No More Meditation!

Speculative non-buddhism poses a simple question: shorn of its transcendental excess–its adventitious conceptual representations–what might x-buddhism offer us? That question suggests a methodology. It starts by deflating the lofty doctrinal postulates, hovering above our heads like the Hindenburg, and watching them come crashing down. As they lie there, prostrate on the ground, we can have a closer, less doctrinally-determinate, look.

In the present post, Matthias Steingass continues a lively discussion about the prospects of raw, doctrinally-shorn, x-buddhistic materials for practice. This discussion started with the post and comments (particularly those by Tom, Robert, and Erick) on “Raw Remarks on Meditation, Ideology, and Nihilism,” continued with Matthias’s article “Meditation and Control,” and has since arisen on the comments of virtually every post here, regardless of the post’s topic.

Although he does not cast it explicitly in such terms, Matthias’s piece is, in my eyes, an example of what we can do with non-buddhism. Maybe it is fairer, and in fact more to the point, to say it is an example simply of what we can do with thinking–thinking being what happens when we drain from cognition the charism surging in from the x-buddhist power grid.

I hope the reader will pay especially close attention to the programmatic remarks Matthias makes toward the end of the essay. There is something concrete there that we can build on, something promising that we can explore in action. (Glenn Wallis)

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No More Meditation!

Matthias Steingass

There is a lot. Calm, the coming and going of explicit thought, feeling, sensation, mixtures of this and its phasing in and out of syntactically correct renderings, spots of non-thought presence, the wandering of the focus of attention, physical effects, effects which might be reflected in behaviour, insights, ideas, dullness… but no meditation.

Let’s turn the thing around. No introduction to “meditation” but search for experiences which might point to or are certain specific properties of being conscious. There are experiences which one can describe. It is not from semantic content to experience but vice versa. The point is, one has to find a way to describe experience in a fresh way. Talking about “mindfulness” is not talking about mindfulness: it is talking about something one has learned to say about mindfulness in a series of expensive seminars. The other thing is not learned but is a given – and it is for free, which, in our economic culture, means it has no value. What is the point to know that I am right now? That is at once a trivial and at the same time very important question. This is nothing mystical; it is present experience – for which one can find expressions. Interactional expression is the creative scribe which maps out and structures – with all the colourful complicating reciprocity that this brings with it.

But let us abandon the word and then look for experience as not looked for but experienced – and just let’s say “No!” to “meditation.”

A big step forward would be to stay with the development of meaning in interaction as it unfolds from the hither and thither of conversation on all levels of talk, gesture, movement, expression and so on. But at first the observation must be trained because the intricacy from which all those social gestures arise is normally not observed. In this sense there is a training of being with or in or as the stream of consciousness, of experiencing this facticity of bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts, rushes of emotion, fatigue, daydreaming or knowing the difference of the latter from presence as such.

Maybe there are some preliminaries or auxiliaries like attention to breath or looking toward the corner of the room where the dog sleeps. But this is no end in itself. The importance lies, I think, in the skills which could be developed from there. Social skills which are able to go with the ongoing generation of meaning in interaction. Maybe some techniques like the Bohm-dialogue or Ruth Cohnʻs Theme-Centred Interaction or Gendlinʻs Focusing help to facilitate and develop this. With the development of this skills would come the widening of the possibilities of the interacting group and the downing of ideological thinking which loses its grip as it becomes clearer how it arises from contingent sources. In this sense a simple technique like calm abiding could be part of a wider spectrum of developmental practices.

But “meditation” is no longer an option.

It is not important, from the point of view of interaction, whether there is some sort of pure awareness, whether this is a phenomenal primitive or pure apperception. From the point of a somebody in an experience of non-thought the question is just another thought, and non-thought might be just another form of thought – which might be presence as such, grounded in neurochemical subsystems of intricately contingent being. What matters more, in the context of interaction, sociality, being with others, is that from here the contingency and construction of individual thought, feeling, (re)acting and so on and hence individuality, could be seen better – what then could be of further use to push being in a direction of more enhancing, life-supporting, non-violent social spheres.

Of course it is interesting to see how far one can go into the microstructure of one’s own consciousness. The dissolution of a thought, a gap, the bubble from which a new one arises, the holding of presence, the slaying of discursiveness to the point where it begins to look like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, sound-waves filling space with pink and yellow turmoil, vanishing only to leave the shimmering edges of presence where no-one knows what the real is and where a relaxed insignificance in full light of nature’s indifference abides.

But from there the question has to be solved how to interact being indifferent and resonating at the same time – annihilation is certain but mirror-neurons still fire. Modern buddhist ideology is of no help here. When the tsunami hit Japan in March 2011 a buddhist e-mail arrived calling for reciting mantras for the suffering people! The question about any intra-conscious praxis is how it affects inter-conscious praxis.

There is another aspect of a training of consciousness for more self-awareness, for more cognizance of the particles of self. Apart from the questions of decision, pure awareness, phenomenal primitives, etc., there are on the level of interaction and sociality forces which enforce a commodification of awareness itself: the time of consciousness is synchronized with time objects of the culture industries. The individual consciousness is linked and fed realtime with the steady input from a normalizing power. This transforms and reduces the person to an irresponsible junky whom, if the stream is cut off, is rendered helpless. Helpless because this stream is not simply a channel, for example, for advertising but a steady stream of infusion of standards which in a subtle way guide the individual, making it feeling free, but in the last instance controlling it by preventing every form of individuation. It is an autopoietic structure creating for its self-stabilization, among other things, the impression that the outside of it is uninhabitable or even unthinkable while the inside is nirvana. Hence the happiness-hypothesis of the Dalai Lama. Opting out is no option, therefore in buddhism one always has to cultivate something – even awareness itself (buy it at Sogyalʻs rigpa-shop!).

There has to be a training of weaning off from this infusion with the additional problem that it cannot be the cultivation of something new because “something new” is always a generation of more content from the normalizing power. A “laying bare,” might describe the undoing of this. But one sees the problem when buddhists prefer the colourful non-non-thetic tantric stuff, the elaborated rituals of zen or a happening with the Dalai Lama in one of those gigantic circuses with noisy legions of true believers instead of being for a few moments with whatever is… in the kitchen, on a busy sidewalk, on a plane, in a park with the distant sound of playing children, a whiff of flowery fragrance and shimmering reflections of the water behind the trees, “basking in the sunshine of a bygone afternoon, all around me golden sun flakes” – but of course, this is pretentious kitsch, and the question is how to distinguish kitsch from experience in a time where sometimes it seems more honest to be a straightforward junky than a fuzzily maneuvering meditational infected non-empty empty entity.

Along with any training in, for example, calm abiding as an antidote to the infusion of the culture industries – which is the destruction of attention – there has to be, in my opinion, a cultivation of knowledge about the construction of knowledge. Calm abiding or whatever praxis could be a catalyst for opting out but not if it is not accompanied by studies of some kind which foster an understanding of historicity on the macro level, on the microlevel the weaving of the ubiquitous manipulation of reality in everyday life without looking for a real beyond and on the level of personality the uncertainty of memory which can lead to insight into the illusory status of the steadiness of self.

In any case, the weaning off from the infusion is also a political affair, as it should reinstate individual responsibility, which, in politics as in buddhism with it’s lamas and roshis and whatever, is eroded up to the point where acting as an infantile shmoo is à la mode.

The situational awareness which comes with responsibility – which might have to do something with the mahayana ideal of the bodhisattva – both being not two entities but qualities which are non-existent when separated, might lay the ground for a space in which talk about “meditation” can finally develop. And at the same time, simply the attempt to talk in an honest, sincere and non-violent way helps to further the mentioned qualities.

I think all this is a level which is at certain points open to a much wider perspective. But first it is about creating an environment in which a conversation can take place. In western buddhism there is mostly no conversation. Talk comes from the guy in front which is invested with the necessary paraphernalia to talk in a one-way monological manner. But this is only to preserve the status quo, to reestablish a hierarchy which in the west went missing in action during the last 50 or 100 years when the societies of discipline developed to the societies of control.

Conversation would mean to establish peer-groups which resemble our hierarchically flat social landscape, in which none the less knowledge is unevenly dispersed, to provide room for the (development of forms for the) exchange of portrayals of experience. Therewith certain laws should govern this exchange. For example “truth is the death of communication” or “all memory is fiction and, more specific, “there is no secret hierophantic knowledge told only to the true believers” and: every attempt to express experience is totally free in the confines of “this is what I make of it,” while at the same time the spontaneous affective all-knowing critic takes a backseat and shuts up. There are many models to establish an environment which facilitates an open and creative atmosphere for conversation about or better “in” experience. But, sadly, buddhism, perhaps, even less than other religious undertakings, seems to be one of the domains where this aspect of an open society is strongly prohibited.

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Matthias Steingass is the founder of the German-English language blog Der Unbuddhist. Matthias studied math and economics. He has worked in the financial markets for the past seventeen years. Matthias has also worked as a musician (bass and sampling). In addition to his career, Matthias is currently pursuing his interests in philosophy while at the same time pursing music again, this time as a songwriter.

Matthias can be reached at: matthias.steingass@web.de

You can download the article on the “Articles” page.

159 thoughts on “No More Meditation!

  1. [Robert and Matthias. I hope you don’t mind that I am moving your latest comments over to this new thread. It fits in better here, and will get the discussion off to a great start. Glenn]

    From Robert: Thanks, Matthias, 118 and 104, my 107 [from “Come on, X-Buddhists, Pump Up the Polemos”],

    Matthias, you say:

    The problem seems to be that I try to speak about
    experiences, different kinds of thought etc. and you keep insisting to
    speak about, what „meditation“. I just throw in examples of what can
    be done and experienced in an attempt to find some resonance in you.
    In Glenn‘s words, in #100, I somehow try to „keep it real“.

    That is helpful. My problem with your response is twofold:
    1 – You are not describing experiences, you’re mumbling, scraping your
    throat, throwing in an anecdote or two, a ‘perhaps’ and a ‘maybe’ for
    good measure. I don’t consider that ‘keeping it real’.
    2 – When I ask you why these experiences you have are worth
    pursuing there is no answer, not even an attempt.

    As a reminder, this is what I have been asking:

    1 – Why do we meditate? Why is meditation a good thing?
    2 – What is it about meditation that helps you achieve whatever your
    answer to question 1 is?

    You haven’t even begun to respond. Are you even reading what I say
    before you comment? Nowhere in question 1 or 2 do I ask about your
    experience. ’Examples of what can be done and experienced’ are just
    that, examples of experiences. I am not interested in experiences, in
    fact I am suspicious of them. They do not prove a thing. They
    frequently provide food for bias, rather than food for thought.

    Understand also that I am not asking these questions as a person
    needing meditation instruction, or a person looking for motivation to
    meditate. My puzzlement is genuine, but what is driving me is that I
    believe meditation is a sacred cow for too many meditators, be they
    x-buddhists or non-buddhists. Meditation is not to be questioned, and
    experiences arising during meditation are not to be questioned. This
    manifests as a reluctance to be precise about exactly the two
    fundamental questions I have been asking. Imprecision that makes it
    impossible to even begin to have a real debate.

    Matthias Steingass said
    March 14, 2012 at 14:41 e

    From Matthias.

    Robert, you say you ask two fundamental questions. I ask you: What is meditation? What do you mean with the word? It should be clear right now that the word has such a wide range of meanings, it is simply meaningless to try to answer your question when you give no clear indication what you mean by it.

    You say we meditate. I asked you before, what is your practice? If you just keep saying “we meditate” it is incomprehensible to me. I said a lot about what I regard as practice. If it is unintelligible to you, ok.

    So, how about you describe now what you do?

    Robert said
    March 14, 2012 at 20:40 e

    Hello Matthias (129),

    With meditation I mean what you consider to be meditation. I am interested in why you think meditation is a good thing, and how meditation makes that good thing happen. Whatever my definition of meditation is doesn’t really help with that.

    As I said before, ultimately I am interested in whether meditation practice is an integral part of being a buddhist / non-buddhist. Or is it just a nice thing to do, as some people like to eat steak some people like to meditate? It seems to me that that is an appropriate question to tackle on this non-buddhist blog. I find that many meditators are quick to claim that it is indeed a crucial part of their being a buddhist/non-buddhist. I am also finding that they are strangely reluctant to clearly articulate why this is so.

    But first things first. To answer those juicy questions down the road we first need to understand the following;
    1 – Why do we meditate? Why is meditation a good thing?
    2 – What is it about meditation that helps you achieve whatever your answer to question 1 is?

    What did you think of my argument that experiences that arise during meditation do not fully settle those questions? That experiences cannot necessarily be trusted?

    If you are getting tired of this, Matthias, then let’s call it a day. I am sorry if I annoyed you, that’s not why I do this. Maybe I am just getting carried away with the opportunity that this blog provides to really explore together with other genuinely curious people. I get very excited about this. It’s a new experience. Somewhere it shows that this blog has had 54,000+ hits since May last year. At least half of those hits are mine….

    Robert said
    March 15, 2012 at 12:08 e

    Matthias, 118

    Simply being. But that‘s it. It is all I have, I am, it changes, I learn (hopefully) but I am certainly saved. If I meet Jehova‘s Witnesses I can say, look, I am already saved. I live, that‘s all.

    I will probably lose the last bit of goodwill I have left on this blog, but I have to say this. As much as I dislike ‘just sitting’, I hate ‘simply being’ even more. Simply being as opposed to what? Simply not being? Complex being? How can you possibly not simply be? All of mankind simply is, and it didn’t require any ‘just sitting’.

    Sorry.

  2. Here is what I was writing in the “Polemics” discussion, even as this essay was being posted:

    Robert,

    I get your sense of frustration here. There does seem to be reluctance to answer the “why” question, to give what is really just the x-buddhist answer, the one Suzuki gives: we sit for not reason, if we expect to gain anything by our meditation, we are missing the point. But of course, this is disingenuous, because then we could just not do it, and that would, for Zennies, make us bad Buddhists, or not “really” Buddhist. Shin Buddhists feel no such obligation to meditation–they might do it, or not, but don’t feel they are obliged to. So, for me, there is a reason to meditate, that is not so unthinkable.

    I would say that for me, meditation has an intention, and that intention is very similar to the Althusserian concept of the aesthetic. It is, in a sense, an aesthetic practice, like reading a poem or listening to music, which, if done with the proper theoretical framework, can serve to distantiate ideology, to allow us to loosen the grip of out cathexes, to begin to change our ideologies. It can also, then, be a practice to strengthen other, new, consciously chosen cathexes or ideologies or investments–we cannot simply “choose” what to believe, but we can practice our way into attachment.

    Just like aesthetics, though, if the theoretical framework is romantic or mystical, it serves only to strengthen our blind attachment to our ideologies, preventing our capacity to think about our own ideologies conceptually, to evaluate their effects and desirability. I think this is often the goal of meditation–many teachers won’t answer the why, because that would weaken its power, just as explaining the rhetorical strategies a novel uses to inculcate its ideological position makes it less able to do so. Most people angrily refuse to consider why the “love” the novel the do, it is considered an obscene question. In the same way, if meditation intensifies our attachment to our present ideologically constructed phenomenological experience of the world, then to ask why we do it is an obscene question, one that would destroy all our enjoyment of the world.

    We can meditate within a conceptual framework, to distance our ideologies, or we can pretend not to have one (as we many English teachers pretend not to have a “theory” of literature), in which case, we are meditating within a theoretical framework of mystical interpellation, one which we aren’t aware of, a sort of thaumaturgy of pure experience. My guess is, if someone cannot answer your question, this latter is what they are doing. But I would love to hear more people attempt an answer to the “why” question–not what you do, or what the experience is, that can come later, but just, why bother to do it at all? What, really, do we get out of it?

    As I’m writing this, I see that Glenn has posted an new post on the topic, an essay by Matthias. Perhaps we can make some progress in answering the obscene question there.

    Now, having read Matthias’s essay, I’ll add a couple quick comments. First, I would say that one thing meditation can teach us is that the “intra-psychic” is always nothing BUT the “inter-psychic,” the mind is not interior, but in the symbolic system. Also, I think it absolutely does matter quite a bit wether we believe there even is such a thing as a “phenomenological primitive or pure apperception”; if we believe there is such a thing, then we are committed, ultimately and perhaps without being aware of it, to the acceptance of a world-transcendent soul or atman. Meditation then becomes something very different, an allowing the world to drop away and the pure atman to emerge. My approach, clearly, depends on rejecting this pure perception without concepts.

  3. Thanks, Tom, I really appreciate this (2).

    Another way of asking why we meditate is asking what problem we hope to solve through meditation.  The second question then becomes how meditation solves this problem.  Neither the why nor the how question resonate with Glenn and Matthias.  You ‘just sit’ and wonderful things will happen, as if by magic.  All evidence for this is experience-based.  No different than the rhetoric of the buddhist teacher.  No desire to take a step away and wonder what is really going on here, to your point, to try to understand the role of intention in this process.

    To illustrate, when I asked Glenn about the why, in the Lobotomy post, after many exchanges this was the response:

    I cannot answer the question because I don’t know what form to put an answer in–unless saying sit! is an answer.

    And later on, when I tried again:

    I agree with you that “if meditation is nothing special than the question why we do it becomes elusive.” I just don’t see a problem with that elusiveness. Really, even the “why” of powerful medications like Adderral is elusive.

    Hard to get more x-buddhisty than that…

    Matthias is even less responsive.  When I ask why he meditates he tells me he doesn’t know what meditation is.  Why don’t I tell him? And considers himself off the hook, I guess.  Problem solved. Like Prince, the Practice Formerly Known as Meditation.

    As far as I can tell Matthias’ essay is more of the same.  I will continue to patiently shop my questions around, I guess.     

    Curmudgeonly yours,

  4. Robert (#3).

    I sense another round with you is in the offing. Wonderful!

    Everywhere you characterize my views on meditation you do so fairly and accurately. There is one instance, though, where that is not the case. Usually, you do so implicitly. But here, you’ve done it explicitly; namely:

    You ‘just sit’ and wonderful things will happen, as if by magic.

    I don’t think that wonderful things happen at all. I think–and continually notice–that the most mundane and ordinary things happen when sitting in stillness and silence with attentional proclivity hovering around the breathing body. And our seeing that, our becoming more aware of that mundaneness and ordinariness is also nothing wonderful. Maybe we develop better meta-cognition in sitting and being attentive. Maybe not. Or maybe sometimes or to some extent. Maybe we learn to control our impulses better. Maybe not. Or just sometimes and to some extent.

    I wonder what would change in our exchange if you took my words literally, and not as zombified clones of x-buddhism.

    I’ll say more later–of course!

  5. Glenn,

    Isn’t this an answer to the why question? Doesn’t it assume we need to improve our meta-cognition and our impulse control (the two are related, right?). The less dramatic you expect meditation to be, the more likely it is to help with this; people who expect euphoric states, or trance states, or out-of-body experiences, are unlikely to get this benefit from meditation. So, wouldn’t it be best to be upfront with them, and tell them at best, if you do this assiduously and don’t get lazy or expect anything magical, you might improve your metacognitive capacities?

  6. Hi Tom (#5). I thought you or Robert would notice that! Yes, it is an answer; but one in a quite particular form. And it is a form that I am uncomfortable with. Why? For one thing, it is a form that can be replicated virtually to infinity. In order to produce what appears to be an entirely new answer (and thereby quickly acquire an impressive and compelling body of evidence), all you have to do is change the content of the form ever so minutely. Consider the extravaganza of “studies” that “prove” that “meditation” does this and that: strengthens the brain, makes you think faster, etc. It the form: m → Y x ∞. It’s the form that is allowing many researchers to write successful grants, and many meditation books to be sold, and many mindfulness seminars at $495 a pop to sell out.

    You are right, from my own experience, I could in good faith offer claims like “metacognition and, relatedly, impulse control, improve with meditation.” But then I would have to add so many conditions and provisions and modifiers and stipulations and even loopoles that the claim would die from exhaustion. At the end, so little remains of my original assertion that it is hardly worth the utterance. (I’ve read some of those studies. They do the same thing, as if a lawyer had a hand in the final wording.)

    I am currently facilitating sitting sessions in a way that reflects Matthias’s final paragraphs. I am, specifically, coupling a minimally-framed practice with a dialogical component that eschews notions such as “an agreed upon claim,” much less “truth.” For, I have found that shared beliefs about what can be expected from a sitting practice is the death not only of communication but of practice itself. But alas, that last “practice itself” harbors unstated propositions, doesn’t it? So…I’ll have to come back to it later. Thanks!

  7. Hello Glenn, # 4

    Sure, whatever.  Remember, this wasn’t just about you, I was referring to both you and Matthias.  Consider the following Matthias quote from today’s essay: 

    The dissolution of a thought, a gap, the bubble from which a new one arises, the holding of presence, the slaying of discursiveness to the point where it begins to look like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, sound-waves filling space with pink and yellow turmoil, vanishing only to leave the shimmering edges of presence where no-one knows what the real is and where a relaxed insignificance in full light of nature’s indifference abides.

    Now I call that wonderful!

    But I can change the quote if you think it matters.  How about

    You ‘just sit’ and ordinary and mundane things will happen, which is a wonderful thing, and as if by magic.

  8. In fairness the final quote in 7 should read:

    You ‘just sit’ and ordinary and mundane things will happen, as if by magic.

  9. Glenn (#6): I see the difficulty you’re trying to avoid. The neurological studies that supposedly prove all kinds of benefits of meditation are often specious. Often, since there is no clear neurological indicator of happiness or even metacognition, the studies depend on a single “operationalization” of these things, a single measurable occurrence they assume indicates their presence; in many studies, this is measured by the ability to resist, or recover from, distractions. If distracting stimuli cause less, or shorter duration, neural activity, then it is assumed the subject has greater metacognitive powers–sometimes it is even claimed he is therefore happier. I’m not sure this follows. I can in good faith offer the claim that a fifth of vodka consumed in a single evening will also reduce your tendency to notice things going on around you; it won’t, however, make you happier, or better at metacognition.

    I would suggest that any benefits from meditation result as much from the “framing” as from the practice itself. The “minimally framed practice with a dialogic component” is still likely to be as important as the “sitting” in producing the effect. If the mind really is something created in “dialogia,” then just sitting in itself would do little–the symbolic significance is required for it to be of any use, and the context always produces that, whether the context is a meditation group, a Zen monastery, or a scientific experiment. The goal of the scientific experiment is to “prove” that meditation can make us all content capitalist drones, and it does that successfully. If your goal in framing your sitting sessions is to produce improved metacognition and impulse control, why not just try to clarify this? Wouldn’t it help to construct the kind of “dialogic component” most likely to be useful?

    What, for instance, do you really mean by metacognition? I would assume you’re not, as the neuroscientists, measuring it by imperviousness to distraction? Is it the availability to consciousness of thought processes? More awareness of often unnoticed impulses?

    There must be some reason you facilitate a sitting session and others participate in it, right? I understand the problem of the tendency to try to reduce a real social-symbolic act to a marketable commodity, the insistence that if we could only extract the effective component from all that messy human interaction, we could sell it cheaper, do it faster, and get back to producing profits. So, why not alter the form, and insist on the messy human framing of the sitting practice as the part that is most important to producing the effect you want?

  10. Along the same lines as #9, Matthias: perhaps a different way to put the question, rather than why you meditate, is to ask, why you want to have an “exchange of portrayals of experience” at all–rather than focus on meditation-under-cancellation. You don’t want to give a reason or a mechanism for meditation, it remains the blank center of experience–okay, so why frame it with “conversation about or ‘in’ experience”? What is the reason for such conversation? What will it help us to do, or see, or experience? After the shift from coercion to hegemony, is this conversation an engagement in the struggle for hegemony?

  11. Polemos

    Tom

    You come back again and again saying something about an atman, insinuating that I somehow am into this – inclusive thaumaturgic refuge. Well, let me say, you, as Robert, ignore nearly everything what I have written in the polemos-thread about the why and the result of ,meditation‘. What you do not seem to grasp is my take at communication. You repeat again and again that it is about „inter-psychic“. What the fuck do you think I am talking about when talking about communication? Also it should be very clear by now that I think about meditation very different than you, but again all you do is that you klick „ignore“ going on repeating what you said already onehundred times: the “intra-psychic” is always nothing BUT the “inter-psychic.” adding, of course, something about atman. Man, is this your mantra? I am saved already!

    Robert

    The same goes very much for you, but with a lot more emphasis. While I appreciate Tom‘s knowledge you totally lack any sign of something like that. You have an opinion but you do not have an argument. What I have written so far in the polemos-tread is very much motivated by what I write about communication here. Your strategy of communication is to repeat the same question again and again – and if it really would be true that I do not say anything about your questions then it would be true that you are totally unable to change your question in such a way that your interlocutor understands better what you want. So if you really would want to know more you would think about rephrasing your questions in such a way to get it to numb people like me. But it seems you love your question more than any answer! As a result you ignore everything I have written with the exception of two words: simply being. This then you take as the archimedal point to over-through what you think is my thinking. Well, nice try. Additionally you brag being a long term meditator yourself but you ignore any request to tell a little bit about your practice. A lot of people here take pains to tell about there practice openly, the only one who does not leave his cover is you. If you call me for a fight, come out, leave your shelter. Didn‘t you say you like polemos?

    ————–

    Ok, change course, another tack.

    Eros

    Generally, to give an example what I want to happen in the form of communication I sketch in the short essay. First and foremost it is not about polemos. Maybe polemos can be a part of it but mainly it is about the constituting process of a group and then about the evolution of communication within that group. It is about finding a language and specifically, regarding ,meditation‘, it is about finding new expressions about what we think meditation is. Being this about the word, it at once will begin to work and even to create the thing itself. That‘s why I totally resist to give a lexical definition of meditation – or otherwise said, if you really press me, the process of wording it, is a kind of meditation itself. That is about the process of change, not a thing changing. It is nothing mystical. But using the word „meditation“ for it makes it mystical at once. Is this unclear enough? Ok, that is very good because the unclear, unformulated, uneasy unknown is that from where this creative process unfolds. I did mention Gene Gendlin intentionally because I am very much inspired about this by him (although I am not into focusing).

    In a sense we don‘t talk about experience but only about expression. In a sense there is no experience. I don‘t see what Robert experiences when he expresses in #7 – Now I call that wonderful! – but, taking this expression at face value, not regarding it ironic, it is the expression of resonance. This is the point where interaction begins to unfold creatively because it is the point where two humans get into positive constructive contact. That‘s eros, not polemos. (eros, not sex!). It does not matter what I describe in the sequence he cites, it could even be a fantasy. What matters is the point of resonance. It is not about „wonderful!“, the same could happen with something very sad. It is about the process in which meaning unfolds. Now I call that wonderful! is a meaningful expression. At first about something I cannot see inside somebody else. Perhaps I only see the rising eyebrows, the body turning to me, bending forward and things like that. There is interest! (interesting homonym btw) But in further conversation somebody interested could find a fitting expression which, in regard of meditation, then would be a living expression which not only re-minds but minds the thing itself – in contrast to a dead expression like the widely used „meditation“. The latter is a transcendental whereas the former is immanent (this is a simplification, of course). That‘s the difference. This whole process is also about Tom‘s project to better understand in which ideology I live, because it is about better understanding how we create meaning and what is the difference between creativity and reproduction. Asking me about „meditation“ again and again is about reproduction while for me „meditation“ is much more about creativity.

    So if you want an answer straight away. If you, Robert, call this meditation, as defined by me, then „why?“ should be clear. It is about helping to support or even construct a supportive social environment – and it is self-evident why this is a good thing. It is as banal as this. At the same time the „how?“ is not so clear. But that‘s what the interacting group in its constitutional process has to find out, neither my nor the Dalai Lama can be of any help there.

  12. Hello Matthias (11), I am sorry that I hurt your feelings. As to my motives, I assure you that they are less evil than you suggest, I am genuinely trying to figure things out. Somehow I don’t think you will believe me. As to my lack of knowledge, guilty as charged. In my defense, I offered to call it a day if I annoyed you (see comment 1). All you had to do is let me know. Cheer up, man!

  13. Glenn, Tom, I may be out of my league (‘while I appreciate Tom‘s knowledge you totally lack any sign of something like that’), but I was thinking, since all of us share at least somewhat of an understanding of the benefits of making an ideological framework explicit, maybe Glenn can explain how his radically open-ended approach contributes to that.  Of course, assuming that it does. And of course, by explaining it is no longer open-ended.  But then again, if we just can’t talk about it why are we trying so hard?

  14. Hi Robert (#15). I want to give as clear and concise (! I know I suck at that) answer as possible. It would help if you clarified what you mean by my “open-ended approach.” I will also have to read through the most recent comments by, it looks like, you, Tom, and Matthias. I’ll have time to do that a little later. In the meantime, this comment by Matthias caught my eye. I wonder if it might be useful. Or, really, I wonder if the fact that I find what he says here useful can contribute to our attempt to understand one another’s position.

    In a sense we don‘t talk about experience but only about expression. In a sense there is no experience. I don‘t see what Robert experiences when he expresses in #7 – Now I call that wonderful! – but, taking this expression at face value, not regarding it ironic, it is the expression of resonance. This is the point where interaction begins to unfold creatively because it is the point where two humans get into positive constructive contact. That‘s eros, not polemos.

    I wonder–it’s a real question–whether we should focus on–be alertly cognizant of–the fact that all we have in dialogue with one another is our various expressions. In the present case, those expressions have to do with sitting/meditation. Forms of expression easily morph into claims of experience. To me, that’s where the confusion begins. When I say the following, I mean just what I say–that is, it expresses just what I want it to (#4):

    I don’t think that wonderful things happen at all. I think–and continually notice–that the most mundane and ordinary things happen when sitting in stillness… And our seeing that, our becoming more aware of that mundaneness and ordinariness, is also nothing wonderful.

    A reader of Shunyru Suzuki might see that and think that I am echoing the great roshi’s “”If you continue this simple practice every day you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you attain it, it is nothing special.” But I am not. Suzuki’s “nothing special” is powered by the volatic network of x-buddhistic postulation. Mine is not. Mine is powered by rain and air and gastric fluids. (This move is what I call, in the heuristic, “decommissioning of postulates,” “muting the vibrato,” and “cancellation of warrant”). So, they are completely different expressions. What about experience? I don’t have the slightest idea of how you’d even begin to figure that one out. I don’t even know what the question means, really. Maybe I am crazy, but my “experience” of the world is so kaleidoscopic and shifting that it makes more sense to drop the category altogether. I understand Matthias to be doing that, too, when he writes (in the essay)

    The dissolution of a thought, a gap, the bubble from which a new one arises, the holding of presence, the slaying of discursiveness to the point where it begins to look like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, sound-waves filling space with pink and yellow turmoil, vanishing only to leave the shimmering edges of presence where no-one knows what the real is and where a relaxed insignificance in full light of nature’s indifference abides.

    I see nothing about experience here. I see only an attempt to express. Express what, someone may ask. Just express. We can tell ourselves sweet stories about experience if we like, but none of that is here. When you respond with “Now I call that wonderful!” you mean the expression, right? You must, since that is all there is here.

    In my accounts of sitting, I drop “experience.” What is left is expression. That’s all. But that’s a lot. It’s what gets us engaging with one another as human beings.

    Please say more what you mean by my “open-ended approach.” Thanks!

  15. Tom, re your #10

    I don‘t know if my #11 (the eros part) clarified anything regarding your question What is the reason for such conversation? What will it help us to do, or see, or experience?.

    Just a short note on coercion and hegemony. I think I know which danger you see – correct me if wrong. Is it about group thinking which develops into just one more kind of unconscious control of this very thinking which disguises itself as freedom?

    If so, I would love to hear where, in what I have written so far, you see this danger. It is a very good point you make, because exactly this should not happen and this should be an explicit point in the group process. Maybe it is also a very or even the most difficult one.

    I think somehow even in this very discussion here it is present. Do we construct just another ideology without knowing it? If I read your #2 right, isn‘t it you suspect a crypto-x-buddhist in me? Don‘t you and Robert suspect a hidden causal essence in what you think I think as meditation?

    Robert, re your #15

    You put forward elsewhere the question: are experiences to be trusted? That is a good point, I will keep that in mind. Also you mention the role of intention, also a good point. Let‘s put it into the todo list.

    What I want to say about #15 is: it is not about my hurt feeling. It is about the argument. About that what you and I say. The kind of interaction I have in mind is exactly not about speculating about somebody else‘s feelings. One commandment is, thou shalt not speculate about thy brother‘s emotion – simply because you cannot perceive it. Very often such speculations come down to nothing else but to just another ad hominem and that is what really disturbs eros.

    I‘ll grab me a beer now, Matthias

  16. Hello Glenn (16), this is only a tiny bit helpful in terms of clarifying what you set out to do. But I am trying hard. If I may give it a clumsy shot, it’s about expression, and a notion that expression is all there is, that there is no experience as such, or at least not in a way that matters to others. It is about having an authentic voice, whatever that means, rather than communicating by means of ventriloquism. It is about becoming more like poets (good ones, hopefully, but not necessarily).

    I would argue that experience and expression are equally shaped by language, I don’t understand the distinction you seem to make. But so be it.

    I do feel like an insensitive guy, there must be something I am just too stupid to get.

    (Warning: Matthias, stop reading this right now!).

    It doesn’t deal with my puzzlement why you think this matters. Will it make the world a better place? Will it make your participants happier? Better in some shape or form? More true? More real? How about you? Or will you end up telling me that no, nothing will change as a result, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. As Suzuki Roshi would….. Is asking for the why of it all really such an absurd thing? Matthias argues that the why of it all is self-evident. That makes me suspicious. The argument of self-evidence typically means that you are getting close to a hidden foundational decision, not to be questioned.

    As you know, I also don’t think that just sitting will contribute to what I believe you want to do. Or more precisely, I don’t think that such a thing as just sitting even exists. We talked about that at length a while ago. And didn’t get anywhere with that one either.

    Is it time to give the Zizek paper on Western buddhism a bit of prominence again? You published it here ages ago, and it never caused even a ripple, but things have changed, traffic has increased and so on. I raise it because it may help give some shape to this discussion.

  17. Robert, re #18

    You are dishonest. Your rhetoric strategy is about bending words. The only other possibilities I see are that you are either too stupid or too lazy to read and think about what other people write.

    After I have written again a few hundred words in #11 I conclude:

    It is about helping to support or even construct a supportive social environment – and it is self-evident why this is a good thing. It is as banal as this.

    What you make of it is the following:

    Matthias argues that the why of it all is self-evident. That makes me suspicious. The argument of self-evidence typically means that you are getting close to a hidden foundational decision, not to be questioned.

    I think it is clear in my argumentation where this „self-evidence“ comes from, what specific „self-evidence“ I mean and that it is not some imbecile „why of it all“. If not, argue against it instead of again picking words to use to your discretion. Otherwise it looks more and more so that you find yourself compelled to see a hidden foundational decision at work in me.

    I am the last one to declare myself free of ideology. But I can say one thing: I detest the freak who denigrates others from his bunker of anonymity. I had my share of this kind of trolling in twenty years of internet. In terms of the metaphor of polemos, what you do is about killing from behind. It would not even surprise me if you are a nice well-behaved buddhist somewhere who‘s strategy it is to declare the critic of x-buddhism guilty of his very own accusation.

    If this is not so, go ahead, come out, lay open my hidden foundational decision, show me my fetish, declare openly what you want to say with your reference to Zizek‘s text.

    Do you have the guts to pull the trigger?

  18. Matthias,

    I don’t think that engaging in the struggle for hegemony is necessarily a bad thing. Let me put it more strongly: I think it is one of the most important things to do, because without it we cannot produce any meaningful social and political change. And I would hope we are producing an ideology here– I just hope we don’t do it “without knowing it.” Ideology is unavoidable, it is not knowing it is ideology that is the biggest problem.

    I’ll suggest a “foundational decision,” then. One which I think we all need to examine. There is an (often) unexamined assumption that change is always for the better. You say you want to privilege creativity over reproduction, but the next question is, what do we want to create? What understanding, what goals, what truths about the world guide our creation, our decision about what is worth the effort to create?

    My own suggestion is that Buddhist practice in itself is not going to make the world a better place; instead, I would like it to become a practice that functions sort of like Freud suggests psychoanalysis can (see my comments on this in my review of Wallace’s book): we may still be unhappy, but we are better prepared to engage the world, and work toward happiness–in this case, for everyone. We can learn to be conscious of our ideologies, and to be better able to let go of them, and produce more effective ones. We are also, if we loosing our grip on our ideologies, better able to see the world and make decisions about what kinds of changes would be best. So, I would hope Buddhist practice, including meditation, could become a part of our ideological practice–it remains, though, necessary but insufficient.

    I would also suggest that the “commandment” prohibiting speculation about another’s emotion is likely to inhibit a self-aware creation. I know my Freudianism is old-fashioned, but I would submit that we can very often see things about another person’s emotions to which they are blind. I will grant that doing it on a discussion board is often going to lead to incorrect speculation, but then, doing it in person sometimes does to. Still, speculation about emotions, pointing out an affect of which someone else might be unaware, can sometimes produce more conscious knowledge of our ideological attachments.

  19. Hello Matthias, 19.

    You say:

    You are dishonest. Your rhetoric strategy is about bending words. The only other possibilities I see are that you are either too stupid or too lazy to read and think about what other people write.

    I am sorry that I continue to hurt your feelings. I really don’t mean to. In all fairness, when you attack me like this it makes me feel bad also.

    The kind of interaction I have in mind is exactly not about speculating about somebody else‘s feelings.

    Am I missing something? Isn’t that what you do quite regularly in outbursts like this? How is calling somebody too stupid or too lazy somehow justified while talking about self-evidence and ideology isn’t? Do you have special dispensation? You have feelings, and I don’t?

    Actually, the ultimate defense when an ideology is threatened is twofold: self-evidence is called upon in support, and angry bullying behaviour becomes prominent.

    It would not even surprise me if you are a nice well-behaved buddhist somewhere who‘s strategy it is to declare the critic of x-buddhism guilty of his very own accusation.

    Really I am the Dalai Lama. You unmasked me. Darn.

    Matthias, you will probably respond with more of the same, but for the good of this blog and your own peace of mind it would probably be better if you just ignored me for a bit. That’s my advise, but do what you want.

  20. Hi Matthias, RE # 11 and 19:

    It is about helping to support or even construct a supportive social environment – and it is self-evident why this is a good thing. It is as banal as this.

    This is, ideally, what meditation is about for me: constructing a supportive social environment. If, in my practice community, it is not self-evident why this intention is a good thing, then I know I need to work harder at it, double down/up on the self-referential critiques of ideology, etc.

    Robert might be a troll, so what? I have met a few high-functioning trolls with impeccable x-buddhist credentials. They are fascinating creatures. I prefer to associate with x-buddhist leprechauns.

    Tom mentioned on another thread, if I recall correctly, that his daughter has created this practical expression: “Cry me a river. Build a bridge. Get over it.” I’d like to add to that “Kick the troll back under it.”

    We have been warned. Robert claims to be a curmudgeon. On what authority does he make this claim; Is he an authorized curmudgeon? Is he certified?* What is his pedigree? Does he practice deep or shallow curmudgeonry?

    Perhaps, if he is of the deeper type, what he is doing in these threads is showing us something about meditation, by not saying much about it.

    Or maybe he is just a big flirt, trying to spark a little bro-mance.

    *The International Society of Curmudgeons (ISOC), formed under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the finest supportive social environments for authentic curmudgeons. Its mission is to authenticate true curmudgeons, distinguishing them from plain old grumps. Through a complex and sophisticated certification process, made possible only with advances in modern technology, the ISOC provides an authentic license to practice curmudgeonry. I won’t submit to this process, as I am a Marxist; I wouldn’t join a club that would have me as a member.

  21. Mike, 22,

    I try to be an authentic curmudgeon, but it’s a slippery slope, and frequently I find myself a plain old grump. But I mean well. Really.

  22. Hi Robert, Re 23,

    Yes, the path to authentic curmudgeonry runs up many a slick hill. I am probably on that slope with you. This self-dissection business can make me really grumpy! I have found the well-meaning in many of your posts. And I look forward to reading more.

    Here is some serious leprechaun kicking.

  23. Shit man- meditation is not so bad a term: damn sight better than ‘mindfulness’. In the UK, you can’t move for bloody mindfulness stuff..

    I am sure much of it does good- the use by CBT, for example, may help people: but the term drags it away from its context of development and more substantive purpose: and context matters…

    As an aside is the x-Bsm tag derived from those pesky x-Phil types- who seem to entirely disregard almost everything about philosophy that isn’t analytic?

    re the Žižek stuff: I have given papers on his Western Buddhism stuff – to a fairly hostile reaction, largely because I said that (despite making some blunder of detail) he had a lot of the socio-cultural function stuff right…

  24. Robert, maybe I laid a tiny little bit to much emphasis on polemics in #19. I could have said it objectively. Sorry for that.

    The only excuse I have is that I myself am a GOG (grumpy old german) and the few veterans of this species which are still existing have no such thing as an ISOC or any other lobby. We are regarded by the majority as an evolutionary leftover, an appendix of the society of perpetual happiness. Our extinction is nigh at hand. Therefor sometimes I become a little bit agitated and impatient when I feel threatened by somebody not at once understanding my superior insights.

    Back tomorrow in 100% objectivity.

  25. I would like to join in on the discussion by recounting a few of my experiences in peer-groups that we euphemistically called a “Recollective Collective” and, to me, fits Matthias’ ideas of conversation and skillful communication in a group.

    I think a little background would be in order. Some years ago a man, by the name of Jason Siff, came to give a dharma talk at the local Theravadan sangha (Albuquerque, NM) on the subject of “Unlearning Meditation”. Subsequently, a meeting was held at a sangha member’s house where we could learn more about the subject. During this meeting, Jason introduced us to what he terms “Recollective Awareness”.

    Recollective Awareness is sitting in meditation for 30-40 minutes and letting whatever happens be part of the meditation; not following one of the many meditation procedures. After the time elapses, anybody is asked if they would like to share what happened during the period. As you might imagine, there were some guidelines to follow. For the moment, I won’t enumerate the guidelines but they are very important to the whole process.

    After a recounting of what happened, Jason asked skillful questions to help the person remember parts of the experience that were often passed over during the sharing. And, come to find out, there can be transitions from one state of mind to another that seem vague until a question is asked that helps the person understand what is happening. Skillful listening was paramount for the person asking the questions.

    Up until this time, I had no idea what another person experienced during meditation. It was never discussed except at a retreat during an interview with the teacher. Many of us wanted to continue the process and learn to ask questions that were the most helpful so we formed five groups with 4-6 persons that met weekly or bi-weekly. Periodically, Jason would journey to our location and hold a meeting for training purposes. Meantime, we did the best we could during our peer group time together.

    What happened during this time was, as best I can describe it, a gradual opening of the heart that resulted in a deep bonding with the other participants. I always looked forward to my peer group meeting and felt a feeling of mental unease when, after about four years, the peer groups disbanded (arising/passing away).

    I have often wondered if there would be a way to have the same kind of interchange, or something similar, on the web. It appears to me that Google Hangouts might work since it affords the ability to see and hear other persons in a group. I’m wondering if there might be similar interest by people who participate at Speculative Non-Buddhism.

  26. Hi Ron,

    You say you are “not following one of the many meditation procedures,” but it sounds very much like you are. What you describe is interesting to me, because it suggests that it is in fact completely the conceptual framework that does ALL the work of meditation in this case. The important part of the meditation, then, is the part you skip over: what kind of “skillful” questions, and what exactly was vague and became clear? You seem to suggest the goal is to find out how the mind works, but then the part about “opening the heart” and “deep bonding” seems to suggest a goal for Buddhism that is more a matter of interpellation than gaining insight.

    I wonder if you could say something more specific, both about what takes place in the framing discussion, and what you see this practice as helping with?

  27. Why we meditate

    I have been asking why meditation is a good thing. To meditate because it opens your heart, because it helps you control your mind, because it allows for more skillful communication, all those are valid answers, but only up to a point. These answers establish that meditation is a good thing. As is eating steak, assuming you like steak, as is collecting stamps, assuming you like to collect stamps. The stamp collector will even argue that of course collecting stamps is a good thing, it’s self-evident.

    When I ask why you meditate, I am after something more difficult. Just a few examples of how this question could be broadened: Why is meditation the best thing to do, given all the choices you have in terms of what you could be doing with your time? And if it is only one good thing to do among other good things, how much of a good thing is too much? I also ask you to consider your circumstances. Would meditation still have been the best thing to do during the Holocaust? And if not, are we saying meditation is only appropriate under certain circumstances? Do we even have a framework to think about that question?

    Hope this helps.

  28. Yasutani Roshi (I am not following his school) gave an explanation of the goals, the WHY of meditation (zazen): concentration (jôriki), satori-awakening (kenshô-godô) und realization in daily life (mujôdô-no taigen). If you just sit or work with koan, the usual thinking process should be exhausted at some point. The common a-b-c thoughts may be 0-y or something more intuitive afterwards. Anyway, the mind watching itself consciously is open to something new then. This might be called awakening or enlightenment. It can be considered the realization that mind is itself empty and just mirroring the phenomenal reality as it is, not biased, not judgemental.

    HOW does that show? In a more focused (concentrated) daily life, in another outlook on things and adapation of that view by making life simpler, without so many attachments. If that is really the case, others may judge differently than oneself. One is freed even from the teachings one got “on the way” (that can be even the need for [seated] meditation). Life becomes more instinctive, behaviour rather nonconformist.

    It is also possible to experience awakening as s.th. so unreasonable that one uses the word “mystical” to express the experience. As U.G. Krisnhamurti once said, most of those practitioners took in some mindchanging drugs before. In the zen scene it is rather possible that the method zazen is doing the mindchanging, but as it is almost impossible to do this without any prejudices, it is of course alsways the mind itself experiencing its limits or a “going beyond”. U.G. himself had an experience which he called, in lack of better words, a physical (!) transformation. He continued to become an old man, dying fearless, without adapting vegetarianism, sports or the help of medicine to his life. I myself believe that it is not a certain meditation method but rather – as in the old Buddhist scripts and early zen – a state of relaxed, conscious thought process (dhyana) or/and a physical exhaustion that leads to what we call awakening. Therefore this state is acquired by non-Buddhists rather often.

  29. Some further remarks.

    The basic idea of what I try to say can be reformulated in such a way that it is about to hinder the buddhemes, ventriloquism, vibrato, the the voltaic network of postulations etc. of x-buddhism being used in interaction. To brake the representations of something desired. Also it is not about the search for that what certain representations might represent. In this way it is absolutely not about „meditation“. It is about the range of human experiences and more specifically about the ones which give one more self-control in the meaning of independence, self-government, self-determination. Always with the „self“ as a process of interaction. And, in addition, with process thought as the steady movement of exchange and not as things changing. To make it even more complicated, this comes with the problem that we mostly have only a language about discrete static entities and not about a continuously functioning flow of live. Somehow we are stuck in language as representation of something.

    This is the reason I want to turn the thing around. My idea developed in a group with participants already practicing several kinds of meditation. The point was, we found out, that, in trying to express our experiences, there where sometimes expressions which only after a while of back and forth of asking and explaining gave rise to a sudden „oh, that‘s what you mean. I know that.“ Now, as discussions about qualia show, we might never be able to prove that we experience the same, but it was possible to come to a consent what, for example, calm abiding means. But it is tricky, when I say what calm abiding means I am back at once in the realm of representation while in the sketched process we where somehow abiding calmly while trying to figure out how to describe it.

    All involved people in the process where experienced focusing-people. Somebody who attends somebody else in a focusing process, learns to follow the process as such of the other with only a minimum of intervention, with the aim to help to stabilize the process. The crux of focusing is that it is about a kind of self-government. Gene Gendlin found out about what is called focusing today in researching what a therapy makes successful. He found out (wonder oh wonder!) that the client brings with him already a kind of self-competence. He formalized this into a representation and got what we know as focusing today (that focusing is degenerating into another wellbeing bullshit today is another story). The main points are that people here learn an art of attending, hearing, following the other and that they develop or bring with them a kind of self-competence (remember, with the self always already in interaction). I am sure it is not very difficult to facilitate such a learning process with interested people and that it works with every other approach like the ones I mentioned. It think it is not necessary to learn lengthily about a new form of communication, it may suffice to follow some simple rules.

    In sight of Tom‘s #20, and as I said in the text, the meditation technique called calm abiding, for example, is only a means to an end. Perhaps it could be described as an education of the own consciousness to better examine the contents of itself. In regard to Tom‘s question about the foundational decision, in this very specific example the change is about being better able to talk about this techniques and to be able to teach one to the other it in way which is free of transcendental representations. In a sense it is about creating the possibility of change before even beginning to think about what to change in the political and social sphere. In the light of what I understand of Tom‘s point of view, it is about the development of the instrument with which to examine the ideological structures we are. Of course, to use a metaphor, what I talk about here is, to some extent, about the microscope, not the sample.

    It seems a logical sequence to me – that at first there must be knowledge about how we function to only then begin to change functions.

    Regarding the objection in Tom‘s #2: it absolutely does matter quite a bit wether we believe there even is such a thing as a “phenomenological primitive or pure apperception”. Of course it does matter. But the situation I describe is in the first place about building the possibility of describing in a meaningful way a phenomenon somebody might call ,pure awareness‘ and to only then ask wether all these ontological tendrils around it are true. It again seems to me a question about in which sequence to proceed.

    Also re Tom‘s #20 about the “commandment” prohibiting speculation about another’s emotion. Of course this is to be taken much more differentiated than in my ironic declaration. But it hits a vital point: If we can very often see things about another person’s emotions to which they are blind we enter a dangerous and difficult ground. Of course we can see anger or fear ,in the eyes‘ of someone but with finer emotions and intentions we are at once confronted with the problems of transference and projection.

    Ron re your #27. Thanks a lot for your post. Just two points as this my post is already again too long.

    You say up until this time, I had no idea what another person experienced during meditation. That is one of my main points which motivated me to begin talking about ,meditation‘. X-buddhisms forces one to work out the whole thing in silence or with a teacher who comes around every two years for two minutes. Somehow it is forbidden to talk about it. From the non-buddhistic point of view it seems clear why: If real people begin real conversation about real meditation they do in their real lives, it might happen that every now and then a heavy unintentional postulate deflation takes place. With a sudden burb naked life presents itself.

    The second point is about the results you describe, the opening of the heart that resulted in a deep bonding. The process I am speaking about would now require to find new expressions for this to put them from the idea to life again. …and how is it that this can only happen in peer groups? Isn‘t it about real life? Peer groups, settings in which to learn something like this, can only be temporal institutions, the real thing is the real life. I fear you find no solution via a social network. I think what we are here talking about needs a setting with real people.

    Ok, this again is a bit long and boring. But I hope that it becomes clearer that my reluctance is not about not wanting to give a reason or a mechanism for meditation to retain it as the blank center of experience (Tom #10).

  30. Re 29, Robert

    You made some excellent points in your comment no.29, Robert, if I say so myself. Well, thank you, Robert, you are very kind.

    In terms of broadening the discussion even further: we talk about opening the heart as a goal or result of meditation. Is this always a good thing? In the Holocaust context, isn’t it sometimes more appropriate to hit somebody on the head with a shovel, rather than open your heart to him? Or is this another case of self-evidence?

  31. [Garett asked me to move this comment to this thread. I’ve spent the whole damn day just getting my computer online; I’ll catch up with this lively discussion as soon as I can.–GW]

    From Garett:

    1 – Why do we meditate and why is meditation a good thing?
    2 – What is it about meditation that helps you achieve whatever your answer to question 1 is?

    First, and briefly, my understanding of the word meditation. I think of meditation as mental calisthenics. A method for deliberately examining the content of the mind and directing it, gaining domain over it, exercising it, finding desirable mental qualities and reinforcing them, finding undesirable mental qualities and deminishing them; Learning how thinking occurs and practicing it.

    Practicing. Learning which sequences of mental phenomena lead toward the goal, and which seem to lead away. Practicing. Gaining mental focus and control, losing it, and regaining it; That is meditation.

    And, at last, when progress has been made, counting to three, focusing purely, and perceiving no other phenomenon but (your choice, or) the tactile sensation of the incoming breath as it enters the nostrils. In whatever form, by whatever name, this is what I think of as the beginning of a mental work-out plan, also known as meditation. (Meditation, and Karma, are words that are ruined to the Western mind. I try to avoid using them.)

    Onward.

    1) Why do we meditate (that is, practice directing and controlling the content of the mindstream) and why is meditation (learning how to tame the mindstream) a good thing?

    Many people, after understanding the definition above paragraph, gain a mental context that makes the answer obvious and the question feel rhetorical.

    Why is learning about your basic mental processes a good thing? Have you ever been late to work?

    Why would you want to learn to gain control of the mental process that leads to losing your temper?

    Ever want to learn 5000 potential chess scenarios involving tens of thousands of moves? That would take a LOT of discipline and concentration – mental qualities that can be practiced.

    Ever see a person do a backward somersault and two consecutive back hand springs, stop in the middle of the second and turn in a 360 degree pirouette while standing on their hands on a four inch wide beam? That would require a LOT of courage, trust and patience – mental qualities that can be developed.

    Ever see a person maintain their composure under extreme circumstances? Ever see a person fall to pieces over a $10 frustration? Ever know a person who was depressed, couldn’t sleep, needed drugs because they couldn’t control the thinking mind? Wish you were less lazy more patient less addicted more generous more disciplined happier? You can learn these things like any other skill. Most people, I’ve found, have never thought about thinking about thinking in this way.

    Ok, I think that is a decent potential answer to question 1, but, I’m wondering…that’s nothing new or revelatory – this group surely knows what I’ve just typed…so what is their discussion, some might even call it an argument, actually about?

    2) What is it about meditation that helps you achieve: learning how to think and gain more control over your own thinking, learning to improve concentration, be more productive (or less), learning to relax if you want to, or get jazzed up if you want to? What is it about meditation that helps you become a better thinker? Practice and method. Method and practice. Just like playing the French horn or building a good camp fire.

    Ok? OK! Pretty basic stuff – I feel quite sophomoric for even offering it, but at least it is an answer to the question. Seems to me you’ve exchanged 50,000 words in the last two threads and not accomplished very much.

    Please, proceed now to wage the wrath of your polemics on my feeble pixels. It is, after all, nary more than a simple wish for attention that compels folks to type their brilliance on blogs and such.

    Here is my polemic: “Stop the madness! F’real – all yo rap is crampin my brain.”

  32. From Tom Pepper

    Garrett (#33),

    You assume there is a core and unified self that is basically conscious but lacking in strength and skill. Were this true, I could see the benefit of your description of meditation. However, if we accept the basic Buddhist premise, or the basic Freudian or Lacanian premise for that matter, that there is no such central decision maker, then it becomes less clear why these mental calisthenics are necessarily good.

    There is an enormous difference between suggesting that meditation can help bring unconscious mental processes into awareness, and suggesting that we can “choose” to discipline the mind. The former assumes that the “mind,” both conscious and not conscious, occurs in a socially produce symbolic/imaginary system—the latter assumes a “mind” that is atomistic and completely in control of its desires, just needing to improve its abilities.

    You end with a defensive claim, suggesting the rest of us here are thinking to much, and should stop it, and just listen to your clear common sense (sophomoric?) advice. And that we are all just desperately seeking attention—while you, apparently, are not? So, at the risk of inciting the wrath of many on this blog for my horrid cruel rudeness, let me suggest a kind of unconscious process at work in your post: you seem terrified of the danger that understanding what you’ve read here might upset your sense of a permanent separate deep self. You defend with flippant dismissals, suggesting you can’t understand what anyone is saying, so clearly it is all wrong, not accomplishing anything, and should be stopped. Then you attack the motive, completely unwilling to accept that anybody might ever be trying to exchange ideas to learn something—we are all seeking attention; you seem to have some resentment over the possibility that people who know or understand things you don’t might get more “attention” than you—so you pretend to be dismissive and indifferent to their excessive thought, but clearly you can’t be as indifferent as you want to be, or you wouldn’t have felt the need to post. Yes, I know everyone, this is horribly cruel, evil, mean and rude. But if you want to really understand the working of the mind, instead of just strengthening its effects, this kind of rudeness is often necessary.

    Unless we can bring these unconscious processes into consciousness (and this cannot be done in isolation, because the mind is a social phenomenon), then there’s no point in doing calisthenics to build up the mind’s power to keep us trapped in our ideological prisons.

  33. Robert: can we just set aside the holocaust for this discussion? I mean, you have a good question, but it seems its impossible to talk about any ethical question without going right for the holocaust, and then the discussion immediately ends. So, why not just ask, in our situation today, when billions of people around the world are starving, being killed, being oppressed by our own country’s greed for cheaper commodities, is meditation the best thing to do? When it should be so clear that billions are suffering because of the social formation dominated by a minority, why bother to meditate? This, I think we can answer. The holocaust question is like asking: when your smoke alarm is going off and your children are asleep in bed, is meditating about the impermanence of fire the best thing to do?

    There’s a line from a Woody Allen movie about the Holocaust. Max Von Sydow says something like, they keep asking how could it happen, but the real question is, why doesn’t it happen all the time–of course it does, only in subtler ways. Gaining the clarity to see that it does, only in subtler ways, to see the right question to ask, is one reason we do need to meditate now.

  34. Tom (#9). Great comments and questions. Thanks. I completely agree with this paragraph.

    I would suggest that any benefits from meditation result as much from the “framing” as from the practice itself. The “minimally framed practice with a dialogic component” is still likely to be as important as the “sitting” in producing the effect. If the mind really is something created in “dialogia,” then just sitting in itself would do little–the symbolic significance is required for it to be of any use, and the context always produces that, whether the context is a meditation group, a Zen monastery, or a scientific experiment.

    (Before commenting, I want to make clear that my goal in facilitating and framing sitting sessions is precisely not “to produce improved metacognition and impulse control.” If it were, I could offer and answer to your following question, “why not just try to clarify this?” I was just using metacognition and impulse control and examples for what one could claim for sitting, if one wanted to claim something for sitting, which I don’t.)

    I repeat your para here because I think it gets to what, to me, is the heart of the matter of “what is sitting and why do it?” I also think your comment here can be added to several other points that three people commenting on this blog have continually made: you, me, and Matthias. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think we have been arguing, in varying terms, (i) that the mind (the self, the subject, the person) is not an isolated atomistic entity; (ii) it is (we are), rather, co-created in interaction with our environment; (iii) dialogia plays a crucial role is how this mind-subject formation takes place.

    I would say that my entire approach to sitting practice is predicated on acceptance of those three premises. I think that questions such as your “Wouldn’t it help to construct the kind of dialogic component most likely to be useful?” and Matthias’s concrete suggestions, such as the following one from the current post, show a viable, realizable, way forward. Matthias writes:

    Conversation would mean to establish peer-groups which resemble our hierarchically flat social landscape…Therewith certain laws should govern this exchange. For example “truth is the death of communication” or “all memory is fiction and, more specific, “there is no secret hierophantic knowledge told only to the true believers” and: every attempt to express experience is totally free in the confines of “this is what I make of it,” while at the same time the spontaneous affective all-knowing critic takes a backseat and shuts up. There are many models to establish an environment which facilitates an open and creative atmosphere for conversation about or better “in” experience.

    Of course, someone might object with “but Tom’s ‘most likely to be useful’ harbors values and presuppositions.” To which I would respond: sitting, followed by dialog along lines Matthias suggest is the most useful. But not because it leads to anything determinable. Who knows to what it might lead, individually or collectively? The reason I don’t offer a goal is because the thing itself is the goal, namely, sitting in stillness and silence with attention hovering around the breathing body, followed by dialog and dialogical matter that is sensitive to the coercive, mind-subject-forming nature of dialog. This is the framework I employ. I could get more specific by telling you what I mean by “dialogical matter.” The short answer is that it has more in common with Beckett than the Buddha.

    This possibility of sitting-dialogia in and of itself is the reason I facilitate sessions and hope others will participate. “Sitting-dialogia” itself implicates a frame. And I say that all we ever have is the frame. Even sitting itself is framed, ritually, by the accouterments and protocol of the session. I don’t ring a bell. That absence, given the expectations of the participants, becomes an element of the frame. I don’t use buddhemes. Many comers are disappointed by that lack. Given our sitting arrangement, it is not even clear who the facilitator of the group is. (It is just occurring to me that something more about ritualization needs to be said at some point.)

    All of this is why I value your final question, and hope we will keep it in the forefront of the discussion into the future:

    So, why not alter the form, and insist on the messy human framing of the sitting practice as the part that is most important to producing the effect you want?

  35. Tom, 35

    Thanks once again. It seems you are the only one who pays attention to me on this ‘non-buddhist’ site. And you are a card-carrying buddhist, for pete’s sake.

    Robert: can we just set aside the holocaust for this discussion? I mean, you have a good question, but it seems its impossible to talk about any ethical question without going right for the holocaust, and then the discussion immediately ends.

    You are probably right, as usual. The whole second world war is more real for me than for most, my grandfather was a communist who died in a concentration camp, my father spent time in a forced labour camp in Russia, and my mother fought in the resistance. It’s exactly NOT like the house on fire analogy, the point is nobody did anything while Jewish neighbours were being deported, the house was burning and people looked the other way. Much like right here, right now, this forum is beginning to feel like a Tricycle wine and cheese party.

  36. Robert, re 29

    Yes, good piece of work, Robert, if I say so myself. Thanks, me. Seems people are too busy chattering away to hear you, Robert. Yes, I know, I seem to be the only one reading my comments. Well, let me try again then, but maybe a bit louder. After all, Glenn likes to link to the Ramones, they were loud..

    Ahem

    WHEN I ASK WHY YOU MEDITATE I AM AFTER SOMETHING MORE DIFFICULT. JUST A FEW EXAMPLES OF HOW THIS QUESTION COULD BE BROADENED: WHY IS MEDITATION THE BEST THING TO DO GIVEN ALL THE OTHER THINGS YOU COULD BE DOING? HOW MUCH OF A GOOD THING IS TOO MUCH? HOW DOES IT DEAL WITH INJUSTICE IN THE WORLD, INJUSTICE THAT WE FREQUENTLY BENEFIT FROM OURSELVES?

  37. @30, Angkorverlag: Well you seem to be coming from x-buddhism so I’m not sure if any conversation here makes too much sense but still I want to point some questions/comments at your post:

    The goals you mentioned are not very good defined. So my question would be what Yasutani or you mean with “concentration”, “satori-awakening” and “realization in daily life”. Sure maybe your thoughts change but why should that be something to strive for? In what “positive” way to they change?

    “the realization that mind is itself empty and just mirroring the phenomenal reality as it is” does not make any sense to me. It’s simply impossible to “just mirror phenomenal reality” with a brain. Your brain always deals with a very narrow representation/model of reality…never with reality itself. And this is a good thing 😉

    “In the zen scene it is rather possible that the method zazen is doing the mindchanging”, now you replaced “meditation” with “zazen” which doesn’t make things better. “Zazen” can mean a lot…and the Zen-Scene would be much better off getting rid of that weird word alltogether. It’s even worse than “Meditation” in my oppinion because the zen-scene always tries hard to distinguish their meditation “zazen” from other traditions which causes nothing but confusion.

    “U.G. himself had an experience which he called, in lack of better words, a physical (!) transformation.”. Well of course it’s a “physical” transformation. Sorry but that there is no soul or mind or whatever apart from the physical (brain) is I hope nothing that we even have to discuss…

  38. Hi Tom, (#28)

    Perhaps I should have said we were not following any of the standard Buddhist meditation techniques. For example, Vipassana requires the attention be placed on the breath. If thinking arises, the attention is always brought back to the breath. From this, one could believe that one should not be thinking during meditation. Thinking is precluded from investigation due to a belief in the technique.

    One of the first meditation experiences I shared in the group was about thinking during meditation. I recounted how I would become judgmental and upset that the meditation was not going as it should: too much thinking. This put me into a state of mind that didn’t allow anything else to arise but agitation. After the meditation period ended, Jason asked questions that began with “what” or “how”, not self-interested questions beginning with the word “why”. It took a few sharing sessions before I realized an insight into how technique was blocking any other possibilty about thinking during meditation. When I finally gave up the technique, I found that thinking can lead to a calmer state of mind (surprise, surprise). I was becoming free to allow whatever came up during the meditation period. Over much time, many more insights have helped me understand what keeps me a prisoner of my own mind and the concept of “not self”.

    For me, the opening of the heart was conditioned upon the act of listening to another person recount deep personal experiences and learning not to be judgmental or critical in any way. It’s been about accepting another person unconditionally by accepting the way they are rather than the way I wish them to be.

  39. Well, Daniel, I am not so much for exchanging words and using other terms like “x-Buddhism” easily although I understand the idea. To give you an example, Glenn wrote: “It starts by deflating the lofty doctrinal postulates, hovering above our heads like the Hindenburg, and watching them come crashing down.” This is almost a classic description of what is happening through awakening. Is it “well defined” then?

    Anyway, I am not only a translator and publisher of rather classic zen work, I was also active in German forums for years (and got blocked by an international one) and then in my own blog since 2010 as a critic of current Buddhism (it went so far that now almost none of the bigger Buddhist magazines are reviewing any book that I publish anymore). That doesn’t mean that I will just deny my own rather transcendental experience that led me to zen (and was thus before any formal zen training) over 25 years ago. I’d shorten that and say that I was an active Christian when a sentence that actually stems from Zen and Taoism struck me while walking and was linked with a surprising visual phenomena. The sentence that I had heard before and which led me to seeking its source was (contrary to Christian tradition): “If you look for the truth, don’t seek it.” I left Christianity immediately after that experience and found (at least one) source/explanation in Zen.

    You want to know what concentration means. It means that I can stick to my work in a way that is considered to be above average by other translators or publishers, if I want to. It means that I am able to totally exhaust myself and even forgetting regular eating and such – while sinking into the stuff that I am dealing with at my work. It is nothing uncommon but I guess that this ability (that could be criticised, of course, and lead to a burnout on the other hand) improved during the course of my zen-life. Being absorbed in what I do. I probably got that through zen-practice (which is mainly contemplation here).

    What is this zen-life and what is the “realization in life”? Adapting non-attachment and letting go of conflicting thoughts while working, in this case. It is possible for me to use energy sources that I haven’t known in the beginning, reduce sleep for example. In the zen-terminology this might be adapting non-diversed thinking to what you do and become one with your work. Of course, this is not happening all the time.

    “Realizing” non-attachment also means to consciously go through addictive thought processes, e.g. when in love. Contrary to a friend of mine who defines being in love as always irrational and being out of mental control, I can clearly see what is going on within me and even run against a wall consciously, knowingly and non-judgmental. As this state is rather extreme for most of us, I hope this example helps. This doesn’t necessarily come with age. It means accepting illusions but seeing them clearly while they are at work. The common way is either to feel like a “victim” of one’s illusions or to destroy them/work against them. The zen-way provides another ability: Just wait and see (concentrated) what is happening with you and around you.

    You ask “in what positive way thoughts change”. Well, I could start playing your word-game here and ask: What do you mean by the physical term “positive”? But I guess it is s.th. that I have just described. I am not a victim of even my neurotic thought processes, but a kind of curious spectator. How is that possible? Maybe the same way we usually think about ourselves, by splitting what we consider to be “us” up in the one who thinks about and the one who is thought about.

    There is another “positive” development that I found described in the Kegonsutra after having detected it through own experience. There it is called “Indra’s net” and it is, to a commonly educated Westerner, a rather surprising finding of interconnections between people that can lead to (statistically) rather improbable “running acrosses”. This is s.th. that x-Buddhism would probably explain as coincidence even when statistics wouldn’t support it. I guess that the Buddhist term karma defines it better because it leaves the option of influencing what is connected by your own mind (brain), and I am sure that this is happening though I believe that one can only be interested in that topic by finding out for him- or herself. This may lead to an acceptance of encounters and “accidents” as s.th. that is your own “koan”, your own task. You know of the strong connection and instead of dropping it or considering it unimportant, you give it some meaning and this willingly and illusionary deed is confirmed by the following karmic development. For me, having found out of those connections that I am still unable to explain in detail has enriched my life and its possibilities. It just means that you see details in your life that common people overlook in theirs. In my opinion this is a field where mankind has a huge capacity to develop. Right now, most of us get only a glimpse into that “net”.

    You must understand here that many of the main topics of Buddhism were experienced by me BEFORE I found an explanation in scriptures and that I do not always subscribe to the whole theories or details. Nevertheless, I don’t know any other religion or philosophy that shares my experiences in such a way. Now in Zen we have to be careful not to create new illusions after smashing the old ones. So talking about this is much easier in a blog here than in the mainstream forums where most of the readers would be misled. It is of course good to doubt what I am telling you and to not believe easily, and I am sure that is happening here. What works for me may not work for others.

    I left out the second goal by Yasutani, “satori-awakening”, because you stated: “It’s simply impossible to “just mirror phenomenal reality” with a brain.” THIS Reality here would be what you experience through your sensory apparatus (including the brain itself) without putting labels on it, without understanding it in words or with feelings, i.e. without the common brainwork that is involved, You say it is only an excerpt of reality, but that doesn’t matter. When you’re braindead, there is no reality at all, so THIS reality in zen is defined as what you and only you experience as real – it is totally subjective. You might be misled by descriptions like “becoming one with the universe” and such when awakening. They refer to the “reality” of satori-awakening, and in this case your mind mirrors not an excerpt but all (“the universe”) because everything that defines your distinctions is dropped and gone. Your brain is not functioning the way you describe in your example.

    THAT reality is (traditionally called) emptiness, non-substantiality, buddha-nature etc. I do not have better words for it right now but if you ask me how that can be transformed in daily life I might say that recreating this experience is possible when hearing the sound of a blackbird singing as well as the (normally felt as rather unpleasant) sound of a crow (I was feeding both during winter on my balcony). Seeing and hearing the bird, I experience the same emptiness as in myself and other phenomena, thus the bird is not separated from me except by my common perception that sees him in a distance. That means that I can experience other phenomena as one with myself at the same time that I am seeing them as separate. I guess that the common view is one of separation, and to keep up a “normal” life I kind of have to fall in the “universal” mode by using the “dropping of body and mind” method consciously. Although satori might happen unexpectedly in most cases, the effect to me is that you can “recreate” this state because basically you never leave it (as never leaving the fundamental change in your view). I am also one with a fish when I am killing him. To experience this means to understand why it was possible for zen masters to speak even of “killing without killing”. It is a non-attached attitude that stems from this awakening experience (which can also not be easily stated in common forums because it is immediately ridiculed or rejected with rhetoric from scriptures like “the one who talks about it doesn’t know” etc. and because the discussion shifts quickly to a moral level that only deals with the phenomenal reality of killing).

    Much too much zen terminology, I fear. Like here:

    “now you replaced “meditation” with “zazen” which doesn’t make things better.” I did that consciously. I prefer zen without za – or just: dhyana. That is the method Hui-neng spoke of and that is found in the palicanon. Meditation is not a better term as zen, but the “zen scene” prefers “zazen”. I am not an advocate of zazen but it seems to me that statistically it is the most successful method to get one person to the things that I appreciate in my life now. There are only a view Theravadins who reach the same level of inside and freedom in activity as adepts trained in zazen. In Tibetan Buddhism I personally fear there are almost none.

    “the zen-scene always tries hard to distinguish their meditation “zazen” from other traditions which causes nothing but confusion”
    I believe they are right. Either you work with koan or you just sit (normally without counting your breath or all the other methods of vipassana etc.). The zen meditation has some unique characteristics, and in the form of “just sitting” it is the most developed buddhist meditation that there is. From “labelling” to bodily awareness, nothing is simpler when you just want to detect the way you are thinking. Although you really don’t need a fixed posture for it. You do not even have to sit. It is just the right way to watch what is going through your mind. “Just sitting” becomes “just watching the upcoming thoughts” then. So the mistake of the “scene” is to insist on the formal sitting, not to insist on the training methods of exhausting logical thinking or just watching the thoughts.

    “that there is no soul or mind or whatever apart from the physical (brain) is I hope nothing that we even have to discuss”
    Whenever I say mind, you may exchange it with brain. Still, I am sure that your brain is able to deconstruct itself which zen is calling “to find emptiness”. Perhaps it could be compared with a confession. The brain is telling you then: “I” have always deceived you. Now I am allowing you a glimpse into what is behind my deception.

    For others, this might hint to shere schizophrenia …

  40. Hello Ron, regarding your #40

    Excuse me for stepping in but you convey two very important points which aid to my point.

    First, you describe how one of the greatest and most obstructive x-buddhist urban myths about ,meditation‘ – thinking is bad – could be overcome. And more so, that thinking itself is the key (and it must be the key because we don‘t have any other).

    Second, you describe a certain attitude vis-a-vis your interlocutors.

    In both cases, what happens is that we let an emotion fade rather than to oppress it. (Although I would admit that it is fine a line one is walking here.)

    Now, I would hold, this is only a precondition for what to come. The cognitive setting in which one is able to not react compulsively in sight of an unpleasant emotion enables or makes possible unaffected thinking. Often a point of view in opposition to our own is wiped off affectively. I think that is the affective part of decision (cf. p. 6 „Nascent Speculative Non-Buddhism“). The unaffected, not self-oppressive thinking which ensues from a setting as described in your #40 enables the weighing of arguments or, in other words, it makes room for aporetic dissonance to really unfold.

    An example: The Word of the Buddha. Everybody knows the cliche „the Buddha said“. In an environment in which there is really an unconditional acceptance of the way another person is, meaning that there is an atmosphere of mutual trust in the other as someone who is not trying to outsmart me, it should be possible to present the case that we will probably never ever know if there has been somebody called „The Buddha“ and that it is next to impossible to guess what somebody could have meant two thousand five hundred years ago.

    I would say that it is the litmus test if a person or a group really can weigh unpleasant arguments rather than to dismiss them outright. If the latter is the case then the ,meditation‘ did not unfold correctly.

  41. @41, Angkorverlag:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and trying to describe your experience. Of course this only helps to some degree to move towards what the article was about but still it was interesting for me to read. I’ll leave most of what you wrote as what it is since it’s just too “zen” for our discussion I think, but two things I’d like to question further:

    “You say it is only an excerpt of reality, but that doesn’t matter. When you’re braindead, there is no reality at all, so THIS reality in zen is defined as what you and only you experience as real – it is totally subjective. You might be misled by descriptions like “becoming one with the universe” and such when awakening. They refer to the “reality” of satori-awakening, and in this case your mind mirrors not an excerpt but all (“the universe”) because everything that defines your distinctions is dropped and gone. Your brain is not functioning the way you describe in your example.”

    What do you mean here with “Your brain is not functioning the way you describe in your example.”? I’d agree that it is totally subjective, but I think it’s impossible to go beyond that, since as you said if you’re braindead there is no world/reality at all. It’s the brain that creates it, and you cannot escape it of course. So this is why I question “in this case your mind mirrors not an excerpt but all (“the universe”)”. For me this sentence would work if you’d say “in this case your mind mirrors not an excerpt of the representation of the universe your brain creates and you live/experience but all of the representation/model you live in at once”. The issue here is “the universe”. I believe that “the universe” exists but I don’t think we’re capable to experience all possibilities of this universe. We always see just our world. Maybe you can to some extend become aware of this fact but you cannot go beyond.

    Regarding zen-meditation you wrote “I am not an advocate of zazen but it seems to me that statistically it is the most successful method to get one person to the things that I appreciate in my life now.”. I wonder what statistics this relies on?

    And also “The zen meditation has some unique characteristics, and in the form of “just sitting” it is the most developed buddhist meditation that there is. From “labelling” to bodily awareness, nothing is simpler when you just want to detect the way you are thinking.”. Again why do you think it’s “the most developed buddhist meditation”? Are there any studies on this? From what I’ve read in different papers it always seems that experienced tibetian monks had in neurological studies the most significant results. They’re usually the guys with strong gamma-waves for example, while the zen-guys usually just show up strongly developed alpha-waves. Studies right now are pointing to gamma-waves being important for deep states of meditation where you get beyond the usual subject-object experience. Also “nothing is simpler when you just want to detect the way you are thinking” sounds to me like practicing awareness on your thinking process. This is a common practice in almost all buddhist traditions and not unique to zen at all.

    take care,

    Daniel

  42. Here I did another one.

    What is meditation?
    Meditation is the mental activity of observing thoughts, emotions and body sensations.

    Why do we meditate?
    A person meditiates to learn how the mind is working, and to experience the locus of thought, emotion and body sensation.

    Why is meditation a good thing?
    Meditation is a “good thing” if it produces the result that the person wants.

    What is it about meditation that helps a person achieve learning how the mind is working, and to experience the locus of thought, emotion and body sensation? What is it about learning how the mind is working and experiencing the locus of thought, emotion and body sensation that helps a person achieve the result he or she wants?

    See Dhammapada numero uno.

  43. Daniel: “I wonder what statistics this relies on?”
    Is zazen the most successful method to reach what I described and what may be some of the common experiences of zen adepts? Of course there is no scientific proof and probably will never be (?), I deduct that from my own (biased) viewpoint and experience, the only way there is, empirically. Theravadin Buddhists are often not free enough to not be attached to the rules, Tibetan Buddhists are often attached to their ethnic rituals (like Kalachakra etc.). This even goes for a lot of their sages of the past. I see a different line in the zen tradition, and I see the attachments in the Buddhists I meet. Therefore I deduct that their methods are not helpful to reach what I’d simply call a wide freedom (a freedom to draw you out of involvements in human relationships as well as out of those stemming from your own tradition).
    Anyway, I’d appreciate any scientific effort to support this theory. My friends are mainly not involved in zen and almost all of them are entangled in things that do not bother me anymore, most probably due to my zen training. This goes for other relatives and people in my living area. That is what I mean with statistics. Therefore I would recommend the zen way to everyone, and although I did not need so much zazen – many others like Bodhidharma, Dogen, Rinzai, Hakuin and even modern teachers like the German Muho (who doesn’t seem to speak about awakening at all) considered it a foremost method. As they seem to have found similar effects, I’d say that zazen is a good way to come there, though not the only one (and though in Dogen Zen it is mostly recommended not to expect anything at all and see the posture as the Buddha, so to say). I have to accept that most people seem to need a training to get there and will not look for one only after they have made a mindchanging experience.

    “This is a common practice in almost all buddhist traditions and not unique to zen at all.” (I spoke of detecting the way you think.)
    Oh no, no, no! You have to look at the details, how it is taught, how the methods are adopted. This can be looked up or experienced with the respective teachers. There is a big difference, for example if you believe in “steps” or in “jhanas” (although those are “concepts”). It is absolutely not the same as training with koan or just sitting. That is exactly one reason why so many people jump from one tradition to the other and especially Western teachers give the impression that it is almost the same (because they have themselves mixed teachings).

    “They’re usually the guys with strong gamma-waves for example, while the zen-guys usually just show up strongly developed alpha-waves. Studies right now are pointing to gamma-waves being important for deep states of meditation where you get beyond the usual subject-object experience.”
    1) Does that mean that you yourself believe in “getting beyond” a subject-object experience?
    2) Does that mean that you believe that it is a physical phenoma located in the brain that can be described by neuroscience?

    Gamma waves appear also while learning and concentrating. Tibetan Buddhism prefers meditating on certain objects, thus more concentration, and learning and reciting spriptures by heart to a bigger extend than common Zen Buddhism. I don’t know who was there for the zen fraction, I know of Ricard for the Tibetans who probably also has a high IQ. I do not know if you can already fairly compare the two but I personally do not believe that we talk about the same wanted effects. As I see it, the zen meditation does not aim at going beyond the subject-object experience but is more useful to reach your subconscious (theta-waves with the help of alpha) as well as intuition and empathy for others (delta waves). The main aim of zen is not to judge, not to label, be open and accept “things as they are”. This is reflected in different terms as “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” or the ten oxherding pictures where at the end the adept is on the marketplace, i.e. form becomes form again. So I am not sure if all Buddhists really aim at the same with their meditation, as you seem to suggest. Anyway, this would at least proove that meditation methods differ significantly or have a different outcome for the brain. If you meant that “beyond subject-object” is similar to the “universal” that I mentioned, I have to remind you that I do, through my own experience, not believe that it is necessary to meditate formally at all to reach that state. So the question would be: Why is it possible without meditation? Thus I would not overestimate the findings on Tibetan monks which were also showing a highly stimulated area for the feeling of happiness. That confirms just what they are aiming at, the Dalai Lama often uses that word whereas in Zen (and in old Buddhism) there is some scepticism when hanging high certain feelings (of the skandha realm). In neuroscience it is said that keeping up that happiness all the time is impossible. I guess the same goes for the gamma states of the monks. This means they would depend on meditation to overcome the subject-object perception.

    “For me this sentence would work if you’d say “in this case your mind mirrors not an excerpt of the representation of the universe your brain creates and you live/experience but all of the representation/model you live in at once”. The issue here is “the universe”.”
    Hmm. To understand what you mean, I have to ask first:
    3) Let’s assume for a moment U.G. Krishnamurtis cynicism is right and all the gurus descriptions of “one-ness” with the universe mean that they have taken in mindchanging drugs before – is what they have seen for you “all of the representation/model you live in at once”? Is what drugs do to s.o. and let s.o. experience always s.th. that exists as a model before?

  44. Hi Garett (#33 and #44). Thanks for your comments. And thanks for braving not one answer, but two, to the questions being posed here regarding practice.

    I think there is something to be said for the approach you take in both comments, namely, what I would call a skills approach. The common buddheme for this take on meditation is, of course, bhavana—the cultivation or development of particular mental qualities. (The noun bhavana is formed from the causative of the Sanskrit root bhu, “to become,” yielding literally “to cause to become.”) What can be said for it is that it at least “naturalizes” (psychologizes?) meditation practice. I once wrote a short book on meditation that took this approach. In manuscript form it was, in fact, originally called Bhavana, and then later changed to The Art of Meditation based on a editor’s feedback (namely: use English). I withdrew it from the publisher’s consideration for the same reasons that I could give in response to your comment.

    In short, I began noticing that the skills rhetoric of x-buddhistic meditation harbored an extraordinarily deceptive, coercive, and far-reaching value system. I became uncomfortable with operating within that system precisely because it operates in stealth. I found myself asking why such and such was necessarily desirable. One of the jobs of an ideological system is to make you think its claims are obvious and necessary, or, “commonsensical.” You give clear “commonsensical” answers for the what and why of meditation. Whenever I hear ideas presented with an x-buddhistic it’s commonsensical tone, I deduce decision. And indeed, in your comments, those answers you offer are modeled on–or cloned from, in the language of Laruelle–x-buddhism. You may say, “so, what’s wrong with that?” And I respond by asking whether it might indeed be desirable, for instance, to be late for work from time to time, to lose your temper on occasion, to space out now and then, and so on. If you agree that, yes, these and many other dispositions eschewed by x-buddhistic meditation/mindfulness rhetoric might indeed have value for a well-lived life, then the entire charade is revealed, the top is blown off, the yarn begins to unravel, the emperor stands before you bare-assed. Why? Because contingency, complication, indeterminacy, doubt, and all the other messy processes that make human existence what it is have been allowed a little breathing room.

    So, while you may be content with your answer, it really just furthers the questioning for those of us who are aware of the act of x-buddhistic decision and who are wary of the dharmic dream. Maybe questioning is “brain-crampin” for you. But, what if the very questioning were the most genuine aspect of the thing itself? The thing, whatever “it” is, in other words, might just appear in the form of a unresolvable question. What, then, would an answer be–what would it mean to settle on an answer? Even more direly, what would it mean to accept someone else’s, much less an impersonal system’s, such as x-buddhism’s, answer? So, may you be crampin!

  45. re Garett #33

    I have given a rather positive comment at the original place where Garett posted this post. I would add in the context of what I think about the societies of control, that with each and every skill one develops with ,meditation‘, it is the question if the ability is used to make visible an otherwise invisible norm or if it is used blindly. The same goes for Ron‘s #27 & 40.

    To aid the making visible of norms I said in the text from which this threads unfolds that there has to be a cultivation of knowledge about the construction of knowledge – for example about historicity. Knowledge does not come from sitting – that is also one of these x-buddhistic myths.

    Maybe there is one consensus about ,meditation‘ here: If it isn‘t about the making visible of the norms of the societies of control, or in other words, of ideology, if it is not for to better them, it is no good.

  46. Hi Seikan (#48). Thank you for joining us. In the terms of this project “Zazen” is a piece in an ideological shell game. It is a wire in a mind-numbingly complex and sprawling, Mad-Maxian network of infinite postulation. You could look at it from another perspective, and it appears to be an empty signifier, floating blissfully throughout the Cosmic Zendo.

    So, why not loosen your shiken, Seikan, and say more? Know what I mean?

  47. Hi Matthias, I got that pdf already and read it before posting here. But please understand that from a practical zen point this is just playing the game from another perspective, with other words. Actually, what is required here is done by good zen teachers – deconstructing your dogmas, vocabulary, preconceptions etc. I guess it is not seen because there are not many good teachers around anymore and this “way” is not easily found behind all the postures. A lot of things in Glenns statement remind me of the Theravada view, not the one that I find in zen.

    Quotes from the pdf: “Speculation thus commences in interrogation.” – “Buddhism has persistently failed or refused, indeed is perhaps wholly unable, to perform the kind of self-critical evaluation of itself that is required for maturation beyond visionary forms of knowledge.”
    Contrary to that, I believe all we need is already there in the tradition. But it is NOT the common stuff like teacher-student relationships, a need for satori, a need for zazen, a need for a traditional lineage or even a need for old words and abstracts. So my way is to remind Buddhists what was taught (besides the popular Dogen, for example) and underline the lay tradition as well as the freedom in mind and action of certain zen masters instead of anything based on the monastery tradition and the vinaya. You do not need Buddhism or zen to be visionary but it need not stand in your way.

    “And we can‘t speculate until we have created the heuristics for doing so, which I sketch later.”
    I hope I just did that answering Daniel – an educated guess, an intuitive judgement. If you think it is not possible to say that dhyana (zen) is the best method to “free your mind”, based on some trial and error, you might explain. Heuristics is also simplifying – exactly what I described as the application of zen in your daily life. As a publisher I was curious what the books of successful writers and teachers like Deepak Chopra and Eckart Tolle are about. I crossread their books at Hugendubel’s. Of course there was nothing new to me, but a distorted view of “world” and “Eastern” knowledge, without the uncomfortable stuff that comes with “accepting reality (e.g. pain) as it is”, accepting impermanence etc. It became obvious that everything those guys write about is already there. But THERE is much more. All that itches and stitches.

    “The word ―Buddhist names a person who has performed a psychologically charged determination that Buddhism provides thaumaturgical refuge.”
    It might also be that Buddhism explains best what someone has experienced. I myself could drop the term for me, although it wouldn’t change the fact that I am inspired by the whole zen tradition, even when I turn to fictional writing, and in the way I meet people. Glenn must know that the “wonders” in zen are named like this: the nightingale singing, the cherryblossoms blooming. Actually, that could sum up what awakening is. So, is it a “refuge” when you open up to your surroundings? Ist that really “indexes nothing in the world” (Glenn)?

    “In this sense, decision is an emotional reliance on or hopefulness for the veracity of Buddhist teachings.”
    I tried to give an example that it can be vice versa. You experience s.th. disturbing, strange, that shatters your belief or hopefulness that things happen by coincidence and chaos, you would no longer be true to yourself when not including s.th. else than coincidence and chaos, and you look for answers. Anywhere. Maybe even in the scriptures of Buddhism.

    “Non-buddhism is acutely interested in the potentialities of Buddhist teaching, but in a way that remains unbeholden to—and hence, unbound by and unaccountable to–the norms that govern those teachings.”
    This is, to me, impossible because as we have seen with the Holocaust question everyone is rooted in some ethical conception and it is almost impossible that there are no overlaps with Buddhist teaching, as with some other views that you have on your lives. It is especially impossible with zen. To stay with this example: Even if you’d hold the position that it could have been right to be an experimenting physician in Auschwitz, you would not contradict zen. If you want to be unbound and unbeholden of s.th., you are indeed practising zen.

    Nevertheless, I subscribe to this hope: “are we free to hear fresh, terrestrial, resonances.”

  48. Angkorverlag: re #30, #41, #45 & #51

    Well, what could I say? I should have seen coming this one.

    To be honest, I think it is of no use to argument with you. You know it already. You know it all. I could make a case about how you display circularity, the hermeneutics of projecting back into the past of buddhism what you think is the truth and above all the specter of awakening. You say you believe all we need is already there in the tradition, you say your way is to remind Buddhists what was taught while you obviously fail to see that such utterings exactly are what is criticized in what you cited one sentence before. I detect such a far reaching self-immunization here that I cancel any intention at all to go into this.

    Sorry for my interjection.

  49. Dear Matthias, I do not know it all, but I dare to say that some insights have helped me to simplify my life and deepen its day to day perception. And use other words than you to describe certain personal experiences to transmit them to other people. There is also no ojective truth at all, so I am very conscious of my being subjective. You may also refuse the term “awakening”, I do not mind at all, but in my life there have been significant points of change, as in the life of others, some were triggered by love (resp. rejection), some by death (the death of a loved one or coming close to it) or an insight (which for some neuroscientists may be an enhancement of certain brain activity whereas I suspect it will turn out to be more like a “switiching off” of other areas).

    As I said, there are many other ways to come to conclusions (or refuse them) and change the way you live to a certain extent. You criticise that I want “to remind Buddhists what was taught” and believe that it is what I cited before (teacher-student relationship, satori etc.). Well, it is not what was taught to me. Thus, I do not have a teacher and not even a “meditation” (or whatever) group like Glenn, do not know if the zen establishment would consider my insight satori (and do not care) etc. Still, I derive this way from the input of the old folks of zen. Taking a look behind the hagiography and the market of modern Buddhism, there is s.th. they transmitted that is already free of x-Buddhism, to use Glenns word. But here we obviously do not agree. As you have to find that out by yourself anyway, discussions like here may lead to the same summit (or hell) in the end. We will see.

    I do not claim to create a buddhist Axolotl, I am just aware of my sources and, as a serious writer would do, quote them. Very personal shatterings of your life – and then it turns out that there are people who obviously shared some of those experiences which makes them not so uncommon anymore. I feel close to them and I do what a father may teach his children: Check the advice/wisdom/practice and drop it if it is not useful for your life.

  50. Look Angkorverlag, I already tried to delineate our positions a bit here , although that is by far not enough. I will soon have out an essay to introduce Glenn‘s non-buddhism. We can go on with the discussion then – this would also help the understanding of other germans who are interested in this project. But it will be hard. It is not in the tradition. Tradition is the concealment. What is about historicity? What is about the constellation we live in? Didn‘t something happen since Dogen lived? You derive input from the old folks? How could this possibly be? We will have a hard time sorting this out. The underling assumption you probably have is that there is some definite meaning in what a certain Dogen said. I once glanced over what Rolf Elberfeld has to say about the Uji-chapter of the Shobogenzo – old chinese, old japanese, layers and layers of possible meanings. Add to this eight hundred years of ,transmission‘, lost etymologies, deeply different cultures which even today cannot understand each other easily and so on. Look at the discussions here about ideology and you will hopefully see what you see if you see your own insights. Not that they are to bad denigrated altogether, but they are certainly not Dogens insights. Let me make a proposal: I take my Longchenpa, you take your Dogen, we both put them on a rocket and shot them to the moon. There they may entertain themselves until the kingdom come.

  51. Glenn (#46),

    I became uncomfortable with operating within that system precisely because it operates in stealth. […] One of the jobs of an ideological system is to make you think its claims are obvious and necessary, or, “commonsensical.” You give clear “commonsensical” answers for the what and why of meditation. Whenever I hear ideas presented with an x-buddhistic it’s commonsensical tone, I deduce decision.

    One of the “official” “claims” by Buddhism is that all people want to be happy. Of course there’s a lot of space to argue whether it’s really a good thing to become happy (and even more space about what happiness really is). Now, my question to you Non-Buddhists is: Are these the only “claims” you have detected so far? (of course there are a lot more, but maybe they can be deduced from the initial claim?).

    Then, it seems like a claim to say that not having claims is a good thing. I like the word “decision” here, because it doesn’t really say whether its a good or bad decision 😉

  52. Angkorverlag, 41, 51

    Hello,

    You say in comment 41:

    I am also one with a fish when I am killing him. To experience this means to understand why it was possible for zen masters to speak even of “killing without killing”. It is a non-attached attitude that stems from this awakening experience (which can also not be easily stated in common forums because it is immediately ridiculed or rejected with rhetoric from scriptures like “the one who talks about it doesn’t know” etc. and because the discussion shifts quickly to a moral level that only deals with the phenomenal reality of killing).

    Now it is not my intention to ridicule, and fear no rhetoric from scriptures from me, but I would appreciate a bit more of an explanation. It’s the ‘only the phenomenal reality of killing’ that puzzles me.

    Especially since it isn’t just fish we are talking about here. Your comment 51:

    “Non-buddhism is acutely interested in the potentialities of Buddhist teaching, but in a way that remains unbeholden to—and hence, unbound by and unaccountable to–the norms that govern those teachings.”
    This is, to me, impossible because as we have seen with the Holocaust question everyone is rooted in some ethical conception and it is almost impossible that there are no overlaps with Buddhist teaching, as with some other views that you have on your lives. It is especially impossible with zen. To stay with this example: Even if you’d hold the position that it could have been right to be an experimenting physician in Auschwitz, you would not contradict zen. If you want to be unbound and unbeholden of s.th., you are indeed practising zen.

  53. What follows is AngkorVerlag’s response to my comment #56. It was posted on the old ‘Pump it up’ page, for continuity’s sake it is better posted here

    March 20, 2012 at 12:4
    Dear Robert, I’m a bit puzzled now myself. On the one hand there are constant requests to bring blood into common Buddhist vocabulary and tradition, on the other hand a concrete example does not do. A freedom in action means that you can kill, otherwise you are not free. If you actually do kill is up to you. I speak of the potentiality of the freedom in action that comes with a mindchanging experience that Buddhists tend to call awakening. Therefore you cannot judge by those rules that are not particular Buddhist but overlap with other traditions, like the one not to kill. All those rules are transcended, and it will not work like this after the so-called “awakening”: ‘There is a rule not to kill, so I follow it (verbally).’ Matthias asked me in his blog what non-attachment means, and this is one example. Being not attached to dogma (while being conscious of the consequences).

  54. AngkorVerlag, 57

    Dear Robert, I’m a bit puzzled now myself. On the one hand there are constant requests to bring blood into common Buddhist vocabulary and tradition, on the other hand a concrete example does not do.

    Actually, the request to bring blood into common Buddhist vocabulary isn’t mine, but I very much appreciate your concrete example. For me it is one very clear answer to some of the questions I posed in comment 29 and elsewhere. Personally if I had to choose between non-attachment and being able to condemn the killing of innocent people I would go for the latter, to hell with non-attachment.

    Or do I misunderstand?

  55. Matthias: It seems that some of my answers went to the wrong thread. My answer to your no. 54 is no. 137 in the following “Pump up” entry, sorry. Don’t know how to shift it here (i.e. how to delete it there first).

    Robert: Yes, I think you misunderstand. I speak about behaviour and action and not a mindgame like condemning. You are of course able to condemn the killing of people, as most of the people are. But only a few are capable of killing. And that may not be due to anything I’d call awakening. But the awakened has more options. So he could condemn, not kill or kill. Non-attachment does not lead necessarily to legal or morally welcome behaviour. All the rules and regulations (dogmas) would fall under the “x-Buddhism”-category for me. As the awakened one falls under the law.

  56. Thanks, Angkorverlag, no 59.

    I know I am at times accused of distorting what people really mean to say, so this is why I continue to ask these questions. Since you brought up the experimenting physician in Auschwitz in comment 51, would you say that condemning what that physician did, and let’s call him Mengele to be extra clear, is nothing but a mindgame?

  57. Yes, Robert, it is, but if you catch him and kill him (or bring him to justice) it becomes action.

  58. Hello Angkorverlag, 61

    Thanks. One more. By your definition of an awakened person, why would she want to catch him and bring him to justice? After all, what Mengele did is only wrong because of the rules and regulations (dogmas) of confused people like me.

  59. Robert: I don’t know, you’d have to ask the (awakened) person. We saw a lot of documentaries about Nazi hunters like Wiesenthal here in Germany, and their motifs seemed to be a mix of hatred, revenge and a (natural) sense for justice. I did not get the feeling that one of them was awakened, rather attached. That also lies in the past, so there is speculation again. But even hatred can raise the necessary energies to bring one to justice. That feeling is, like a common sense for the basic commandments or rules in religions, something that many of us share. I do not ridicule those rules but I say that a zen path is not made to stick to the rules but to find the ability to go beyond that. I can give you an example that is not in the past: I personally think that Henry Kissinger should be brought to Den Haag for several war crimes, mainly his involvement in Eastern Timor (I don’t want to discuss this, it can be googled and serves just as an example here). He is already avoiding certain countries because others think likewise. On the other hand, my motif is not strong enough to follow him or send killers after him (like the Mossad does in similar cases). That is because I am not attached (or involved too much). I can choose. He will probably not be punished before his death but I feel that the people with stronger motifs that are not just based on thoughts (like mine), those who lost relatives etc., could go further. I’d understand their human motif like I understand that of Wiesenthal.

    Let me put it this way: If you personally subscribe to a dogma like “not killing” (and think this is more important than yourself being free from it, trusting instead your natural instinct to do the right thing), how can you then have s.o. brought to justice if this might mean that he gets the death penalty?

  60. Re 63, Angkorverlag

    My ‘dogma’ isn’t against killing, it is against killing people because of their race, hence the holocaust example. Apparently that is a different matter for awakened people, they may or may not be against it, and who could ever understand their reasons? But you answered all my questions, much appreciated.

  61. @45 Angkorverlag:

    Thanks again for your input. But I’m sorry I will stop our friendly conversation here. The reason is that I’m simply not interested in zen-buddhism or in comparing zen-buddhism to other forms of buddhism. That’s not why I’m here.

    If you are able to forget all those guys who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago and have something to say about meditation, even zen-meditation here in a form that it is understandable in a language that people understand in the world everyone else besides some zen-guys live in, I’m happy to continue. But I’m really not interested in your “awakening”, “satori”, “dogen”, “jhanas”, “buddha” etc.

    If there is something in Zen that is not just based on belief or a weird language you first have to learn, then you should be able to express it in a more common language.

    Also this is not at all about figuring out if Zen is superior to other traditions etc. It’s also not about any other buddhist tradition or whatever.

    If you want to provide something here you should forget ALL of that and look at it for what it really is. You have to completely dismantle it and see what it actually is, instead of “hiding” behind zen- or buddhist language terms that can mean pretty much anything. I know that’s tough and most “buddhists” if they’re zen or not cannot do it (I speak from experience, actually I practiced for almost 10 years in a buddhist tradition).

    If we talk about meditation here it has nothing to do with traditions for example. We compare/talk about different forms of meditation itself, for example “concentrating on the breath” or whatever. It simply doesn’t matter at all where it comes from…why should it? It’s either useful for nowadays people without them having to read 100 books before they maybe can understand the terminology…or it’s bullshit.

    Of course that’s just my oppinion…maybe other guys here think very different about this. But it is why I’m actually here…

  62. I explained meditation simply so that it can be understood worldwide: You watch consciously how one thought follows the other.
    For you, I try to avoid the terms of that tradition consciously to avoid those aversions you show.

    When your labelling thinking – your thoughts are usually put into words in your mind, even when you picture s.th. – comes to a stop, you will know how that is experienced. If it doesn’t come to a halt (exhausts itself), you will still have had some insight in the way your thinking process works (which is probably helpful, as anything that you make conscious and that is going on with you).

    Why don’t you say it yourself after 10 years of experience in Buddhism? I get the feeling that I am asked a lot of questions here. Where is your own position? It is not tough at all to put this into words. But remember Wittgenstein: “What can be shown cannot be put into words.” And what can be shown cannot all be shown on the net, I add. But sorry, maybe you don’t even want to hear from him.

    “see what it actually is” – so, what it is to you?

    “We compare/talk about different forms of meditation itself, for example “concentrating on the breath” or whatever. It simply doesn’t matter at all where it comes from…why should it?”

    You mean you want to compare the counting of breath but you are allergic to hear that in zen (or wherever) it is not needed, you just want to hear what the outcome of not-counting-breathing is? As with labelling – no words, no numbers. You keep it simple. You watch your thoughts, not numbers. Escpecially nothing that works by itself. A concept like that involves someone telling you: “Count your breath!” What for will you watch s.th. that does not need to be watched unless you are sick? There are methods in therapy based on making your bodily reactions conscious and put them in words, relate them to thoughts and feelings. That is all interesting and helpful in therapy and it will tell you something about your body then. It will also probably help going the thought process on and on. So it is not the direct way to find out how one thought comes to the other and may come to a halt. It comes much more natural to people to think about their thinking or make thoughts conscious than counting their breaths, which is artificial. So not counting breaths, not labelling, not visualizing etc., that is the most simple and effective way of meditation (for me, words like contemplation or sinking work better, because they are not easily connected – by thought again – with a sitting posture). The outcome is a simplicity in thought and behaviour. You do not add, you take away. Unnecessary, neurotic thinking.

    How can I know what is weird language for you and what is not? Zen language, stemming from Asian countries, has also a lot to do with discretion. There is the clear words, and there are – as in Wittgenstein’s finding – things that cannot have an adequate expression in language. You deny that the method that was developed in zen training, not putting everything in words and destructing language (as in koan training) is useful but on the other hand you just want to do the same here: “You have to completely dismantle it”. This sentence alone would be weird language already for normal guys like my brother. So, dismantle and call it dismantling. Others do the same and call it zen.

  63. I really struggle with this blog. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, of course. Sometimes I think I’m beginning to “get” it, only to have that assumption dashed with the next post.

    Daniel (no. 65) addressing Angkorverlag:

    “If you…have something to say about meditation, even zen-meditation here in a form that it is understandable in a language that people understand in the world everyone else besides some zen-guys live in, I’m happy to continue. But I’m really not interested in your “awakening”, “satori”, “dogen”, “jhanas”, “buddha” etc.

    If there is something in Zen that is not just based on belief or a weird language you first have to learn, then you should be able to express it in a more common language.”

    Daniel you may, of course, be speaking merely for yourself, and yet you do so within the framework of a blog that requires the reader to understand:

    ancoric loss, aporetic dissonance, aporetic inquiry, thaumaturgical refuge, vallation, etc.

    Quite why those terms should be acceptable to you and “awakening”, “satori”, “jhanas” etc. not, I don’t understand, because they are certainly not part of a language that people understand in the world everyone else besides some non-philosophers live in. Or is it only x-Buddhists who are not allowed “technical” language?

    Which leads me to the wider difficulty I have, perhaps exemplified by this in Glenn’s comment no. 16 above:

    Suzuki’s “nothing special” is powered by the volatic network of x-buddhistic postulation. Mine is not. Mine is powered by rain and air and gastric fluids. (This move is what I call, in the heuristic, “decommissioning of postulates,” “muting the vibrato,” and “cancellation of warrant”). So, they are completely different expressions.

    Leaving aside the “weird language”, it’s the breath-taking arrogance that catches my attention. Now I thought I understood that Spectacular Nun Buddhism’s project is the unmasking of the hidden assumptions in x-Buddhist discourse; and that, as such, SNB does not claim to come from an assumption free position itself. And yet here Glenn, you do seem to be claiming that your “nothing special” is free of cultural context. Powered by rain and air and gastric fluids? Come now, that’s an assertion straight out of a middle-class hippy’s mouth at Woodstock! “Completely different”? How so?

  64. Peter K (#67). Thanks for your comment.

    I’ll respond with more later on or tomorrow. But I just wanted to say three things quickly.

    First, “rain and air and gastric fluids” was given as a trope for “minimally representational;” hence, “nothing special” in an ordinary, colloquial sense. Suzuki’s and all of x-buddhism’s “nothing special” is posited in a disingenuous, cutesy sense. It is a nothing special that is of ultimate specialness. What makes it so is the fact that it is a node in a vast system of postulation.

    Second, speculative non-buddhism, as I am conceiving it, is not concerned with “the unmasking of the hidden assumptions in x-Buddhist discourse.” That is just something that happens along the way to a greater goal, namely creating a theoretical application for viewing x-buddhism denuded of its transcendental pretenses.

    Third, I don’t even understand the idea of a something’s being “free of cultural context,” much less subscribe to it. That notion is, to my ears, akin to “mystical,” “ineffable,” “God,” “objectless consciousness,” “enlightenment,” and other spiritualized jive. Way too far out for me, man. But more later. Thanks, again.

  65. I just want to reply briefly to the whole Holocaust thing (eg, #62), because the question is a good one, but, as I would have expected, when asked in connection with the holocaust goes unanswered, or is avoided with “I’m not enlightened.” I feel sure I can say what an enlightened person would suggest on this one: Mengele is insignificant, and seeking revenge against him is worse than a waste of energy, it increases delusion. He is not to “blame” for the evil, and focusing the blame on one, or a hundred, or several thousand individuals is just a way to avoid the real problem, much harder to face, that the whole thing couldn’t have happened unless hundreds of millions of people were participating in an ideology which made it not only possible but desirable. An enlightened person would say we need to work to change the ideology, not look for evil individuals to blame. Of course, only an enlightened person could probably let go of the anger and forego revenge.

    I think part of the confusion in the running debate with Angkorverlag is that he has decided that Buddhism is really the same thing as postmodernism. There is no debating with this position, and no possibility of Angkorverlag ever gaining any greater insight, because he would have to insist there is no such thing–he has decided that everything is only subjective, there is no truth, only opinion, and the rest is beyond the scope of language. He has studied Zen to let go of the views he dislikes and reify the ones he does like, completely misunderstood the basic concepts of Buddhism, and now is hopelessly stuck in the trap sophistry.

  66. Dear Tom (69): When the topic “holocaust” is raised, expect trouble. Especially when Germans are involved in the discussion. Nevertheless, I noticed that someone wanted a concrete answer (suggestion) for an ethical problem. I may correct you. I said that I expect that an awakened person doesn’t deal so much with the past but concentrates on the present. That is why I brought up Kissinger, as far as I know he is alive. So I wanted to shift from an attachment in the past to some possible one of the present where action may actually be possible and explain the spectrum. The answer has to be given by the one who feels the problem, I cannot give it for someone. Mengele should not be a problem for anyone anymore. That is why I started to ask questions directly myself now. The spectrum, to repeat it, goes from killing to not killing. Your expectation is thus wrong. I talk about action, not about judgement (the mindgame). Ethics is action. If it stays in the mind, it is useless. But I have a suggestion where this stems from: x-buddhism. Some of it teaches that the right and wrong are already in thoughts. So let me tell you they are not, to my opinion. At least they don’t matter unless they turn into concrete deeds.

    It is also not that only “enlightened persons” can do this or that. As far as I know, there is no common concept in all Buddhism what awakening exactly is, so any experience and description must be subjective, although you may find certain overlapping characteristics. I just want to give my five cents here but not create a model. To let go of anger is s.th. anyone can do or learn – and meditation may help, making conscious how anger is build up by a succession of thoughts. But being bound by a religion of revenge (like the Judaic and the muslim religion) makes it much more foreseeable that the (re)action will not be one of letting go. Thus, Kissinger is much safer than Mengele because he pissed off mainly Christians (East Timor and South America) and Theravada Buddhists (Southeastasia) who dislike revenge and hatred as a means.

    “I think part of the confusion in the running debate with Angkorverlag is that he has decided that Buddhism is really the same thing as postmodernism.” Well, Matthias Steingass mentioned Thomas Metzinger and that rang a bell. Now that I have seen a picture of him without glasses I suspect that I have met him in the 80s when studying religious science for a couple of semesters in Frankfurt, Germany. I watched hours of videos with him today to get an update on his view. Very interesting and I will probably deal with it in Matthias’ blog or even here, if this philosopher is interesting enough. What doomed to me was that zen is not buddhism by his definition and it might not be x-buddhism here. It just doesn’t fit the descriptions, neither his nor Glenns well enough. I do not know if the same goes for some posters who asked me questions, like Daniel and Robert, but I fear that on the one hand certain schools should not be discussed, on the other hand all those mentioned have no idea what zen is about and think that it is like all the other (x)buddhism. It became clear to me when Metzinger defined spirituality against religion, and although I found myself in his description of an adept of spirituality, this crumbled when he said that spiritual persons look for selfperfection without animality. This is wrong for zen. The whole person is accepted. So even a philospher like Metzinger is either not talking about zen when he is mentioning Buddhism (which is supported by the people he quotes, all of them Theravadins or teachers who mix traditions, like Theravada with Tibetan Buddhism) or he ignores it. This might become a bigger problem here. If you do not clearly know that there is not one Buddhism but hundreds of significantly different schools and a lot of different meditation methods (with their prerequisites), how will you know, Tom, that my zen is postmodern? Patriarchal zen is anti-feminist. Period. But if I only find myself “dismantling” illusions about what other assume to be “x-buddhism”, I might not find any sleep anymore.

    Dear Tom, the question in no. 62 is not unanswered. The answer lies in you. And if you want an answer that would be valid for most of mankind (why catch a brutal murderer and bring him to justice) it is that this is an inborn quality most people have. You do NOT need to be awakened to act on the most obvious misdeeds. You do NOT need to follow a specified code of commandments. If this is true and it is a natural instinct to fight such injustice, how should an awakened one waste any time with the question “Why (act)?” A possible difference could lie in fearlessness. I expect an awakened one to be less fearless than others (on the average) in his reaction because he is less attached to his life.

  67. Hi Glenn

    You seem to be stimulating some discussion which is good. I was initially put off by the title of this post, but once I started reading it I found it articulated some ideas that had been latent in me as well. That traditional Buddhist language might actually have become a hindrance is a serious topic for debate. I was recently trying to sum up a related issue and came up with the following passage:

    ~~~~

    One obvious question is ‘why have Buddhist afterlife beliefs persisted?’ Part of the answer is that no Dharma practitioner comes to ‘insight’ without cultural conditioning. In traditional Buddhism one spends one’s whole life being indoctrinated with Buddhist dogmas, including what to expect when practising. Monks often join the monastery as young children, aged 7 or 8 in Theravādin countries, and 3 or 4 in the case of Tibetan tulkus. A Dharma practitioner masters Buddhist philosophy years, and sometimes decades, before their meditation is sufficiently subtle that insights will arise (if it ever is). One knows exactly what one is supposed to say about bodhi well before one ever experiences it. One sees this in the way that Buddhist will talk about Enlightenment with absolute certainty.

    If one then has an ‘insight’ experience one finds it almost impossible to conceive and communicate it except in those deeply inculcated terms. Besides which, all of one’s audience are similarly indoctrinated so if one chooses another mode of communication one risks being ignored or misunderstood. I’ve actually seen this happen. A common jargon is so often one of the defining features of a group. Here’s the problem in a nutshell:

    Metaphysical doctrines, inculcated over decades, and socially reinforced at every turn, become self-fulfilling prophecies.

    Is it any wonder that no one has questioned rebirth? No traditional Buddhist has ever really questioned anything canonical. The Canon can only be added to; it cannot be subtracted from. The worst a Buddhist critic can usually say is that a particular doctrine is “provisional” and superseded by an ultimate doctrine. The worst fate of an out-of-favour doctrine is to be ignored. There are exceptions to this of course, but they are typically quite marginal from our point of view. And thus Buddhism has steadily accumulated doctrines for 2500 years. That these doctrines are sometimes contradictory is accommodated with the provisional/ultimate dichotomy. How many ultimate doctrines have been superseded in twenty-five centuries I don’t know, but it would be an interesting line of research.

    ~~~~

    Best Wishes
    Jayarava

  68. Jayarava: Re 72: This is, I would argue, exactly the problem. In my peculiar idiom, I would describe this as using Buddhism as a discourse of ideological interpellation, and containing the radical potential of serious Buddhist thought. When one “knows what to say” long before one “experiences it,” that is because one has been taught what to experience, been fully interpellated into the proper ideology. Contradictions and aporia are invisible to the perfectly interpellated. This is not to say one does NOT experience this “awakening,” merely that it is only an experience completely constructed in ideology.

    I suspect that such perfect and complete interpellation is fairly rare. As one possible “exception” who is far from “marginal,” might I suggest Shinran? Of course, his radically questioning approach was banned, until it was eventually transformed into an obscurantist ideology of imperial Japan.

  69. @66 Ankor:

    “I explained meditation simply so that it can be understood worldwide: You watch consciously how one thought follows the other.”

    Okay, so you pay attention to your own thought process. That’s something I actually can understand. So this is actually the same as mindfulness-meditation practiced in MBSR courses for example. Bringing your awareness to the thought process.

    “For you, I try to avoid the terms of that tradition consciously to avoid those aversions you show.”

    It shouldn’t be about avoiding my aversions, but rather about finding a better defined language that is free from mystical meanings etc.

    “When your labelling thinking – your thoughts are usually put into words in your mind, even when you picture s.th. – comes to a stop, you will know how that is experienced.”

    So do you just practice being aware of your thoughts or do you actively label them?

    “Why don’t you say it yourself after 10 years of experience in Buddhism? I get the feeling that I am asked a lot of questions here. Where is your own position?”

    I don’t have a position. I’m still questioning. I don’t even want to come to a position, for me meditation is about questioning, inquiring… 😉

    “You mean you want to compare the counting of breath but you are allergic to hear that in zen (or wherever) it is not needed, you just want to hear what the outcome of not-counting-breathing is?”

    I didn’t say counting, I said concentration. I meant with this to concentrate on the breathing process. But that was just an example what this could be about I guess. I mean we’re trying to find out what meditation can be…

    “It comes much more natural to people to think about their thinking or make thoughts conscious than counting their breaths, which is artificial.”

    Not sure about that. Most people I meet have big difficulties to start with watching their thoughts and are more comfortable to start with the breath.

    “How can I know what is weird language for you and what is not? Zen language, stemming from Asian countries, has also a lot to do with discretion. So, dismantle and call it dismantling. Others do the same and call it zen.”

    Yes sure…and the issue is exactly that you have to dismantle Zen. Otherwise you did nothing but replace ALL with ZEN thoughts. If there is something you don’t need “Zen”…

  70. Daniel (#74): “So do you just practice being aware of your thoughts or do you actively label them?” There is no need to label what is already labelled, as we tend to think in words/language.

    “So this is actually the same as mindfulness-meditation practiced in MBSR courses for example.So this is actually the same as mindfulness-meditation practiced in MBSR courses for example.”
    I do not like the comparison with MBSR. Everyone can look it up. That is just another name for s.th. that had a name before. So either it is different from the tradition or it is not, and then it doesn’t need a new name. This is not about marketing. I am NOT doing MBSR which involves different postures, what they call a “body scan” etc. MBSR also seems to define goals which I do not have. It measures “success” in reducing pain, stress etc. which would probably not lead me to sinking/contemplation at all. I cannot even confirm such effects myself. Sitting meditation for example tends to cause pain and not only reduce it (somewhere else), reaching the subconscious tends to create stress (when alleviated at other times). Just a week ago an abbot of a famous temple told me that a zazen trainee became psychotic and had to be brought to a hospital. A depressive MBSR trainee (on medication) talked about similar problems in a web forum a month ago.

  71. Hello Tom, re 69.

    Of course I regret raising the Holocaust scenario. Your original caution against raising the Holocaust context (35) had to do with the perceived extra-ordinary status of such an event. And the indeed useless question of punishment/revenge did come up, but only in passing. But I do think something was gained from the discussion in that, to my surprise, it turned into an argument that from an awakened perspective you can not say that what Mengele was doing in Auschwitz was wrong, or right for that matter. All we have to make those calls is an “inborn quality most people have”. We all know how much good that did.

    I am very much bothered by this. This isn’t very funny at all. It warrants a lot more thought.

  72. Robert,

    Some people might suggest that from an enlightened perspective we cannot make judgments about Mengele’s actions. Those people have no idea what enlightenment means in Buddhist thought, and are mistaking postmodern relativism for enlightenment. From an enlightened perspective, one would absolutely have to say that the Shoah increased suffering of living beings and so was wrong. Buddha made judgments about good and bad behavior all the time, right? It is not enlightened to be “above” human suffering, it only means one is a sociopath, which is not at all the same thing.

    I would say that the single most important truth produced by the Buddhist “Event” is that we clearly do not have an “inborn quality” that guides our moral judgments, they are completely constructed (dependently arisen) by our social systems.

    The argument that ethical thought is just “mindgames” and all real ethics consists of mindless unexamined “action” is, well, just about the stupidest thing I can imagine anyone saying.

    My point is that of course Mengele is wrong, but we would be wrong to focus our hatred on the one bodily individual, as if killing him could have destroyed the evil. He had an entire military-industrial complex supporting and enabling his actions, and that required a widely shared ideological system, and this is the source of evil, not individual human entities but the collective “mind.”

  73. #70: “The argument that ethical thought is just “mindgames” and all real ethics consists of mindless unexamined “action” is, well, just about the stupidest thing I can imagine anyone saying.”

    So why do YOU bring it up?

    “I would say that the single most important truth produced by the Buddhist “Event” is that we clearly do not have an “inborn quality” that guides our moral judgments”

    Thank you for sharing this. I personally would then not trust you for a second. Because what you rely on is fabricated ethics of your mind. The very thing you probably want to attack in this blog.

    Back to a more interesting topic: “what enlightenment means in Buddhist thought”. Please explain, Tom.

    #69: “that from an awakened perspective you can not say that what Mengele was doing in Auschwitz was wrong, or right for that matter”
    Wrong. You cannot say it from an unawakened perspective, because you are still struggling with hate and revenge.

  74. Angkorverlag,

    I won’t try to explain, since you have just said you would not trust me for a second. Your responses are at the level of my four-year-old having a tantrum, and there’s not talking to you, because you are too determined not to hear. I will not respond to you again, since everything I say just increases the pitch of your tantrum. Maybe take a time out, and come back when you want to learn something. Your are clearly quite ignorant; maybe try asking a question instead demanding others attend to your incoherent nonsense? Personally, I think everyone here has already wasted far too much time trying to talk to you reasonably.

  75. I asked questions, and it is fascinating how you and some others avoid them and prefer to get “personal”. As I said, psychologically what happens here is exactly mirroring blogs and forums of x-buddhism. So good luck.

  76. @Ankor #75:

    It’s funny for me to see how by just saying that for example in MBSR courses the same form of meditation is being taught triggers a rant against MBSR and your idea of what goals/objectives MBSR practicioners might have. I wonder how can you know, why do you even care? 🙂

    Again this is not about comparing or finding out what’s better. It was just something I noticed since I’ve read about the meditation techniques they teach in MBSR…I even said “for example”. I hope you recognize that behaivor in your self and maybe think about why that is. Why do you have to react in such a strong way when someone says something like I did? Why do you have to try to strongly distinguish your “zen” from other “traditions” or whatever? Look at that…maybe you learn something really interesting then…

    But again my point was just that they practice the same kind of meditation. It’s not at all unique to Zen. MBSR even teaches you to have no goal while sitting, not to expect anything etc…so at the end while doing “meditation” you and MBSR students actually do the same. Maybe for different reasons…but does it really matter? 😉

    “Sitting meditation for example tends to cause pain and not only reduce it (somewhere else), reaching the subconscious tends to create stress (when alleviated at other times). Just a week ago an abbot of a famous temple told me that a zazen trainee became psychotic and had to be brought to a hospital.”

    Okay but what do you want to tell us with that? That the goal of “zazen” is to get psychotic? And that it’s a good thing? Something like “real man don’t strive for stress-relief and being with less pain (or learning to deal with pain in a better way), they sit until their ass hurts really bad and continue doing this real practice until they get psychotic!”?

  77. #81 Daniel: I know because I do my homework. It is not the same form of meditation and I told you why. I gave you explicit characteristics like the “body scan” and also different results. If it’d be the same, there would be no money or spread in MBSR because I named you adverse effects that are not prominent in their marketing. Still you insist – and that after obviously neither having done MBSR or zen meditation – that: “at the end while doing “meditation” you and MBSR students actually do the same.” It is a widespread problem that people project every method or teaching derived from (x)-Buddhism is the same or at least compatible.

    Showing differences has nothing to do with a “rant”, it is intellectual integrity. Why do you just engage in rhetorics, I had 3 questions for you in #45 and none was answered.

    “but what do you want to tell us with that?”

    You requested a comparison of meditation methods, and I told how I see it. You said “We compare/talk about different forms of meditation itself” in #65. now you say: “Again this is not about comparing or finding out what’s better.”

    That is your problem, not mine. I said long ago that views like that are subjective and do not have to repeat all the time that mine is, too. I have a clear opinion based on my life and experience and there is no need to hide it. Thats why “(I) have to try to strongly distinguish”. Anything else would he hypocrisy.

  78. @Angkor #82: Okay, last try. I never said Zen = MBSR. I just said that in MBSR they also practice mindfulness of what’s going on in your mind. So paying attention to the thought process. When a zen-guy and a mbsr-guy sit down and do that practice they both do the same, if they learned it from a zen-teacher or a mbsr-teacher.

    Of course mbsr-guys might also do body-scan or pay attention to the breath for example. Or just practice being aware of whatever goes on without picking a specific object like thoughts etc.

    And zen-guys might also practice reciting the heart-sutra, or bowing or walking meditation, or practice eating like the ancient asians or practice using koans or also practice paying attention to the breath (deshimaru, shunryu suzuki etc.).

    But I never aimed at that. I just pointed out that in MBSR there’s also the practice you mentioned of being aware of the thought-process going on. I didn’t talk traditions and that’s what I’m also not interested in.

  79. Daniel: Okay, I can agree with that, also I do not tend to use a word like “mindfulness”. But: There is more after watching the thoughts. I actually do not know if Kabatt-Zinn would say so. That is why extracting a part out of a tradition is okay for therapists with different goals, but on the long run it might just create another tradition – that of a meditation called MBSR (in this case) as derived from Buddhism minus what this meditation in Buddhism (or at least in zen) is all about. So discussing MBSR is not much different from discussing a “tradition”, those methods are established to last (and in some cases to bring in money). It is, to me, like adapting vegetarianism but reducing it to eating broccoli.

  80. I have a very concrete question: what might some of the features of a de-x-buddhisized sitting session be?

    I am constantly experimenting with the issue that Matthias discusses in the final two paragraphs of his article, “No More Meditation!” The issue is, as Matthias puts it, “creating an environment in which a conversation can take place.”

    I think all this is a level which is at certain points open to a much wider perspective. But first it is about creating an environment in which a conversation can take place. In western buddhism there is mostly no conversation. Talk comes from the guy in front which is invested with the necessary paraphernalia to talk in a one-way monological manner. But this is only to preserve the status quo, to reestablish a hierarchy which in the west went missing in action during the last 50 or 100 years when the societies of discipline developed to the societies of control.

    Conversation would mean to establish peer-groups which resemble our hierarchically flat social landscape, in which none the less knowledge is unevenly dispersed, to provide room for the (development of forms for the) exchange of portrayals of experience. Therewith certain laws should govern this exchange. For example “truth is the death of communication” or “all memory is fiction and, more specific, “there is no secret hierophantic knowledge told only to the true believers” and: every attempt to express experience is totally free in the confines of “this is what I make of it,” while at the same time the spontaneous affective all-knowing critic takes a backseat and shuts up. There are many models to establish an environment which facilitates an open and creative atmosphere for conversation about or better “in” experience. But, sadly, buddhism, perhaps, even less than other religious undertakings, seems to be one of the domains where this aspect of an open society is strongly prohibited.

    As I indicated in my exchange with Tom (#9 and 36), I see the entire session as “practice.” So, broadly conceived, the entire session is a “conversation” that we, the participants, are having with one another. Viewed in this way, we can observe a session and ask: what is the conversation about? what is the exigence (in rhetorical analysis = the real-life spark)? What is being communicated in the very form of the session?

    Those questions give rise to more specific ones. A session, for me, includes the obvious components of sitting and post-sitting dialogue. But it also includes the less obvious–because deceptively peripheral– framing components. Two features of framing are protocol and material. Protocol includes the permitted gestures, movements, signals, and speaking aspects of the session. Material includes the session space, and the objects that fill the space. Is there, for instance, a statue or bell? How do the practitioners interact with such objects? Are there candles and incense? Why or why not? What about sitting style–are there cushions or chairs? I am seeing more and more the need to bring into this discussion–at some point in the future–ideas stemming from the field of ritual studies. One way of approaching Matthias’s environment issue is, I think, to look at how we ritualize a sitting session.

    So, does anyone have examples of how, in concrete terms, we might go “about creating an environment in which a conversation can take place”–a conversation, of course, related to the very issues raised here?

  81. #85 Glenn: “I have a very concrete question: what might some of the features of a de-x-buddhisized sitting session be?”
    I guess it is a session without any interest in/feeling for the possibility that thoughts can come to a stop, to a halt, s.th. that is obviously doubted in non-Buddhism.(?) Without any belief in s.th. transcental happening, i.e. a perception that is not comparable to the usual (thinking), s.th. that was described by the old masters of zen and s.th. that the so called near-death experiences that cardiologist Pim van Lommel and those who had cardiac arrest and no oxygen in their brain describe (although perhaps misinterpreting them as going “from conscious to conscious”) – a feeling of “oneness” with everything. S.th. that does not reflect what also authors sometimes explain in their stories, I just read one of Richard Brautigan e.g. where he says of a protagonist: “All thoughts were gone from his head like bandits fleeing a bank during a world depression” (retranslated from the German).

    All the other things can be neglected anyway, bells, statues, cushions, they don’t matter because sinking is a state of mind. In yoga some people stand on their heads to change their minds. Form is not as important, obviously. All the outer material equipment is not a big topic, insisting on it is just a form of attachment, although it will probably not destroy the ability to watch your thoughts (or more).

    The big question is most probably where you think, based on scientific evidence or your own common sense, makebelief begins or how open you are to s.th. transcendent. If you think this is just part of x-Buddhism, you probably stop at exploring your brain activity consciously and feel effects like stress reduction etc., if you are lucky enough not to scratch s.th. in the subconscious that was there already and will be triggered by meditation and maybe cause a psychotic state. I am sure (because I was told by trainees) that this happens outside x-Buddhism (if MBSR IS x-Buddhism?), so it may then just be considered s.th. with therapeutical potential.

  82. Glenn no. 85: Now this is something that I can begin to understand (and, retrospectively, also Matthias’ original post). Not that I have anything really to contribute, (certainly nothing concrete) but I do observe that in the “Secular Buddhist” fields and, I assume, MBSR, ritual—at least, “traditional x-Buddhist” ritual—seems to be one of the things that people want to jettison. What if this is the baby and “meditation” the bathwater?

    Personally, I find “bells and smells” (to use a pejorative phrase used about High Church Anglican Christianity here in the U.K.) very attractive. They work, of course, liminally. Where/how does “ritual” become “liturgy” and “performance”? (I’m thinking of the Catholic “Mass” here, does any of it apply in (x-)buddhist situations?)

    Is it possible to act a solo performance or is dialogue essential? Does the x-Buddhist icon of the solo-sitting-Buddha-eyes-closed-figure miss something important?

  83. Peter (#87). I think you do offer something concrete here. For instance, those several questions at the end of your comment are wholly relevant.

    I should add quickly, for all future comers to my question what might some of the features of a de-x-buddhisized sitting session be? that by “ritual” and “ritualization,” I mean all forms (bodily, verbal, interpersonal, etc.) that a group–in this case a sitting group–imbues with significance, whether implicitly or explicitly so. Do you take your shoes off when you enter the sitting space? Doing so is an act of ritualization. Which gestures are permitted? Which are not? Do people sit in a circle? in a rectangle? facing each other or the wall or an altar? Is the language formalized? Is it spoken is an altered (hushed, slow) voice.

    Fully developed ritual, such as devotional practice, magical rites (meaning things like “giving transmission”) or high liturgy, can, as you say, be jettisoned. But what I am talking about is unavoidable. I am referring to the fact formal bodily, verbal, and inter-relational acts are inevitable. Being so, the crucial questions becomes what choices do we make; and what do those choices serve?

    I see these kinds of questions as a way of further investigating Matthias’s proposal concerning “creative atmosphere.” If I want the group of people with whom I am sitting to sit in an atmosphere of open questioning–if, that is, I want the very environment to engender the very thing I am valuing (say, open questioning)–then would I sit in the front of the room on an elevated zabuton in front of a buddha statue? Hell no. Why not? Because the very form suggests a quite particular ordering of personal relationship, of hierarchies. How, them, should the sitting be structured? In even the simplest of sitting environments, we are making dozens, maybe hundreds, of decisions that communicate and engender, whether consciously or not, what we take the nature (or purpose or value or whatever we call it) of sitting to be. To your last question, for instance: if we see sitting as a form of dialogical engagement with other people, what does it mean to stress an individual practice?

    What I am suggesting with this talk of ritualization is that we can make progress in explaining to one another what we understand sitting practice to be by depicting the enviroments that serve the practice. So, maybe later I can explain to Robert what my environment looks like–what choices I have made in creating an environment–and he will, perhaps, better understand why I say sitting is…whatever I say it is.

    Thanks!

  84. re Glenn‘s #85 & 88

    What might some of the features of a de-x-buddhisized sitting session be?

    I have the idea of a gathering of people who meet quite naturally. It is not about coming together to meditate. It is about being together because the group has a certain appeal to everybody who takes part. For example the appeal that the group allows for ideology to become visible and therefore furthers growth (Yes, what growth, in which direction? that is also the question). This would also mean that people with this certain appeal to each other would somehow be in a form of contact beyond a weekly schedule or the like. But this is already something developed.

    My concrete thoughts about this… the creative atmosphere : Maybe somehow „framing“ the whole gathering to make it clear that not knowing is ok.

    My intention would also be to somehow constantly give back a question like why meditate? And also, as facilitator, to make it clear that I am not there to give answers, but that I am only there to help keep the process going. Tom‘s references to psychoanalysis also comes to mind here where the free flowing associative monologue isn‘t so much interrupted by questions of the analyst but kept going, if the patient asks him something, with the question what do you think?

    My intention would be to even go further back and to ask: Ok, we are here to have a conversation about meditation. How do we want to create our space here, our time-slot in our busy lives? The very act now to begin to think and talk about this is the beginning of the practice. How do we want to constitute ourselves as a group Wouldn‘t this be something like de-x-buddhisizing the session, because it undermines the assumption that there is somebody who leads the whole thing.

    I personally have the idea to bring a group together with myself at once stepping back, in that it is clear from the beginning, even in the announcement, that the group has to do everything on it‘s own. The only intention is, at first, to come together with the the prospect to, possibly, break on through to the other side. The exact reverse of the Stanford Prison Experiment or The Wave.

    Of course I would be at first a facilitator. But my part would be to provide ideas in regard how an open conversation can take place, where one can learn about certain kinds of conversation, how much should we have to learn – we already speak, we don‘t have to invent the wheel again. Perhaps it really boils down to quite a few rules as how to frame question: More How? & What? less Why? (cf. Ron Stillman‘s #40)

    Maybe a big question is how to act when the group is gone far enough to tackle more difficult questions, or otherwise put, when one can perceive that there are suspensions. Items, themes, topics better not to be touched. What to do with these hotspots?

    I really don‘t now if this is of any help. I think the difficult thing is that, if somebodies goes to a practice session with the intention, the motivation, to learn something about „meditation“, and the idea of this has to do with „buddhism“, „zen“, some „tibetan stuff“ or whatever, with a grounding of a subtle information flow about this topics by the culture industries for many years – then you can do whatever you want, it will be perceived through this filter.

    So the real framing is in the participant… If this does not become clear it does not matter how the externals are framed. If it becomes clear it again somehow does not matter…

    Your question Glenn what is being communicated in the very form of the session? make me think of something utopic or fantastic (in a positive sense). The very form of the session could provide a blue print of a very other form of life than that we are forced, more or less, to live. Our lives are compartmentalized. Everything just in time. The utopia would be that of a very other form of communication, of establishing value and meaning in a community. Perhaps that is the real important point.

    Sorry, that‘s all a bit fragmented. It seems much more important to me to think about the intentional aspects than about the physical externals.

  85. Robert, re 38

    And my monologue continues. I don’t mind mostly talking to myself for the time being. I continue to think along, this seems a good way to take stock every once in a while. Writing things down forces you to be as precise as you can, and writing things down in a public forum does so even more.

    So what did I learn? Well, one obvious thing seems to be that writers and commenters here just want to meditate, and are quite worried about getting it right. What they want to accomplish through meditating, and why meditation is the most efficient way to accomplish this is not yet clear to me. Nor is the ethical aspect sufficiently considered. Is sitting, and talking about our sitting a good thing to do in a world that is unjust, where people suffer in a real way so as to allow us to do this rather self-indulgent kind of thing? This is not an easy shot, the fact that I cannot answer this question myself is beginning to bother me tremendously.

    At this time for me meditation is like eating steak. I do it, I quite like it, and I forget about it until the next time. I am an ex x-buddhist, we all know x-buddhists by and large like meditating and it becomes a habit that is hard to shake. Also, there is a bit of a superstitious fear that if I were to stop meditating things will become more difficult, and I don’t really want to find out if that is true. This is also why I still sing dharma songs under the shower every morning, but enough about me…. I do wonder though how different I am from at least some of the folks who visit this blog, no longer buddhist but still meditating. Maybe it’s just hard to give up, like smoking.

    If I am to continue meditating I intend to give it a very different spin than what seems to be suggested here on this blog. I would like my meditation practice to become more deliberate, more full of thought, more calculated and more focused. Less ‘just sitting’. But as a technique and on the surface very much in the Buddhist tradition, e.g. focused and relentless meditating on your mortality, and why not do it in a cemetary? Introduce a poem or a text into my sitting practice, and really chew on it. When thoughts drift, focus on the breath, and then back to the text. That kind of thing.

    I want to think my own way through life, pathetic as it is, think and set my own agenda. Thinking is where it’s at. Laruelle, Badiou, Becket, Wallace, none are/ were meditators, all are relentless thinkers, thinking themselves out of easy answers. Maybe meditation can help somewhat, but no big deal if not.

    Somehow I don’t see that spirit of relentless thinking reflected in the kind of meditation that is being discussed here. This to me feels like the 1000 monkeys with typewriters approach. If anything, the monkeys will write about bananas, and how delicious they are. They are not going to write the masterpiece that reveals our hidden ideological loyalties, even though that seems to be the hope. For that you need to think.

    Hope this helps for somebody out there.

  86. Robert (#98). My reader response notes to your edifying monologue:

    [Commentators on this thread are] worried about getting it right. What they want to accomplish through meditating, and why meditation is the most efficient way to accomplish this is not yet clear to me.

    I am concerned about what the very “it” is. A woman came to my sitting group last week. After the hour-long sit, she made a comment about how refreshing it was. I asked, “what was ‘it’?” She happens to be a student at Naropa. So, as you can imagine, her initial response consisted in a crash-course in the lexicon of contemporary buddhemes. “‘It’? Well, living the dharma.” Silence. “You know, meditationsamadhipeacethebuddhaequanimitycompassionjustfollowyourbreathstayinthepmomentweareallonethedalailamathichnhathahnsharonsalzberghappinessispossiblenothingspecial.” I pulled out some Pinter:

    [Harold Pinter on meeting Samuel Beckett, in a letter to a friend. Pinter is in his early twenties. Some Englishcisms changed to Americancisms] The farther he goes the more good it does me. I don’t want philosophies, tracts, dogmas, creeds, ways out, truths, answers, nothing from the bargain basement. He is the most courageous, remorseless writer going and the more he grinds my nose in the shit the more I am grateful to him. He’s not fucking me about, he’s not leading me up any garden path, he’s not slipping me a wink, he’s not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he’s not selling me anything I don’t want to buy — he doesn’t give a fuck whether I buy or not — he hasn’t got his hand over his heart. Well, I’ll buy his goods, hook, line and sinker, because he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty. His work is beautiful.

    We reflected on “it” for the rest of the evening. The inconclusion was that it obviously had something to do with the mere stillness, silence, attentiveness, and togetherness. We also reflected on how the (minimal yet rigorous) structure and protocol of the session contributed.

    Nor is the ethical aspect sufficiently considered. Is sitting, and talking about our sitting a good thing to do in a world that is unjust,

    I think Matthias‘s articles and comments on this blog are permeated by the ethical aspect. He does not necessarily use that language explicitly; but he does so implicitly. He is concerned with humans in interaction with one another and with our shared social-cultural-technological atmosphere. One reason I have been concentrating on the last two paragraphs of his essay is that I see them as posing what are essentially ethical questions–questions asking what now? One reason I mentioned “togetherness” above as a component of the “it” that was so refreshing to the sitter is that I, too, am beginning to think of sitting practice more and more in binary terms. The on/+ switch yields an ethical-dialectical practice: it is a means of interacting with others in a way where we mutually influence one another. Ideally, we are influencing one another to, in the most minimal terms, become open to that practice of inquiry, both silent and verbal, with others in and of itself. The off/— switch is solitary sitting, and, for me, yields sensitivity to dissolution.

    Also, there is a bit of a superstitious fear that if I were to stop meditating things will become more difficult, and I don’t really want to find out if that is true.

    It would be interesting to do an experiment. Stop sitting for a while, take note of “things” (emotions, behavior, self-control, etc.); then, begin your sitting routine again. The point is, it does make a difference. But what is the difference and what is the “it”? I came to my current hypothetical approach to practice in just this manner. It was like emptying out my room, say. Just throw every single item out. Then, after a while, I started adding back in what I needed. Okay, I need something to sleep on because my back gets fucked-up on the bare floor; need as blanket ’cause it’s cold; need a light bulb to see. As for sitting: need stillness, silence, and attention hovering around my breathing body. When with a group, need all of that plus a circle of chairs and cushions or something to sit on; need an hour or so of silence and stillness; need some dialogue at the end of the hour, and the dialogue needs to be sensitive to ideological formations.

    This is also why I still sing dharma songs under the shower every morning

    I actually dreamed last night that I was performing a devotional practice based on the Bodhicaryavatara by Shantideva. I was filled with a sense of joy and security. Waking up, I reflected on the fact that, yea, that kind of structure and belief has real value. How pleasant to live as little Pollyanna-bodhisattva in the land of butopian splendor. The only problem is that subscription is not a matter of mere choice. And, like all subscriptions, it locks you in, and at real costs.

    If I am to continue meditating I intend to give it a very different spin than what seems to be suggested here on this blog.

    What you then go on to describe is along the lines of what I have been trying to advocate elsewhere on the blog.

    I want to think my own way through life, pathetic as it is, think and set my own agenda. Thinking is where it’s at. Laruelle, Badiou, Becket, Wallace, none are/ were meditators, all are relentless thinkers, thinking themselves out of easy answers. Maybe meditation can help somewhat, but no big deal if not…Somehow I don’t see that spirit of relentless thinking reflected in the kind of meditation that is being discussed here.

    That final sentence–are you sure? I think several people–Tom Pepper, Matthias Steingass, me for instance–have been adamant about the necessity of thinking in all of this. In fact, it has been said in many places and contexts that the no-thought-depths-of-the-body rhetoric was illusory. If we assume, as I do, that thinking is happening all the time, then the question becomes how do I think better? This is where sitting culture can be beneficial, too, as well as ethical. In dialogue with others, I am influenced and shaped by their thinking and expression. And in a sitting environment, we are all influenced and shaped by what unfolds–structurally, verbally, ritually, etc.–during the session. Hence, we are back to Matthias’s last two paragraphs of the current article.

    What now?

  87. One thought I had earlier this day: You could talk about possible issues/danger of the practice etc.

    Quite in the beginning, when I joined my meditation group, I realized that people there sometimes talk about positive effects of practice during the discussion at the end. Talking about possible issues doesn’t seem to be that popular (the founder of the group does it anyways…).

    I’m not quite sure whether that’s bad thing for them, but if you want to have “de-x-buddhisize” a session you could start with talking about “negative effects of meditation”.

  88. Glenn, re 91.

    Thanks, Glenn, I very much appreciate your patience. I mean well. When I seem to act dumb I am not faking it. When I sound like a prick, that’s what I am.

    I asked:

    [Commentators on this thread are] worried about getting it right. What they want to accomplish through meditating, and why meditation is the most efficient way to accomplish this is not yet clear to me.

    Your response illustrates my point in that it is all about how we don’t know ‘what it is’, how a Naropa lady got it wrong, and how we continue to pick away at getting it right. I continue to look for an answer to the two questions. Or a convincing explanation why the two questions are inappropriate, should not be asked, cannot be answered, take your pick.

    I said:

    Nor is the ethical aspect sufficiently considered. Is sitting, and talking about our sitting a good thing to do in a world that is unjust,

    The response is about ‘concern with humans in interaction with one another and with our shared social-cultural-technological atmosphere.’ This is not the kind of injustice I am referring to. I meant the holocaust-like scenarios that are playing out today in the third world and indeed under our noses, the destruction of our environment for reasons of greed. You know, real concrete man-made suffering, babies starving. And an effort to understand why those things happen and what we can do about it.

    Finally, my argument that I see no evidence of true thinking about meditation on this blog. I would withdraw it if I saw any effort to answer my two questions (I know, broken record). Let me try to explain once more. I get hints of what we want to accomplish through meditation: reveal hidden ideological loyalties, live with questions, basically (coincidentally?) everything that we value. But I get inncomprehension when I ask how sitting and ‘attention hovering around my breathing body’ is a cause of any of that good stuff happening. Or why ‘just thinking’ isn’t enough.

    Thanks, Glenn,

  89. #93 Robert: “the holocaust-like scenarios that are playing out today in the third world and indeed under our noses, the destruction of our environment for reasons of greed. You know, real concrete man-made suffering, babies starving. And an effort to understand why those things happen and what we can do about it.” and:
    “tI get inncomprehension when I ask how sitting and ‘attention hovering around my breathing body’ is a cause of any of that good stuff happening. Or why ‘just thinking’ isn’t enough.”

    You probably know it was taught already that from a meditation like zen there is not to be expected anything good. Why? In this way we do not create any illusions or expectations when we go into sinking. On the other hand, what will happen, what could happen when the goals openly defined by some teachers take eftect? If s.o. is not attached as much as others to his ego, to his possessions and his ideas, wouldn’t he/she be the ideal candidate to work with Africans on the problem of malnourishment and similar problems? Because such a person could a) listen to the other’s position, b) bring in himself and lend a hand, c) spend his money. All this should be expected from non-attachment.

    What you can of course not expect is that you automatically get into the position of changing anything for others significantly, because you do not have the power. Therefore, if we study who makes the rules and how to get there, some of those abilities are required that are usually underrated, consciously destroyed or even ridiculed in Buddhism – e.g. a certain greed for power. Or the ability to kill (some problems would be solved much quicker if certain people in power would be taken out of the game, like the ruling clan in Syria right now). As I understand Matthias for example, he wants the individual to know where he is blinded and bound by those power forces and free himself from it. Combining those innerbuddhist intentions with some more common in manhood will surely not lead to a powerful position.

    On the other hand, if you do not define yourself that way, handling problems like the injustice in this world is totally up to you. I suggest starting with the situation around you. Where is an injustice you can solve? I cannot see that meditation is hindering s.o., except when there is not enough time to do both. In this case, I would recommend: Drop sinking, act! When once asked in a Buddhist forum what I would consider a good meditation group and how I would lead it, I answered: I would look for people who travel with me to a country X and relieve people from suffering there – by teaching/educating, by nursing, by doing what s.o. is best in. So instead of meeting to meditate I’d suggest meeting to adapt what meditation is all about, giving up your ego. Although that is not my personal way right now (or I believe I do not need a group to do things like that), this is the real effect of insight. Now that requires people who had some insight already, one may think. But actually insight here could stem from the action itself. It is like s.o. practising a martial art with his body in move and his mind focused till exhaustion and finding a different view on reality through non-stillness. In other words: You do not have to be awakened to do the awakened deed. It will be the deed changing your thinking anyway. You practice an acting kind of meditation. Contrary to Glenn I believe that you can reach the common goals of meditation with non-sitting and non-stillness in your everyday action. As I said, I have met physicians, teachers etc. who impersonated in their mindframe as in their deeds what non-attachment or a Bodhisattva ideal are about – and I understand them here not as x-Buddhism but rather as some common ethical value that exists worldwide.

    So you are completely right, Robert, thinking is not enough. But the thinking that must usually come before a meaningful help for those suffering is not the same thinking (at least not all of it) that we are SINKING for. So to “work” on ourselves, to better understand ourselves, the luxury of sinking (after or accompanied by DOING) is still s.th. worthwhile.

  90. Robert (#93). And I appreciate your persistence–and insistence. You say:

    Your response illustrates my point in that it is all about how we don’t know ‘what it is’, how a Naropa lady got it wrong, and how we continue to pick away at getting it right. I continue to look for an answer to the two questions. Or a convincing explanation why the two questions are inappropriate, should not be asked, cannot be answered, take your pick.

    I do know what “it” is. But that’s only because I know what my objective in employing sitting practice is. It’s also because of my objective that I incorporate dialogue in my definition of “practice.” My objective, too, is what makes me give careful consideration to the unavoidable ritualized sequences of gesture, movement, and speech that make up protocol. What is my objective? It is to work toward what Matthias is calling a “creative environment, a shared environment for the “training of consciousness for more self-awareness, for more cognizance of the particles of self” and others. That’s all. I don’t know how or what we need to do beyond that basic structure. Again, I see that structure as ethical-dialectical because it potentially constitutes the first step in real-life action and interaction, in real-life decision-making and response.

    So, if the person reciting buddhemes got something wrong, it was that she was speaking a different language. She got it right in terms of a traditionally articulated and formalized x-buddhist rationale for sitting practice. But I–and everything about the environment we were in–was proposing and exploration other than what an x-buddhist frame could yield. And that “other than” requires a different way of speaking.

    But I get incomprehension when I ask how sitting and ‘attention hovering around my breathing body’ is a cause of any of that good stuff happening. Or why ‘just thinking’ isn’t enough.

    I think that the sitting practice as I’ve articulated it is a form of thinking. It’s thinking toward the zero-end of the continuum. I understand that continuum as running from manic uncontrollable discursiveness through deliberate concentrated consideration toward still transparent reflection. The practice as I currently understand it hypothesizes that sitting still and silent, etc., might be not so much a cause but a factor for creating “good stuff.” Remember though that I am calling “good stuff” the mere creation of an exploratory environment.

    I wonder if we should all go back and read Matthias’s essay? (I noticed that we have several German-speaking commentators. You might want to read it in German, too.) I bet we’d see a lot more, now that we’ve had this 90+ comment discussion.

    Thanks, Robert.

  91. Robert,

    Let me try to get clear on what your question is. You suggest that you cannot see why “revealing hidden ideological loyalties” could help us to “understand why” the “holocaust-like scenarios” we see today are happening, and what we could do about them. What do you take “hidden ideological loyalties” to be? I know this may seem off point, but I think if I understood what you meant by this, I could answer your question as far as MY version of meditative practice is concerned. Because it is my contention that it is exactly our ideological assumptions that are preventing us from seeing the causes, and the possibility of solutions, to the kinds of problems you mention.

    Most people in the U.S. would not be able to even conceive of the possibility that there is any connection whatsoever between their cars and cellphones and lives of relative, and the suffering in the third world. The connections are invisible, or for those who see these connections, the only possible solutions are educating those poor dumb Africans, or killing some evil leader, or giving some of our money to a charity. A solution that would actually make a real change is invisible, exactly because of our ideological attachments. And even assuming somebody can grasp their ideological investments, and see what kind of change could solve these problems, they are often unable to make these changes, because they cannot abandon the powerful investment in their ideologies.

    These are the things that I would suggest meditation can help with. To reveal our hidden ideological attachments is not simply something we “value,” a popular pastime of the leisure class. In fact, it is something almost nobody “values,” or is even capable of doing. For most people, when they say the are aware of their ideologies, they mean they are aware of the ones they really don’t believe in or practice anyway–it is very rare to be aware of your own ideology. I would argue, for instance, that many people come to Buddhism because it seems to ideologically alien, they do in fact want to move outside their ideological world, but what they get is the insistence that their “deep” experiences are already “pure,” already a “buddha-nature,” and so already outside of ideology; in fact, they are taught to cling even more powerfully to the ideological structuring of their experiential world, and have the illusion that this is freedom from attachment to “views.”

    So, can you give me a concrete example of what you understand “hidden ideological loyalties” to mean? Then, perhaps I can begin to suggest how meditation can (NOT without thought, of course) push this farther?

  92. #96 Tom: “The connections are invisible, or for those who see these connections, the only possible solutions are educating those poor dumb Africans, or killing some evil leader, or giving some of our money to a charity.”

    So this is what Tom understands. Whereas I look for promising, not dumb people and would not give money to a charity at all. No charity! NGOs and charities do a lot of damage, too. Besides, nobody else can do it for me. But when I see a hungry man, I can feed him. Thinks are simple when you are on location. Action is not a mindgame.

    And let us not forget, there is another solution: To do nothing. If you think you HAVE to do anyhting, you are still struggling. Out of that not-having-to-do-anything the possibility of action or no action appears – not only one way. This is one effect of sinking and seeing through the attachments of your thoughts/feelings.

  93. Re #97. I know I said I wouldn’t respond to Angkorverlag anymore, but this post is such a perfect example of what I was talking about in #96, I can’t resist. So, I’ll give one more attempt.

    This is the kind of inability to see one’s own ideology I would like meditation to overcome. Angkorverlag suggests that he is beyond attachment to thought and feeling, but cannot see any solution to problems in the world except for personal, local action. Any attempt to think of a systemic solution is, well, unthinkable, because it is mere “mindgames,” not “on location” action. This insistence that thought is the ultimate evil, that only immediate personal action is meaningful, is the most pervasive strategy by which capitalist ideology prevents any organized attempts to change things for the better. Then, when I say things that pierce this ideological shield, Angkorverlag responds with irrational and excessive anger, then, of course, quickly denies any anger at all (one of the strategies of zen as a mode of interpellation is that it tends to make the practitioner blind to his or her strongest feelings, convinced she has transcended any attachments to mere ideology). This insistence that one has transcended ideology exactly by increasing the intensity of ones attachment to the ideological structuring of experience, this holding blindly onto ideology, refusing to see it IS ideology, and deluding oneself that one has escaped such things, is the function of much of the western practice of Zen.

    My point here is that when I suggest we can become aware of our ideologies, it is this level of ideology we must work on–not more superficial things like voting republican or patriotism or racism. Angkorverlag is in a pure, blind, fury of ideological attachment, devoted to his zen-capitalism and unwilling to even hear anyone. But my hope would be some people might be able to REALLY achieve some distance from their ideologies, and think of ways to make serious change–and also be able to produce motivation to act collectively to carry out the change.

    Does this make any sense, Robert? Am I responding, yet, to your question? If not, perhaps you can give me something more to work with, like an example of what you mean by “ideological loyalties” or what you would see as a useful solution to the very real global horrors going on today. Maybe then I can try to explain how I think certain kinds of meditation practices can be useful, and get beyond the mere self-indulgent sinking into contentment while contemplating a flower and sipping tea that Thich Nhat Hanh, among others, offers us.

  94. Tom (#96).

    I would argue, for instance, that many people come to Buddhism because it seems to ideologically alien, they do in fact want to move outside their ideological world, but what they get is the insistence that their “deep” experiences are already “pure,” already a “buddha-nature,” and so already outside of ideology; in fact, they are taught to cling even more powerfully to the ideological structuring of their experiential world, and have the illusion that this is freedom from attachment to “views.”

    One particular aspect of this issue has always interested me. I refer to the replication, hence perpetuation, of core ideological beliefs in the guise of an x-buddhist overhaul. The committed x-buddhist practitioners whom I know have, as you say, indeed made an effort to move outside of their ideological world–but not too far outside. Maybe it’s a case, in fact, of their moving outside of their ideological spiritual apparatuses, rather than their ideological thought-worlds. I think of the crypto-theism/atmanism that pervades the writings of so many western x-buddhist teachers. In fact, when I just paused to think of some names, I could not think of any who do not display a theist/atmanistic prejudice (in Gadamer’s sense). I could point to specific cases of militant, if sublimated, Catholicism in contemporary x-buddhist writing. I could do the same for various strands of liberal/reformed Judaism and Protestantism. I would bet that the same could be said for Dzogchen, Nyingma, Nichiren Shu, Soto and Rinzei Zen, Southeast Asian Theravadan, and many more traditional x-buddhist forms. The ones I just named, for instance, replicate and hence perpetuate indigenous forms of “shamanism” (for lack of a better word), Shinto, spirit-worship, and animism. One aspect of institutional x-buddhist decision, as I am trying to articulate it, is precisely this kind of totalizing usurption of prior forms. For that to occur, those forms must, in the first instance, remain intact. A component of individual, psychological/affective decision, seems to be, as I think you suggest, the strengthening rather than the alteration of core ideological beliefs.

    In my current version of sitting practice, the importance of unveiling our core ideological beliefs is addressed overtly. The importance of developing sensitivity to ideological formation is also made explicit. I think that my introducing this aspect of practice into the dialogue portion is the main reason that the group has shrunk from a good thirty participants each session to seven or eight. Meditation is marketed in a way that self-selects people looking for confirmation of their received spirito-ideological bias, albeit, as you say, in a disguised, properly exoticized, romanticized form. I am struck by this fact, too, whenever I view secular-buddhist and atheist-buddhist websites and FacileBook pages, not to mention more traditional x-buddhist ones. Talk about blind devotion, dogged dogma, precious piety, papist certainty, and all the other dispositions of an ardent ideologue!

    These are some of the reasons, too, that I am interested in developing speculative non-buddhism as an applied theory–as a heuristic.

  95. Tom, re 96,

    This is what I think/suspect. Hidden ideological loyalties manifest as fundamental assumptions about the nature of the world and my place and role in it. These assumptions are felt to be obvious, that is why they are hidden. These assumptions are ideological not only in the neutral sense (e.g they are assumptions shared with others), but this particular kind of ideology has a self-perpetuating aspect, one of its objectives is to stubbornly resist any questioning of itself. Why things are the way they are appears to be self-evident. In terms of individuality this ideology manifests as an assumption that the self is a localized, continuous and real entity, rather than some simply a useful construct. As a worldview it supports the notion that it is ok for one person to benefit from the suffering of others. e.g. that injustice is ok. There is a connection between this belief in a self and this worldview, one feeds the other.

    I want to fundamentally dissolve this ideological haze because it creates a real sense of discomfort in me. Not because it is all so interesting. And that implies not just sitting with this discomfort but doing what needs doing.

    I think the only way away from this discomfort is through thinking, a thinking against the current, an uncomfortable thinking so to speak. Meditation can only play a extremely minute role in all of this, in that it can provide the discipline to bring you back to the thinking that needs to occur any time the ideological pull moves your thinking away into more friendly and thoughtless territory. My ideal meditation sessions are deliberate and explicit thinking sessions.

    Thanks, I very much appreciate your feedback.

  96. #98 Tom: “Angkorverlag suggests that he is beyond attachment to thought and feeling, but cannot see any solution to problems in the world except for personal, local action.”

    No, Tom, that is what you suggest. You have a certain way to personalize discussions and project your wishful thinking into others. Just go back to what I said, never for example did I say that I am beyond attachment to thought. There is a common misunderstanding of zen practice. Zen accepts the world, that is also thinking and feeling. And if you read more, you can clearly see that I have given very concrete examples that are beyond personal action, I just refer to the way to get into the position of power to do so. See, Tom, my postings just say that you should find YOUR way instead of looking at others all the time. If you think you have to do s.th. local or above local, let us see, let us read about it. Because then this is YOUR koan, so to say. What troubles you does not necessarily have to trouble others.

    “Angkorverlag responds with irrational and excessive anger.” Hmm, please tell me where you see the anger now.

    I am sorry, Tom, are you German and trying to lead a personal discussion here that you just tried to avoid in a German forum?

    “Any attempt to think of a systemic solution is, well, unthinkable,”
    Not to me. What about you? Where is your systemic solution? Instead of blaming others, why not suggest one, for the sake of this discussion (which should not be about persons so much, I guess).

    “one of the strategies of zen as a mode of interpellation is that it tends to make the practitioner blind to his or her strongest feelings”
    If this wouldn’t be too personal again, I’d suggest to ask my girlfriend …

    “Angkorverlag is in a pure, blind, fury of ideological attachment, devoted to his zen-capitalism”
    I remind you that a zen-adept, as you may very well know of zen-rhetorics, if advanced, can act as a mirror. Please see yourself clearly now.

    Dear Tom, I “made change” already. A couple of months ago I saw it again – people in a third world country living with their newborns in the hut that I had built for them, a boy once unable to walk in his teens now, still slim, but looking for his first girlfriend. You should be careful with your words. Every month a school is informing me of the attendance and development of a schoolboy learning English in Southeast Asia. This might of course all be much too small for you.

  97. re Robert # 90: Thanks a lot for your open and honest account. You are certainly not talking to yourself.

    My impression is, in a way we do what we talk about. This is already practice. Certain people really take pains here to develop a conversation or perhaps even a new discourse in the sense that we try to find a new language for something which has not been put into language very well up until now. The move away from the buddhemes is not easy. We are used to them since half a century or so now. Now as we see that these buddhemes say nothing, that they are depleted of substantial meaning, it would be a wonder if somehow somewhere out of the blue sky an easy understanding would develop. But this conversation here is for real. Ron (are you still reading?) wondered in #27 if there would be a way to have the same kind of interchange, or something similar, on the web. In a way this here is it. Of course it is nothing compared to sitting together face to face. But the struggle here is at least part of it.

    I am motivated my self to go out again and to put something into action with other people. There will not be a lot. Glenn related the falling numbers of participants in his groups. Also the conversation here seems to get more difficult when it comes to the point to develop real strategies for practices shorn of transcendental representations of x-buddhism.

    One point I would like to make in regard to my text and the conversation I mention is about the struggle. Struggle is necessary and of real value. The struggle to develop something new out of the nagging impression that I nearly know what it is but I cannot put it into words right now, that is the real point of creation. It will pop out. The idea comes. Suddenly I can put it into words. And then it is coupled with the strong conviction that I have it right. It is definitely not the one rhetorical move which my interlocutor is unable to respond to. It is more like getting a text right, a poem, a painting…

    The nagging feeling of uncertainty, second, is lost to many people because they a) don‘t like it (uncertainty is no good) and b) it is simply a too subtle impression in everyday live and we are normally not trained to watch out for it. In this regard, I think, certain kinds of practices can be of help. Think about metacognition what you want. It is a helpful thing. Let‘s define it simply as the ability of watching ones own consciousness without being to much dragged away into daydreaming. If this ability gets better, one is better able to watch more subtle moves of cognition. For example affective reactions are better identified witch could lead to more relaxed reactions. This is good for conversation, isn‘t it? But also the nagging feeling of getting nearer to something new which hasn‘t been expressed before comes in sight more clearly and I can decide consciously that this is a sign that something is developing. So I can sit in conversation and let it bother me.

    The nagging feeling is a motivator. But it should be put into conscious consideration and therefore I must be able to recognize it and to recognize it as something positive.

    So I would say struggle is positive. The differences here between the interlocutors are like fertilizers in this struggle. The creative differences which lead one to more thinking, not the dead-end-differences from all-knowing super heroes.

  98. Re 100. To further elaborate: I want to force myself to recognize that my comfort comes at a cost, a cost in suffering of others. This I believe is the one recognition that this hidden ideology I would almost say ‘does not want me’ to realize. This recognition creates discomfort in me, and I must channel that discomfort to grow a certainty in terms of what to do about such injustice. What good is learning to live with questions and uncertainty in this context? That just ensures that nothing will ever change. Meditation descipline can maybe bring you back to this place of discomfort when you drift away from it, as you will. Not go back to the breath, go back to the discomfort. And don’t let thoughts drift, think things through in as focused and precise way as you can. That should be the purpose of the session. And don’t wait and see how things evolve, have a plan about what your siting will be about before you sit down. But maybe better to just abandon meditation, forget about it. Some very bright people have said some very remarkabe things, have written remarkable books and poems, have realized some exceptional breakaways from ideology, all without ever meditating for even a minute.

  99. Re 104: This is true, and I doubt anyone thinks that meditation is the only way to accomplish anything. For me, the difficulty is only partly in breaking out of ideology–although that can be profoundly difficult. There is also the matter of gaining the motivation to do what will be necessary to change things for the better, when there will be enormous resistance, many apparently good reasons not to try, and no real “profit motive” in doing it. Many people will say that, for instance, the value we place on competition is not beneficial but destructive, but will they have the strength to stop competing and start cooperating? Can you summon the strength to go out and persuade people to become aware of, and let go of, their most powerfully held ideologies, when all you will get for it is abuse and hostility most of the time, and nobody will pay you to do it? This capacity for effort, I think, is another possible benefit of Buddhist practice. We may also be able to get this motivation from a poem or a book, but I’ve personally never seen it happen. Although, if you know of such a poem or book, please let me know!

  100. Tom, back to 96. You ask:

    Let me try to get clear on what your question is. You suggest that you cannot see why “revealing hidden ideological loyalties” could help us to “understand why” the “holocaust-like scenarios” we see today are happening, and what we could do about them.

    That was not my question. What my question is is how meditation as described by Glenn and Matthias can reveal hidden ideological loyalties. Or can do so more efficiently than thinking can.

  101. #104 Robert: “I want to force myself to recognize that my comfort comes at a cost, a cost in suffering of others.”
    That is hinted at by Indra’s net in the Kegon-sutra. We are all linked somehow in this net, so this comes as no surprise. But you probably mean a material and financial imbalance. Unfortunately, you don’t say what “comfort” and “suffering” means here. But I am pretty sure it can only be that. Because however you live, you will not change the suffering from ageing, sickness and dying by living in a materially privileged way. Buddhism is just about that suffering. It is not about the suffering from a lack of income etc. Buddhism is about the suffering in the mind, the thoughts that are attached (also to ideals and ideologies). So you are talking about two different things here. YOUR meditation can erase your discomfort with certain thoughts but it cannot erase other’s discomfort with theirs nor can it erase financial imbalance.
    “maybe abandon meditation” – of course, but no one has yet erased the financial imbalance but some have done so with their own discomfort.
    “Some very bright people have said some very remarkabe things, have written remarkable books and poems, have realized some exceptional breakaways from ideology, all without ever meditating for even a minute.”
    Yes, but they haven’t found a solution BEYOND words and thoughts that was applicable to the whole world. Nor has a Buddha.

  102. Meditating is understood in the wrong way. Many people who have outstanding ideas do a kind of sinking, actually. Their ideas may stem from either exhaustive thinking or from a somehow blank mind where s.th. new pops up. They find a totally new standpoint by dropping their old mindframe. All very similar to effects of sinking. Only when the outcome of this is applied, the discomfort in others can be relieved, either by teaching them the same way (their mental discomfort) or by practical deeds (the material imbalance). The first is an application of insight – if others find it without meditation and can explain how it worked, they may of course help without any Buddhism and sinking. The second is an application of non-attachment, an altruism, which can most obviously be derived from other things than Buddhist meditation. But again, meditation is not in the way, when done right. In zen it was described like this long ago: 如擊石火似閃電光 Like fire of flint, bright of flashing lightning. This describes thirst for ACTION. As an effect of sinking. If it was felt in ancient times, we should understand where our meditation might go wrong.

  103. Robert re # 106: „What my question is is how meditation as described by Glenn and Matthias can reveal hidden ideological loyalties. Or can do so more efficiently than thinking can.“

    „Hidden ideological loyalties“, do you mean hidden values or believes like the one in reincarnation, which prove themselves affective in being defended under any circumstance, against every argument? My answer is difference! Like uncertainty and struggle it is essential. Not that it is the goal to learn to simply stay in uncertainty but to see it as a sign that something valuable could develop. What do you do here? You are uncertain about meditation and you ask questions! Obviously a difference appeared in your system which bothered you enough to begin asking.

    One more point re your question. You ask „can meditation as described by Glenn and Matthias reveal hidden ideological loyalties more efficiently than thinking can?“ You still speak about a „,meditation“ with some hidden value which puts it above thinking. This is no question any longer. Nobody speaks about such a thing here.

    Robert re #104: „Some very bright people have said some very remarkable things, have written remarkable books and poems, have realized some exceptional breakaways from ideology, all without ever meditating for even a minute.“

    Don‘t you come back to the point I make in the text. „But »meditation« is no longer an option.“ Of course I mean also the babylonian confusion about the term – which also here in this discussion still prevails, just as we flinch in sight of the need to dump this megabuddheme. But what I mean in the text is also that certain practices of, let‘s say mental discipline, are only a preliminary, an auxiliary to healthy interaction. And the mental discipline could very well be something trivial. It is only a discipline to the uneducated. Today for example it is a mental discipline to cut off the steady infusion of norms of the societies of control through tv, radio, handheld, computer/internet etc. pp. Today most people in urban areas are unable to even remain a couple of minutes without checking their in-box. Your „bright people“ have achieved remarkable things exactly because the where able to cut off the infusion. If you see meditation as something distracting, that is my point: Throw it overboard!

    Tom re #105: „We may also be able to get this motivation from a poem or a book, but I’ve personally never seen it happen. Although, if you know of such a poem or book, please let me know!“ How about “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”?

  104. Re: 106. Okay, I think I get the question now–I was misunderstanding a previous comment. This is actually something I try to address in the new essay I’ve just written, in drafty form. For me, it isn’t a matter of helping to reveal the ideological assumptions, which we can also do in theoretical or conceptual thought, but also of enabling us to experience them AS ideological, and not truth. This relates to Matthias’s comment 109: the ISA essay can reveal, I think does argue convincingly for, the NEED to transform the ideological apparatus in order to allow for real social change (particularly the educational system), but Althusser continued to struggle with the problem of what exactly would MOTIVATE people to do the difficult work of forcing that change, even after they saw it was necessary. He tends to offer aesthetics as the source of this motivation, while theory is still necessary as a conceptual guide.

    Someone once said “we feel what our parents thought,” suggesting that the things they could conceptually understand are the assumptions which can guide our action in the world. I would say that meditation can–doesn’t usually, but can–help shift us from understanding our ideologies and ideologies to really feeling that they are, and so feeling less bound by them, and more able to adopt another, more useful one.

  105. Re 107: Given this comment, Angkorverlag, I can see that we will always disagree. You say that

    “however you live, you will not change the suffering from ageing, sickness and dying by living in a materially privileged way. Buddhism is just about that suffering. It is not about the suffering from a lack of income etc. Buddhism is about the suffering in the mind”

    I absolutely cannot agree with this understanding of Buddhism, and I suppose that is why we disagree so strongly. From my perspective, the notion that the mind is in any way separate from the material world is simply an introduction of a subtle atman (yes, Matthias, that pretty much has become my mantra). The lack of income, suffering, poverty, starvation etc are all a result of humanly constructed structures, built and held in place by our thoughts and actions, and so they are exactly what we need to change. Your version of Buddhism is what Zizek attacks, and I think rightly, as a postmodern ideology of capitalism. It assumes an atomistic mind, that can separate itself from the suffering of others, and from the effects of the material world, and seek comfort in the blissful depths of its oriental wisdom.

    I suggest that you need to give more thought to the full implications of dependent arising.

  106. Re 110. Thanks, Tom. This is a helpful response, and food for thought. Looking forward to your essay. Much appreciated.

  107. #111 Tom: “From my perspective, the notion that the mind is in any way separate from the material world is simply an introduction of a subtle atman.”
    This is another rhetoric trick of yours, because you can expect a certain “fear of atman” within the Buddhist scene, as critical as it may be. So I just want to inform (though it has nothing to do with what I said, as we will see) that atman was introduced in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra already. Thus the onesided view on anatman has long been corrected. Many Buddhists do not know this stream of Buddhist scriptures dealing with the Tathagatagarbha.
    On the other hand, of course you misunderstood me again because once more you just project your ideology on me. You just bring in your own notions and pretend that they are the notions of others. The mind IS NOT separate from the material world, that is why we have statements like this in zen: “The mind and the universe are one.” The separation is, you said it yourself, created in your mind, not in mine. Repeatedly, you use words for idelogogies (like “capitalism”) that seem to inhabit YOUR thinking.
    “The lack of income, suffering, poverty, starvation etc are all a result of humanly constructed structures, built and held in place by our thoughts and actions”
    Not at all. You mix everything together. Cancer is not the same as depression. There is different suffering, and some is obviously not caring too much about the powergame. Poverty, starvation, the lack of income are of course a different matter. If you think the Buddha dealt with those please give concrete examples from (x)-Buddhism, otherwise I do not understand why you bring up those topics here. As we all know from hagiography, the Shakya guy left his rich home but did not for example donate the wealth of his clan to the poor. Still, it is possible for s.o. not attached to his own belongings. Then, if you want global solutions instead, come forward with some and do not forget to explain why insight and meditation hinder you to successfully adapt them.
    “It assumes an atomistic mind, that can separate itself from the suffering of others”
    This is wrong, too. Actually, the suffering of others is clearly seen, but as the suffering of mind, the troubling of thoughts. You cannot feel the tooth pain of another one, you can only imagine it, and you are not the expert to deal with it if you are not trained enough, have the means (medicine etc.). But this suffering of others is “solved” if yours is solved, i.e. that you see it without being disturbed by it. I have to say that I see and feel the suffering of others and act concretely, and I have given some examples. But I am not troubled by it as you. And again I say, if you are, your meditation form is wrong to me.
    “I suggest that you need to give more thought to the full implications of dependent arising.”
    The training method is not “to give more thought”, on the contrary. You seem to totally misunderstand the training of sinking. It is one thing to deconstruct the language of Buddhism but another to totally neglect such basics. Then, we are not talking about s.th. that can even be named “x-Buddhism”. What is the training method then? It is to get rid of the dependance on dependent arising by thought, i.e. in your case of being troubled by it. Dependent arising is a concept of “x-Buddhism”, an ideology that you have to overcome. It is upaya, a means, not more. You will leave it behind on your way.
    #110 Tom: “shift us from understanding our ideologies and ideologies to really feeling that they are, and so feeling less bound by them, and more able to adopt another, more useful one.”
    Yes, you will exchange one bulk of thought system with another. Good luck!

  108. Yes, Ankorverlag, this is exactly my point. For your kind of Buddhism, the tathagatagarbha is another profound truth, for mine it is an error, a reactionary retreat from the truth of Buddhist thought. For you, the suffering of others is “solved” once it no longer bothers YOU, for me, the suffering of others must always be actually relieved. You assert that that things like starvation, poverty, lack of income are “Not at all” the result of humanly created social structure, and for me this is so obviously the case that I can’t imagine what you might think does cause it. You can separate cancer and depression as different kinds of suffering, but cannot separate the kinds of suffering we cause, and the kind that is an inevitable part of being a living thing.

    Of course the Buddha dealt with changing social systems–but not, as you suggest, by setting up charities and “concrete” giving. His response was to produce an intentional community, in which awakening was possible, and to encourage people to reject the brahmanical emphasis on sacrifice, the cast system and the “keeping of the fires” which were the core of the social organization of his time. With just a little less “sinking” and a little more reading, this would be quite obvious.

    I am well aware that your method is NOT to “give more thought.” That is unfortunate, because your ignorance and poor reasoning are terribly obvious. I am suggesting that if you DID a little more thought, it might help. Dependent arising/sunyata/anatman, are not “skilfull means,” but core concepts of Buddhist thought, and if you feel you do not need to accept them, why bother with Buddhism?

  109. #114 Tom: “You assert that that things like starvation, poverty, lack of income are “Not at all” the result of humanly created social structure,”
    No, and I did not say that. I will stop discussing with you because you are unable to read. I left it open, I left a definition of YOUR ideas (or ideology) up to you. You are not much advancing there, still prefer to attack others and project. You do not give your worldview, just one or two statements that are like common sense. You refuse to answer even simple questions. I am just stating some facts here, but I am now tired of your misbehaviour. So here is some (and in your case the last) payback or better, some frank words: Dear Tom, you are obviously a beginner on the way. In a sense, we are all, in another one, we aren’t. Those who aren’t know what skillful means are and dump them like their daily shit. I am already beyond that kind of “x-Buddhism”, as you can see from my independence of anatman, dependent arising and the other vocabulary. Just change your reading list a bit and you will learn more about how the Shakya guy used the anatman teaching as a skillful means. But that is not even the point. What is beyond dependent arising, you have to find out yourself, reading will not help, thinking will neither. But meditation/sinking, which is supposed to a one topic here, can.

    “For you, the suffering of others is “solved” once it no longer bothers YOU, for me, the suffering of others must always be actually relieved.”

    The suffering of others is solved when they do not suffer anymore. It is simple as that. No, Tom, you don’t get my way of talking. Here is what I said:
    “this suffering of others is “solved” if yours is solved, i.e. that you see it without being disturbed by it.”
    I talked about YOU, Tom, not me. As long as you do not get that, you will not solve your suffering, neither that of others. Because you will continue to project, maybe even global solutions, on others without having gotten to the root of (your own) suffering. If that would happen, the effect is open. As you can see in my definition “solved” means that you do not have the “must solve” in your mind anymore, therefore the problem of others is “solved”, just in that way. Ergo you may work for Greenpeace, become a politician, whatever YOU have in mind, or NOT. You just don’t know – because you don’t know THAT state of mind – that there is not only one way [of active/global/whatever solution] how to deal with the world when you have stopped your own (mental) suffering. If you act without having solved your own suffering, we can be sure (because of the examples of others) where that will lead to.

    Mine is solved. You do not have to care about mine. So one less to go for you …

  110. I forgot that one. “His (Shakyamunis) response was to produce an intentional community, in which awakening was possible, and to encourage people to reject the brahmanical emphasis on sacrifice, the cast system and the “keeping of the fires” which were the core of the social organization of his time.”
    Yes, he created a bunch of beggars that were not even allowed agriculture … Sigh. Therefore, as we saw through history, those communities have indeed NOT relieved the suffering of others that is based on starvation, poverty, lack of income …
    If that is supposed to be a world model, how naive is that? Yes, my brain is incapable to take an argument like that seriously. Just create a community based on the book (the palicanon) and be killed by your religious enemies that do not mind taking up the guns. You do not only have an ideology, you are also a dreamer. What kind of meditation does that? And now, good luck to you and good bye.

  111. Okay, Angkorverlag, I’m done with you. Thanks for illustrating my point so thoroughly, and I will restrain myself from addressing you in the future.

  112. Excellent thread Glenn. An environment where a conversation can take place? A conversation can take place almost anywhere. Meditation can be seen as a tool. Every situation is different. Time – as in what is the time – is a social convention. And time keeping is another important element in a shared session of meditation. Exploring being can be as much of a motivation for meditation as having company, or the need to be read or heard, or the need for dialogue or the need to clarify any other needs, etc.

    What is a hammer for? A pragmatist like me simply answers the following: it depends on the need of the user. The same applies to meditation. Generalizations are a trap? No, they are simply relatively less useful- except for those who just simply need to make them, maybe to gain attention or seem knowledgeable as academics tend to do. I think that a common need expressed in a relatively unconditioned dialogue/meditation session/setting is to explore what/how we/you/me perceive at that moment. But then again every situation is different, not because there is something different going on out there, but because we are contingent, language-using animals that construct and try to fulfill needs the best way we can.

  113. Tom Pepper’s 34 to Garett’s 33

    Dear Tom,

    I didn’t want to spend the time on a rebuttal to something..so..potentially..inconsequential, but the combination of your haughty, sledge-hammer-like tone and your dramatic incorrectness is so incongruent as to be a bit fascinating. I’ve read your paper laying out Samsara as Ideology and thought the meat that followed the very long appitizer was quite good. Worthwhile. Benficial even! But you don’t seem to play well with others.

    Tom Pepper said:”You assume there is a core and unified self that is basically conscious but lacking in strength and skill.”

    Since this is your first sentence is it fair to say that what follows relies upon it? You seem awfuuly eager here to conclude I’m an atman believer. Further on you say “you seem terrified of the danger that understanding what you’ve read here might upset your sense of a permanent separate deep self”. Weak pixels TP, and it decreases the likelihood of folks really relying on what you say.

    How in the world can you feel secure that you know something so profound about a person based in this exchange? You are coming across as a braggadocios hypergraphic seeking to experience, over and over, his sense of personal superiority. I have no idea how you really are. Based on the line of investigation you are fueling here, I can say, however, that I would like to get to know you. We’re interested in the same things.

    Its clear you think you have a truer understanding of emptiness/lack of inherent existence of phenomena than I do. Is that a fair reading of your reply to my post? That’s quite a leap, which exposes the magnitude of the superiority complex working within your personality. And, maybe that’s great. Maybe that is the exact critical-point-condition needed to make this project blossom, and maybe this is the most important social/psychological/philosophical project of the next 200 years, who knows! But I suggest, to enhance your success, that you care more about your interactions with all people, as opposed to just the ones who meet your prestated criteria for respect from Tom Pepper.

    But, if behaving in ways that draw people closer to you, and inspire them to believe what you believe and to collaborate with you isn’t the result you want to produce, then your behavior is perfect.

    So, as an experiment, if you’re interested in learning, reboot your computer and consider the following:
    The person typing what you are reading has experienced the “significant lack” that “is” emptiness, has perceived radical immanence, and understands the deconstruction of all phenomena and dependent origination.

    Open the regedit of your brain and add that code. Every time your thinking insists it is not so, stop right where you are, remind yourself you do not really know otherwise, and examine the current content of your mindstream to find what may be causing people to call you “horribly cruel, mean and rude”. Take a deep breath and swallow a crumb of humility.

    (Since) “there is no such central decision maker, then it becomes less clear why these mental calisthenics are necessarily good.”

    Because it makes me feel good, fool! Since I added to my experience what buddhism I have, I am happier, experiencing less symptoms of depression and sensations of anxiety, more able to convey helpful ways of thinking in my colloquial hometown language to people who almost universally say they are glad to receive it. I sleep better, have a better job, and a greater sense of well-being than I ever have before. Btw, some years ago, when I was much the other side of the well-being coin, I was quite sure I was on the track of revolutionary ways of understanding and expressing reality, and ultimately changing society and the world, and I was convinced it needed changing. But I’m better now.

    My line over the years has been “it doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter what you think you think. It matters what results you produce.” If you insult people and push them away then that is your result, and your behavior is 100% perfectly executed for producing that result. If people are drawn to you and interested in your work and so on, then that is your result, and your behavior is 100% perfect for producing that result. Either way, congratulations on being 100% successful!

    I have found that by examining my interactions with the world in this way, my self-honesty improved – I became a “truer” person, and my results in the world changed dramatically for the better. And that’s what I wanted.

    “There is an enormous difference between suggesting that meditation can help bring unconscious mental processes into awareness, and suggesting that we can “choose” to discipline the mind.”

    Are you saying humans don’t/can’t “choose” to change the volitional thoughtstream that appears within their consciousness? Do you not think a person can exercise a level of choice in deciding what not to think about? You seem to be saying a person can’t choose to discipline the mind. I find it hard to conclude that that is what you believe, so I must misunderstand, which I suspect you would say is due to my inferior understanding of things.

    I love this one…”The former assumes that the “mind,” both conscious and not conscious, occurs in a socially produce symbolic/imaginary system [I concur, it evidently does]—”the latter assumes a “mind” that is atomistic and completely in control of its desires, just needing to improve its abilities.”

    No, it doesn’t Tom. That’s your assumption. You have taken my words and, wanting to be right, as people like to be, you are using them as proof of your own private logic. What a blind spot! You do that a lot, as others have pointed it out also. I suggest you stop replying to posts with contradictions and rebuttals.

    But you know what? If you don’t understand what I’m saying, its my fault, not yours. I am responsible for helping others understand what is in my mind, if that is my wish. If I want to inspire others to follow my lead and help me accomplish my goal, if I want to change the social structure in which we live by illuminating my enlightened view to society, its my responsibility to make it so, not yours. Any lack of understanding you have about this is due to my own imperfect understanding and communication. I feel that attitude is not only accurate, but it also best empowers me to do better on my next try – accepting its my own level knowledge and skill, which I can change, instead of your ignorance, which I cannot.

    “You end with a defensive claim”,

    I was off the mark with this section of my post and you responded strongly. I mislead you, and in fact, your whole mental formation of me is my fault. I’m being honest – I was referring to my own need for attention for sure. But upon rereading what I had posted in the light of your response I see a not very well concealed passive aggressiveness on my part.

    Its my fault. I have the habit of personality of beginning interactions with feigned timidity. I have advised others to be on the lookout for smarter people and to “be willing to raise the bar on yourself when you find them.” I need to take my own advice here.

    And, I’d like to point out that your reaction to my words may reveal something at play in your personality also. I mean, if I had implied you had pink skin and bovine DNA, it probably wouldn’t have interested you too much. But criticize you for thinking too much and too much bombast? That seems to have pushed some buttons.

    “suggesting you can’t understand what anyone is saying”

    I was in the wrong here too. I can see how what I typed lead you to believe that. My bad. I understand what’s being said. That’s why I can state with confident politeness, even trying to joke about it a little, that what’s being said can be said more succinctly, clearly and accurately.

    “Yes, I know everyone, this is horribly cruel, evil, mean and rude. But if you want to really understand the working of the mind, instead of just strengthening its effects, this kind of rudeness is often necessary.”

    No Tom, its not. That’s just someone trying to justify himself. Is your position so weak, your understanding so unrefined, that you can’t express it in a manner that will allow people to hear it? Are you really defending rudeness as an effective means of influencing others to improve themselves and/or create societal change?

    Nevertheless, I applaud your academic effort. I’m not doing it, and it needs to be done, and I really didn’t post my answer to the meditation question to purposely distract you form you work. As I said, I suggest you not dedicate your valuable time to rebuttal of other peoples’ posts. It doesn’t move your project forward to do so, and its too easy for you to wander into the chicken coop with no shoes on, which you have shown the tendancy to do.

  114. Re 119. Thanks for your advice, Garrett. I do insist, not that you KNOW you accept the existence of an atman, but that your position requires the existence of one, the persistent subtle return of the abiding self. This is a common problem, and as many, many others, you say I am twisting your words or putting words in your mouth or whatever–you need to learn the difference between mis-stating someone’s claims, and drawing out the unnoticed implications of that claim. This is not MY blind spot, it is yours (and a quite common one–ask any philosophy teacher). I don’t claim to know anything at all about YOU, only something about the meaning and implications of what you have WRITTEN. For all I know, you wrote it carelessly and didn’t’ give it much thought, and so it may say nothing at all about you.

    If your goal is to get a better job and a better sense of well being, and you see trying to change the world as some kind of mental illness you get better from, then we have a dramatically different understanding of the purpose of life, and of Buddhism, and I don’t think we’ll ever agree on much.

    By the way, yes, I absolutely DO mean that an individual person cannot choose to discipline the mind–this decision requires multiple individuals interacting, because the mind is not individual. And I do think that what I say will always seem rude, even wrong and evil, to those attached to their comfortable capitalist self. I’m fine with that. I can see you are bothered by it. So don’t read what I write.

    Oh, and you really didn’t give me any example of my “dramatic incorrectness.” I read your whole rant only because I was hoping you’d point one out, but you stuck with complaining about how mean I am. If you have any examples, I’d like to hear them.

  115. Coming back to this thread after a while, with a little distance, the exchange looks to me in parts rather ironic in the light what I tried to convey in my text. It looks like we dig into the ground to secure our positions with occasional gunfights and not much more than an „Asshole!“ now and then. Very old school conversation. That is not what I want to do and it is not what I say – although I myself have not been at the height of my conversational abilities all the time in this thread.

    It is not that I do not wish to get Polemos involved. I think being polemic is legitimate acting when it comes to clear the space for the main act. Like in every conjuration, before the demon is evoked, the magical sphere has to be cleansed. Only then the conjuration can take place. And only if the conjuration is successful the conversation with the demon can begin.

    I think we here succeed in this only partially, if at all. Looking at the last two posts of Garett and Tom I see again a pattern of conversation which especially on Tom‘s side has nothing to do with what I want to achieve. I am sorry to say this, but I think Tom you don‘t understand what I want.

    Maybe it has to do with some undercurrent we should address at one point. We clearly are antagonists in where we have been or where we are in the society we live in. You are a communist, I have been working for years in the very heart of capitalism. I am the „Klassenfeind“, you are the „Staatsfeind“. I read the exchange between you an Luis Daniel (here). At the end it boils down to the antagonism I mention. There is a decision and the conversation ends. I don‘t think we will come very far with all this. I think difference is very important but I am not sure how to handle this here.

    Without going into every detail of pro and con, I find it important what Garett has to say in #33. But he is already declared anathema before even a tiny bit of conversation takes place. That is not what I intend to say with my text. I read your last post #120 and I am once again baffled. I mean, you seem to run into a huge self-contradiction when you say again, like in #34, that it is not possible for an in individual „to choose“ to discipline the mind but at the same time you as an individual you „choose“ to behave in such and such a way. Also you seem to self-immunize when you say „what I say will always seem rude, even wrong and evil, to those attached to their comfortable capitalist self.“

    What all this for me is being stuck in the mud of pale anemic polemics. At no point we really risk conjuring the demon. You yourself Tom talked somewhere about the voices one can hear in meditation, or better the thoughts becoming like voices of strangers, turning into alien utterings which transform the all too well-known me, myself and I into a stranger. I don‘t know who I am, where me thoughts come from, I don‘t know what moves me, where my desires come from. At this point the presence of the demon is felt, a chill pervades the magicians circle and then the conversation begins.

    Am I talking wired stuff? Well, of course. Yes!

  116. No need to apologize, Matthias, for saying what you think. No doubt I am not doing what you want to do–as you say, we come from a different place, and have very different goals. I’m not terribly concerned with causing discomfort, hostility, even outright fury, in those who aim to reproduce and protect capitalism. When Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we should all stop thinking, and just “mindfully” enjoy getting rich producing weapons of mass destruction before driving our luxury cars home to sip tea and stare at flowers, I find THAT rude, offensive, evil. That’s just the nature of being on the opposite side of the ideological fence.

    I do take your point about he contradiction between my choices and the collective mind, though. Let me try it this way: as a subject interpellated in a particular way into an ideology, my “choice” is to act to hinder the reproduction of the capitalist relations of production; on the other hand, I cannot “choose” to improve my own personal private mind and leave everyone else alone, to retreat into seclusion and expand MY mind, because there is not such personal private mind, consciousness is a collectively created thing. These two “choices” are just the same term appearing in different registers. Does that clarify anything? Perhaps I need to be more careful about how I use terms.

  117. Yes that clarifies it. Of course. I know your position. It‘s as with the term „karma“ last year. You have a different view but the language you use is for somebody not familiar with it simply producing an old fashioned picture of just another ideology. You produce a picture of a duality between an atomistic individual and an individual which is product of a symbolic order. I don‘t think that this picture of a duality is very helpful. You consolidate this picture of the good, the bad and you as the ugly with apodictic judgements and an undercurrent of intimations which suggest a lot without naming it directly. Thich Nhat Hanh and the weapons of mass production in your last response. Thus you create meaning with the meaning as center-point. My position is different in as I want „to stay with the development of meaning in interaction“ as I said. My position is that in this way we could learn to see better, if at all, how we create our individual beings in the (symbolic) order we live in.

    We might not be very different about this goal. You make it very clear that your goal is to find a way to distance ,oneself‘ somehow from the ideology which produces one – but: You use the old language and as soon as somebody has not a glossary with him about how you use „karma“, „reincarnation“ and the like, somebody using these terms is in danger of unconsciously using them in the way of the ideology which produced them in the first place (consumer-buddhism). That is why I say „abandon the word“. It is all too easy to say „karma“ again and then to fall back to the argument that one uses it „as Tom said“. This would be a decision. In opposition to that, I say, „you are not allowed to use the word karma. If you want to be real and if you want to express what Tom‘s term means to you, put your thinking to work and find your own expression.“

    The same goes for the pair capitalism/communism. It is building false front-lines. What would you think of me, if I had hidden here my work in the financial markets altogether?

  118. I do see your point about the language, about the possible confusion of terms, but I just don’t see a way out of the problem. To “find my own expression,” it seems to me that would create just as much confusion. I don’t see myself as changing the definition of existing terms, but insisting on the correct use of them–to create neologisms, which is quite common in philosophy and psychology, would just lead to more obscurity and merely put old wine in new bottles.

    I don’t think I’m creating a “picture of a duality,” I am only correcting a conceptual error. A duality would require that these two things (atomistic individual and symbolic/imaginary structure) both exist in a dialectical opposition. I am suggesting there is no actual duality–one is a erroneous conception and so does not exist at all. That is why it is important to remember that one cannot distance “oneself,” this requires an interaction of multiple individual subjects.

    I do not think that discussing the problems of capitalism is creating a “false front-line.” Capitalism is a real structure that controls our lives, and just pretending that it is unimportant to our “real” lives is to accept capitalist ideology. What would I think of you if you had hidden your work? Well, I would think you were a very smart guy, very good at spotting rhetorical smokescreens or conceptual lapses, but stuck on, unable to “see” much less let go of, a few core concepts of capitalist ideology. Knowing your job only explains WHY these are so naturalized for you that it is nearly impossible to get distance from them.

  119. Alright, now we’re gettin somewhere…Thanks Tom for reading my rant and your 120 and 122, and thanks Matthias for 121. I am very interested by this:

    …your position requires the existence of one.(1)

    I get what you mean and hope you’re right and that I can make the connection because if I do I know I’ll be learning something important.

    So lay down the logic with/for me here.

    I think this hinges on the idea of whether or not a person can control one’s thinking and thereby learn new mental habits. I say a benefit of intentionally directing attention to the mindstream is, at first, by recognizing the mindstream at all, a person perceives “oneself” as “not the mindstream.”

    More than two people have told me how revelatory just that awareness, in and of itself, – “I am not my circumstances”- was to them. I guess at one level of understanding and relating to the world, a person becomes completely identified with circumstances/conditions. When this new awareness occurred in them a domino effect took place, and their learning and adapting accelerated. They matured.

    This gave them faith and motivated them to try it again, and again. Because they felt successful, they enjoyed it, and forming this new habit of patiently, without expectation or judgment, observing the mindstream, began to work like calisthenics, one might say, building strength upon strength.

    So, enough of that. Is there something in that that tips you off? From that can one see the necessary “belief” in an atman?

    Tom 122:

    “I do take your point about he contradiction between my choices and the collective mind, though. Let me try it this way: as a subject interpellated in a particular way into an ideology, my “choice” is to act to hinder the reproduction of the capitalist relations of production; on the other hand, I cannot “choose” to improve my own personal private mind and leave everyone else alone, to retreat into seclusion and expand MY mind, because there is not such personal private mind, consciousness is a collectively created thing.”

    Not we’re gettin somewhere! I don’t know where, but I can feel(2) progress happening. I’m still putting the pieces together re the necessarily very particular definition of ideology used in your Samsara as Idology paper. Making progress on that.

    I get this dicotomy: “my “choice” is to act to hinder the reproduction of the capitalist relations of production; on the other hand, I cannot “choose” to improve my own personal private mind and leave everyone else alone, to retreat into seclusion and expand MY mind, because there is not such personal private mind, consciousness is a collectively created thing.”

    This raises some questions that I’m sure will get me (us), if not “on the same page”, at least in the same book, perhaps. {15 minutes later} I’ve got nuthin. I can’t even figure how to frame my questions. I’ve abbridged your sentence like this, to help me focus in:

    [My “choice” is to take action in the real world to support the result I want. On the other hand, one cannot “choose” to improve ones own personal private mind because there is no such thing. Consciousness is always and only, by necessity, is a collectively created thing.]

    Ok, I know you mean more than that, but I needed to reduce it to get at an elusive understanding. I hope the reduction doesn’t totally ruin your point. It leads me to ask: is what you are describing here akin to “One Mind”?

    Are you implying that when one engages in the effort of improving the mind, it has no individual benefit because there is no individual mind. If it is beneficial at all it can only be, by definition, a benefit to the entire field of consciousness. “We” “all” benefit, because “we” “exist” in a shared, dependently produced, phenomenal experience. There is no such thing as “personal” growth.

    Boy I hope that approaches something satisfactory to you. If it does, we are going to take man-sized strides rapidly.

    Another example: A person wants to take better care of their body. Like many, they overeat, and eat things that don’t promote physical health. Their bad eating habit also contibutes to psychological difficulties, manefested in the internal power struggle to harness their willpower, and the self-contempt of failure. (Apply this to any addiction, I guess.)

    This person describes his experience as an inability to control the sensual desire for food. (He doesn’t use those words, but that is what he means.) I say “what food?” He says “huh?” I say “what food are you referring to, that you cannot help but eat?” After one or two more back-and-forth, we concluded together – his challenge is not that he can’t refrain from eating food he doesn’t want to, its that has no skill at not thinking about imaginary food.(3)

    So, person wants to think differently as part of the process of improving their results in the world. Its not necessary to use the word meditation. Does this writing prove the necessary, unconscious belief of an atman in the writer?

    Even if I’m off and we don’t connect on these points, learning that will be just as valuable, for me anyway.
    _________________________________________
    (1) An atman. I’m eager to learn about this because it points to unknown mental factors in operation, and exposing these is key to progress. Progress to what? Good question, he asked himself. Also, I think Atman is a good word, because mostly everyone does not have a strong, if any, sense of knowing its meaning, so a person can approach it with an open mind. “In learning”, to coin a phrase.

    (2) Not using a figure of speech here. I mean a body sensation that through observation I have come to associate with good results, and positivity in general.

    (3) Further elaboration on the complex of thinking, sesual pleasure and addiction seems unecessary here.

  120. Garrett,

    I’m going to try to briefly indicate how my position relates to what I take you to be saying. Those people who find that they “are not their circumstances,” that they can perceive “oneself” as “not the mindstream,” are, from my perspective, the most deeply embedded in their circumstances, so completely that they cannot see this at all. That is, they have simply immersed themselves in a particular ideology which effectively, for them, creates the illusion that they are not at all in a socially constructed ideology. The ritual and context of mediation often serves as the practice in which this ideology is most powerfully produced.

    On the other hand, the idea that there is no “self” improvement because improvement is always a collective thing is similar to my idea. I would not say that there is only one mind—there are multiple symbolic/imaginary systems on the planet, multiple “Worlds” in Badiou’s sense. But every mind is made up of multiple interacting individuals—there is no private symbolic system, it always at least assumes the existence of another conscious being. This mind is not some soul-like thing that transcends the world; it exists in particular symbolic acts and phenomenological perceptions, and so is produced in the world and can eventually come to an end.

    So, yes, all improvement has to be collective, it cannot just be an individual thing. If it doesn’t take place in the symbolic system, it doesn’t really take place at all. If Newton never explained his calculus to anyone, there would be no progress for the collective mind. We are, as a collective symbolic system, always changing in our ability to interact with the world—sometimes for the better, other times for the worse. The improvement, or diminishment, takes place in the symbolic/imaginary structure, not in an individual brain. Of course, you can improve the health and functioning of your brain just as you can your body, but while this may be desirable, it does not necessarily improve the “mind” at all.

    I’ve used the example of mathematics before. When Newton came up with the calculus, he was not the only one to think of it—the symbolic system was in such a state that it was possible for this new mathematical concept to “make sense” to the mind. Very few individuals could understand it, but the “mind” can. Now, a few hundred years later, we can expect that school children can learn this, and mathematics has advanced considerably. The collective symbolic system that is a part of our mind has altered and increased its ability. The individual is always a particular point in this symbolic system, and nothing else. You can improve your individual subjectivity, but improving your “mind” requires improving the collective “mind” of which you are a part.

    I hope this is a bit clearer. I really not completely sure what to make of the addiction example. The individual addicted subject is clearly in an unfortunate place in the symbolic/imaginary structure, and can only be changed by changing the structure, or his own place in it—there is no hope for him to somehow gain skills to control his compulsive thoughts, because these thoughts are in the symbolic system—unless he changes his relationship to this system, the thoughts will be there, and there is little hope of stopping them, or the behavior they lead to.

  121. Mathias,

    I think this goes beyond simply stopping a conversation. Tom seems to choose only what he judges is useful material to expose his ideas. That is a monologue. That is simply not being democratic. Thus when an invitation for reflection and dialogue comes from the fictional “other side” (it might as well just be “other”) of the “ideological fence” it becomes defending capitalism. In abstract. So it is impossible to “to stay with the development of meaning in interaction“ as you say. But of course ideology is important for Tom. His allegations only have track in an abstract world created in his image. And the correct change in ideology regarding “reproduction of the relations to the relations of production” can only be recognized by him. That is his praxis.

    I saw your German blog. You have a piece of Rose of Luxemburg. A better world is surely possible. That is what the revolution of the “concrete” is all about. I think dipping into contingency is one of the greatest uses of meditation. Contrary to what Tom suggests, and more in line with anatma, I think that consistently experiencing and realizing contingency is the single most relevant act of existential awakening one can have. The other one is solidarity.

    I find your “dont know” a great and I should say beautiful example of this: “all this for me is being stuck in the mud of pale anemic polemics. At no point we really risk conjuring the demon. You yourself Tom talked somewhere about the voices one can hear in meditation, or better the thoughts becoming like voices of strangers, turning into alien utterings which transform the all too well-known me, myself and I into a stranger. I don‘t know who I am, where me thoughts come from, I don‘t know what moves me, where my desires come from. At this point the presence of the demon is felt, a chill pervades the magicians circle and then the conversation begins.”

    The siluette of a rock with no cracks is only in our minds. People like Tom see it outside and in all others.

  122. Garett, re your #125.

    I don‘t know if you followed the thread in Meditation and Control. I tried to clarify some ambiguous points there. For example in #5 but more specifically in #10. Regarding your assumption that my „position requires the existence of one [= an atman]“ please take a look at the list of thirteen points there. The fifth point might be of special importance in regard of what you say here.

    I am not sure if I understand you right in what you mean with „atman“, but you make the following point:

    “I say a benefit of intentionally directing attention to the mindstream is, at first, by recognizing the mindstream at all, a person perceives “oneself” as “not the mindstream.”

    What I want to say in the above mentioned fifth point is, that the cognitive ability to direct thinking intentionally at itself might lead to the false conclusion that this thinking of thinking is something other than thinking – namely an entity which is surviving the individual death or an atman. In other words, the ability to perceive oneself as not the mindstream is not some other entity but only the ability to be conscious of ones own thinking – which can lead to the impression something else is watching. All this is is simply a training in self-watching and this is, in my opinion, partly a training in dissociation from affective or compulsive behavior. Thus it is not an atman, but you are right that there can be a benefit in gaining more control what to think. The problem is, one is still somebody formed by the symbolic order in which one lives. More control about what one is thinking can then lead to a more efficient adaption to the needs one is interpellated into (to use Tom’s Althusserian term). In no way it is assured that with this comes insight into the ideology one is part of – what would mean “awakening” as Tom defines it in his last text. The result is, that one thinks one is awakened, has had satory, is enlightened or however you name it, while all one has gained is a more efficient usage of the culturally shaped matrix of concepts one is living – what in the end is an even bigger delusion then before. Examples for this can be found in Brian Victoria’s “Zen at War” or in “Buddhist Warfare” by Jerryson & Juergensmeyer. Also practices like MBSR do become in this way one more tool for a more efficient exploitation of the subject (in Badiou’s meaning). Basically, I think, that is the same Tom is saying in the first paragraph of #126.

    The difference between Tom’s and my opinion might be that I put much more emphasis one what you describe as calisthenics. But: again, please take a look here at my 13 points, especially 6 & 7.

    To come back to what I quoted from you. What I would propose in “intentionally directing the attention to the mindstream” is to abstain from any speculation about what this is while doing this practice. In post-meditation I would suggest to use Occam’s razor regularly to find the most down to earth explanation for what one is doing. At least I would question myself very precisely about what I mean with “oneself” and “not the mindstream”. After shaving with Occam’s razor “oneself” might simply become another quality of the “mindstream”. So I would say the “benefit” you mention is not in recognizing an atman but to become more aware of the content and structure of the individual mindstream. The atman-assumption is a part of the mindstream and with this insight it vanishes.

    What you mention about the “revelatory” quality people relate, this is not about atman but about, I would suggest, the experience that indeed one can be less compulsive, less affective, less addicted and that indeed there is the possibility to change. But change comes with education not with atman.

    So, regarding your question. What you say tips off a lot in me but I nowhere see the necessity to belief in an atman. I think your enthusiasm is right but it is not about an otherworldly force or entity, it is about a human quality which is a given.

    Tom addresses the question in his essay: “How is change possible?” (p. 14 ff in the pdf). Maybe the enthusiasm you express is a force which helps create that change.

    Please keep asking. I don’t know if I have addressed your questions in a meaningful way.

    —————-

    Tom, re your #124

    Some quick notes.

    Terms and definitions: I come back to that in the thread developing with your last text. I have yet to read your conversation with Tomec there. I think this goes in a similar direction. The only thing I want to mention here is the following. What I mean with “finding one’s own expression” in the context of what I have said in my essay is not about creating arbitrary neologisms. But I see the problem in what I try to express. A lot of people responding to the text, more at my german blog than here, think it is about more talking. There is a german term for what people think this is about: “Zerreden”. It means “talking something to death” or “talking something to pieces”. This is not what it is about. But I see that I have to state more clearly what I mean. That is stuff for another piece, so I will not go into this here.

    To distance oneself: I was thinking about the “aesthetics of distantiation” you mention in your text when I wrote this.

    The picture of duality: When you take your time and you do not use your howitzer-rhetorics it becomes much clearer what you mean. Your second paragraph in #34 sounds to me like a dualistic scheme. I think I know your thinking well enough to understand that you cannot mean a dualism but your performance sometimes looks like one (to me).

    With the false front-lines I meant us two, not capitalism as a structure that controls our lives vs communism. That I don’t pretend that capitalistic society of control is unimportant to understand should be clear from me “Meditation and Control”. What I meant was what you express in your last sentences. What “core concepts” you mean? If you see them really, tell me please my aporias. Otherwise I smell pre-justice.

    Matthias

  123. Hi Luis, re #127

    Perhaps we can try to abstract from the person and talk more about themes that we feel are in need to be addressed more directly. If it is right that “all improvement has to be collective” (#126) and there is no“personal private mind, consciousness is a collectively created thing” (#122) – then we could abstract from ourselves and put forward ideas and arguments. A collective process is already taking place here and it reverberates beyond. We are already struggling here and this very attempt of yours is a movement in this struggle. Already there are changes in relation.

    One of the themes which bring fore conflict is the question of individuality. Tom says (here):

    “From my perspective the insistence on the rights of the individual is itself an ideology, the most powerful capitalist ideology, and is just once again a kind of atomism that has no place in my understanding of Buddhist thought at all.”

    It may be good to stop here for a moment and ask what individuality is meant here? It could sound like a stalinist statement disguised as neobuddhism or it could indeed have to do with anatman.

    On the other side you say (here):

    “I am saying very clearly that from my point of view the ONLY acceptable “truth” worth fighting for is more social justice in the context of a democracy. In this sense the “true” is used as a way of imagining a concrete better situation for all, a better future. Doing this democratically means that everyone can participate and explain his or her justifications regarding public debate, the organization of the State as public good, very particularly the rules regarding the redistribution of wealth.”

    Later you bring examples of how in Costa Rica the political process is working. I would demand, as you said, I think, somewhere else, that we look more clearly into what we are talking about. What kind of democracy, what kind of communism, what kind of individuality, what kind of capitalism? I say this because here in Germany, in my opinion, democracy is no longer existing in a way it was intended when it was founded 1949. We still try, but a certain ideology has taken over. The individual is formed in a certain way. I tried to write a bit about this in “Meditation and Control“.

    At another place Glenn said something about “to localize practice” – isn’t the question of individuality also to be localized? The problem might be an overgeneralization of this term. The individual in Germany is formed to great extent to fit consumer-capitalism but this kind of ‘capitalism’ is perhaps a very different brand than the one in Costa Rica. If it is true that the individual is very much formed by the social context in which it lives then we should be much more specific about this contexts.

    I don’t know if this helps, but I find the discussions here interesting enough to look beyond individual emotional polemics. I have to try this more myself.

    Matthias

     

  124. In Philosophy of the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought Lakoff & Johnson propose that almost all of our abstract knowledge is propped up and in-formed with bodily based metaphors and schemas. That all of our ideologies would lose their motive force without these metaphors. So I have been sitting with that lately. Trying to “feel” these metaphors and schemas viscerally. Some easily evaporate like the container schema (an inside, a boundary and an outside). With awareness at the schnoz, a “space” opens up and inside vs. outside appears rather superfluous. If I am super still, the body drops away or becomes real tiny and space appears to grow rather large. Alternatively, forms fall to the background and space comes to the foreground. A neat perceptual shift and I can almost become sympathetic to the Big Mind and/or mind only schools…nah! 🙂

    Re: Robert’s quest for proof.

    For everyone enamored with disaffected French dudes.

  125. Tom, you say in #124 that I am

    unable to “see” much less let go of, a few core concepts of capitalist ideology. Knowing your job only explains WHY these are so naturalized for you that it is nearly impossible to get distance from them.

    I am a bit of a fetishist when I am confronted with claims without arguments (perhaps it comes from trading. Claiming a strategy without proof almost certainly leads to loss. As a corollary, almost everybody not involved in real combat – investment bankers, politicians etc. – overestimate their prognostic ability). As you perhaps have noticed I say things like “difference is propellant for change”. Of course thats deeply embedded in capitalist ideology I am part of – or so I suspect. So would you mind to provide me with some propellant. I am interested, of course for generating more interest, in what my own blind spots are. Excuse my ironic tone. It is triggered by the hidden front-lines I smell. The conversation I mean is not about making allusions and whispered asides.

    That’s for real.

  126. Welcome E! re #130

    Thanks for the reference to Lakoff & Johnson.

    It is interesting what you say about “feeling viscerally” these metaphors. You say some evaporate. How do they feel before they evaporate? To give an example what I mean: I am standing at the cashier-line in the supermarket. Suddenly I think I have forgotten something. This is a thinking without knowing what I will think next, i.e. when I remember what I have forgotten. It may be something like an ‘unease’ feeling that something is missing which feeling suddenly flips into a ‘good’ feeling when I remember.

    Regarding your feeling before the metaphor evaporates. How is this? Is it a subtle feeling like the one I described? Not the same but any kind of subtle sensation in the body? Uneasiness, because it his hard to describe? Similar, when a “space” opens up, or “the body drops away, becomes tiny or grows large”, when you put this in words, are you really satisfied with your description? Does your wordings feel so adequate that they flip the uneasiness of not knowing how to describe it into a feeling which may be satisfying for you. You make a comparison with “Big Mind” and “Mind Only” – is this a satisfactory description, does it really convey for you something like, ah yes – that’s like it?

    What I mean is, with “Big Mind” (you mean the Merzel one I think) you try to convey something to us, isn’t it? But this might be a compromise which for neither side is satisfying. We might end up discussing what we think what Big Mind is veering off-topic. You might be in a much better position if you at first develop a description which is fitting for you and you only. With this unique elaboration it will at first be very difficult for somebody else to understand what you mean. But if the interlocutor is ready to do the same process as you, s/he might come to an understanding also – which again is unique. The process being again the uneasiness, what the heck does he mean?, and without loosing contact with this inner, bodily sensation, in asking, conversing, exchanging, the missing understanding can change into a sudden idea how to express it, which is accompanied by definite change in the feeling – just like the change in the cashier-line.

    The result could be that there are at last two unique understandings with the understanding that they really relate to each other. As everybody was involved in the process there is knowledge that the relation is for real. That is the big difference in comparison to say “it is like Big Mind®”.

    As an aside to Tom. That is what I mean with “finding one’s own words”. I hope this makes it a bit clearer that it is not simply about inventing neologisms. Also this process is in itself no strategy to make visible an ideology. But it could be interesting to ask if and how it could be of help to make it visible.

    Matthias

  127. Matthias, re #131:

    I don’t mean to “hide” any points of disagreement–I think I’m trying to expose them. For me, to dimiss the capitalist/communist as a false, merely intellectual division is exactly what WOULD obscure a very real line of confrontation.

    I don’t want to hint at some mysterious attachments or invisible ideologies, so I’ll just point out the very open and obvious one in your comment. You work from the typical capitalist assumption that the workings of the economy are a universal law, but one so mysterious that it is invisible to the abstractions of thought, and only those mired in the bloody toil of REAL economic battle (which, for you, is not labor–that is just another meaningless abstraction–but trading), can possible see the true working of the real law of the essential, unchangeable operations of capital.

    This is the logic of late capitalism, in which everything is a changeable opinion except the ineffable truth of the invisible hand. We must freely change our ideologies to adjust to the inexorable working of this transcendent law.

    Your response in #132 implies great faith in the intuitive, felt experience to transcend the ephemeral ideology of abstraction, and to get down to the real. This is exactly the blind spot: the inability to see that this rejection of thought and privileging of experience is how capitalist ideology works, because our experiences don’t transcend ideology, they are constructed by it.

    From this position, then, my suggestion that we should get distance even from our gut-level experience could only seem to be overly-intellectual, cold, mean, rude, even pathological. The very possibility that thought itself could be enjoyable remains terrifying, and the suggestion that we could live only for a truth is a kind of pathological anti-humanism; from my position, the idea that we can only find pleasure in our thought-free, abstraction-free experiences is a willing resignation to becoming an automaton of capitalism. Either way, its an ideology–but my ideology leaves me with fewer invisible, ineffable, magical forces to adjust to.

    I hope you’ll take this in the spirit is is offered in. I don’t mean this as a personal attack, but you did ask me to point out your ideological blindspots, and I’m assuming you mean it. I get the impression you are highly intelligent and truly frustrated by the constraints of your ideology (again, this is what I see in your writing, the persona your writing produces–I can’t speak of your actual subjectivity). If I thought you were an idiot capitalist ideologue, with nothing useful to say, I wouldn’t bother to argue with you.

    At the risk of being accused, once again, of being overly enamored with abstruse French thought, can I ask if you’ve read Badiou’s “Ethics”? I’m supposing it must have been translated in german, and it could be a real eye-opener if your blind-spot is, in fact, what it seems to me to be.

  128. Good morning Tom and Mahtias,

    Assuming the confrontation between capitalism and communism is real, as Tom proposes, we would need something more than concepts from 1759 to solve real problems, and we need concrete examples. Perhaps then Tom could deconstruct from the point of view of his communist ideology a simple event, a current affair unfolding as we speak in a communist country, a concrete place which embodies what he proposes. Please Tom can you tell us what part of this process is exactly capitalist and what part is communist:

    “CHONGQING, China | Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:26am EDT
    (Reuters) – The British businessman whose murder has sparked political upheaval in China was poisoned after he threatened to expose a plan by a Chinese leader’s wife to move money abroad, two sources with knowledge of the police investigation said.
    It was the first time a specific motive has been revealed for Neil Heywood’s murder last November, a death which ended Chinese leader Bo Xilai’s hopes of emerging as a top central leader and threw off balance the Communist Party’s looming leadership succession.
    Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, asked Heywood late last year to move a large sum of money abroad, and she became outraged when he demanded a larger cut of the money than she had expected due to the size of the transaction, the sources said. She accused him of being greedy and hatched a plan to kill him after he said he could expose her dealings, one of the sources said, summarizing the police case. Both sources have spoken to investigators in Chongqing, the southwestern Chinese city where Heywood was killed and where Bo had cast himself as a crime-fighting Communist Party leader.”

    Maybe they are not communist enough or perhaps they haven’t yet read Badiou´s “Ethics”? Is that it?

    Power struggles and greed seem as capitalist as they seem communist. If we accept this, then the problem is no correctly stated. The problem is more about how do we deal with power and abuse. Most of us propose to do it in a democratic, transparent way, using market free mechanisms and addressing market failures and abuses. In communist countries that is a matter of the state, in this case of the central polit bureau. As it is the case in Cuba. Once I heard Mr. Castro, who was a friend of my grandfather and whom he helped to get armed here from Costa Rica in 1959, need to buy 70 horses for his personal use here -that was around fifteen years ago-. So I would say there are abuses in capitalist countries, but we have freedom to denounce them and act against them. In communist countries there is no freedom, no possibility to address any abuse from the powerful, from the people in power.

    I am sure they know what this means in the former German Democratic Republic as well.

    Does your ideology allows you to see the problem or not?

    So when you propose to create a new buddhist practice as a tool against capitalism the least you can do is develop it also as a tool against communism.

    Or better yet, against all forms of abuse and injustice, part of which of course is dogma and essentialism.

    Surely democracy, reflection, transparency and dialogue should be a substantial part of it.

  129. Tom Pepper said, in response to #125,

    “Those people who find that they “are not their circumstances,” that they can perceive “oneself” as “not the mindstream,” are, from my perspective, the most deeply embedded in their circumstances, so completely that they cannot see this at all. That is, they have simply immersed themselves in a particular ideology which effectively, for them, creates the illusion that they are not at all in a socially constructed ideology. The ritual and context of mediation often serves as the practice in which this ideology is most powerfully produced.”

    Yes. That’s why the realization is potentially revelatory and why you must agree with my assertion of the efficacy of the practice of thought I described. Those who most completely identify with their circumstances, instead of seeing that “my circumstances are socially constructed. I am not socially constructed. Therefore, Ka Doosh!”, are those that I am referring to as benefiting from some mental exercise.
    Your next three paragraphs are very helpful in understanding your thesis. So much so I feel they should be repeated here.

    “I would not say that there is only one mind—there are multiple symbolic/imaginary systems on the planet, multiple “Worlds” in Badiou’s sense. But every mind is made up of multiple interacting individuals—there is no private symbolic system, it always at least assumes the existence of another conscious being. This mind is not some soul-like thing that transcends the world; it exists in particular symbolic acts and phenomenological perceptions, and so is produced in the world and can eventually come to an end.

    So, yes, all improvement has to be collective, it cannot just be an individual thing. If it doesn’t take place in the symbolic system, it doesn’t really take place at all. If Newton never explained his calculus to anyone, there would be no progress for the collective mind. We are, as a collective symbolic system, always changing in our ability to interact with the world—sometimes for the better, other times for the worse. The improvement, or diminishment, takes place in the symbolic/imaginary structure, not in an individual brain. Of course, you can improve the health and functioning of your brain just as you can your body, but while this may be desirable, it does not necessarily improve the “mind” at all.

    I’ve used the example of mathematics before. When Newton came up with the calculus, he was not the only one to think of it—the symbolic system was in such a state that it was possible for this new mathematical concept to “make sense” to the mind. Very few individuals could understand it, but the “mind” can. Now, a few hundred years later, we can expect that school children can learn this, and mathematics has advanced considerably. The collective symbolic system that is a part of our mind has altered and increased its ability. The individual is always a particular point in this symbolic system, and nothing else. You can improve your individual subjectivity, but improving your “mind” requires improving the collective “mind” of which you are a part.

    I hope this is a bit clearer.”

    Yes, in fact that makes complete sense. And to others reading this who don’t yet see how all this has anything to do with buddhism, I want to offer encouragement. With the three paragraphs above, this project starts the process of replacing x-buddhism’s wanderings off the path of reality into the weeds of magical thought, elaborate imagery, reincarnation, levitation, transmigration/continuity of self, manifestation as insects, ghosts, and so on. Replacing with…(up next, Samsara as the Realm of Ideology)

    “The individual addicted subject is clearly in an unfortunate place in the symbolic/imaginary structure, and can only be changed by changing the structure, or his own place in it—there is no hope for him to somehow gain skills to control his compulsive thoughts, because these thoughts are in the symbolic system—unless he changes his relationship to this system, the thoughts will be there, and there is little hope of stopping them, or the behavior they lead to.”

    Tom, I understand. Can I be of any assistance?

  130. Re: Matthias Steingass #128, in response to #125

    Hello Matthias, thank you for your reply #128.

    I think you may have misread my exchange with Tom Pepper. I stated that I don’t buy the god fallacy. I understand and accept without resistance the concept of buddhist emptiness. Tom pointed out, however, that the sequence of thought I was describing required the existence of an atman, even if it was harbored unconsciously.

    “I am not sure if I understand you right in what you mean with „atman“, but you make the following point: “I say a benefit of intentionally directing attention to the mindstream is, at first, by recognizing the mindstream at all, a person perceives “oneself” as “not the mindstream.” What I want to say…is, that the cognitive ability to direct thinking intentionally at itself might lead to the false conclusion that this thinking of thinking is something other than thinking – namely an entity which is surviving the individual death or an atman.”

    Brilliantly expressed, so obviously, I agree! : ) Too many people resonate with the simple sentence “I am not my circumstances” to discount the observation. Life includes difficult circumstances, physical pain, anguish and fear regarding the topic of death, etc., etc. Too many people live day to day as if they actually “are” this dream. Many live as if they are fear embodied, anger incarnate, desire on two legs. It is my observation that in some, the realization represented by “I am not that” (the mindstream, thoughts, circumstances) is profound, and that mere exposure to that truth facilitates change.

    “The result is, that one thinks one is awakened, has had satory, is enlightened or however you name it, while all one has gained is a more efficient usage of the culturally shaped matrix of concepts one is living – what in the end is an even bigger delusion then before.”

    That paragraph makes me happy, like the smell of fresh-baked bread.

    “What I would propose in “intentionally directing the attention to the mindstream” is to abstain from any speculation about what this is while doing this practice.”

    Yes. Without judgment or expectation.

    “In post-meditation I would suggest to use Occam’s razor regularly to find the most down to earth explanation for what one is doing.”

    Yes, Occam’s razor, or perhaps word count.

    At least I would question myself very precisely about what I mean with “oneself” and “not the mindstream”.

    “Oneself”, meaning the conventional self. Garett’s conception of Garett. “Mindstream”, the automatic, non-stop, repetitive, and frequently non-sensical flow of words, sounds and images flowing through a person’s field of attention.
    Thanks again for your comments Matthias.

  131. Re: Glenn Wallis #46, in response to #33 and #44

    “I think there is something to be said for the approach you take in both comments, namely, what I would call a skills approach. “…I began noticing that the skills rhetoric of x-buddhistic meditation harbored an extraordinarily deceptive, coercive, and far-reaching value system. I became uncomfortable with operating within that system precisely because it operates in stealth.”

    The only part of my buddhistic education I obtained face-to-face, i.e. attending many teachings and even living at the “meditation center” for six months, was Tibetan. My (limited) knowledge of Chan and Pali Canon comes from reading books.
    At the Tibetan meditation center, they do not meditate, at least not in a way that even remotely approaches what is described in Wings to Awakening. The meditation at the Tibetan center was very superficial. You honestly could not legitimately call it meditation. No instruction beyond focusing on the breath to relax, then off into the neverland of Tibetan imagery. So, I concur about the stealth aspect. Whatever they were up to (with wholly beneficial intent, I’d like to add) it was not meditation focused. (Of course it was six perfections focused.)
    This did not have the effect on me that you describe for yourself. I surmise that because you have invested so much of your life to your buddhistic education, practice and teaching that when disillusionment strikes, it strikes hard. For me, I’ve just sucked down as much buddhism as I could over the last 4 years, and never bought the magic to begin with. Thus, less backlash. I always thought “yah, but doesn’t anyone want to talk about reality too?” But never said it, of course.

    “Because contingency, complication, indeterminacy, doubt, and all the other messy processes that make human existence what it is have been allowed a little breathing room.So, while you may be content with your answer, it really just furthers the questioning for those of us who are aware of the act of x-buddhistic decision and who are wary of the dharmic dream. Maybe questioning is “brain-crampin” for you. But, what if the very questioning were the most genuine aspect of the thing itself?”

    I understand. None of the education I have undertaken has lead me to conclude that contingency, complication, indeterminacy, or doubt are “eradicatable” from human life, and nothing I have observed or experienced leads to that conclusion either. One so predisposed might settle into such magical thinking – to live life based on other peoples’ answers. I am predisposed otherwise. Is it true that Siddhatta said something like ‘Believe nothing I say. Question and test everything you hear. If it passes, apply it whole-heartedly to your life. If it fails, ignore it.’? Is it true that once a teaching has been realized, it then must be abandoned? Life is best lived on the outside of the brain. Words, teachings, theories and philosophies live on the inside of the brain.
    To the point – I am eager to learn what you have to teach because I wholeheartedly concur with your thesis, you apply more effort and are way better educated than I am, and because your Dhp and Basic Teachings…facilitated in me calm, and even joy. I hope the objective of this project is to keep the baby, throw out the bathwater.

  132. Tom, re #133

    I really appreciate your response. I asked for it. No problem.

    In #128 I said, with the false front-lines I mean the two of us. You say again “to dimiss the capitalist/communist as a false, merely intellectual division is exactly what WOULD obscure a very real line of confrontation.” I did not talk about ignoring that! “real” front-line.

    But I mislead you a bit with using certain metaphors. Trading is “real combat” in comparison to investment banking in the same way as the teachers in this small town here, teaching in babylonian classes with children from five, six, seven nations fight a real combat while in the ministry of education the dream about “integration” – and I would say non-buddhism is in the same way real combat. In every case we put on the table “real money”.

    I don’t know where I make “the very open and obvious” impression that I work under the assumption that “the workings of the economy are a universal law”. The same goes for the “ineffable truth of the invisible hand”. These are the invisible front-lines I mean. Assumptions you don’t seem to question and which for me look a bit self-immunizing.

    The same goes for your reaction to my #132. Where is this “rejection of thought and the privileging of experience” which is produced by ideology? I even mention that what I describe is in itself no strategy to make visible ideology, but you keep repeating that I don’t see this.

    And then:

    The very possibility that thought itself could be enjoyable remains terrifying, and the suggestion that we could live only for a truth is a kind of pathological anti-humanism.

    That doesn’t feel like me. But then again you could say I am corrupted by ideology and we go on like this forever.

    I can understand that what I relate with the example in the cashier line in the supermarket might be difficult to grasp or even looks like mystical bullshit. But I suggest that one tries to find similar situations. It is not about gut-feeling and spontaneous mysterious eruptions of insights. It is simply about the observation of the process how a bodily felt sensation, which is thought too, can lead to a discursive thought or how it might be paired with one. It is how sometimes a sensation one observes is a precursor of another thought. The creative process of finding words in a text or every other creative process is similar. It is about observing in a finer grained way these processes to understand them better. I think this is the point where such a more fine-tuned self-observation could help to understand the functioning of oneself better and in this way ones functioning in a given social matrix. I content that there must be additional input into the individual via some form of education to enable it to reach for different truths.

    There is something else in your post which is perhaps a real gem.

    I get the impression you are […] truly frustrated by the constraints of your ideology (again, this is what I see in your writing, the persona your writing produces–I can’t speak of your actual subjectivity).

    The first part is true, but then – “the persona my writing produces”… this is really important. I think this still comes with a supposed double-faced person sitting in a Frankfurt skyscraper, overlooking the city, hitting orders in a computer, yelling at other traders, and at the same time writing lovely aesthetic philosophical texts, living as a 21st century schizoid man. But: I stopped trading 6 years ago – for example. I don’t work in any financial institution. I invest most of my time in studies which I would put under the heading: What the hell is going on here?

    The interesting thing is the persona produced through writing. In an antique sense the persona is a mask, it is the role one plays on the stage. How different can this be from an actual subjectivity? But all the more important it is in conjunction with what you write about the question how one could make visible an ideology. You speak about theater in “Naturalizing Buddhism”. (p. 10) You cite Althusser who speaks about Bertolazzi and

    “the production of a new spectator, an actor who starts where the performance ends, who only starts so as to complete it, but in life”

    Could it be that someone producing a persona in writing is in the very process of producing such a spectator? Not that s/he necessarily must, think of Karl May, but that s/he could be in such a process, maybe even unaware while producing it. When I understand you right I produce a persona which is truly frustrated by the constraints of it’s ideology. At the same time you say the producer of this persona is severly constrained by capitalist ideology. What follows, is that the blind man produces something which has the potential to make him seeing again, isn’t it? Could it be that in this way an individual as a nodal point of a subject produces “aesthetics of distantiation” as you put in your text?

    Thanks for your response.

  133. Matthias,

    I just offered what I see, only because you ask. What I’m trying to suggest is that your own example, of economists not understanding the economy as well as traders on the front line, falls back into that “rejection of thought and privileging of experience” EVEN AS you are trying to reject this very thing. What I see in your writing is that you seem to be trying to stop the reification habit, but slipping back into it with many of your examples and metaphors. This sometimes works the other way, as it does in the capitalist privileging of exchange value over use value–this is the structure underlying your thought, and what you seem to me to be not quite fully aware of. The goal would be to see experience as JUST AS ideological as thought, perhaps (often) more so. And to see exchange value as just as socially constructed and “subjective” as use value, instead of as the objective truth of value. My suggestion isn’t that you are “severely constrained” by capitalist ideology, but that to the extent that it informs the structure of you thought without your full awareness of it, you will continue to reproduce it, and continue to be frustrated by it.

    To give an example from my own experience, for over a decade I couldn’t write a thing, was completely in an epistemological wasteland, unable to figure out why I couldn’t ever finish writing anything. I was stuck on the obsession that there must be some final truth–on a complete inability to recognize what I take Nagarjuna to mean by sunyata: in Badiou’s terms, that there are truths, but they must always appear in Worlds. This seems now an obvious error to me, but it was so profoundly structuring my thought that I couldn’t think anything through clearly. So, I’m just offering an observation, because you asked, about what might be a source of conceptual difficulty. I don’t mean it as a criticism or an attack; as I’ve suggested, we can’t see our own blindspots, break free of our own ideological assumptions, except through interaction with others.

    As for the persona thing, the term doesn’t have the negative connotation for me it seems to have for you. I didn’t mean to suggest anything about honesty or integrity, only that we all create personas to meet each situation (there is not authentic “true” self, only a situational self), and I’m sure there is more to Matthias than I could possibly guess at from your posts on the blog.

  134. Tom, re #139

    Maybe the war metaphor I use is not the best and it even may say something about the underlying structure of my thinking. It says, for example, that I have been a trader and am emotionally attached to people who really have the skills to exploit market moves while investment bankers play games with borrowed money without risking anything. I would probably talk the other way around if I would have been an investment banker. In reality both market participants understand the system they are working in in their own way, finding niches to exploit – and of course, both play with borrowed money. Also, what they don’t do is to gain an understanding of the system as such. Each one would indeed say that the market is a natural given. They would think the outside is uninhabitable because the system=subject thinks so. To think the matrix of the market – exchange value – without any possibility to realize that the very matrix is forming the thinking is closure… I think. But a contradiction arises. If I can think this, it is not a closure any longer. Anybody saying the market is everything is contradicting himself because he needs an operator to say this which, at the limit, suddenly lies outside the set called “the market is everything” – in which instant the market which is anything has overlooked something which is not anything.

    What I don’t understand is that you keep insisting that I don’t see experience as formed by ideology. I have stated several times that I do not intend to say that experience transcends ideology per se. Experience can look like a totality and as such like something natural apart from thinking. The most impressive reasoning against such a hypothesis of naturalness I have seen so far in this regard is Walter Ong’s description how literacy probably transforms the thinking of an oral culture=subject. Our experience=ideology as I understand it at the moment is very much formed by literacy. What I want to describe with the example of standing in the supermarket, thinking about something I have forgotten (sic!), is a thinking about the mechanics of this thinking. It is gaining an experience about experiences. That is, I think, an element outside the set which was formally thought as a totality. To repeat it: I think that experience is thought, for example culturally formed by literacy, and that to concentrate more on these mechanics is not a rejection of thinking but instead, a training in seeing, that there must be an element outside this set. In this regard it contributes to finding ways of changing.

    The supermarket example might look trivial. But it isn’t. Glenn did a tweet about a text by Eugine Gendlin. What I relate here has a lot to do with his thinking about thinking. I have only read the abstract so far but I see he mentions the term “intricate”. This in his thinking is a very important term. What happens when one remembers that one has forgotten something and when one tries to remember that, is the observation of this intricate something. The terminus technicus for this in Focusing is “felt sense”. I don’t like to mention this because “felt sense” in the Focusing-scene has since a long time been fetishized – i.e. it became a substitute, while in the sense of Gendlin it is the real, the bodily felt reverberations of embodied thinking (what of course is a tautology). To try to gain more insight into this function has nothing to do with living by gut-feeling and the like. On the contrary. Reacting and decision making based on gut-feeling is affective unconscious behavior while what Gendling formalized in Focusing describes the decision making process in detail. It has nothing to do with making uninformed decisions, deciding on something without any looking at available information. It has to do with the processing of all the information one has. One can watch oneself in this process when one acquires knowledge in a new field. A picture emerges, one feels like coming slowly to a point of understanding and it could happen that suddenly an insight pops up. What Gendlin describes is simply the mechanics of this working. A (meta)knowledge one not always needs and a knowledge which in itself, again, does not transcend any ideology. The best proof for this is Gendlin’s Focusing itself. The whole focusing-scene is infected by the romantic notion that the “felt sense” is the key to some mystic inner holy grail (in fact, insisting on points like this got me thrown out last year from a training for teaching focusing) and Focusing itself should be seen as subset of the literate mind.

    This being very much about experience makes for the misunderstanding that focusing is about some true inner self or some process which happens within oneself. I don’t think that this reflects Gendlins intention. His word is “interaction first” and this is in part the subtext for my text here at the beginning of the thread. Even if I am alone thinking for myself I am deeply pervaded by the environment, symbolic order, culture, technologies which ‘I’ am embedded in. One can even go so far to say that in this sense experience is already expression. Although I would say the jury is still out regarding the question how far one can go here. Metzinger postulates a pre-reflective, pre-attentional experience to be somebody, while with Amstutz and Ong one can argue that there is an interiorization of consciousness with the shift from orality to literacy what might translate into the notion that the experience to be somebody is a product of cultural evolution/adaption. To come back to the beginning of this post, the market economy then is now in the phase of putting this cultural adaption to the extreme. The fragmentation and atomization of the social sphere via the ‘individualization’ of the individual person within an interactional field… well, where will this lead?

    There are some more points here. Especially my last paragraph in #138. Apart from the above, what we can keep as some notes which we don’t have to debate to death right now, I would like to point to the question of the persona once again. But I think I will formulate it again at the thread with your text. So let’s stop it here.

    @Garett: Sorry for misinterpreting you. I thought “…your position requires the existence of one” i.e. an atman, was directed at me.

    @Luis, re#134: You would wonder how many people in eastern Germany dream about how wonderful the GDR was. But anyway, the times of an open argumentative political debate in the Federal Republic of Germany are long gone. As for command economy, I think we are developing a certain kind of this brand of economy. The difference is, to put it a bit sarcastically, in the GDR you had to run to get a ration of loo paper when it arrived and you became because of the lack of choice. Here and now in the supermarket I am overwhelmed. There are fifty or hundred brands and one becomes depressive because of the richness of choice. …did I mention this before?

  135. Mathias,

    A scent of these words …

    Availability and resistance … ignored basic projections … Badiou´s platonism …. Choice and Limits … Capitalism and the Law … the Id and the super-ego … another apology of presentialism … the past as present … what future do we want … (dis)trusting individualuality … free association, dialogue, creativity, language as a tool … the recycling of dogma through essentialism … paying attention to one another … your somewhat subdued hipper-honesty facing the brutally disrespectful hipper-fixated shield of a bitterly frustrated thoroughly self-referenced academic left.

    My modest opinion is that this blog smells fresh and useful and interesting when it focuses on personal experience of buddhist practice and is simply a boring string of abstract recycled academic leftist intellectualism when it tries to become a political program.

    Where is the energy of anarchism and creativity? can we ever elucidate together? Is this the right place? Are these the right words ?

  136. Luis Daniel (#141).

    You write:

    My modest opinion is that this blog smells fresh and useful and interesting when it focuses on personal experience of buddhist practice and is simply a boring string of abstract recycled academic leftist intellectualism when it tries to become a political program.

    How do you understand the relationship between a focus on practice/experience and one on program? I can’t speak for Matthias, of course, but for my part, these two modes stem from the same impulse. Or maybe its better to say that each influences the other. I would add a third element: theory. For, theory, whether implicit or explicit, is operating in that mix as well. I don’t see how the three–practice/experience, social action, and theory–can be separated.

    Where is the energy of anarchism and creativity? can we ever elucidate together? Is this the right place? Are these the right words ?

    It would be good to hear how, for you, the “fresh and useful and interesting” reflections on practice would feature in a political program.

  137. Thanks for the welcome Matthias. re #132

    Yes I am good with the literal descriptions I offered. That’s how it is as simply as I can put it.

    Re: uneasiness. Since I am already concentrating on the breath and rather chilled out, there is little uneasiness hanging around. Any fear or uneasiness precludes the state from manifesting. That said, the bodily metaphors feel constrictive as if awareness is being centrifugally held together or pinned down but because they are well worn the mind feels accustom to them…they are essentially old habits…maybe the oldest.

    I don’t know what the entry trigger is to the open state but I do know the setup (to use a vernacular you are familiar with)…bodily stillness and one pointed focus. If concentration gets one pointed enough, the state ensues (not always) but I am not conscious of a transition. I get concentrated and still hanging out at the nose and when the sit is over I open my eyes to a perceptual shift.

    I’ve chatted with a few of Merzel’s students and so see a similarity. Since I have been experiencing this state as a kid long before I ever learned about formal sitting meditation, it seems rather silly for me to describe it with capital nouns i.e. it’s No Big Deal (hence the jesting). Like many here I have an allergy to absolutist or eternalist doctrines but I don’t mind that folks subscribe to a Mind-Only or Big Mind school of thought (what I see as eternalist leaning)…I break bread with them like I would with the Nihilist Buddhists here :-).

    Shorn of dogma, if everyone is experiencing similar states cross culturally then how they fit into their respective traditional ideology and what is their import would be the individuals “uniqueness”. I sat a retreat with Leigh Brasington and he told me he has many students like me who experienced this state (and others) as a kid and then rediscover them in formal sitting practice as an adult. He has also had folks from other non-Buddhist traditions that use them in the their spiritual practice as well. So like Lakoff & Johnson’s bodily based metaphors that all cultures use, there seem to be a set of meditative states available to humans that they plug into their traditions which helps to give those religious ideologies life etc.

  138. Matthias, re #140

    “Maybe the war metaphor I use is not the best and it even may say something about the underlying structure of my thinking”

    This is all I’m suggesting–not that you don’t “see experience as formed by ideology,” but that there is an “underlying structure” that is so strongly habituated that it causes you to slip back into these kinds of metaphor–or even into saying that experience is “formed by” ideology, instead of experience IS ideology.

    I’m not claiming some archimedean position: my point is, I do the same thing, I slip back into my ideological assumptions, and unless someone points them out I might not notice them. I think you once pointed out that I was slipping back and forth between a rigorous Althusserian use of the term “ideology” and the looser use of the term which implies is it a delusion that we can escape; this is one of my tendencies, one of my blindspots: the habitual insistence that we can live in a completely “rational” way, guided by “scientific thought” and free of the unfalsifiable, variable, choice of ideology, with all its demand that we take responsibility for the one we choose. I “see” that this is not possible, that we do need ideology, but there is that persistent “underlying structure” that sometimes leads to confusion and error.

  139. Glenn,

    My claim is very simple: I think mainstream buddhism is under the spell of Platonic Faith. It follows that it can´t be changed with more Platonic Faith. I think Tom´s essay is an attempt to do such a thing based of Badiou´s concepts and his belief in “Eternal Truths”. From this point of view, the appearance of Truths in buddhist practice through “events” (the “Buddhist event”) is not different from the appearance of these Truths in “social subjects” and politics in general.

    Contrary to that, I think there are no eternal truths waiting to “arise” within buddhist practice nor any eternal truths waiting to “appear” within social subjects in the field of politics. It follows that there is no need to have any faith on what has been “seen”. There is ample evidence that these “Eternal Truths” have been historically used as a way for the powerful to impose their religious, political and economic programs.

    I think that everything is relational. I see both buddhist practice and politics as activities mainly guided by a single question: can our future be made better than our present? I do this basically by treating enquiry as the search for adjustment (instead of the search for truth), especially adjustment to other humans in “the search of acceptable justification and eventual agreement”. I don’t subscribe to any mandatory forms of description or programs, I don’t subscribe to the concept of “schooling” or creating schools of followers nor do I participate in them.

    I think there are some very talented people that every now and then create new forms of language that are quite outstanding, Plato himself being one of them. I think that theory and methods are simply descriptions of activities engaged in by enthusiastic imitators of these people (or other lesser visible writers) who occupy their time in creating schools of followers, which by the way conveniently tend to reproduce things as they are, be it received truth-based beliefs (as seems to be the case here) or unjust economic and political relations (as is the case of communism).

    One can exchange writings with one another, or write and read books or essays, etc, and one can organize things with others to work for a better future.

    But what is a better future?

    I think buddhist practice can be a useful way of fully embracing suffering, learning to be calmed, QUESTIONING AND ANALIZING THE CAUSES OF THIS SUFFERING, imagining a better future, and acting. I would agree completely with you in that buddhist practice needs to enlarge this questioning of the origin of suffering, including its larger social causes as long as we remain aware of the fact that the resolution of personal suffering is not the resolution of social suffering.

    I therefore welcome public debate in any stance, including of course this one or even within religious organizations. I am just allergic to the culturally charged term “buddhism” taking a political stance that justifies yet again doing the same thing from other religious groups, something they actually do all the time. Agreeing with this possibility of course assumes that there be an actual debate, a genuine dialogue about concrete problems that concern the social causes of suffering. There are two concrete obstacles for “public debating” here: your lack of disposition to question Platonism (Badiou´s eternal truths and their delusional theoretical derivations) and the open disdain of democracy a the base ground for solving social suffering.

  140. Hi E, re #143

    re uneasiness: I did not mean that there is this or that feeling coming with what you name “the state”. What I want to know, how would you describe it? The act of expression. What is your expression? You are talking about a certain “state”, it has a “similarity” with something “Merzel’s students” know, it might even be a cross cultural universal as you intimate – but what is it? It is still hidden from view. I cannot see it. It cannot be a generalization, then you wouldn’t experience it, but what you relate are generalizations (that’s meant descriptive not to belittle). To act, I think, is to be particular, not generic. Is there any possibility to act in a general way? That would be floating in the sea of sameness. That would be the reassurance that nothing ever will happen – what is impossible. Uneasiness is about the moment when one thinks “the state”, to take your example, what ever “the state” might be, and then this emptiness is identified where no word is to express it – which at once is filled with “the state”. Even when I use the word “uneasiness” it already is identified. But it is not about identification because that already would again be a generalization. The particular is in a sense the inability to identify it and still to express it. In this way “the state” is the moment I am binding my shoes. To have a conversation about this conundrum, is to experience it and this is the expression of it. For example we could try to express the binding of shoes. Why not talk about shoe binding? At once my consciousness is filled with expressions. How could I express them?

  141. Luis

    I can see what your critic of Tom’s stance is but let’s abstract for a moment from the abstraction of some recycled leftist point of view or some personal traits. I think he has something profound to say. As I understand it ideology is about the matrix of notions we are. Because we are the matrix we are not able to see it. That’s the problem. The problem too is that there is not some magic pill which will change our view suddenly in such a way that we see the real reality because there is no “eternal truth”. I think nowhere he says in his essay, or, as far as I can see, Badiou say, that there is something like this.

    But we are all too easy prey of this notion of eternal truth – even you when you say in #145 that there is a only a single question: Can our future be made better than the present. What is better? Of course in the particular circumstances we live in it is easy to see what should be better. But what happens if we widen the view only a little bit? Take for example that roughly 80% of world energy is consumed by 20% of world population. To adjust for this fact would mean, as the circumstances are now, the 20% will fare much worse then now if there is an equal distribution of the available (carbon-based) energy. The living standards of the 20% are simply not sustainable. Although this is widely known, the matrix which generates our consciousness does not allow for a solution. (The Kyoto-protocol and its follow up in now way does anything to better the situation the Club of Rome 40 years ago made visible to the 20%). I don’t see any way democracies around the globe are able to tackle with this situation. There is nothing left of the democratic idea because the market economy has absorbed it altogether and it simply does not take into account that it is consuming the very resources it needs for its survival. It is living on like any unconscious entity/population which has by chance found a plentiful biotope. In our case this is the exploitation of carbon-based energy resources since roughly the 1850s. This is a the truth of our situation – not as individuals but as the subject of world population.

    So what is “better” in this general historical situation where market economy does not adapt to the truth of diminishing energy? (I know there are optimistic answers) This broader view does not in any case alter the necessity to be present in the local problem situation. This means it is about local truths – the local truth of a carbon-based energy addicted civilization and the local truth of every community we live in. This means also that there must be another possibility beyond total relativization and eternal truth. I think the very important question Tom puts forward in his essay, is about how something new emerges? It’s about the ‘mechanism’. This concerns also this binary view of relative/absolute. What he/Badiou says is that there is always a reaction against even the faintest possibility of something new. The struggle here also portraits this fact.

    The binary relative/absolute is a delusion of our ideology right now – like many other “decisions”. Instead really it is about local truths which are embedded in constellations which defy any relativity. The historical process lead to them. Tradition tries to keep them alive. There is no such thing as eternal or relative. I think that is an important point. If we could think different we would gain something new beyond that binary. This concerns also non-buddhism which is not the opposite of x-buddhism. I think what we try here is really to think different. Isn’t hat paradox?

  142. Matthias,

    The problem is assuming there is something else different “within” ourselves than “the matrix we are”.

    But first a logical problem. If you say ideology is the matrix of notions we are, what then would be the difference between writing that and just writing that the problem is the “matrix of notions that we are.” What is the need of ideology, is it necessary because it has a special way of being invisible within us?

    Culture, received beliefs, the status quo, etc … who ever claims that these are not questionable.

    I see so much ado here about, well, very little. Question your beliefs? GREAT. All the time. GREAT. Perfect. Be skeptic of authority, or of the given order of things, or the all purported buddhist saviors, the market and democracy itself. YES, PERFECT. But also be it of communism, Badiou, Althusser, Laruelle, Freud, Lacan, Buddha, Batchelor and Rorty himself. What is so hard about just simply floating by actively questioning everything??? These gentlemen here say question x-buddhism, but they don’t question non-buddhism and their model writers, nor philosophy or science, which simply amounts to not really questioning themselves fully and instead in the mean time entertain themselves with telling others how to think their way out of their miserable existences. I don’t buy ideological obscurantism. Nor frustrated academic intellectualism or frustrated would-be buddhist teachers. Ideas and beliefs have NO power to change things. Only to serve the status quo.

    But let’s get to something more interesting. You say democracy has been taken by the market. I say that the market is democracy. To me what you are saying is that democracy has been taken over entirely by the economically powerful. I agree to a large extent with that. It is a very sad situation that generates tragedy every day. But that is very different than saying that democracy and the free market based mechanism are hopeless or useless or that they are means for or -even created by – the powerful to abuse the rest of the world. I think freedom is important, both political freedom and economic freedom. We need to stand for that, we need to defend our right to think and write these things here or elsewhere and say whatever we want to say. Autocracies are not a step forward but a step backward. We have what we have. We have a tragic world, we live a tragic life. With little cracks of hope and opportunity for change coming almost from everywhere.

    I respectfully disagree with you regarding the use of the word truth. I don’t know what use you may have for it.

    That we are relational doesn’t mean that everything is the same, which is the usual misconception of what some people call relativism. Pragmatism is not relativism. Relationalism is no relativism. It is actually dignity for everyone. It is non-duality, anti-essentialism, nothing separated standing on its own in eternal bliss. A vaccine against eternal truths. Just please note how these “eternal truths” have been historically used and are currently used by the dominant powerful everywhere. Tom doesn´t write about eternal truths, but uses all the corresponding derivations from those words and beliefs. Such as truth-procedures (which can be replaced by the words god-procedures with no major consequences). They are the derived instrumentalization of those pre-existing fixations. He clearly mentions or refers to Badiou in these ways 25 times in his text.

    Check just these two examples:

    Bodhi: … “It is, in Badiou´s terms, the subject faithful to a truth, and engaged in changing its World to force the appearance of this truth. […] we can be awakened only as subjects, not as individuals, and no subject can be awakened except in relation to some truth.”

    Sunyata … “There is no single form in which a truth must appear (it can potentially, if it is a truth, appear in every conceivable world, and will always take the form necessary to that World).”

    This is classical dualism. As Badiou himself recognizes but Tom et al fail to stand for openly. These are the same concepts of the Absolute and the Relative, the motionless “imperveable” Truths of philosophy standing in constrast to the death-bound sons of Chronos who crawl upon earth in self-inflicting pain. It is the same as Buddha Nature, the Platonic Cave, bla bla bla.

    You have probably not belonged to any sangha or have ever been devoted to mainstream buddhist practice and therefore you may lack the experience or reference to better understand this. The instrumentalization of Truth in the form of organized religion is to be feared not in a different way from the instrumentalization of a truth-based althusserian/badiouist ideology about the “ideology of buddhism that serves capitalism” (Tom´s words in response to my remarks).

    I do not agree with you that the open question I make “can our future be made better than our present?” is by any means a fixation or truth. If anything, it may be an open invitation for creating a personal myth, as every question is, but it is not, for it is actually an invitation, an injunction, to pragmatically ACT.

    As I said my claim is simple: Platonic Faith cannot be changed by more Platonic Faith. Let´s see how this works with a concrete example.

    Ideology as the realm of Samsara.

    What is samsara. Let’s use the following definition: “In Hinduism, it is avidya, or ignorance, of one’s true self that leads to ego-consciousness of the body and the phenomenal world. This grounds one in kāma (desire) and the perpetual chain of karma and reincarnation. Through egoism and desire one creates the causes for future becoming. The state of illusion that gives rise to this is known as Maya. Through ascetic practice one finally attains sanctity and liberation (moksha or mukti).”

    So samsara are the earth-bound attachments, desires, ignorance, temptations, which grounds one in an eternal flow though different realms of existence and suffering.

    What is ideology. For Tom it’s the reproduction of the relation with the relations of production. Tom´s proposition out of this state is to follow Badiou´s Truth-based belief system. Which as in the case of Samsara is also blatantly dualistic. According to him, we need to be “liberated” by “non-buddhism” of the false concept of individuality and ego-centrism, using something called truth-procedures in order to be able to “see” the real reality when it “appears” and keep the faith that will lead us into true liberation from suffering.

    I say that the real delusion that binds us in suffering is to belief that the way of attaining liberation is practicing a non-relational dualistic truth-based procedure that needs to be rationalized or be made relative according to each “world”, but which in practice exists in the service of the few who have seen the truth in concrete “truth-events”, such as Tom, who out of his deep compassion for the rest of us who are hopelessly lost in our own personal undetectable ideologies –however he can detect yours and mine- flow though different levels of existence in pain and need to be saved from it.

    Does it get any more hopelessly Platonic than that?

    Sadly I think so, since this dualistic essentialist logic goes on and on and on in more and more re-descriptions of Platonic Faith as is the case of Glenn´s most recent post, Anicca as the Truth of Extinction, where impermanence is “actualized” with the certainty of science´s “predictability”, allowing the rest of us to “lift” the line of vision into the distantly but now available reality just a trillion of a trillion of a trillion years from now … of course he is positioned from the “vision scope” that his blind faith in the predictability power that the trajectory of two or three hundred years of never-the-less shifting scientific paradigms has given physics and thus blatantly negating impermanence itself … with more Platonic Faith Truth-based mechanisms and languages of certainty and finality, exclusive of course only to him).

    There is no need to think different, not even to act different per se.

    When contingency and solidarity inform you in each situation in the form of a question about a better future, just attempting to solve concrete problems for creating a better situation for all, and trying to freely agree beforehand on what that action can be, on what is the shared plan of action, would be different enough, in case that was what mattered most.

    In practice as you know as well as I do, that this entails facing the dominant powerful. And for that end, meditation can be of help as much as seeking mutually agreed adaptation in favor of more democracy and more equal and sustainable opportunities for all in the markets.

    Thanks for reading.

  143. Hi Luis, re #148

    Ideology is about the matrix of of notions we are. Yes. The whole blog here is in a way about immanence, its construction, its production and so on. For me the very “non” is about this.

    Democracy. “The market is democracy”. Well, I don’t see it like this. We can define it like this, ok. But then the problem is still the same. The market=democracy is unable to solve some very urgent problems. The energy problem first. Since roughly the 1850 the market=democracy has developed. One can make the case that the whole market=democracy thing was possible only with the exploitation of oil. We are an oil dependent market=democracy. The underlying currency (think of the gold standard) is oil. And this will become a scarce commodity. Neither the market nor anything democratic will survive the fight about oil, when it becomes really scarce. (If you think about alternative energy solutions, forget it. Not even for the 20% there are enough resources to build, for example, for every carbon energy based car one equipped with a battery to fuel it with energy derived from solar power.)

    The point is the market= democracy, however we name it, itself is in no way ready to tackle such problems. You know there was a nice word in Germany 100 years ago: Kaiserwetter. Somehow every time Kaiser Wilhelm went out for a parade the sun was shining. The same is true for the rich societies which developed since the 1850s. We live in the Kaiserwetter of inexhaustible oil-wells. Market=democracy has no idea what will come without oil. The disintegration of our the market=democracy will be brutal and gruel.

    The second problem the market=democracy isn’t able to solve is about finances and is even more urgent. Up until 2008 there was the chimera of a lender of last resort. We see now there is no. But who cares? Nobody. The house will come down.

    Yes, we still have the right to express our ideas here. But in what tiny little window of the freedom of speech we life here? You speak about “political and economic freedom”. Right, in a sense we have certain degrees of freedom here. But: What is with alternative economical models? Nothing. There is but one model. And this model is depleting its resources in a breathtaking speed. So, if we look beyond our little one-generational model of political and economic freedom, we see it will kill itself. Nice freedom.

    What has this market=democracy to say about this? NOTHING!

  144. ” Up until 2008 there was the chimera of a lender of last resort.”

    Of course, there still is a lender of last resort in the U.S.: the taxpayer. The “market” is an illusion, the illusion that we are “free” to buy what we choose. But when the American car companies cannot convince us to buy their cars, and are in danger of collapse, the government plays its role as guardian of the rich. The taxpayers are simply forced to hand over their money to keep the poorly run companies afloat, to keep the rich rich.

    This illusion of the market as freedom, and at the same time as an inexplicable natural force (no American economist can explain or predict the fluctuations of the market–they will always say it is too “complex”), is one of our most powerful ideologies. This is why we need the concept of ideology, and not just skepticism. We must not, as Luis Daniel would, collapse everything into one ontological level. There is a difference between being skeptical about the models and metaphors we use to explain the mind-independent world, and being skeptical about the humanly-created practices of ideology. We need to be willing to endlessly rework the metaphors we use to explain the world–we must remain as skeptical of even concepts like gravity as Newton was when, understanding it as a mere mathematical model, not an actually existing invisible force.

    However, there is a world of difference between this kind of skepticism, as necessary as it is, and remaining open to changing our ideologies. Ideologies are purely humanly created practices/beliefs, and not descriptive of the mind-independent world. That is why we need the concept, why skepticism is not enough. An ideology is not necessarily falsifiable. While a concept like “neutrino” can be falsified, a concept like “romantic love” really does exist as long as people engage in the social practices that produce it.

    Luis, I would make one suggestion here (out of my “great compassion”, of course): you are furiously angry and irrational, making incoherent arguments and arguing against things nobody here ever even said. Perhaps you should consider why you are so disturbed? Perhaps you are trying a little too hard to hold onto your blind faith in capitalism? I would imagine if you really thought everything we were saying here was wrong and “much ado about very little,” you wouldn’t be so angry that you are rendered unable to think clearly. Maybe some of the discussion here has exposed some truths you aren’t quite able to ignore or deny?

  145. Hi Matthias,

    I still don’t see the usefulness of the concept. Question the matrix, yes. But if ideology is useful for you, go ahead. I just see a great difference between your conception of ideology and Tom´s conception ideology. So I guess for it to begin to be useful it would be necessary to first agree about its concept and use with others. I don’t find it necessary. The same applies about talking about market=democracy as an entity. A more precise use of language is not the point here anymore.

    You talk about scarcity of resources. The energy problem is quite serious. From my point of view the tale goes more like this. The market reflects scarcity of any resource as prices go up accordingly, which in turn in the case of oil may produce a slowdown of production and growth. This incipient scarcity is being fought in advance by all-powerful countries like china, with their aggressive investment in the extraction of all sort of commodities around the poor world, not just oil, in Africa for example. I will not focus on the horrible social and political consequences of china´s intervention in the case of Sudan. All I will say here is that the power struggle for commodities sources is on big time. I differ with you in thinking that the market will collapse. I think the economy will slow down. And will adapt. Adapting tragically meaning that food prices and prices in general may go up and thus generate more inequality, poverty and suffering.

    **The question for me is more if we can change the way the system DISTRIBUTES wealth. ** The system could tax oil companies, just as Obama has proposed, for example. And invest in the long term in alternative energies. There are incredibly intelligent and passionate reactions to this problem: from the pentagon (!) to coop america and bioneers, or the SRI movement, natural capitalism, the RMI, the earth institute, the end of oil, the end of growth.

    **Pardon me if I may sound disrespectful to you but the sustainability discourse that you expose for me is just the yell of the powerful worried about saving their system.** Witness wiki leaks reports about the Copenhagen round of the Tokyo Protocol and how they bought votes from the poorer countries, etc, all coordinated from the State Department. The system will not collapse for it benefits the powerful and they, with their deep pockets and mighty power, will keep it afloat. They may even help keep Obama as an escape valve of global discontent. Remember the system held itself together very well way before the oil economy. Remember that.

    **The thing is solidarity opposes abuse and concentration of power.** The thing is democracy is power to the people, voice of the people, government for and by the people. Donella Meadows pointed out what you are talking about in the late seventies with her book Limits of Growth, starting what would become the field of social system dynamics, sustainability concepts and possibly the birth of the “global citizen” -kind of what some us pretend to act like-.

    **The thing is we as a society lack effective social feedback systems for empowering the decision process of the consumer, for I think an empowered consumer may be part of a solution.** Just as is the case with fair trade. In any case, this is what I call social hell. The incapacity of humanity to measure the consequences of its actions as a whole and act accordingly -we could call it the sewage effect, everyone shits but very few care where the collective shit ends up. This concept also applies to the causes and existence of poverty and the rich. We are a very young bunch as humanity. We have a global economy, with voracious multinationals acting too freely decades ago and no global government to regulate the global economy and much less with global taxes. I think an interesting point will be reached when population stops growing globally. It may be that the current expressed global unrest born out of global inequalities be the seed of a better world in the long term. In that process, poorer countries such as Costa Rica, which can eventually can proof being successful socially-just liberal democracies that live by with a third or less of the income of rich countries, may represent a viable alternative.

    Regarding the financial system, well, we all know that it took two world wars to have a single decade of global social progress and the creation of the Breton Woods system, and we are still waiting for Keynes vision of a truly balanced global economic system to be fully implemented. But then some projects take longer to make a better future. If they ever do.

  146. Tom,

    Let me read you better.

    You say you are not free to choose what you buy. – So far you only may know why!
    Also that tax payer’s money should not be used to save the jobs of thousands of workers. (!)
    Then you go on with your usual generalizations: a government that protects the rich. Or may I translate: you claim that your president Obama is protecting the rich!
    You also manifest some discontent at protecting “poorly managed” car companies. That means you think well managed car companies are good!
    You also say that the market can be explained, resenting that other don’t do it for you appropriately –if that is the case why don’t you do it!
    You also say that there are many “ontological levels” –Platonically enough!
    You also belief in the mind, and in the existence of a world independent from it. –Platonically enough!
    You thing that gravitational forces are an existing invisible force. (!)
    You believe that one must be open to changing his or her ideologies. – Only if others do, not you of course!
    You say that because an ideology is a practice/belief created by a human being that does not describe what is independent of the mind then it is necessary to have the concept of ideology. –A tautology !
    You think that a neutrino can be there or cannot be there, but that romantic love will always be there if a certain social practice is performed -identifiable only by a philosopher, according to Badiou!

    You go on to say that am angry and irrational, and make incoherent arguments in general, you say I argue against things you never have said. You then suggest me to question why I am in the state you suggest, that is disturbed. Then you say that I have blind faith in capitalism and that I try too hard to hold on to it. Then you suggest that I am angry and (you add) unable to think clearly, because at least some of what you have said here must be right implying that I cannot bear sight of some things in life which you, amongst all human beings on this planet, have exposed to me.

    The last bit just made me laugh!

    OK, now let me ask you, is that what you meant, what you wrote? Now my turn,
    May you care to simply write what you understand of what I write first and ask me if I agree with your interpretation as I am doing with you now?

    But what do you care!

    I think you simply enjoy making other people angry (and well, it is up to you to find out why you need to gain attention by doing that, I am sure your mother said that to you often, or maybe actually you lack something).
    I have simply attacked you back accordingly. In the meantime I have also had a good time exposing your clumsy imitations of althusser and badiou and your dogmatic rigidities and inconsistencies.
    The limitations of your defense mechanisms you rightly call your ideology and your inability to respond my questions are well, your problem.

    One last thing, could you explain for your audience what part of the following handwritten 2006 graph from Badiou you reject – if anything- especially the axis that says ETERNAL TRUTHS?

    And let me respectfully suggest something else: why don´t you come out of the academic closet and found a political organization to help the homeless, the undocumented inmigrants, etc like Badiou and friends did?

    It would be actually something useful and who knows, maybe a sort of occupational therapy for you.

  147. Luis, re #151

    I think we agree mostly in regard of the problem situation we are in. Where we do not agree is how the a solution can look like.

    If you like more details about the economical consequences of diminishing oil supply, you can work through the World Economic Outlook April 2011, especially p. 101 f. In the moderate middle way scenario described in the Outlook, it looks like economies could adapt in a way to the oil supply problem over the next 20 years. But even in this scenario there has to take place some “demand destruction” (p. 103). What this euphemism means is “more inequality, poverty and suffering” – as you name it.

    The ‘bad’ scenario of the Outlook takes as its basis a decline of 3.8 percent of the world oil output per annum over the next twenty years. “This scenario reflects the concerns of peak oil proponents, who argue that oil supplies have already peaked and will decline rapidly.” (p. 106) Besides a rise of the oil price of 800 percent over 20 years, this scenario holds for some “nonlinear effects” what in essence means, if the worse scenario turns out to be the one, nobody knows what will happen.

    But my dystopian view on the future comes from more then the oil supply question. Other global problems are: drinking water, the emptying of the oceans of fish, pollution, global warming and, last but not least, in your words:

    we as a society lack effective social feedback systems for empowering the decision process of the consumer.

    Each of the first four problems is good for a nightmare. Combined and together with the fifth they are, well, hell on earth – for a lot of the unlucky 80% it is already. We can very well see the problems, but we lack the “feedback systems”. Now, my view is, based on the analysis that were and are undertaken by the Frankfurt School, Foucault for example and people working on from the initial insights provided by these, that what you name “society” is the very “market” which produces these problems. In addition the “consumer” is a product of this market and this market is in no way inclined to do something more intelligent than to produce more GDP growth – which in the end is the one and only measurement for success and which in no way reflects the structural damage (and the relevant costs) inflicted on the habitat the market is feasting on.

    I know, compressed like this it may sound like a conspiracy theory, but it is more complex. Not even the elite “with their deep pockets and mighty power” is outside and in control (to give Obama another run). The super rich, the invisible global elite with billions in their pockets, don’t have control. That is because with the market as their beast to exploit every opportunity, they destroy the intergenerational process of value distribution, the distribution of soft moral/ethical values and they such destroy their own basis. The market is the opportunity to substitute human values with marketing values. ‘They’ destroy their own system in the end – not only economically but also interactionally.

    The cutting off of the intergenerational learning, the destruction of real learning, through marketing, is destroying the ability for true individuation – what would be, in my view, the insight that persona is provisional, accidental, dependent on circumstances and what in further steps would lead to communities/subjects which are not longer centered around an imaginary I. Bernard Stiegler, whom I mention in “Meditation and Control”, is describing the destruction of the intergenerational individuation process in detail in his text “Taking Care of Youth and the Generations”.

    Television is a prime example. In rural communities on this globe before electricity, to oversimplify again, people in the evening meet on the street and talk. With electricity they disappear into their houses and stare at the screen. Do they discuss what to do next? No, the answer is given without question. This and this is ‘good’ and no group thinking process is developing. To be sure, the problem of course is not so much the medium but the marketing message.

    So if you say “solidarity opposes abuse and concentration of power” how is this solidarity accomplished? People have to come together. Tele-Vision is separating them. They have to learn not to be cut-off from their being in flesh and blood and shit, but to cut-off the machine. Pull the plug.

    The “matrix” I mention is a poisonous metaphor of the market which the market gives to lure one into the dream that one understands the market, while, in ‘reality’, both pills morpheus presents are sleeping pills. Ideology (as I understand) or the Foucaultian dispositif describes this. There are differences between Tom’s and mine view, sure, and between Althusser and Foucault, but the whole project here is about the ability to look beyond. So in regard of what we are talking about here, the solution sets in with cutting off the representational scheme of x-buddhism. This then would allow people to talk to each other again. That’s what’s my text is about. This then would allow for solidarity and a form of basic democratic action…

  148. Matthias,

    Saying I mostly agree with you is beyond the point of this exchange.
    You refer to a lot of interesting subjects and sources which I need time to analyze and ponder appropriately.
    I leave tomorrow for big hike for the rest of the week, plunging into personal physical effort, nature and healthy teamwork.
    The how and the what shouldn´t be too different…

  149. I’m still in the process of trying to grasp exactly what goes on at this blog. I’m still trying to learn, to inhabit, the language(s) spoken. I have not read Althusser, I know only of interpellation from Tom’s use of it, I have not read LaRuelle, except for the various citations offered by Glenn here, and so on. On the one hand, these terms, the way they seem to be used here, does something for me. I feel as though I can at least think along with them, as though they seem to express bits and pieces of something I want to say, but can’t really articulate. On the other hand, I suspect that Tom and Glenn and Matthias, for instance, might find my understanding of those terms one-dimensional at best, if not just plain wrong. That said, I have an itch to try and contribute something along the lines of a thoughtful rant here.

    One of the things that I pick up from this particular discussion is that the way we frame mediation is crucial to whatever value (or further interpellation into an existing ideology in need of change) it might bring. Following this tangent, I would like to suggest something that I don’t think has been touched much upon here: Namely that however we try to frame meditation collectively, to establish a common framework within a group for instance, there’s always going to an entirely personal component to each “mediator’s” framework as well. Of course, this way of putting it might suggest that I somehow believe in an atomistic self, in a mind not created in dialogia, so let me make it clear that I don’t intend it to (I say intend, because a recurrent theme for me in my own home-brewed, highly unstable, meditation practice is trying to come to terms with what “a mind created in dialogia” really, really means, and especially, what are its implications for the way I should think of my individual agency). Anyway, my point here is that, for me, a lot of the reasons (in plural-in itself a point, I think) for why I might meditate are tied intimately to my own existential tracectory and how I’ve come to understand myself, my strenghts and weaknesses. I want to give an example, but let me just say quickly that I don’t want this to come off inappropriately diary-ish. I’m assuming that everyone comes to meditation with a partly personal framework and this is just to give an idea of what I might mean by that.

    A way of framing meditation that you sometimes encounter within x-buddhism is the idea that it’s about not escaping from fear and pain. Seeing as my years in high school largely consisted of me numbing myself with weed, sometimes because it was hilarious, but oftentimes because life just scared me shitless at that time, the whole idea of the nessecity of facing one’s demons was one that I had to articulate very explicitly to myself at some point. And so the fragment of x-buddhist discourse about facing oneself was something that appealed to me. What I’ve found interesting since then, is that it’s very difficult to distinguish between the different ways such a frame works. I actually do find that I, specifically, am the kind of person who needs an explicit strategy for how to not stick my head in the sand when things get tough; but there seems to be two ways of thinking about how meditation might be helpful here. The normal one, the one usually encounted, I think, is the one that posits that in meditation you actually become aware of certain feelings which may seem undesirable, but which are impermanent, and additionally, lose their power by the very act of being experienced, named and acknowledged (the border between x-buddhism and pop-psychology seems thin in the west). I actually think there can be ring of truth to this way of understanding meditation, and that it can be a valid way to think of how it might bring value to a person’s life (I’ll leave aside my own immediate objections to this suggestion, namely that a) this explicit framework tends to create a sort of strange, directed, looking for feelings that need to be dealt with that completely changes the natural context in which they might occur, and b) that it’s still an open question whether there actual’s value in it other than perpetuating an existing, capitalist ideology). The interesting thing, though, which I think might tie in with the idea of interpellation, is that the effect of this framework can be seen as completely perfomative and inscribed in the narrative itself. Here the causality would be described something like this: Meditation is posited as a way to gain authenticity; every day you perform the ritual, and every day you then come out of the ritual having once again had an empowering subject position (in which you are brave, authentic, not-flinching etc.) constituted by the very presupposition of what the ritual does, and which precedes the ritual itself. From this view, whatever actually happens during meditation is completely irrelevant.

    Anyway, I fear that I’ve kind of lost track with where I’m going with this. I wanted to make a point about the personal component in the framework for meditation but I think I wound up saying something very different.

    One final thought though: It seems as though the idea that the mind is collectively produced has lead this discussion to talk about how to frame meditation in groups. I don’t have access to a group, but still think of meditation as profoundly social. One recent and intruiging frame for me has been to think of meditation as creating a space where the folks here at Non-Speculative Buddhism come together with Shunryu Suzuki, Barry Magid, my first grade teacher, Leonard Cohen, The UN, my mom and Corporate America to chat about meditation and The Good Life. Meditation as consciously creating a battle field for a war of the memes. Possible values deriving either from experiences during this kind mediation or just from performing the ritual itself are yet to be determined.

  150. Hallo Andill

    You absolutely don’t seem one-dimensional. I myself don’t know more about Althusser than that what Tom relates, Laruelle is still enigmatic to me but I try, I went through highschool sometimes also very high etc. pp. That doesn’t matter.

    In my view there is something very important in general regarding communication in what you say here.

    I feel as though I can at least think along with them, as though they seem to express bits and pieces of something I want to say, but can’t really articulate.

    The ‘feel’ of some knowledge does not mean that it is automatically wrong or irrelevant. To the contrary. In learning something new, one is right on the spot with this feeling. But of course this is not mere gut-feeling. The difference in comparison to the flame war which is going on in another thread here right now is, that you seem to be able to think along “as though they seem to express bits and pieces of something I want to say.” With this a conversation can take an entirely different way.

    Regarding “atomistic” vs. “dialogical mind”. I have the ‘feeling’ that somehow this, here in this blog, is a not the big problem – although we haven’t thought it through. Consumer capitalism is atomizing the individual, that’s what Facebook is doing. It is ever more building the fiction of an atomized being.

    One could say that there clearly must be an intersection between the purely physical and the purely social, which then would be the individual – one might think. But then, what is the purely physical? That is a fiction. Has there ever been a body without a (social) environment? The same goes for the purely social? It doesn’t exist. We are talking about fictional entities that only exist in interaction with each other. But expressed like this, this sentence is absurd. I speak about entities which exist and exist not at the same time.

    I don’t think one can gain inside into this easily via meditation. We are framed to think about ourselves as Subjects which sit down to work with a certain object, our thoughts, feelings, sensations etc. It is the same absurdity like with the body/social dichotomy.

    But if you say

    I, specifically, am the kind of person who needs an explicit strategy for how to not stick my head in the sand.

    You somehow already have the framework to put meditation to work in a certain way. You are already beyond the fiction that some magical meditation as such might be of any help. So the question is, where from do you got this frame?

    I think that is a very important question, where do ‘we’ get this little extra?

    And this extra is very different from what you say about meditation as a way to gain authenticity.

    From this view, whatever actually happens during meditation is completely irrelevant.

    That is a profound insight. The outcome can be either way. A false ritualistic authenticity or a real authenticity which gathers momentum for not to stick the head into the sand. Is it that what you mean?

    Meditation as consciously creating a battle field for a war of the memes.

    That sounds exactly like what I have in mind.

    Thanks.

  151. So I just spent 30 minutes ‘reading’ the post and the comments. My method: I read the post backwards — paragraph by paragraph and sometime ‘backtrack’ by reading forward.
    Due to the language and style, the equally affect my mind — sort of like poetry to someone who doesn’t really understand poetry.

    So with that method, the post was great fun for me — and, like Glenn’s posts, I am never sure why, I just like them.

    The comments are far more confusing and layered and angry and hard to stay with. But, they we an interesting effort to scroll though.

    Thanx for the post.

  152. Hi Sabio, I just reread my essay with your method. I havn’t read it for a while and this was indeed interesting. Do you know that this is a kind of cut-up. It’s to dismember a text and to put it together again in a new order. The new constellation is forcing thought into new ereas. One has to be open for this.

    Your recent posts about coffee in the morning are fine phenomenological accounts of ‘meditation’. There where two, one with the grinding, the wonderful smell, the other with your dog still dreaming and you sitting at the desk. The ability to be aware, to find words, to describe, to convey, to communicate in an individual creative way – that’s it.

    I hope you find some good coffee avery now and then on your journey. Take care.

  153. @ Matthias,
    No, I did not know about “cut-up” — but doing “cut-up” is a method I have used for a long time so as to get a different feel and make my mind think differently. Even when proofing my own posts (which I do poorly), I often read backwards to stop being tricked by the flow I expect and am use to.
    Thank you for understanding my recent posts about coffee — I try to write them without being directly Buddhist in feel, but I know they match many of the experiences of meditators and others. For me, to describe things in expected language and tested expressions, kills the experience.
    It is fine to find people who see what I was doing.

    Just now I am in Brussels and sipping a demi-glass of “coffee”. The coffe was made by leaving coffee grounds (lots of them) soak with cardamon seeds in water in a pot for 12 hours and then boiled in the morning. It is allowed to settle (not filtered) and drunk in a tiny, tiny glass. It is very strong and different. But I LOVE different. I had horrible coffee at a highway reststop — even threw it out — my son was surprised.

    I am reading your new post now. See you there.

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