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August 21, 2011


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Imperishable Night; Thank you. As you wrote, the Buddha did not assert or deny the Self, but remained silent. And I agree with you that “his ‘remaining silent’ should perhaps be taken as an actual answer”.

I am not in the position of describing the "True Self". My own understanding of the Buddha-Dharma is very limited and inappropriate. It would be a great disrespect to the Buddhas and Patriarchs of the past if a clueless person like me would start explaining the Buddha-Dharma.

What I know, though, is that the Buddha taught us to think in terms of "not-self". He never said "there is no self" - when he was asked to say whether there was or wasn't a self, he kept silent.

How are we to interpret that? It is not that Buddha's silence meant "I do not know about whether there is a self or there isn't a self." - It is only that the question wanted him to define the Self. Define comes from the latin "to limit".

Defining that self, even in terms of "existing" at "not existing" is obviously lacking. If it is not anything found in our phenomenal world, then even our concepts of "existing" or "not existing" cannot de-fine it.

The not-self means that not even concepts such as "existence" are self. So the "true Self" is not the "being" of Greek philosophers, nor should the True Self be thought of in terms of emptiness (which is a doctrine that speaks of emptiness of phenomena as dependently-originated, therefore conditioned; its connection to the "true self" is that it points to it via negativa).

So that his "remaining silent" should perhaps be taken as an actual answer, not as a lack of answer. It is the same Mind to Mind transmission as the holding of the white flower that triggered Mahakasyapa's smile.

That silence is just silence and speech is just speech is a prejudice. Silence, too, speaks; and even more so than speech. It is in silence perhaps that is wise for us two to inquire about this question, as Zennist suggests us to do: in solitude, silence and study.

Not any definition can grasp the mind that is "fundamentally not graspable".

Imperishable Night; You wrote, “Of course our mentations, perceptions etc. are not independent of neural activity, but that is not our true Self.” And I agree with that. And I agree that there is a transcendent. But how would you define or describe “our true Self” and its relation to our body, the world and the non-transcendent?

If you go on popular forums you'll see most newcomers to Buddhism ask "is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy?" - and the most popular, upvoted answers are always from the secular "Buddhists" hastily explaining that Buddhism has nothing to do with religion and is just a empiricist philosophy like that of David Hume.

I think it's because the secular people are suffering from the lack of any kind of orientation in this life, but since they can't accept anything transcendent, they can accept only what is "scientifically proven" (isn't science becoming more and more the dogma of our times?)

But we have to see the positive even in this. The secular "Buddhists" bring in a lot of people that might eventually read the Sutras and find things that are absolutely at odds with the secularist-scientific dogma.

It's not that Buddhism requires blind belief - it doesn't. But it's that the scientific secularism requires blind belief. Such as the idea that our "Self" is located in our brains, and the whole world is produced with the brains. Literally everyone subscribes to this dogma today, even though it cannot be proven. Of course our mentations, perceptions etc. are not independent of neural activity, but that is not our true Self. Even language itself should show it to them. We say "our brain", not "I, the brain".

Many people that come to your Blog think you're full of anger and resentment. At one time, I thought that, too. Later I found out it's the opposite. What you're doing is pure compassion for the lost souls that have been sold the "Buddha was a hippie" propaganda. Just do what you love and enjoy doing it and if you can, be a little careful to not get attached to it - that's the way to spread the message of the Buddha! What a joke.

These kind of people dismiss anyone that doesn't subscribe to the "lovey-dovey" flower-power anything-goes kind of Buddhism.

In the end it comes down to what you say: solitude and study. The benefits of solitude and study are immeasurable.

My only disagreement with you is that you don't acknowledge that not only is there a "true Buddhism" and a "pop Buddhism", but there is also a "pop Dogen" and a "true Dogen". The real Dogen is something the "pop Dogenists" wouldn't like to hear about.

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