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May 07, 2020

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We are a peace of awareness..

Yes, all of the 'graspings' you mention here underline the causes of much of our conflicts and problems. I reckon though, that the top and probably most basic of all is, as you quoted :- “The third belief we grasp at is the belief in a self, a permanent existence. This is the belief that's most deeply rooted in us, and that causes us the most pain.”

It's definitely worth investigating this 'self structure' to see its insubstantiality and its being the source of practically every distorted view of ourselves and life. To look into the phenomenon of the 'self', both intellectually and meditatively and to see its structure is perhaps the only liberation.

Brian, like you, I struggled with some of 'Why the World doesn't seem to make Sense' and got on better with 'Buddhism plain and simple'. I also appreciated another of Hagen's books - 'Buddhism is not What You think'. You may also like this one.

I love this:

“But duhkha need not grip us. To see this moment as it comes to be -- to see that all is fluidity, that nothing separate is born, and that nothing dies -- is to break the chain of bondage.”

Find what persists.
We can only exist because some things do persist. All science is based upon this notion, that there are things, principles of action in physics, biology, Chemistry, that actually do persist. If they did not persist, evolution could not take place. Our world could not exist even temporally. Even for a single unit of time. For anything to exist in time, it does so built upon principles that persist. And under these, principles that persist even longer.

What we see changes, and we also change. But some things, foundational things, don't. And we have connections to them. We must in order to exist at all.

@ I reckon though, that the top and probably most basic of all is, as you quoted
@ :- “The third belief we grasp at is the belief in a self, a permanent existence.
@ This is the belief that's most deeply rooted in us, and that causes us the most pain.”

I think mystics would argue what we grasp most tightly is what's
outside, i.e., what consciousness creates or becomes aware of
and not consciousness itself. What could "self" be other than this
power of consciousness ... but we're in a hall of mirrors grasping at
the fleeting shapes that appear.

The "self" is consciousness, not the bodies shrouding it, nor what's
perceived outside , nor the drama and casts who are play acting
their roles. These are the real source of pain... or rather it's the
attachment to these objects that is so wrenching when lost.

The "self" is consciousness, not the bodies shrouding it, nor what's
perceived outside , nor the drama and casts who are play acting
their roles. These are the real source of pain... or rather it's the
attachment to these objects that is so wrenching when lost.

Posted by: Dungeness | May 08, 2020 at 05:24 PM

Attachment—the source of all suffering. If only detachment were easy.

Inhale, exhale
Forward, back
Living, dying:
…Slice the void in aimless flight –
Thus I return to the source.
(Gesshu Soko)

Hi Sonia
You wrote
"Attachment—the source of all suffering. If only detachment were easy."

The word easy requires some thought. We are not attached by nature. In Meditation you can temporarily at least loosen those emotional, biochemical, conditioned bonds. And momentarily have a different experience free of reactive thinking... Or at least less bound by reactive thinking.

Now if this is your only margin, to shrink down momentarily in meditation, so that your chains are not so tight, so that you become smaller, less, in a way, then, easy or difficult, that's the one string life has given you to play.

But let me suggest, that if you shrink down small enough within those chains entirely tight and inescapable here, you might find it easy to walk entirely away from them there, within.

That's bliss. Now, though you still have to return here, you have a second life, even a loving husband /wife /friend /partner there. A beautiful temple / castle there filled with riches. So that becomes the center of your life. Even if there is no escape here, the freedom in that place gives an entirely different perspective. And you become a little wiser here, too. Now you are no longer grounded here. Now you are grounded there. Nothing here can do you as much harm anymore.

If I could only have one Castle, one Spaceship, one true Lover, that's where I want that. Because that place is always within me. I take it wherever I go. No one can stop me going there. It requires no luggage, carries no weight. In contrast this heavy muddy shell is the baggage. This ego is the unwieldy and awkward burden. But every day I can dismount this beast. And if it fights me, I can slay it. But this phoenix dragon is always back to life, I can't get rid of him, though tamed, he serves a function for me. He can be a good and loyal partner here.

So you can see for yourself the function of fables, myths, allegories, even religions.

"But duhkha need not grip us. To see this moment as it comes to be -- to see that all is fluidity, that nothing separate is born, and that nothing dies -- is to break the chain of bondage."

If this is Truth, and Buddhism frees people from bondage, then it begs the question Stephen Batchelor asks: "where are all the enlightened people"?

Or, if the Buddhist practice of liberation is so fulfilling, why do 99.9% of Westerns who become monks and ardently practice meditation end up bailing from monastic life after a few, or even many years?

Go to all these Asian Buddhist countries, and you'll find just as much praying going on in their temples as there is in our churches. Two ways to look at this: 1) People are just a bunch of sentimental weaklings, or 2) Belief in some kind of God and afterlife is innate to human beings, and always has been since the dawn of human civilization.

Interview the Buddhist masters of the last century like Ajahn Chah and Dipa Ma, and you'll find every one of them utterly devoted their lives to Buddhist practice because of their belief in an afterlife. None of them were materialist atheists. Why was that?

There's really very little difference between sant mat and buddhism. Ironically, the major problem that many people have with sant mat is that it claims that there actually are people who actually have achieved freedom from karmic bondage through spiritual practice.

The consensus from Buddhist like Hagen and Batchelor – and others from the science disciplines – describe consciousness as requiring an object and an observer to produce the conscious experience. A self is not needed for a conscious experience, just the act of an organism observing an object creates the conscious experience. It is also said that for us to register such conscious experiences (to know we are conscious) requires awareness – and awareness is not an attribute of a self.

The self – not only from a Buddhist perspective – is a mental construct consisting of a lifetimes experience (mere information) 'stored' in the brain. It is the grasping of the illusory mind/self structure that causes suffering through its only modus operandi – conceptualising. Apparently, the antidote is – awareness.

"A second kind of belief is belief that ritual or ceremony can somehow save us from pain, confusion, and ignorance. It's only in learning to see this very moment, as it has come to be, that liberation occurs -- not in wearing robes or performing ritual acts."

Sure, but everyone who has ever come to these conclusions that the Buddha supposedly came to did it via a process of rituals. This includes the Buddha himself. He learned by doing things. The philosophy came later.

Ritual itself can't save us from anything, just as driving a car to the doctor can't save you from anything, but you don't get to the destination/state or wtf you want without going toward it in one way or another, and rituals are a great vehicle.

@ A self is not needed for a conscious experience, just the act of an organism
@ observing an object creates the conscious experience. It is also said that for
@ us to register such conscious experiences (to know we are conscious) requires
@ awareness – and awareness is not an attribute of a self

I think mystics would agree physical observation creates
the potential for conscious experience. But that's only a
potential. What is consciousness and awareness really?
Where does it come from? What sustains it? What is the
source of its transformative power and strength?

@ The self – not only from a Buddhist perspective – is a mental construct consisting
@ of a lifetimes experience (mere information) 'stored' in the brain.

You may assert awareness is not an attribute of self but
one can't definitively say "self" or "soul" doesn't empower
awareness..

@ ... and awareness is not an attribute of "self".

What can be said of the attributes of awareness if we
don't even know where it comes from? How can it
it convincingly be stated that an "illusory" self/soul is
just cobbled together out of brain stuff? We observe
rather simple-mindedly awareness goes away or seems
to when the brain dies. But that doesn't explain its genesis
or establish causality.

@ It is the grasping of the illusory mind/self structure that causes suffering through
@ its only modus operandi – conceptualising. Apparently, the antidote is -
@ awareness.

The mystic would probably say we only know we suffer... and
agree awareness is the way out.

A mother says goodbye to her children, hugs and kisses them all and then leaves the house for work, closing the door behind her.

Her youngest child starts to cry and moan, "Mommy is gone! Mommy no longer exists."

The middle child says to the younger one. "I think mommy just went to work. And one day you and I will go to school, and then to work to!"

The youngest child in tears shouts at the middle child, "No! I don't believe you, Mommy's gone! You are lying!"

The middle child gets a little upset, "Why the fuck would I lie about that?! "

The midle child, being eleven long years of age and malicious then says to the oldest child, " Ellen, no use lying to her anymore. Yes Susie , you are right, Mommy's gone. I'll be doing the cooking from now on! And you will do all the dishes! Cereal and milk for dinner, yipee! "

Little Susie shrieks in terror and runs to her room. The oldest child looks sarcastically at her younger brother, rolls her eyes and says," Really? Really? " before going to console little Susie.

"There is no way to hold a view of reincarnation without holding a view of permanence. Thus any view of reincarnation is antithetical to what the Buddha taught."
Buddhism Is Not What You Think It Is, Steven A Hagen, page 46

See, this is the problem of making shit up and calling it Buddhism. Hagen would have been more honest titling his book" My New Version of Atheism and Why I Guess This Is What Buddha Really Meant"

That would take a pretty big ego. But it takes an even bigger SOB to claim his view IS Buddhism. So, now he has crossed the line from intellectual honesty to dishonesty.

Buddhism believes in Samsara, reincarnation. And the only escape is escape from rebirth.

Death is not an escape. And that is because nothing is permanent. Not even death.


Regarding Hagen and reincarnation. S. Batchelor seems to have researched the early Buddhist scriptures quite thoroughly and points to the huge likelihood that concepts such as reincarnation were included in the scriptures from Hindu sources. Much of the early Buddhist literature (as is common in all religious scriptures) has been influenced by current thinking and beliefs.
Hagen's writing reflects the practical Zen approach. Zen and Chan (and some Taoist schools) maintain that concepts are redundant in trying to understand our predicament and employ the practice of simply seeing what is. It is a practical, working study and has nothing to do with concepts and beliefs.

Here's an interesting take on consciousness/ awareness from Nisargadatta Maharaj :-
“Awareness is primordial; it is the original state, beginningless, endless, uncaused, unsupported, without parts, without change. Consciousness is on contact, a reflection against a surface, a state of duality. There can be no consciousness without awareness, but there can be awareness without consciousness, as in deep sleep. Awareness is absolute, consciousness is relative to its content; consciousness is always of something. Consciousness is partial and changeful, awareness is total, changeless, calm and silent. And it is the common matrix of every experience.”  

Here's an interesting take on consciousness/ awareness I came across from Nisargadatta Maharaj.

“Awareness is primordial; it is the original state, beginningless, endless, uncaused, unsupported, without parts, without change. Consciousness is on contact, a reflection against a surface, a state of duality. There can be no consciousness without awareness, but there can be awareness without consciousness, as in deep sleep. Awareness is absolute, consciousness is relative to its content; consciousness is always of something. Consciousness is partial and changeful, awareness is total, changeless, calm and silent. And it is the common matrix of every experience.”  


Many Buddhists employ various beliefs systems regarding concepts such as hell, heaven and reincarnation – much like the Judaic religions whereas S. Batchelor and most more enlightened Buddhists talk of rebirth, which generally refers to awakening to the present moment – again and again.

Regarding the subject of impermanence in Buddhist thinking. The concept of impermanence refers to the everyday world we live in and our habit of clinging to it. It is more pertinent to understand that it is generally our concepts of the world we cling to – which is the function of the mind/self structure.

It is indeed quite difficult for our cultures steeped in our particular religious and generally grasping or acquisitive cultures to understand Dogen (Zen) when he says :-
To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.
When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away.
No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. Dogen.

Hi Turan
It's fine to conjecture about the past. Just don't call it Buddhism. Call it neo - Buddhism. Because there actually is zero hard evidence of exactly what Buddha taught. He was supposed to be from India. We are taking words and trying to understand the reality behind them. But to claim so many of those ancient words are wrong you need real evidence and there isn't any. The strains of atheism begin in China, but even there you will find teachings of Samsara, reincarnation, right in Buddhism and down to today.

I get the desire to make Buddha an Atheist. That serves everyone who isn't a formal Buddhist. But it is not intellectually honest to do that.

The teachings do not claim liberation at death. Hagen's argument that soul can't exist because nothing is permanent can be used, and is used by Buddhism to claim death can't exist because nothing persists.

But only someone who had gone beyond death could know that. Limited to this transient picture things are not a cycle at all. Everything has only one beginning and one ending only. Nothing exists in a cycle. That is an illusion from this world's view. Exactly the opposite of Buddhism 's teachings.

So I would rather not try to use some ancient religion to legitimize my view, limited as it is from my perspective. If rather just say what I see.

And I suggest that would be the honest thing for Hagen. Not trying to make so many other people wrong, or trying to say he is wiser than all of them. It doesn't speak well for any real insight to have to steal someone else's religion. Coopting Buddhism isn't necessary to comment upon it.

His argument will have to stand on its own two legs. It's the argument for the Atheist. But it is also the argument for spirituality, once you've really given up trying to use the human mind to understand spiritualoty. It's more useful deconstructing old beliefs so you can see things as they are. But any progress there leads to spirituality, in my experience. Meditation is putting aside mind and habitual, reactive thinking, leading to insight. Insight that is direct perception. And then mind has something new to suggest. From within!

"Buddhism believes in Samsara"

Buddhism doesn't believe things. Buddhists do. Buddhism is a broad collection of teachings which buddhists believe, though many of those teachings contradict each other. Zen doesn't align with the earliest of buddhist teachings, but it's still buddhism. Vajrayana, Mahayana and Theravada don't even use the same core texts.

Almost all Buddhism comes from an era long after "the" buddha lived. The very earliest buddhist texts, and the only ones that could even be potentially attributed to Gautam aka "the" buddha, would probably shock a lot of people because they're filled with "sexist", "racist" and otherwise politically incorrect passages, and they sound a lot more like Vedanta than the heady cerebral concepts we call buddhism today.

But yes, to say that popular Buddhism doesn't normally employ teachings on samsara and transmigration of something, call it consciousness or soul, does seem dishonest.

"Death is not an escape. And that is because nothing is permanent. Not even death."

Then your escape, whatever that might mean, isn't permanent either.

Hi Jesse
You wrote
"Then your escape, whatever that might mean, isn't permanent either."

Yes, logically if soul isn't permanent and death isn't permanent, than is nothing permanent? Which is it?

I will not hazard a guess about what Buddha might have meant.

But I will offer an explanation. Some things really are permanent. Law of Gravity. Relationship of force, mass and acceleration. The fact that all the interior angles of a triangle always equal exactly 180 degrees. There is evidence of permanent things. Underneath the changing things. And were nothing persisting, we could not exist.

So I chalk up the misunderstanding to being way too literal. When you observe life you see everything appears to change. But not exactly everything. Human stupidity seems pretty reliable.

it seems like everyone has it all figured out.

what is clear is that everyone, including me, has an opinion.

obviously "my" opinion is the right one, thats why i hold it.

"i know everything, you know nothing" says the madman.

the madder you are the more you are convinced that you are right.

obviously everyone can see that i am right, so i must be the maddest of them all.

the mind has the ability to conceptualise.

say anything and the listener never hears you.

all they hear is their version which they think you said.

"i know, i know, i know everything" are the final rantings of a dying madman.

so many religions. so many philosophies.

why?

so i can find one that fits me.

one that agrees with me.

i can tweak it a little here and there to make it a perfect fit.

and if i really cant succeed, there is one last hope.

write a book.

or better still create a whole new religion.

like scientology.

dont worry, it doesnt need to make sense.
somebody somewhere will believe and convince others.

if scientology can have followers, anything can.

i got no time to finish this blog comment..........

i need to get busy in creating the next new 'science of the non-soul'
that will take the world by storm.

Spence. Actually all that we know of Buddhism can be classed under the title of 'Neo' Buddhism as it is constantly adapting. it is constantly evolving according to any new revelations that point out the Dhama – Dhama being not only ancient texts but any device that enables awakening. It is in this sense that Hagen is obviously teaching. The Koan for example developed in Japan and was not something that other Buddhists used. It also changed in China, incorporating much from Taoism.

The term Buddhism is just a convenience and under this heading anything that can help is possible. The Buddha (apparently) did not promote a belief in a God but equally he never denied one. He just saw that such speculation was not helpful in liberating one from suffering – which was/is the main thrust of Buddhist teachings.

It cannot be pinned down to any concept, belief or opinion, it is just a practical, down-to-earth practice helping one to just 'see'. In this respect it doesn't matter what one believes whether Christian, Atheist, Moslem, agnostic etc. All that matters is again, as Dogen stated :-

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things.
When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away.
No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. Dogen.

And that is all there is to Buddhism.

Hi Turan
It's really a stretch to claim what Buddhism is and that Samsara is no part of it. But it's fine to claim what you believe it is.

Therein lies a subtle difference.

When you can define your version of Buddhism as just your version, then progress. It's a Zen thing to say "I don't really know." Try it.

When I wonder about illusion and how the mind wants to grasp at worldly things and make sense of everything, I remind myself that this life is like a dream and in the near future this dream will end and I'm hoping for a much better adventure ... merging with oneness ...

“We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.”

― Buddha

@zenjen

Yes, merging with “Oneness” sounds like a good end to this Brothers Grimm Tale.

“Actually all that we know of Buddhism can be classed under the title of 'Neo' Buddhism as it is constantly adapting.“


But isn’t that true of every single group and organization in the world. It’s human nature. Do you think Christians are happier than Muslims? And are they happier than Buddhists? Is any one particular faith happier overall than another? I don’t think so. It’s individual. Wherever there’s a group of people, the individuals in that group will start playing roles. You’ll have a spectrum of personalities like happy-go-lucky, overachievers, complainers, skeptics, and then those who just go along with what whatever the group is doing.

You will find some exceptional people in almost every kind of organization and you’ll find people with serious struggles and behavioral issues in the very same org. Psychologists talk about the dynamics in marital (significant other, partner, whatever you want to call it) relationships. Typically when one person has exaggerated personality traits that are different from their partner, over time their partner will (if they stay) develop almost equally exaggerated traits that oppose and/or balance the dynamics of the relationship. Some kind of weird equilibrium thing evolves over time with human dynamics.

Anyway, I had a Satsangi friend who was on the path as long as Brian. She left for several years and became a Buddhist. She wasn’t happier as a Buddhist, she just said it made more sense to her.

These are just observations. It’s all very weird.

At the end of the day does what you “believe” make you happier?

IMHO, if what you believe in doesn’t have some sort of practical application then it’s not going to make you happier.

Spence. A last few words on this subject. I'm not sure where your coming from especially as my last comment was simply stating facts (not my facts) about Buddhism as recorded by many scriptures and teachers over the centuries. Again, Hagen and Batchelor (for example) reflect these teachings which is why they interest me.

Many have issues with Buddhism and its philosophy and criticise or dismiss it as for instance dwelling on the assumption that it is an atheist teaching. Like all these things, if it works for a person then great.

As I mentioned, the main thrust of Buddhist teachings, again, particularly Zen (and interestingly recent brain studies) is to study the 'self' which reflects my interest and practice. It is not a question of being right, more of an enquiry, an investigation – along of course with our comments.

@ Regarding the subject of impermanence in Buddhist thinking. The concept of
@ impermanence refers to the everyday world we live in and our habit of clinging
@ to it. It is more pertinent to understand that it is generally our concepts of the
@ world we cling to – which is the function of the mind/self structure.

I agree mostly but the "mind/self" duo vitiates that argument.
The mind deals in concepts; a "self" which, at its core, mystics
and others call consciousness does not. Consciousness gives
rise to awareness and is capable of direct perception which
apprehends unmediated and not through concepts.

Hi Turan
You wrote
"the main thrust of Buddhist teachings, again, particularly Zen (and interestingly recent brain studies) is to study the 'self' which reflects my interest and practice. It is not a question of being right, more of an enquiry, an investigation – along of course with our comments."

Yes, I like this.

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