I have begun revising the Treatise (Treatise of Zandtao). Whilst these small revisions are not going to be online for a while I should note that HHSR has been removed together with references to reincarnation. I have been studying Nagarjuna a bit– as being a link between what is Theravada (supposedly the original Buddha’s teachings and Zen/Tibetan). Reincarnation is really a Hindu belief that has become part of Buddhism according to Buddhadasa – I like that for the reasons that it explains the origin (Hindu India) of the belief and that proving reincarnation seems not to be possible. It is usually assigned to one of the Buddha’s unanswered questions. I was unsure of a lot of the references to unanswered questions, here is a summary that is from one of the Theravada suttas SN 44 explaining why the questions are not answered.
I am more concerned about Nagarjuna’s dependence on faith, I noticed this in the letter to the king in “The Good-hearted Letter” Section Two. Let me start by saying that faith is something I do not have. But before I get into that I want to surmise why Nagarjuna needed faith, and that is his belief in reincarnation. How can you accept reincarnation unless through faith because there is no way you can assert it through experience; having said that I cannot explain stories such as these without finding some disguised way of saying they are lies; the stories are not sufficient evidence to support reincarnation – just sufficient to create doubts. But for me the world is paradoxical enough to accept “exceptions to the rule”. But it matters not, I have not experienced it so I don’t accept it for myself.
Faith is a requirement for reincarnation yet it my view that the Buddha never asked us to have faith in him – or anything. Based on the Kalama Sutta, AN3, it is my contention that the Buddha asked us not to believe him but to come to some kind of personal conviction through experience that what he said is true. I often think of this as internalising an idea by deeply knowing it as a truth – or even experiencing the idea as an insight. Faith says here is a dogma, believe it – in other words here is a mindset, believe it. Are holy books factual? Or are they allegorical to bring home certain spiritual truths? My own view is the second, you must decide for yourself what is important.
This issue of “holding to a mindset” has been alluded to throughout the treatise, and is central to a perspective on conditioning. In an earlier chapter of the Treatise I looked at the book “The Four Agreements” demonstrating that we grow up with mindsets which we agree with because they are custom and practise for our societies, in effect this mindset of agreements could be seen more sinisterly as conditioning. The way we grow up could be seen as making agreements with our parents and society, or it could be seen in a more passive way as conforming to that conditioning that our upbringing requires of us.
The dogmas of a faith are a mindset, the agency of accepting that mindset separates a faith from a set of ideas, and I question that agency. I don’t dismiss the agency, I have used the term “internalising” as an acceptable agency, and I would also see insight as legitimate – although I find it difficult to see how a whole faith could be determined through insight. Debating the agency of one’s faith is an individual journey for each person to undergo, but without a suitable agency one’s faith is simply a set of ideas – a dogma – a mindset. Accepting a mindset without appropriate deep enquiry is for me a mistake that many make. It happens as we start to unravel conditioning especially amongst the young who reject conditioning but then seek to replace it. There is a charismatic figure, David Icke, who has politically dissected much that is wrong with our society. There is a strong body of younger people who follow him. There are two issue that I contend with him. The first concerns the Illuminati. I have never investigated the Illuminati because I don’t know them so how can I ascertain the truth about them. Throughout this book I have discussed the 1%, and I have no doubt that these bourgeoisie control our corporatocracy through finance and influence. But I have no experience to suggest that these people are masons – they may well be. I do however believe that groups such as Bilderberg meet and exert influence on our society. However the control of the 1% is in my view through convergence of interest and influence based on their own conditioning rather than a concrete plan or planning meeting. Second are the lizards. The only lizards I have come across are the ones that scuttle across my living room leaving small shit everywhere. If there are aliens as lizards I can accept correction but it has to be verifiable by direct personal experience. Icke-ists accept and feel they have to accept the full mindset. This is based on our miseducation in which indoctrination through accepting mindsets, ideas and facts stuffed in our minds to pass exams, leads to one mindset being replaced by another once we start to see through our conditioning – discussed throughout in Matriellez.
However this aspect of our conditioning, our mindset-replacing tendency, needs to be seen for what it is – another part of our conditioning (education methods), and it is only when this additional aspect is replaced by complete enquiry can we say that we have overcome conditioning.
Isms are a good way to begin examining conditioning. Consider nationalism. Is this a good thing? Many education systems foster nationalism as this produces stability within a society. By saying your own society is better than others you are immediately creating a lesser society, a group of inferiors. Once you have people seen as less than you, it is very easy for manipulative groups to misuse media to create a war for profit – can we kill our own? If we are all seen as equal, all societies seen as equal, then such excuses for war disappear – we do not make war on ourselves. This of course is a fundamental democratic principle that all people have equal democratic rights.
Racism is another ism well worth examining. I was brought up a white middle-class racist, and was fortunate enough to learn about my racism by good black people being willing to teach me and tolerate the racism I grew up with. When I reflect on things that I have thought and even said, I am somewhat ashamed despite knowing they are sourced in conditioning – conforming to the custom and practise of the white middle-class I grew up with. I would recommend all people of privilege such as white privilege to seriously examine themselves. In my professional biography as part of my M Ed I included a discussion of anti-racist training (ART), and would encourage people to examine themselves through such training approaches.
As a male chauvinism is another ism that I was born with, and therefore grew up being sexist. As an adult I intellectually accepted equality but I am not sure I always practised it because of my desires. Society is undoubtedly chauvinist, and we are therefore continually bombarded with media that promotes sexism. As males, especially younger males in whom the desires are stronger, constant re-evaluation is required. For example, what is anorexia and bulimia? Are these psychological conditions that a few women suffer from? Or are they natural consequences of a sexist society that portrays women as sex objects based on a body image that it is almost impossible to maintain – a situation made far worse by the way Big Food manipulates our foods for profit so that maintaining our health is so difficult. Should women have equal rights in the workplace? Or just in workplaces that do not affect my promotion?
Antisemitism is a particularly interesting ism for those on the left. When you consider history there is no doubt that Jews have been persecuted culminating in the atrocity of the Nazi Holocaust. Following the situation that has happened in Palestine where the homeland of Israel was created, on the left there has been much support for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, oPt. Often that support has been vocal against Jews, is that antisemitic? At the same time there are wealthy Jews who could be called 1%, some such Jews have power in media. Is that then a Jewish conspiracy? I recommend a deep enquiry into one’s own antisemitism, and a suitable place to start are these 7 tenets of antisemitism.
Considering the ongoing barrage of media conditioning, enquiry is so important, it is integral that we continually re-evaluate our own conditioning because it is so easy to accept negative mindsets. When we add to this the dangers of attaching to mindsets once developed as insights the need for constant enquiry is a matter of ever-vigilance.
But we need to consider what is the purpose of this conditioning. It is conformity to what end. Certainly conformity is useful for providing a stable society but it does not begin to give a reason until we look at the 1%. They require a compliant and consuming workforce, they need consuming wage-slaves who can accept the various consequences of the current system such as climate change and wars for profits. Now the conditioning has a meaning because across the world we have people who accept working for money to pay the bills and consuming extras.
And where is the danger to this system? If for some reason the workforce refuses to be wage-slaves and discerningly decides not to waste money on consumerism. This is why so much effort is made to attack unions because when workers band together they demand the profits for themselves.
But more than unions they fear a unity of purpose, a unity of purpose that sees 99% working together for the interest of the Gaia – climate change, renewable energy, Dakota pipeline – and for the interests of all the people in the world – no wars for profits. Such division of peoples comes from nationalism – dividing nation against nation, racism diving white from black, sexism – dividing women from men, and antisemitism – dividing gentile from Jew.
Political unity in the interest of all peoples and for the interest of our planet is the way we can overcome the 1% manipulation of ourselves as consuming wage-slaves.
And unity or Oneness is what is sought through spiritual awareness. We are not separate people with individual interests, but we are One people with the interest of the One planet, our home. Even the very religions which are the systemic way of understanding this Oneness are used to separate. Wars have been fought with religion as an excuse yet religions when understood in depth seek only Oneness.
But what happens to people who seek Oneness, they become aware that we are not separate but One people. They transcend the separation and understand there is Unity. They overcome the conditioning that creates separation, they see through the delusion where we are conditioned as separate and accept the Unity.
This acceptance of Unity is usually associated with forms of bliss, and the transcendental process is often confused with the joy that people have during transcendence but the truth is that this transcendence happens when people end separation, when they end division, when they don’t accept the agreements their society and upbringing require of them, when they work to end their conditioning on all levels. Transcending conditioning is what brings Unity – anatta.
And this transcendence brings understanding on all levels. Once we throw off the shackles of our conditioning, by rejecting separation, by going beyond dogma and intellect, by fighting the hatred that comes with all the isms – often bringing wars with profits, by accepting Unity as Gaia where destroying the environment by climate change and industrial exploitation is understood as destroying ourselves. This is all transcendence. From the moment any part of our conditioning is questioned we begin transcendence. For some it remains political where the bliss is never experienced because new mindsets are clung to. For the spiritual the transcendental experience can bring with it bliss but instead of a mindset they cling to bliss and don’t move forward. But the process is the same – enquiry, removing the shackles that ignorance of our conditioning places on us bringing with it open minds that question, that naturally reject injustice, that reject climate exploitation, that want genuine peace, a peace that comes with the Unity of all peoples in Gaia.
This transcendence is what the three tenets of the Treatise of Zandtao are working towards. Healing the body so we do not become attached to the diseases that are a consequence of toxic intake whilst at the same time working with Gaia through whole foods that enable us to survive in harmony with nature. And the energy is the energy of Gaia of One planet. Once we open our minds and bodies to that energy that is Gaia then we begin to feel through that energy that this is not separation but Unity, the energy of the One planet that sustains us, making us feel vital when we accept the Path that is Gaia. We work together in Gaia, we transcend the conditioning that seeks division, and we accept Unity for what it is – the natural way.
In the Treatise I have looked at many ways that work towards this transcendence, this removal of conditioning. One way just mentioned are the three tenets, but much more importantly there are the 4 Agreements, and there is magga – the 8-Fold Path. All seek one thing – the removal of conditioning – the removal of agreements, the removal of the attachment to I and mine, the removal of attachment to the 5 khandas, the Unity that comes with the understanding once the conditioning has been removed.
There are many levels of this transcendence. When we see black people justifiably angry in “Black Lives Matter”, we might well see people who have transcended this political aspect but need more. When we see Momentum supporting Corbyn in his struggle against the 1% we see people who have transcended this aspect of conditioning but who seek more. When we see the monk who devotes their lives to meditation we see a transcendence that has overcome the conditioning of wage-slavery and consumerism, but needs more. On this diverse world there is much transcendence to varying degrees, it can only be hoped that these people do not rest on their laurels and that they work to seek a complete transcendence, a transcendence that comes from permanent enquiry, a transcendence that lacks conditioning on any level, a transcendence that brings with it a complete freedom from any shackles. Unity that is anatta.
Archive for the ‘Buddhadasa’ Category
In “returning to love” Marianne Williamson talked of her “ego-death” in this you-tube clip (3.30 mins). In the recent blog on Miracles,I saw this ego death as temporary, and that ego has rebirth throughout life. Despite there being transcendence, which can be so powerful, it does not mean that conditions for the ego don’t arise again. We require constant awareness to see that after transcendence we do not attach to ego, through fear, new mindsets etc. Fortunately we have the tool of meditation to help keep our minds clear.
In my life there has been an ongoing oscillation between inner and outer emphasis. Do I focus on the spiritual, how much am I involved with the political? 100% awareness on both is ideal, both of which I am far away from – such might well be Nirvana. The transcendence might well occur dramatically as it did with me but developing awareness is ongoing and requires work; the battle to control ego, desire and attachment is equally ongoing however powerful a transcendence has occurred. It is a sense of recognition of this battle that made me quit study of ACIM, it is not fear of the power but control of the ego.
Making judgements about others is dangerous as one can never know what is in their heads; it is hard enough to try to know oneself with all the information that you have available to understand. So when it comes to considering someone else, making judgements really ought to be a no-no. I make an exception to this, an important exception, and that comes to my studies. Whilst I always try to learn from within, there has to be a tendency to adopt the mindset of the teacher in order to help understand. This is especially so when you are starting on something new. Understanding Soto Zen and Shobogenzo is such a new venture for me, and previously I was using Brad as a teacher but this is “written Brad”, the Brad that I read in his blogs and books. There is no personal contact, no feedback, only the written word. This is not a good situation, this is a statement of what is and not a criticism of Brad. When I see the lack of political transcendence and a degree of racism in the “written Brad”, the weak situation gets worse. Politically I cannot accept his mindset, and therefore spiritually I have doubts; perhaps that is better. To understand Shobogenzo I was intending to read Brad and maybe then look at Shobogenzo, now the emphasis has to be on Shobogenzo.
Buddhadasa talks about ongoing rebirth, especially with paticcasamuppada; Marianne’s use of the term “ego death” has helped me understand that a little more. Many Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and cite references in the suttas to support this. Buddhadasa did not accept that the Buddha advocated reincarnation. In the Kalama sutta the Buddha asks that we do not accept anything unless we can internalise and understand it as truth. Reincarnation falls into this category, how can it be proved, and it is my understanding it is considered one of the Buddha’s unanswered questions. Buddhadasa suggests that the reincarnation the Buddha is referring to is ego. Through kamma (conditions) ego arises and is attached to, but if we let go then there is ego death. No ego is permanent no matter how strong that ego feels. Perhaps the strongest ego we feel is the one of our upbringing. Society conforms us through education and upbringing, and this conditioning is very hard to break through – breaking through is described as transcendence in this blog. But that is not the end of ego arising, and we have to be continually aware. Whilst it is much easier once we have transcended to recognise and release ego, in some ways it is more difficult because egos that then arise are so much more subtle.
In my own past such egos have been numerous, the most obvious was the addiction to alcohol. In retrospect I do not understand how I could have deluded myself into accepting the drink. At a similar time I did not demand sila of myself. In transcendence I felt I had developed a soul that guided me. In discussion with others I saw their morality as being based on a rational justification ie reasons for conduct, whereas I trusted that my soul guided my conduct 100% truthfully. This was ego. Such a soul had some substance, a substance that I would now ascribe to sunnata and insight, but that substance I considered had some form of permanence. It was akin to notions like Self. Now I know it was an ego, an ego that I have now released. Another ego I repeatedly get trapped in is mindsets, or better described as insights that I later cling to as mindsets. When one experiences an insight it is so powerful, it is almost as if each new insight recreates the world. Once such light bulbs take hold, we experience Eurekas like any good Archimedes. But they are only thoughts that we need to let rise and fall away (unless they qualify as scientific principles!!), but because they are so powerful to us we cling to them. I regularly have had to remove the clinging of such insights, remove their egos. When I look at all the things I know I should do on a daily basis but don’t, I know that there are still many egos in play. Am I doing the best I can? Ego gets in the way, attaching to wrong conduct etc.
What I have said concerning Marianne Williamson is an observation that if it ever comes to her attention is up to her to discard etc., for me the decision has already been made when I was studying ACIM. Maybe if I returned to ACIM I could learn more, but I would rather work with teachings that I can trust – as explained I cannot trust ACIM.
As for Brad (as opposed to Marianne) my evaluation is for a different purpose because I had intended using his books for study as I do his blogs. I read this tweet of his “You’ll never be completely happy with it, or completely comfortable with it or completely satisfied with it. So why waste time complaining?” An ego part of me would like that it referred to what I have written – I would always welcome communication, but I will take it as synchronous. I know I am not complaining because making a complaint implicitly carries with it a hope for change. I am making criticisms because they matter to me and it is some form of evaluation as his being a teacher for me as described above. Such criticisms might form the basis for change if he so wished, that is up to him. But for me they are evaluations, and also learning points – I learn from the interactions. In this last case I have specifically learned about transcendence, and have realised the connection between spiritual and political transcendence. It is not a complaint that I see a shortcoming with regards to this political transcendence, it is a judgement with regards to the teachings. If I am to use “written Brad” to learn from, I must be clear what I can and cannot accept.
In the tweet there is the use of the word “completely”. The way that is written implies an over-reaction to minor differences (taken as on my part). In this blog I suggested that I would be too definitive if I demanded the Occupy view. But the failure to understand the power relations, in my view, contributed to the racism that has caused division.
Whilst I fully support Brad’s efforts to move away from the sutta quoting into day-to-day practical interpretations of the teachings, there is a danger of alienation. Hence consideration of “complete agreement” is a fair warning. But a good person cannot make racist comments, whether institutional or not. Whether Brad likes it or not, his words as a monk are under some form of microscope, and whether he likes it or not he is judged accordingly. There has to be circumspection.
7 years ago there was a disagreement with a monk who having read Tony Blair’s autobiography wrote that he understood Blair’s going into Iraq. At that time, and now, I could not accept Blair as anything other than a warmonger doing the work of the 1%. Despite Chilcott’s weak response, most now accept that Blair should not have taken Britain to war, that monk was out of step with most people. I commend that monk, now, for his attempts to be real, to apply the teachings to daily life, but he was deluded by a spin doctor, a man whose way of life was to lie and deceive. A monk cannot allow such deceptions or the monk will lose respect and people will not follow their interpretation of the teachings. Their lifestyle makes monks self-reliant but when it comes to understanding the ways of the 1%-system they need advice.
I still don’t know where I stand with Brad, but I am not as keen to study his books. Yet Dogen was not easy, and I can relate to Brad more.
When I first thought of this blog I thought it was momentous – not so sure now; it is the second blog that comes from this Bradblog. This blogentry became more than I conceived and I thought of changing the title to “the revolution of removing thought addiction” but …. Maybe this is momentous.
The Buddha “started to see that the way his thoughts had been framing his experiences were not right. …. He saw that it was a mistake to habitually believe his own thoughts.” Where did the Buddha’s thoughts come from?
“As anyone who has ever tried to give up cigarettes or alcohol or even coffee can tell you, habits are hard things to break. Our addiction to believing our own thoughts is more powerful and more difficult to overcome than being addicted to heroin or any other addictive substance you can name. So this process was not very easy for our man Buddha, nor has it been easy for anyone else who has ever attempted.” Thought addiction, what is it?
Brad’s blog is timely , and it very much connects with my blogs on feminism concerning culture and conditioning. And it connects with what Buddhadasa said about “removing the I and mine from the 5 khandas”.
Let’s start with the khandas – sankara. Sankara are thoughts and where do those thoughts come from? Culture and conditioning. Once our culture conditions us we think that those thoughts are “mine”. We think we are our thoughts as Kant proposed “I Think therefore I am” – extended to I am my thoughts. But Kant’s proposition was misguided because those conditioned thoughts create a framework in the mind, and we attach to this framework – attach to the khanda sankara. The longer we hold onto this framework the more addicted we get and the harder it is to think clearly and free ourselves from the traps of culture and conditioning.
In his blog Brad described what the Buddha did when he solved problems. “Buddha sat with this problem for a long, long time. But, unlike most Western philosophers, he didn’t try to think his way through it. Instead he quietly observed life as it happened to him.
“He realized that his thoughts were just a part of what was going on, and not even a very significant part. So he chose not to focus on them. He let his brain do whatever it needed to do, but he didn’t try to use his thinking mind to determine the answer to his questions about the nature of life.”
We are educated into using the thinking mind, this is our culture and conditioning. Our mind is filled with ideas on different subjects, our exams require us to concentrate on these ideas to reproduce them in exams, and this concentration reinforces the framework. Our conduct is controlled by our parents who conform to society, and we become conditioned to do what society wants.
There ought to be nothing wrong with this culture and conditioning. Whilst we should always apply an enquiring mind to what we do, having a conditioning culture ought to mean no more than living together in harmony. But underlying the culture that we live in is the 1%-system, a system that is designed to profit the few and puts their profits before people. As a result our culture creates issues concerning class, gender and race, and when we mature enough to develop the enquiring mind that starts to unravel conditioning we become a threat to the power bloc, its greed and its shameful exploitation.
Our system’s thought addiction is powerful. Not only must we overcome the addiction that is attachment to the khandas but we also have to overcome the social pressure engendered by the 1%-system.
Yet there is a plus to this 1%-exploitation. Because of the oppression of the 1%-system the exploitation starts to make us aware of the lack of truth and the level of injustice. This awareness provides an impetus for our awakening, an impetus for our recognition that there is an imposed framework of culture and conditioning, helps us detach from the 5 khandas, and propels us into a mature lifestyle that frees us from the impositions of the cultural framework of conditioning.
This shows us how important meditation is in terms of social change. By sitting and observing we see what is. We observe our own cultural conditioning, we see it for what it is, and we can free ourselves from it. But as Brad says it is thought addiction, and addiction is hard to break. Having faith in whatever Buddhism is is not enough. Becoming addicted to the dogma of Buddhism is still thought addiction – just a different framework. Without a methodology of removing addiction there still exists the framework that we are addicted to, the framework of thought that has now been replaced by the dogma of Buddhism, the dogma of Ickeism or any dogma. It is enquiry, seeing what is what, that frees us from addiction, and that enquiry has as method meditation.
Meditation is freedom from thought addiction, meditation is liberation, it is the revolution that is not violence. Of course such a revolution only works as a mass movement when there is genuine meditation for all. It is disappointing that so many meditators do not see meditation for the revolutionary tool that it is. Meditation is a way of life but it is not an end in itself. Through meditation we see what is what, and can then begin in our daily life to create change around us. Of course if we choose not to see what is what, typically choose not to see the 1%-system, that meditation lacks true vision, and we accept slavery perhaps in a more profound way. If we accept slavery by not freeing our minds to genuinely see all of what is what, then we evade the responsibility that comes with awareness, that comes with awakening, that comes with maturity.
This brings us to an institutional danger. Institutions such as Buddhism that require finance have an inbuilt need not to see all of what is what. They require finance, the finance of the rich, and choose not to see where that wealth comes from. The institution avoids that aspect of meditation that brings awareness of politics because that awareness taints the very institution itself. The people who provide the greater proportion of the finance of these institutions are the very people who need to change because they have the greater power and influence in the 1%-system. Yet the institution is compromised. Meditation becomes compromised not seeing what is what, but seeing what is expedient to see. Seeing peace has connected with it a violence, a violence that has upheaval because our level of exploitation is so unjust. This is the consequence of thought addiction.
Meditation is the methodology of liberation but it can also be a tool of enslavement if we choose to avoid seeing all of what is what and allowing some thought addiction that is convenient – compromised. Meditation is a means of liberation but it can also be a means of enslavement if it still contains thought addiction. Focussing on the breath means we are not holding to anything, zazen focussing is just that and addictions just fall away. We are left with seeing what is what, and if sufficient people are doing this we have revolution.
“The Buddha remained silent when asked these fourteen questions. He described them as a net and refused to be drawn into such a net of theories, speculations, and dogmas. He said that it was because he was free of bondage to all theories and dogmas that he had attained liberation. Such speculations, he said, are attended by fever, unease, bewilderment, and suffering, and it is by freeing oneself of them that one achieves liberation.” Taken from Wikipedia.
If asked what type of Buddhist I am now, I will answer Zen, but if asked which Buddhist dogma I know about and the answer is Theravada – I am in transition. So when Brad Warner talks about the existence of life here, I immediately react by saying that the Buddha considered it an unanswered question. In the above wiki quote, which I find consistent with what I have studied, it basically says that the question doesn’t lead anywhere, is headbanging and doesn’t help. Perhaps zen takes a different view. Consider koans, they are headbanging. And they lead somewhere in the sense that they unhinge the intellectual mind allowing truth in. Would zen consider the unanswered questions in a similar vein – “koanic”? I would like help in resolving this issue of zen and the unanswered questions.
One important point about unanswered questions is that they can never be proven, and to accept one or other theory or dogma concerning any unanswered questions means accepting something that cannot be proven. In the Kalama sutta, a Theravada sutta – is it accepted by zen/Mahayana?, the Buddha says you have to know for yourself – that is the proof. For me this sutta was important in considering all the discussion of reincarnation. How can I prove reincarnation? I don’t accept it, many Theravadans do – amongst others including some Mahayana and zen? Reincarnation is covered by unanswered questions.
Buddhadasa, a now-dead Thai monk, discusses reincarnation when considering consciousness (vinnana) one of the 5 khandas. “In Thailand the Hindu teachings came here first, way before Buddhism came. When the Hindu or Brahmanistic teachings came, they brought this idea, this teaching, of vinnana in the sense of the soul or spirit that inhabited all kinds of things, not just people but trees and rocks – all over the place. All things had this spirit, and when the body died, that thing died, vinnana would go to be reincarnated. This is a Hindu teaching which existed in Thailand long before Buddhism came, and it was very firmly and deeply implanted in the Thai religious culture. So later when Buddhism came, everybody already had this Hindu understanding of vinnana, and so many people have been unable over the centuries to understand the Buddhist teaching of vinnana. It must be understood in light of the central teaching of Buddhism, anatta, that is that in life there is no self, no soul and no spirit in the Hindu sense; Buddhism denies that there is any such thing (self, soul or spirit),” [here and scroll]. He considers Thai belief in reincarnation as Hindu, and as many of the western Theravada monks have trained in Thailand – Forest Sangha, this “Thai-Hindu” thing has become a Theravada thing.
So to life as an “unanswered question”. Buddhadasa uses a device to examine the suttas in which he talks of truth and relative truth (truth in daily life). With regards to life I try to understand it in a similar vein. There is Unity, One life that I often refer to as Gaia; I specify that Gaia is not just the ecology of earth but Gaia includes all lives (relative) including humans. We are all One. In description of life there is a theosophist phrase that Annie Besant uses that “there is consciousness in every atom”, similar to the Hindu view of vinnana. Every atom is part of Gaia. Because of the schism of knowledge into religion and science I feel science rarely has anything to offer on such matters. Whilst science demands proof as discussed above with the Kalama sutta, science does not accept subjective experience and the empirical proof of meditation. However in this case (quoted in Brad’s blog) the scientist has come up with an interesting comparison. “Consciousness resides … in the microtubules of the brain cells, which are the primary sites of quantum processing.” Without getting into the question of mind and brain, this is similar to what Annie Besant says. However it would have to be if we accept the universal description of life as Gaia.
As to relative truth this is more the question that Brad is asking. The relative truth says that Brad and I are different lives – separate beings. Then there is life animals, bacteria, microbes and other small stuff. The smaller you go the harder it is to establish the meaning of life, but as the universal truth of Gaia there is no separation, no unity, only One life – and all is alive “universally” but not relatively.
Science works on an unwritten axiom, and acceptance of this axiom leads to many of the problems to do with the separation of scientific knowledge from other knowledge – such as insight or zen. That axiom is that we are separate beings as opposed to the Unity – Gaia. Science does not see ant but separate ants and wonders how they communicate. But as part of Gaia there is no need for such an explanation. In Brad’s blog the quoted science has all subscribed to axiom of separation, and so can only determine definitions and conclusions within the realm of relative truth.
With universal truth of Gaia Unity or ONE planet there is no need to be confused by that – there is existence of ONE life.
Am I being extreme?
Brad Warner is a zen monk, I respect him and I am a big “fan”. Now Brad takes on some interesting positions, for example he writes on the Suicide Girls’ page; I am not sure I would do that even if they were good enough to offer. But …. not important, his choice. I have not read all his books but his last one was “Sex, Sin and Zen” in which he investigated “near-the-knuckle” sexual attitudes. Excellent, I am happy monks take on socio-political issues as well as present the Dharma.
But I have found myself being critical of some of his socio-political positions, and I am not happy that I felt I had to do that because of my respect for him. As Brad is a monk and as he is, quite rightly in my view, attempting to look at the socio-political situation, I have to ask “Am I extreme?”
I have used the words “socio-political” to describe the positions I have been critical of, but this is not how I see them. I do not like to think of what I am examining as social or political I use the term “what-is-what” – as used by Ajaan Buddhadasa, teacher in the Theravada tradition. In other words these are positions that on my examination I describe as what is.
Let’s consider the issue of #BlackLivesMatter – this is not an issue where I have been critical of Brad. With #BlackLivesMatter black people are being killed by the police. The police have to try to keep people safe even in areas of the US where gangs are prevalent, but this is not a sufficient excuse for the murder of these black people. Nor is it an excuse for the police not to be held accountable. There is something wrong in the US that governments and states allow these gangs to exist, allow their citizens to live in gang-controlled areas without providing them sufficient security, and then put the police in the front line to deal with the problem. As human beings police respond and black people have been murdered. This is wrong. There are many people with far more knowledge than I on this situation but stepping back, being detached, this is wrong and #BlackLivesMatter. In my view this is what-is-what with no excuses or perspectives.
Our world is controlled by the 1%. The 1% is not a precise term, it could be seen as a development of the term bourgeoisie – the old Marxist term, but maybe not – that would be a viewpoint. What is not a viewpoint is this “Our world is controlled by the 1%”, this is what-is-what. When you look at what is happening in the world it is clear that the results of government decisions lead to the profits of the 1% increasing. The 1% do not necessarily micro-manage, they don’t necessarily have to tell a politician to vote in a certain way but the consequences of government actions is that the profits of the 1% increase.
Climate change is happening, science tells us that this is very dangerous for the world. If the profits of the 1% had to include the costs of environmental degradation caused by the production of their goods, they would be drastically reduced. The various COP conferences have not produced effective policies to prevent climate change. This is what-is-what.
This century NATO has been involved in 4 wars in Muslim countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. The US and other NATO countries have been involved in drone strikes against other Muslim countries – Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Following 9/11 the US and NATO countries have been involved in a “War against Terror” but the terror they have made war against is Muslim extremists – and not White Supremacists for example. When you detach yourself and examine the “War on Terror” it is difficult not to see a war against Islam.
In NATO countries there has been an increase in Islamophobia since 9/11. In a war situation it is common for governments to develop a media attack against their opponents. In war situations it is common to see funds being used to promote literature against opponents.
Science is knowledge – based on the etymology of the word. To develop scientific understanding it is often necessary to experiment. Who pays for the funding? A significant proportion of the funding comes from corporations. Do they fund science for the betterment of mankind or to develop products that they can profit from?
All of the above is what-is-what but in the “greater scheme of things” am I being extreme in the balance I perceive the West with regards to these points?
1) How important is #BlackLivesMatter?
All of these issues seem important to me. I pay the greatest emphasis on any unjust wars that countries fight. If a country is in a war then I believe a compassionate person needs to set as a priority the ending of that unjust war; is this extreme?
If the only work I can get is working for the 1%, am I wrong to think of it as wage slavery? If we are slaves should it not be a priority for all people to try to work against that slavery? Is this extreme?
If our world is heading towards ecological destruction should it not be a priority for people to try to work against such ecological problems? Is this extreme?
If this is not extreme should monks also be prioritising these actions?
In the greater scheme of things a monk has a very important role – promoting the Dharma, the teachings. I have no issue with a monk focussing solely on that. But Brad has taken on a socio-political element in his writings – good for him. But is his background suited to such writings?
By his background I am talking about possibly being “cloistered”, have Brad or other monks been cloistered?
Let me consider the background of working people. Based on the 5 above “importants”, are people free to express themselves concerning the above 5 points without it affecting job tenure? How often do people come into conflict if they try to express opinions concerning these 5? Does this conflict determine the importance of these points? If you have no conflict, can you correctly prioritise these 5 points?
Are priorities in error if they are based on conflict or does the conflict arise because of the awareness of the people concerned? In conflict one sees these points, should the importance of these points be affected if unaware people do not have conflict?
Or should these points not be given importance because people have no need to be aware of these points to live their lives? And with regards to monks how much of their “job” should creating awareness of these issues be?
In the West, NATO countries, there are many good “things” that I have not discussed. In order not to be extreme I need to discuss these and try to achieve a proper balance. To begin this I need to try to describe what-is-what again. I visited the US only once for a training course – the US has never attracted me. I had a pleasant time in New Mexico, and saw bits of the US – they were also pleasant enough. And the people were good to me – mostly. They were similar to the people I grew up with, a suburb of Manchester UK where people just got on with their lives, where decisions were taken for them. What I have looked at as important were not part of the decisions of the people I grew up with, I surmise they are not part of the decisions for the people in New Mexico, and equally not for most people in the world. There is a danger to this.
Maybe 20 years ago I was in a campsite in Zimbabwe – before Mugabe bottomed out their economy. I met some guys from South Africa. Before I talk about the meeting I should give some personal background. In the UK I had been a campaigner against the apartheid system, and when I went to work in Botswana, Southern Africa, the Afrikaans accent grated because of my politics; this was unreasonable – but a description of my background. Once living in Southern Africa I became more aware of the situation but apartheid was still wrong. Back to the guys – they were South African, and they were willing to open up to me – nice of them; they were just guys. They spoke of conscription, how they had been violent going into townships – sometimes killing black guys, how they did not know about black guys but they had a bad view of them, and how they were having guilt as they were becoming aware of what their system had made them do. I looked at these guys, and they were who I had grown up with – they could have been my father. All they were doing was living in a country where they were looking after their family, and they did what they had to to do this. This was my people in the Manchester suburb, I assess this is New Mexico, Akron Ohio – everywhere. Yet now – absolutely – everyone accepts apartheid was wrong.
Ordinary people fit in with what is wrong if that is what is accepted, that is what-is-what.
Back to the 5 important things, people in the US and in NATO countries fit in with their governments who ostensibly make the decisions about these things. The guys in South Africa – white – were in a system that accepted apartheid, and yet looking back they knew it was wrong. Some white people were fighting apartheid, and were probably considered extreme – many of them were in the SACP, were South African communists. Whether fighting apartheid was right is a different issue – and not part of this description of what-is-what, but these white people who were right about apartheid were considered extreme.
In this world whether you are in an electoral democracy or not, most people keep their heads down, look after their families …. or just survive. They let the leaders make decisions whether they trust them or not, for most people dealing with their lives is enough – being active in fighting injustices does not factor into their lives unless it knocks them on their head. This is what-is-what, and it is my view that the 1% know about this and use it.
I consider monks to be leaders. As leaders monks can just teach dharma but monks such as Brad choose not to limit themselves to the dharma. I assess that Brad would like to consider that he is applying his training to daily life – admirable. But his zen training has not brought the conflict with the system that makes what I have described as apparent. Brad is much more capable of seeing what-is-what than I, but he lives in a community that actively educates against seeing what-is-what – actively educates against seeing the 5 points. The revolving door between the 1%, corporations and government does not want us to see this typical 5 points, should leaders not be giving awareness of these?
When we look at our lifestyle, in New Mexico, in Akron Ohio, in the Manchester suburb, do we see history and economic relations? Of course not. We see families, friends, community, daily life. But what is that normalcy based on? It is based on the money that pays for everything. In Manchester the standard of living historically was based on the cotton industry which was based on the colonialism of importing raw materials primarily from India. This was not fair trade but exchange imposed by force. I have no details as to the 400-year history or so of the people in New Mexico and Ohio or the US in general but it is observable that the US is a world power especially since the second world war. This power brings with it economic prowess and progress, again not based on fair trade but based on that military power. And in parts of the US especially California their economies are based on the trade in weapons – what is known as the Military Industrial Complex. Whilst day-to-day ordinary people do ordinary things that seem ordinary and reasonable, the reality of their existence is not quite so pleasant. Is it extreme to recognise this?
As a leader and teacher, aren’t the above observable facts that contribute to awareness?
What do we do with this awareness? The revolving door will not make us aware because the 1% and government have accepted self-interest as their way of life. Do meditators expect to see what-is-what? I think so. What do teachers and meditators do about this awareness? That is not for me to say, it is for them.
For me my life had conflict because of awarenesses. It helped me learn, it helps me see what-is-what.
Brad, I have no wish to be disrespectful as I respect your “teachings”. Am I extreme?
The word “esoteric” I met long ago with the theosophists, I came across esoteric Catholicism. What this meant to me was that beyond the catholic dogma there was a deeper spiritual meaning. At that time I had only recently started on the Path, had grown from rejecting the church of Catholicism, so it was a bit of a jump for me to accept Catholicism of any form. However with theosophy I had started on a spiritual path and because they accepted esoteric Catholicism it was something I could consider.
Over the years I dabbled with spirituality until eventually I came to Buddhism when I was 50. Whilst the spiritual search was continuous in my life, it had not been studious nor had I taken retreats but it was central. When I reached Buddhism it was a spiritual search. I read a few books but had a “conversion” at Wat Phra Kaew, and then I met British monks in a British monastery based on the Thai tradition of Forest Sangha and they appeared to be trying to get understanding.
I found that this Buddhism began answering my questions. The books these monks were interested in, what they taught me, all seemed to fit in with the spiritual journey I had been on. I have begun to question this now, and the issue revolves around the word esoteric.
If one is in the UK and has reached a level of spiritual awakening – whatever sort, then you don’t look to the church and its congregation. Maybe there are Christians who are on a journey, when I met my niece she was one, and they look at soul and grace and a more “esoteric” interpretation of the scriptures, bible etc. I never got that myself but in discussion with people like my niece I have no problem with there being an esoteric core.
With westerners and Buddhism I never saw the need to differentiate because westerners usually had been on a spiritual journey before reaching Buddhism. I had a kind of unwritten assumption of an “esoteric” nature in their journey. There is another factor to this. Western education is deeply intellectual, and at the same time as I rejected that conditioning I started spirituality – my Path, finding my soul. There was also a pre-judged assumption that the journey for others was anti-intellectual, seeking to find the esoteric beyond the intellect. There is a difficulty with being anti-intellectual, it is one’s own intellect that expresses that anti-intellectualism. So when I have been in discussions about such matters my own intellect engages with other intellects to determine what is the esoteric – non-intellect.
A key word for me in this is insight, in this situation I could almost say the esoteric and insight were synonymous. And Buddhism discusses insight much. I was lulled into a feeling that discussing Buddhism was discussing the esoteric – insight.
This was reinforced by living in Thailand. This is a Buddhist country, it is more Buddhist than the UK is Christian. Observing a little what Buddhism meant to the Thais I could see an institution that had grown around the wats (cf churches). These wats are community centres involving institutional practices connected with life such as births, deaths, marriage and others specifically Buddhist. However these temples are not places where people are searching for the esoteric – searching for insight.
Throughout Thailand however there are Buddhist intellectuals studying even having a word for this intellectualism – Buddhasasana. I do not understand what they do because of my limited language so I cannot know whether this intellectualism ever moves beyond dogma to the esoteric. However insight is discussed much, and I cannot evaluate that (because of language).
I have another confusion with regards to Buddhism and the esoteric, Buddhism appears to discuss the esoteric far more than Christianity. This is a personal judgement, and I have no way of assessing how true it is. As a child I was “sort of” immersed in Catholicism but I rejected this. Catholicism was church, morality – 10 commandments, and the anecdotes of the bible. I have since vaguely seen the esoteric discussions about esoteric Catholicism where the hidden spirituality of the anecdotes were explained but because I never met this in the mainstream it was not the religion I grew up with. By comparison Buddhism appeared to go deeper, the dogma of Buddhism appeared to go deeper.
With this background I can clarify my questioning. Are the Buddhists I have contact with any more than intellectuals? Is the Buddhism they discuss just an intellectual construct albeit a sophisticated intellectual structure of mind? For some this is certainly the case.
Intellectuals accept a set of dogma – ideals, whilst they might play with these ideals, examine by intellect and other analytical approaches they end up accepting these ideals. With Christianity accepting the dogma is usually accompanied by a belief in God, for Buddhist intellectuals they can accept the dogma without the need for any belief – perhaps for them that is the attraction of Buddhism. Buddhism for some can simply be the acceptance of dogma.
One of the indicators of how Buddhism is fraught with intellectualism is the deep divisions between the traditions of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. I felt they were fundamentally going the same way. One intellectual rejected my idea out of hand, as opposed to this Buddhadasa described this unity in all Buddhisms as trying “to remove the I and mine from the 5 khandas” [here].
Esoterically they are the same, and my problem has been that I have allowed the intellectual tradition that intellectually examines an excellent study of mind to deflect from the esoteric. Stephen Batchelor wants to dissociate himself from the battle of the traditions, and sees stricter adherence to what the Buddha taught as a way forward. But this is what Theravada says, and joining Theravada is not what he means.
In a sense I agree with Stephen, except that because I immersed myself more in Theravada I see the same divisive intellectualism. I haven’t made my mind up about Stephen, but the root he is seeking is not the teaching root but the esoteric root in my view.
I don’t like the word “esoteric”, it implies some form of magic or “Dr Strange”. The word does suggest hidden, in a sense it is hidden but it is only hidden to the intellect. Yet even that is not true, it is not hidden to deep questioning – an intellectual method, it is hidden only to intellectual ego – an ego which wants all to be explained by intellect.
The Buddha talks of jhanas (SN45.8). “And what, bhikkhus, is right concentration? Here, bhikkhus, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion. With the subsiding of thought and examination, he enters and dwells in the second jhana, which has internal confidence and unification of mind, is without thought and examination, and has rapture and happiness born of concentration. With the fading away as well of rapture, he dwells equanimous and, mindful and clearly comprehending, he experiences happiness with the body; he enters and dwells in the third jhana of which the noble ones declare: ‘He is equanimous, mindful, one who dwells happily.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, he enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which is neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of mindfulness by equanimity. This is called right concentration.” This is experience and not intellect. Questioning would require a search until there is such an experience, the intellectual ego cannot allow that.
My recent contact with intellectualism also indicates this lack of total questioning. The intellect concerned had supported Buddhadasa. I then quoted from Buddhism Now blog “Now intuitive insight, or what we call ‘seeing Dhamma’, is not by any means the same thing as rational thinking. One will never come to see Dhamma by means of rational thinking. Intuitive insight can be gained only by means of a true inner realisation.” The intellectual did not accept this. How much could he have gained by truly investigating why Buddhadasa, who he liked, could accept this and he couldn’t?
In this blog (not posted yet) I discussed rapture. I liked the movie, and mostly I like what Openhands do. Their Ascension is focussed on experience. The esoteric is about experience, Buddhism is about experience, the esoteric is about experience, the journey is about experience, Openhands is about experience. This experience is not hidden except to the intellect or the dogma literalists. Dogen says “Consequently, those who sit in meditation will, beyond doubt, drop off body and mind, and cut themselves free from their previous confused and defiling thoughts and opinions in order to personally realize what the innate Dharma of the Buddha is” [Shobogenzo p35]. .
Those intellectuals who are happy with dogma don’t always meditate, and some have argued that the Buddha did not say meditate – he didn’t literally, apparently. But he meditated on the night of the 4 Noble Truths, is it esoteric to meditate?
Total questioning can see what is needed, as Brad says “Sit down and shut up”, and feel the experience. Searching for the esoteric just means going beyond the dogma that intellect traps you to.
|Lost in my website is a personal homepage that really has no access, it was just there because it was an original homepage. There was a bit on Buddhism I have just updated with the following:-|
In some ways the issues are the same now (February 2016), where is the genuine Buddhism? Back then I thought Theravada was genuine. Following retirement in 2006 I continued with that theme focussing my study on Theravada. By that concentrating I have come to see Buddhism so differently. Where is “what the Buddha taught?”, and my answer now is “who knows?” Theravada has the high ground in the sense that the mostly claim to source their teachings in the suttapitaka, but this is not something I now feel confident about.
The Theravada sources are themselves are shrouded. I do not know the full history but what is written in the Theravada sources (which can be downloaded here) were committed to paper many years after the death of the Buddha. Theravadans claim that these people had perfect memories and it was common for things to be recounted that way. I am sceptical. In this original piece I had completely bought into the belief that Theravada following the original teachings of the Buddha, now I see there are important areas of disagreement amongst Theravadans especially the issue of anatta and reincarnation amongst the Forest Sangha.
But Buddhadasa has taught me much, and that is to question views held as original Buddha teachings via Theravada. The questioning is mainly concerned with interpretation. The suttas are seen by many (especially intellectuals) as literal, and by studying Buddhadasa to some extent I have started to see this literal perception as a misunderstanding. Intellectuals discuss dogma, argue minutiae of dogma, argue authenticity of dogma, argue discussions about dogma, and miss the boat concerning what the purpose of the teachings are. In Buddhadasa’s interpretation he argues context, typically:-
The Buddha needed to use words that implied acceptance of reincarnation because at the time all in India needed scripture that accepted reincarnation.
People generally say that the Buddha avoided discussion of reincarnation but did emphasise anatta as in paticcasamuppada.
The longer I discuss in this way the more I too get bogged down in intellectualism, authenticity and so on because language and society is about these things – not truth. I interpret what the Buddha taught as not about any of these, to me Buddhadasa is about the underlying meaning of the Buddha’s teachings as he attempts to get at what the Buddha taught.
Buddhadasa lived in Thailand where Buddhism is the mainstream religion, and there is much discussion and much written about it. Buddhadasa also discusses, gets into authentication, and did a prolific amount of work. Whilst Buddhadasa’s work focusses on idapaccayata-paticcasamuppada (inc anatta and ariya sacca) in my view his work is not meant as an intellectual study, in other words it cannot be understood by intellect alone. [Note this indicator – those teaching westerners at Suan Mokh offer as download Idapaccayata – scroll down to idapaccayata.zip] (or download from mysite or from mega).
To a certain extent I understand Buddhadasa’s focus through a quote from Shobogenzo:-
“those who sit in meditation will, beyond doubt, drop off body and mind, and cut themselves free from their previous confused and defiling thoughts and opinions in order to personally realize what the innate Dharma of the Buddha is” [p35 Shobogenzo book]
Buddhadasa talked about “removing attachment form the 5 khandas” in Ariya Sacca. Is this “drop off body and mind”? What is left? “the innate Dharma of the Buddha”.
When I think of my experiences when writing, the writing occurred when I reached the “muse”, a state of mind that was free and just creative – writing. This muse or state of mind I have just come to realise is jhana, when in jhana there is no attachment to khandas – unless I try to cling to it. Am I just seeing “the innate dhamma”? Of course not because that innate Dhamma would be Voidness, but it is getting towards that in some way, in a way that is not intellectual, cannot be described by language.
In the end I do however hold to the Unity that Buddhadasa describes here:-
“For those of you sitting here who are interested in going to study Buddhism, please take notice that there is no such thing as Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and all that stuff. There is just one real Buddhism and this is just pulling that I and mine out from the 5 khandas so that there is just the khandas – removing this I and mine out from the khandas. This is Buddhism. Everything else has just been added to make things showy, to make it interesting, to make it impressive, to entertain the children and all these things, so it makes the real teaching seem very profound so that nobody can understand it – all this extra stuff . Please find out what the real thing is, and save yourself the trouble of the other stuff.”
“All things except the noumenon, the unconditioned, arise from a cause, and exist according to that cause. When we say, in Buddhism, that all things come from causes, we are pointing to the basic scientific character of Buddhism – the understanding that all things come from causes is the basic principle of science. Buddhism isn’t any kind of a philosophy that relies on assumptions, on speculation – on basically guesswork. Buddhism deals only with causes and effects of causes, and tries to understand this. This is scientific. We should never confuse Buddhism with philosophy, and all other kinds of speculation based on various assumptions.” [Ariya Sacca talk Origin4a search for “noumenon, the” pdf p58]
This is Buddhadasa’s description of science but is this a scientific reality? I need to examine my relationship with science, Bacon and all that again.
I have no wish to put words in the mouth of a teacher such as Buddhadasa, but in order to consider what he has said I need to make assumptions about science. Effectively he talks about science as cause and effect ie reason and logical thinking, this of course is part of scientific thinking and there can be no controversy in making such comparisons.
But to describe science as not having assumptions is not appropriate. If we consider maths, the supposed language of science, then part of maths is clearly a science of cause and effect. But every branch of maths, or every maths problem, starts with an axiom or basic laws that are generally accepted within the scientific community, if not wider. When making comparisons with science, rather than Buddhism not being based on assumptions, it would be better to establish what axioms Buddhism is based on. And then consider that Buddhism is based on the science of cause and effect based on these axioms. Consistent with Buddhadasa’s teaching I would suggest such axioms might be Idapaccayata-paticcasammupada, anatta, anicca, dukkha, 5 khandas and 6 senses. If there are not such axioms what is the cause, what are the effects?
But we also cannot ignore that science is part of society, and suffers from socio-political influences as do all things that belong to our society. So the science that Buddhadasa might be comparing with is not necessarily the science that is current in society. The science that Buddhadasa might well be referring to is a science that is a genuine search for knowledge based on a methodology of experiment, research, observation, cause and effect; one might also include in this genuine search for knowledge a moral clause such as “for the benefit of humanity”. In practice science is little more than business-funded, profit-making, technologically-orientated, and often destructive to humanity. Science that could be used for the benefit of humanity often remains unfunded and sometimes actively suppressed such as the science concerning GM products because that science destroys the profits of BigFood. The model of scientific methodology that I surmise Buddhadasa refers to is far from the science that is practised.
Buddhadasa has spoken about life as being “learning what-is-what”; in theory this is what science is. In practice however science has changed. This change began long before Buddhadasa. From the time of the Buddha and before up until the time of the reformation, science might well have been practised as “learning what-is-what”. In the observation of “what-is-what” there became two distinct approaches that which could be observed only and that which could be observed and recreated. It is my understanding that Francis Bacon was the first to make such a delineation, and equally as far as my understanding goes he did this as a recognition of what is what; categorisation of knowledge is a part of science.
But what has happened since Bacon is the real problem, science has become that which can be observed and recreated – now usually in a “laboratory”. And this second category of observed and recreated has also become known as “rational”. No-one, I assume, would want to dispute that this rational knowledge is not science, not part of “what-is-what”, but much that is now subsumed under the body of academia reject as not science that which cannot be observed and recreated in a laboratory. So learning science is now not the same as learning “what-is-what”. What is the difference? Bacon’s delineation is associated in my mind, and wider I believe, as science and religion, and this has become that knowledge of “what-is-what” that cannot be observed and recreated is in the category of religious knowledge which is now not accepted as knowledge or science.
Consider this quote from Buddhadasa “Now intuitive insight, or what we call ‘seeing Dhamma’, is not by any means the same thing as rational thinking. One will never come to see Dhamma by means of rational thinking. Intuitive insight can be gained only by means of a true inner realization” [from Handbook of Mankind quoted here]. He is saying that seeing Dhamma (including knowing “what-is-what”) requires more than is rational thinking. I fully accept that but the model that is now science (developed from Bacon’s split) would, I surmise, suggest that Buddhadasa is not being “scientific”. Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Buddhadasa’s approach, both in terms of cause and effect and that of insight, science as it is now practised would not.
Let me examine further from my limited Buddhist perspective what is on the “religious side of Bacon’s delineation”. I would suggest that the jhanas and the 4 Brahma-Viharas (sublime states) would fall on this religious side – as well as insight. How would one recreate such in a laboratory?
“Empirical Research can be defined as “research based on experimentation or observation (evidence)”. Such research is conducted to test a hypothesis. The word empirical means information gained by experience, observation, or experiment. The central theme in scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical which means it is based on evidence. In scientific method the word “empirical” refers to the use of working hypothesis that can be tested using observation and experiment.”
There are two points concerning this:-
1) Is there empirical evidence gained by experience and observation that cannot be verified by scientific method. And can this empirical evidence be termed “science”?
In light of 1) I would suggest that much of what Buddhadasa is describing as science, “what-is-what”, falls into this category – experience and observation that cannot be verified by scientific method (as defined in the quote). Much that Buddhism observes as “what-is-what” concerns the mind and mental states, typically the jhanas and the 4 Brahma-Viharas, and despite efforts of HHDL’s Mind and Life Institute it is difficult to see scientific establishment accepting these states as “knowledge” or “science”. Yet I would see them as cause and effect although I am not exactly sure how as yet.
Considering 2), let me first describe how I perceive qualitative research arose. Quantitative research is very limited. It is based on the above scientific method, and its conclusions are often numerical. But life is not numerical, it is descriptive and a numerical evaluation greatly limits what can be observed about life. Research, especially research in the social sciences, has moved towards qualitative research where peoples’ descriptions of their life as case studies are now accepted as research. Such research whilst being observable because they can be recorded do not at all fit into the definition of creatable scientific method as described in the above quote. Yet academia readily accepts qualitative research as science (personally, the bulk of my M Ed came from case study research). When academia chooses, case study, recounting of personal observations, is scientific method.
But does science choose to accept jhanas and Brahma-Viharas as observation? Science as “what-is-what” would.
Another point that HHDL made somewhere is that what happens in meditation can be “recreated”. The empirical observations that people make during meditation can be repeated by different people following the same meditation methods. I would also contend that peoples’ recounting of jhanas and brahma-viharas would also be similar. Such observations would not however fit in with quantitative research but in my view could readily be assessed in a qualitative approach.
In conclusion when Buddhadasa describes Buddhism as science through cause and effect I agree. However the science that is practiced in society is far from this. I would personally like to see Buddhadasa establish Buddhist axioms from which cause and effect could be established, this for me would then complete Buddhism as a science. Buddhadasa is not likely to do that now, and Buddhism is now so diffuse it is unlikely that such axioms would ever readily be agreed. I would like one day to be able to know Buddhism sufficiently to establish such axioms. When I proposed idapaccayata-paticcasammupada, the 3 characteristics – anatta, anicca and dukkha, 5 khandas and 6 senses, I feel I am somewhere near such axioms. I would like to define the axioms as idapaccayata, the laws of Nature, but I am unsure how the characteristics khandas and sense are effected by that cause – idapaccayata, maybe I will know one day.
|Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.
For a westerner I think reading Ajaan Buddhadasa is difficult. At one time I described his style as tedious and I could also think it is a bit pedantic but overcoming these western perceptions is well worth it. I would describe his style as that of a Buddhist scholar (scholar of the Buddha’s suttas). But he has gone beyond the dogma, and shows this now and again with what he says. I should note here that most of his works are spoken or translated by Santikaro. He was at one time a monk with Ajaan Buddhadasa at Suan Mokh, but is now lay running a retreat at Liberation Park (put in link). I surmise that these talks were given under the supervision of Ajaan Buddhadasa in English by Santikaro.
In other words these talks are “Buddhist-scholarly” with a kick in the tail. I have studied Theravada a little, I did say at one time I would focus on studying Theravada only but I do not consider I am that knowledgeable of what is written on Theravada but I have sufficient grasp of the form of Theravada to be able to read Buddhadasa and hopefully grasp some of the gems that come our way when reading Buddhadasa.
But equally I would understand westerners, not western people used to reading Buddhist works especially suttas, not coming to terms with Buddhadasa because of his scholarly manner. This is their loss as there is much wisdom in his work, and it is the wisdom and undertsanding, not the scholarliness, that hopefully people can hook into.
I am not a Buddhist for the suttas, I am not a Buddhist for the rituals, I am not a Buddhist for the animism that often gets associated with national Buddhism such as Thai or Tibetan Buddhism, I am a Buddhist because I consider the way of life that is at the core of Buddhism, once you get beyond the proliferations and concoctions, is the way of life that brings the greatest peace (or joy or happiness in a spiritual sense). What little peace I have found is at the core of Buddhadasa’s works, and this is why I promote what he writes in this blog.
There are other spiritual teachers that have helped me as well, Thich Naht Hahn, Eckhart Tolle and Don Miguel Ruiz for example. Their wisdom comes through in their works but in a different way. On this blog I have looked at different teachers seeking wisdom, hopefully I have grasped from wide sources, but at present because of my limited knowledge of Theravada I find much in Buddhadasa. I feel there is a place for a book on the wisdom of Buddhadasa for westerners but who could write it? With Ajaan Buddhadasa being dead such a book could never be ascribed to him or do him justice.
Here is the magga:-
Immediately I look at this I start asking right insight and right knowledge – later.
Magga has never been high profile in my Path but it is stressed by Tan Ajaan and worth considering for that alone. I must look up different translations to help with understanding.
I am going to begin with right determination because I have been accused of being stubborn. The issue is health and a system friend listens a little when I discuss health issues but doesn’t understand that unless you treat the health system with discernment it will make you ill.
In this case she is partly correct. I broke my wrist although at the time I thought it was a sprain. I put it in a sling for a few days, and then rested it for a month. I did not however know the natural resting position of the wrist. I rested my wrist with palms flat instead of resting it on the side of the hand and the wrist has set in the wrong position. Throughout the month of resting doubts came up but I said let Nature heal it. This was a mistake because I didn’t know the natural position of the wrist, even if I did resting it on the side was not an option as it would have given me pain …. more pain. After a month I went to the physiologist who said he could treat it. He has helped but it is taking a long time – 90% after 18 months – age is a factor.
People around me were saying go to the hospital but these are people who blindly go to the hospital. They are conditioned to go to the hospital, in this case they might have been right – I still have doubts. What would have been better is to have had the bone set in the right position. The issues that keep crossing my mind about this are whether my physiologist will be able to give me full movement – answer no, he has already admitted that some movement has gone. And if I had gone to have the bone set would I have got full movement? System supporters say yes but I just don’t know and I don’t believe them.
This system friend told me I had insurance – I had taken out motor-bike accident insurance and this accident, falling in the garden, was covered – covered as much as any insurance ever covers you. I asked the physiologist whether it would be paid, and he said that the insurance companies don’t accept him. Insurance is an awful thing. Basically there are benefits to insurance if they pay out, but the insurance companies require such conformity to pay out, that conformity did not include my physiologist. My insurance agent is a nice lady at the bank – a key figure in this, and she told me that I had to see a consultant at one of the local hospitals. As the insurance was paying I went to the expensive one, and it was clear that insurance practices and this hospital were a revolving door. I saw the consultant had an x-ray and so after maybe 8 weeks I learnt that the wrist had been fractured.
He offered to reset the bone but said there was only 80% chance of success. I wasn’t interested in what he said because I was only after an insurance paper so I could reclaim money spent at the physiologist. After a discussion in which I rejected the resetting he gave me a follow-up appointment and sent me to physio. The lady was pleasant enough but I had no experience of how good she was. She did say one thing, she felt the diagnosis of resetting the bone was not good and that physio was the best way forward; you might say she would say that. I listened to what she said and was charged 1000 – twice as much as the physiologist. I ignored the follow-up appointment, maybe I should have been polite and informed them I wouldn’t be going. This is also a key point in the story.
I went back to being treated by the physiologist. I submitted 9 receipts for the insurance. Later I went back to the bank lady, and it appeared they were going to refuse payment but the bank lady rattled on at her and the money was paid into my account. Once they had accepted that they would pay I submitted the next 8 receipts. I went to see the bank lady, and she told me I had to see the doctor again as there is a notional “running-out” period of the doctor’s original report. When I went to the hospital I met all kinds of obstacles. Because I had not attended the follow-up I had effectively ended “something”. The words used were accident and diagnosis. I had accident insurance, and the company would pay out for the accident. By not attending the follow-up the doctor had terminated the notion of accident treatment. If I were to have seen the consultant it would have been considered a diagnosis and I would have to pay for that myself. It was not clear to me whether a consultation about diagnosis would have led to a report that would have allowed me to claim for the subsequent treatments with the physiologist. This use of terminology just sounded like bullshit to me, and the bullshit was covering the fact that the hospital were not going to help me with the insurance because they were not getting paid. This was a monopolistic practise. The revolving door of hospital and insurance only worked if you went to the hospital for treatment. In economic terms this makes absolutely no sense for the insurance company as the hospital overcharged, but this is the way the system is.
At the refusal of the hospital to help me I went back to my favourite bank lady, and again she was very helpful. I explained what had happened at the hospital, and she started off on the phone again. She did a lot of work for me, and eventually a new medical report arrived from the hospital – she had sent someone to get it. Amazing!!
As the treatment is ongoing I asked he what to do next time. She had pulled out all the stops she didn’t want me to do a next time. So end of insurance money.
I will continue the treatment with the physiologist paying out of my own pocket. I have found a gem in the bank lady I hope there are not complications, and I won’t step back into that hospital again. All my life I worked as a teacher continually compromising the value of education with the profit motives of the school. You fight the money to get good education. I saw no evidence that the doctor or the administrative minions were doing anything other than being ruled by the dollar.
There is a local “cheap” hospital so maybe I will continue the insurance as it helps the bank gem!!
So to determination. I was accused by this system friend of being stubborn for not going to this hospital first of all. I didn’t know about the insurance so there would have been huge bills that might or might not have been paid. What is the quality of the treatment? I visited a friend in this hospital, and apart from a private room and minions running around nothing seemed to be offered. My own experience has confirmed that.
Determination is so very important. To follow the Path requires perpetual questioning, primarily of the conforming system but also of one’s reactions to it. The friend focussed on one aspect of apparent stubbornness – not attending the hospital in the first place. For her the conforming control is not as significant as it is to me but she eats quite badly, is underweight rather than overweight, and cancer has been an issue in her past. She was part of a unity of voices that said get to the hospital, some more vociferous than others especially those of the women – a strong controlling factor, a strong aspect of conformity.
There are other factors connected to my initial non-attendance of the hospital. I didn’t want to be sat in pain in casualty. I live out in the country so I would have needed to call someone out – taxis are not an option. Friends would have done it. Because I thought it was a bad sprain that was sufficent for me not to call them out – because I didn’t trust them anyway. Perhaps I need to find someone I can trust? A friend took me shopping once a week – helped me survive, once a week was a lot over 8 weeks – increasing to twice a week after 4 weeks. I didn’t want to ask him to take me to the hospital and sort out the insurance as well. The car! I was riding a motorbike. Before going to the physiologist after 4 weeks I tried riding. Got on, drove slowly, toppled to the right (problem with left wrist). For 2/3 weeks I tried to resolve the bike, but have developed a fear of riding and bought a car early – planned to buy at 70!! having the car gave me the freedom to go to the doctor and go to the bank for insurance. Once independent I could resolve all my stuff – an important factor.
Right determination is basically concerned with the Path, perhaps a useful word here is compromise. Fundamentally you do not compromise, you only follow your Path; to me this is what Nature is about. Determination to follow the Path. Conformity is a very dangerous adversity and requires determination not to conform. But at the same time there needs to discernment so that the anti-conformist does not throw the baby out with the bath water. This is a signficant problem with health. Our health industry has been so corrupted by the 1% that in certain areas following the advice of system healers can lead to worse illness. Specifically with cancer the helpless hand-gesturing of the chemo sycophancy is appalling, ingesting poison based on bogus suppositions, and using the position of healer to promote such. With regards to trauma I think the healers help but again the healing practice of the people is dominated by the profit motive – this time the insurance industry. You have to be determined to work out which aspects of the system healing are worthwhile and which are not. If you know a healer who does not compromise with the financial domination then see them, I don’t know them so in conclusion if the same thing happened again I would do the same thing.