What Would That Guy Have Been Like Without the Meditation?

In the previous installment I wrote about spiritual teachers who went bad and asked, “If all that monastic training didn’t even teach him it’s wrong to screw somebody else’s wife, which is something most people without such monastic training know, then what good is it?”

Often when someone starts talking this way I think, “Yeah, but I wonder what that guy would’ve been like if he hadn’t done all the meditation and training?”

In cases where the person is accused of doing something really heinous, like murdering somebody or abusing a child (thankfully nobody in contemporary Zen stands accused of these crimes, but others in other meditation-oriented movements have been) or just plain nasty like forcing themselves sexually upon students, it’s pretty hard to take that stance. But a lot of the time far more subtle things trigger the attitude of saying that meditation practice didn’t do someone any good.

To take myself as an example, it happens a lot that I’ll write something on this blog that people read as being kind of grumpy or angry or otherwise what they would categorize as negative. So they put up comments implying that all those decades of zazen don’t seem to have done Brad much good if he still gets pissy about certain things.

You should’ve seen me before I started doing all that zazen! Or maybe you should be glad you didn’t.

Zazen has not altered my basic personality. I’m kind of grumpy, pessimistic and misanthropic by nature. I was shunned by the cool kids at school, picked on because I was a weirdo, bullied, threatened, intimidated and all the rest of that good stuff by the rednecks of Wadsworth, Ohio where I grew up. As such I do not socialize well and I am generally suspicious of people even when they attempt to be nice to me. Someone recently said to me, “Your books have touched a lot of people.” I responded by saying, “Yeah, probably inappropriately!” That’s how an antisocial curmudgeon like me deals with compliments.

Zen practice does not change what you are. Ed Brown, a Zen teacher at San Francisco Zen Center, wrote a brilliant essay about this for Shambhala Sun called “Have You Tried Meditation?” Go read it for free on line. It says what I’m trying to say here much better than I can. Ed Brown is, like me, basically a cranky sort of fellow. Forty-some years of Zen practice has not changed that.

I often wonder what sort of person I’d have grown into if I hadn’t signed up for that calls about Zen I took when I was a sophomore at Kent State University. I was not happy with myself or with the world in general. I was full of anger and resentment and fear. I figured the planet was on the highway to hell and it was just a matter of time before someone pushed “The Button” and blew us all to smithereens. I fully expected to be dead before I was thirty years old. And that just made me more pissed off and pessimistic.

Had I not found ways of dealing with this stuff through zazen practice, I’m sure the results would have been a lot worse than me being a guy who sometimes writes grumpy things on the Interwebs. I got pretty suicidal there for a while and came pretty close to going through with it on a couple of occasions. I’m glad I didn’t because all the truly cool things that have happened in my life happened after those times I decided the best possible option was to kill myself. But, then again, I’d been doing zazen by then and maybe that also played a role in keeping me from committing suicide.

So the question for me when I hear someone criticizing me or someone else for not living up to their expectations of what a person who practiced a lot of zazen ought to be like is to ask, “What if they hadn’t done it at all?” Comparing it with my own speculations about myself, I generally assume things would have been a whole lot worse.

***

Brad is at Tassajara until September 11th. He does not have Internet access there so his friend Jayce is posting these articles he wrote before he left. Nevertheless, the donation button and the store still work. Just in case you were wondering.

134 Responses

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  1. buddy
    buddy August 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm | |

    Oops, in brackets it should have included my main point, ‘more often than not, exploiting people in THIS lifetime’.

  2. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 28, 2012 at 4:50 am | |

    Broken Yogi,

    With all due respect…

    Reincarnation?!

    Are you fucking joking?!

    The philosophically revolutionary concept of anatman, no self, is fundamental to Buddhism, even more so to Zen Buddhism, and is irreconcilably contradictory to reincarnation! What the fuck would get reincarnated?!

    Please stop cluttering Brad’s blog with your long-winded, illogical, irrational, superstitious, supernatural, unsubstantiated, unjustifiable, non-Zen, non-Buddhist nonsense that belongs on some neo-vedantic Oprah Chopra blog.

    No offense, just hitting you with the verbal kyosaku because you really, really need it. You are not the only one, just the worst recent offender. The rest of you self-proclaimed gurus should also cut the bullshit.

  3. Ted
    Ted August 28, 2012 at 6:20 am | |

    Bouby, all of those things you describe, genetics, ancestry and so on, are just forms of luck, in the sense that you had nothing to do with themyou just got them because of the circumstances of your birth.

    BY, a bliss that is indescribably better than the highest heaven sounds a whole lot like bliss to me. Your notion that the bliss of the highest heaven *causes harm* is what I am disputing here. How is it that these supposed heavenly creatures, enjoying their bliss that is nothing like the bliss of nirvana, are hurting others? How is it that a bliss so much greater than that, the bliss of nirvana, does not similarly cause harm? Can you explain?

  4. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 28, 2012 at 10:02 am | |

    Grand Canyon,

    “The philosophically revolutionary concept of anatman, no self, is fundamental to Buddhism, even more so to Zen Buddhism, and is irreconcilably contradictory to reincarnation! What the fuck would get reincarnated?!”

    The cravings.

    Buddha’s answer to this question was the cycle of dependent origination. Anatman does indeed mean that there is no self which gets reincarnated. But that also means that there is no self right now, even though you I’m sure do feel that you are incarnated right now. How is that possible? Forget about reincarnation, explain to me how you imagine yourself to be incarnated as this body and mind in the present, if there is no such thing?

    Answer that question, and understanding reincarnation is a breeze. It’s just the continuation of that illusion of self through the cycles of birth and death. No different than the continuation of that illusion through the cycles of childhood, adulthood, and old age. Or just the cycles of each day.

  5. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 28, 2012 at 10:04 am | |

    And, sure, when Brad tells me to beat it, I’ll be more than happy to go. For now, the discussion is fun. If you don’t like it, don’t read my posts. It’s not like I’m asking you for donations!

  6. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 28, 2012 at 10:36 am | |

    Ted,

    “BY, a bliss that is indescribably better than the highest heaven sounds a whole lot like bliss to me.”

    Sure. As Buddha said,

    No earthly pleasure,
    No heavenly bliss
    Equals one infinitesimal fraction
    Of the bliss of the cessation of craving.

    “Your notion that the bliss of the highest heaven *causes harm* is what I am disputing here.”

    It’s not the bliss that causes harm, it’s the craving for that bliss that does. Bliss that is the result of craving is perpetuating craving, and thus dukkha. It doesn’t last, and even while it lasts, it is deluding.

    Think of heroin. Incredibly blissful, no? And yet, very harmful, because shooting heroin just perpetuates the craving addiction to heroin, and even the bliss just deludes the addict into not seeing the craving suffering at the root of his blissful addiction. The whole cycle of craving just degrades us, no matter how high a bliss we achieve in the process.

    “How is it that these supposed heavenly creatures, enjoying their bliss that is nothing like the bliss of nirvana, are hurting others?”

    They are perpetuating the craving for bliss, which has a downside, just like heroin addiction does. They are making the bondage to the wheel of addiction to craving stronger, not weaker. They are fueling the machine of dukkha. They are delusional if the think otherwise.

    “How is it that a bliss so much greater than that, the bliss of nirvana, does not similarly cause harm? Can you explain?”

    Yes. Bliss is not itself the problem. Craving is. Bliss that is not the result of craving, but which is merely our unadulterated true nature, unconditioned by craving, shining by its own light, does no harm. It frees us and all who come in contact with it. It does not bind us as an addiction does. It is not a temporary high, because it is not the product of any craving manipulation of our conditions. It is not part of the cycle of causes and effects, driven by ignorance. It is simply free.

    The paradox is that by ceasing to crave, we find a much greater bliss than we can achieve by our active craving for bliss. Understanding that is wisdom. Living that is enlightenment.

  7. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 28, 2012 at 11:38 am | |

    Broken Yogi,

    OK, so you believe that “an illusion” gets reincarnated.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    It’s still complete bullshit, though.

  8. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm | |

    Grand Canyon,

    If an illusion can write posts on this blog, tell me why it couldn’t reincarnate?

    Every night I go to sleep, and enter a dream world. How can I do that, if I’m an illusion?

    As for reincarnation, the Buddha had no problem accepting it as just a part of our lives. He saw no contradiction between reincarnation and anatman. Why do you?

  9. BruceLee
    BruceLee August 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm | |

    Guys I think it might be a good time to move over to Brads new post about nerddom.

  10. buddy
    buddy August 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm | |

    Ted, first of all, ‘all of those things you describe, genetics, ancestry and so on, are just forms of luck, in the sense that you had nothing to do with themyou just got them because of the circumstances of your birth.’ Exactly, that’s what I said. I’m assuming from your tone and context that you think that somehow this strengthens your argument in favour of reincarnation. If so, I don’t see the logic.

    Secondly, this is the 2nd time (that I’ve noticed) you responding to one of my comments as if I were Boubi. As Buddhism is fundamentally a practice of awareness, maybe you should spend less time in philosophical speculation and more time paying attention to what’s in front of you. ;)

  11. Ted
    Ted August 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm | |

    Boubi, I am not arguing in favor of reincarnation, but in favor of the body of teachings that is Buddhism.

    (In answer to your question about mindfulness, what’s actually going on is that comments come fast and furious, and the reply box is often distant from the comment to which I am replying, so sometimes my memory takes over, and of course it’s imperfect. But you knew who I was talking about, so it worked out ok.)

  12. buddy
    buddy August 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm | |

    You called me Boubi again.

  13. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 29, 2012 at 2:51 am | |

    “If an illusion can write posts on this blog, tell me why it couldnt reincarnate?”
    Illusions do not write or reincarnate. Illusions occur and that is the extent of their activity. Reincarnation is an illusory or delusional concept.

    “Every night I go to sleep, and enter a dream world. How can I do that, if Im an illusion?”
    You do not go to sleep and you do not enter a dream world. Sleep occurs. Dreams occur. Illusions occur.

    “As for reincarnation, the Buddha had no problem accepting it as just a part of our lives. He saw no contradiction between reincarnation and anatman. Why do you?”
    The Buddha either correctly did not accept reincarnation and some scriptures are inaccurate or he mistakenly accepted it and failed to see the contradiction. I’m less concerned with what the Buddha allegedly said and more concerned with what is real and true.

  14. anon 108
    anon 108 August 29, 2012 at 4:35 am | |

    “If an illusion can write posts on this blog, tell me why it couldnt reincarnate?”

    A living organism reading and writing posts on a blog is not an illusion. That such an organism experiences a sense of self is not an illusion either, but that fact does not provide proof of the existence of a self independent of the body. The existence of an immaterial spirit/self inhabiting an otherwise inert body which, liberated at death, is free to re-incarnate in another otherwise inert body _may be_ an illusion.

  15. anon 108
    anon 108 August 29, 2012 at 4:39 am | |

    Here’s an attempt to clear up some of the confusion around ‘self/no self’ which makes sense to me:

    http://www.dogensangha.org.uk/PDF/theoryofnoself.pdf

  16. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 29, 2012 at 5:17 am | |

    Broken Yogi,

    Are you confusing the words “illusion” and “phenomenon”?
    All illusions are phenomena, but not all phenomena are illusions.

  17. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 29, 2012 at 5:53 am | |

    Anon 108,

    Thank you for all of your comments on Brad’s posts and for remaining a voice of reason in a wilderness of absurdity. It seems like after Brad started this new blog the conversations have mostly been pedantic debates about scriptural minutiae, Buddhist esoterica, and personal manifestos. That’s why I usually only skim the comments and limit my involvement. I don’t want to spend all day challenging ridiculous assertions and thereby encouraging additional clutter. Do you know what happened to that other reasonable man, John E. Mumbles? I either haven’t seen any of his posts or I don’t recognize his comments under his new user name.

    Uncle Willie

  18. anon 108
    anon 108 August 29, 2012 at 6:45 am | |

    Hey Willie!

    Thanks. And I know what you mean.

    You prompted me to look on HCZ.blogspot for other missed former contributor’s names to credit*, and straight away I came across this, from May 12th 2012:

    “john e mumbles said…

    “If I knew of a way to translate hits on my blog into something concrete like money, maybe I would care.”

    So all you care about is the money. You are exactly like the other “spiritual masters” you criticize.

    Cancel my subscription to Tricycle.

    I am so done with this bullshit.
    1:05 PM”

    I’m pretty sure that’s the last we saw of him. I guess he meant it. I miss him and others, too. Good to know you’re still here!

    *decided not to be specific.

  19. Ted
    Ted August 29, 2012 at 7:58 am | |

    Buddy: it’s a joke, son! A joke!

  20. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 29, 2012 at 8:52 am | |

    Grand Canyon,

    Yes, I think there’s a confusion about ‘illusion’ and ‘phenomena’.

    The phenomenal self is not just the physical body, but the mental, emotional, subtle , and causal body. Anatman states that these phenomena do not actually constitute a ‘self’ as some kind of independent entity, but only a mindstream of vasanas and samskaras, which can be summarized as cravings. What we not only call a ‘self’, but feel and experience and assume ourselves to be in any ordinary moment, is just an illusion of all these cravings trying to sustain and fulfill themselves. It doesn’t matter how deep we look into the psyche, we will never find an actual ‘self’ or atman there.

    As for reincarnation, whether it’s real or not is something to investigate. I don’t see how you can know whether it’s real without fully investigating the phenomena. But it’s important to understand that the Buddhist concept of reincarnation is different from the traditional Hindu one, in which a distinct and immortal soul or ‘atman’ reincarnates in various bodies, while yet remaining distinct from those bodies, like a man trying on various outfits at a clothing store, depending on his karmas or vasanas.

    The Buddha’s concept of reincarnation is that there is no such immortal self, and that the Hindus misunderstand how reincarnation actually works. What we have instead of an immortal self is a mass of vasanas and samskaras, what he would call cravings, each of which has its particular vector in the psyche. These manifest not merely as physical bodies, but as psychic, mental, emotional, subtle, and causal bodies. The body itself in whatever world it appears is not itself some entity either. It too is just a collection of phenomenal vectors, always changing and interacting, producing the illusion of a self when we are ignorant of its real nature.

    So in the Buddha’s concept of reincarnation, there is no self that reincarnates, there is only the continuation of these various karmic vectors. In our ignorance, we assume that there must be a self of some kind that reincarnates, but he makes it clear that’s not what’s actually going on. When we see reincarnation that way, we are just imposing the same illusion on that process that we do on our everyday life in this world.

    It’s important to understand what you are criticizing. You are criticizing the traditional Hindu viewpoint on reincarnation, not the Buddhist viewpoint. Whether reincarnation itself is actually a real phenomena is another argument altogether. If you think it’s bullshit, fine. But you really ought to explain why you think it’s bullshit, rather than just assert it and assume it ought to be obvious. It’s not obvious to me that it’s bullshit. I think there’s plenty of good reasons to accept it as a real phenomena, even if many assumptions about how it works are false or distorted. I think that unless one takes an extreme materialist view of life, reincarnation is definitely a very real possibility. Finding out how real it is takes a fair amount of investigation, I would grant you. I just don’t see the sense in unilaterally making declarations about its reality one way or the other.

  21. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 29, 2012 at 9:10 am | |

    Anon108,

    “A living organism reading and writing posts on a blog is not an illusion. That such an organism experiences a sense of self is not an illusion either, but that fact does not provide proof of the existence of a self independent of the body. The existence of an immaterial spirit/self inhabiting an otherwise inert body which, liberated at death, is free to re-incarnate in another otherwise inert body _may be_ an illusion.”

    Again, you are critiquing the traditional Hinud concept of reincarnation, not the Buddhist concept. The Buddhist understanding of reincarnation does not require an immaterial spirit/self inhabiting an inert body, animating it into life, which then departs and re-animates into another body, rinse and repeat. It sees the phenomenal self as an illusion that is merely the sum of all the various constituent factors of the body-mind.

    What makes reincarnation possible is the simple fact this phenomenal body-mind has many aspects deeper than the merely material to it. It is not only constituted of physical atoms and energy, but of subtler, psychic, causal, and deeper aspects. Thus, even if the physical aspect comes to an end, these deeper aspects continue on by sheer momentum. These deeper aspects form bodies of their own, which are also phenomenal in nature, but constituted of non-material forces. And from that, we have the illusion of a “deeper self” also. After death, this deeper self may seems to us to be real, even our ‘real self’, but that is just as illusory as our present assumption that our physical body is a real self.

    Buddha’s criticism of the ‘self’ illusion applies at every level, both at the material level and the subtle. That doesn’t mean that the phenomenal appearance of either the material or subtle bodies is an illusion. Thus, reincarnation to the Buddha was a real phenomenal process that had been misunderstood as reflecting an immortal, immaterial self, whereas even if one examined the immaterial self, one would find that the phenomena attributed to the self was really appearing, but that no actual self could be found within those phenomena.

    That insight is what collapses the whole round of birth and death, in Buddha’s view. It frees us from the illusion of a self that needs to be satisfied. Hence, it also frees us from the need to crave satisfaction. It doesn’t mean that the phenomenal appearances of all these bodies and realms disappears, however. It doesn’t mean that reincarnation is an unreal process, it only means that reincarnation as a process that involves a self of some kind is simply not how it works. And when the whole cycle of dependent origination falls apart because we are no longer feeding it the illusions of the craving self, then even reincarnation no longer has any necessity. That’s how the cycle of birth and death is ended. Not by denying its existence.

  22. anon 108
    anon 108 August 29, 2012 at 10:03 am | |

    BY, my comment (A living organism” etc) was specifically and solely addressed to this question of yours, raised in the context of your earlier exchange with TGC: If an illusion [from the earlier context, I assume you must mean a 'self'] can write posts on this blog, tell me why it couldnt reincarnate? IMO, it’s you who posited an allegedly illusory self that can post on blogs and equated it with a similarly illusory and _separate_ self that can ‘re-incarnate’. I hoped to point out the falsity of your premise. Your reply has me thinking I may have succeeded. But I’m not at all sure…LOL. I am sure, though, that we are already mis-communicating.

    Cherry-picking, point-missing and mis-communication like this has characterised many recent conversations on this blog. Forgive me, but I’m going to butt out of this one before I fall into the trap myself. I’m sure it’s very easy to do.

  23. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm | |

    anon108,

    The whole point of my original comment was that not having an intrinsic self doesn’t prevent any of the ordinary activities of life, such as posting comments on blogs, so why should it prevent reincarnation? Yes, the self-illusion persists from day to day, year to year, and from childhood to old age. Why shouldn’t such an illusion persist from life to life? Just because the self is unreal, doesn’t mean that the underlying phenomenal process that has been falsely interpreted as constituting a self is also unreal. In other words, anatman doesn’t mean reincarnation can’t exist. (It doesn’t mean it must exist either).

    And sure, I may not have made myself perfectly clear the first time around. Or you assumed I was talking about one thing, when I was actually talking about something quite different. Let’s not presume bad faith on each other’s part. I’m certainly not trying to cherry pick, and I presume that your own misunderstandings of me are honest ones. Communicating about these things can be hard. That’s not a reason to give up on the conversation.

  24. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm | |

    Broken Yogi,

    “The phenomenal self is not just the physical body, but the mental, emotional, subtle, and causal body.”

    I agree with about 60% of that statement. Most people would probably agree that the “phenomenal self” includes the physical body. Most of them would agree that it also includes the actions of the physical body. I would classify consciousness, emotions and other mental activities as emergent phenomena of the brain which would still be included in the category of “actions of the physical body”. I would classify “subtle and causal” bodies as hypotheses that have not been observed or demonstrated and are not logically sound.

    “So in the Buddhas concept of reincarnation, there is no self that reincarnates, there is only the continuation of these various karmic vectors.”

    So, accepting for the sake of argument that these “various karmic vectors” exist and that when they incarnate they are not “really” a “self” and when they reincarnate they are still not “really” a “self” and are not the same “various karmic vectors” that were present when the first “self” incarnated, I still don’t see that version of reincarnation as any more valid than the Hindu version. There is no “re” of any kind in that “incarnation”.

    “After death, this deeper self may seem to us to be real, even our real self, but that is just as illusory as our present assumption that our physical body is a real self. ”

    I would agree that the hypothesis of “this deeper self” composed of “subtler, psychic, causal, and deeper aspects” is illusory due to the lack of observation, demonstration and logical soundness. And if it cannot be observed, demonstrated, logically inferred or deduced how would one even be aware that it existed? Because some old book says so? Because someone had a hallucination while they were meditating? A physical body may not be a “real self” but the flaw is simply a mental error of imposing an artificial construct called “self” upon a “real” physical body and the activities of that body.

    I suspect that we probably agree about more than we disagree and that our differences in expression may give an exaggerated appearance of opposition. However, it seems to me that you might be painting some unnecessary legs on your painted snakes. :)

  25. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm | |

    Grand Canyon,

    Reincarnation is of course a tricky subject in the modern age because it relies upon the supposition that the material world is not the foundation of reality, but an appearance within a larger sphere of consciousness and awareness. That’s what the ancient world view was, in essence, and the arguments between Buddhists and Hindus and Taosists and so on were about the details and philosophical implications of that worldview, not its basic validity.

    In the modern scientific age, that whole worldview has been cast into doubt by a lot of people, especially those of a materialist bent, and who only look at material evidence (a tautology) to support their own worldview. But let’s not pretend there is no evidence for both the subtle bodies and realms, and for reincarnation itself. It’s not just a mythology, it’s something that a lot of high-level meditators through the ages have experience of, including one presumes the Buddha and many of his disciples.

    It’s a fine line between arguing from authority, and arguing from wisdom, and the experience of those who seem to have wisdom. Many Buddhists have no actual experience of the subtle, or of reincarnation, but they rely on the testimony of others who supposedly do. Others, like yourself, seem to just reject the whole deal as an obvious mythology.

    My own view is that if we examine our own mind closely, we can see that it’s already founded in a subtle dimension, and is not merely an emergent phenomena of the brain. But your view clearly differs. Which is correct? Hard to prove one way or the other.

    I do wonder if you’ve ever looked at any of the modern, semi-scientific and psychological investigations into reincarnation and the afterlife, such as Drs. Michael Newton, Weiss, Stevenson, Tucker and others? The evidence they put together is quite compelling, in my view, if not definitive. Materialists can always try to argue that everything, all evidence, can simply be reduced to material causes, but I don’t think that flies. Whatever reincarnation actually is, I think it’s a real phenomena, even if there’s much mythology covering over the underlying reality of it. And that’s not just my opinion. That doesn’t make it true, but it does make it something more than just “bullshit”.

  26. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon August 30, 2012 at 3:26 am | |

    Broken Yogi,

    “My own view is that if we examine our own mind closely, we can see that its already founded in a subtle dimension, and is not merely an emergent phenomena of the brain. But your view clearly differs. Which is correct? Hard to prove one way or the other.”

    Maybe it’s turtles. Turtles all the way down.

    ?_?

  27. anon 108
    anon 108 August 30, 2012 at 6:00 am | |

    Carrying on…

    What makes sense to me about the view of self/no-self in the article I linked in the last thread is that a number of ways of looking at ‘self’ are offered. Not one definitive answer, but different perspectives. Summarising the article…

    We can say there is -

    1) A mentally constructed self. A construction formed from our memories of the past, and imaginings of the future. When I believe that my image of myself is real, I am believing in a mental construction, since the me of my childhood is no longer present, and the me of next year has yet to materialise.

    2) A physical self. My body is me. I am my body. I experience myself physically. I define who I am when I look at myself in the mirror, when I feel my own body with its own unique form: This is certainly me!

    3) The acting (no-)self. In the present moment of acting, there is no time in which to reflect on the mental image of myself that I hold. From this third viewpoint, we can say that both constructed self and physical self disappear. There is no self separate from the circumstances in which I am acting.

    4) The existential self. Although the constructed self, and the physical self disappear in action, I am real. There is a real person acting in a real place. If I hit my hand, it hurts. If I trip, I fall. This is my real self, the me that really exists at this moment.

    As far as I’m aware, Gotama Buddha, bright lad that he was, didn’t fall into the trap of insisting (=never said) ‘there is no self’ or ‘there is a self’. We can speculate about the existence or non-existence of a ‘subtle’, permanent, self-existent self. We can examine notions of the self from mental, physical or momentary perspectives. But despite these various speculations and different viewpoints, there really exists what Luetchford calls the ‘existential self’. That’s the self – the ineffable totality of changing form and circumstance – that sits here thinking these thoughts, typing these words and wondering if any of it might be true.

  28. anon 108
    anon 108 August 30, 2012 at 6:10 am | |

    I thought I’d posted that on the new thread. But it better belongs here. So that’s good.

  29. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi August 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm | |

    Maybe it’s emptiness all the way down…

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