Tag Archives: Buddhism

Preface and Introduction -The Apophatic Assertion

20 Jul
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Poem…

3 May
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All Life has reverence…

16 Apr

What is Important to You- Personal Reflections

18 Feb

What things do you think you cannot live without?

I was asked to answer that question and in fact, this is an important and complex question. There are many things that are important factors that I cannot live without.

Most of what I definitively cannot live without are my body’s physical necessities to survive, such as oxygen, clean water, nutrients, warmth and coolness, protection from the elements, movement, sleep, etc.. Without all of these and others, my life would be short and miserable. So, I am careful to honor these requirements by being mindful that I have them of good quality in my life allowing me to maintain sound physical health.

For because of my body’s healthy balance, with a good physical foundation and salutary environment, and the quality of my emotions and thoughts being uplifted and positive, I am much less likely to become depressed, anxious, etc.. My life will not be constricted and unhappy. Also, in this regard, I can not live well without the wisdom of maintaining a balanced perspective on life and my situation in it.

And then there is the spiritual social aspect. By spiritual I mean
intuitive knowing that everything is interconnected and interdependent within the mysterious universe. A quote from Albert Einstein expresses this well, ‘The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as aII serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. Ta sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our mind can not grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me, it suffices to wonder about these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.’ This perspective prevents any alienation since I know that all the creatures on this earth are a part of the larger universal life force that we share together. All beings on all levels want to thrive, we are all intertwined in the web of life. We are all together.

This brings me to the point of how I came to know and value that experience of oneness. Well, when I was younger and with many extended camping trips with friends, in the wilderness, I came to see not only the awesomeness and vastness of the universe but also my companionship, on this planet, with all other sentient beings including the forests, plants, etc.. Then, finally, after a long search to
clarify that intuition for me, first with awareness training and then the meditative and ethical Buddha’s Path and Satori, I came to clearly recognize the oneness of everything with the subsequent empathy and
compassion for all life of this world. This insight I cannot live well without.

So, I cannot live without the requirements of life which means
having shelter, and other necessities that give my physical needs
support and basic comfort to thrive. I cannot live happily and satisfied without my knowing my innate inter-connection with everything alive on this earth. I cannot live happily without simple expressions of my interests and activities. Finally, I cannot live well without actively expressing my feelings of connectedness and openness, on various levels, with other people and beings, measured by the available and possible reciprocity.

Overall, besides the requirements of the survival of my physical life, the foundation of my happiness and satisfaction and guiding principle is my spirituality of feeling the interconnectedness and interdependency of all life on this planet. This is always a satisfaction I know and honor through my positive interactions in living.
 Rodger R Ricketts Psy.D. 2021

Language and Reality Construction: A Process of Abstraction

17 Feb

The first words that an infant learns are normally simple nouns with
repeatable syllables, such as ‘puppy’, ‘papa’, or ‘mama’. However, as
the number of concepts and sounds in a child’s repertoire increases,
language becomes progressively abstract. As we grow from infancy to
maturity and develop our capacity for language and critical
evaluation, we naturally categorize experiences into classes that
share certain characteristics, for example: Animal, Vegetable,
mineral. The game of 21 questions nicely illustrates this process. As
we gain experience, and this continues through all phases of our
active mental life, we both place experiences into already defined
categories, such as Animal: dog or cat, breed; and create new
categories where we don’t find the existing ones convenient. Each of
these classes and there is an exacting logical science for
classification, is a level of abstraction. As the class of objects grows,
new subclasses, more abstract formulations, occur. Carried far
enough and we have, as in the field of natural history, the story of life
on this planet and an array of scientific subjects, an encyclopedia of
species, and specializations that fill a catalog.

Scholar Korzybski identified a problem with abstractions in that the
further along the chain you go the greater the distance you get from
the original, first-order, experience. Reality loses its concreteness
and concreteness is the foundation of a sane, rational mind. One
major problem with this process is that we tend to think that the
word represents the thing itself. Ultimately you get into
philosophical debates about whether categories or forms have
independent existence and the mind-body split, a phenomenon
Korzybski concluded was one of the major pathologies of modern
life. Related to this pathology is identification.
The Buddha calls this process of mental construction papañca,
“elaboration,” “embellishment,” or “conceptual proliferation.” For the
Buddha, the elaborations block out the presentational immediacy of
phenomena; they let us know an object only “at a distance,” not as it
really is. But the elaborations do not only screen cognition; they also
serve as a basis for projections. The deluded mind, cloaked in
ignorance, projects its own internal constructs outwardly, ascribing
them to the object as if they really belonged to it.

As a result, what we know as the final object of cognition, what we
use as the basis for our values, plans, and actions, is a patchwork
product, not the original article. To be sure, the product is not wholly
an illusion, not sheer fantasy. It takes what is given in immediate
experience as its groundwork and raw material, but along with this, it
includes something else: the embellishments fabricated by the mind.
In the end, the original direct experience has been overrun by
ideation and the presented object appears only dimly through dense
layers of ideas and views, like the moon through a layer of clouds.
Language, then, enables us to conceive and express about objects
and relationships with no concrete physical referents. Examples
include hypothetical relationships, mathematical concepts, and
highly complex social constructions such as ‘liberty’ or ‘justice’. Once
constructed via language, these mental entities, rules, obligations
and expectancies govern human thought and action to a remarkable
degree. In short, language shapes not only communication but also
understanding. Our “worldview is inescapably shaped by” our
language.7 Language clearly draws our attention to certain aspects of
the world and influences our judgment about it.

Language gives a name to an object for purposes of easy
communication. When it has the sanction of others, it becomes a
convention. There would be no shared world that human beings
enjoy in common if there were no shared dimension of this
subliminal awareness. It is only through conceptual categorization
that we can objectify ourselves in contrast to others and in relation to
remembered pasts and anticipated futures. “It is a final irony,”
Deacon concludes, “that it is the virtual, not actual, reference that
[linguistic] symbols provide, which gives rise to this experience of self.
This most undeniably real experience is a virtual reality”
1. Most of this,
though, occurs without our awareness of it.

Our ‘shared virtual world,’ which arises in correlation with the
common cognitive structures and linguistic categories, is so deeply
engrained and so utterly habituated that it occurs almost
automatically and nearly unconsciously in every moment. Our
human worlds are collective and consensual, yet unconscious,
construct, and the concepts are invested with the necessary flexibility
and set on their tracks to proliferate. The uninstructed average
person succumbs to it; the disciple training on the Eightfold Path
resists it, and the Emancipated Ones transcend it. Concepts for them
are “merely worldly conventions in common use, which he made use of,
without clinging to them” (D. N. I. 202). The Buddha reminds us that
language is only based on conventional usage and that these worldly
usages are not to be taken with an absolute perspective.
Over the course of a lifetime, this shared-world of linguistic concepts
becomes deeply engrained in our thought and speech patterns.
Indeed, these concepts are unavoidable when we learn to speak and
live as members of a specific culture. Of these concepts, perhaps the
the most elaborate and deeply engrained psychological category is our
concept of the self, which evolves and is defined dependent on and in
relation to a complex web of other concepts. Since language provides
most of these concepts to us, one can easily agree that in large part
our sense of self reflects our cultural inheritance, the shared reality
that we tacitly agree upon with others.

Our concept of self-arises from a perceived division between
subject and object, which contains yet further divisions within itself.
On the one hand, there is the self as agent, the subjective I who
performs various actions at the moment. On the other hand, there is
another view of the self, the objectified ‘me’, as an enduring entity
with a set of personality traits that we evaluate and judge according
to cultural norms. This split becomes evident when people say things
such as “I am a very intelligent person”. Such an expression is only
coherent if we accept a split between our self in the moment, and a
deeper, more permanent, and reflective self. At this point it is
significant to remember that the human brain is a rather creative
storyteller that uses language to organize the world of conscious
experience, thereby efficiently making sense of the otherwise
overwhelming volume of perceptual information processed by the
nervous system. Building stories to describe the world of concepts
around us, it means at the same time defining ourselves, an idea
referred to the “narrative self”.9 Let’s put it more simply: as we gain
mastery of our native language, we begin to use words to tell stories,
and in these stories, we create what we call ourselves. This ongoing
and reflective personal narrative constructs the fiction of a time-bound, continuous self. The great drawback to the structure imposed
by language is that our words emphasize the separateness of things at the expense of perceiving the unity of experience.
Transcending the Dualism of Language
For the Buddha, the central snare of language is that we become
confined in the misconception of the identifications of the self which
are encouraged from the grammatical use of agent and object. Once
we establish the intentional ‘I’ as part of our lexicon, I-related thoughts
enter our inner dialogue of mental chatter. We select the ‘I’ thoughts
that build and maintain a story about ourselves that we are willing to
accept; we are all creative writers in the service of the self. As a result,
our reality is filtered through the selective and often self-serving vision
of our subjective I lens. Engrossed and compelled as we are in our
stories and our I, me, and mine, which are founded on dualism, we
cannot comprehend the actuality of existence, which in turn leads to

our state of suffering. We now turn to the question of how to
transcend this unhappy state.
In Buddha’s psychology, the term Nāma-rūpa or ‘name-form’ is used
to describe the interplay of psychological and physical processes,
which define a human being. Nāma(name) refers to the
psychological dimension and includes processes such as feeling,
attention, and perception. Rūpa(form) refers to physical substance,
and provides some consistency and recognizability to the individual,
giving shape to abstraction. However, in keeping with the doctrine of
Anattà (no-self), neither nāma nor rūpa has any meaning or
significance without the other: they are complementary or mutually
necessary. Rūpa can secure a basis in consciousness only in
collaboration with nāma, and vice versa. In other words, without an
observer, there is no object. We perceive the world in dualistic terms
because language helps make any unity experience elusive to our
cognitive apparatus. Enlightenment becomes possible when one
understands that the shared social world, which includes a self, is a
construction, and becomes open to directly experiencing the unity,
which underlies Nāma-rūpa and other apparent dualities.
Importantly, this unity cannot be fully grasped by exercising
one’s intellectual faculties alone because that inevitably brings
symbols and concepts back into the picture, which is self-defeating.
Instead, Buddhist meditative practice teaches disciples to clear their
mind of concepts in incremental stages, gradually dissolving the
illusory boundaries which confuse us.

Through a systematic meditative practice, we can free our
perceptions from all the restraints and burdens of the preenlightened mind and achieve Awakening – a non-verbal appreciation of the world as it continuously comes into being.
Adherents of the apophatic tradition hold that ‘God’ or (X) is beyond
the limits of what humans can understand, and that one should not
seek ‘God’ by means of intellectual understanding, but through a
direct experience.
So, Awakening consists in seeing and reflecting on things just
as they are, impartially, without exclusion, bias, attachment,
obstructions, or distortion. The grasper-grasped relationship ceases.
When this transcendence is achieved, the use of language and
symbols to describe a God or mystical being is easily seen through as
mere human language fascinations and abstractions. There is the
clear recognition of the inadequacy of human language to describe
God or the divine essence.
In the apophatic tradition, this fetish of using language and cognitive
constructions to create a dualistic reality is stepped back from. There
is no attachment to this as it is seen for what it is, a fantasy, or as
Deacon called it ‘virtual reality, perhaps at times a helpful one but
still a fantasy. Instead, as the Buddha taught in the seen shall only be
the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the sensed only the sensed,
in the cognized only the cognized.

Language and Reality Construction: A Process of Abstraction
Of the Book, God is No-thing. The Apophatic Assertion. Copyright Rodger
Ricketts Psy.D.,2020. All rights reserved. Protected by international copyright
conventions. No part of this chapter may be reproduced in any manner
whatsoever, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, without the express
permission of the Author-publisher, except in case of brief quotations with due
acknowledgment. Published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Platform

The Universality of the Mystical Experience

16 Feb

Over the centuries and throughout many cultures, ordinary people as
well as monks and mystics, have reported a personal experience that
transformed their lives and perspective on life and existence. While
interpretations of this experience have differed, researcher Walter
Stace outlined important common characteristics which distinguish
them from any other kind of experience. These include:
*The Unitary Consciousness; the One; pure consciousness.
*All life is interconnected and the One is in all things.
*Nonspatiality, non-temporality.
*Sense of objectivity or reality.
*Peace, bliss, serenity, rapture.
*Feeling of the sacred or mysterious.
*To be transcendent, immanent, indescribable, ineffable.
*No judgmental quality. “Insight into depths of truth
unplumbed by the discursive intellect.”
*Transiency. Most transcendent experiences have a short
occurrence, but their effect persists.
While the discernment of this Reality is subjective, it is not
exclusively personal as the experience has been shared often
throughout different epochs and localities.
Although a supramundane experience can occur spontaneously, it
is usually discerned profoundly after living virtuously and immersion
in deep states of meditation. In that consummate state of awareness,
the illusory boundaries of the separate self-dissolve and there is no
longer any cognitive distinction between subject and object, and
time and space disappear. To paraphrase psychologist William James:
This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and
the Absolute … we become aware of our oneness, however, (labeling it
as) “union with God” is only one possible interpretation of it, which
should not, therefore, be given as its definition. The same experience can
be interpreted non theistically as in Buddhism…. All this can be
experienced and felt without any creed at all. … The mystic in any
culture usually interprets his experience in terms of the religion in
which he has been reared. But if he is sufficiently sophisticated, he can
throw off that religious creed and still retain his mystical experience.’
This discernment can be experienced without any ideology at all and
it is still understood as sacred and spiritual.

The Apophatic theology proposes that instead of aiming for worldly
glory, wealth, or power, it is far more worthwhile that we become
fulfilled with our own existence and strive for virtue, goodness, and a
quiet mind to eventually gain access to the essence of Being or ‘God’.
In fact, as Angelus Silesius wrote, ‘God’ is a pure No-thing; concealed in
now and here; the less you reach for ‘Him’, the more ‘He’ will appear.

The All is the divine immanence that embraces all.

The Apophatic and Cataphatic Relationship
‘The (Emptiness)relation between the individual and ‘God’ is a universal
relation which is the foundation for all other relations.’
said Martin Buber
Reflecting Apophatic theology. Jiddu Krishnamurti, an
Indian
philosopher, and teacher taught that the Middle Way offers healing
from the dualistic mechanical perspective of science and technology
by reuniting the divide between subject and object, and emotions
and rationality – making our personal world whole again.
A core of Krishnamurti’s teaching is contained in the statement:
“Truth is a pathless land”. For Krishnamurti, humans cannot realize
the Truth through any organization or creed, through any dogma,
priest or ritual, nor through any philosophical knowledge or
psychological technique. It must be found through the
understanding of the contents of one’s own mind, through
observation, instead of through endless intellectual analysis or
introspective dissection.
The religious, political, and personal descriptive manifestations of
symbols, ideas, beliefs that dominate our dualistic thinking,
relationships, and daily life, create our alienation for they divide us
from our true nature, each other, and nature. Instead, Awakening to
Nothingness by showing the interconnectedness and inherent
emptiness of all reunites us with our true nature and each other.
Once a practitioner has succeeded in experiencing, thereby
understanding, that the Apophatic relation is based on the pure
experience, all their encounters are free of a cataphatic
categorization and separateness. It is a relation not driven by
a dualism using categories of “same” and “different” which promotes
experiences of a detached object from subject, fixed in space and
time. To perceive from the dualistic, rational perspective makes the
world classified, predictable, manipulable, and an alienated
object. The I is detached or separated from the other. The world is
viewed as consisting of categories and rationally knowable objects.
While in a pragmatic way this positive relationship with the world is
necessary, to only live with this perspective is living in a world of
ignorance and alienation, ending in a refusal to affirm life. Every
natural impulse is viewed as bad or evil.
In this dualistic-based relationship, Interaction with people is mostly
guided by a person’s social role. The conversations are mainly
superficial and impersonal. A person stays within their social roles
and keeps their private selves veiled. Communication is with less
depth than with those we love most. Casual friends, service
providers, work associates, and interactions with distant family
members typically involve this type of communication.
Differently, the Apophatic relation participates as the dynamic, living
process. In the Empty, non-dualistic relation there is no split self, or
simultaneous experience and self-reflection. It is not used to gain or
have an object or goal, but a relationship involving the whole unified
being of all. No aim, no craving, and no attachment are possible. There
is not a thing among things.
This Apophatic relationship cannot be explained; it simply is. This
relation is based on mutuality, openness, directness, and being in the
present. It reveals the mystery that underlies all forms. By
understanding that mystery, as manifest through all things, existence
becomes a divine picture, and each sentient being is expressed
through that transcendent mystery. Those who understand that
always greet each other with the awareness of the divine presence in
each other. It is a recognition that the divine is within all. We
interact with the world in its whole being which brings a deep
richness and empathy to life
.

Of the Book, God is No-thing. The Apophatic Assertion. Copyright Rodger Ricketts Psy.D.,2020. All rights
reserved. Protected by international copyright conventions. No part of this chapter may be
reproduced in any manner whatsoever, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted,
without the expressed permission of the Author-publisher, except in case of brief quotations with
due acknowledgment. Published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

The Biological Origin of “Self”

14 Feb

 Everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler!” ~ Albert Einstein

 In my book, The Buddha’s Teachings: Seeing Without Illusion, I explore the Buddha’s concept of Anatta, or no-self. I show that the Buddha described the concept of self as a relative, linguistic, social construct dependent on culture and time. Experiencing this insight of ‘no-self’ helps us to comprehend and dissolve away the attachment and clinging to self-identification that causes suffering until ultimately all traces of self-identification are gone and all that’s left is freedom.  However, the nature of self is one of the most enduring assumptions of humankind, and if asked how one knows they have a self, often the reply is, “I can make decisions, I can choose; therefore, I know there is an ‘I’ who is the chooser behind my choices.” This blog explores the question, “How real is the conscious self as the cognitive executive in charge?”

 The newest research in neuroscience and biology indicates that besides some significant cognitive embellishments on the original phenomena, selectivity and choice is a function based on an organism’s biological and evolutionary need to minimize and sort out all possible “blooming, buzzing confusion” (William James) that would occur without the body’s filtering system. In his book, Quantum Reality, Physicist Wolfram Schommers quotes physician Hoimar von Ditfurth, who stated: “No doubt, the rule ‘As little outside world as possible’, only as much as is absolutely necessary is apparent in evolution. It is valid for all descendants of the primeval cell and therefore for ourselves. Without a doubt, the horizon of the properties of the tangible environment has been extended more and more in the course of time. But in principle, only those qualities of the outside world are accessible to our perception apparatus which, in the meantime, we need as living organisms in our stage of development. Also, our brain has evolved not as an organ to understand the world but an organ to survive.”

 In fact, every second, we are inundated with information from the many stimuli around and in us. In order to keep the brain from becoming overwhelmed by the steady stream of data competing for attention, brain cells work together to sort and prioritize information. Our sense organs and our brain operate as an intricate kind of filter that limits and directs the mind’s focus, so that under normal conditions, attention is concentrated on just those objects or situations or sensations that are of importance to the organism. This ability to pay attention to relevant information while ignoring distractions is a core brain function.

 Without the ability to focus and filter out “noise” we could not effectively function. As reported in Science Digest, in a study appearing in the journal Nature, researchers from Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and the University of California Davis studied communications between synaptically connected neurons under conditions where subjects shifted their attention toward or away from visual stimuli that activated the recorded neurons. The results point to a novel mechanism by which attention shapes perception by selectively altering presynaptic weights to highlight sensory features among all the noisy sensory input. “While our findings are consistent with other reported changes in neuronal firing rates with attention, they go far beyond such descriptions, revealing never-before tested mechanisms at the synaptic level,” said study co-author Farran Briggs Ph.D., assistant professor of Physiology and Neurobiology at the Geisel School of Medicine. “Many processes in the brain occur automatically and without the involvement of our consciousness. This prevents our mind from being overloaded by simple routine tasks. But when it comes to decisions, we tend to assume they are made by our conscious mind. This is questioned by our current findings.” The researchers found that it was possible to predict from brain signals which options participants would take up to seven seconds before they consciously made their decision. The fact that decisions could be predicted so long before they were made goes against our usual intuitive sense that we always make our decisions with conscious deliberation, and that this deliberation process is a foundation of our self.

 How does our brain achieve this ability to choose and focus attention? The answer is believed to be connected with what is called “efficient selection”, which is likened to a filter; routing important sensory information to higher-order perceptual areas of the brain while suppressing disruptions from irrelevant information. Reporting their research in Neuron, Justin Gardner and colleagues at the RIKEN BSI, found that sensory signals were efficiently selected. They said that stimuli that are particularly disruptive to our ability to focus and that evoke high neural activity, are preferentially passed on to perceptual areas of the brain because stimuli with high contrast that evoke large sensory responses, such as flashing lights or loud noises, can easily disrupt our ability to focus. 

  Expanding on the description of the neurobiological-cognitive system in his paper, The self: social construct or neurobiological system?, Philipp Rau wrote:‘We can rightfully reject the social theory of selfhood with its claim that the self is only a social post-lingual emergent. Rather, the self is at root a neurobiological-cognitive system that, long before socialization, allows the individual to be conscious of itself in the world. But having rejected a social account of how the self emerges does not compel us to deny that the self, once emerged, can be shaped by sociocultural factors. The processes contributing to the self are distributed across a number of neuroanatomical structures. It is only their synchronous neural activity that generates a self.  The core self of the neuro-cognitive theory only arises when the organism becomes conscious of itself interacting with the world. Thus, the self emerges precisely when the internal-external boundary is straddled. The phenomenal content of the neuro-cognitive self, however, corresponds to what Cartesian intuition would have us conceive of as an ontologically independent self. There is no such self-independent of the brain and body, of course, but the self-representational processes described by the neuro-cognitive theory, in creating a conscious self-model, produce in us the illusion that there might be (cf. Metzinger, 2003, chs. 1, 6, 8).

 What Descartes in his Meditations believed to have isolated as “a res cogitans” (a thinking thing), is the content of the core self, the product of a neurobiologically driven cognitive system.’

Biochemist Mae-Wan Ho goes one step further by saying that this system is a function not only of the brain, but of how the organism functions as a coherent whole; what she calls “the quantum coherence of the organism”. In an article on the ISIS website titled, Quantum Coherence and Conscious Experience, she wrote, “I propose that quantum coherence is the basis of living organization and can also account for key features of conscious experience – the ‘unity of intentionality’, our inner identity of the singular ‘I’, the simultaneous binding and segmentation of features in the perceptive act, the distributed, holographic nature of memory, and the distinctive quality of each experienced occasion.”

In her book, The Rainbow and the Worm, she explains that:“The liquid crystalline water matrix pervades the entire organism from the extracellular connective tissues to the interior of every single cell, and is the carrier of electric and electromagnetic signals. Special membrane proteins have water-filled channels that cross the cell membrane, acting as ‘proton wires’ to transport protons in and out of the cell. This is a special instance of the proton jump conduction that’s much faster than ordinary electric currents through wires, and it could be happening all over the body. The same liquid crystalline matrix transmits the heart’s large pulsating electromagnetic field throughout the body, including the brain, which paces and intercommunicates with the myriad local rhythms. Within the cell, it transmits the much higher frequency electromagnetic waves emitted by molecules that depend on specific frequencies to recognize one another and coordinate their actions even at a distance. So we see that the body is a quantum coherent organism which creates and recreate herself from moment to moment.”

 Mae -Wan Ho likes to call this process “Quantum jazz”, which is the music of the organism dancing life into being. She goes on to write that: “Quantum jazz is played out by the whole organism, in every nerve and sinew, every muscle, every single cell, molecule, atom, and elementary particle, a light and sound display that spans seventy octaves in all the colors of the rainbow. There is no conductor or choreographer. Quantum jazz is written while it is being performed; each gesture, each phrase is new, shaped by what has gone before, though not quite. The organism never ceases to experience her environment, taking it in (entangling it) for future reference, modifying her liquid crystalline matrix and neural circuits, recoding and rewriting her genes. Quantum coherence is the ‘I’ in everyone that gives unity to conscious experience.”

 As we can see from these examples of a new understanding about the significance of biological regulation and coherence of the organism, the previously intuitive construct of the “Cartesian Theater” in the brain, wherein the self sits as a spectator on the world and self acts as the CEO executive of all decision making, is exposed as an illusion. Clearly, the biologically based core functions of organization, selectivity, and coherence are necessary for organism survival. The abstracted cognitive embellishments serve as relative, convenient designations or identifications, which constructs a virtual presence of the ‘self’ illusion, and is based in ignorance, and through steadfast identification creates craving and suffering. Only now are we able to empirically support the Buddha’s insights of ‘anatta or no-self’ which he gained through the introspective practice of bhavana, or meditation.

Copyright Rodger R Ricketts, Psy.D. 2021

The Trap of Dualism – The unanswered questions.

14 Feb

When the monk Malunkyaputta decided to ask questions to the
Buddha ‘These theories have been left unexplained by the Lord,’ and he
asked them all dualistically arranged. He expressed them this way, “Is
the world eternal, or not?” Almost binary in its dualism, the answers
must be dualistic. As they speak to relative reality, one reason often
cited as to why the Buddha would not answer these questions is that
any answer, regardless of what those answers were, would reinforce
dualism: me-you, space-time, object, and subject. So, Buddha not
only left his answers “undeclared” because they would set back the
unlearned practice with notions of duality, but also because they
have no validity nor benefit to achieve Awakening,
Attaching to relative reality and duality is one of the causes of not
Awakening.
Instead, at a non-dualistic level, one knows Oneness.
Oneness or the concept of Emptiness is about all things —including
every atom in the “infinite” or the “non-infinite” universe (whichever
it is.) The apophatic tradition emphasizes the unity, wholeness,
interdependence, and interconnectedness of all things.
In distinction from the dualism of the unanswerable questions, there
are intuitions about realities that transcend the systems of categories
in our human thought and language. They are matters which, in St
Paul’s words, ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man
conceived’ (I Corinthians 2:9). Instead, apophatic theology refers to
the subject matter of these unanswerable questions as mysteries, as
matters that are beyond human comprehension and expression. Also,
they recognize that the endless pursual of logical and rational
thinking about these mysteries is useless and instead, makes it
impossible to attain Awakening or Emptiness.
The sciences are left to do their own legitimate study of finding out
what the physical universe is composed of, and how it works.
However, the Buddha would not have endorsed any attempts to
aspects of physics or scientific cosmology, as a new form of natural
theology leading ‘from science to God’. In another essay, I explore
more in-depth why that is true. ‘Both the physicist and the mystic
want to communicate their knowledge, and when they do so with
words their statements are paradoxical and full of logical
contradictions.’ Beyond Language, Fritjof Capra.
Nor, would he have supported the struggles of theologians over the
centuries, who have developed complex Cataphatic systems of
doctrine about the positive attributes of God. For the Buddha, all
such dogmas come under the heading of speculative views, the
pursuit of which is not relevant to finally understanding our
immanent relationship with Awakening.
It is remarkably difficult for human beings to overcome the
illusion of dualism. Mostly there is very little promoted to
break down the dualistic mindset which is so detrimental to
the interior, mystical, and experiential faith. “In ordinary life, we
are not aware of the unity of all things but divide the world into
separate objects and events. This division is useful and necessary
to cope with our everyday environment, but it is not a fundamental
feature of reality. It is an abstraction devised by our discriminating
and categorizing intellect. To believe that our abstract concepts of
separate ‘things’ and ‘events’ are realities of nature is an illusion.”
— Fritjof Capra
The ultimate reality is unknowable and beyond the scope of human
conceptualization. The non-dual state or emptiness ceases to
make distinctions, and non-dualistic awareness can see inwardly,
subtly, feeling and experiencing and loving with unconditional
kindness, truth, wisdom, and compassion. Being, living,
experiencing without cognitive borders is pure awareness. It is a
radical awareness, an understanding, a transformation of
consciousness.
When we listen deeply to our intuition, the internal sense, all is a
seamless unity, despite the appearance or teachings to the
contrary or the commonly held assumptions and mindset that
we live in a dualistic creation. The challenge is to give pure
awareness to the present moment, to personal, interior
experience, to the ‘simple’ presence of the now, the only place
where we can be in the truth, immersed in and infused with
discovering how to be fully alive. The negative way opens a path to
non-duality. “Immeasurably exalted is His Essence above the
descriptions of His creatures… Far be it from His glory that human pen
or tongue should hint at His mystery, or that human heart conceives
His Essence” (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet to Hashim. GWB XCIV:192)
Importantly, meditation practices cut through even the most subtle
clinging to concepts, including all clinging to religious ideas, beliefs,
practices, and spiritual experiences as if they were ultimate. This
clinging to a religious tradition as if it were an ultimate occurs if
religious training does not provide the means to uproot fully the
subconscious tendencies of conditioned grasping to human
conceptualizations that obscure the unconditioned and nonconceptual Awakening or emptiness.
An innate, pure, non-dual awareness uniting the wisdom of beyond
grasping to dualism with compassion for all still caught in such
grasping is conveyed by Buddhism through its teachings and
practices. The fruit of this path is the actualization of Emptiness:
non-dual, non-conceptual awareness, tranquility, equanimity, all-
inclusive compassion with activity on behalf of all alienated beings.
The Buddha saw in the wisdom of non-conceptual, non-dual
awareness, a path that is capable of non-attachment to even the
subtlest attachments. For Kitaro Nishida, perhaps the most
significant and influential Japanese philosopher of the twentieth
century, pure experience is:
‘To experience is to know facts just as they are, to know in
accordance with facts by completely relinquishing one’s own
fabrications. What we usually refer to as experience is
adulterated with some sort of thought, so by pure I am
referring to the state of experience just as it is without the
least addition of deliberative discrimination. …Pure experience
is identical to direct experience. When one directly
experiences one’s own state of consciousness, there is not yet a
subject or an object, and knowing and its object are completely
unified. This is the most refined type of experience.’
Mental training in Buddhism and apophatic theology is based on an
empirical perspective; that experience is the ultimate criterion of
truth. With the penetrative insight of Awakening, the Arahant,
meaning worthy or noble person who has attained enlightenment
because of listening to and practicing the teachings of a Buddha, sees
through the commonly proposed ultimate validity of concepts. For
the Arahant, all concepts are transparent and are not grasped
dogmatically. They are not regarded as ultimate categories, concepts
are “merely worldly conventions in common use, which an Arahant
makes use of, without clinging to them.” (D. N. I. 202) One’s entire
conceptual blueprint must be released—though gradually—and in
the final awareness, even those concepts that have given us the
greatest help in our spiritual practice are given up.
The Buddha used the raft simile to illustrate this; “In the same way, monks, I have
taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing
over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Understanding the Dhamma
as taught compared to a raft, you should let go even of Dhammas, to
say nothing of non-Dhammas.” (Sutta-pitakaMajjhimaNikaya 22)
The common human condition is to be attached to the cravings of
egotistical consciousness, and yet this dualistic consciousness
deludes us of the awareness of the flow of reality. The Cataphatic
religions provide languages, symbols, and practices that alert us to
the compelling deceptiveness of egotistical consciousness with its
illusory character of separation and relativity of pain and
pleasure. However, it has been a tragedy of religion, that while
pointing toward an Awakening from dualistic dogma, it entangles its
practitioners in a dualistic consciousness which experiences the
ego/self as Soul.
Indeed, this common version of moral and metaphysical duality undermines and confuses any capacities for trueself-kindness, humility, compassion, and Awakening.
In many religions, there is an implicit non-duality in the often promoted imagery of love. It uses a vocabulary that expresses the intuitive primacy of love, peace, and compassion accompanying the
non-dual, non-conceptual awareness. However, any commandment
to love will remain encumbered by one’s own egotistical will.
Marguerite Porete was someone who understood that clinging to
religious ideas, beliefs, practices, and spiritual experiences did indeed
serve as an impediment to the annihilation of the final obstacle of a
permanency idea. As Marguerite Porete said, “One who remains in
will is often in such a war, whatever good works his will might do.’
Through the disciplines of asceticism, there is a lifestyle that
reduces material aspects of life to a minimum and to a high degree of
simplicity. This can include simple clothing, sleeping without a bed
or in nature, and eating a minimal amount of food. Then there are
the harsher practices that involve body mortification, torturing
one’s body, and self-infliction of pain.
The will is remorselessly dominated to renounce its attachments, but
the will often resist and is strengthened by those techniques because
of the maintenance of the dualistic foundation of subject/object, and
egocentric structures of the mind remain intact. However, just as the
the truth about divinity is not apprehended by more accurate
conceptualizations, the release of the will is not accomplished by
painful joys and sorrows but, instead, by letting it go with attaining
pure awareness or nothingness.
As Rumi wrote, ‘Your worst enemy is hiding within yourself, and that
enemy is your nafs or false ego.’ In a mystical way, Rumi is effectively
instructing us of the need of purifying our consciousness from the
falseness and dualities that are embedded in the sense-based life.
Therefore, Nafs or False Ego(نفس (equals any egotistical inclination.
The last hindrance of achieving awakening for the Buddha was
understanding impermanence and co-dependent arising and then
letting go of craving and attachment to everything leaving pure
awareness and No-thing.
Mistaking Words for the Truth
In the pre-enlightened mind, language is intimately linked with
not only the dualistic subject/object illusion but also with the
objectivist concept of a chasm between symbol-system realism and
truth. there is a fallacy of the use of language as a descriptor of an
objective, static ‘world’ experience. Words, and all concepts, are
mental constructions of the internal and external world. They are
abstractions, not the objective reality they try to capture. As Rudolf
Carnap stated, ‘[…] The formulation in terms of “comparison”, in
speaking of “facts” or “realities”, easily tempts one into the absolutistic
view according to which we are said to search for an absolute reality
whose nature is assumed as fixed independently of the language
chosen for its description. The answer to a question concerning reality
however depends not only upon that “reality” or upon the facts, but
also upon the structure (and the set of concepts) of the language used
for the description.’ In Buddhism and apophatic theology, a language
is a tool for communication and for pointing to the truth, a means to
help us attain Awakening and Nothingness. However, to mistake
words for the truth is almost as ridiculous as mistaking a finger
pointing to the moon for the moon itself!

Compassion for all Sentient Beings…

21 Jan
Buddhists show empathy not only to other people but also to nonhuman creatures. Because the Buddha’s teachings move us away from an egotistical, anthropomorphic, and self-centered worldview, it only makes sense that we should come to see the other creatures with whom we share the earth as having as rightful a place as do human beings. In Buddhist teachings, nonhuman creatures are not lesser or ‘other.’ Thich Nhat Hanh writes: ‘A human being is an animal, a part of nature. But we single ourselves out from the rest of nature. We classify other animals and living beings as nature as if we ourselves are not part of it. Then we pose the question, “How should I deal with Nature?” We should deal with nature the way we deal with ourselves. . .! Harming nature is harming ourselves, and vice-versa.’
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The Buddha’s Teaching in Brief

29 Oct