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Zen and the Paranormal
Posted: 17 June 2006 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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paranormal = not scientifically explainable - supernatural (dic.)

Zen masters always emphasize that interest, or fascination with the paranormal is not Zen.  To study Zen in order to gain paranormal powers is a mistake that will stymie the student.  However, in Zen literature, there are occassional references to paranormal powers - incidentals that come later as byproducts of true practice.

"Zen master Huike is also represented as caring for the sick, part of the overall tradition of Buddhist practice.  His most famous healing was of Sengcan, a man with a dreaded disease who was eventually to become Huike's Zen successor.  In this case Huike is said to have used purely spiritual means of healing to release the hold of the illness on the man and enable him to recover his health naturally and spontaneously.

"Mental healing in Zen, important enough to be included among the tales of the founders, appears here and there throughout Zen history but is seldom singled out for emphasis.  The mental healing of Huisi, another early Zen master reckoned as one of the founders of Tiantai Buddhism, is also documented in Zen history.  His student Zhiyi, the definitive author of the highly articulated Tiantai system of Buddhism, included teachings on healing methods in his famous works on meditation."

                      *    *    *    *    *

"Yuansou was a fourth generation heir of the Zen lineage of the great Dahui, but he also worked with one of the last masters of Hongzhi's line as well.  Yuansou is said to have given many evidences of paranormal powers, and he attracted thousands of seekers during his many years as a public teacher."  (14th century)

Quotes are from:  "Zen Essence - The Science of Freedom" translated and edited by Thomas Cleary.

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Posted: 17 June 2006 08:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Some illness is purely mental.  Some sickness can be recovered from more quickly through breathing and meditation, as certain biological systems can be aided in that way.  In either case, a Zen master might be able to help, because there is a state of mind component to wellness.

I seriously doubt that anything beyond that has ever happened, though, if someone has a virus, it is going to run its course.  If someone loses a limb, they need a transplant or a prosthetic.

I’d even be willing to accept that some diseases, which are normally fatal, could be cured/survived by a master of meditation, by raising or lowering the body core temperature, for instance.  Nothing supernatural about it though.

-Matt

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Posted: 14 July 2006 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Just because something isn’t currently explainable by modern science does not necessarily mean it’s supernatural.  There are really only two possibilities here: 

1) either it’s simply superstition, or
2) there really is a natural phenomena here that should be explainable by science.  The fact that it isn’t currently explainable by science says nothing about the truth or falsehood of the claim, but only about the limitations of our current scientific knowledge. 

It’s not really possible to say whether there’s anything to it or not until studies are actually performed to test the claims.

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Posted: 14 July 2006 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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ModernHeretic,
There is a benefit to having an open mind, but just how many times must the studies be done before there is agreement that paranormal claims are bogus. Millions have been spent on trying to prove/disprove the claims of all kinds of varieties of supernatural effects and alternative medicine (reflexology, magnets, etc.) Simply let them claim the Randi prize and if they can, I’ll listen.

There are really only two possibilities here:

1) either it’s simply superstition, or
2) there really is a natural phenomena here that should be explainable by science. The fact that it isn’t currently explainable by science says nothing about the truth or falsehood of the claim, but only about the limitations of our current scientific knowledge.

You may be forgetting the one that is most likely to be a pain in the side of rational thinkers. That is the seemingly successful intersection of spontaneous healing with “supernatural” ritual….by shear coincidence. Lourdes and faith healers are still going strong…are there still studies we have to do to show that this is bogus?

As Psi has said, there are plenty of studies showing a relationship of disease morbidity to emotional status, eg. chronic heart failure and depression. And don’t forget placebo effects.

His most famous healing was of Sengcan, a man with a dreaded disease who was eventually to become Huike’s Zen successor. In this case Huike is said to have used purely spiritual means of healing to release the hold of the illness on the man and enable him to recover his health naturally and spontaneously.

It’s not really possible to say whether there’s anything to it or not until studies are actually performed to test the claims.

The fact is, we can and should discount the paranormal. Any other affect can be seen and statistically evaluated with normal methods. Do Zen masters routinely do better with acute leukemia than others? More likely, do they they have fewer early AM heart attacks? (The time when most men are at greater risk due to elevated neurostimulant levels) I think we would have a significant problem with population size to get accurate statistical evidence.

Final question….we spent two (or was it twenty) million dollars on a bogus prayer benefit study….how much do you want to spend on this one? How do you think the results might stand up to regular exercise, a good diet, and a clear conscience? I guess what I’m trying to say is, I doubt that the observable benefits would justify the cost or be significantly more effective than relaxation therapy. (God forbid the results were so beneficial that society came to a standstill in everybody’s rush to become a Zen master.) 

Rod

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Posted: 14 July 2006 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Rod. . . out of curiosity, do you (and anyone is invited to take up the question) consider mental ability ‘fixed’, or is it still potentially evolving? Could what we now consider paranormal hold possibility for the future, and therefore be worthy of steady tracking?

I’d have a much harder time assigning a healing to someone else, but less difficulty with the power of the individual to help heal themselves.


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Posted: 15 July 2006 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Mia,
Nobody can predict what actual capacities the mind will have for improved cognition…nor can anyone even make a case that there is evolutionary pressure in that direction. Fact is, in my opinion, the advancement through culture allows most of us to take advantage of progress while remaining clueless as to how it happened. Even an idiot can be protected by a flu shot or watch TV.

The point is that there are no physical processes that we can generate that allow us to guide and project ANY force at a distance. Even improved cognitive abilities will not CREATE new forces of nature.

Granted, there are small electromagnetic waves our brains generate that can be tapped and artificially directed with electricity to run any number of things. This is totally different than projecting coherent thoughts or forces beyond ourselves.

Rod

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Posted: 15 July 2006 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“psiconoclast”]Some illness is purely mental.  Some sickness can be recovered from more quickly through breathing and meditation, as certain biological systems can be aided in that way.  In either case, a Zen master might be able to help, because there is a state of mind component to wellness.

I seriously doubt that anything beyond that has ever happened, though, if someone has a virus, it is going to run its course.  If someone loses a limb, they need a transplant or a prosthetic.

I’d even be willing to accept that some diseases, which are normally fatal, could be cured/survived by a master of meditation, by raising or lowering the body core temperature, for instance.  Nothing supernatural about it though.

-Matt

I agree that ‘natural’ forces are at work in what we call faith healing.  It seems possible that even an attack from a virus could be ‘defeated’ by our antibodies, or immune system, if our ‘mood’ changed for the better - if we suddenly felt peaceful and relaxed instead of tense and worried, instead of angry, guilty, fearful, depressed etc.  Science will learn more about the body’s chemical/electrical changes in the ‘peace/relaxation’ response.

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“It is time we recognized the boundless narcissism and self-deceit of the saved.” - Sam Harris

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Posted: 22 September 2006 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Fritjof Capra - THE TAO OF PHYSICS

Everything Lao Tzu, Confucius and Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) were talking about nearly 3000 years ago is only now being able to be proved or open talked about scientifically.

Please feel free to look up the book above, its the best source regarding consciousness and the way the eastern ways of thought were already well established and much further along than any other part of the globe a few thousand years ago.

http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Philosophy-Fritjof-Capra.htm

Another good read on the subject (funny title) is: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance… by Robert M. Pirsig.

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Posted: 07 October 2006 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“Rod”]ModernHeretic,
There is a benefit to having an open mind, but just how many times must the studies be done before there is agreement that paranormal claims are bogus. Millions have been spent on trying to prove/disprove the claims of all kinds of varieties of supernatural effects and alternative medicine (reflexology, magnets, etc.) Simply let them claim the Randi prize and if they can, I’ll listen.

There are really only two possibilities here:

1) either it’s simply superstition, or
2) there really is a natural phenomena here that should be explainable by science. The fact that it isn’t currently explainable by science says nothing about the truth or falsehood of the claim, but only about the limitations of our current scientific knowledge.

Rod

I actually agree with ModernHeretic on this one point.  300 years ago viruses were supernatural, and if you could somehow go back in time, you’d be considered either a magician or a demon by merely flicking a bic lighter.  The only true failing of science is the presumption by some of its adherents to being at the peak of knowledge concerning what is and isn’t natural, real and knowable.  In a laboratory, you can only replicate and study that which is discernable by the technology at your disposal.  If your laboratory is stocked with instruments from the 1800s, does it then mean that common things like FM radio signals and nuclear radiation are nonexistent due to your inability to detect them?  By your stated rational, the answer would seem to be yes.

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Posted: 07 October 2006 07:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Nor’Easter”]In a laboratory, you can only replicate and study that which is discernable by the technology at your disposal.  If your laboratory is stocked with instruments from the 1800s, does it then mean that common things like FM radio signals and nuclear radiation are nonexistent due to your inability to detect them?  By your stated rational, the answer would seem to be yes.

True on the first point, but this does not imply that the second has anything to do with claims on the paranormal. In the 1700s, say, no one was making claims that there were, even in theory, undetectable signals called “FM radio”; people had, however, long been making claims for the paranormal, the voices of dead ancestors, and the whole she-bang. In the 1700s, nobody denied the existence of “FM radio” because no one had proposed the idea in the first place. There is a difference. No one denied claims of the paranormal because of the profoundly greater ignorance at the time about the realistic ranges and strengths of the panoply of physical forces.

Present claims even for the possibilty of paranormal phenomena involve forces that bear no relation to physical theory. Let me know again when the accumulated body of repeatable paranormal observations REQUIRE some addition to physical theory. That is why the theories of the electrodynamics of moving charges expanded to predict and then to explain the radiation that was so produced. The motions and interactions of just what sort of material particles are suitable for explaining the paranormal forces? Is there some sub-microscopic black hole at the core of the pineal gland?

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Posted: 07 October 2006 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]No one denied claims of the paranormal because of the profoundly greater ignorance at the time about the realistic ranges and strengths of the panoply of physical forces.

Present claims even for the possibilty of paranormal phenomena involve forces that bear no relation to physical theory. Let me know again when the accumulated body of repeatable paranormal observations REQUIRE some addition to physical theory.

Your salient points. What we may have experienced in the past as para-normal, became normal when elucidated by science.

There may be some things yet that we would explain as para-normal except for our positively reinforcing experience with science explaining those things by more fully elucidating the “normal’, “panolpy of physical forces”.

At some point its’ just a word game. Para-normal has a way of progressively becoming normal. An claimed para normal event doesn’t really enter the real world until it is repeatable, verifyable, demonstrable, even if it’s unexplained or only explained with a theoretical model.
As soon as this happens, the para-normal becomes normal and subject to scrutiny.

Things that aren’t demonstrable, can’t exist, except perhaps as in a meme which is substanceless.

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Posted: 07 October 2006 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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The old saw is that laughter is the best medicine.  When you laugh, discernable, measurable changes occur in the body.  Now scientists have the technology to observe and study those changes.  Did I get this discussion off on the wrong foot by repeating the word ‘paranormal’?
At any rate, now scientists can observe all kinds of changes, or processes going on within the body that enhance the healing process - sans medicine or other external therapies.  (not that we’re going to stop using medicine, X-rays etc.).

If we’re relaxed and happy then recovering from an illness or injury is enhanced.  Our state of mind affects the body at large, wether it’s getting indigestion from an argument at mealtime, or not feeling tired any more when that ‘special person’ telephones. 

One aspect of Zen study is to learn how to be independent so that, for example, you know how to transcend or pull out of the ‘dumps’ without having to wait for the friend’s call or the right circumstances . . . you are careful to avoid the argument at mealtime . . . “careful, like a person crossing winter ice.”  (You hear it creaking underfoot, you stop, and back off).

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Posted: 07 October 2006 12:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]The old saw is that laughter is the best medicine.  When you laugh, discernable, measurable changes occur in the body.  Now scientists have the technology to observe and study those changes.  Did I get this discussion off on the wrong foot by repeating the word ‘paranormal’?
At any rate, now scientists can observe all kinds of changes, or processes going on within the body that enhance the healing process - sans medicine or other external therapies.  (not that we’re going to stop using medicine, X-rays etc.).

If we’re relaxed and happy then recovering from an illness or injury is enhanced.  Our state of mind affects the body at large, wether it’s getting indigestion from an argument at mealtime, or not feeling tired any more when that ‘special person’ telephones. 

One aspect of Zen study is to learn how to be independent so that, for example, you know how to transcend or pull out of the ‘dumps’ without having to wait for the friend’s call or the right circumstances . . . you are careful to avoid the argument at mealtime . . . “careful, like a person crossing winter ice.”  (You hear it creaking underfoot, you stop, and back off).

Hey unsmoked, I like your style. I don’t have any problems with the above. I don’t see where any of it is anything but normal. Are you familiar with the work of Candace Pert or Peter Kramer? I think that we need to recognize the emotional “mind”, made up of neurotransmitters and other “molecules of emotion”, many located in other organs than the brain and nervous system. And as you point out, there can be a connection between the rational mind and the emotional mind. The emotional mind is older, evolutionarily speaking, and “thinking” done in that mind constitutes the basis for most behavior.

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Posted: 05 November 2006 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“unsmoked”]paranormal = not scientifically explainable - supernatural (dic.)

Zen masters always emphasize that interest, or fascination with the paranormal is not Zen.  To study Zen in order to gain paranormal powers is a mistake that will stymie the student.  However, in Zen literature, there are occassional references to paranormal powers - incidentals that come later as byproducts of true practice.

“Zen master Huike is also represented as caring for the sick, part of the overall tradition of Buddhist practice.  His most famous healing was of Sengcan, a man with a dreaded disease who was eventually to become Huike’s Zen successor.  In this case Huike is said to have used purely spiritual means of healing to release the hold of the illness on the man and enable him to recover his health naturally and spontaneously.

“Mental healing in Zen, important enough to be included among the tales of the founders, appears here and there throughout Zen history but is seldom singled out for emphasis.  The mental healing of Huisi, another early Zen master reckoned as one of the founders of Tiantai Buddhism, is also documented in Zen history.  His student Zhiyi, the definitive author of the highly articulated Tiantai system of Buddhism, included teachings on healing methods in his famous works on meditation.”

                      *    *    *    *    *

“Yuansou was a fourth generation heir of the Zen lineage of the great Dahui, but he also worked with one of the last masters of Hongzhi’s line as well.  Yuansou is said to have given many evidences of paranormal powers, and he attracted thousands of seekers during his many years as a public teacher.”  (14th century)

Quotes are from:  “Zen Essence - The Science of Freedom” translated and edited by Thomas Cleary.

Well, it is not just in the Zen literature that you see references to the paranormal.  I studied Japanese Religion and I reccomend that you read a book called ‘Soto Zen in Medieval Japan.’  It is a historical work, not literature, with evidence of Dogen’s disciples reporting supernatural occurences at ceremonies in Dogen’s monastery (the real pressence of certain beings that were not human, multi colored rainbows, celestial bells etc.).  This historical work made me lose a lot of respect for Zen Buddhism.  I think it is more important to take certain practices from Zen, such as meditation and mindfulness, rather than the entire lifestyle or philosophy.  The Zen koans are a joke.

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Posted: 05 November 2006 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“eucaryote”]Hey unsmoked, I like your style. I don’t have any problems with the above. I don’t see where any of it is anything but normal. Are you familiar with the work of Candace Pert or Peter Kramer? I think that we need to recognize the emotional “mind”, made up of neurotransmitters and other “molecules of emotion”, many located in other organs than the brain and nervous system. And as you point out, there can be a connection between the rational mind and the emotional mind. The emotional mind is older, evolutionarily speaking, and “thinking” done in that mind constitutes the basis for most behavior.

The emotional mind?  What are you talking about?  Haven’t you ever read Damasio’s (http://www.uihealthcare.com/depts/med/neurology/neurologymds/damasioa.html) work?  Emotions are tied in with thoughts.  Besides, I never learned about what you mention here in evolutionary psychology.

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Posted: 27 December 2006 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“sturmunddrang”]....I think it is more important to take certain practices from Zen, such as meditation and mindfulness, rather than the entire lifestyle or philosophy.  The Zen koans are a joke.

This is my understanding also.  Interestingly I think Sam Harris would agree - see his article on Buddhism.  Coincidentally, I developed a meditative and contemplative lifestyle years before I knew anything about Buddhism.

But, in the last few years I have read most of Alan Watts and several books by D.T. Suzuki and Christmas Humphreys, not to mention dozens of other books on Eastern Wisdom traditions.  Rather than get into a long discussion I’ll just say there is definitely a baby in the bathwater, you just have to extract it.  :D

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