Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I Don't Know What's Best

I’m going to be rambling here.
I was in the shower last night (yeah I shower at night, so what??) and I was realizing how MUCH I want to KNOW something. I mean, at the core I have a sense how little I really know, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to prove my points, arguing, getting upset when people disagree with me…
And it hit me yet again, that there’s no particular issue with living my life the best I can, being ready to drop anything at anytime, if I find that things have changed. If I find something works better, I need to use it. Whatever it is. If I find that this method doesn’t work, I’ll use another. I’ll become Christian tomorrow if Jesus shows up at my doorstep.
I’ll start shooting a machine gun if someone can prove to me somehow that shooting a machine gun is beneficial to my life on this planet.
But see, even now, I sound like I think I know something. Even this so-called method of using what works, discarding what doesn’t work, is not really my method. I don’t know if it truly is THE BEST way. Is it the most efficient way? Maybe sticking doggedly to predetermined sets of beliefs, no matter what they are, works BETTER than what I’m suggesting.
Maybe for different people, different bodies and different minds and different experiences…
But I come back to this fact that I’m so angered by the different opinions around me. I find most people to be idiots. Isnt that funny, I really do. I look at the majority of human beings with some amount of disdain, considering them to be foolish, blind, caught in fantasy, deluded.
Perhaps they are. But it seems that I’m trying desperately to be right, to have the rightest ideas, the clearest view of reality, the most objective view of life. Like it’s a competition or something.
As far as I know, I need to at least act on the premise that some of my beliefs have some validity. It’s the best I can do—I think.
But I’ll tell you what. I’m less convinced of what I know as each day passes. Less and less. Its kind of scary.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. Everywhere I turn, someone thinks they know the answer and is willing to clue me in. Probably the comments section here will have people telling me what I’m REALLY trying to say, and what would REALLY benefit me. And I guess, rather than be offended that everyone thinks they know what’s best, I should just listen and consider. Because I might find a better way.

www.gangstazen.blogspot.com

39 Comments:

At March 14, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

if you mean what works best like what metaphysical belief system works best then i dont really have any idea and I dont really care. doing philosophy at uni made me realize that all metaphysics is unprovable and usually silly.

If you mean what works best like what actions will make you less discontent well it's what everyone knows but hardly anyone does.

daily exercise

healthy diet

be excellent to eachother (bill & ted's wisdom there)

pay attention to what ever it is that you happen to be doing

always try to see things from other people's perspective

and (the controversial one) daily zazen. now this one is a lot less self evident than the rest and there has been way too much said about why its crap or the same as other practices and why its good etc etc so i won't bother with justifying why its better than, say playing the flute as jordan suggested. all i can say is that from my own experience, i like it.

however, i think that self evident good advice like in the above list is basically all that really matters in terms of 'methods that work'

one of the best explanations of the 'meaning of life' can be found in monty python's 'the meaning of life' it's right at the end of the film and curiously shares many similarities to the dalai lama's proclamations on what the meaning of life is.


of course, if you want you can attach all kinds of metaphysical beliefs to explain why these methods work e.g. see things from others' persepctives because there is no you and we are all one (man). yawn.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

We are visitors on this planet. We are here for ninety or one hundred years at the very most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful, with our lives. Try to be at peace with yourself, and help others share that peace. If you contribute to other people's happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.
-- The Dalai Lama



'Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.'

- Michael Palin

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

Nice post, gniz. Very honest.

Here's a couple of my favorite mottos:

"The more you learn, the less you know"

and

"Hell is other people."

Most people are sleepwalking through life, bludgeoning themselves and one another in ignorance, and shitting in the tub that we're all sharing.

Big Business refers to us all as "Consumers".
Pretty succinct definition of Human Beings, eh?

Knowlege is fun.
Learning things about stuff.
But "knowing" is not reality. Ultimately, we have to turn our attention back on ourselves if we're to find any consistent truth. This is where the followers of the great religion, SCIENCE! (you gotta say that like the guy in Thomas Dolby's video), go wrong. If knowlege were enlightenment, all us smarties would be happy. Instead, in this wonderful mess of a world, the smarter you are, the more information you have, the more likely you are to be unhappy!

Daily sitting really does help, although I'll be up front with everybody and say that I haven't sat regularly all year, but I did sit every single dam day for 6 years before this year, as Atman will attest- I used to bug him about sitting all the time.
I feel like I'm going through a phase of "not-sitting", if that's not too outrageous of an excuse. I had become attached to my sitting practice.
This should be another thread....
hmmm...
do I have time this morning, though.....

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

btw, I liked Dan's list of good practices, with daily exercise and healthy diet topping the list.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

Gniz, let me clue you in ;-)

You will always do what you feel is best. That goes without saying. Nobody does what they feel is not best.

Notice I didn't say "what you think is best. Sometimes you will play silly tricks and mental gymnastics with your mind, and confuse yourself into thinking that you are actually making rational decisions.

I agree with what Endo would say here, so let me put some words into his mouth: "You will do what you will do. You have no choice."

Think about your choices all you want, agonize over the daily dilemmas, regret past "bad" decisions, and finally, rationalize your current "decisions," but I still don't think you had any choice in the matter to begin with. It is a great, big, cosmic joke, and the joke is on you/me.

"Big Mind" just lost control in a spasm of uncontrolable giggling. Hah!

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

And yes, I will confirm:

Mudderpugger has been a Zazen maniac / borderline Zazen World Police, spreading the Dharma and preaching the benefits of Zen for many years. I gratefully credit him (and a mutual teacher/friend/spiritual advisor) for turning me on to the benefits of Zazen in the first place.

But I still think those benefits are exaggerated in the minds of many practitioners. Alas, that is a controversial topic for another day.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

" But I still think those benefits are exaggerated in the minds of many practitioners. Alas, that is a controversial topic for another day. "

very true

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hi gniz ~

I don’t know if it truly is THE BEST way.

*****Is there, in fact, a "BEST" way? What would define this best way? How would you know it? Later events having transpired, you may be able then to look back and then say, "Ah THAT was the BEST way." But until then, you won't know. So in the moment of making a decision, taking action, you're leaping into the unknown, with no certainty other than faith, that you're engaging in the "best" way.


Maybe for different people, different bodies and different minds and different experiences…

Eggsactly! It is all a matter of the particulars converging at a specific time, place, and circumstance. A piece of advice: don't worry about what is best (especially for others, but also for yourself). It's being taken care of. The authorities have been consulted and are always guiding, directing, and really not asking our advice. :-))


But I come back to this fact that I’m so angered by the different opinions around me...I look at the majority of human beings with some amount of disdain, considering them to be foolish, blind, caught in fantasy, deluded.

Ahhhhh.......been there, done that. My heart goes out to you. This sounds like me some time ago. It was not a fun nor sane way to live. I hurt living in that way.

Now, today even, there are thoughts that such as yours "I find most people to be idiots," but the crucial difference, and the one that cuts off the horizontal involvement in anger, is this (and it really IS critical):

What thought "says" is not necessarily true. After all, what IS "thought"?

Thought is simply the firing off of biochemical energy across neuronal pathways.

That's ALL that thought is.

Thought is not the roadway to Truth. It is just electrical and chemical energy flowing through the brain.

As the wonderful zen teacher/poet Huang Po noted centuries ago: "The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see."

An excellent exercise to engage in when thought brings about a notion that you find...unsettling, upsetting, disquieting...in any way, is to ask, "Is it [the thought] true?"

If the answer arises, "Yes, by God! Of course it's true!!" then quietly, and as gently as possible, inquire: "Can I be absolutely positive, 100% certain that it is true?" Listen to what comes up. It may surprise you. This exercise has the potential of deconstructing thought, allowing that which was initially felt to be solid, immutable, and unquestionably "true," to be seen as porous, full of holes, like swiss cheese. It is the start of compassion (for yourself and, by extension, for all sentient beings).


But it seems that I’m trying desperately to be right, to have the rightest ideas, the clearest view of reality, the most objective view of life. Like it’s a competition or something.

Yeah, there is a competition. It's between you and yourself. ;-) It is premised on the belief that there is some Ultimate Truth/Reality out there that can be known by gniz. That belief (and that's all it is) is worth questioning my friend.


As far as I know, I need to at least act on the premise that some of my beliefs have some validity. It’s the best I can do—I think.
But I’ll tell you what. I’m less convinced of what I know as each day passes. Less and less. Its kind of scary.


Yes, sure, it IS scary. The self is looking into the void and is sensing its utter and total and complete UNreality. The underlying belief behind the fear is that if one is transformed by that then there will be annihilation (of one's "self"). That thought IS scary! But the saving grace is the awareness that what never was, what never had any concrete reality, can't be annihilated, only exposed as the chimera it always was.

The self, your sense of self, is simply a thought, or, rather, a succession of thoughts thought in rapid succession creating a feeling of solidity which is illusory (just like the individual frames of a movie, run quickly enough, produce the illusion of motion on a film screen when, in fact, there is no motion on the screen at all!). It's a nifty illusion, and it the same process which creates the illusion of a "self" which can be annihilated.


I might find a better way.

Perhaps. I hope so for your sake. For me, a significant aspect of it was finding a teacher who stuck with me through all my stupidities, all my questions, all my concerns, all my worries. And then there was the "unraveling" exercise I pointed to above: deconstructing each troubling thought (no need to do this if a thought makes you genuinely happy, peaceful, and sane). "Formal" meditation helped somewhat, as well. It supported the realization of the unreality of thought and the world that thought generates. Finally, even psychotherapy can help to uncover the roots of underlying anger, hostility, aggression towards others and their ideas, if one is able to connect with the right therapist. Even just a True Friend, someone who is willing to walk with you (and with whom you experience a resonance) can be Grace incarnated.

Peace.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

"The self, your sense of self, is simply a thought, or, rather, a succession of thoughts thought in rapid succession creating a feeling of solidity which is illusory (just like the individual frames of a movie, run quickly enough, produce the illusion of motion on a film screen when, in fact, there is no motion on the screen at all!). It's a nifty illusion, and it the same process which creates the illusion of a "self" which can be annihilated."

Wow, great analogy!

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger gniz said...

Let's take some of what I got for responses here and examine them, shall we?

Dan said: "doing philosophy at uni made me realize that all metaphysics is unprovable and usually silly."

Anatman said: "I still don't think you had any choice in the matter to begin with. It is a great, big, cosmic joke, and the joke is on you/me."

EndoftheDream said: " A piece of advice: don't worry about what is best (especially for others, but also for yourself). It's being taken care of. The authorities have been consulted and are always guiding, directing, and really not asking our advice. :-))"

"Thought is simply the firing off of biochemical energy across neuronal pathways.

That's ALL that thought is."


Its a nice illustration of exactly what I'm hoping NOT to do, which is convince myself or others that I know something definitively. I notice that many on this board and in life spout these truths, but I have VERY little confidence that your statements are born out of experience.

And you may live by them right now, but it doesnt make them true, right, or even necessarily helpful to living the best quality of life.

You can argue that there is no Best Way, except you dont know there is no best way. At the moment, it would seem to be the case that there is no "best" way to live.

Anyway, its rather pointless trying to convince a bunch of know-it-alls that they might not know anything much.

Better to see that for myself. Hell, maybe you do all have things figured out. it must feel nice to BELIEVE you do anyway.

But i doubt it, sincerely.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Hey Mudderpugger ~

If knowlege were enlightenment, all us smarties would be happy.


What is ... "enlightenment"?

Watch out! Those who seek this Golden Fleece may, in fact, be getting...fleeced themselves!

I'm not picking on you, mudderpugger. So many in the spiritual game employ the term and so few really can explain in common, everyday terminology what they think it means.

The word "enlightenment" seems to function in our current society as a meme, always accepted on some unconscious level as real and attainable but a bit vague, hazy, fuzzy, when one tries to pin it down in regard to specifics.

My take: enlightenment, however it is defined, is a myth (of mythic proportions).

People don't "get" enlightened.

There are no enlightened people. (Although there is enlightenment.)

The phrase "enlightened person" is an oxymoron.

Why?

Because enlightenment is the end of the belief that there is a stable, ongoing, persisting person who can "get" (or "be") "enlightened."

It is simply not possible for one to enlightened. As the Seng-Tsan's Verses on the Faith Mind sutra says,

"Even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray."

Hmmm....I like this sutra so much I'll close with the capping verses:

One thing, all things:
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality.
Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

Words!
The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Ok gniz, let's take it one note at a time. :-)

Its a nice illustration of exactly what I'm hoping NOT to do, which is convince myself or others that I know something definitively.


What did you expect to get? You posed some notions, ideas, questions, and people openly and honestly responded with what they know (or think). Who do you think is trying to convince you? You wrote your position and others shared theirs. Where's the offense in such dialogue?


You can argue that there is no Best Way, except you dont know there is no best way. At the moment, it would seem to be the case that there is no "best" way to live.

How does this "knowing" that there is (or is not) a "best" way occur?

How would you (or anyone) "know" that, for sure?

Without a definitive way to test what is being offered, how can one proceed to explore, examine, inquire, into this issue of "best" way since we will never know if it passed the test?

About me and how I live and what I know...

I recall the words of playwright/poet/novelist Samuel Beckett who poetically pontificates on this very subject:

All I know is what the words know,
and dead things,
and that makes a handsome little sum,
with a beginning and a middle and an end,
as in the well-built phrase and the long sonata of the dead.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger gniz said...

EndoftheDream said:
"What did you expect to get?"
Pretty much exactly what I got.

"How does this "knowing" that there is (or is not) a "best" way occur?
How would you (or anyone) "know" that, for sure?"

Yes, exactly my point.

I wrote my dumb opinions on Flapping Mouths to hear myself talk, what other reason. I could say it was to exchange ideas or get advice, which is true to a small extent, but mainly it was to let my mouth flap (or in this case, my fingers over the keyboard).

Again, the disingeneous way people present themselves on the internet or in life generally, means everyone needs to play this game that we're actually discussing something of relevance.

I think its likely that most of you know we're not discussing anything of relevance here, that our statements of fact are less real than the birdshit on my car.

I flapped my mouth and said something to the effect of, I dont know shit. Yet again, but stated with more words.

When someone blows my hair back with an amazing insight, I'll certainly let you know.

I enjoy the flapping anyway.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger Anatman said...

Gniz:

I like the name "flapping mouths" because it is descriptive. We like to talk. Are you going to get a profound enlightenment experience from reading and posting on blogs? Unlikely.

For me, it is more enjoyable than talking about basketball. Probably because I have no interest in spectator sports.

But what if I did? I would probably be arguing with you about the merits of MMA versus American Kenpo. And you would insist, without hesitation, that MMA is superior to Kenpo, even though you've never engaged in a street fight with either type of martial artist. Sound familiar? Mouths are flapping...

Your posting and follow-up makes me think of someone that challenges the boys in the bar to see who can tell the stupidest joke.

Everyone humors him, and then he complains, "Man, you guys tell stupid jokes."

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Well said, Anatman.

And so, given the above,

is there, then, any point in writing/posting at all?

Can this type of dialog be of any useful service...relatively speaking, of course!...in the absolute sense, there is nothing to do, as is pointed out in the koan between Sozan and Tozan, the two founders of the Soto school:

Tozan: Where are you going?
Sozan: To an unchanging place.
Tozan: If it is unchanging, how can there be any going?
Sozan: Going, too, is unchanging.

.....even going is not change. There is, ultimately, no change because there is, ultimately, nothing to change. Zen, at its heart, reflects the nondual foundation that underlies many Eastern teachings, especially Advaita.

So..., in a relative sense, here in the phenomenal world of apparent comings-and-goings :-))

Can concept-swapping generate insight, disengage a long-held but not-too-useful belief, provoke an understanding that may lead to more sanity, greater peace, a more harmonious relationship to life?

Can interchanges not founded on belief systems engender an opening, participate in the creation of some...space...for something other than concepts to arise?

My experience leads me to answer a qualified yes.

The "yes" part of it is founded on personal experience out of which all the "benefits" cataloged above arose.

The qualification part is based on the recognition that dialog does not take place in a vacuum, that there are many other influences that occur simultaneously, and the wider understanding points to the fact that nothing occurs in the phenomenal world unless the entire universe conspires to generate it.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

Hey Endo-
me: "If knowlege were enlightenment, all us smarties would be happy.

You: "What is ... "enlightenment"?"

You'll have to excuse me, I use words that might be considered loaded, unclear or even inappropriate because I am lazy and don't want to endlessly clarify or endlessly qualify everything.

To me, "enlightenment" is waking up. It isn't a goal, it's things as they are, as someone said...Shunryu Suzuki, maybe?

This right here, that which you can't put your finger on, thusness, is hard as hell to talk about. That's why the old dead masterdudes talked in poetic metaphor.

Me am not that good use with words.

I don't think you'll find me hung up on the idea of enlightenment. But, there is a use for the word, which I consider, like you and most everyone who groks the term, to mean "awakened", and it has many levels. It's always there, it's not something to be attained, and as you've said over and over and with which I agree, there is no one to attain anything. It implies that others are asleep, not awake, and therefore that they can be awakened, and once awakened, they can fall promptly asleep again, leaving just a memory of an experience in it's wake.
Enlightenment is nothing special, it's just clear perception. It's what is left when the shit clears. It's here all the time for us, but we relate to everything conceptually and are often, as a species, too trapped in our phantom world of concepts (I am a potter, I live in Colorado, in the United States, I'm sitting at a table and it's Wednesday, 4:07pm) to see what's really there, which is enlightenment.

I think you have a good understanding of stuff 'n things (and no-stuff 'n no-things), and often your comments sort of seal themselves off. I agree with them and see no reason to add anything to them. We might be coming from similar levels, and when that happens it's often the case that we can cancel each other out. There's really nothing to talk about, nothing you can put your finger on, after all.

I don't want to talk like a Zen Master, or like a Zen Master is supposed to talk. I say things like "hell is other people" (long after J.P. Sartre said it) even though I know I am hell, I say other people are annoying, even though I am quite aware of the fact that no one else can annoy me, it's impossible.


I use words like "good" and "bad", knowing "skillfull" and "unskillfull" would be better Buddhist ways of saying it. I say "good" fully aware that there is no measurable "goodness" there that we can point at, no dividing line between "good" and "bad".

I talk about a "table", though I'm unable to point out any particular "tableness", shit! It's not there! No table to be seen! I look at my glass and that, too, disappears.

So, I'm adopting a strategy to leave the clarification and qualification to you, you seem to be very good at it, ;)

love yah, man!

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

I want to re-emphasize my original point, "If knowlege were enlightenment, all us smarties would be happy."


The conversation was about knowing, knowing what's best, about belief systems. I was trying to imply that "it's" not about knowing.

You can become an expert on enlightenment, like Alan Watts was, you can know all about it, but then it's just another concept. I know a lot of Buddhists who are like this, I call 'em Fingerologists. They study the finger that points at the moon, they know that sucker down to its prints and each speck of dirt under the nail. They can teach you all about enlightenment, but that ain't it, man.
It's like the moon, it's there for all of us to see. Unlike the moon, it's not over there and it's here all the time.


Enlightenment doesn't require books, or study, though for some that might be just what it takes to see, and lots of them.
I read (past tense) a lot.
You can't sit your way there, it's there whether you're sitting or not, and I know that's very hard to understand for some.
Sitting is good practice, and for me it really helped focus my attention, but I don't think it's necessary to waking the fuck up. No one taught Jimi Hendrix how to play guitar, I had to study books, I studied waaaaaay more than Jimi, I'll bet, and I just suck compared to Him.
I have no natural talent or ability or tolerance and had to sit, every fuggin' day; endless, boring time spent turning my attention back from the song in my head to this (or, more often, to breath) for this dust (that's me!) to begin to clear. Some people are born with a lot less dust and a lot better habits, maybe, they won't have to sit like that, maybe.

I don't know.

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

Endo-
"and the wider understanding points to the fact that nothing occurs in the phenomenal world unless the entire universe conspires to generate it."

Nothing happens without cause, but I doubt that there is any conspiring, just action (karma!).

 
At March 14, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Mudderpugger ~

The capping verse for Case 28, from the Mumonkan, "Eno's Good and Evil."

You can describe it, but in vain.
Picture it, but to no avail.
You can never praise it fully.
Stop all your groping and maneuvering!
There is nowhere to hide the true self.
When the universe collapses,
It remains, indestructible.



You wrote:
I don't think you'll find me hung up on the idea of enlightenment. But, there is a use for the word, which I consider, like you and most everyone who groks the term, to mean "awakened", and it has many levels.


Sure. As in the "Buddha" (the awakened one).


It's always there,

Right! Like the air which - barring smog - we don't "see." Like the blank, white sheet of paper on which we "see" the writing, but never we rarely, if ever, see the sheet of paper on which the writing appears, the "ground" of the writing, if you will.

it's not something to be attained, and as you've said over and over and with which I agree, there is no one to attain anything. It implies that others are asleep, not awake, and therefore that they can be awakened, and once awakened, they can fall promptly asleep again, leaving just a memory of an experience in it's wake.


The sages of old (7+ millennia ago), the rishis, and the zen dudes who followed them centuries later, repeatedly stressed that that once genuinely awake, there is no "coming (or going) back." Why? Because the awakening they were talking about was the total and complete eradication of the belief in an on-going, persisting self. Once that is abolished, it's over, done with, kaput, finis. There's no longer any one "left" to come back. If the belief in an ongoing self does come back, then the previous insight had been a "free sample," a look over the garden fence. Certainly cool, a taste, a hint of what is possible, but not the Real Deal.


Enlightenment is nothing special, it's just clear perception. It's what is left when the shit clears. It's here all the time for us, but we relate to everything conceptually and are often, as a species, too trapped in our phantom world of concepts...


If looked at closely, as if with a microscope, it can be seen that "we" are never present in the moment. We do what we do. Then, a moment (or several moments later), a thought arises about what just happened, or was felt or was thought. It is that after-thought which contains the sense of an on-going self. A sage is simply one who is aware of the illusion. A sage is not exempt from the illusion. No one is. If awakening is present, then one is fooled for a moment (or two).


I don't want to talk like a Zen Master, or like a Zen Master is supposed to talk. I say things like "hell is other people" (long after J.P. Sartre said it) even though I know I am hell, I say other people are annoying, even though I am quite aware of the fact that no one else can annoy me, it's impossible.

Excellent! Sure, l'enfer c'est l'autre, as JP put it. And heaven is also other people. The dividing line between the two is attachment. The attachment one has to being liked, admired, respected. To paraphrase Proust, "attachment is the ballast that chains a dog to his vomit." Without it, there is just what is happening.


I use words like "good" and "bad", knowing "skillfull" and "unskillfull" would be better Buddhist ways of saying it.


Again, my friend, there is no buddhism. The moment one identifies with an ism, one is lost, confused, caught in the trap. Of course, if identification is to happen, it will happen. As the French say, tant pis. :-)))


So, I'm adopting a strategy to leave the clarification and qualification to you, you seem to be very good at it, ;)

The jury is still out on that one! LoL


You can't sit your way [to enlightenment], it's there whether you're sitting or not, and I know that's very hard to understand for some.

I agree with your point about sitting. Meditation may or may not precipitate the falling away of the belief that one is a separate, ongoing, persisting "self." Anything can participate. But the end of the belief in an enduring self is not "there" all the time. Again, I will say that the enlightenment which the sages and masters of old talked about, pointed to, is the realization (by no one), that the entire history of the individual, is a fiction. There is NO individual which is ongoing. And anything can generate this realization. I know dudes who have been sitting for 22 years. They've become calmer, more serene, they have that "look" of peace and enlightenment in their eyes. And they're still waiting for "it." :-))))


Sitting is good practice, and for me it really helped focus my attention, but I don't think it's necessary to waking the fuck up.

Yep. I teach a meditation class at a local Y. There are a host of benefits that may happen from meditation: physiological, psychological, even...oh! "spiritual." May happen. Or may not. It depends on many, many things, none of which are in the control of the meditator (because, once properly understood, there is no meditator...although there may be meditating).

I have no natural talent or ability or tolerance and had to sit, every fuggin' day;

But you've got a bit heart. It shows clearly.


Some people are born with a lot less dust and a lot better habits, maybe, they won't have to sit like that, maybe.

Right. The innate conditioning-in-the-moment which makes up each person varies from person to person and from moment to moment, always changing, morphing.


Nothing happens without cause, but I doubt that there is any conspiring, just action (karma!).

The "conspiring" was tongue-in-cheek (deeply embedded!). I don't know why things happen, but from what is seen (and supported by chaos theory and quantum mechanics), there are infinitely many contributions to each thing that happens. There are uncountable "causes" which go into the arising of each event, each moment. It is far too complex for a finite mechanism like the human brain to grasp. Kinda like the notion of "infinity."

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

"But it seems that I’m trying desperately to be right, to have the rightest ideas, the clearest view of reality, the most objective view of life. Like it’s a competition or something."

Everyone (mostly) does that. Its called an Ego. Now that you can see it you can learn to let go it.

When you let go a lot of things will fall into place.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

I notice that many on this board and in life spout these truths, but I have VERY little confidence that your statements are born out of experience.

the reason why i think that about metaphysics is actually directly from my personal experience from doing philosophy (as stated in the bit u quoted me on) so i'm not sure why you would have very little confidence that i'm speaking from experience.

ironically, my view is very popular amongst some modern philosophers and i would not have arrived at that view about metaphysical philosophy if i hadnt studied those philosophers who think this.

from wiki:

" A more nuanced view is that metaphysical statements are not meaningless statements, but rather that they are generally not fallible, testable or provable statements (see Karl Popper). That is to say, there is no valid set of empirical observations nor a valid set of logical arguments, which could definitively prove metaphysical statements to be true or false. Hence, a metaphysical statement usually implies an idea about the world or about the universe, which may seem reasonable but is ultimately not empirically verifiable. That idea could be changed in a non-arbitrary way, based on experience or argument, yet there exists no evidence or argument so compelling that it could rationally force a change in that idea, in the sense of definitely proving it false."

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

Dan, don't believe a word I say.
Endo, you've pried loose some stuff with your most excellent comments that I wanna lay down.
I'm pressed for time and so this is all gonna come out fast and furious, with no editing, sorry.
Sitting, for me, was valuable, in that it was a very good method of seeing things as they are. If you sit to get somewhere, like we've all probably done to some extent, at least in the beginning, though some get hung up on it and never get over it, hence my saying one can sit forever and still not see it. Look at TM'ers, they're sitting to bliss out, a lot of "Zennies" do the same, they think of meditation as something special they're doing, and they get mad because they're thinking about stuff and not "meditating" like they should be.
Dan makes an excellent point, why should he believe any of this?
You make an excellent point, once you've seen it, you can't go back. This is why true Buddhists (btw, and don't make me bring atman in again to "prove" my sincerity, I don't consider myself to be an ist of any kind, but it's a good way to talk about a group of people like us in major ways, as being "Buddhists", and as such I include myself in with that group. But I'm going off on a tangent. End parenthesis
this is why true buddhists will never become born again christians. it's fucking impossible.
it's like going back to believing in santa.

So!
it's not about believing that there is no self. This was the stage I was in that I was referring to yesterday when I mentioned David Darling's book Zen Physics, and the impact it had on my sitting inquiry "what is the self, who am i, what exactly am I??"
I "knew" that the self didn't exsist, people described in great detail this 'fact' in many ways, over and over again, but I felt that there was a me, I was me.

At the time I felt like Alan Ginsberg famously said "I know I'm enlightened, I just wish I felt better about it."

Sitting was the tool that enabled me to inspect the situation for myself. Other people can have better concentration skills than I had, but I had to be placed in front of the blank screen of zazen (which, for years was a busy movie screen indeed! and loud!) and taught to keep my attention focused.

Dan, supposedly, "The Buddha", if indeed there was such a character (I'm inclined to believe there might have been, but it doesn't matter one bit to me if there were not, because the shit worked.) said "Be a lamp unto yourselves", or "see for yourselves"
and left behind a prescribed method for doing so.
Try it.
While you may not be able to prove what you might find to anyone else, the question of whether or not it is true will be gone forever from your mind, but see for yourself.
Concerning the self, where is your self, can you show it to me? Is it the surface of your skin, which is all I see? Is it the words from your mind which are all I see/hear? Is it your brain? The whole brain, or in a part of it? which part is that? how much of that part is required for "you" to be there. Are "you" in that part physically, or are "you" made of some magic stardust that lives in that part of the brain?
More importantly, ask yourself, "where exactly is that part of me?" and look for it within the entire realm of "your" experience. Find that spot, that you can touch with your mind as being you, define it. Is it the same thing that it was 5 years ago, or 5 minutes or seconds ago?

You cannot answer any of these questions for me. I don't want to hear your answers, because I know it will take you a loooong time and much effort to answer them, indeed, just to learn how to ask the fucking questions took me years. How do you ask yourself "who am I?"

What I call "you" is not what you call "I". That's why we say shit like there are billions of George Bushes, because quite literally there are, and at the same time there is no George Bush. That might sound like metaphysical jabber, but it's just a simple fact. He doesn't exist, in a very important and real way. And, neither do you. But what is it that you feel to be you? Where is it, what does it feel like, is it one thing, or many things?

You can read in a book that what you call you is a heap of other things (called skandas or something in antoher language), and you can decided that you believe it, but what you should do is look and see what you find. I'll bet you my right and left butt cheeks that, if you do the work, you'll find what the Buddhists tell you is there already!! If you don't find what they say is there, you owe it to all of us to come back and show us the error of our ways.

Buddhism was very mysterious to me at the beginning. And, it all sounded very idealistic. All the Buddhists I saw were people reading shit in books and subscribing to it, talking like Yoda, "I don't exist.", you just wanted to belt the muthafuggas in their nonexistent mouths!

True Buddhism is an inquiry that a person has to do themselves. It's not a matter of belief, and for all you or anyone else knows, I am completely full of shit.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

endo, I was busting your balls about the conspiracy thing.
Think about it.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

endo;
you "If looked at closely, as if with a microscope, it can be seen that "we" are never present in the moment"

another thing worth pointing out here is it takes us a while to contruct "the moment" in our heads. We can never truly catch up to it and "be" in the moment.

Look at the spinning propeller of a plane, where is it in this moment? The moment is gone before the light that hit our eyes makes it to our brain, then it's there, then we "see" it, then we conceive of it.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

that should read first it's there, then we "see" it, then we conceive of it.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

mudderpugger,

I'm not denying the importance of zazen everyday. far from it. i just personally have no interest in whether ' I' exist or not or the nature of the self and other metaphysical conundrums. having to write essays and sit thru lectures on that stuff kind of killed it for me. i find it boring and irrelevant to my life.

what i definitely dont want to do is go around saying ' there is no self' when i have no personal experience of this and do not, ' if i'm honest, believe it.

if i remember rightly the buddha refused to answer any questions to do with the existence of the self etc. he said it was like being shot with an arrow and refusing treatment until you had found out who shot you where he lived and how much the bow cost.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

in other word questions about the self were the wrong questions to be asking. the right questions would be the ones that are the equivalent of ' how do i get this arrow out of my chest and stop the bleeding?'

the answers to these kind of important questions are usually very obvious (seeabove for the dalai lama and monty python's meaning of life quotes and my much less well written list of stuff that's good for you as examples of answers to the kind of questions we should be asking)

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

Dan,

You wrote

I'm not denying the importance of zazen everyday. far from it. i just personally have no interest in whether ' I' exist or not or the nature of the self and other metaphysical conundrums. having to write essays and sit thru lectures on that stuff kind of killed it for me. i find it boring and irrelevant to my life.

Then why are you spending time here, reading and posting? These activities are not zazen. They are conceptual inquiries into the nature of life. Perhaps not philosophy but foolosophy, once properly understood. But nonetheless, what happens at any blog is concept-swapping. It's certainly not everyone's cup of tea but it is what is going on here at FM. Since you are here, perhaps some aspect of these explorations appeals to you? Maybe there is something you can get out of it?

what i definitely dont want to do is go around saying ' there is no self' when i have no personal experience of this and do not, ' if i'm honest, believe it.


Then you won't do it. Simple! :-)
And some others may say such things. And may believe them too. That's their business, right? The world is full of nut-cases! LoL


if i remember rightly the buddha refused to answer any questions to do with the existence of the self etc. he said it was like being shot with an arrow and refusing treatment until you had found out who shot you where he lived and how much the bow cost.

Who knows? None of us were around then. But you might be interested in knowing that there are several paths of practice, many of which predate Buddha.

The basic understanding is that each bodymind mechanism that is imbued with the drive to seek its own True Nature will be drawn to a particular path (zen practice being one of the paths).

There is, for example, the path of knowledge, or jnana-yoga which is nominally what Advaita is about (and which, for me, was the end of the search; I was a zennie for 20 years before stumbling on a practice that fit me better; after toiling in the fields of Advaita, all the issues, concerns, questions, rather quietly ended. The stream dried up rather uneventfully).

I am told that this path, jnana is more appealing to those who tend to be rather intellectual, the primary tool for understanding being the mind. But this is not to say that it is the "best" path. It's all a matter of "best fit" not "best path."

Others tend to be more emotional by nature and they feel things emotionally rather than process them intellectually. For them the path of devotion - the joy found in chanting and being in the presence of the Guru, of surrendering oneself in that way - is more natural and satisfying (referred to as bhakti-yoga).

And there is a third path as well: the path of doing good works, of helping others, of surrendering oneself in the performance of selfless acts (karma-yoga).

No path is "better" than the other. And these distinctions are simply notional, not Real. No one is exclusively intellectual by nature, and no one is exclusively emotional by nature. Thus one may find value in each of the paths. Frequently a seeker will move from an emphasis on one path to another. According to the Upanishads, it is said that the final movement is onto the path of knowledge (jnana-yoga). But the falling away of the illusion of a self can happen at any time, resulting from any practice (or even a non-practice).

It may be asked, why is the path of knowledge considered the final one. Because regardless of the path (or paths) followed, if persistence happens, at some point one of these questions will arise: "Who is it that is inquiring? Who is it that is surrendering himself? Who is it that is devoting himself to the Guru? Who is it that is engaging in selfless acts? What is going on here? Exactly who is doing this?

And that's the question that Advaita picks up (and zen too, at some point in one's practice, when one has exhausted all the usual methods of "getting enlightened" such as meditating, chanting, bowing, etc. And some point one may realize that these practices won't "make" enlightenment happen. Then the questions posed above begin to take on a more immediate sense of urgency.).

Of course Advaita and zen do a rather poor job of answering the questions mentioned above because ultimately there is no answer to it! :-)) That realization may be the final nail in the coffin.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger MikeDoe said...

eotd: The crushing desire to know "THE" answer is one of the major road-blocks. Letting go of that desire opens up more fruitful paths.

If you really are seeking rather than following a religion then you are right that you will be drawn to whatever route fits your needs regardless of whether or not it is conventional. Reality and indivuals do not fit into neat boxes such as 'only pure zazen on odd hours of the day'

OBTW before you get too hooked on semantics, it is the seeking that it is really the issue. When the seeking is given up progress is made. Seeking is really avoidance masked with activity and sincerity.

 
At March 15, 2007, Blogger dan said...

Then why are you spending time here, reading and posting? These activities are not zazen. They are conceptual inquiries into the nature of life.

because i enjoy arguing. but it so happens that i like to argue from the perspective that all metaphysical arguments are essentially unverifiable and unprovable and talking about buddhism doesnt have to be solely constricted to talking about metaphysical issues.

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

Hi Dan,
I just want to give a little bit of my background, without going into too much detail. I believe it's important to our conversation, and back at the old message boards atman and I used to hang at, this was a frequent topic of conversation, and a point I seemed to have to like to make over and over and over again with the bookstore Buddhists who were my arguing partners there.

Buddhism is not a parlor game. It is a cure for suffering.

When I came to finally practice Buddhism (after years of paying lip service to it, which did me no good) my life was completely destroyed. I was completely destroyed.

Oh man, it's embarrassing how fucked up I had become. What a mess I had made of myself. Of course, at the time, I thought I had problems happening to me. I didn't realize I was the problem.

Without going into too many details, I had been suicidally depressed for over a decade, a problem I (stupidly, but hey, I lived in Aspen...and, "when in Rome") treated with cocaine and tequila. I hated life. I used to view it as a sentence to be served.

My belief in Buddhism kept me from blowing my brains out directly, I knew there was no escaping THIS. I had read the Tibetan Book of the Dead after I overdosed (at age 27, I was really into rock stars) and found that it matched what I had sorta experienced during my OD.
Point: I believed in rebirth.

I'm an upbeat person and not many around me had any idea I was suffering so badly, until I completely fell apart.
I hit the bottom of my life over and over and over, each time knocking it down another 100 fathoms.
A poetic way of putting it was that I came to rest at the bottom of my life and started sitting. I was practicing to save my ass. To stop the pain of living. I had these "beliefs" that Buddhism could help, that meditation could help, I had no idea how or why they could help, it was a matter, at the time, of faith.
Sitting ain't fun. And I wasn't quite sure what it was or what it was supposed to do, but there was something about it that lured me. I had been lugging around a book on Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices ("How to Meditate, A Practical Guide", by Kathleen McDonald, Wisdom Publications) for over ten years at the time, and I broke it out one day and read past the first chapter, which was as far as I'd ever read into it.
I had been looking at the book as simply a guide on how to meditate, but after reading into it found it was my first real glimpse of Buddhist Dharma. I mean that instead of just describing how to sit, it went into things like emptiness and the true nature of the self.
I read a passage that had an enormous impact on me, basically, from what I remember, it was something about depression. It said depression is not something that happens to a person, it's something a person does.
It was like a hard smack with a dead salmon across the side of the head. I grokked it. It wasn't something I merely understood conceptually- I stopped doing my depression right then and there.
It took many more years for me to fill in some of the huge intellectual gaps in my understanding, but it was a start, and a start based on more than just blind faith.
For me, practicing was an attempt to save my life, I didn't give a rat's ass if people thought I was wise or a looney, the shit was working for me.
Buddhism is a cure for suffering. If you're not suffering, I really don't know why you'd be interested in it, other than from a purely intellectual standpoint, and in that case, you're fuckin' doomed! You're NEVER going to really get any of this.
Period.
It's about escaping that whole trip!
Whatever you want to do, say or believe is fine with me. I have no interest in selling you any of this shit. If you were suffering and came to me for help, I would, but that is not the case. You are intellectually driven, and that is the exact opposite of the kind of dharma that I used to cure myself.

Whether or not you believe in the cure I used to cure myself is irrelevant.

Please understand that I'm not trying to be rude here, I just want you to understand that there are (at least) two approaches to all this, one being intellectual, the other empirical.

Dharma can't be taught in a class, you can't write papers about emptiness and have it have any effect on you whatsoever. I can't teach you anything. But, if and when the time comes that everything else fails you, you might find all of this nonsense to be worth something very valuable indeed!

I used

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

oops, I had erased something at some point or something and left
"I used"
at the end.

I sure did!

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

mudderpugger,

i agree completely. buddhism isnt a game..... but these blogs are. buddhism is a cure for suffering but these blogs aren't.

they're just a way to talk about common interests.

see the difference?

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

I suppose so, Dan.

To use some old metaphors, talking about Zen is like dancing about architecture. From some of your comments, I get the impression of a group of guys with headaches of varying degrees talking about aspirin. Some have had their headaches cured to varying degrees, and are fascinated with the cure which worked for them, and then you come in and say things which sort of amount to "I don't believe any of you don't still have headaches (which is correct, we all do still get 'em) and I don't believe that aspirin works, nothing you say to me can prove that aspirin works, so why bother talking about it?"

I don't know whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy, I do know that it is a cure for suffering which, when taken (practiced) works. As they say, you can't read the lable on a bottle of medicine, or read all about how that medicine works in the body, you have to take the medicine.

I can't prove to you that I had a headache and that the aspirin I took worked.
I don't see the point of talking about it unless you do have a headache and you're interested in taking the medicine.

Talking about this shit for any other reason is like studying Mars. Who fuckin' cares about Mars? People who aren't too interested in what's going on closer to home.

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

You can't read the label and expect a cure, is what I should have said.

Buddhism isn't nor should it be abstract metaphysics. It's directly related to experience, and it looks to me like you do not understand this, having approached it from a strictly philisophical standpoint.

It's a direct inquiry into personal existance. It's not just a buncha words and thoughts in a book somewhere that you need to read and decide you believe in, that's what separates it from other religions, in my bloated opinion.

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

buddhism isnt a game..... but these blogs are. buddhism is a cure for suffering but these blogs aren't.


Not necessarily.

I personally know of at least four individuals who, through their participation in lists, blogs, emails, were relieved of suffering. Now it should be noted, they were not cavalier about it. It was a passion for them, an all-consuming fire. It was not simply "spiritual entertainment."

It works in so many ways. I can't rule out anything, any way.

Consider going to prison...if a person can "find God" in prison ("find God" = transformation), why not through serious, active, and deep involvement on a blog?

Now you may not see it happening to you. And that's all well and good. But to know that it can't happen...? How can one know what is or isn't so, or might end up being so, for another?

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger Dan said...

Now you may not see it happening to you. And that's all well and good. But to know that it can't happen...? How can one know what is or isn't so, or might end up being so, for another?

cos its just a bunch of mouths flapping. i'm not denying that people may be inspired from these blogs to go out and do some buddhism but reading about cures for suffering isnt the same as actualy practising.

muggerpugger,

i'm not denying the asprin works i'm denying the validity/provability of the metaphysical belief systems taht people attach on top of the fact that the asprin works.

what i'm saying is i dont believe any of your metaphysical explanations for why the asprin works.

that's one of the reasons why gudo nishijima's explanation for why zazen works interests me. not because i think its the be all and end all final answer but because its the first explanation for why zazen works that i've come across that has a scientific basis rather than relying on some ethereal abstract metaphysical notions about all sorts of stuff.


i may consider believing other more reality based explanations but there really is no way to prove one metaphyscial explanation of the nature of phenomena over another.

 
At March 16, 2007, Blogger endofthedream said...

cos its just a bunch of mouths flapping.

Oh no. It's much more than that.


i'm not denying that people may be inspired from these blogs to go out and do some buddhism but reading about cures for suffering isnt the same as actualy practising.


I wasn't talking about reading. I was pointing to the interaction that happens between various mindbody mechanisms here, and at other blogs/lists. There is a well-established practice call jnana, a path in yogic practice, where the individuals interact, converse, dialogue, if you will, and out of that, some...understanding may arise. Often it precedes in a question-and-answer format. This path predates Buddhism by some 5000 years so it has some sticking power to it. Basically what is used are "pointers," thorns applied by one person to extract something thorny that the other has become attached to (usually a core belief which is generating suffering). It's very personal, intimate, and it can be healing (no guarantees of course). And no, there isn't science behind it so it may be something that is not appealing to you.

While zen was fun, the methodology employed never did much for me. But working with my guru, engaging in jnana dialogues, saved my life.

And that is sufficient for me.

 
At March 17, 2007, Blogger MudderPugger said...

Thanks for explaining yourself, Dan. I think I see your point.

 

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