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March 09, 2011

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@Kojizen. I may have been defining "Enlightenment" there differently than you are. In most conversations I am speaking colloquially, rather than formally, and in my colloquial speech I define "Enlightenment" as the process that leads to nibbana. In that sense, perhaps you will understand what I meant, that each of us arrives having experienced a different journey.

This is the message I get from Star's tome:
"People have different understandings or insights. So there's not just one enlightenment but many, all of which differ as individuals differ."
Sorry Star, I don't buy it.

I see we have an accord on certain things and a slight disagreement on other subjects. It is as it should be. After all, this is a universe of illustrious comings and goings, all in the presence of something very profound. On that last subject the wise and fearless are bound to argue till end of time.

Thanks, Emanuel. Your English is very good.

It seems to me many of the people who post to this blog -- yourself included -- have a slightly compulsive need to figure out who the person is they disagree with, and what their "problem" is, and sometimes even suggest a cure (though not always a polite one). Rather than talking about Buddhism we end up talking about the people who are talking about Buddhism.

I am on a sabbatical in which I am spending a lot of time reading suttas, so it is not surprising if my focus is a bit laser-like on the subject. I do understand that there are two different kinds of understanding:

* one that is about logic and words and concepts, and this is the one that it is easiest to convey to others, and the one in which talking with others can improve understanding for all parties, and
* another that is in a wordless realm of understanding that is experiential, which is not something easily conveyed, and is rarely enhanced by talking to others.

You are right on target in saying I want to be understood as much as I want to understand, and this is because I find that I learn very little that is new, at great expenditure of energy, when I talk to people who haven't taken the time to understand what I am saying -- hard to move forward from ten steps behind, if you see what I mean?

You said, "It is my experience, as I have gone through that stage, that cognitive understanding is always a highly probable precursor to misunderstandings, error and some form of suffering, depending whom your counterpart is and what reference frame is used," and then you went on to talk about Zen masters and "breaking through" to right view. I understand this -- on both levels. I also understand that the Zen system of teaching tends to be more about wordless insight than about cognitive understanding. However, I would point out that just because cognitive understanding leads to misunderstanding in your experience does not make it so in everyone's. People vary a great deal in the ways they come to understanding or insight, and there is not one way that is best for all. From my experience it is clear that I need both the wordless and the logic of words -- this is what works best for me, and there are likely to be others out there who come to understanding most efficiently that way as well -- but it's not for everyone.

I absolutely agree with you that this is a great Zen blog -- with the caveat that it is Advaita Zen, because zenmar preaches that there is a self that is transcendent, and that the Buddha "was only out to reform [Brahmanism]" not deny its views. Having seen those sutras you mention, I recognize them as being filled with great wisdom, but at the points where they depart from the older Pali canon I see them -- not with the eyes of faith, but with the eyes of a historian -- as later modifications of what the Buddha taught. I don't find anything wrong with those who come up with new insights or different understandings from what was originally taught, but I prefer that those who offer such revisions be clear about what they are doing and why. The Buddha never said he was anything other than a man, he never spoke of having powers to come back centuries later and directly plant insights into anyone's brain that they could reveal later as a higher teaching. In fact, in what he says at the end of his life about how to tell the dhamma he is pointing to from the certainty of later corruptions, it is clear that he was trying to inoculate against the inevitable later additions.

The Buddha was all about directly seeing and knowing for oneself -- in that way that transcends words, yes, but that doesn't mean being okay with having delusions about communicating with the Buddha hundreds of years later and passing that on as him doing the talking. To ask people to accept later revealed insights as the Buddha's word is asking them to go on faith, not on their direct experience, and it goes against the inoculation he tried to provide for us.

So the above answers this: "is your view on Buddhism and Buddhas teachings entirely based on the pali canon or are you open to accept references to various mahayana sutras?"

"Do you seek a discussion on grounds of spiritual experience and insights into Buddhas Mind, or do you seek a discussion based entirely on a cognitive/empirical understanding and interpretation of the pali canon?" I would maintain that spiritual experience and insight are absolutely critical but that it is an area in which one can very easily delude oneself, and that the Buddha recognized this, which is why he counsels not simply running with one's own insights but grounding oneself through keeping contact with the wise.

"Do you have you any insights in chan buddhism" you ask, but now you are straying far from what brought me here, which is that the host apparently has very little understanding of Secular Buddhism and yet he makes frequent pronouncements about it, based in misunderstanding. I am trying to correct his misperception in that area, because it seems to me zenmar is an honorable sort who is *not* likely to be spreading misinformation just for the fun of it, and would want to hear from those who have better insight into Secular Buddhism through being inside of it. If only those with expertise in chan buddhism are welcomed on this blog, then that would make it a pretty insular world that's being built -- how does one stay grounded that way?

"You express your suspicion of scriptural corruption of its content rather than partial short sightedness in your own spiritual realization of what Buddha meant here. A bit self-serving dont you think?" Ah, back to poking at the speaker to diagnose a supposed illness, not dealing with the actual content and discussing its points (which would, admittedly, be better done on my blog than here). But it's interesting how often the reaction is to play doctor on someone presenting a different idea, rather than dealing with ideas presented. I wonder why that is?

I suppose to some degree I do the same though (but without the accusation of "self-serving" intention). It all comes down to each of us feeling the other is "missing the point" by deluding themselves, and each of us has the best interests of the other in mind, in hoping to pull them back to the more accurate cognitive understanding that will lead to actual insight.

But actually, no, I don't think it is self-serving at all. I stuck with studying the suttas and now understand where that bit is coming from, at least on a grand scheme, but have not come back to that particular sutta to give it a fresh look with new understanding -- it's on my list of things to do though (revisiting that particular sutta and putting up a fresh post about it).

It is easiest to assume that everyone we meet is doing what everyone we have met does, so I understand the assumption that I am being self-serving with what I am presenting in my blog, just as it would be easy to assume that zenmar, here, is being a complete ass himself when he derides those he disagrees with, but I don't assume he's being self-serving -- it seems to me he has the best of intentions. But for you, friend Emanuel, without knowing a great deal more about me, my methods, what motivates me, it would be hard to come to any other conclusion. But please don't assume that the easy answer is the right answer; it isn't always so.

I put up posts showing my thinking on my blog for a few reasons: one is in the hope that those who have seen some of what I have seen can show me something new that I haven't; another is hoping that those who study the Pali canon can point out where I am going astray (I have spent a lot of time in Theravadan forums where people do give it their best shot, and I have learned a lot from them); and also to be honest about what I am doing being a process, by writing about my understanding in the moment and leaving it there to be seen, later, as less accurate than later understanding -- the usual phrase one would put there is "less than perfect" but it seems likely that none of us is going to reach perfect understanding of what the historical Buddha said.

First of all you have to excuse my english Linda. It is not my first language and thus errors might occur here and there. Hopefully not clouding your understanding of what I am going to say as a response to your latest comment and certain other "small tempests in a teacup" caused by certain readers better left unnamed.

I see you are using the term "understanding" quite a lot, not only here but also in your blog which i find charming. It seems to you that understanding, and I suspect in your case cognitive understanding, is a rather important factor, if not even crucial when it comes to daily things or even Buddhism.

It seems that you have a slightly compulsive need to be understood as much as understanding (cogitively with a logical structure) what is said from anyone you might respect in terms of wisdom or knowledge (remember the two are not always the same). It is my experience, as I have gone through that stage, that cognitive understanding is always a highly probable precursor to misunderstandings, error and some form of suffering, depending whom your counterpart is and what reference frame is used.

In Zen Buddhism, especially the greatest masters, of which most were chinese, the most important task for a dharma teacher was to initially utterly shutter the students bad habit of viewing the dharma and the world including themselve, s through a mind bound to cognitive understanding with its rigid afluent settings set on "logical structures-positions" mode. It was written in many recorded discussions that it was a mute point to discuss the buddhadharma unless you had not broken through this difficult barrier of the skandhas and realized the "super-logics" of a Buddhsa fully awakened Mind, which every serious student of the dharma pursued. Once this barrier was broken, right view of what Buddha realized was at hand and hence student and teacher could engage in a normal discussion (mondo in japanese) with normal logical structural discussion threads as to what Buddha meant in various sutra passages.

This is a Zen blog, one of the best I might add. It is not, even if the author frequently use it as a pali discussion forum. Various Mahayana sutras, like the Lankavatara sutra, the Mahaparnirvana sutra, the avatamsaka and even Tathaghat garbhasutra, are fully reckognized (at least that is my impression so far). Once you have gone through these sutras you realize that Buddhas discourses on the matter of the self is clearly establishedt and beyond any misunderstandings.

If you desire a serious discussion with certain readers here, at least you have to be honest and offer certain reference sources you are ready to accept as valid whenever consensus is absent and a certain measure of concord is not at hand, either with the author or any reader. Further on I believe you need to answer these question to yourself:

is your view on Buddhism and Buddhas teachings entirely based on the pali canon or are you open to accept references to various mahayana sutras?

Do you seek a discussion on grounds of spiritual experience and insights into Buddhas Mind, or do you seek a discussion based entirely on a cognitive/empirical understanding and interpretation of the pali canon?The difference here is rather important.

Do you have you any insights in chan buddhism, its history, methodology and very unique way of teaching the buddhadharma. The author has a very apt motto, capturing the very essence of chan buddhism. It goese like this;

"Directly pointing to our true nature. Seeing the ultimate basis of things, thus actualizing Buddhahood. This is the dark transmission outside the confusion of scriptural exegesis. "

In a way he has captured , at least to my knowledge, the very core teachings and pedagogical approach of at least a dozen great zen masters in this short motto. In my opinion, the zennist is trying to convey that the core of Buddhas dharma, and also the best and swiftest path to his Mind, is a transmission beyond the fulcrum of the corporeal body and all its sense-fields.

Finally, out of mere curiousity, having read your blog and seen some of your you tube videos i noticed some passages like for example, "A doubly-based throw" where you seem disturbed by certain passages in the canon. Especially those about the break-up of the body after death and eventual after world or rebirth. You express your suspicion of scriptural corruption of its content rather than partial short sightedness in your own spiritual realization of what Buddha meant here. A bit self-serving dont you think?

Perhaps you adhere to much on Oscars Wildes old expression " The value of an idea has nothing to do with the honesty of the man expressing it", not realizing that the Buddha did not offer ideas or view points but more direct inight into his own Mind as it were after being completely enlightened. The only wall here between the ordinary everyday mind and Buddhas Mind is as he expresses through the entire pali canon and the various Mahayana sutras, our minds inability to brake through the crust of the five aggregates. This thin crust is sufficient enough to cause great ignorance and suffering due to the inability of our everyday mind to fully review Buddhas pure Mind, which certain Zen Masters claim, shines clearly as such (Tathata) and without the slightest distortion. At least this is how I have come to "understand" Buddhism after many years of study.

Finally you write and I think it is the most honest conclusion you express in your blog;

"Maybe the Buddha really didn’t know which set of Laws ruled, maybe he simply knew that it didn’t matter, since his path had every which way covered.  Maybe that’s why he included karma and rebirth in his teachings, since it was the predominant view and it was a good enough path (though not as good at relieving suffering as having no views at all) and just maybe, given the difficulty of translating from words that were left vague in the first place, we have not yet got a precise understanding of what the Buddha actually taught.  I know I don’t. "

In the last sentence, at least you show and inform potential readers of your blog, that after all research of what Buddha taught, you still don´t "know" (precise understanding of his Mind I assume). That is the most honest thing you have written in your blog and shows, at least to me that even if your position on Buddhism and Buddhas teachings currently is sceptical and "secular" you respect Buddhism sufficently enough to keep an open mind for any future changes. I wish you the best.

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