Before we get started, I’m looking for places along the East Coast of these here United States to give talks, lead retreats, show the movie about me, play 0DFx gigs maybe, eat pad thai and just generally hang out.
There’s been some interest expressed by folks down south, in Nashville, Atlanta, Richmond, Asheville… Places like that. Maybe I could do a brain boiling Southern Summer Tour.
Or I could be smarter and head up north to avoid some of the summer heat in Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo, Saskatoon…
It’s all up to who invites me.
Also, the weekend of April 26-27, I will be in the Boston area. Does anybody want to set up a talk or something while I’m there?
And I’m still looking for a regular gig in Philadelphia.
Send your inquiries to email@example.com
I am happy to consider a huge range of things. I’ve spoken at Zen Centers, tattoo parlors, people’s living rooms, etc. I’ve run retreats in places that were specifically designed for meditation retreats and I’ve done them at yoga studios, apartments, libraries, etc.
* * *
Yesterday I came across a short YouTube video that I found intriguing. Here it is:
The title was “Math Professor DESTROYS Atheist.” I often click on videos with titles like this because I find them endearingly stupid. Nearly anything with a title ending in “OWNS Atheist” or “DESTROYS Atheist” is bound to be silly. The use of ALL CAPS clue you in that it’ll be especially inane. The various arguments that religious fundamentalist think absolutely prove God exists are usually so ridiculous and full of logical holes that I find myself wondering how anyone finds them compelling.
This one isn’t really that great either. It’s a bit more clever than most, though. A number of commenters on the clip say that the math prof is using something they call the “Ignorance Fallacy.” I had to look that up. Here’s what I found. It says, “an ignorance fallacy occurs when a person mistakenly believes something to be true that is not, because he or she does not know enough about the subject to know otherwise. For example, an argument based on stereotype or hasty generalization is an example of ignorance fallacy. Such an argument is persuasive because the audience is ignorant.”
I’m not sure I see how the math prof’s argument is based on that (and none of the commenters who call it that seem to believe they need to say more than those two words). The flaw I find in it is that he says a creative mind can create a universe out of nothing. But this creative mind wouldn’t be creating a universe out of nothing since the creative mind itself would have to exist prior to the universe it created. So that’s not nothing. At best it’s a creative mind floating around in nothingness.
All the arguments for the existence of God that I’ve come across fall apart at this point, if not before. If everything needs a creator, which these guys often say proves God must exist, then who created God? And if God has existed forever, what the hell was he doing before he created the universe? It must have been awfully boring.
Logical arguments for the existence of God are really only useful for providing cheap entertainment. Yet I believe in God. If you want to know why read my latest book.
But what our math professor says about “mind” got me thinking about the fundamental difference between the Buddhist idea of mind and our usual idea of mind. The math prof in the video says that the orderliness of mathematics points to the existence of a mind behind it.
I’ve seen a lot of non-religious people say things that are somewhat similar. We may not believe in God, at least not the kind of God who creates universes because he’s bored, but it is intriguing that the universe is orderly rather than chaotic. That’s a valid mystery. Solving that mystery by envisioning a gigantic white man who decided to make things orderly is silly. But just because that’s not a valid solution doesn’t make the mystery any less mysterious.
The thing about our usual concept of mind is that mind is always paired with a possessor. It’s my mind, your mind, Frank’s mind, Linda’s mind, etc. It’s difficult for us to picture a mind that isn’t possessed by someone. So if there is a mind at work in the fabric of the universe, it has to be someone’s. And the only someone who could have a mind that big would be God. God is the someone who possesses the mind that created the universe.
The Buddhist notion of mind, though, is often presented in the sutras as not having anyone who possesses it. It’s not the mind of God or Buddha. It’s just mind. And mind is not the creator of the universe. It’s an aspect of it.
Buddhist cosmology is almost topsy-turvy of the way we usually envision how stuff works. The 12-fold chain of co-dependent co-origination goes:
1. Ignorance (avidya 無明)
2. Action (samskara 行)
3. Consciousness (vijnana 識)
4. Name and Form (nama-rupa 名色)
5. Senses (sadayatana 六入)
6. Contact (sparsa 触)
7. Feeling (vedana 受)
8. Love (tirshna 愛)
9. Taking (upadana 取)
10. Existence (bhava 有)
11. Birth (jati 生)
12. Aging and Death (jaramarana 老死)
Consciousness, which most people I know identify with mind, is #3 on this list. Most religious folks or New Agers would put it as Big #1 and probably call it God or Mind or even (gak!) Big Mind™. But Buddhism doesn’t give it that coveted spot. Even in the formulation of the Five Skandhas, which are the constituents of what we call a person as well as what we call the universe, consciousness is way on the end (Form, Feelings, Perceptions, Impulses, Consciousness). (You can read more about the 12-fold chain in my book Sit Down and Shut Up, and about the Five Skandhas in Hardcore Zen, by the way)
So I feel like our mathematician is onto something. But he gets it wrong. It’s not that there is a mind behind the universe and its creation. Yet it is reasonable to include mind in with the other things that make up the universe.
Because we have a very mechanistic view of things and because we think that a mind is always possessed by a someone, it’s hard for us to come to terms with the idea that mind is part of things. We falter and say that if there is a mind it has to be someone’s mind but we can’t rationally come up with any someone who could have a mind like that. All the someones that we can posit who would be of that order of size, age and complexity also turn out to be kind of ridiculous when we examine them in any detail.
I think our mathematician is at least partially correct. There is a mind involved in all of this. It’s just not someone’s mind. The mind that we each imagine that we individually possess, that we imagine is ours and ours alone, turns out not to belong to us at all. It doesn’t belong to anyone. But we know it exists because… well, otherwise who is reading these words?
* * *
I wouldn’t mind some donations (see what I did there?). This blog is free but my rent and electricity are not. Your donations help me survive. Thank you!
Registration is now open for our Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center May 9-11, 2014
The events page is now updated! Take a look at where I’m gonna be!
You can see the documentary about me, Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen, at the following locations:
• April 17, 2014 Los Angeles, CA
• April 20, 2014 San Francisco, CA