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Thread: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

  1. #1

    Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Therefore we, human man beings, have been bothered so much because of existence of two so-called truths, which are called idealism and materialism for thousands of years since the Greco-Roman civilization. However Gautama Buddha has established his Realistm relying upon his theory of four philosophies. Of course his Buddhist philosophy has been so difficult, that it hasn't been understood until 20th Century or 21st Century. However now we have begun to understand the true meaning of Buddhism, and so we, Dogen Sangha and Dogen Sangha International, have begun our efforts to explain the true meaning of Gautama Buddha's thoughts relying upon our blogs truoghout the World now.
    Hi Jundo. Could you possibly point to what Nishijima Roshi is talking about in this quote (true meaning of Buddhism)?

    I can't seem to post the link (Tuesday, October 23, 2007) Dogen Sangha blog.

    Gassho Will

  2. #2

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Hi WIll,

    I am not sure which part you are talking about for clarification. My teacher, like all Zen teachers before him, has tried to express in words the experience of Zazen that is ultimately beyond words ... and to do that, Nishijima Roshi has had two very good ideas about Zazen, and his own unique way to say it. One is that Zazen has a medical and physiological aspect in the body, which he terms balance of the autonomic nervous system (although I am always trying to convince him that there are many many physiological aspects in addition to that. Nishijima was still something of a pioneer to say that much of what we do is a physical effect of the brain and nervous system).

    The other is his idea of Zazen as a practice of "Action" or "Pure Doing/Being", and Buddhism as a "realistic" philosophy beyond idealistic religions or materialistic philosophies. Here is a description in a nutshell, although it is a bit more than this:

    Some (almost all people in some way) people dream of a world (or "heaven" or "enlightenment" or a "purified society after the revolution comes" ... whatever) that is always good by our little human standards ... candy cane trees and ice cream mountains. At least, they dream of some state much better than the present state. In contrast, this world of ours is less than ideal. That is an "idealistic" view.


    Some people think of the world as just blind processes, going no place in particular. (I really abbreviate the description ... but this is generally a materialistic view of the world). Although seemingly dispassionate and "coldly objective" about the world, this view will often cross the line into asserting that the world is "meaningless" or "pointless crap" or "survival-of-the-fittest cruel" or just "we are born, we work, we die" ... some such bleak thing.

    Both those views tend to judge that there is something lacking in the present state.

    However, Buddhism is an existentialist way of being in the world-just-as-it-is, meaning the world before we impose our judgments and dreams upon it. We neither judge the world lacking in comparison to another ideal world, nor do we judge it cold and pointless and hopeless. We just let the world be as it is, and we go with the flow ... to such a degree that we can no longer see perhaps the divisions between ourselves and the world in the flowing. In that way, as Nishijima describes it, it swallows whole both materialism and idealism by finding this world, just going where it goes, to be ideally just what it is. And that way of seeing beyond "beautiful" or "ugly", "peace" and "war" is .... pretty darn Beautiful and Peaceful!

    And more than words describing this "realistic" perspective, we must actually taste it in the practice-experience of Zazen.

    Something like that. My description is not very artful today.

    By the way, accepting the world "just-as-it-is" does not mean we cannot also seek to improve things that need improving. Having "no judgments" and having "judgments" about making things better can be like two sides of a single coin. It is not an either/or proposition. I think.
    But I think you knew that before, Will, so I am wondering if that was your question?

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Thank you Jundo. That clears it up.

    I take it when he says " that it hasn't been understood until 20th Century or 21st Century" he is talking about the autonomic nervous system.

    He also mentions the four philiosophies. Is this the four noble truths?

    Gassho

  4. #4

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Hi Will,

    No, it is not the same as the 4 Noble Truths. Nishijima, however, does try very hard to force his theory into being the same as the "Four Noble Truths". It is one of the few points where I really really really disagree with my teacher. I sometimes say that, once he came up with his idea, Nishijima Roshi took to explaining the whole world with his idealism/materialism/realism paradigm ... sometimes it works, sometimes not. There is, however, overlap between Nishijima's idea and the Noble Truths, in that both describe the same state by which "suffering" is extinguished.

    I think, when we get into the Heart Sutra talks on the "Sit-a-Long", I will take it as an opportunity to review the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, and Twelvefold Chain of Causation, and some others. Basic Buddhist philosophy, all absolutely central to what we do around here.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I am not sure which part you are talking about for clarification. My teacher, like all Zen teachers before him, has tried to express in words the experience of Zazen that is ultimately beyond words ... and to do that, Nishijima Roshi has had two very good ideas about Zazen, and his own unique way to say it. One is that Zazen has a medical and physiological aspect in the body, which he terms balance of the autonomic nervous system (although I am always trying to convince him that there are many many physiological aspects in addition to that. Nishijima was still something of a pioneer to say that much of what we do is a physical effect of the brain and nervous system).
    So he's basically saying what neuroscientists have discovered - that meditation has massive effects on brain chemicals, and the functioning of the brain, beyond whatever "mystical" results meditation may provide? So he is more of a materialist than he wants to lead us to believe?

    Having read Zen and the Brain, it seems that research supports this opinion.

    Kirk

  6. #6

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc

    So he's basically saying what neuroscientists have discovered - that meditation has massive effects on brain chemicals, and the functioning of the brain, beyond whatever "mystical" results meditation may provide? So he is more of a materialist than he wants to lead us to believe?
    Well, it is not "just" the brain, and Nishijima's philosophy includes that ... but it is not just that.

    Gassho, J

  7. #7
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Well, the brain and the mind...

    Kirk

  8. #8

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Well, the brain and the mind...

    Kirk
    ... but its not just that.

    Gassho, J

  9. #9

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I am not sure which part you are talking about for clarification. My teacher, like all Zen teachers before him, has tried to express in words the experience of Zazen that is ultimately beyond words ... and to do that, Nishijima Roshi has had two very good ideas about Zazen, and his own unique way to say it. One is that Zazen has a medical and physiological aspect in the body, which he terms balance of the autonomic nervous system (although I am always trying to convince him that there are many many physiological aspects in addition to that. Nishijima was still something of a pioneer to say that much of what we do is a physical effect of the brain and nervous system).
    So he's basically saying what neuroscientists have discovered - that meditation has massive effects on brain chemicals, and the functioning of the brain, beyond whatever "mystical" results meditation may provide? So he is more of a materialist than he wants to lead us to believe?

    Having read Zen and the Brain, it seems that research supports this opinion.

    Kirk
    The balance of the autonomous nervous system does not exist unless you force it as a platitude. If it existed, it would be lost immediately by any of these (among millions of phenomena): 1) smelling food (induces parasympathetic discharges to the stomach among hundreds of aother phenomena), 2)any change in light (the opening of the iris is a sympathetic or parasympathetic response to light intensity) 3) taking medicines for blood pressure (sorry, millions of people, ain't no anuttara samyak sambodhi for y'all) 4) defecating (god bless the parasympathetic). Any physical phenomenon of any sort has an impact on the autonomous nervous system. That's the most unstable element of our body, never static, never balanced. Not to mention the complex interaction with the rest of the nervous system, the endocrine system, etc. Explaining an ungraspable phenomenon on the basis of arbitrary, empty classifications of bodily functions that even the most advanced scientists do not understand fully is a useless exercise.

    Having said that, I bow in sincere gratitude to Nishijima Roshi.

  10. #10

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Thanks Alberto.

    G,W

  11. #11

    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto

    The balance of the autonomous nervous system does not exist unless you force it as a platitude. ...

    Having said that, I bow in sincere gratitude to Nishijima Roshi.
    Hi Alberto,

    Yeah, I'm not a doctor (I just play one on tv). i really don't know about this, except I sat a Sesshin last year with another one of Roshi's kids (Jean Marc Bazy in Lyon, France) ...

    http://zendogensangha.free.fr/

    ... and a neurologist who sat there, who was researching these things, said Roshi's description was pretty good. And there is some research that is on the subject of Zazen and the autonomic nervous system:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_o ... 561d08f116

    http://www.neuroreport.com/pt/re/neuror ... 29!8091!-1

    But, apart from that, I think Roshi may not really understand all the convoluted "ins" and "outs" of the neurological and physiological processes now being found to be involved in Zazen (and I think really nobody does yet). Roshi just feels this great balance, and was way ahead of lots of folks in Buddhism in saying that there is a connection to the brain and nervous system (one of many aspects of practice ... Roshi is not a "meterialist"). Believe me, even saying so would have caused some controversy 40 years ago, when he first said it.

    I have posted this before, but this is the most complete list I have ever found on medical/physiological/neurological studies on the effects of meditation besides the Austin book. It runs to several pages, although I am not sure if it has been updated (it may be only up to several years ago). The research is ongoing ... even as we sit.

    http://www.noetic.org/research/medbiblio/ch1.htm

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto

    The balance of the autonomous nervous system does not exist unless you force it as a platitude. If it existed, it would be lost immediately by any of these (among millions of phenomena): 1) smelling food (induces parasympathetic discharges to the stomach among hundreds of aother phenomena), 2)any change in light (the opening of the iris is a sympathetic or parasympathetic response to light intensity) 3) taking medicines for blood pressure (sorry, millions of people, ain't no anuttara samyak sambodhi for y'all) 4) defecating (god bless the parasympathetic). Any physical phenomenon of any sort has an impact on the autonomous nervous system. That's the most unstable element of our body, never static, never balanced. Not to mention the complex interaction with the rest of the nervous system, the endocrine system, etc. Explaining an ungraspable phenomenon on the basis of arbitrary, empty classifications of bodily functions that even the most advanced scientists do not understand fully is a useless exercise.
    Balance is a dynamic state, it is not some fixed static state. Just look at the way you stand up, for example, your muscles are constantly moving. I think when Roshi talks about balance he's not imagining some theoretical absolute, but rather a state where, when stimuli arrive, they are dealt with efficiently.

    Kirk

  13. #13
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    All the research I've read looks at basic meditators. Not necessarily those doing shikantaza, but just meditation. What do you mean by "devices", things like biofeedback machines?

    Kirk

  14. #14
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha's true meaning (Jundo)

    Much of the research involves other types of meditation as well, notably some recent studies of Tibetan monks performing metta meditation. It's true that I've never seen any that specifically examine shikantaza, but my guess is that when they test experienced meditators, they're no longer counting breaths very much. Austin's Zen and the Brain and Zen/Brain Reflections discuss many such studies.

    Kirk

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