What Is Enlightenment?

WhatIsEnlightenmentOver the past couple of days the question of what constitutes “awakening” has come up a lot in the comments section of this blog. A correspondent called Petrichoric said:

“I don’t think that every single person in a sangha or every zen master is a wonderful, kind person, but, um, they fucking should be or should at least try to be! I started going to the local Zen center because (1) I wanted to stop suffering and (2) I wanted to become a better person. I just don’t understand how a spiritual leader can possibly be so deluded and lacking in self-awareness to take advantage and manipulate others. How can any spiritual awakening they’ve had possibly be genuine? And, yes, the question does remain about whether there is a relation being ‘awakening’ and ‘morality.’ And I still think there is.”

I’m going to present an expanded version of what I wrote back in the comments section. Apologies to those of you who have already read the short version.

The relationship between wakening and morality all depends upon how you define “awakening.”

A lot of people, especially nowadays, define “awakening” as a kind of experience. Much of what I see in contemporary magazines, books, websites and suchlike does. The spiritual master in question has some kind of profound experience that zaps her/his consciousness and then he/she goes out to tell the world about it.

There are plenty of examples of this. Genpo Roshi justifies charging folks $50,000 just to hang out next to him based on a profound awakening he had while on a solo retreat in the Mojave Desert some time in the Seventies. Eckhart Tolle claims to have had a grand awakening that enabled him to write a bazillion selling book and charge tens of thousands of dollars for lecture appearances. Shoko Asahara had a massive download from on high that supposedly made him the new Buddha for the modern age. The list goes on and on.

It all goes back to a certain reading of Buddha’s life story. The most common telling of it has Buddha meditating under a tree for 40 days at the end of which he had a deep awakening experience that turned him in one moment from plain old Siddhartha to the legendary Gautama Buddha. Sort of like how Japanese superheroes like Ultraman and Kamen Rider transform in a flash from regular human beings into giant bug-eyed alien monster fighters.

But experiences like that do not necessarily have any direct one-to-one relationship to any kind of moral maturity or sensibility. They’re just experiences. Like getting into a car crash or seeing a UFO or having a near-death experience. There’s no specific moral content to them.

People tend to forget that Siddhartha engaged in various practices and worked hard on himself for decades before his awakening. It happened in an instant. But the ground had been prepared for a lifetime, dozens of lifetimes if you believe those stories.

On the other hand, “awakening” of the type that occurs as a sudden peak experience, is just the conscious realization of the underlying ground of all of our experiences. It’s not that something new happens. It’s just that we notice what’s really been going on all along.

It is possible to have this kind of experience without properly preparing oneself for it. Sometimes a severe trauma like an accident or illness can do it. Sometimes drugs can induce it. Some so-called “spiritual” practices are designed just to cause these kinds of experiences to happen. Sometimes nothing seems to induce it. It just sort of happens.

In cases like those, the experience is still genuine and can still have value. But there’s no real basis for it, no real ground for it to land on. As I said before, the ego can latch on to absolutely anything — including the realization of its own illusory nature — as a means to enlarge itself.

These so-called “awakenings” do contain a sense that we are all intimately connected, that we are all manifestations of the same underlying reality. But the ego can latch onto that and make it something terribly immoral. It can decide that since I am you and you are me and we are all together, it’s fine if I fuck you over or lie to you or cheat you or steal from you because ultimately I am only doing that to myself. And what’s the problem if you do something to yourself?

It’s dangerous to point this kind of stuff out because there is a whole multi-billion dollar industry based on the notion that these kinds of experiences transform ordinary people into spiritual superheroes. But they don’t. Not in and of themselves. Becoming a moral person is a matter of transforming one’s habits of thinking and behavior. That is not easy to do. It takes time. It cannot possibly happen instantaneously no matter what sort of experience one has. An “awakening experience” can often be helpful in making a person more moral because it provides a new way of understanding yourself and others. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way.

This is why it’s very good to have a teacher who can help you through these kinds of experiences. It’s good to interact with someone else, or if you’re really lucky a number of other people, who have gone through these things. When, on the other hand, people have these experiences and then end up surrounded by admirers who want to gobble up the power such an experience confers the results can be disastrous.

So, yeah, the people you meet at a Zen temple ought to be at least decent people. And most of them are. Cases like that of Joshu Sasaki, Genpo Roshi, Eido Shimano and so forth are exceptional. They’re not the rule. You don’t have to be a genius to spot people like that either. It’s always obvious. Just don’t allow yourself to be blinded by fantasies of magic miracle men.

The foregoing is why Soto style Zen training tends to emphasize moral grounding and balance much more than the gaining of “awakening experiences,” so much so that one is often told it’s not important even to have such experiences at all. Dogen says this many times in his writings. Most teachers who followed in his lineage also say this. Which isn’t to say that Soto is good and everything else is evil. It’s just one of the things that really attracts me to the style I have practiced much more than any of the others out there, even though those others often sound a whole lot sexier.

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330 Responses

  1. anon 108
    anon 108 May 19, 2013 at 3:12 am | |

    Mumbles wrote: Harry and anon 108…why split hairs and worry about what someone else said in the 13th century under circumstances and conditions we can hardly fathom? You find it applicable to this particular moment of realization? now? And this one?… OK.

    John, I see you’ve had a good old chin-wag with Harry about this, but you asked me too and got me thinking, so…

    In the past, I’ve gone for months, maybe years, without reading a book. I’ve always been very lazy, easily distracted, rarely bothered. These days I do most of my reading on the toilet, which means that although I still don’t read that much – about a page or three a day of something or other – at least I keep things regular ;-)

    The teacher I found in 2006, shortly after I started sitting, had listened to over 20 years of talks about Dogen and the Shobogenzo from his Japanese teacher, so that’s how he started teaching when he returned to England, and that’s the book I became interested in. It’s as good a place as any from which to investigate what Zen/Buddhism has to do with life, I think. He doesn’t teach that way any more.

    I’ve read the Shobogenzo, but not systematically, so I can’t say I’ve read it all. I’ve certainly read most of it, some chapters a few times. I don’t pretend to understand a lot of it, but it’s a fascinating thing, even in translation, so I find the effort worthwhile. The fact that it’s very old and hard to grasp in any language adds to its appeal, for me.

    These days I read bits if it now and again – maybe a passage or short chapter every couple of months or less, whenever something or other prompts me to. I haven’t read much other ancient Zen literature. I’m sure much of it is fabulous, but I’m not that bothered. I’ve stuck with the big Zen book my teacher helped me get a handle on. Lately, on the toilet, I’ve been reading erudite modern books about the Indian Madhyamaka school, with lots of footnotes quoting Sanskrit sources – very good for keeping my Sanskrit studies, my hobby, going.

    In reply to your question I’ll repeat what I said to Harry earlier: “Yes, we have to realise, actualise, for ourselves or it’s not real. But the words of others who’ve also clarified something real can be a great help – can help us find it, understand it and motivate our efforts to keep it real.”

    I haven’t read all the Foucault article you linked, John. Whatever your motives for linking it, and whatever its conclusions, this caught my eye:

    “…by “immaturity,” he [Kant] means a certain state of our will that makes us accept someone else’s authority to lead us in areas where the use of reason is called for. Kant gives three examples: we are in a state of “immaturity” when a book takes the place of our understanding, when a spiritual director takes the place of our conscience, when a doctor decides for us what our diet is to be…”

    You’ve previously read that article and now point me to it so that I can now read and consider it. If it fits with my experience I can feel confident about its validity; feel a little warmer and fuzzier that I’m in agreement with someone ‘important’. As long as I don’t surrender my critical faculties and accept it just because someone important said it, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We can’t help being influenced by other people. Even important dead people. We just need to be careful not to seek the reassurance of agreement, of approval, of a sense of belonging, too keenly. To be a little brave sometimes would be nice.

  2. roman
    roman May 19, 2013 at 4:13 am | |

    This restless looking for realisation, it’s interesting what Kodo Sawaki said about this:

    “If we have no need for money, or fame, or a position in society, or satori, or even life, we feel an unparalleled sensation of well-being.
     
    On the other hand, there are people who want to have satori, sleep late and eat well at the same time, or who would like to not have any desires, but who love money and pleasure. There are also lazy people who dream of being workaholics. This endless chain of “I want this, I want that” inevitably leads to suffering. As the proverb says, we want to live long and eat fugu too. In a word, we want to win on all counts.
     
    The date of our death is not set and we don’t know where we come from and where we go. Consequently, the only important thing is to accept ourselves as we are, in our current reality. We must take ourselves in hand, hold on firmly, not let ourselves go. When we have a good grip on ourselves, we cannot run after something or run away from it.
     
    By not seeking the truth and not cutting illusions, we maintain an unshakeable calm. Seated with dignity, legs pushing into the ground, lower back steady and abdomen at ease, the body remains calm and the mind is tranquil. Yesterday was a good day; today is too; tomorrow will be a good day and the day after tomorrow as well.”

    We should not seek the truth as it it was “something else”, rather study the philosophy of Buddhism as reality that is here and now and practice zazen that is here and now. To pursue the truth means to study the truth as something real here and now, not somewhere else, or somebody else’s experience, it is our own experience.
     

  3. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 4:26 am | |

    “So at least classically there are levels of attainment in awakening. Not mentioned in Chan or Zen. ”

    Hi Mark,

    The samatha jhanas are a very old aspect of Buddhism that involve levels of concentrated absorption leading to experiences of subtle levels of consciousness, bliss, very focused concentration etc (after a certain point, the absorption is so pronounced that the practitioner completely drops sense perception of the ‘outside’ world). Even though this approach differs from the vipassana jhana scheme (they do not require the intense levels of concentration of the former scheme) it is still recognised that the jhanas must be analyzed/recognised as subject to the three marks of existence (i.e. impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and no-self) lest the practitioner gets attached to, or even stuck in, the jhana state; so the idea is not for the practitioner to loose awareness or become overwhelmed by any particular state.

    Maybe you have explored this stuff, as I think it might be interesting to look at it in terms of hypnagogic activity, and other unusual aspects of experiencing consciousness. These jhana states are often dismissed as unnecessarily difficult to practice, and as being trance-like, but actually the practitioner is always meant to be focused on the object of the jhanic state, even it is extremely subtle, such as the qualities of infinite space etc (the scheme of objects for focus on goes from ‘grosser’ objects such as the breath and bodily sensations and gets increasingly subtle).

    This website has good info, including the basis of the jhanas in the suttas; and the author is interested in the physiology of what might be going on in jhana practice:

    http://www.leighb.com/jhanas.htm

    The later Theravadan movements tend more towards insight practices which do not require such pronounced states of concentration (and actually they often denounce the samatha jhanas as a corruption), so I think the sort of practices outlined in the source above are now practiced by only a minority of Theravadan practitioners.

    BTW, I think the koan curricula, and koans in general, could be see as representing an organisation of levels of attainment in Ch’an/ Zen. And the ox herding pictures spring to mind. As does Dongshan’s five ranks:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ranks

    Regards,

    Harry.

  4. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 4:47 am | |

    “So at least classically there are levels of attainment in awakening. Not mentioned in Chan or Zen. ”

    Hi Mark,

    The samatha jhanas are a very old aspect of Buddhism that involve levels of concentrated absorption leading to experiences of subtle levels of consciousness, bliss, very focused concentration etc (after a certain point, the absorption is so pronounced that the practitioner completely drops sense perception of the ‘outside’ world). Even though this approach differs from the vipassana jhana scheme (they do not require the intense levels of concentration of the former scheme) it is still recognised that the jhanas must be analyzed/recognised as subject to the three marks of existence (i.e. impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and no-self) lest the practitioner gets attached to, or even stuck in, the jhana state; so the idea is not for the practitioner to loose awareness or become overwhelmed by any particular state.

    Maybe you have explored this stuff, as I think it might be interesting to look at it in terms of hypnagogic activity, and other unusual aspects of experiencing consciousness. These jhana states are often dismissed as unnecessarily difficult to practice, and as being trance-like, but actually the practitioner is always meant to be focused on the object of the jhanic state, even it is extremely subtle, such as the qualities of infinite space etc (the scheme of objects for focus on goes from ‘grosser’ objects such as the breath and bodily sensations and gets increasingly subtle).

    This website has good info, including the basis of the jhanas in the suttas; and the author is interested in the physiology of what might be going on in jhana practice:

    http://www.leighb.com/jhanas.htm

    The later Theravadan movements tend more towards insight practices which do not require such pronounced states of concentration (and actually they often denounce the samatha jhanas as a corruption), so I think the sort of practices outlined in the source above are now practiced by only a minority of Theravadan practitioners.

    BTW, I think the koan curricula, and koans in general, could be see as representing an organisation of levels of attainment in Ch’an/ Zen. And the ox herding pictures spring to mind. As does Dongshan’s five ranks (there’s a wikipedia article on ‘em).

    Regards,

    Harry.

  5. Brent
    Brent May 19, 2013 at 7:20 am | |
  6. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 7:24 am | |

    “All the world’s a stage…” :-)

  7. Brent
    Brent May 19, 2013 at 7:44 am | |

    Enough quoting of obscure Asian Masters…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwXjnVICb3I

  8. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 9:16 am | |

    ““…by “immaturity,” he [Kant] means a certain state of our will that makes us accept someone else’s authority to lead us in areas where the use of reason is called for. Kant gives three examples: we are in a state of “immaturity” when a book takes the place of our understanding, when a spiritual director takes the place of our conscience, when a doctor decides for us what our diet is to be…”

    By ‘immaturity’ 1. reading Kant, 2. reading philosophy 3. assuming that reason,
    logic, etc has any bearing on zen 4. by assuming that conceptual reality has any
    bearing on reality 5. by assuming the manmade conditioned language system is
    related to reality 6. by assuming there is a conscience 7. by assuming that humans actually communicate through words 8. by assuming that any other than
    the philosophy of Buddhism has the remotest connection to hardcore zen

  9. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 9:47 am | |

    The Pali terms for the specific chains or fetters (Pali: saṃyojana) of which an anagami is free are:
    1.Sakkāya-diṭṭhi: Belief in self
    2.Vicikicchā: Skeptical doubt
    3.Sīlabbata-parāmāsa: Attachment to rites and rituals
    4.Kāma-rāga: Sensuous craving
    5.Byāpāda: Ill will

    The fetters from which an anagami is not yet free are:
    1.Rūpa-rāga: Craving for fine-material existence (the first 4 jhanas)
    2.Arūpa-rāga: Craving for immaterial existence (the last 4 jhanas)
    3.Māna: Conceit
    4.Uddhacca: Restlessness
    5.Avijjā: Ignorance

  10. anon 108
    anon 108 May 19, 2013 at 10:14 am | |

    So Fred,

    You reject philosophy, reason, conceptual reality, and the manmade conditioned language system? (But Buddhist Philosophy is ok – presumably without the philosophy, the reason, without any reference to “conceptual reality,” and without recourse to the manmade conditioned language system. Like a fist or a shout or a fly-whisk, maybe? Hold on, no – Pali terms for the specific chains or fetters are ok, it seems. As are all those other copy/pasted bits and pieces of manmade, linguistically-determined Buddhist philosophy you grace these pages with.)

    I don’t know where to start, Fred. Where do you think man and his philosophies, his reason, his conditioned language system come from? Somehere other than ‘reality’? Somewhere other than where the Pali terms and the fly-whisks come from?

  11. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 19, 2013 at 11:44 am | |

    ^^ Zing! Someone had to point it out…

  12. petrichoric
    petrichoric May 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm | |

    Brad, you appear to say that there are two types of enlightenment experiences – one, which is just that, an “experience”, and which can happen in an instant, triggered by some external event maybe; and, the other, which is the culmination of years of hard work and self-reflection.

    The former, you write, has absolutely no connection to morality, which explains why certain so-called “enlightened” people are able to commit terrible acts. I understand your argument but I still can’t quite wrap my head around this.

    I’m listening to an interview right now with Natalie Goldberg who says: “Now that I’ve gotten older, I understand that enlightenment is a temporary thing; we all have insights. I guess that we were naive at the beginning when Zen came to America. We thought it would be like taking LSD but forever. You get enlightened, and you’d be on a trip forever. And life isn’t like that. It’s always changing. There’s no state you can hold on to forever.”

    Looking at enlightenment like this, I guess I’d have to accept that those disgraced “gurus” were “enlightened” at times but acted like complete dicks when they weren’t. Possible, but still an unsatisfying explanation.

    More interesting to me is the response Goldberg gives when the interviewer asks her if she’s ever felt enlightened at times in her life. She says: “I’ve felt my heart very open, and I felt extraordinary tenderness towards the world”. She does then add that “you sometimes get scared of that, and you close down, but you hold it all as a practice”. But even accounting for those moments when people are scared and shut off from the world, could somebody whose heart has ever been “very open” and who “felt extraordinary tenderness towards the world” really end up sexually abusing students? I find that hard to believe.

    By the way, are there many Buddhist sex scandals in Western countries besides the US? I’m sure there must be, but I’ve never heard of any. I wonder if Europeans are as ready to idolize zen masters as Americans seem to be. I know that I have got absolutely no desire to learn about Buddhism from some old, wizened, Japanese zen master (well, at least at this point in my Buddhist/meditation journey). As a young (well, youngish) European woman I know I would find this hard to relate to. When I took a “Beginners” Buddhism class recently, I was really impressed by the teacher because she was a young, American woman who looked like the girl next door, and who had been practising Zen for four years. She didn’t claim to have all the answers, and it was precisely this, and her warmth and honesty, that I loved about her.

    One of my fellow commenters (Mumbles, I think) accused Brad of being part of the whole “Zen Master on the pedestal” phenomenon, and said that some of his readers probably get off on that. Maybe some do, but my initial attraction to Brad’s work was because I can relate to what he says on his blog (haven’t read any of the books yet). His writing is easily accessible, and he discusses interesting topics without being pompous or intellectual (some of his comments should take notes). I also like the fact that he’s just called “Brad” and doesn’t go by some fancy-pants name he was given. I find this pretentious. I mean, why did Pema Chödrön have to become Pema Chödrön? Why couldn’t she just have stayed as good ol’ Deirdre? And, oh yeah, it’s also cool that he doesn’t walk around wearing robes with a shaved head because he looked like a complete twat when he had no hair.

    On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed to read about some of Brad’s, ahem, sexual escapades. I don’t think that an older dude fucking a younger student means that the guy is a “bad person” but I do think it means that he’s a bit clueless and naive about gender/sexual politics. When the man is older than the woman and a teacher, then there’s no escaping the fact that there is a huge power imbalance in that relationship. It would be nice if men weren’t so blinded to the privilege society gives them because of their sex.

    Curiously, the Natalie Goldberg interview I referenced above mentions all of the issues Brad has raised in recent posts: the nature of enlightenment, male Buddhists shagging their students. It’s well worth checking out:

    http://thoughtcast.org/religion/natalie-goldberg/

  13. petrichoric
    petrichoric May 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm | |

    Oops, typos in that comment.

    I wrote: His writing is easily accessible, and he discusses interesting topics without being pompous or intellectual (some of his comments should take notes)

    I should have written: His writing is easily accessible, and he discusses interesting topics without being pompous or OVERLY intellectual (some of his COMMENTERS should take notes)

  14. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm | |

    Watching someone mentally masturbate with Buddhist philosophy is certainly an ugly sight to see. Sure, there is room for silliness, intellectualism, etc, “Buddhism” can encompass most everything, which can be a downfall/ trap for some that lack what others would consider real practice.

    The fact is, there is practice and there isn’t practice. There are thoughts that arise from genuine insight and there are thoughts that arise from intellectual, immature gobblygook. It’s cases of the latter that the term “sit down and shut up” applies.

    I feel those that have a dedicated practice currently or have in the past should protect the Dharma from being misrepresented and prevent that misrepresentation from spreading. This can also double as an opportunity for learning. It just needs to be done skillfully.

  15. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm | |

    The difference i understood between Brad and other assholes taking advantage of their flock is that he (Brad) talked openly about what happened with that girl.

    He was in love with her and said that between love and teaching zen he would have chosen love.

    And i don’t see him taking advantage of anybody, don’t think he actually can do it.

  16. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 1:47 pm | |

    “I don’t know where to start, Fred. Where do you think man and his philosophies, his reason, his conditioned language system come from? Somehere other than ‘reality’?”

    From his delusional brain. From ignorance.

  17. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm | |

    Anon 108,

    Kudos for at least addressing Fred directly with you criticism (although, I’d suggest, while we’re talking about ‘skillful’, that you could address your criticisms to *his comments* based on what he actually says… it’s more respectful I think and less confrontational).

    It might help discussion if people were more explicit and indicated what they are referring too when criticizing other peoples’ inferior practice, excessive pomposity etc. In the absence of this it can across as the rather unpleasant passive-aggressive thing you have on Buddhist discussion sites where it’s as if making sweeping statements is in some way ‘Buddhistly superior’ to just openly criticizing the target of our evangelical Dharmic wrath.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  18. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:02 pm | |

    —”gender/sexual politics”—

    can we know some more about this, about power relationships based on sex/gender, about being used and using others?

    There are some who leverage upon weakness of others and others who leverage upon sex to have some advantage.

    Seems a doggy dog world to me.

    For being naive i think that Brad went there with his heart in his hand, and if being naive this way is a sin, i don’t know what isn’t then.

  19. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm | |

    Harry did you not take a break from here when your passive-aggression was out
    of control. The mirroe Harry.

  20. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 2:14 pm | |

    ‘She says: “I’ve felt my heart very open, and I felt extraordinary tenderness towards the world”. She does then add that “you sometimes get scared of that, and you close down, but you hold it all as a practice”. But even accounting for those moments when people are scared and shut off from the world, could somebody whose heart has ever been “very open” and who “felt extraordinary tenderness towards the world” really end up sexually abusing students? I find that hard to believe.’

    Broken Yogi answered that when he said that vasanas and samskaras of the samsaric mind that are not burnt off, released or snuffed out, will continue to
    create trouble.

  21. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm | |

    Fred,

    I certainly have had my scrapes on this board, for sure.

    But, just as a suggestion, I’m pointing out the practical (in terms of how it might help discussion) difference between saying (in response to some idea or other) ‘I think you’re full of shit and you are a lame asswipe’ and ‘I find it hard to agree with this because…. and, if I’m honest, it’s pretty annoying because….’

    I think most people appreciate honesty in our interactions with other and, while we may currently feel that someone actually is a sub-Buddhist sea cucumber, it mightn’t be conducive to anyone’s understanding just blurting it out, because it doesn’t really succeed in separating our own immediate feelings/habitual responses from the matter at hand in any genuinely exploratory way. It’s exactly because I’ve had my fill of flame wars that I say this. It gets boring, and the topic is quite interesting and deserves discussion.

    BTW, I’d say my style was more aggressive-aggressive though! In fairness, I never shrank from calling a spade a spade or addressing things directly, for better and worse.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  22. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm | |

    Sorry.

    For those who use improperly psychiatric terms like “passive aggressive” and others please look for the definition of it
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_aggressive

    Thanks for your cooperation.

    PS
    People who reside in the high abode of the pure awareness where the void faces itself, of course without a self nor a nonself, should remain in the supramundain realms and not get involved nor pissed of by expressions of low levels of consciousness like the ones that , unluckily, sometimes show their baseness on this blog

    Gasho _/\_

  23. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 2:35 pm | |

    Hi boubi,

    You’ll be accused of pomposity with linguistic precision like that!

    I think, however, the term is also used casually these days to mean something other than the strict clinical meaning… in the same way that ‘ego’ in popular usage generally isn’t taken to mean the ego in Freud’s dynamic model of the id, ego and superego; and in the same way that someone may be called a bit crazy without necessarily implying that the person is clinically abnormal psychologically.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  24. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 2:37 pm | |

    Flame wars between actively practicing Buddhists? How is that possible?

  25. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm | |

    I’m a pompous under sea cucumber , and proud of it ! :) Trying to evolve into a bradwurstel !

    BTW, ego has been used a lot, i think even in dharma related things

  26. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 2:39 pm | |

    “People who reside in the high abode of the pure awareness where the void faces itself, of course without a self nor a nonself, should remain in the supramundain realms and not get involved nor pissed of by expressions of low levels of consciousness like the ones that , unluckily, sometimes show their baseness on this blog”

    This writing is an example of passive-aggression.

  27. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm | |

    They are NOT buddhist, they don’t have the same teacher as me ! They must be some heretical demented lost souls.

    People who reside in the high abode of the pure awareness where the void faces itself, of course without a self nor a nonself, should remain in the supramundain realms and not get involved nor pissed of by expressions of low levels of consciousness like the ones that , unluckily, sometimes show their baseness on this blog

    Gasho _/\_

  28. anon 108
    anon 108 May 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm | |

    I hear you about avoiding personal comments, Harry. But I went with the moment…you know.

    Anyway I’m sure Fred doesn’t mind, not having a self and all. Just the Universe shooting the breeze with the Universe, eh, Fred?

    1. Fred
      Fred May 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm | |

      Good one, 108.

  29. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm | |

    —”This writing is an example of passive-aggression.”—

    My gosh ! how comes? do we get burned at the stake, or some Prozac should be enough?

  30. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm | |

    Is it call also breaking wind? You know i’m not english native speaker …

    BTW how comes that there is all this enthousiasm in diagnosing mental problems? What’s that some politically correct way to say somebody’s feet are stinking?

  31. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm | |

    “My gosh ! how comes? do we get burned at the stake, or some Prozac should be enough?”

    Another example of P-A

  32. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm | |

    boubi,

    The use of the term ego in Western Buddhism is, IMO, very interesting.

    People seem to use it to suggest the negative sense of self, the ‘selfish self’. Freud’s ‘ego’, as you probably know, was more the ‘good guy’ who acted as a sort of damage-limiting mediator between the base drives of the id and the guilt creating high morals of the superego… so there’s a big difference there for a start.

    Zen practice offers another perspective on the ego… like, let’s go looking for it after sitting stable in zazen for 20 mins or so and, if anyone finds it, I’ll give them a prize.

    The ego is an unhelpful myth. A boogey man. Very quickly we can see that the things we usually misidentify as an enduring self are not any sort of entity warranting a name but are a number of other things that just come and go when we leave them alone. This can be realised very quickly by anyone with a reasonably stable practice, so, again, I’m not claiming golden cloud status here.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  33. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm | |

    I’m done! I’ve diagnosed with a personality disorder ! H E L P Meeee ! I’m crazy …

    I believe that some here are agent from some Pharmaceutical conspiracy and sooner or later will be all forced to BUY and gulp down some drug meant to “normalize” our behaviour.

    Take care, they are among us, and the truth … is out there!

    Let’s Fight Big Pharma’s Crusade to Turn Eccentricity Into Illness
    http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/05/lets-defy-the-big-pharma-attempt-to-turn-difference-into-illness/

  34. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 2:55 pm | |

    Hi Harry

    There’s something i noticed is the “supervisor” the “part” that is aware and sometimes it becomes the “awared” and tend to desapear … i’m really not into definitions. Sometimes i like just to break wind :)

    Also when i use “ego” it’s a rather random use

  35. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm | |

    Also the USSR used psychiatry to “normalize” and control dissidents, instead of sending them to siberia, they sent them to psychiatric wards and filled them with some nasty shit numbing their brain.

    So anytime someone uses some second intention humor to enhance the laughability of someone else, he becomes passive aggressive, if he says straight away “you’re a wiener” you’re gross, so everything that isn’t liked get stuffed and muffled.

    How to silence any critics, nice and very much “politically correct”

  36. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm | |

    “To understand more precisely the process of confirming the solidity of I and other, that is, the development of ego, it is helpful to be familiar with the five skandhas, a set of Buddhist concepts which describe ego a five-step process.”

    Chogyam Trungpa

  37. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm | |

    boubi,

    My own experience is that, after a while when I’ve settled down in zazen, the thoughts that lay claim to sense perceptions and emotions which usually cause me to react in my habitual ways unhook from each other: so I may have a feeling of discomfort, but there is no thought claiming it as ‘mine’ that will create a subsequent reaction; or I may have a thought that I would usually think on and make into ‘my story’, but there is no one there to do that.

    Who then is doing the thinking and feeling? After a while the whole notion of a supervisor or organizer identity just fades into a clear, restful awareness, pretty much like you say I think.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  38. Fred
    Fred May 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm | |

    “So anytime someone uses some second intention humor to enhance the laughability of someone else, he becomes passive aggressive, if he says straight away “you’re a wiener” you’re gross, so everything that isn’t liked get stuffed and muffled.”

    This is still P-A

  39. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm | |

    I’m really not practicing lately, due to problems in this low world of samsara.

    But i think i’ll open a school being an aloft master shooting some crap about higher states and antique wisdom, enough to make a living, i’m not looking for a personal jet, pay the bills should be just right.

  40. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm | |

    Kind of Ben Kinsley in Iron Man, would do it for me LOL

  41. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 3:18 pm | |

    “I’m really not practicing lately, due to problems in this low world of samsara.”

    Well, good luck with that. I know how it goes out there/in here.

    I can’t not practice zazen now, it makes me edgy if I miss a day. Maybe I should be diagnosed with Compulsive Meditation Syndrome or something, to add to my fine collection of syndromes.

    Regards,

    H.

    1. boubi
      boubi May 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm | |

      Yeah, watch for the white van and the bulky white clad guys with the oversized butterfly nets! They usually are just outside the door, trying to look unsconspicious.

      And there are also the “agents” they get a percent of the drugs they force you to gulp down (i spit them), they are the worst, they see you in the crowd and shout some mental illness name at you pointing their finger, it gets scary nowaday. Already lost some friends this way.

      Watch out !

  42. boubi
    boubi May 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm | |

    OK so i’m P-A, so what?

    Some others are just pompous wind breakers.

    Who is without sin please throw the first stone, and close the door behind unless others deranged get inside.

  43. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 3:29 pm | |

    I feel a howl coming on…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p_kKhRmRkM

  44. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm | |

    Here’s one of the comments from Youtube on that:

    “This is disgusting. Only a sick mind would take the scribblings of this madman communist faggot seriously. Pure filth!!”

    …Maybe our modes of communication aren’t so bad after all. :-)

  45. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm | |

    Harry, you are the man of the moment:

    “It might help discussion if people were more explicit and indicated what they are referring too when criticizing other peoples’ inferior practice, excessive pomposity etc. In the absence of this it can across as the rather unpleasant passive-aggressive thing you have on Buddhist discussion sites where it’s as if making sweeping statements is in some way ‘Buddhistly superior’ to just openly criticizing the target of our evangelical Dharmic wrath.”

    Harry, I take no one’s word for what was Gautama’s teaching apart from Gautama in the sermon volumes of the Pali Canon. Even his students to my ear had slightly different takes in their understanding of what Gautama taught (Sariputta and some of the others who are quoted less frequently than Sariputta). I would say there is one essential characteristic of the meditative states, and that is a singularity of mind that is not fixed in location; everyone can experience this singularity of mind (that shifts) when they are dropping off to sleep (and what is it that is dropped?).

    Yes, seems like I read something about five ranks, thanks for the reminder, and I’ve certainly seen and enjoyed the ox-herding pictures even with the Japanese additions.

    Sawaki hits me right where I live. But I don’t want to be Sawaki. I’m convinced we can make the teaching accessible to everyone, and that’s because I can see that I can make it accessible to myself.

    Who’s in.

  46. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote May 19, 2013 at 4:13 pm | |

    Love, love, love! Some people will do anything for love:

    “he will lose his life,
    he will lose his wife,
    he will lose his mind for it;
    some guys will do anything for love.”

    Bonnie Hayes, local singer/songwriter, of Bonnie Hayes and the Punts

  47. HarryB
    HarryB May 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm | |

    Mark,

    I take your point, but I don’t consider a teaching invalid because it did not come from the mouth of the Head Honcho. Hearing some of the Theravadan textual purists damn ‘inferior’ suttas and commentaries (and everything and everyone arising from them) simply on the assumption that they are not from the batch that *may* have come from the Bossman really doesn’t wash with me. Frankly, I think people since the Buddha have expressed his message as well as, or better, than he *may* have. So, in terms of the validity of stuff, supposed ‘authenticity’ doesn’t strike me as a particularly strong criteria.

    And talking about things the Buddha didn’t say: Did you ever look at the whole dream yoga (Tibetan traditions, both Bon and Bon/Buddhist) or ‘lucid dreaming’ as it’s called in non-traditional parlance?

    The whole thing of it is to retain a level of awareness while ‘dropping off’… can take a bit of getting used to as the body-mind has all sorts of strategies to check if it can switch off and make a person lose awareness (involuntary movements that you have to keep still through if you want the body to sleep while remaining aware etc), and the hypnogogic hallucinations approaching and after sleep paralysis can be pretty wild when you are ‘there’ to check them out.

    Interesting practice. It’s an area that interested me before I ever started digging around in Buddhism.

    Regards,

    Harry.

  48. My_name_is_Daniel
    My_name_is_Daniel May 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm | |

    I find it interesting (for lack of a better word) that such a simple practice can somehow blossom into page after page of…this. I mean, I understand how it gets to these points, but it happens so consistently. Le’sigh.

    I also feel just a wee bit bad for Brad, with all the analyzing his person goes through. I mean, he’s just a dude.. seriously.

    Practice is simple. Simple, simple, simple. It’s all so simple but so easily misconstrued and overcomplicated.

    I’d suggest to those who haven’t to do the Summer Work Practice at Tassajara or something similar. If you haven’t already, get some real, steady, thorough practice under your belt. Surround yourself with practitioners, teachers and the like. Live it for a few months.

    It’s quite simple. Really.

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