I was attracted to the title because I've tried to read some of Hahn's writings, but they end up seeming too Buddhist'y preachy to my increasingly churchless mind. (Yeah, I'm becoming so turned off to religion, even godless Buddhism seems too doctrinaire to me.)
At first, Warner's piece struck me as making some good points about mindfulness. Basically he doesn't agree with the notion that something called "mindfulness" is going to bring us closer to reality. This is at odds with a tweet from Hahn's account which said:
When you contemplate the big, full sunrise, the more mindful & concentrated you are, the more the beauty of the sunrise is revealed to you.
But there's another way to take this statement. And I honestly believe it's the way most people would take it. They'd look at it and say, "Gosh. I'm not mindful enough. I'm not concentrated enough. Because when I look at a sunrise, I just shade my eyes so that I can get through this traffic jam on West Market Street without running over any of the kids from Our Lady of the Elms. Sunrises kind of annoy me. They give me a headache. I better get more concentrated and more mindful so that I can be more like Thich Nhat Hanh and let the beauty of the sunrise be revealed to me."
In other words, the concept of "mindfulness" gets in the way of the sunrise. It becomes a big obstacle between what we think of as our self and what we think of as the sunrise. And we make our efforts to try to overcome the obstacle we've placed in our own way. Most of the time I hear or read the word "mindfulness" it sounds to me like an obstacle.
Pretty much all of our religions and our various self-help practices are based on the idea that what we are right now is not good enough. We then envision what "good enough" must be like and we make efforts to transform what we are right now into this image of ourselves as "good enough." We invent in our minds an imaginary "mindful me" and then try to make ourselves into that.
Yes, true enough.
But Mark Warner says he is a Buddhist monk. He's written quite a few Hardcore Zen books that he advertises on his web site. Why would Warner do this if he didn't also embrace the idea that "what we are right now is not good enough"?
I skimmed through the many comments on Warner's post. Some supported Warner's perspective; others, Hahn's. Still others, some other way of looking at mindfulness, meditation, and other Buddhist practices.
Interesting how looking at a sunset can get so complicated, when spirituality/religion becomes part of the seeing. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this -- given how much crap I've written on this blog during the past six and a half years, there's no way I can criticize someone for analyzing the Zen of sunset watching.
In my beloved "Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism," this morning I read in a section on Buddhism:
Mahayana's doctrine grew out of a famous paradox at the heart of Buddhism. It encourages us to eliminate our desires, first for inessentials like wealth and status, then for sex, then for food, and eventually even for breath.
When these desires are extinguished, one is nearly ready for nirvana, but one desire remains. It's the desire that motivated the entire exercise -- the desire to enter nirvana.
...It's easy to see the path to Zen from here. Why make the desire to get to nirvana the last desire you extinguish? Make it the first!
It's also easy to see the Taoist contribution from this viewpoint. How do you extinguish the desire for nirvana? Simple. Abandon the distinction between nirvana and samsara, accept that we all have the Buddha nature (are all already Buddha), and return to living everyday life!
OK. But wouldn't it be even better to not have to return to living everyday life, because the notion of nirvana or enlightenment never entered your mind?
Or to not write what I just said, for the same reason? But if there's no nirvana and no samsara, it doesn't matter what I do or don't do, because it's all the same.
Glad I cleared that up. But what is that? (Note to self: resolve all this confusion in future blog post, once and for all. Then seek psychiatric help for delusions of grandeur.)