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Thread: Fusion- when is a Buddhist not a Buddhist?

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    Fusion- when is a Buddhist not a Buddhist?

    I would like to hear some ideas about whether fusion is possible. If there are some new ideas, say about the science of consciousness, what do we do about it? Do we google every bit of the dharma to find anything against it, or for it, or what? There is such a vast array that would it always be possible to find a case for and a case against? Is giving it an airing but not coming to any firm conclusion the best we can do? Should we test things against schools of Buddhism, one at a time, or are there universal constants that we can have as a checklist?

    I would like to start the ball rolling with any people into Zen, specifically if you use koans as part of your practice. Are the ideas on the threads about maths and consciousness worthy of incorporating into meditations about counter-intuitive stuff. Using "It's not possible, but that's how the universe works. What do you say to that?" as part of letting go what you think of as reality, or simply along the lines that there is no answer, but you have to give one?

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    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    Hi Phil,

    I am not a zen practitioner, I have only read books on it so my knowledge is purely academic. Isn’t the idea of koans to stop conceptual thinking, which invariably has self-view involved and hence is always dualistic? When one stops that whatever words or actions are offered as response are the “answers”. In mathematical and scientific knoeledge-gathering, the mystery is the stage before one hears somewhat cryptic and profound-sounding statements. Unfortunately, even if one knows some profound scientific or mathematical ideas, they are usually so far removed from daily experience that it remains an intellectual experience. Plus they are still temporary conventional mental conceptions, not any kind of absolute truths.
    But I would agree that knowing and understanding the current scientific theories can definetely help with issues involving self-view, consciousness, conscious action, free will etc.

    I was in fact thinking that the koan type of instructional practice might be good for some fields of science and maths, especially ones involving counter-intuitive concepts - better than just dry textbook stuff.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Philg
    I would like to start the ball rolling with any people into Zen, specifically if you use koans as part of your practice
    I was previously a long-term Vajrayana practitioner, and I now prefer the Theravada Thai Forest Tradition lineage of Ajahn Chah, so I'm not a Zen practitioner! - However, I came across this article :"The Math Koan" at the Lion's Roar website and thought it might be of interest here.

    https://www.lionsroar.com/the-math-koan/



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    Hi both. An interesting article which brings in elements of how koans work. It really doesn't matter what the koan is, it's the process that it induces in the mind. I would add that it's an intensely destructive process because it builds up a tension which can't be resolved, at least not logically. The aim of the teacher in terms of koans is to keep the pot boiling in the student, not accepting any answer yet demanding one. If done properly then something happens. As the article says, "They work at it and it works at them, until suddenly the “problem” drops away and they communicate its meaning without speaking a word." In Buddhist terms, clinging is destroyed.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    they communicate its meaning without speaking a word.
    Possibly a similar experience to receiving a "pointing out instruction" from one's teacher in Tibetan Buddhism.

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    In scientific terms Kuhn's 'paradigm shift' comes close to the process. The scientific world thinks that the world is structured one way until the stress on new ideas backed by data reaches a certain point, upon which world view changes. Take plate tectonics. Everyone assumed that mountains were formed as the Earth cooled and wrinkled like an apple. Along comes the idea of plate tectonics which had a different explanation for mountain building and then suddenly, after many years, plate tectonics was recognised as the accepted explanation. For those interested in science these are the 'oh wow' moments where your world view changes. Another for me was unlearning that matter can neither be created or destroyed. Learning that matter pops into existence and pops out of existence all the time did something similar to the effects of a koan, at least for me.

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    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    This is a bit weird connection to make but zen koans and zen stories in general always remind me of a star trek the next generation (TNG) episode “Darmok”, where the universal translator fails because people speak and understand the world in terms of metaphors. It is an example of a perfectly valid qualitative system of creating labels, conventions, and communication as opposed to a language with rigid almost mathematical grammer and rules. During the entire episode, tension builds up because the captain can understand the syntax but not the meaning - quite like the tension in “koan-solving”. It is finally released in a-ha moment, when the true nature of that language is understood, then everything makes sense but in a different way. I don’t know why I thought of mentioning this but I felt it might be of interest to some from the point of view of alternate ways of talking about and understanding things.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by trusolo
    I felt it might be of interest to some from the point of view of alternate ways of talking about and understanding things.
    Not really, unless you want to show the clip from Star Trek and explain how its relevant to Buddhism and Buddhist practice!

    (and bearing in mind that Star Trek is TV science fiction/fantasy! )


    ...............

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    My interest in science and science fiction started as soon as I could read and first contact was always there, as a way of exploring all the different ways of thinking and communicating which alien species may show. It's interesting that mathematics is usually chosen as first subject as it communicates universal observations which have recognisable patterns. You recognise a pattern and render it in both methods of communication, and you have the first steps to a Rosetta Stone. Other common things come next, but they all assume that each species is communicating in a logical way that can be followed, given the 'key' to unlock the language. Such assumptions need to made in order to make sense of what the other is saying.

    But what if those assumptions don't hold? Writing which is full of metaphors, figurative language, fables, fiction, parables and so on would be almost impossible for an alien to translate without an intimate knowledge of a civilisation. Which is directly relevant to Buddhism as it is based on a number of civilisations and languages which are pretty alien given that we cannot visit the past when they were written, so we have to make a lot of assumptions which may not reflect the original intent of the writer. Trusolo's comment, that other people may have had 'alternate ways of talking about and understanding things' should be of interest to any Buddhist from our culture wishing to get insight into Dharma written in someone else's past.

    How do we know what people were trying to communicate to their own culture in their own time? What were oral stories, with the often flowery language associated with oral stories, what were meant to be taken literally, and what were assumed to be metaphors, and so on? We owe a lot to people who originally translated such writings, but we also have to be careful about the assumptions they made and those that continue to be made. Koans are a case in point, which I have studied over the years. originally they were never meant to be written down, but were solely between master and pupil, to be used to move the pupil on by creating the right mental tension at the right time. Things change and once written down and codified they began to be learned as formal steps in an automatic system of taught koans. To understand the system you have to look at assumptions made at the time in that culture.

    Science fiction such as Star Trek is really about us rather than what is out there on the frontier.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    Trusolo's comment, that other people may have had 'alternate ways of talking about and understanding things' should be of interest to any Buddhist from our culture wishing to get insight into Dharma written in someone else's past.
    trusolo didn't say that "other people may have had"......He said, regarding his own comments about an episode of StarTrek, : I don’t know why I thought of mentioning this but I felt it might be of interest to some from the point of view of alternate ways of talking about and understanding things."

    It also didn't appear to me that he was talking about "insight into Dharma written in someone else's past" (who's the someone else with a past that you're refering to, Phil?) . He seemed to be talking about an episode of 'Star Trek', which he thought was "quite like the tension in koan-solving".

    In circumstances like this it makes a lot more sense to show a clip of the episode itself, in order to avoid unnecessary confusion. There are plenty of videos of the old Star Trek stuff available on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet - and we have a video facility available right here in our posting boxes. Instructions can be found in our technology forum or just click on the second icon from the right at the top of the posting box and then insert the URL of the video in the box which appears.(the first icon shows a speech bubble and is the quoting facility).

    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    Science fiction such as Star Trek is really about us rather than what is out there on the frontier.
    Sure, because its written by human beings for light entertainment on the TV screens of other humans!



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