When asked where Buddhism stood on this matter, Zen Master Joshu Sasaki, abbot of Mt. Baldy Zen Center commented, “Those of you who believe in ghosts, I’d like to call you all fools!”
Unfortunately, the worst thing about Buddhism (and woo-woo in general) is the way that it causes some people, including Joshu Sasaki, to go about attempting to establish that the correct way to deal with thinking about nonsense is to think about nothing at all, when the correct way to deal with nonsense is to address it with stuff that is not nonsense,
The correct way to deal with thinking about nonsense is to stop the nonsense.
Imagine an exchange with Unsmoked in which his mind wasn’t cluttered with Zen aphorisms, or any premeditated ideas!
Imagine an axchange with Bruce or Frank or other Christian if they were, momentarily at least, free of religious knowledge and conditioning!
Is stopping the nonsense easy? One in a billion get the hang of it right away. Some take 20 or 30 years to get the hang of it. Most of us never get it.
What are the usual pitfalls? Some clear the mind and say, “Now what?” That can’t be it.
Some clear the mind and look for a result, a prize, an experience. That can’t be it. It’s very hard for most of us to arrive at a normal, relaxed, uncluttered, undemanding state of mind - a mind that isn’t harboring ‘stuff that is not nonsense.’ A mind that isn’t expecting anything, or looking for some experience.
There’s a paragraph in the Bible where Jesus is telling his disciples how to comport themselves if arrested, or called in before the judges. “Don’t figure out ahead of time how you are going to answer their questions. After they speak, your Father in heaven will tell you how to respond.” (action from emptiness - the way of the samurai) It takes some Zen students 20 years before they can go in to the master’s chamber this way. 99.9 percent of the people go in with an answer, a response, an idea - time after time. Why does he (the Zen master) reject even ‘that which is not nonsense’? (that is, why does he reject skilled swordsmanship for pity’s sake?)
You might correctly surmise that it’s fairly easy for a Zen master to tell when someone comes in empty, quiet, relaxed, able to see the flower in its jar, able to see that the corner of the rug needs fixed - able to follow his expression and what he has to say - able to respond to the unknown, even as a samurai might respond appropriately if an unexpected assailant suddenly drops down from the rafters. For the most part we don’t trust ourselves. “Got to figure out my moves ahead of time. Got to have something decent to say. Can’t go in a dumb nobody! I know my latest idea is going to impress the old fart! Let’s see, how did that go again? Oh, right, a quote I found in ‘The Blue Cliff Record’. He’s going to like this.”
Why in hell did he dismiss me before I even got my quote out of my mouth? This whole thing is a hoax - a woo-woo for gullible fools! I’m outa here!
“People come to me and I love them. In order to give them something to understand, I give them poetry. In my country people do not like poetry, they prefer action. I am ready, but there is no one who will patronize my action, so I give people what they can digest—words.” Rumi
I have no wish to bar people from describing “subjective experience”. The point I offer is that it is an artistic endeavor. If you do not wish to understand everything that happens to you as being the result of biophysics (as well as the rest of physics, geology, meteorology and so on) there is little I can do to convince you otherwise. You are not some other kind of material object in the universe, composed of something other than matter. If you think you are, why not volunteer to go into the big blender and find out? Whether or not a full description of it in terms of electrochemistry and physiology is ever achieved, describing one’s subjective experience artistically will still be valuable. Appropriating the language of physics to talk about micro-tubules or dimensional primitives beyond time and space is artistic, but it is not science. Petty philosophico-linguistic spats among the likes of Churchland and Dennett are no concern of mine.
Excellent. I like your choice of “artistic” as the approach for describing subjective experience. Too often when we point out the biophysics, believers falsely accuse us of rejecting the artistic description of subjective experience, or of treating it as having no value. It has value as long as we recognize that it is not science. The usual complaint is that the biophysics results in life having no inherent meaning. Is that simply another aspect of the rejection of impermanence, or are there other reasons that some people crave inherent meaning?