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July 24, 2019


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Why Corporations Want You to Shut Up and Meditate

Ron Purser’s new book McMindfulness examines how spiritual practices and self-care became tools for corporate compliance.


Within the open and entirely pure field of mind there is the limited or separated field of knowing in which impurities are known (not actually impurities but seen as such). This limited knowing, as I see it, functions in perfect conformity to conditions, taking the precise shape and assuming the aspect of the object known in perfect malleability. One doesn’t need a teacher or school to see this, it is quite possible to observe this on one’s own. Unfortunately today’s Buddhists are very stuck on the idea that there needs to be an external teacher of some kind from this or that established tradition, some lineage of some sort, and from this notion comes all kinds of confusion and being led astray from what it immediately and directly available to anyone without any kind of intervention by any holy man or rigid doctrine whatsoever – many of whom in this age are frankly charlatans. I feel it is a most immature attitude and very unfortunate.

When this function ceases, and no phenomenal marks are taken as references points for reality, it becomes possible to enter into direct cognition of this empty field in which there is nothing at all to speak of and no conditioned entity there to cognize it except what is of itself real – something quite impossible to describe even through abstraction though many have tried. In awareness of this unmoving, unchanging, immaculate and entirely empty reality, the appearance of phenomena – or “suchness” – then is recognized as having no ultimate distinction from this empty field. There are many specific samadhis referred to and various forms of supercognition which are described resulting from these concentrations/absorption, but I think it is clear the validity of such practices, at least in Zen, depend originally upon a sudden awakening to the basic nature of reality as it is. From that moment, phenomena can be grappled with and the work of liberation be taken on in the form of a “bodhisattva”, but in truth no bodhisattva exists except as a function of the vows by awakened beings to manifest within the phenomenal world to liberate all beings. Once understood, bodhisattvas are not bodhisattvas. All the senses operate without the senses operating. The relative is no longer in conflict with the absolute. Even the idea of attaining anything is seen as without validity from the word go.

The functioning of the skandhic system, described in great detail by Buddhist scripture, in which conditional reality is mistaken for absolute reality is also well established in Mahayana discourse. Paradoxically, there is the underlying unity of samsara and nirvana as revealed by the Lotus Sutra and others, and it is easy intellectually to fall into the trap of thinking that ordinary ignorance is the same as awakened cognition. All the more so when one is not aware that the sensory system and sense bases arise together with phenomena, and that these transient phenomena are not of themselves real but essentially mistaken cognition. And from this prison of mistaken cognition arises the sense of self as an entity or being interacting with an objective universe – essentially two objects, the self-contained bodily entity and the material universe in which it appears. This is the default condition of sentient beings – falsely associating the nature of experience with a self-existent universe and a self-existent cognitive-sensory body in which consciousness appears to reside. Neither has an unchanging nature and the continuous transformation of phenomena is eventually distressing to the sentient when that which was taken for the basis of reality ends and destruction or death occurs. This is not an abstract thing – it can be experienced by a simple austerity such as not eating for several days.

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