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Thread: Left Brain/Right Brain and practice

  1. #1

    Left Brain/Right Brain and practice

    Hi,

    A few other questions popped into my head. I'd like to put it out to Jundo and everyone who is semi-interested.

    - Is it the case that "enlightenment" or kensho experiences are where the left side of the brain is not accessed by will and thereby one is able to see through the ego and how it operates. Thereby one can see how the ego construct in and of itself is not true but a means to interact with the world.

    - Zazen/meditation is a tool used to enable the right side of the brain to fully function without false information coming from the left side or not believing the interpretation of the information the left side of the brain presents (through the ego construct).

    Is it the aim of practice to some degree to then apply mindfullness as much is practible in each individual's capacity to be centred and not believe the interpretation of information the left side of the brain submits and simultaneously (without effort) function in the world using the left side of the brains capabilities. Is this what Master Seung Sahn means he says "when you eat, just eat. When you sleep just sleep...all the time keeping the don't know mind".

    Another interpretation. Is the aim of zazen/medtiation to let go in the sense when Ajan Chah said "If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will have complete peace." That is this the being able to see reality using the right side of the brain without interpretations from the left side of the brain. So you let go of that which is false and try to act wholesomely knowing what is true or act in the "dharma/dhamma".

    Mettha.

    Aswini.

  2. #2

    Re: Left Brain/Right Brain and practice

    I think Aswini has described practice really well, concerning left and right brain functioning, although I am not an expert on the subject. However I heard Dr Taylor say in an interview that
    our thoughts arise in a small cluster in a part of our brain about the size of a peanut. She said we are not our thoughts and do we want our life to be ruled by a peanut? She pointed out that she doesn't like the feeling of anger in her body, for instance. She says she can choose whether to go down the path of anger or let it go. Anger courses through the body in 90 seconds and then disappears, and can be felt physically, and the continuation of it is only caused by our thoughts, and the memory of the occasion could continue for 20 years.
    She suggests coming into the present as a way of letting go of unskilful thoughts.
    She also mentioned that we require our left brain in order to function in the world. It is the side that makes up stories so that we make sense of the world around us. It is what gives us our false sense of "I". (Not all the stories are necessarily true. )
    We require it for language also and the ego is the price we pay for that.

    I hope I am quoting correctly as this is just from memory.

    Metta Jenny

  3. #3

    Re: Left Brain/Right Brain and practice

    Hi Again Aswini,

    Some interesting questions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Aswini
    Hi,

    A few other questions popped into my head. I'd like to put it out to Jundo and everyone who is semi-interested.

    - Is it the case that "enlightenment" or kensho experiences are where the left side of the brain is not accessed by will and thereby one is able to see through the ego and how it operates. Thereby one can see how the ego construct in and of itself is not true but a means to interact with the world.
    When I listened to the interview with Dr. Taylor regarding her stroke on the left side of her brain, it seems that this caused some kind of "Kensho" experience for her. If you have not seen it, watch episode 4 particularly (you need to install a player) ...

    http://www2.oprah.com/spiritself/oss/ss ... hive.jhtml

    From Dr. Taylor's description, when her brain was stroked, she lost a sense of self, her sense of judging and categorizing the world was left behind (she had no names for anyone or anything), she lost sense of the borders where her body began and ended, her sense of a past history and all the emotional "baggage" she was carrying was left behind ... and a great peace and freshness filled her.

    Of course, she was also left in a near vegetative state in bed at the time. So, "Kensho" itself is not a place where we can live, but more a vantage point. Also, there are many forms of "Kensho", some big some small, all manner of these "epiphanies" or "peak experiences" (I use the term "peak experience", although I do not care for it as the "peak") ...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_experiences

    Some forms of Zen Practice, particularly the Rinzai school, see "Kensho" as a form of goal to be attained, a glimpse into "Reality" of "no self/non-judgment/timelessness/interconnectedness" etc. . Maybe they think that Kensho shows something more "real" and important than "ordinary life", which is somehow 'false' in their opinion.

    In Soto "Just Sitting" Practice, we are not so interested in "Kensho". I mean, we sometimes have such experiences when they arise on their own, big and small, but we do not seek them out or think them more "real" than ordinary life is "real" (maybe I should say that both are "real" ways to see things ... ordinary life is something of a dream, but real as real can be. You "self" is not true and completely truly your "self", not to be tossed in the trash). When we have such Kensho-ish experiences, we consider them interesting and useful ... but we get back to life (much as Dr. Taylor recovered her health and came back to ordinary life). We consider such "Peak Experiences" to be interesting, and nice to experience, but no more important than watching fireworks on a holiday ... a quick, pretty flash that is nice, but then we must get back to work because it is not good to watch fireworks forever.

    However, the real "goal" of both Rinzai and Soto, I would say, is to incorporate simultaneously both the "real" of ordinary life and the "real" of experiencing "no self/non-judgment/timelessness/interconnectedness" etc. so that both can be tasted together or by "switching back and forth" ... much as Dr. Taylor now says in her interview that she can experience both vantage points at once. In Soto, we do not think "Kensho" is the best way, but think the best way is to sit "Shikantaza" ... dropping all thought and judgments of this and that, and "just sitting". We think that an over-emphasis on Kensho is like trying to build a house by dynamiting a pile of bricks ... good chance you will end up with rubble, not a house.

    - Zazen/meditation is a tool used to enable the right side of the brain to fully function without false information coming from the left side or not believing the interpretation of the information the left side of the brain presents (through the ego construct).
    Well, I will let the neurologists talk about left/right brain but, yes, Zazen is a way to see life from both the vantage points I described: self and no self, time and no time, separate being and interconnectedness, "going and coming" and "no place in need to go", birth/death and no birth/no death, judgments and no judgments, work as just fireworks and fireworks as just work, etc. etc. etc.


    Is it the aim of practice to some degree to then apply mindfullness as much is practible in each individual's capacity to be centred and not believe the interpretation of information the left side of the brain submits and simultaneously (without effort) function in the world using the left side of the brains capabilities. Is this what Master Seung Sahn means he says "when you eat, just eat. When you sleep just sleep...all the time keeping the don't know mind".
    I think that Master Seung Sahn's phrasing, like many Zen books and expressions, can sound rather idealistic if it implies that we must be "mindful" or in "Zen Mind" 24/7. My view is more balanced I think, namely, "when mindful of one thing, just be mindful of one thing ... when distracted, overwrought and multi-tasking, just be distracted, overwrought and multi-task". There is a time for everything, and we cannot be "mindful" each minute. However, one of the great fruits of our Zen Practice is that, even when we are distracted, overwrought and multi-tasking, feeling completely miserable and off balance ... and even when "Zen Mind" feels very far away ... we can still know it is 'there' even if we do not feel it at that moment. So I say, when feeling completely "miserable and off balance", just be "miserable and off balance" in that moment ... it too is a temporary state of mind.

    By the way, we do not speak of "Don't know mind" in quite the same way as Master Seung Sahn's Rinzai teachings ... I do not care if you keep "don't know mind" "all the time", like a Koan in front of you. I just teach "live your life, doing as you can to have an open, spacious, non-judging mind".

    Another interpretation. Is the aim of zazen/medtiation to let go in the sense when Ajan Chah said "If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will have complete peace." That is this the being able to see reality using the right side of the brain without interpretations from the left side of the brain. So you let go of that which is false and try to act wholesomely knowing what is true or act in the "dharma/dhamma".
    Yes. But again, I like folks to be "peaceful" even with the fact that life is not always "peaceful". I think that we should be content and perfectly "happy" with the fact that life is both "happy" and "sad". Without "happy" and "sad", life is not life. We learn to "see through" happy and sad, but we do not abandon "happy" and "sad" or think them a lie to be destroyed. They are false, but not false. To be a human being, you must live these things as if knowing that they are a "dream" but live them anyway.

    I think that if you look at the real life of Masters Seung Sahn and Ajahn Chah, they often taught with statements reflecting the ideal ... but then, the rest of the time, where just human beings. Human being have many human faults to varying degrees, sometimes happy and sometimes sad, not always so "compassionate" or "wise" or "mindful" (even if our Buddhist Practice rounds off many of our rough edges). I think it is more important to be a "real human being" than to always think being a human being is false.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

    Re: Left Brain/Right Brain and practice

    Thanx Jenny and Jundo for your answers.

    Thanx Jundo for taking the time and also explaining aspects from the Dogen sangha pov. I at the moment don't have anything to add and am lacking a little in time to think a little further. Nevertheless the discussion is both fruitful and practicle, so thanx.

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