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February 19, 2021


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Thanks yeti. That's a very nice gatha. I like the last stanza; reminded me of the Bodhisattvic vow on refraining from teaching emptiness to the untrained.

I think ego-death can have deleterious effects on those not ready. I've seen it happen in the psychedelic community; and then after the experience, seeing those walls come up, even thicker than before, to insulate their psyche from the terror of having their self be deconstructed into its constituent, dependently-originated, parts and then *poof* emptiness.

In some cases, you can even sense a bit of arrogance, thinking that they've conquered something -another experience to add to their spiritual resume.

Anyway, I think now in the Dharma-ending age where demonic views proliferate, it's becoming increasingly difficult to discuss the Dharma or to maintain a healthy Sangha, even a virtual one. All too often, I see discussions degrading into mindless bickering, name-calling, posturing, etc.


Thanks for your comments. I too am very grateful for the Zennist who has given so much of his time to make this blog possible. Where else in the contemporary Zen universe would it be possible to have a discussion about soul theory without it quickly being shut down for violating the rules of some "broad minded" Buddhist moderators.

I thought you might enjoy this, it is the death gatha of Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch:

Nothing that exists is true

don't think what you see it true

if you think you see the true

what you see is surely false

if you want to find the true

the mind free of the false is true

unless your mind forsakes the false

nothing is true where true can't be

Living things know how to move

lifeless things stay still

those who practice staying still

resemble motionless lifeless things

to see what truly doesn't move

in movement find what doesn't move

what doesn't move is what doesn't move

lifeless things have no buddha seeds

If you can perceive its attributes

the ultimate truth doesn't move

if you can realize this

you will see how reality works

all you students of the Way

be relentless and concentrate

don't stand at the entrance of the Mahayana

clinging to views about birth and death.

If those before you are ready

tell them the Buddha's teaching

and if they aren't truly ready

bow and tell them to be good

there's nothing to argue about in this teaching

those who argue lose sight of the way

clinging to blindness arguing about teachings

they lead their nature into birth and death"

"but this is very different than the imaginary construct of an invisible being-identity that maintains continuity throughout the three times and all the co-arising experiences to be imputed as a soul or self that has, essentially, an eternal ego identity -- an idea which totally contradicts the Buddhadharma."

I think you nailed it here. That dependently-originated emptiness of Self and Phenomenon, the former of which would include all the various ego-like constructions like "I", "Soul", etc. (Diamond Sutra helped me immensely in understanding this.)

Dwelling on this is not a good idea either, as n. yeti said in his last sentence. In my understanding, that's one of the main messages to take away from the Lankavatara Sutra -i.e. going beyond the discursive mind and it's need to conceptualize, ideate through the five skhandas, "congealing" Spirit into this tapioca pudding of gross, unrefined materialism. (Is that not the very crux of our human condition?)

Consequently, it's why I have so much appreciation for the Sutras and for those who can expound these most subtle aspects of the Buddhadharma. Words seem to forsake the experience and the beauty contained therein, yet without the words, concepts, etc., there'd be no Buddhadharma, no sutras, etc. Reminds of that mnemonic in the Diamond Sutra:

“What do you think, Subhuti? Does a bodhisattva create a serene and beautiful Buddha field?”

“No, World-Honored One. Why? To create a serene and beautiful Buddha field is not in fact creating a serene and beautiful Buddha field. That is why it is called creating a serene and beautiful Buddha field.”

Anyway, most people will inevitably oscillate between the two extreme of beings and non-being, the latter of which gives rise to the more nihilistic perspectives (i.e. no soul).

Well like everything else the idea of a soul is dependent. Of course it can be understood that the "soul" or self referred to here is a supernal one, transcendent of ordinary experience. However, the presupposition of the sentient is that the passing flux of experience imputes a soul, which is a delusion. This seems rather evident because there is no connection between the past and present experience (migrating thus through the six realms) except the co-arising consciousness of the experiences of birth and death. If it can be conceived of, it is not the soul, just as mind cannot truly conceive of itself. Resting in its nature, perhaps can be said to be the discovery of the soul or self, but this is very different than the imaginary construct of an invisible being-identity that maintains continuity throughout the three times and all the co-arising experiences to be imputed as a soul or self that has, essentially, an eternal ego identity -- an idea which totally contradicts the Buddhadharma.

Buddhism is distinct in that the knowledge or cognition of the causes and conditions that give rise to the illusion simultaneously dispel the illusion. In other words the dreamer knows it is dreaming, and the idea of a ego-soul is yet another of those dreams which, through the infinite capacity to actualize cognition (which is not separate from the object of cognition), properly investigated, leads to an awareness of that which is not arisen -- and therefore non-perishing (deathless) which could arguably be called a soul or souls. But as such conceptual knowledge itself is not ultimately liberating, the Buddhist, in my opinion, should not dwell on this idea but let go of it.

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