity in the pelvic muscles induced solely by pitch, yaw, and roll in the sense of location and the stretch of sacral ligaments in a particular body-position challenge.

  43. CosmicBrainz
    CosmicBrainz April 17, 2014 at 5:26 pm |

    Consciousness is empty.

  44. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 17, 2014 at 9:59 pm |

    Close your eyes, and tell me consciousness is empty.

    1. Andy
      Andy April 18, 2014 at 1:42 am |

      conxuoiuysness is empry

  45. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 18, 2014 at 4:54 am |

    Andy, you one funny mofu.

    Completely off topic but I think Brad’s old band is playing sorta soon, too so, whatever, my new band had their first gig last night and it was so fun, so cool, everybody, the band, the audience, got into it. Rocka Rolla!!!!

    Here’s a Link:

    (Heh… One of my new songs pays homage…)

  46. boubi
    boubi April 18, 2014 at 7:09 pm |

    I would like to see this guy saying the same thing about some other religion … guess which one.


  47. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 18, 2014 at 8:48 pm |

    Dhu r uh, Masturbationism?

  48. boubi
    boubi April 19, 2014 at 3:17 am |

    Yeah the Masturbationists decapitating kind 😉 as in the youtube videos …

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