Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lankavatara Sutra and the One Vehicle Lineage

The “Sutra of Going Down to Lanka” (Lankavatara Sutra) is the most important sutra in relation to Bodhidharma and the Zen lineages of his Dharma descendants. I follow the lead of D.T. Suzuki in viewing the Lanka as one of the Ekayana (One Vehicle) sutras including the Avatamsaka,White Lotus of the True Dharma, Queen Srimala’s Lions Roar, Great Dharma Drum, etc. Each of these sutras provides a different perspective, but the common basis is the One Vehicle. In this way, the Avatamsaka Sutra provides the One Vehicle view of the metaphysics of Buddha Dharma. The Lotus Sutra provides the One Vehicle view of skillful means and the arousal of faith in the Buddha Dharma. The Queen Srimala’s Lion’s Roar Sutra provides the One Vehicle perspective on the Dharmabody and the realization of the bodhisattva path with the prediction of Buddhahood for a lay person who is a woman, as well as placing the Tathagata-garbha teaching within the context of the One Vehicle.
The Lankavatara Sutra is special because it is a compendium of the primary teachings of the Buddha Dharma, and provides the One Vehicle view on each of the teachings. What this means is that the Lanka is essentially and primarily the teaching of the synthesis of the Buddha Dharma and takes great pains to show them all together in a coherent tapestry of the Buddha Dharma.
Thus the various sections take up the teachings of the Two Vehicles of listener disciples (sravakas) and the causally awakened (pratyekabuddhas) or the Three Vehicles which are the Two Vehicles plus the bodhisattva vehicle. Section by section the Lanka articulates these teachings in the context of the One Vehicle. For example, the Lanka takes up the Four Noble Truths, the Five Dharmas, the Three Self-natures (trisvabhavas), the Six Paramitas, the Eight Consciousnesses, the Ten Bodhisattva Stages, etc. and for each of them provides the One Vehicle view of how each is a teaching and a discrimination of mind about manifesting Buddha Nature.
In outliine, the One Vehicle includes the following points of perspective.
(1) Buddhism (i.e., following the Buddha Dharma) is the religious practice of the One Mind of Buddha as the practice of manifesting our Buddha nature;
(2) the One Mind is known by many names such as Dharmakaya (the body or essence of Dharma), Buddha-nature, Tathagata-garbha (the Inner-One-Who-Comes-Thus), sunyata (Emptiness), alaya-vjnana (the Storehouse of Consciousness), the bhutakoti (Reality- Limit), the signless, the Dharmadathu (Dharma Realm), paramartha (the ultimate truth), etc., and everything that is differentiated in consciousness is a discrimination of Mind and nothing but Mind which is known as the "mind-only" (cittamatra) teaching;
(3) since all the teachings of Buddhism, including both Mahayana and the Early Schools (sometimes called Hinayana), are essentially teachings about the One Mind of our own Buddha Nature, they must be taken as an organic whole, and the reconciliation of apparent oppositions or contradictions within the Buddhist teachings is the essence of the synthesis of One Vehicle (Ekayana);
(4) the essential core of all the differences in Buddha Dharma is found in the understanding that Buddha’s distinctive teachings are due to the different audiences to whom the teachings are taught, and that this responsiveness to the particular circumstances is called upaya, or skillful means; 
(5) as all beings manifest equally the One Mind there is an absolute basis (i.e., simultaneously transcendental and immanent) for human equality;
(6) the sole purpose for Buddhas to enter the world is to relieve suffering by bringing people to awakening, and awakening to the absolute basis of the One Buddha Mind is not accomplished as an intellectual pursuit or construction of words or ideas, but must be accomplished by experiential practice leading to the “revolution at the basis,” “turning the light around,” or “turning inward” (paravrtti) that culminates in directly seeing the True Suchness (tathata) of one’s Own-Nature (svabhava); 
(7) since all people have This One Buddha Mind, the nature of the Tathagata, as their common and actual manifestation of their root of awakening there is no fundamental distinction between monk and lay practitioner in the potential for -- or actual realization of -- awakening in Buddhism.
People often mistake the Lankavatara as a Sutra of the Yogacara Buddhist school because the Lanka prominently discusses the Eight Consciousness analysis developed by the Yogacara school, but this is an error.  What the Lankavatara is doing is providing the One Vehicle view of the Eight Consciousness teaching. Similarly, the Lanka provides the One Vehicle view of the chief teachings of the Yogacara and Madhyamaka schools and of Tathagatagarbha movement to show that they are all within the ambit of the One Vehicle. In this way the One Vehicle refuses to place one school above another and shows their mutual significance and validity within the Buddha Dharma. Thus, the Lankavatara is providing the One Vehicle context that brings together the teachings of these three main streams of Mahayana, as well as bringing the streams of the Hinayana or Early Schools within the One Buddha Vehicle.
One reason for the confusion of mistaking the Lanka as a Yogacara sutra is that people are confused about the distinction between the Yogacara teaching of consciousness-only (vijnanamatra or vijnaptimatra) and the One Vehicle's teaching of mind-only (cittamatra).  D.T. Suzuki explained several times in his Studies on the Lankavatara Sutra how, since the time it was first translated by Gunabhadra in the 5th century, there were two primary streams of interpretation of the Lankavatara in China . One stream was the Yogacara because the Lankavatara does affirm the validity of the teaching of the Eight Consciousnesses.  Suzuki articulates how taking this affirmation as a basis for interpreting the Lanka as a Yogacara teaching is misguided.  Here are excerpts of three sections (pages 54-55; 180-183; and 276-282) from Suzuki’s Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra where he discusses the difference between the Lankvatara’s Mind-only and Yogacara’s Consciousness-only views.
As Suzuki shows, going all the way back to the first accounts in China in the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks, that Bodhidharma taught the One Vehicle School (or lineage) of Southern India. D.T. Suzuki wrote:
There is one thing in the foregoing account given by Tao-hsiian of the history of the Lankavatara that requires notice: that there was another school in the study of the sutra than the one transmitted by Dharma and Hui-k'e. This was the school of Yogacara idealism. The line of Hui-k'e belonged to the Ekayana school (一乘) of Southern India which was also the one resorted to by Dharma himself when he wanted to discourse on the philosophy of Zen Buddhism. To this Ekayana school belong the Avatamsaka and the Sraddhotpanna as well as the Lankavatara properly interpreted. But as the latter makes mention of the system of the eight Vijnanas whose central principle is designated as Alayavijnana, it has been used by the Yogacara followers as one of their important authorities. (p. 54-55)

On page 181, Suzuki writes,
The doctrine expounded in the Lankavatara and also in the Avatamsaka-sutra is known as the Cittamatra and never as the Vijnanamatra or Vijnaptimatra as in the Yogacara school of Asanga and Vasubandhu. Throughout the Lankavatara no mention is made of "vijnanamatra," but either "vijnaptimatra," or "prajnaptimdtra," and they are used synonymously. […] Where the triple world (tribhavam) is said to be nothing but vijnapti or prajnapti, it means that the world is mere subjective construction, having no reality or selfsubstance (svabhdva). The doctrine of Cittamatra, (mind-only, or pure-mind-only), as advocated in the Lankavatara, however, differs from this in that it does not deny the existence of mind itself, from which the objective world appears with all its forms of particularisation.

Beginning on page 278 to 280, Suzuki writes,
I cannot conclude this study without referring, though casually, to the difference between the doctrine of Cittamatra and that of Vijnaptimatra (or Vijnanamatra), the latter being the thesis of the Yogacara school of Buddhism which was founded principally by Asanga and Vasubandhu. […] How is the Cittamatra of the Lankavatara to be distinguished from the Vijnanamatra?

Or are they the same, only differently designated? The following is given more to elucidate -the Lankavatara position than to give a definite answer to the question. It is a most significant question deserving a fuller treatment than we may discuss here.

The doctrine persistently maintained in the Lankavatara is Cittamatra or Cittadrisyamatra, and not Vijnana- or Vijfiapti-matra, which, according to Asanga and Vasuban- dim, is "Idam sarvam vijnaptimdtrakam,"1 meaning by idam that which is discriminated as "This is the self" and "That is an external reality," that is, this world where the subject is distinguished from the object, or, to use Buddhist terminology, the triple world including both samskrita and asamskrita. It is true that Citta is quite frequently identified with Vijnana or Vijnapti as in the following gatha, in which this identification is explicitly referred to:

"Mind (citta), discrimination, representation (vijnapti), the will (manas), consciousness (viJnana), the storage (dlaya), that which makes the triple world,—all these are synonyms of mind (citta)." But when the word "Cittamatra" is used, this Citta has a specific sense to be distinguished from the empirical mind which functions as Manas and Vijnana. As I have repeatedly remarked, the Citta in the Lankavatara is the principle of mentality, and when it is said that there is the "Mind-only," this mind includes"not only the empirical mind but that which constitutes the very basis of discrimination. The mind is what is left behind when all forms of discrimination are rejected as leading to spiritual bondage and defilement. It is thus something that has been here even prior to all discrimination, that is, even before the duality of subject and object had come to exist.The Lankavatara does not advocate nihilism pure and simple; it tries to take hold of somewhat beyond this world of particularisation. When one has actually taken hold of it by sheer act of intuition which is made possible by the working of non-discriminative wisdom (avikalpa-Jnana) ,3 or supreme wisdom (drya Jnana) ,4 or superior knowledge (prajfid) in the inmost recesses of consciousness (pratydtmagocara), the Lankavatara calls it the Mind (citta). And as there is nothing subjective or objective besides this Mind, the Cittamatra or "Mind-only" theory is now positively established. The philosophy, if there is any such thing in the Lankavatara, is ontology and not epistemology. Whereas the doctrine of Vijnaptimatra is epistemological.

From 281-282:
In the Lankavatara no reference is made to the Vijnapti except probably once, but rather to the Prajnaptimatra view of the world; and even in the latter case the reference is negligible, considering that the weight of the whole discourse in the Lankavatara falls on the Cittamatra and not on the Prajfiaptimatra or Vijnaptimatra or Namamatra or Vikalpamatra.  The sutra does not linger long on the question of the world being merely a name or a representation, but it exhausts its powers of persuasion to convince the reader that the world is Mind itself, and that it is only by realizing this truth in one's own inner consciousness that enlightenment ensues. The transcendental mind, or Mind itself, or "Mind-only" is thus made the chief subject of the text. In this it varies from the teaching of the Yogacara: the latter emphasises the process of transformation which takes place in the Alayavijnana, and it naturally makes most of the aspect of existence which is to be considered merely ideational. It does not go further on to say that there is the "Mind-only" as the principle of unification in which all representations (vijnapti) „ cogitations (manana), discriminations (vikalpa), and a world of particulars (vishaya), leave no traces. According to Sthiramati's commentary, the Trimsika is regarded as written for those who do not understand truthfully (yathabhutam) what is meant by Cittamatram, but this does not mean that the Cittamatra is the Vijiiaptimatra. The former may be based on the latter, or we can say that when the Cittamatra is declared as a fact of intuitive knowledge, the doctrine of Vijnaptimatra logically follows from this realisation. The Trimsika may thus form a part of the Lankavatara's philosophical foundation, but we must not overlook the fact that there is a conceptual difference between the theme of the Lankavatara and the Yogacara's psychological or rather epistemological interpretation of existence.

Bearing in mind this important distinction between the consciousness-only of the Yogacara and the mind-only of the One Vehicle as it is presented in the Lankavatara, we can look, for example, at  Section XVII of the Lanka discussing the "permanent and inconceivable."
Red Pine's translation:
At that time, Mahamati Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “Bhagavan, the Tathagata teaches that what is eternal and inconceivable is the realm of ultimate truth, the real of buddha knowledge one realizes oneself.  Bhagavan, do other schools not teach that what is eternal and inconceivable is a cause?
            The Buddha told Mahamati, “The cause of other schools does not qualify as eternal and inconceivable. And why not? Because what other schools claim is eternal and inconceivable is not the result of its own causal attribute. If what is eternal and inconceivable is not the result of its own causal attribute, on what basis does it appear as eternal and inconceivable? Furthermore, Mahamati, if what is inconceivable were the result of its own causal attribute, it would be eternal. But because it would be due to the causal attribute of a creator, it would not qualify as eternal and inconceivable.
            “Mahamati, the reason my ultimate truth is eternal and inconceivable is because ultimate truth is the result of a causal attribute that transcends existence and nonexistence.  Because the attainment of personal realization is its attribute, it has an attribute. And because the knowledge of ultimate truth is its cause, it has a cause.  And because it is beyond existence and nonexistence, it resembles what is not created: space, nirvana, and complete cessation.  This is why it is eternal. Hence, Mahamati, it is not the same as the doctrines about what is eternal and inconceivable of other schools. Thus, Mahamati, this eternal and inconceivable is attained by personal realization of the knowledge of the tathagatas. Therefore, the eternal and inconceivable attained by the personal realization of buddha knowledge is what you should cultivate.
            “Moreover, Mahamati, the eternal and inconceivable of members of other schools is impermanent because it is caused b y something else and because it lacks the power to create its own causal attribute. Also, Mahamati, members of other schools consider their eternal and inconceivable as eternal despite having witness the impermanence of the existence and nonexistence of what is created.
            “Mahamati, despite having witnessed the impermanence of the existence and nonexistence of what is created, I could use the same method to claim that the realm of buddha knowledge realized by oneself is eternal and free form causes.  Mahamati, if the eternal and inconceivable of other schools were the result of a causal attribute and that causal attribute did not itself exist, it would be the same as horns on a rabbit.  Their eternal and inconceivable would be merely words and imagination. This is the problem among members of other schools. And how so? Because what is merely words and imagination is the same as rabbit horns, for which a causal attribute does not exist.
            “Mahamati, what I speak of as eternal and inconceivable is eternal because it is based on the attribute of personal realization and because it transcends the existence and nonexistence of what is created.  It is not in consideration of the impermanence of external nonexistence that it is eternal. Mahamati, if what is eternal and inconceivable were eternal in consideration of the impermanence of external nonexistence, there would be no way to know the eternal and inconceivable’s own causal attribute.  As this distracts people from the attainment of the personal realization of the realm of buddha knowledge, it is not worth talking about.”
D.T. Suzuki's translation:
       At that time Mahamati the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva said this to the Blessed One: According to the Blessed One's teaching, the eternal-unthinkable is the exalted condition of self-realisation and also of highest reality. Now, do not the philosophers also talk about the creative agent being the eternal-unthinkable?
       The Blessed One replied: No, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable considered by the philosophers to be characteristic of their creator is untenable. Why? Because, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable as held by the philosophers is not in conformity with the idea of a cause itself. When, Mahamati, this eternal-unthinkable is not in conformity with the idea of a cause itself how can this be proved tenable? (60) Again, Mahamati, if what is claimed to be the eternal-unthinkable is in conformity with the idea of a cause [which is eternal] in itself, it can be eternal; but since the idea of a creator is based upon that of a [further] cause, it cannot be the eternal-unthinkable.
       But, Mahamati, my highest reality is the eternal-unthinkable since it conforms to the idea of a cause and is beyond existence and non-existence. Because it is the exalted state of self-realisation it has its own character; because it is the cause of the highest reality it has its causation; because it has nothing to do with existence and non-existence it is no doer; because it is to be classed under the same head as space, Nirvana, and cessation it is eternal. Therefore, Mahamati, it is not the same as the eternal-unthinkable of the philosophers; the eternal-unthinkable of the Tathagatas is thatness realised by noble wisdom within themselves. For this reason, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva discipline himself in order to attain by means of noble wisdom the truth of self-realisation which is the eternal-unthinkable.
       Again, further, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable of the philosophers is not characterised with eternality because it has a cause which is not eternal; what they regard as eternal is not eternal as it is not characterised with the power that can create itself. If again, Mahamati, the philosophers prove the eternality of their eternal-unthinkable in contradistinction to the becoming and therefore the non-eternality of things created, Mahamati, by the same reasoning (61) I can prove that their eternality has no reason to be known as such just because things created are non-eternal owing to their becoming.
       If again, Mahamati, the eternal-unthinkable of the philosophers is in conformity with the idea of a cause, what they regard as characteristic of a cause is a non-entity like the horns of a hare; and, Mahamati, their eternal-unthinkable is no more than a verbal discrimination, in which, Mahamati, the philosophers' fault consists. Why? Because, Mahamati, mere verbal discriminations are, indeed, the hare's horns, on account of their having no characteristic of a self-cause. Mahamati, moreover, my eternal-unthinkable is really eternal because it finds its cause in the exalted state of self-realisation, and because it has nothing to do with a creator, with being and non-being. Its eternality is not derived from the reasoning which is based upon the external notion of being and non-being, of eternity and non-eternity. If the eternal-unthinkable is eternal in consideration of the non-existence and eternality of external things, we can say of this kind of the eternal-unthinkable that the philosophers do not know what is meant by characteristically self-caused. As they are outside the state of self-realisation attainable by noble wisdom, Mahamati, their discourse is not to the point.
This is an important section presenting the One Vehicle view of the teaching of impermanence of dharmas in relation to codependent origination and to creation and causation as taught by other schools. The term for permanent can also be translated as “eternal” or “constant.”  This section is saying that as for dharmas, the teaching of impermanence in the teaching of the three marks of existence is okay, but as for the One Vehicle the teaching goes beyond the impermanence of dharmas to teach the permanence and constancy of the Dharmakaya which is the ultimate truth of the Tathagata. This characterization of the Dharmakaya as being characterized by the paramita of permanency is a teaching of the One Vehicle repeated in the various One Vehicle sutras. For example, the Sutra of Queen Srimala's Lion's Roar says, "The Dharmakaya of the Tathagata is the paramita of permanence, the paramita of joy, the paramita of self, and the paramita of purity."  
This section is a description of how causation looks from the perspective of the One Vehicle; it is not an argument about faith. All non-Buddhist schools base their notions of creation on having faith in their story of creation. In Buddha Dharma, the realization of cause is not based on faith but on one's personal realization of the noble-knowledge or noble innate-intelligence (aryajnana). Since personal realization is within the ability of everyone, the cause of our knowing the "constant and inconceivable" basis of reality is within the ability of everyone. Though individual dharmas arise, abide, and are destroyed by codependent origination, the Tahtagata teaches the ultimate truth that is constant and inconceivable and that the cause for the knowing of this constant and inconceivable ultimate truth is the personal realization of this noble innate-intelligence. Dharmas do not transcend existence and nonexistence which is why dharmas have the three marks of existence.  However, that is also why the teaching of dharmas and codependent origination are teachings of conditional self-nature and are not teachings of the ultimate truth of the complete self-nature. So in this section the Buddha is teaching that in the perspective of the One Vehicle the Early Schools are teaching conditional truth, not ultimate truth.
Then the Buddha takes up the teachings of other schools that do not even rise to the level of teaching the conditional truth, but are only verbal fabrications and teachings of false conceptions like the horns of a rabbit. This is the point being made by saying that all things that are created are impermanent, and so a created God or First Cause that exists as a thing is also created so any claim of its permanence is just like the false imagination of a rabbit with horns. Likewise, Buddha avoids the trap of saying the permanent and inconceivable Dharmakaya is uncaused because that would mean it was nonexistent. The cause of the permanent and inconceivable ultimate truth of the Tathagata is awakening itself, here called our own personal realization of the noble innate-intelligence.
It is an extremely subtle point to confirm that awakening itself is a cause, but that cause itself transcends the existence and nonexistence of things that are created (i.e., dharmas), otherwise it would not be able to awaken us to that which transcends existence and nonexistence. Thus the One Vehicle taught in the Lanka both affirms causation and simultaneously points us to the permanent and inconceivable that transcends existence and nonexistence and is not constrained by causation even while it is viewed and experienced as causation.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Soylent Green is people!

When it comes to economic politics, my motto is "Soylent Green is people! If we don't eat the rich, figuratively speaking, the rich will feed us to ourselves, literally speaking."

If you don't know the Soylent Green reference, check out the 1973 science fiction film Soylent Green which I consider to be Charlton Heston's best film. It was also the great actor Edward G. Robinson's last film.

Spoiler Alert: Or jump to the synopsis of Soylent Green at Wikipedia..

Basically, for instance, there is no reasonable justification for the rich to have unearned income from financial investments at a far lower rate for "capital gains"  than workers pay on their earned income.  It is just one of the ways in which the rich control Congress to their own benefit and redistribute the nation's wealth into their own pockets.  We see worldwide how the rich are demanding austerity from the working class for the purpose of bailing out the banks and their own lack of austerity.

As a follower of the Buddha Dharma, I begin with the premise that all these distinctions are distinctions made by the false thinking of our own mind, the mind that is one mind, because the 1istinction that we are separate minds is also a discrimination of that very same mind. As the Buddha said,

“I now universally see that everyone of the multitude of beings is endowed with the qualities of the Tathagata’s wisdom and virtue.  However by means of erroneous thinking and grasping attachments, nevertheless they do not bear witness to attaining it.

This common endowment of the Tathagata's wisdom and virtue is the basis for what we call the Golden Rule. Since we all have the shared foundation of the mind ground, to treat each other as if we do not have the same Buddha nature is the result of our erroneous thinking, false conceptions, and grasping attachments..
As a political democracy, it is the obligation of citizens to prevent the rich from stealing resources and wealth from the nation and redistributing it to their own pockets and bank accounts.  The private banking system and institutions of legalized financial gambling on Wall Street, called "the stock market," "hedge funds," "derivative investments", etc. should be severely regulated to keep them fair. There is nothing wrong with markets that fairly trade in actual ownership of stocks, but these money carnivals are nothing other than gambling institutions that hold our economy in their grip.  

Most importantly, the money of the government should never be dependent upon or entangled with private banking, as that is the primary way that the people's treasury is looted into the private pockets of the rich. The people's public money in their government treasury should always be held in a public bankpublic banking system is the single most important change that would prevent the kind of financial collapses that we have seen created by the gambling institutions of Wall Street.  Here's a wonderful but sad story of the destruction of the Canadian public banking system at the hands of the rich in their never ending greed. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Realism is a metaphysical assertion

A skeptic writes:
Aah – but if it were not for our individual perception, through the eyes of ‘I’, we would not survive in this world. We drive down the road making decisions and physical adjustments to ensure our own safety and the safety of others.

This ‘allusion’ theory is all hogwash, in my opinion.  What is so terribly wrong with realism that we should throw it out with the bathwater?  Nothing lacking, nothing superfluous.

We should not get confused between our physical world and how things are in the moment. 'I' most certainly exists (IMO).  This does not mean that is not part of a much greater 'I".

It is ironical that of all spiritual practises Zen should be most hijacked by  metaphysicists when it probably the least metaphysical of all.  :blush:

Just as I'm seeinit at this moment in time



My response:

All one = alone. That is not a metaphysical statement, it is a statement of immediate and direct knowing.  We can not get into squabbles if we are not simultaneously all one and alone. This is the meaning of the fourfold dharmadhatu taught in the Avatamsaka Sutra and affirmed by Zen.

Well, it looks to me like there is confusion and a failure to distinguish clearly between (1) what is conditioned simply by the necessity of language and (2) what is truly "metaphysical." 

The "I" as a conceptual configuration is exactly what is metaphysical when that "I" is treated as anything but a conceptual configuration.

From the Zen Buddhist perspective, as supported by the Lankavatara, Avatamsaka, Queen Srimala's Lion's Roar Sutras and others, the notion of a "physical world" is a metaphysical conception.  In fact, the notion of a "physical world" is a construction centered in the fourth skandha activity supported by the interactions of the other skandhas.

The idea that perception is "through the eyes" is not a Zen idea, it is a philosophical and metaphysical idea.  The Surangama Sutra articulates this issue, nearly ad nauseum, when Buddha explains to Ananda in countless ways how it is only erroneous conception to think that perception is through the eyes, much less, through the eyes of "I". 

"Self" consciousness is a natural mirage, the most natural illusion of the human consciousness and this is because human consciousness is based on the abiding state of ignorance. As the sutras teach, there is no  greater power "in the world" than the abiding state of ignorance. The only power capable of freeing us from the hold of the false conceptions arising from the abiding state of ignorance is the power that is not contained in or by the worldly conceptions. Even the arahants and bodhisattvas cannot overcome it.

Queen Srimala's Lion's Roar Sutra writes:
"World Honored One, the mind does not match up with the beginningless abiding state of ignorance.  World Honored One, the force of these four abiding states is the basic seed of every ascending affliction, yet that, as well, is unable to be compared, by calculation or by metaphor, to the abiding state of ignorance.  World Honored One, such is the force of the abiding state of ignorance, that as for the fourth abiding state of the love of existence this force of the abiding state of ignorance is even greater.   To allegorize, it is like surpassing the forms, force, length of life, retinue, and multitude of possessions of the Evil Mara-Papiyan in the Heaven of Paranirmitavaśavarin.  Such is the force of the abiding state of ignorance, that as for the fourth abiding state of the love of existence this force conquers it.  As the basis of the numerous classes of the ascending afflictions as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, likewise it decrees that the four kinds of afflictions long abide.   That state of the innate intelligence of the Arhats and Independent Buddhas does not eliminate it.  Only that state of the innate intelligence of the enlightenment of the Tathagata eliminates it.  Thus it is World Honored One the abiding state of ignorance is a very great force."

The existence of an "I" is the very most uncertain thing that is the most mistaken to be certain. The certainty of the "I" is only a metaphysical certainty.

Realism is a metaphysical assertion by a school of philosophy.


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Tonight the phony debate brought to you by beer.

Tonight when you see the presidential debate, there will be a picture worth 10,000 words: THE MOST SUCESSFUL PRODUCT PLACEMENT by LOGO ever conceived in naitonal politics and the Presidential debates.. The Commission on Presidential Debates is a private corporation and the two co-chairs are both ex-party functionaries and are both corporate lobbyists in their day jobs. 

Please watch the important story by Democracy Now! about how the two-party dictatorship has hijacked our democracy by allowing the Republican and Democratic Parties to contol the presidential debates.

George Farah, Founder and Executive Director of Open Debate, and author of the book, "No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates." lays it all out for us that Anheuser Busch is the corporation paying the most and the chief funder of our Presidential Debates.

During the interview you can see the stage being setup in Denver.  What they didn't mention is that if you look behind the candidates' podiums prominently displayed on the stage you will see the Anheuser Busch eagle logo. 


So when you watch the debate tonight just remember that it was brought to you by beer.


I ask all "big D" Democrats: if you truely beleive in "small d" democracy, why don't you demand that your party (1) turn over the Presidential Debates to a public commission and (2) allow any candidate on the ballot in enough states to win 270 electoral college votes to participate?  If you are a Democrat, how can you say you support democracy yet don't allow a true competition in the political marketplace? The American Brand of Fascism is based on the two-party tyranny of our democratic institutions. The single most important first step to fixing the institutional system of democracy in the USA is to take the control of the presidential debates out of the hands of this private corporation controlled by the two parties themselves and return the presidential debates back to the people.

Join the Green Party to challenge the anti-democratic farce of our so-called Presidential debates.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Heroes Don't Vote for Criminals.

Rebecca Solnit has written a diatribe in the form of a letter that is being passed around under the title of "We could be heroes."

Yes, we could be heroes, if we were to challenge the two-party dictatorship of the American Brand of Fascism that controls our semi-democratic institutions.

Here is my response.

LOL! Poor Rebecca, having to whine about whiners whining about whiners. Where does all the whining begin? Must be the big bang that whines through the ages.

Poor Rebecca says, “I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support.”  Now, I’m all for ambiguity as the natural state of reality, for complexity in goals, for aiming at goals that are actually in different directions, for conundrum and paradox in political positions, but the idea that the road to achieving these two goals of Rebecca’s leads through the town of supporting the Democratic Party is just plain wrong.  It is a misreading of the map so fundamentally upside down that it is like driving to Seattle to see the manatees and gators.

Rebecca can call me “rancid” and I could come up with a few choice adjectives for her, but I will just stick with “poor Rachel” as her letter presents both a poor grasp of politics and of human nature.  Poor Rachel can’t see the cosmology of the radical left because she closes her eyes and ears to it, not because it is not presented.

So, Poor Rebecca admits that she does not deplore with a lot of fuss the “bad things” that Obama does because she expects him to do those bad things.  In other words, she expects him to assassinate people as the stated foreign policy and to kill US citizens and to torture and to pay off his Wall Street buddies while foreclosures burn, and the list goes on and on.  She just doesn’t deplore the leader who fiddles while America burns because she expects the fiddling.  That is the attitude of poverty of thought.

STRAW MAN:  Then Rebecca wheels out the straw man argument that she couldn’t talk to her leftist friends about our ex-Governor Schwarzenegger’s positive respects. That is a straw man argument which has nothing to do with the actual positive and negative aspects of the current president.  Basically, all Rebecca presents in her rant is variations on the logical fallacy of the straw man. 

Next, Rebecca tells us as if we are children in kindergarten that “There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad.”  Yes, Rebecca we know this truism. We also know where the wild things are.

Rebecca wants to know, what purpose does it serve to point out that a person who claims to be anti-death penalty is condoning the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs?  Dear Rebecca, the purpose is to point out the blanket label of “anti-death penalty” is qualified not absolute.  You can celebrate the coolness of Kamala Harris; just don’t claim that her coolness gives her a free pass to escape criticism for where she is not so cool. Rebecca acts as if Obama’s saying he is for peace should not be countered with all the examples of his pro-war mongering including drones killing wedding participants and assassination of US citizens. What Rebecca is blind to is the insanity of a man accepting the Nobel Peace Prize and in his acceptance speech talking about how he is a better warrior. 

Rebecca claims she wants to focus on fixing problems or being compassionate, yet her rant is just as uncompassionate as those she rants against.  Her rant is also just as void of focus on fixing problems as she moans about others.  There is not one fix suggested for our democratic system presented.

Poor Rebecca calls unconstitutional and impeachable acts by the president “dimples on the imperial derriere” and says they are not worth discussing.  Yes, Poor Rebecca doesn’t want to discuss such dirty and troubling things; she wants to talk about the things that look good.

If Rebecca votes for Obama with the belief that fewer people will suffer, then that is her choice based on her calculation. If I vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, with the belief that fewer people will suffer then why doesn’t she grant me this choice, but instead says that my belief is wrong and my vote is just “choosing the greater of two evils”?  See? Rebecca is as guilty of left voter suppression as anyone.   The “evils” slogan in this context comes from the Democrats, not from the leftists, but Rebecca adds another straw man argument claiming that it is leftists who coined and push the “evils” meme.

Another straw man argument made by Rebecca is the one that rants against the left for saying “that there’s no difference” between the two parties.  But there is no leftist who makes that argument.  When people say the choice between the Republican and Democratic candidates for president is a choice between Pepsi and Coke, they are not saying “there is no difference.” Everyone knows that Pepsi and Coke taste different.  What is being said is that when it comes to the things of most importance to the voter the differences in taste are not as significant as the similarity in sugar content.  

Yes, Rebecca, we are facing a right wing that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact.  I call them the American Taliban. And yes, to oppose them requires that we be different from them.  They support and reelect their president no matter what crimes he commits, so we must be different and not support and not reelect our president because of the crimes he commits. Calling Obama’s crimes “minor differences” of opinion is just plain disgusting.  Overlooking Obama’s crimes insures that there is no possibility of changing the conditions that allows him to continue committing those crimes. 

Rebecca’s form of defeatism is the fetishism of the politics of hope that blinds her to the actual crimes being committed in her name.  People need hope. But they need hope that is real not just the false promise of hope by a con game played on the voters using the two-party tyranny that keeps the Republicans and Democrats in power switching back and forth.  Rebecca says she want to achieve the goal of countering the Republican right, but that goal can’t be achieved by supporting the very same Democrats who depend on the Republican right for their reason for existence.  Democrats could have countered the Republican right many years ago but have failed to do so becauseit is not in their interests to do so. 

If we want to talk about fixing the problem, about compassion for democracy, let’s talk about fixing the system.  I ask all "big D" Democrats: if you truly believe in "small d" democracy, then why don't you demand that your party (1) turn over the Presidential Debates to a public commission and (2) allow any candidate on the ballot in enough states to win 270 electoral college votes to participate?  If you are a Democrat, how can you say you support democracy yet don't allow a true competition in the political marketplace? The American Brand of Fascism is based on the two-party tyranny of our democratic institutions. The single most important first step to fixing the institutional system of democracy in the USA is for the people to take the control of the presidential debates out of the hands of the private corporation that runs them and is controlled by the two parties themselves and return thepresidential debates back to the people.




Saturday, September 01, 2012

The American Brand of Fascism on Display at the RNC

 The circus of hypocrisy and propaganda that was called the Republican National Convention leaves me with the difficult task of sorting out the plethora of delusional material delivered from the podium. 

Many commentators are presenting the fact-checks on the speeches like VP candidate Paul Ryan’s and showing how virtually every other sentence was a lie of some sort.  Clint Eastwood’s bizarre performance is a cautionary tale about why the logical fallacy of making that straw man argument (in this variation it was the empty chair argument) should be avoided.  See Republicans vs. Straw Men at

Ann Romney’s speech was so much ado about nothing.  Does anyone really choose their president based on his wife’s accolades?  Apparently some do because this silliness is repeated at every convention. But we should deeply consider whether people who vote for a president because his wife says she loves him should even be allowed to vote.

The Republican convention is a clear example of how our democracy has become disabled by people who vote based on delusions and illusion.   The Republican playbook on rhetoric is taken directly from Chapter 6 of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”  The Republican convention doesn’t make any sense until one realizes that it was just a propaganda message to the masses.  Here are several quotes from Hitler’s book by way of understanding what was going on at the Republican convention:

“To whom should propaganda be addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or to the less educated masses?  It must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses.”
“All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.
“The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”
“the very first axiom of all propagandist activity: to wit, the basically subjective and one-sided attitude it must take toward every question it deals with.”
“The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly.”
“But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”
“For instance, a slogan must be presented from different angles, but the end of all remarks must always and immutably be the slogan itself.”

 The propaganda slogan of the Republican convention was “We Built It.” The genius of this slogan is that the words themselves are generous and charitable while its meaning is just the opposite in true Orwellian doublespeak.  I can say “We built it” and mean it because as a Buddhist I’m aware of the total interdependency of how anything and everything is built.  The toothbrush held in the hand, the tomato in the salad,  the car being driven on the freeway: none of these are brought to us by some individual at the top of a business who can  take credit for it all, but by the incalculable activities of numberless persons.

However, the different angles applied to the slogan of “We Built It” by the Republicans were actually: “We (not you) built it,” “We (the rich) built it,” “We built it (and you pay for it.),” “We built it (in spite of you),” “We built it (in a vacuum without anyone else’s help),” etc.   The Republican meaning of “We Built It” is derived from the greedy egotistical delusion of an individual as Herculean Hero.  

This egotistical delusion of entrepreneurial self-sufficiency pulling oneself up by one’s own boot straps creates the shadow of enemies seen everywhere out to get us.  What this does is create a mind-set for Republicans to deny the very foundation of our democracy as so eloquently stated by our first Republican president Abraham Lincoln :

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

When it comes down to basics, the Republicans do not believe in Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”   No, they believe in the American Brand of Fascism in which government is controlled by the wealthy and rich elites of our corporate feudalism for the protection of those interests. 

How do I know? Because when the Republicans play upon the middle and lower classes frustrations with government, they don't point out that the problem with government is due to the influence of corporate money on Congress and the President, and they don't demand that we restore government of the people, by the people and for the people. Instead they bring out their favorite long term slogan: "smaller government, less taxes."  But what does "smaller government" mean? To Republicans it means "smaller government (of, by, and for the people)" and smaller government in the departments that regulate the corporations for the good of the people.  Republicans are all for bigger government as long as that bigger government is engaged on the one hand in foreign hegemony and imperialist extension (Defense Department) and on the other hand in domestic surveillance and reduction of civil liberties (Department of Homeland Security).  Every other department of government that actually is for the people can be thrown out as far as they are concerned, but the departments of government that control and dominate the people and instead work only to enforce the power of the corporations just get bigger and bigger.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Updated translation of Bodhidharma's Outline

Here's my recently updated translation of Bothidharma's Outline for Discerning the Mahayana and Entering the Way which is the document that is considered to be the most likely extant written example of Bodhidharma's teaching.  Bodhiharma was The Twenty-Eighth Ancestral Founder of the  Ekayana Lineage of Southern India and The First Ancestral Founder of the Zen Lineage of China.
Great Master Bodhidharma’s Outline
For Discerning the Mahayana and Entering the Way
By Four Practices and Contemplation

By Bodhidharma, (d. circa 532)

Translated by Gregory Wonderwheel ©  2008/2012

            Man enters the Way by many roads. But in summary we speak of not going beyond two kinds of cultivating. The first is entering by principle.  The second is entering by practice.

            That which is "entering by principle" designates reliance on the lineage of awakening to bear profound faith that the one true nature of beings is the same.  However, as a traveler is concealed in the dusts of delusion, it has been unable to manifest.  Even so, if one renounces the false, returns to the true, firmly abides in wall contemplation--without self and without other, with the ordinary and the sacred one and the same--solidly abides in the immovable, and furthermore, does not depend on written teachings, then one immediately takes part in a deep accord with principle without having discriminations. Being peaceful in this way is non-doing (wuwei) and has the name of "entering by principle."

            "Entering by practice" designates four practices, and of those remaining various practices, in all cases one enters within these [four]. What are the four classes?  First, the practice of retribution for wrongs. Second, the practice of according with conditioned causes. Third, the practice of nothing to seek.  Fourth, the practice of corresponding to Dharma.  What can be said?

            “The practice of retribution for wrongs” designates a person who is practicing cultivating the Way. If at the time of receiving suffering, we face ourselves and recall the words, “I’ve gone through past innumerable aeons (kalpas) abandoning the root and following the tips, existing in the various currents and waves, hating the many arising wrongs, and disregarding harms without limit.   Now, although I'm without offenses, indeed my former misfortunes have ripened as the fruit of evil karma, and neither heavenly beings (devas) nor humans are actually able to see where they are given out.  With a willing mind I willingly receive it, all without complaint of wrongs.”  A Sutra says, “On running into suffering do not grieve,"  Because how can you use it?  Because consciousness transcends it.  At the time this is born in the mind you take part in agreement with principle. In their essence, wrongs are progress in the Way. Therefore I articulate the words, "the practice of retribution for wrongs”

            Second, is that which is "the practice of according with conditioned causes."   The multitude of beings are without self and are unified with the karma of the conditioned causes that turn them.  Suffering and joy are received together, and in every case follow the conditioned causes of beings.  If we are able to win the rewards of honor and rank in affairs, it is our previous left over causes that are perceived.  Now in this manner the gains of our conditioned causes are exhausted, and there is no going back.  What then do we have of happiness?  While gain and loss follow conditioned causes, the mind is without increase or decrease.  The winds of joy do not stir the deep smooth flowing in the Way.   This is therefore the articulation of the words "the practice of according with conditioned causes."

            Third, is that which is "the practice of nothing to seek."  Worldly people, so long in confusion, desire attachments everywhere. It goes by the name of seeking.  Someone who is wise awakens to the truth, and principle will then flip-flop with the customary.  With the non-doing of the tranquil mind, forms follow the turns of fortune.  The myriad existences are thus empty, and the resolve for nothing is joy. Virtuous merit and darkness always follow and chase each other. As long dwelling in the Three Realms is like a house on fire, having a body in all cases is suffering. Who gains peace accordingly?  Completely reaching this point one therefore renounces the various existences and stops conceptualizations to have nothing to seek.  The sutra says, "If there is seeking, everyone suffers. If there is no seeking, then joy."  To discern and comprehend without seeking is a true act of the practice of the Way.  Therefore the words, "the practice of nothing to seek."

            Fourth, is that which is "the practice of corresponding to Dharma."  The Dharma is the activity of seeing the principle of the purity of the nature.  By this principle the multitude of characteristics are thus empty, without taint, without attachment, without this, and without that. The sutra says, “In the Dharma there is no multitude of beings, because it is free from the defilements of the multitude of beings.  In the Dharma there is no existing self, because it is free from the defilements of a self."  If those who are wise are able to have faith in and expound this principle, then they are necessarily corresponding to Dharma and practicing accordingly.  In the essence of the Dharma there is no stinginess. By the almsgiving (dana) charity of the practice of body, life, and wealth the mind is without parsimony, and one escapes and releases the three-fold emptiness [of giver, gift, and receiver].  When one is not dependent and is not attached,  and only acts to leave defilements, one corresponds to converting the multitude of beings yet does not grasp at appearances. This is practicing for oneself to repeatedly be able to benefit others, and likewise be able to dignify the Way of Enlightenment.  Since [the Paramita of] Almsgiving (dana) is like this,  the remaining Five [Paramitas] are likewise just so.  For eliminating delusions, one cultivates and practices the Six Paramitas, yet nothing is practiced.  This is doing "the practice of corresponding to Dharma."

The end of Great Master Dharma's "Four Practices and Contemplation"

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Booth At The End Is Back

The Booth At The End Is Back

The Booth At The End is absolutely my favorite telecommunications drama. It is not on television but on the internet at  This is the second season and I said in the first season that it is a combination of “My Dinner With Andre” and “The Twilight Zone.”  So you should get the message that what makes this show so great is not the flash bang of explosions or the titillation of sexual suggestion. No, this is scriptwriting for the intellect and imagination at its best. 

The action sequences consist of people walking into a diner and sitting down at the booth at the end in order to make a deal with the man sitting there with the mysterious book.  The drama is entirely played out at the booth in two dimensions. First, there is the seeker who wants something and is willing to make a deal to get it and that person’s interaction at the booth with the man with the book.  He asks what they want and they tell him. On the principle of being careful about what you ask for because you just might get it, the man at the booth then asks follow-up questions, sometimes hinting and sometimes stating directly, that it would be a good idea to be specific about what it is they exactly want to get from the deal.  He then looks into the book and it tells him what the deal is in exchange for what the seeker wants, that is, it states what the seeker must do in order to get what they want.  There are no external moral commandments involved here.  If you want this, then you must do that.  Sometimes what the person must do seems to be relatively easy, but more often it is something that directly challenges their self-image and their own moral identity.

The second dimension of drama comes from the part of “the deal” that requires the seeker to return to the booth and give updates on how they are progressing toward fulfilling their part of the bargain.  We then get to hear the story of what is happening away from the booth, but we are still at the booth.  Also, this is when we get to see how the deal is affecting the seeker in unanticipated ways.  Sometimes the seeker realizes that they made a bad deal, and if so, they are free to walk away from it. The man in the booth simply says if they do what is asked then they will get what they said they wanted, and if they don’t do it, then there is no guarantee, but perhaps they may still get what they want from some other source or avenue, but not from the deal. 
So the great mystery is who is the man at the booth and what is the book?  In the first season we had very few clues.  But the story is enigmatic enough for everyone to fill the void of the unknown with our own imagination. For example, some people may think he is the devil while others may think he is an angel. For me, the mysterious book is all about karma. The book tells us what actions we can take that will definitely get us what we want. But the morality of the whole deal is not about what actions we must take as much as about what it is we want and why. 
One of the pleasures of the series is in seeing how some of the deals fit together.  One woman is told that to be able to learn unconditional love she has to disappear without a trace for three weeks. Then two boys are told that in order to get the absent father to show his love for one of the boys that they must find someone who is missing.  Of course after looking for an appropriate missing person to find and passing over some candidates, the two boys hear about the missing woman.  Will they find her?
If you like what are conventionally called cerebral dramas with a metaphysical context about the deepest issues of life and death, then you should love The Booth At The End.

The first episode of season one is titled “Start. See what happens.” and may be viewed at Hulu at,vepisode,1,0


Friday, August 24, 2012

Who Determines What Buddha Dharma Is?

A person asked, "Who determines what Buddha Dharma is?

I responded:

As Donovan sang the haiku:

"The lock upon my garden gate,
a snail,
that's what it is."

A person then asked

So if everyone can determine what Buddhism is ... then how do we know which is the real one??
They can contradict each other even when they are trying to say the same thing.
Can a layman give advice on meditation? Or should it be a respected teacher?
Would the advice be the same or would it be so vastly different??
Who do we trust for the correct information??

This is a great question.  Now I ask, how can you tell whether the lock on the gate is a lock or a snail? You have to see, touch, work the function of the lock, etc.   This is not as simple as it may seem.  If one thinks this is a  simple matter theo one is missing the profound meaning of Zen.

We've gone over this question many times, and will continue to do so in the next 2500 years of Zen. Why? Because the interplay of delusion and awakening is unborn and undying.

So, is it a lock or a snail? 

Wŏnhyo (元曉 617-686) was the great Korean master who espoused and popularized the Buddhist ecumenical syncretism of the Ekayana (One Vehicle) based primarily on the [i]Flower Garland Sutra [/i](Avatamsaka, Huayan) and the [i]Treatise on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana[/i].  As the legend of Wonhyo's great awakening goes, it came when he was traveling from Korea to China to meet with the great masters of the Tang to ask exactly this sort of question about determining the basis of Buddha Dharma.  He specifically wanted to study the new translations by Xuanzang of the Yogacara sutras and shastras.  When he and his close friend and travelling companion arrived at the seaport they discovered their ship had been delayed by bad weather and they themselves had no place to stay as the storm was hitting the town. They found a cave in the dark and got out of the rain but became very thirsty. They groped in the dark and discovered gourd bowls filling with rainwater. They drank and their thirst was greatfully quenched and they slept peacefully. However, in the light of morning they discovered they had slept in a roadside tomb and that their bowls were actually skull caps and what they took for fresh rain water was the water collected in the skulls that still had bits of brain and flesh attached. Due to the storm they had to stay there a second night and again became thirsty.  Remembering his thirst quenched from the night before, Wonhyo attempted to drink from the same bowl but this time he reched in the attempt, and his sleep was disturbed by ghosts and nightmares.  As he pondered the difference between the two nights' experiences he had a great awakening to the meaning of mind-only (心量) knew the answer to the question "Who determines what is Buddha Dharma?"  Wonhyo composed a comemorative verse:


My translation:
“Because of the birth of mind,  every kind of thing is born;,
because of the extinguishing of mind, a shrine room and a tomb are not two.”

[There are several puns here in addition to describing his experience: first, the word 龕 for “shrine-room” or “stupa room” has the secondary meaning “to win, be victorious,” so “winning and the tomb (i.e., losing in death)” are not two; second the shrine-room when it is a stupa room is a place for the veneration of Buddha reclics and the regular tomb is the place for the corpses of common people, thus the meaning that the resting place of the Buddha and of common people are not two, i.e., the inherent nature of Buddhas and common people are not two.]

After this awakening, Wonhyo decided he no longer needed to vist "the Great Tang" and he returned home.

Likewise, the lock and the snail are not two.

Here's another story in the same vein:

Once there was a monk who specialized in the Buddhist precepts, and he kept to them all his life. Once when he was walking at night, he stepped on something. It made a squishing sound, and he imagined he had stepped on an egg-bearing frog. This caused him no end of alarm and regret, in view of the Buddhist precept against taking life, and when he finally went to sleep that night he dreamed that hundreds of frogs came demanding his life. The monk was terribly upset, but when morning came he looked and found that what he stepped on was a overripe eggplant. At that moment his feeling of uncertainty suddenly stopped, and for the first time he realized the meaning of the saying that there is no objective world. Then he finally knew how to practice Zen.
~ From the book: Zen Essence

The deeper we identify with the question, the more certain it is that no amount of thinking will resolve this question.  Only a direct experience that shows us the actual living meaning of the Diamond Sutra's admonition to "see all the world as a dream" and the Lankavatara Sutra's teaching that "everything is a discrimination of mind" can resolve this question to our heart's satisfaction.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Models and Embodiment in Buddha Dharma

 Justin Whitaker has posted a blog Imposing (and Uncovering) Models on Buddhism  on July 16 that raises some interesting questions about models and embodiment.  The context is about how some people think we are imposing Western models onto Buddha Dharma in the process of the transplantation and acculturation of the Buddha Dharma to the West. Whiaker points out the question of models is fundamental to our ability to understand reality and how we view the most basic issues such as our body and our embodiment in reality. He also raises a question about whether the idea of rebirth is based on a model constructed by observations of seasons. Of course that question itself is based on a Western model of analysis.

Here's my initial response.

Well, I imagine that the very idea that the "Four Noble Truths" might be a "model" is very controversial among some Buddhists, whom I would call "fundamentalist" in their view of this question.  One of the essential points of the Mahayana Ekayana (Great Vehicle One Vehicle) view of Buddha Dharma is that all verbal teachings are at best only models and as such are skillful expedient means of teaching Buddha Dharma and as expedient means they are not to be mistaken for Buddha Dharma itself.

As for rebirth, I think it is an intellectual error by the so-called "trusted scholars" to reify it into some kind of seasonal origination.  The notion of rebirth comes from the actual psychic experiences of meditators, mystics, and shamans. To discount this as if rebirth is just a philosophical deduction from observing seasons is a bias imposed by the model of Western materialism.  If a person has not experienced past life recall, then there is no basis for another person to speculate as to how that recall is experienced.  That is, rebirth is not based on any kind of objective study or observation of nature and extrapolating that into a model, but is based on memory itself, the memory of past lives that arise in the deepest meditation and most profound mystic experiences. 

Scholars are notoriously stupid when it comes to understanding transmundane, transcendental, or depth experiences. It would be far more fruitful to look at the archetypal psychology of Carl Jung (including his diary of his own depth experiences in the recently published Red Book) to understand the origins of rebirth as arising from the psychic field and not from such things as objective considerations of the seasons.

I agree wholeheartedly (which is a word-model worth exploring) that the question of embodiment is essential to the Buddha Dharma.   The body-map or body-model that we construct in our consciousness is essential to out illusion of self-image.  We can see this starkly evident in what is known as the "phantom limb syndrome."  Even whn a limb is lost we can still believe it is there and still "feel" it. This shows us that the embodied nature of our lived experience is very largely constructed by our body mapping and that what goes for our body mapping equally goes for our world mapping.  The construction of our body-view and our world-view together make up the construction of our self-image and our delusional belief in the model of a separate self. 

Meditation is an effective way to melt the constructed body-view of our self-image that is embodied as our body-map.  It is sometimes said that the body contains or stores memories, but from the other view it is memories that construct and store the body.  The True Body is the body that is not determined by "inside and outside," "self and other," etc. Buddha taught that the True Body is "pure" because it is not affected or contained by the mundane notions of "purity and impurity."   That is, we don't "become pure" by cleansing the mind of its defilements, the True Body is inherently pure because it is not stained by dualistic concepts like purity and impurity. 

So "cleansing the mind of defilements" means seeing through the mind's constructtion of models that are based on the inherent dualistic or polarizing structure of consciousness.  We are able to have a world view, a body map, and a self image, that is any and every kind of model, exactly because of the polarizing function of consciousness that constructs the model out of the oppositions of the mind's sensations, perceptions and mental formations.  Cleansing the mind of defilements doesn't mean becoming pure without impurity, but in seeing that there is no model of purity that does not necessarily rely on impurity for its construction.