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November 20, 2013


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Methexis, even though you feel that way about the Gita, I am fairly certain the Gita does not feel that way about you.

I like the Bhagavad-Gita, it's damn good piece of world literature! But yes, what tormented me was trying to think the unthinkable.

We should reflect upon what happened with Zen during World War 2 when various Zen priests uttered things like: "it is the precept against killing that throws bombs" or:

"If ordered to march: tramp, tramp, or shoot: bang, bang. This is the manifestation of the highest Wisdom of Enlightenment. The unity of Zen and war of which I speak extends to the farthest reaches of the holy war now under way."

This does remind me of the spirit of the Gita. The Japanese war criminals were spiritually aided to commit atrocities by emptiness doctrines, just as Heinrich Himmler adored the Gita and carried it around in his pocket.

Both otherworldly fixation (Pure Land) and one-sided sunyata-stupor veer dangerously close to this position.

Every concept can be used & abused, made to serve any purpose. So Zen seems to teach a direct discovery of the "object" Zennist speaks of. It seems this direct discovery and relationship doesn't lead to abuses but one is, as it were, gradually purified by that object.

It's perhaps like in the movie 2001 Space Odyssey, where the monkeys become human upon meeting the Monolith; and human become supermen (buddhas?) upon meeting the Monolith again.

Or perhaps I'm wrong. In any case, we won't get far by thinking and writing about that object. It's in the text, repeated ad nauseam, how conceptual thinking is the number 1 adversary on this quest.

Methexis, so you admit it was not reading the Gita that drove you crazy, but attempting metaphysical speculation with the discriminating mind? :)

But, I agree with you and probably with Master Nan Huai-Chin, but not because I agree so much with the content of what you or he says about the self; but (here is the distinction) in the fact that by listening, by being open, we can learn about the self in a non-dual way. Not accepting nor rejecting, seeking agreement or any such thing, or trying to win a point, but just simply listening, fully, as we might in meditative absorption. This kind of openness is the practice of monism. And I would like to say something here because it is clear that others here really listen too, not just you. It’s so refreshing. So even though I agree, this comment is not about agreeing, but the act of listening, and what this means in terms of the Atman.

And I too will try better to listen.

Where does the self go when we are truly attune to what another person is saying, without any kind of division or wall, the way one might listen to a favorite symphony or to birdsong, in total unity with it? In listening like this there is no barrier, no division, no distance whatsoever between the consciousness, the observer and observed. I know of a case in Lapland where someone attended a ritual by a shaman, who spoke briefly to each attendee during the ceremony, and this person understood perfectly what he said even though neither one spoke the same language!

So I look at this in an experiential way, and in experience there is a proof of atman. I don’t think any philosophical proof is needed, but we can look to a deep understanding of the Buddha principle as essentially the same thing (if need be we can rehash that). Put simply: if we truly listen to what the other has to say we are experiencing the Buddha principle. And I hold that is the atman.

To look at other dharmas, in Advaita-Vedanta, which is ultimately about self-realization, the fundamental unity of consciousness (which I alluded to in more secular terms down below) does not imply oblivion. Quite to the contrary, unlike the atmanphobia practiced by some schools of Buddhism, it seems no one feels compelled to go around denying the self in a dogmatic way.

Can you see the distinction? The atman can be _experienced_ in the dynamic relationship between human life and the universe, and this experience is proof of the unity of self with the absolute. Not because it was said. When this is realized, life has purpose well beyond sitting around waiting to die, and I think this is what Zennist gets at again and again in his insistence upon the atman. And this is to one degree or another, what I realize about the atman.

This is a realization well beyond any particular creed.

And as you have blessed me with the words of Chan master Nan Huat-Chin, I will return the favor with words of his contemporary, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, and his teaching on the Vichara-sangraham (Self-inquiry) in the tradition of Advaita, through things discovered by one’s own experience:

“Since the Atman is the reality of all the gods, the meditation on the Atman (which is, oneself) is the greatest of all meditations. All other meditations are included in this. It is for gaining this that the other meditations are prescribed. So, if this is gained, the others are not necessary. Knowing one's Atman is knowing [the absolute]*. Without knowing one's Atman that meditates, imagining that there is [an absolute]* which is different and meditating on it, is compared by the great ones to the act of measuring with one's foot one's own shadow, and to the search for a trivial conch after throwing away a priceless gem that is already in one's possession.”

*The original text uses “God” or “diety” and was taken from an exchange with a devotee of Rama; thus, I opted to use the term “the absolute” in this reference, which is closer to the meaning of “God” as it would be understood in Buddhism in a similar context.

N. Yeti: It's impossible to solve these questions with discriminatory thinking. I've tried and tried and drove myself crazy. Buddha warned us about metaphysical speculation. It doesn't lead to liberation. As for the self - have you heard of Master Nan Huai-Chin? He was a good lay Buddhist teacher. He said this in a lecture:

"Buddhism speaks of selflessness. How is it that an 'I' suddenly pops up here? This raises a big question. Everywhere else the Buddha teaches selflessness, but it is recorded in the sutras that the Buddha upon being born into this world, pointed to the heavens with one hand, to the earth with the other, took seven steps and then said 'In heaven and on earth, I alone am the honored one.' So, Buddha at the beginning of his mission spoke of the self, 'I alone am the honored one.' Following this, all the way up to age eighty-one and throughout alll those years in between, he spoke of selflessness. Then at age eight-one when the Buddha was about to enter into nirvana, he spoke of 'permanence, bliss, self and purity,' once again bringing up the 'self.' For everyone who wishes to practice Ch'an meditation and look into a hua tou, this is a big hua tou. Ultimately, is there selflessness or is there a self? This self is what? This is a BIG question!", Diamond Sutra Explained, page 15

Zennist once again strikes the heart of the matter with lucidity.

Many are the ways to approach this notion of non-self, which by the way I have frankly not understood as necessary to be compiled into a _doctrine_, as though by becoming first rate doctrinaires, we have taken any concrete steps toward realization of Buddha nature. But I digress...

It seems in Buddhism there is this reactionary element who seek continually to demonize the self to the degree that if you say "I", as in "excuse me, I must go to the restroom", suddenly the entire mahasangha is ready to give your ego a drubbing and remind you of arrogance and failure to practice Buddhism _correctly_ because it is not actually you who is going to void themselves.

Of course from whence ariseth this desire to be right about self or non-self in Buddhism, but ego? To cram doctrine down another person's throat, or since there is no person (according to some), to cram it down the universe's throat, which of course it doesn't have either, what we are saying is "I am right, and you are wrong", and what is this but tremendous ego?

This sort of dualistic metaphysical opining goes glancing off the basic gist of Buddha's teachings into any number of various hypotheses, doctrines, dogmas and damnable digressions which have little to do with anything else than ego and the compulsive desire to manifest it, thereby giving ourselves some modest comfort that the human mind is not completely and utterly baffled by the incomprehensbility of the universal One.

So instead of accepting what others say about self, or try to convince anyone else about what I realize about self, I will limit my observations to this basic point for the moment. This I think sums up some of what seems to cause so much confusion:

We like to think it is our desire, our aversion, our bodily sensation, our mental activity. From this arises the notion of self. And yet, each person has homologous desires, aversions, sensations and mental activity. So when we feel anger, pride, compassion, or hope these things are not really ours, but we participate in them so to speak (and I mean we as in human beings). The self identification with such unreal things is non-self.

Likewise when we think of a particular skill or talent we might have, such as a gift for bonsai cultivation, we might like t think this is something too which is "ours", but this vanity, this notion of ownership of anything is a trick of Mara which confuses us as to the nature of what is, and we think it is.

This does not have to be so difficult for anyone to reckon. Though the universe, at an absolute level, is unitary and without limits or conditions of any kind, the human being is individuated and although our mindstream might well be completely deluded, I think it is preposterous to claim that it does not exist ... it simply doesn't exist in a permanent, unconditioned way.

Perhaps self too goes away; but who would know this, who would realize this, if there were no self to perceive its own unreality?

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