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Sam's interest in Zen
Posted: 20 February 2007 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Although Buddhism and Zen (at the level of public practice, or as an overlay on older religions like Shintoism) are rife with superstition and the usual mental and physical paraphernalia associated with religious beliefs, I feel certain that Sam's interest in Zen adheres to the following definition written by Thomas Cleary as an introduction to his book, 'Zen Essence - the Science of Freedom':

Zen is the essence of Buddhism, freedom is the essence of Zen.  At its simplest and most profound level, Zen is purely devoted to liberating the hidden potential of the human mind.  The Chinese Zen master Ying-an said, "Zen living is a most direct shortcut, not requiring the exertion of the slightest bit of strength to attain enlightenment and master Zen right where you are."

The freedom that Zen proposes is not remote. but right in this world.  It doesn not require anything extraneous, but can be put into practice in the midst of normal occupations and activities.  It is applicable immediately, and develops naturally.  Dahui, another great Chinese Zen master, said, "To attain Zen enlightenment it is not necessary to give up family life, quit your job, become a vegetarian, practice asceticism, or flee to a quiet place."

Yet even while effectively in the world, Zen freedom is not essentially of the world; it is not the same as a freedom that can be instituted or granted by a social or political system.  According to Zen teaching, freedom that depends on things of the world can be undermined, and freedom that can be granted can be taken away.  Aiming for freedom that cannot be undermined and cannot be taken away, Zen liberation reaches out from within.  By its very nature it cannot enter from outside the individual mind.

Zen liberation is essentially achieved by special knowledge and perception that penetrate the root of experience.  This knowledge and perception free the mind from the arbitraary limitations imposed on it by conditioning, thus awakening dormant capacities of consciousness.  Dahui explained:

"The realm of the enlightened is not an external realm with manifest characteristics; buddhahood is the realm of the sacred knowledge found in oneself.  You do not need paraphernalia, practices, or realizations to attain it.  What you need is to clean out the influences of the psychological afflictions connected with the external world that have been accumulating in your psyche since beginningless time."

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

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

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Posted: 21 February 2007 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Ahhh, now if only it were that easy.

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“Every minute we spend oblivious to the value of a minute is a minute of unconsciousness. This isn’t some screwball scheme to latch onto the present moment in time, it’s simply what it means to be awake.”

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Posted: 21 February 2007 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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It is applicable immediately, and develops naturally.

I want a Zen with one spoon of sugar and a lemon, please ... Thank you!  8)

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Posted: 21 February 2007 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]Ahhh, now if only it were that easy.

Who is the one who encounters difficulty?

Here are serious questions (not know-it-all questions):  Who is it that finds Zen not easy?  Who is it that is facing difficulties?  If you find this entity, does he know what he is looking for, or expecting from Zen?  Does he know what difficulties must be overcome to realize his goal?  What are the characteristics of the one who finds ‘it’ not easy?  (a serious investigation and reply could be helpful to others).

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

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

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Posted: 21 February 2007 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“Hippasus”]

It is applicable immediately, and develops naturally.

I want a Zen with one spoon of sugar and a lemon, please ... Thank you!  8)

Before adding the lemon and sugar, try a really high quality green tea by itself.  A supermarket ‘premium’ won’t do.  Brew it at 140 F no more than two minutes.  Enjoy without reading, TV, conversation, or other distraction.

(for example, go to mygreentea.com and find ‘Sencha 5.2 oz’.  What? You refuse to pay $20 for a small bag of tea?  Consider that it might make 20 cups, you get the best, and it comes out as a lot less than Starbucks).

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

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

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Posted: 21 February 2007 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Unsmoked,

I have been through these questions and through this process for years, this is classic non-dual stuff, which I happen to like as a change of pace but in it you end up chasing your own tail, or your tail ends up chasing you. The best is when you’re supposed to give up trying, but giving up on purpose is a sort of trying. It either happens or it doesn’t, whether you are trying or not trying or trying not to try or trying not to not try. In the end I just do what I do. However this is not the type of Buddhist practice the Sam Harris is talking about. Sam likes the science of meditation, and I do too.

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“Every minute we spend oblivious to the value of a minute is a minute of unconsciousness. This isn’t some screwball scheme to latch onto the present moment in time, it’s simply what it means to be awake.”

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Posted: 21 February 2007 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]
It either happens or it doesn’t, whether you are trying or not trying or trying not to try or trying not to not try.

Are you paraphrasing Rumsfeld ?

“You either know or you don’t know, whether you know or don’t know or you know that you don’t know what you know or don’t know” http://freeweb.supereva.com/esorciccio2002/smilies/crazyeyes.gif


Ps: http://freeweb.supereva.com/esorciccio2002/smilies/animals_bunny2.gif

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Posted: 22 February 2007 06:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]Unsmoked,

I have been through these questions and through this process for years, this is classic non-dual stuff, which I happen to like as a change of pace but in it you end up chasing your own tail, or your tail ends up chasing you. The best is when you’re supposed to give up trying, but giving up on purpose is a sort of trying. It either happens or it doesn’t, whether you are trying or not trying or trying not to try or trying not to not try. In the end I just do what I do. However this is not the type of Buddhist practice the Sam Harris is talking about. Sam likes the science of meditation, and I do too.

‘I’ - the thinker who finds it difficult.  The one who tries not to try.  The endless shell games of the self.

Just This, if you are interested in the science of water (for example) I think you’d want a sample of pure water to work with.  Similarly, the science of meditation calls for a kind of purity - mind not mixed with other things.  In Zen literature, as you know, mind mixed with other things is called (among other things) ‘the moon obscured by clouds’.

If you want to practice pure, unadulterated Zen, the one who is having a difficult time (or the one who finds it ‘not easy’) has to stop.  Popular escapes, such as reading, movies, sports, TV etc. give temporary relief from chronic angst, or The Difficulties, or ‘the challenge’, or habit, or self-inflating practice of trying to ‘improve’ oneself, but I’m not talking about temporary relief.  Stopping, in the sense of ‘pure meditation’, is a moment when the one who is having difficulty stops, - when the one engaged in a lifelong quest stops.  This stopping might last only a few seconds, but from there you can extend it to a minute, then five minutes, then ten.  Speaking of this ‘stopping’, Krishnamurti commented, “Notice how quick it is!”  Meaning, notice how quickly the thinker (the one who finds Zen difficult etc.) interjects himself into the quiet space of pure, effortless meditation.  (“Surely,” says the seeker, “Zen can’t be just peaceful attentiveness!  No, no!  It’s something more grand!  Something I will find if I keep trying, if I continue to practice and study and apply effort and will!”)

So I ask again, “Who is finding Zen difficult?”

As one ancient worthy said, “If you don’t stop now, when will you ever stop?”

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

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

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Posted: 22 February 2007 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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We might also ask who is being honest about what is going on in actual practice right here.
My hat is off to ‘JustThis’ for bringing a very personal perspective on meditation practice to this forum.
If we assert there’s not any little driver in control we have to also ask, ‘and who do I think will be reading these words?’
Unsmoked, I’m an example of someone who has thrown in their lot with the Advaita/nondual ‘just stop’ way of doing things, and look where it got me! Now I babble on about ‘God’ and sound like your average New Age smiley face. I’m even looking for an apt. closer to Ashland.
And so how’s it working for you? Green tea all the way?

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Posted: 23 February 2007 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]
If we assert there’s not any little driver in control we have to also ask, ‘and who do I think will be reading these words?’

In response to such questions, Buddha commented:

“Strange as it seems, there is seeing, but know one who is seeing.  There is hearing, but no one who is hearing.  There is walking, but no one who is walking.”  Following this, we can add, “There is reading these words, but no one who is reading these words.”

Zen master Fenyang remarked, “Few people believe their inherent mind is Buddha.  Most will not take this seriously, and therefore are cramped.  They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings, resentments, and other afflictions, all because they love the cave of ignorance.”

‘Inherent mind’ is the mind we are born with.  We never have to do anything at all, or apply any effort at all to achieve this mind.  We were born with it, and we always have it.  Zen master Mazu commented, “The Way does not require cultivation - just don’t pollute it.  What is pollution?  As long as you have a fluctuating mind fabricating artificialities and contrivances, all of this is pollution.  If you want to understand the Way directly, the normal mind is the Way.  (inherent mind, the mind you were born with).

Zen master Dazhu commented, “You are luckily all right by yourself, yet you struggle artificially.  Why do you want to put on fetters and go to prison?  You are busy every day claiming to study Zen, learn the Way, and interpret Buddhism, but this alienates you even further.  It is just chasing sound and form.  When will you ever stop?”

Few people are able to ‘turn the light of mind around’ and look inward to see who, or what, they really are calling the ‘me’ - the ‘little driver’, the ‘ghost in the machine’ who seems to be directing everything, setting the course, deciding what he or she wants and how they are going to get it.  Most think that their accumulated memory, or data, since birth, is their true self, their original self - and most religious people think this data is going to somehow continue after death of the body, or injury to the brain.  Even our computers are smart enough not to make that mistake.

Mazu again:  “Delusion means you are not aware of your own fundamental mind;  enlightenment means you realize your own fundamental essence.  Once enlightened, you do not become deluded anymore.” 

In Ashland you will find many people who have spent 20, 30, 40 years looking for their own hands and feet; looking for Buddha. 

I take it that you don’t like green tea?  Try sitting down with a cup and forgetting everything for a few minutes.  Maybe you’ll notice that everyone is Buddha - most just clouded over with desire, competition, picking and choosing, etc.

Or, as I said in another post, ‘Everyone is Bob’.

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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: 23 February 2007 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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I find that a lot of atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, whatever are critical of Sam because of his comments on mediation.  I think this is misplaced because i don’t think this interest is in mysticism, at least not, in the usual sense. 

Somewhere in the first part of “End of Faith” ,(I haven’t read it again for awhile but I intend to) he talks about a science of the mind that may be able to explain emotions,  and possibly even consciousness.  Note that Dr. Harris not only meditates, but now has a doctorate in neuroscience which I assume is science of the mind.  He is seeking rational answers to these questions through both practices. (I think)

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Posted: 23 February 2007 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“H. Finn”]I find that a lot of atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, whatever are critical of Sam because of his comments on mediation.  I think this is misplaced because i don’t think this interest is in mysticism, at least not, in the usual sense. 

Somewhere in the first part of “End of Faith” ,(I haven’t read it again for awhile but I intend to) he talks about a science of the mind that may be able to explain emotions,  and possibly even consciousness.  Note that Dr. Harris not only meditates, but now has a doctorate in neuroscience which I assume is science of the mind.  He is seeking rational answers to these questions through both practices. (I think)

I agree that Sam’s interest in meditation, and his practice of it, seems to be a scientific investigation.  Many of the quotes I inflict on Forum members are from Thomas Cleary’s book, “Zen Essence - The Science of Freedom”.

While science may soon be able to better explain emotions, and ‘possibly even consciousness’, I think it is important to see that science, in general, is a kind of useful veneer over the unknown.  As Einstein said, “The real nature of things, that we shall never understand - never, never.”  Some religious types might take such a remark as justification for all their superstitious nonsense, but I see it as the humility of intelligence.  The Oracle said that Socrates was the wisest of men, because he knew that he didn’t know.

I don’t mean to belittle science by calling it a ‘useful veneer’.  It helps us to make sense of our lives, to avoid destructive habits, (like predicting global warming and telling us how to minimize the damage), saving people from all kinds of folly, sickness, and harm.  Science can even tell us how to avoid wars, with books like “The End of Faith”, or “Letter to a Christian Nation”, etc.  (by pointing out the divisive nature of bigoted, know-it-all religions).

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“The simple fables of the religious of the world have come to seem like tales told to children.”  - Nobel Prize recipient - Francis Crick

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

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Posted: 24 February 2007 01:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Unsmoked, I agree, while I remain a “Freethinker”, the universe is neither limited nor defined by our ability to understand it.  That ability is not evolutionarily required (as least so far).  However, it remains my belief based upon my understanding of the empirical evidence (which could be falsified) that the Universe does not care about us. Buddism however may be very helpful in the world in which we live.

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Posted: 24 February 2007 09:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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English Breakfast Tea.
Any universe which could produce a nice cup of tea most certainly does care about me.
If we have the idea that Buddhist practice could result in ‘freedom’ we have to ask ‘freedom from what?’
Freedom from the effort to gain freedom?
Freedom from desire for a nice cup of tea on a cold, wet, grey February afternoon?
Freedom from dysfunctional ideas about the self?
Perhaps science will convince us, more than Buddhist tradition ever could, of the truth of dependent co-arising.
How about ‘Buddha Nature’, though. Can science tell us anything about that? Can a book written by an expert on Zen? Zen Mind, Beginners’s Mind opens with ‘It is Wisdom which is seeking for Wisdom’. What’s that about?

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Posted: 24 February 2007 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Pat_Adducci”]English Breakfast Tea.
Any universe which could produce a nice cup of tea most certainly does care about me.
If we have the idea that Buddhist practice could result in ‘freedom’ we have to ask ‘freedom from what?’
Freedom from the effort to gain freedom?
Freedom from desire for a nice cup of tea on a cold, wet, grey February afternoon?
Freedom from dysfunctional ideas about the self?
Perhaps science will convince us, more than Buddhist tradition ever could, of the truth of dependent co-arising.
How about ‘Buddha Nature’, though. Can science tell us anything about that? Can a book written by an expert on Zen? Zen Mind, Beginners’s Mind opens with ‘It is Wisdom which is seeking for Wisdom’. What’s that about?

Just the tea.

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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: 25 February 2007 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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“Just the tea.”
That’s a great line, Unsmoked.
But if you were interested in ‘just the tea’ you would not have written the previous messages, quoted from Zen teachers, etc. All that was quite clear and, I thought, valuable.
There is still a great deal to be said - from our own experience! - about issues like effort, and what H. Finn brought up - the Universe does not care about us.
Now, here’s where I agree 101% with Unsmoked. A very good research tool is our ability to just stop.
I’d like to add that we need not solve the problem of ‘who makes the effort to just stop’. Attention, or mindfulness, is the link between volitional action, and the more mysterious question of where or how the action originates.
Zen tradition, and Buddhism in general, developed tribal divisions as it went out from India. Our opportunity now is to transcend those divisions. Not by attempting to find the original words of the Buddha, but to let the current global ‘melting pot’ do its work, while we learn from our own experience and other sources of knowledge like science and history.
In another thread we heard a quote from an Episcopalian about how he sees Christianity. A non-theistic version of God! Now we’re getting somewhere.
Mindfulness need not take an Asia form of practice. It could also be Christian, or secular or whatever. In focusing on an object, like the breath or a cup of tea or a prayer, the point is to see the space around that experience. And that ‘space’ is not ‘nothing’. It’s more difficult to see the space around a thought, because we identify so heavily with thought, but it is possible, and much better than trying to stop thought.
Then we naturally go from mindfulness to awareness, which is stillness.
If other people’s experience is different, I’d like to hear about it.

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