« More atheist wisdom from "We of Little Faith" | Main | Belief in life after death precedes religious belief »

December 03, 2023


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Easier said than not-done.

I got the following from some of my old notes, not sure if it was a quote from some source or whether it was from some of my ponderings from looking into Ch'ing-yüan Wei-hsin’s saying on mountains and rivers: -
“Mountains are the rocks, trees, grass, snow, water, rivers, ponds, lakes, insects, birds, animals, etc., etc., etc., and all of these things are made up of other things. So, there are no mountains and no rivers. However, we deeply understand that both “mountain” and “river” are merely words that we use to describe the conditioned phenomena in front of us. Neither phenomena are a fixed nor permanent entity that exists in and of itself and possesses inherent existence as “mountain,” or “river.”

Just as mountains and rivers have no inherent existence as “mountain,” or “river,” being ever-changing processes, the same applies to us in that there is no inherent self. What is referred to as a ‘self’ is a construct, and a dynamic one at that. As Brian Lowery describes in his book Selfless: “The concept of self is not static, but rather constantly evolving through social interactions and the ongoing construction of our identity.”

Emptiness being a main tenet of Chan (or Zen) is obviously important to understand. Anatta," "no self" or "not self." This basic teaching is accepted in all schools of Buddhism, including Theravada. Anatta is a refutation of the Hindu belief in atman – a soul; an immortal essence of self. Mahayana Buddhism goes further than Theravada. It teaches that all phenomena are without self-essence.

Emptiness then is the realisation that there is no inherent, permanent self, whether it is us or any of the phenomenon about us. Once mountains and rivers are seen initially as not mountains and rivers, then: “. . .after he gets an insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master, mountains to him are not mountains and waters are not waters; but after this when he really attains to the abode of rest, mountains are once more mountains and waters are waters.”

The discerning separative thinking mind can then relax and enjoy just being.

"Mountains are the rocks, trees, grass, snow, water, rivers, ponds, lakes, insects, birds, animals, etc., etc., etc., and all of these things are made up of other things..."

Well, said, Ron E! I never thought of it quite that way.

Can you please explain Zen Buddhism in a nutshell?

“Easier said than not-done.” 😂

Thanks for that comic relief.

"not-Sirius," good pun!

Building on Ron E's theme, we humans excel at making things out of other things. We assemble every kind of structure from houses to Rubik's Cubes to locomotives to sewage systems to cell phones to whole societies and tributary institutions. And we use every kind of material from physical to intellectual to emotional.

Anatta is like saying nothing is greater than the sum of its parts. A mountain is not a mountain except in how we relate to it. However, an automoble is greater than the sum of its parts, because it's purpose built. Humans are extra powerful at creating assemblages greater than the sum of their parts.

Institutional religions are such assemblages, and that's the trap. They're purpose built by humans for humans. Many condemn idolatry, failing to include the mental idolatry of worshipping the belief structure in itself. For that reason, in pursuit of The Big Truth there's a lot to be said for abandoning the constructed for the innate.

But what is most innate? That's the question! The Void or The Endless Party? I wish I knew.

There are lots of religious leaders, gurus, masters, and such who are happy to help with this. Salvation, enlightenment, God realization -- these and other wares are offered in the religious/spiritual marketplace as solutions to the illusory problem of life not being what life actually is.

Radha Soami and Gurinder Singh Dhilion baba teaches this exactly and hasn't a clue of reality about life. If we look closely at Gurinders it's a mess as we see today a treacherous little man tripping over the mess he has made in his, it teaches us anything but never to follow as so called Baba who hasn't anything to teach us and nothing to show in his

He has ruined many lives and his own too.
Recent articles everywhere show us how EXPOSED he is now as he's always hidden from every one every where now we know why

Radha soami is finished and so is Gurinder Singh Dhilion.

Sorry to strike a contrarian note, but I'm not buying this. This specific thing, I mean. This seemed to me obscurantist bull when I first read it, and commented on it; and it still does.

If these Zen types did clearly realize the no-self idea, and were clear that that was all to it, then why wouldn't they clearly communicate that, in so many words, crystal clear, sans the BS riddling? (Like I said before, I understand the role of koans in Zen pedagogy. But I don't see why that faux profundity must permeate everything they say, particularly where a short sentence or two in introduction might suffice.)

For instance, their protestations that "I have nothing to teach." That sounds exactly like GSD's "I'm not God" shtick, while battening off of folks' devotion. Why not, instead, say clearly, "There is no self. We emerge from physical sources, a chimerical illusion, and disappear when that physical basis is no longer tenable. And that understanding is all I have to offer. And nor will that understanding help you with anything, beyond that understanding itself. ...If you insist on an experiential understanding of that simple idea, while putting in a great deal of work, and for no benefit beyond that understanding itself: then sure, come along, I'll help you. That much I do have for you, but only that much, and nothing else."

That there is clarity. That there is honesty. Simply saying "Go away, I got nothing" ---- while living off of disciples' largesse, and pretending to profundity, and teaching elaborate Zazen and whatnot --- that's dishonest, that's basically GSD's "I'm not God and won't come for you at death" disingenuous shtick, while battening off his dupes' largesse.

To confound the mind. Miiiiind. Mi-yi-yinnnnddd.

Appreciate the humor! And also, I appreciate we're clearly on the same page here, umami.

But to repeat what I'd said, if I may: I'm happy to grant them the validity of that pedagogic technique, of confounding the mind, absolutely. What I object to is their carrying their wise old man on the hill persona with them when speaking also to prospective students and general enquirers, as opposed to only their students. That's BS. That tells me they're simply putting on airs, and probably don't know what they're gabbing on about. That's Deepak Chopra BS right there.

A for-instance from my personal experiencee: Tantric teacher. Old man, flowing white hair and beard. Clutch of new students, including yours truly. Asks us all what we're there for. Every time one of us speaks, he tells us we won't get what we want, and to take back our money, that he's willing to refund, and go back. To stay only if we have no expectations.

I speak last. I tell him I'm aware of his tradition, its broad teachings, techniques, aims. I tell him I'm there to learn the techniques of his tradition from him. I do have expectations, which is authentic teachings re. those techniques. I respectfully tell him I certainly WILL take my money back if he isn't going to give me what I came for. (What I didn't say then, but think appropriate to add now, is that only a fool does things with zero expectations. What is wrong is incorrect expectations, not expectations per se. To quash all expectations is a nonsensical idea. Only a charlatan claims not to sell anything while elaborately setting up shop, and only a fool submits to that blatant charlatanry.)

To his credit, the old man did appreciate my point, even though it disturbed the flow if his first-day spiel. Like I said, I was respectful throughout, my intention wasn't to challenge him but only to ...get to where I was headed, is all, and I suppose he ...well, appreciated that point.

Likewise. I'm not saying Zen's nonsense. But this constant endless speaking in riddles, and invoking mountains that are mountains, and chopping wood, when what is called for is a few short clear sentences of prose not whimsical poetry; or saying "Go away, I've nothing here", while elaborately setting up shop to sell their wares: that is where I call BS, that specific part of it

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)


  • Welcome to the Church of the Churchless. If this is your first visit, click on "About this site--start here" in the Categories section below.
  • HinesSight
    Visit my other weblog, HinesSight, for a broader view of what's happening in the world of your Church unpastor, his wife, and dog.
  • BrianHines.com
    Take a look at my web site, which contains information about a subject of great interest to me: me.
  • Twitter with me
    Join Twitter and follow my tweets about whatever.
  • I Hate Church of the Churchless
    Can't stand this blog? Believe the guy behind it is an idiot? Rant away on our anti-site.