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"living Buddha, Living Christ"

"Living Buddah, Living Christ"   4 members have voted

  1. 1. Are you interested in a chapter by chapter group reading if this Thich Naht Hanh classic?

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Well it is:

Chapter Ten

 

Faith and Practice

 

Penetrating the Heart of Reality

Our faith must be alive. I recently read some atheistically inclined wag, writing Faith is never having to say you are wrong. Now while I think this is not necessarily true of PCs, but I have come across those of faith who claim that the world is six thousand years old and that the isotopic evidence to the contrary was simply put there to test our faith. I failed my faith test apparently.

 

Why not Our understanding of how the universe ticks must be open to new evidence?

Why faith and not understanding or knowledge?

 

Hahn then seems to go on to say ... things are not as they seem, which for me is fair enough.

 

Only the Son and the Holy Spirit Know Him

The opening line: Letting go of notions and concepts ... and yet this book is full of them. I think I understand what Hanh is driving at but he could have worded it differently.

 

Abyss of Doubt

Really? Speaking as an agnostic I can't help thinking of doubt as my friend and ally. Stephen Batchelor describes Buddhism having agnostic tendencies.

He who think he knows, doesn't know: He who knows he doesn't know, knows. Ancient Sanskrit proverb also apparently found in the Chinese Tao-te Ching, whatever that is.

 

Empty of What?

This section tries to answer Joseph's and Steve's disquiet about the non-self. I don't think contains is the right word on page 184, third line. Everything certainly is interconnected at the quantum and Newtonian levels, but I would say everything is of the same fundamental material and everything is a result of the interdependence. We focus on just a small part of a pattern of action and give it a name and somehow ignore the observation that the pattern of action is impermanent just like my eddy in the pond.

 

Two Types of Causation

Personally I would not distinguish between these two. He even seems to talk down the distinction later.

 

Again I am reminded of the Campbell quote:

But the ultimate mystical goal is to be united with one’s god. With that the duality is transcended and forms disappear. There is nobody there, no god, no you. Your mind, going past all concepts, has dissolved in identification with the ground of your being.

 

Who is Not Unique?

Generally I agree with the intent

 

Intolerance does not help ... but there are a couple of questions. Should we tolerate parents who deny their children (and Hanh here explicitly suggests belonging) essential life saving medicines? And on a more benign note, what about parents who intentionally exclude and intentionally misinform their children as to say age of the Earth and Evolution? And perpetuate intolerant attitudes to say the gay community and their (for me strange) view of sin. Should apathetically tolerate or mindfully steer the ship?

(So to speak). Bearing in mind that (almost) intentionally we indoctrinate children at an early age.

 

Real Dialogue Brings Tolerance.

I would argue being open to change based on the most accurate evidence available is tolerance.

 

I would also be careful of the word true in phrases like true love and truly happy.

 

Mindful Living Journal

 

If this what somebody wants to do ... fine.

But personally I am sceptical of the slightly apocryphal Socrates statement of The unexamined life is not worth living

At times I am a little envious of people who go about their lives without worrying about these eternal vagaries.

 

Anyway, I have no interest in this particular aspect of non-self programming. I don't who said it ... Life is a meditation. This is good enough for me.

 

 

I will write a summary of my overall thoughts of the book when I get my breath back.

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Nice summary of chapter 10, Rom. I don't have much to add. I agree about the "doubt" thing. On the one hand we are supposed to rid ourselves of notions and concepts (good luck with that), but we are to eliminate doubt? If doubt is the same as questioning everything, then I am full of doubt.

 

The whole "emptiness", "non-self", "no-self" thing is a mystery to me. Intellectually, I get it, but the foundation of Buddhism is this notion, so there has to be something more to it than intellectual assent. I have to confess an obsession with this topic since about 2008, and I keep plugging away with it. Maybe someday I'll get it the way it is meant to be gotten.

 

Steve

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Living Buddha, Living Christ
Here are some of the main themes I picked up or at least resonated with me.

 

Interbeing (Intrabeing)
As I expected this was the very best part of the book. It is the consistent with the concept of the universe unfolding. This is central to the argument against free will, yet strangely Buddhists as a whole believe in it, Stephen Batchelor is one notable exception. One of the major ramifications is that we don’t have an intrinsic self. I don’t get the sense that Hanh has fully explored the ramifications of interbeing, and if he has it does not come across in the book. For example emotions like hate, fear and disgust are as much a result of sun, clouds, rain and minerals as are flowers and future crops. Hanh certainly does not address this.

 

Being Mindful
A lot of the book is about being mindful, this is fine if you into this kind of things. Being aware of oneself, especially in moments of stress can I think be useful. And if we are inclined to negative self-chatter then this to I think can be useful. Having said that I wonder how much of this mindfulness is related to consciousness. I am surprised no one commented on Susan Blackmore’s Am I conscious now?

 

Being Nice to One Another
I have no problem with this. But it is not clear what to do if someone else is not being nice. Game theory suggests some sort of tit for tat strategy works but perhaps going easy on the “tat”, at least the negative “tats”. Hanh seems to point at some sort of pacifism, at least with the example of the monk self-emolliating. Now doing violence to oneself or another does not seem to do accord with Hanh’s interbeing. But I would suggest that the point is, or could be, that if we do violence to one another we don’t do it in anger or retribution and understand that the person is a result of the sun, minerals etc as well.

 

Things Are Not What They seem
This is fine, I generally agree. But one caution, Hanh talked of noumenon. This word was coined by Kant and it is was defined in the glossary as something as it really is (and can be accessed meditation or similar). Hanh did not specifically speak to this, but we use the same substrate to get our experience of the noumenon as we do of the phenomenon. So I think reality is out there and whatever we experience or think is simply a reflection of that reality … regardless of how we obtain it.

 

General
Who is this book written for?
Certainly not for those without belief? I can’t see the Buddhistically minded being swayed, primarily because they are on yonder/this shore anyway. Evangelically minded I can’t see them being swayed by this. Just reading the reviews of this book points out the ‘mistakes’ Hanh makes in interpretation in Christian interpretation. I wonder if it will appeal to those who are looking are ready for a change from some of the more liberal traditional Christian traditions?

 

Parallels between Christianity and Buddhism? Personally this was of little interest to me, and I will leave serious comment to those who care and are more in tune with serious Christian theology. But as a casual disinterested observer I found it a little tenuous. Having said that I believe there are many more knowledgeable observers who have noted similarities between Buddhism and Christianity.

Edited by romansh
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Nice summary of chapter 10, Rom. I don't have much to add. I agree about the "doubt" thing. On the one hand we are supposed to rid ourselves of notions and concepts (good luck with that), but we are to eliminate doubt? If doubt is the same as questioning everything, then I am full of doubt.

 

The whole "emptiness", "non-self", "no-self" thing is a mystery to me. Intellectually, I get it, but the foundation of Buddhism is this notion, so there has to be something more to it than intellectual assent. I have to confess an obsession with this topic since about 2008, and I keep plugging away with it. Maybe someday I'll get it the way it is meant to be gotten.

 

Steve

 

Thanks Steve

Well my addiction to this subject started in late 2007, when I lost my faith in free will. So we are of similar vintages with respect to doubt of this non-self thingy.

 

There are Zen meditation practitioners who claim they can experience this non-self oneness etc. Personally, I am OK with the intellectual understanding and living (and I suppose ultimately dying) by this understanding and its ramifications. Having an experience of it might me nice but it is not a requirement at least not for me.

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Incidentally here is the first time I came across the concept as described in terms of interbeing.

 

The Edge series of books are, to my mind, atheistically minded; but not exclusively so. I always find a few essays that are of interest in them.

 

To me Scott Sampson does a better job at explaining the concept/notion than Hanh. Note the paradox of ridding ourselves of notions.

Edited by romansh
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romansh, Thanks for the article. Interbeing is a term we can relate to and need to use more often even if it is not in the dictionary.

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romansh, Thanks for the article. Interbeing is a term we can relate to and need to use more often even if it is not in the dictionary.

 

You are welcome Soma ... it is that essay that allowed me to say yes to Burl's invite.

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Science explains the abstract concepts in a clear and precise manner that satisfies and relaxes my intellect so I can explore beyond its limits.

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Science explains the abstract concepts in a clear and precise manner that satisfies and relaxes my intellect so I can explore beyond its limits.

 

Quantum entanglement is a near parallel to interbeing, but as TNH says in romansh' link interbeing is only a poem. It may temporarily distract the intelligent or sensitive individual from alienation, but the means of appreciating the physical connection with others remains undefined.
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Wonderful Buddhist Precept #3:

 

"Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society.

 

I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term committment.

 

. . . "

 

TNH clearly condemns selfish and lustful conduct, but also sees individual sexual misconduct as an attack on society.

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How interbeing translates to a young adult:

 

https://aeon.co/videos/space-to-grow-on-being-young-anxious-and-american-in-a-zen-buddhist-family

 

Note how many of the TVH wonderful precepts of Buddhism are missing here. The father has wisdom, but it largely remains between his own two ears.

Edited by Burl
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Some people need rules, commandments and direction to act that is their nature so in that case a religion with commandments is their choice because they feel comfortable with just doing what is expected without thinking too much.

Quote
"Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society.
I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term committment."

 

 

The above is a rule without explanation; science is great at giving us explanations why it benefits to follow a rule. I feel that is what is lacking and needed in our Christian faith too. The monk and teacher was following his dharma and letting his son discover his dharma by giving direction, but few rules. He was a living example of a person sitting in silence and getting in touch with existence. He was aiming the arrow of his son, but not bending or breaking him to his nature by forcing his expectations. Forcing rules and commandments creates oppression by removing choices. The family gave choices and supported them in the video. In Christianity there is a joke about the minister's daughter being the wildest sexually as using force to follow the rules creates a state of an animal backed against the wall until it attacks in frustration, emotions being released. I feel oppression destroys society as women are oppressed even though they live in intimate relations with the oppressor following his rules or morality instead of their own. They adopt these rules and feel the oppressor is right or honorable using religious justification. In this election year we see people who want dictates and don’t care about the reasons to vote because they desire certainty and not so much truth, they seem to have acquired the religious bigotry of their leader. Christians are more upset with swearing and the being flipped off than the environment, the sick, elderly, the poor, our students or women’s health. Christianity needs a little mindfulness and science to explain it.

 

Sexual relations without love

 

 

We try to force our morality on others not aware of their situation, which seems we love only the part of them where we see ourselves, our way of life, our morality. If we want a loving person in sexual relations, we must become a loving person first in the present moment, which is mindfulness. Science can explain this in detail that sex is natural, pleasurable, enjoyable and increased with a loving relationship. It can also be an energy drain depending on the level of comfort and emotions if they are blocked or not and it being about someone just being an object for sexual pleasure. The monk in the video taught mindfulness not with commandments, but with example and his children were thoughtful and mindful even if they did not meditate. It seems the video ended in the direction that was meant to be without force, separation or discomfort.

 

Under the rule of Christianity we try to stop sexual education and instead give rules and commandments without explanations, but using force. I feel we need to teach mindfulness so our children male and female are empowered to follow their own morality of interbeing. I don't think a student of mindfulness and aware of interbeing would attempt sexual relations without love.

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Science explains the abstract concepts in a clear and precise manner that satisfies and relaxes my intellect so I can explore beyond its limits.

 

For me it is different - science sorts out the wheat from the chaff I imagine,

 

Burl

The example of Hanh's view of sexual misconduct is for me shows he does not quite understand his interbeing. Sexual misconduct is also the sun, clouds, rain and minerals except that he wears his dualistic hat on this one.

 

 

Sun, clouds, rain and minerals are for him behaving badly.

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On the Christian Music thread Burl asked whether I meditated on the music? it reminded me of these two quotes:

 

We tend to think of meditation in only one way. But life itself is a meditation
Raul Julio

 

I can't find the original context for this quote despite all of ten minutes of googling. But I did come across this page focussing on the negative aspects of meditation. There is also a page on the positive in the same website.

 

Anyway ... why not meditate on what is important for each of us, rather than some particular aspect that is important for someone else?

 

Here I would have a similar observation of Campbell and of Hanh.

 

How do we elevate our consciousness? Meditation. All of life is a meditation, most of it unintentional. A lot of people spend most of their meditating on where their money’s coming from and where it’s going to go, but that’s a level of meditation. Or if you have a family to bring up, you’re concerned for the family. These are all certainly very important concerns, but they have to do with physical conditions mostly. How are you going to communicate spiritual consciousness to the children if you don’t have it yourself, so how do you get that? The myths. What the myths are for is to bring us into a level of consciousness which is spiritual.

Joseph Campbell

 

Here Campbell recognizes life is a meditation but that the spiritual might need special attention. If Hanh is right and all is interconnected through interbeing ... then it really does not matter.

Edited by romansh
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Quote

We tend to think of meditation in only one way. But life itself is a meditation

Raul Julio

 

Nice quote precise and to the point.

 

I agree that meditation is not spacing-out or a desertion, but a way to be totally honest with ourselves in the present moment because it is any action done with awareness, a mindfulness of our actions, thoughts, feelings and emotions. Our mind is responsible for pleasure and pain so mindfulness is not asking us to go to therapy, take antidepressants, believe or trust, but just place the mirror of observation in front of the mind and asking us to see the truth. It is not suited for everyone because it is a very direct experience that is practical and authentic, but it is a good place to be when everything goes wrong. It is an essential mobile piece of equipment like a mirror that can be used anywhere at any time to nourish our experience and make it transferable to life. When life gets chaotic and outrageous this mechanism can shut down the mental computer so when we turn it on again everything is in its right place and upgraded to the latest moment in time. It is never too late to turn on the scan to erase old habits or thoughts that run through our mind over and over taking up memory and space with old views. A new perspective doesn’t depend on how long we have harbored uncompromising thoughts because the mind when we push the button doesn’t care how long it has been dark because the light lets us see everything clearly. A scan of the mind and body helps us to see the whole in the present healthier moment even if we are sick, in pain and diseased we can still be involved, hugged and embraced with the experience of wholeness. Meditation is not about throwing ourselves away to be developed or converted into something healthier, better or superior, but just an unfolding of who we are in the immediate moment. “Meditation is offering your genuine presence to yourself in every moment.” (Thich Nhat Hanh) “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” (Buddha)

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Meditation is simply being with a quiet mind. "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."
- Blaise Pascal

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I read the article about the dangers of meditation with interest, Rom. I can’t say I disagree strongly with the author’s views, but I think they are probably over-amplified.

However, for someone considering a “serious” meditation practice, I think they should definitely find a qualified meditation teacher. They might have to look around for a while and see what best fits their particular mental, emotional and physical disposition.

 

Also, like the author, I don’t think just anyone can automatically benefit from meditation. Many people have serious emotional and psychological issues that should be addressed prior to getting into meditation. I have in mind Abraham Maslow’s “self-actualized” individual. Someone who has it “all together”, or who is at least working toward that would benefit much more than an emotional wreck.

 

For the ill-informed, certain meditation techniques can bring up very disturbing thoughts, memories and images. Without knowing why this is happening, a person is likely to just stop altogether, and that is probably for the best.

 

I started meditating when I joined AA thirty years ago. But, I was also in psychotherapy at the time. I noticed that the “meditation” step was number eleven of twelve. I wondered about that at the time, but not anymore. There are ten very challenging steps to be done (clean-up work) prior to getting into meditation.

 

For those who are after a spiritual “fix”, or an experience of “ecstasy”, meditation isn’t for them. I would suggest peyote or its equivalent for that!

 

Finally, it’s important (at least in my opinion) for a person to have a purpose for their meditation practice.

 

Steve

 

PS I realize we are seriously off-topic here, but what the hey!

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Steve, good advice. It seems you have been around the block a few times, mindful of the times you were aware and not.

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Well this thread seems to have died a death.

 

What were the overall views of the book ... mine would have been three star?

 

Also the little bit of commentary on meditation seems to indicate it means different things to different people.

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