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  • hardie karges 11:58 am on October 25, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anapanasati, , Bunuel, , STFU, Thay, , , ,   

    Zen and the Art of Dishwashing… 

    We are not slaves to the objects of our desire as much as we are slaves to desire itself. The objects come and go. And isn’t that just like us? I mean, to desire for the sake of desiring, as much as any object as the supreme goal, or maybe we can call it ‘cet obscur objet du desir,’ if I may borrow the title of the famous film by Luis Bunuel to illustrate my point.

    And as in that film the object is not only unattainable, ultimately, but is constantly changing its face, such that “What follows is a tale of cruelty, depravity and lies — the very building blocks of love.” (Wikipedia) So is this simply our fate, as Westerners, especially, to bite off more than we can chew, simply for the pleasure of the sensation of the food inching its way slowly down our throats, and only gradually entering our stomachs?

    There it triggers the feeling of fullness, if only for a moment, and begs the question as to whether that is really enough, or not, since consciousness comes with no gas gauges, just feelings, often random, of completion or vacuity, in this case, in addition to sensations of tastiness or disgust. So are we left to desire for the sake of desiring, in the same way that one might misinterpret Thich Nhat Hanh’s invocation to “wash dishes to wash the dishes” as “wash dishes for the sake of washing dishes,” which is not correct.

    And I will admit that I misinterpreted that advice for years, as if he were advocating mindlessness as mindfulness. Now I know that he is a master of Zen, but I never knew that he was that Zen! And he’s not, in the sense that Zen sometimes goes too far in its linguistic riddling, in the hope that enlightenment might somehow magically result if we can only prove language to be the trickster that it is, full of bluff and bluster, but ultimately empty. And that may be true, but that does not mean that there are no meanings.

    But Thich Nhat Hanh was not advising mindless dish washing, even though others may also have misinterpreted it that way, no salve to my chastened ego (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281608722_Washing_Dishes_to_Wash_the_Dishes_Brief_Instruction_in_an_Informal_Mindfulness_Practice). What he was really advising was to make the best of mundane situations, and be aware of just that, AND ONLY THAT (ouch), when in the process of doing it (if you’re feeling bored, you can always increase the speed. Walking meditation can be fast or slow).

    For meditation I personally advise sitting on a cushion, on the floor, lotuses optional, ditto mantras and mudras, eyes closed, body unflinching, for at least twenty minutes, more if you can. This is what I call STFU meditation. It may not be as famous as anapanasati or vipassana, or any of the other myriad of styles and subjects, but it accomplishes much the same thing, and that is to shut off the internal dialogue, at least for a spell (!), and return to pre-linguistic proto- or paleo-consciousness to reboot the program. All systems work better after rebooting (hint: try counting breaths, if you feel it’s otherwise just not working).

    And so it is with desire. As much as Western culture rewards the act of ‘being in love with love,’ ultimately it is not only wasteful, consumptive, and useless, but even destructive, e.g. global warming. But don’t torture yourself. To chase illusions is only human: usually futile, sometimes rewarding, almost inevitable. This is life, a passing show. Stay safe.

     
  • hardie karges 11:08 am on September 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , anapanasati, Bhavana, Chan, , jhana, , , samatha, ,   

    Meditation and Mediation, Buddhism on the Half-Shell… 

    The best meditation requires no app. Only silence can solve the problems caused by language. Not that I don’t find ‘guided meditations’ interesting, I just don’t think that they are the best form of meditation.

    Not that there need be many forms of meditation in the first place, but that comes with the turf, the modern commercial turf, that just one more thing under the tree will get us through the next year with flying colors, the colors of Christmas and New Year in joy and celebration of what I am not sure, but it seems that abundance is the common theme, my cup running over and all that jazz, eternal life and all that rap.

    But is the ‘special insight’ of ‘vipassana’ really some sort of qualitative improvement over the ‘awareness of breathing’ in anapanasati? Is there really any difference between the ‘calm abiding’ of ‘samatha’ and the ‘concentration’ of ‘samadhi’?

    Self-described experts go on and on about the ‘four different kinds’ of meditation like bloggers slicing and dicing adverbs and artichokes for the special garnish to Sunday brunch, to be ladled over with the special sauce of ‘mindfulness.’

    Then there is the ‘mental development’ of bhavana holding lengthy sessions, while the ‘trance-like states’ of ‘dhyana’ and ‘jhana’ morph into entire schools of Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen, so that entire cultures can be exported overseas a millennium later, and Alan Watts can make a living without ever having to plant rice, much less harvest it.

    So I suppose that there is a difference between a ‘one-focus’ meditation and a ‘field-focus’ meditation, but I’m really not sure, if the underlying concentration is upon the breath, or if you’ve got a really quiet place, then worth noticing the heartbeat, which our ears normally block out as background noise.

    But there seems to be a more significant distinction between meditation ‘upon’ something and meditation for meditation’s own sake. And this is where guided meditation comes in, because it is certainly a meditation upon something, if it is meditation at all.

    And I’m not sure who started this, because I have practiced the art in formal and semi-formal settings in three SE Asian countries, all of the Theravada school of Buddhism, and I can assure you that there was no bloke holding forth at the time. But I do see this online with monks of the Tibetan school, and saw it myself with a Western ex-monk of the same school in Nepal. So which is better, guided or silent?

    That I can’t say, but when I discussed all this with research neurologists interested in measuring the effects of meditation on the brain, all they wanted to know was, “Were you able to stop the internal dialogue?” To which I giddily responded something like, “Yes.” To which they responded with a dubious, “Do you understand this concept?” “Of course. That’s all I remember of Don Juan’s ‘Tales of Yaqui Power.”

    Guided meditation won’t do that, so you still need silent meditation IMHO. But to be a good Buddhist, more important than the sutras, the precepts, and all the meditations are the simple acts of kindness and compassion, ‘metta karuna’…

     
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