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

  1. #11
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    Hi Aloka. Good discussion. I may have misunderstood Trusolo for my own purposes, for which I apologise. I want to like the idea of multiple Star Trek clips on the site but I have a confession to make, that I don't really watch them any more. I may have outgrown them at last. I'll whisper it, but I don't like Dr Who any more either, even though I saw the first ever episode when it was initially shown and I loved it for many years. On the other hand, I don't agree that science fiction, even of the Star Trek type is always 'light entertainment' as they went in for some heavy stuff on occasion, dealing with issues of racism and of misunderstanding other cultures. Slipping it past the radar, as it were.

    This, for example, is a good example of dealing with issues of race:

    where at first you don't notice that the black/white colouring is different between the two people, one black on the left side the other black on the right. It is vitally important to them, even though we wouldn't see the difference.

    The " someone else with a past" bit is really " Dharma written in someone else's past", by which I mean the person writing it originally, writing in their time and culture for their audience, so the reader now has to be aware of not only the lineage of the writer but the culture at the time, in order to tease out the universal from the metaphorical imagery and other strategies they used.

  2. #12
    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    I wrote that post while on a short break from final exam grading so I didn't have the time to search around for start trek clips. Also, I could not elaborate on the point I was trying to make.

    We know or understand most things through language. Apart from a few experiences that are directly understood, most need language to be processed. We even talk to ourselves using language (seemingly unnecessary). Any written or spoken language is full of ambiguities, nuances, etc. Mathematics is the ultimate logical extension of language - packing maximum information with minimum symbols and no ambiguities. It is meant to be as literal as you can possibly get.

    The zen literature language and koan study is in some sense the exact opposite of mathematical language and more like the example of star trek story I gave. At some point it was deliberately devised, designed, and developed as a teaching tool to break the normal patterns of thinking and understanding. How does one confound someone while talking to them? You do that by using the same words but mean something completely different! The entire "zen language" is made up of "pointers", metaphors, where nothing is meant literally and everything is pointing to something else. What it points to is deliberately left unclear, that is for the listener to figure out. Forget the answers, even the questions are not meant literally, e.g. Why did Bodhidharma come to the west? The entire construction/teaching is about talking in metaphors and analogies and breaking the habit of sticking to rigid rules and conventions in the use of language to understand the world. The back and forth between student and teacher happens because the syntax is understood but not the meaning.

    What is common between say koan study and mathematics is the broad process from being confronted with a conundrum to discovery or resolution. That inevitably involves a "tectonic shift" in understanding. Both also involve, at some point, forgetting about yourself and just let the mind or awareness do its job.

    I agree with Phil that even when the language is used normally and not deliberately in confounding manner, it is still important to understand the metaphors and the context of the time and place.

  3. #13
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    Going back to the theme of the thread, does it matter, if you are using koans, whether the koans used are the 'traditional' ones or not? I spent a year reading and re-reading 'Samurai Zen: The Warrior Koans' by Trevor Leggett, seeing which koans resonated and which didn't. It was interesting the effect some had while others brought in images of tumbleweed. I then searched my memory for similar things I had used as part of my practice and realised that I had used a lot of science, from big bang to bootstrap theory to chaos theory and so on. Cutting edge ideas from macro and micro areas of science. So my point is if you are following koan practice is there any need to use any Buddhist koans, but are you still a Buddhist if you don't and every koan is 'modern'?

  4. #14
    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    Ah, I see what you are saying. In that sense, it should not make a difference provided the goal is the same. “koan” for the sake of understanding some science theory or fact-gathering would probably not considered “buddhist” unless it is just an intermediate step in your investigations. The buddhist goal I think is always to experience three marks of existence ( Anicca, Dukkha, Annata: ADA ) in everything. My attitude is to use whatever helps in this regard. If it is science that helps me to see ADA, even though it may be only conceptually, it is still worth it. There are other methods to experience it directly.

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