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ZEN - Teacherless Knowledge and the Ocean of Your Own Essence

 
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01 June 2017 13:12
 
EN - 01 June 2017 12:58 PM
unsmoked - 01 June 2017 12:19 PM

[  Can a Texan see a field of bluebonnets and just enjoy it?

YES! When I look at April bluebonnets and paint brushes together in one field (imagine a canvas of royal blue and bright red) I feel healing going on in my soul.  I see it, feel it, love it.

A moment of Zen brought to you by unsmoked and EN.

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hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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01 June 2017 14:09
 

I had a dream once that I lived in a hardscrabble mobile home park, but I was content, and people came to me when they needed a listener.  That is a moment of Zen.

 
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01 June 2017 16:48
 
Skipshot - 01 June 2017 01:12 PM
EN - 01 June 2017 12:58 PM
unsmoked - 01 June 2017 12:19 PM

[  Can a Texan see a field of bluebonnets and just enjoy it?

YES! When I look at April bluebonnets and paint brushes together in one field (imagine a canvas of royal blue and bright red) I feel healing going on in my soul.  I see it, feel it, love it.

A moment of Zen brought to you by unsmoked and EN.

That’s what I’m talking about!

 
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01 June 2017 21:08
 
unsmoked - 30 May 2017 12:21 PM

A Christian Zen student gave his teacher a Bible and later asked for an opinion about Jesus.  The teacher said, “That man was almost enlightened.”

Possibly the teacher said that because Jesus didn’t make a point of telling his followers to, ‘Trust yourself.  Be independent and free.  You don’t need me.  You don’t need to seek outside.’ 

(“As for religion, and the preposterous idea that we need God to be good, nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris.” — Richard Dawkins commenting on THE MORAL LANDSCAPE)


This is a general existential issue running through my mind, not aimed at you directly unsmoked, so I hope it doesn’t come of as confrontational but - the “Zen as uber-libertarian contrast to conservative Christianity” theme in Western spirituality is increasingly becoming confusing and even suspect to me. I have great respect for Buddhism as a philosophy, but as I continue to read “In The Buddha’s Words”, Buddha actually comes off as harsher than Christ, as more conservative. He visits a party girl newlywed and tells her about the “Seven Types of Wives” in Buddhism - and tells her the bad varieties go to hell! The new wife is spiritually moved to changed her ways and become what I think is implied to be the ‘best’ kind of wife - referred to in the book as a ‘handmaiden’, in other places as ‘slave’. Later the Buddha gives instructions on how to properly keep slaves. I mean - slaves?


Quite frankly I’m lost on this one. Did the Buddha really say these things? And if he did, what are these ‘zen’ teachings based on, seeing as how they should presumably be based on what the archetypal enlightened being in that tradition, the Buddha, actually said? And if they’re not particularly based on that, it seems like apples and oranges to compare Zen and Christianity (apples to apples being comparing the much later followers of both traditions’ personal interpretation of them.)


I dunno. I know there is some qualification somewhere in Buddhism about teachings that are appropriate to “time and place” only, but I’m not sure who invoked it (the Buddha or someone else,) and what exactly it says.

 
 
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01 June 2017 21:14
 

Buddhism is not the same thing as Zen; Buddhism has more hang-ups.  Zen is from Japan and is in bed with Taoism.  Taoism is from ancient China, contemporary with Confucius.

 
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01 June 2017 21:51
 
Skipshot - 01 June 2017 09:14 PM

Buddhism is not the same thing as Zen; Buddhism has more hang-ups.  Zen is from Japan and is in bed with Taoism.  Taoism is from ancient China, contemporary with Confucius.


I’m not sure what they dynamic there is (maybe it’s like how some Christians say various other groups aren’t actually Christian - sometimes because of very superficial differences [i.e. people saying Catholics aren’t Christian because they ‘worship idols’ due to their use of icons and statues of saints during mass], sometimes for more substantial philosophical divides [Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, for example - hard to say exactly where they are on the spectrum of Christianity]). My understanding is that Zen is self-described as Buddhist, however.

 
 
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02 June 2017 03:51
 
Skipshot - 01 June 2017 09:14 PM

Buddhism is not the same thing as Zen; Buddhism has more hang-ups.  Zen is from Japan and is in bed with Taoism.  Taoism is from ancient China, contemporary with Confucius.

But it’s called Zen Buddhism from time to time.  Is there no connection at all?

 
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02 June 2017 06:18
 
EN - 02 June 2017 03:51 AM
Skipshot - 01 June 2017 09:14 PM

Buddhism is not the same thing as Zen; Buddhism has more hang-ups.  Zen is from Japan and is in bed with Taoism.  Taoism is from ancient China, contemporary with Confucius.

But it’s called Zen Buddhism from time to time.  Is there no connection at all?

I should have let unsmoked answer. 

As I understand it, Zen is a Japanese blend of Buddhism and Taoism, and how much of each I don’t know, but I suspect the percentage depends on who is doing the practicing.

Buddhism, of course, was reportedly started by Siddhartha Gautama in India around 500 B.C., about the same time the classic Taoist text Tao Te Ching is said to have been written by Lao Tzu in China.  The two philosophies are similar in teaching “let go” and “be in the here and now” stuff, but as I mentioned above, Buddhism has hang-ups on ritual, rules, and the after-life while, Taoism isn’t centralized on priests and monasteries and doesn’t mention the after-life or gods.

When Buddhism came to China, Taoism was already fairly well known.

 
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02 June 2017 11:50
 
hannahtoo - 01 June 2017 02:09 PM

I had a dream once that I lived in a hardscrabble mobile home park, but I was content, and people came to me when they needed a listener.  That is a moment of Zen.

’ . . . a listener.’

A Zen master gave an introductory talk to a group in Seattle.  They had arranged for a week-long intensive session with him.  He said, (through a translator) “I’m told that some of you have a lot of problems and difficulties to cope with and maybe you’re hoping Zen can help.  Unlike a psychiatrist who charges a lot of money, I don’t have time to listen to all of it.  However, if you write things down, make a list and give it to me . . . pile it all on me.  I’ll know what to do with it.”

[ Edited: 02 June 2017 11:54 by unsmoked]
 
 
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04 June 2017 11:53
 

If interested in a broader secular look at this topic see Steven Pinker’s ‘THE BLANK SLATE - The Modern Denial of Human Nature.’  https://www.amazon.com/Blank-Slate-Modern-Denial-Nature/dp/B002ZJ1V8E

quote from review:

“Our conceptions of human nature affect every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political movements we embrace. Yet just as science is bringing us into a golden age of understanding human nature, many people are hostile to the very idea. They fear that discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, to dissolve personal responsibility, and to strip life of meaning and purpose.

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmas: the Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits), the Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and the Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.

Pinker injects calm and rationality into these debates by showing that equality, progress, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about a rich human nature. He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common sense, and pertinent facts from science and history. Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues, the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done more harm than good. It denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces hardheaded analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of government, violence, parenting, and the arts.

Pinker shows that an acknowledgment of human nature that is grounded in science and common sense, far from being dangerous, can complement insights about the human condition made by millennia of artists and philosophers. All this is done in the style that earned his previous books many prizes and worldwide acclaim: wit, lucidity, and insight into matters great and small.”

[ Edited: 04 June 2017 11:57 by unsmoked]
 
 
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04 June 2017 12:48
 

Thank you—sounds interesting.  I’m ordering it from our local library.

 
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04 June 2017 18:22
 
unsmoked - 04 June 2017 11:53 AM

If interested in a broader secular look at this topic see Steven Pinker’s ‘THE BLANK SLATE - The Modern Denial of Human Nature.’  https://www.amazon.com/Blank-Slate-Modern-Denial-Nature/dp/B002ZJ1V8E

quote from review:

“Our conceptions of human nature affect every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political movements we embrace. Yet just as science is bringing us into a golden age of understanding human nature, many people are hostile to the very idea. They fear that discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, to dissolve personal responsibility, and to strip life of meaning and purpose.

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmas: the Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits), the Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and the Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.

Pinker injects calm and rationality into these debates by showing that equality, progress, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about a rich human nature. He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common sense, and pertinent facts from science and history. Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues, the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done more harm than good. It denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces hardheaded analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of government, violence, parenting, and the arts.

Pinker shows that an acknowledgment of human nature that is grounded in science and common sense, far from being dangerous, can complement insights about the human condition made by millennia of artists and philosophers. All this is done in the style that earned his previous books many prizes and worldwide acclaim: wit, lucidity, and insight into matters great and small.”

Nice paraphrasing of the book.

Thank you

 
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13 June 2017 07:27
 
Skipshot - 02 June 2017 06:18 AM

Buddhism, of course, was reportedly started by Siddhartha Gautama in India around 500 B.C., about the same time the classic Taoist text Tao Te Ching is said to have been written by Lao Tzu in China.  The two philosophies are similar in teaching “let go” and “be in the here and now” stuff, but as I mentioned above, Buddhism has hang-ups on ritual, rules, and the after-life while, Taoism isn’t centralized on priests and monasteries and doesn’t mention the after-life or gods.

When Buddhism came to China, Taoism was already fairly well known.


I think it may well be true that what we call “Buddhism” today is actually “Buddhism + various cultural paradigms”. Quite frankly, this is bumming me the frick out right now, because I realize that possibly what I actually like about Buddhism may be rooted largely in the latter and only to some degree in the former. Hopefully they are at least somewhat intermingled in that Buddhism presumably led to these cultures, to some extent, but not the same thing.


I’m not sure how authoritative I should consider Bhikkhu Bodhi’s collection of discourses from the Buddha. But I am still somewhat unnerved that the Buddhism he presents looks little like the Buddhism you encounter in this country or even from renowned Buddhist leaders like the Dalai Lama (who focuses much more on qualities like compassion, friendliness, and positive global interdependence). The discourses themselves paint a picture of a Buddha who 1) Is very, very much steeped in what we would call supernaturalism - contrary to the idea that Buddhism is largely pragmatic, he spends about half his time talking about how to incarnate in deva realms vs. hell realms. 2) Ultimately comes across as a path of the most complete and total renunciation. Compared to other spiritual paths, there is almost nothing uplifting in the discourses because until one is totally liberated, any uplifting feeling is just another source of attachment and therefore danger. He pretty much says over and over again “You’re going to die and rot, and anything - anything - in the temporal world that makes you happy now is going to be unsatisfactory later. Name anything you like. Anything! That thing sucks. At least until you’re enlightened. Stop being attached to it.” Charity is mentioned largely in the context of earning enough merit to further oneself on the path of non attachment, not as an end goal, in my understanding.


Perhaps if you’re far enough down the spiritual path this seems like an invitation to freedom and not an invitation to rejection of the world. For most people, though, I think this stark framing is a bit much, and so Buddhism has traditionally be rolled into more cheery sociocultural paradigms that cultivate positive mind states in the meantime. Just my hypothesis, ha ha, but my sense is that when you see Buddhism in a society you are often seeing Buddhism + something else.

 
 
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13 June 2017 17:48
 

No need to feel bummed, N.L. because we all put our own interprations on our perceptions.  Feel free to cherry pick to make Buddhism what makes you happy.  Of course, beware going down the path of of exclusion and the perfection of your version because that tends to make one a jerk, i.e. compare our resident Christians EN and BroMo.

 
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13 June 2017 20:10
 
Skipshot - 13 June 2017 05:48 PM

No need to feel bummed, N.L. because we all put our own interprations on our perceptions.  Feel free to cherry pick to make Buddhism what makes you happy.  Of course, beware going down the path of of exclusion and the perfection of your version because that tends to make one a jerk, i.e. compare our resident Christians EN and BroMo.


Thanks. And again, I don’t know if what I’m reading now is particularly representative of “real” Buddhism or not - but while I don’t want to falsely libel the tradition, I also don’t want to be under-skeptical and dismiss quotes I don’t like out of hand either. But I do recall reading a Buddhist verse about life being like “a bubble on the water” in some previous context and finding it quite pleasant - and that same verse appearing in this book in what looks like a very different translation / interpretation - a long sequence of analogies about how life is full of suffering and no one can escape death, concluding with:


”’Just as, when a cow to be slaughtered is led to the shambles, whenever she lifts a leg she will be closer to slaughter, closer to death; even so, brahmins, is human life like cattle doomed to slaughter; it is short, limited, and brief. It is full of suffering, full of tribulation. This one should wisely understand. One should do good and live a pure life; for none who is born can escape death.’

“But at that time, O monks, the human lifespan was 60,000 years, and at 500 years girls were ready for marriage. In those days people had but six afflictions: cold, heat, hunger, thirst, excrement, and urine. Though people lived so long and had so few afflictions, that teacher Araka gave to his disciples such a teaching: ‘Short is the life of human beings.…’


So I was like… wait, what?! Which is the real translation? The one I heard before or the one where people live for 60,000 years? I have no idea.


Whether you call it cherry picking or customizing one’s experience to things that cultivate good qualities at an individual level, though, I agree with you - helpful framing no doubt varies a lot over the centuries. I think the truth value has to be in having at least a vague understanding of what you’re aiming for, in terms of qualities to develop, but once you have that, yeah, I think there are a lot of different paths and the same words will evoke totally different mental states in different people.

 
 
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