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Thread: Just This...And This...And...

  1. #1

    Just This...And This...And...

    Jundo,

    I was reading today where Nishijima was talking about the "instantaneousness of the universe."
    I kinda get the feeling that is exactly what you were talking about in your talk about "Master Peace."
    Is this right? Could you talk (more?) about it? I love the idea that, although we reap what we have
    sown in every moment, every moment is brand new, and full of possibilities for good. This subject
    gives me alot of hope. I cannot hear enough about it. Thanks.

    gassho
    Greg

  2. #2

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Quote Originally Posted by ghop
    Jundo,

    I was reading today where Nishijima was talking about the "instantaneousness of the universe."
    I kinda get the feeling that is exactly what you were talking about in your talk about "Master Peace."
    Is this right? Could you talk (more?) about it? I love the idea that, although we reap what we have
    sown in every moment, every moment is brand new, and full of possibilities for good. This subject
    gives me alot of hope. I cannot hear enough about it. Thanks.

    gassho
    Greg
    Hi Greg,

    Nishijima Roshi's "instantaneousness of the universe" is one of the most beautiful, simple descriptions I know for how we live on the razor's edge of the past meeting the open possibilities of the future. How we can be bound by causes, yet have great freedom. I think it is as good and elegant a solution as one will ever get to the old "free will vs. determinism" dilemma, for any armchair philosophers out there.

    If you are interested in the subject, here is what he wrote, which (in my free will, due to endless causes and conditions ) I have decided to slightly abridge:



    21. CONTRADICTIONS IN HUMAN FREEDOM


    Sekishin: [If] I recall from our recent discussions, I think it was said by you that human beings are bound hard and fast, top to bottom, by the ‘Law of Cause & Effect’ …..

    Gudo: Yes, that is right. The perspective of the ‘Law of Cause & Effect’ is that our every action, without exception, has its origin in a priori causes stemming from our actions, as well as environmental and other factors which occurred in the past.

    Sekishin: But if that is the case, I believe that there are some strange implications. For example, if we posit that we are so firmly bound by ‘Cause & Effect,’ by a priori causes, then we human beings truly lack freedom of action, freedom of choice and free will. And if that is so, [free choice] loses all real meaning … What was the means [in Buddhism] to resolve the contradiction?

    Gudo: That means of resolution was found in a concept of the ‘instantaneousness of the universe.’

    Sekishin: The ‘instantaneousness of the universe?’ ….. What is that?’

    Gudo: If I were to describe in a very few words the meaning of the ‘instantaneousness of the universe,’ I would say this: ‘Each and all of that which exists in this world in which we reside arises and take places moment by moment, all while vanishing and passing away moment by moment.’

    Sekishin: That seems like a rather strange idea …..

    Gudo: Well, if we look at it from our ordinary, common sense viewpoints ….. it could be seen as strange. However, if we look at it from a Buddhist perspective, we see that the idea is straight on the mark as a statement of Reality, and constitutes one of the pillars of Buddhist thought.

    Sekishin: Might I trouble you to explain it in a way that may be easier to understand?

    Gudo: [The] one and only time in which we can live is in this present. Yet, this ‘present’ in time is continuously, moment by moment, but the future becoming the present as the present turns into the past ….. Thereby, this time which is the ‘present’ can never be but the continuous ‘moment to moment.’

    If we think from a common sense view, we human beings feel, in some vague manner, that we are existing somewhere in an expanse of time, at a point on a ‘time line,’ stretching from the past into the present connecting to the future. However, in our daily lives as human beings, if we try to think realistically about the situation, we are not living in some expanse of time stretching from the past into the present and connecting to the future. Instead, we must perceive that we are ever, always living just in this present, and nowhere else. We are living in the moment which is this very present that arises and passes away, in each smallest instant. And because this very time in which we are living is this moment, this very instant which is the present that arises and passes away moment by moment, when we hold up this world in which we live against such a vision of time, we must see that this world too, and all this world contains, arises and passes away, comes and vanishes moment by moment, instant by instant.

    Sekishin: I see….. This is something that we usually do not realize in our daily life, but when you state it in such manner, I see how we could think in that way.

    Gudo: Certainly, it is not something that we become aware of easily in our day-to-day lives, but this instantaneous world that I have described is the world in which we are actually living. And this idea of the nature of the world constitutes the Buddhist concept of the ‘instantaneousness of the universe,’ in Japanese ….. setsuna-shoumetsu. The word ‘setsuna’ derives from the Sanskrit term ‘kshana,’ an extremely small measure of time which we might refer to, in modern language, as ‘an instant,’ ‘a moment.’

    Sekishin: But how does this concept of the ‘instantaneousness of the universe’ serve to settle the contradictions regarding human freedom ... and the idea of the ‘Law of Cause & Effect?’

    Gudo: With regard to that matter, Master Dogen, in the Hotsu-Bodaishin chapter of the Shobogenzo for example, stated such ideas as, ‘If all things did not arise and vanish instantaneously, bad done in the previous instant would not depart. If bad done in the previous instant had not yet departed, good of the next instant could not be realized in the present.’ Namely, in this very world in which we live, precisely because it is arising and passing away, coming and going moment by moment ….. the good of the present moment can occur despite the bad which occurred in the moment before. The reason that it is possible for the good of the present moment to occur despite the bad which occurred in the moment before is just because this world is arising and passing away, coming and vanishing moment by moment, instant by instant. In other words, the events and circumstances of the moment before fade, thereby clearing space for the events of the current moment to happen …. If circumstances did not change moment by moment, the world would be frozen and static. Thus, the freedom of action which we possess in the present moment can be sought in the fact that the time which is the present is an instantaneous existence.

    Let us imagine that we are standing atop a place as thin and narrow as the blade edge of the sharpest razor ….. Just as we would then have the freedom to fall to the left or to fall to the right, the time of the present which is the stage for all our actions, the one and only foundation for our lives, is also a momentary existence of the thinnest and narrowest width, whereby ….. although we are bound within the world of reality, the world of actions ….. yet, we are free, and although we are free ….. yet are we bound.

    Sekishin-san, have you ever heard, as one term representative of Buddhist thought, the phrase ‘shogyoumujou,’ meaning the impermanence, the transitory nature of all worldly phenomena? It means that all our various actions are instantaneous existences, not possessing any lasting nature. Such thinking is the same as the idea of the ‘instantaneousness of the universe,’ but viewed from its other side …… meaning that our actions in the present, precisely because they are impermanent and transitory ….. are free yet fully bound by the past, and while fully bound by the past ….. yet are we free.

    Gassho, J

  3. #3

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    This..not living on a time line. This one is hard for me. Could someone provide a little more background or explanation for me.

    Gassho,

    Mike

  4. #4

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike
    This..not living on a time line. This one is hard for me. Could someone provide a little more background or explanation for me.

    Gassho,

    Mike
    Hmmm. How about dropping all thought of past/present/future, anywhere else to be, any place to come from and any place to go ... as we taste on the Zazen cushion ...

    ... then get up, be in the office by 9am, get to lunch at noon, run home in time to read a bedtime story ...

    ... and see if one can taste both as once, not two. Forward forward forward, no place to go.

    It is a little tricky to get the hang of it (like riding a unicycle) ... but it can be "non-done".

    Gassho, J

  5. #5
    Junior Member jfs's Avatar
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    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Hi, Mike, Greg, and Jundo.

    I, too, sometimes have difficulty reconciling the "law of cause and effect" with the "all things arise and pass away moment to moment" idea when applied to a past-present-future concept of time. Here's why:

    If we consider causes to occur in the past and effects to occur in the future (or present, it doesn't really matter), then cause-and-effect-law requires some vestige of the past (cause) to NOT pass away as it is carried over into the future or present (effect).

    Sometimes these thoughts needle my mind (the small, thinking one, I presume) relentlessly in the middle of the night. One of the ideas I've been chewing on that allows me to make slightly better sense (at least, to me) of the congruity of cause-&-effect with only-1-moment-to-be-in is if I take the instantaneous moment we are always experiencing and expand it infinitely in "both directions" (i.e., eliminate the concepts of past and future, thereby leaving only an infinite present).

    To muddle the picture, however, this perspective reduces the concept of time to less of a dimension and more of a simple sequence of events (simple at the particle scale, but unknowingly complex at larger scales). As such, any specified sequence of events IS an instance of cause-&-effect.

    From the only-1-moment-to-be-in perspective, all of known existence is dumped into a single "eternal" moment in which all changes (in the physical world, at least) are simply rearrangements of the positions of matter and energy in 3D space. The specific order of these rearrangements is dictated by cause-&-effect.

    The Free-Will thing I am still working on with respect to this model, but for now (as a "black box" place-holder), I just lump it into the "cause" column.

    I'm pretty sure this post probably won't help anyone but me (I had to write it out to get it out of my head). But I am very grateful to have a place like this to post it.

    Gassho,
    Jonathan

  6. #6

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    No where else to be yet continuing not forward. I'll work with this.

    Thanks guys,

    Gassho

    Mike

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    My biorhythms app tells me this is day 26960; and the moments just keep om coming

  8. #8

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Quote Originally Posted by jfs
    If we consider causes to occur in the past and effects to occur in the future (or present, it doesn't really matter), then cause-and-effect-law requires some vestige of the past (cause) to NOT pass away as it is carried over into the future or present (effect).
    I believe nothing can occur in the past. The past doesn't exist anymore, it's just a memory. But previous present moments might have left their mark on the present present moment. I'm quite fond of Yogacara Mahayana buddhistic philosophical thought at the moment. Please bear with me! If Jundo or Taigu thinks this borders on serving the wrong kind of soup or practicing Karate in the Kendo Dojo, please say so. By no means do I mean this to be some sort of truth.

    In Yogacara there are three aspects of the Mind. One of these is the constantly changing flow of experiences and is called the dependant aspect, the substratum of consciousness, the ultimate reality. According to Yogacara there are also eight types of consciousnesses, the five ordinary sensory consciousnesses, the mental consciousness, the tainted mind and the constantly flowing substratum consciousness. The substratum consciousness functions as a storage for karmic seeds that germinate in future experiences. These seeds are said to be momentary and form a series within the substratum until their fruition, and the substratum consciousness is 'perfumed' by their presence.

    One of the ideas I've been chewing on that allows me to make slightly better sense (at least, to me) of the congruity of cause-&-effect with only-1-moment-to-be-in is if I take the instantaneous moment we are always experiencing and expand it infinitely in "both directions" (i.e., eliminate the concepts of past and future, thereby leaving only an infinite present).
    Can you do that..? :shock: I believe the present moment to be infinitely small, but that gives me a headache, so I usually settle for just a very short period of time...

    /Pontus

  9. #9

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Right now is the whole of existance itself. If you turn left, IN THIS MOMENT, the law of cause and effect will bring you face to face with the effects of having turned left IN THIS MOMENT, which not that long ago (as you decided to turn left) was the future. Now it's not. It's not even the present, now it's the past.

    Cause and effect are true, we see that everyday, but in truth, if you think about it this way:

    If we live every moment, right now, as completely as we can, as compassionately as we can, as perfectly "living right now as we can", is the law of cause and effect really so important?

    Or is it more important to simply live each moment of life, as it is, for what it is, when it is?

  10. #10

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Quote Originally Posted by jfs
    I'm quite fond of Yogacara Mahayana buddhistic philosophical thought at the moment. ...

    In Yogacara there are three aspects of the Mind. One of these is the constantly changing flow of experiences and is called the dependant aspect, the substratum of consciousness, the ultimate reality. According to Yogacara there are also eight types of consciousnesses, the five ordinary sensory consciousnesses, the mental consciousness, the tainted mind and the constantly flowing substratum consciousness. The substratum consciousness functions as a storage for karmic seeds that germinate in future experiences. These seeds are said to be momentary and form a series within the substratum until their fruition, and the substratum consciousness is 'perfumed' by their presence.
    A rather good book, trying to take ancient ideas from the Yogacara and traditional notions of "Buddhist Psychology" and make them relevant for today (and very often succeeding ... although not always) is Thich Nhat Hanh's "Understanding Our Mind".

    http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Our ... 797&sr=8-1

    However, realize that, in my belief, he is working from some rather quaint, traditional ideas that may not actually "exist" (like the 'Id' of Freud seeks to describe actual human behavior, but the "Id" is itself something that may not really "exist" in the human mind and now seems a bit dated and largely imagined). Traditional Buddhist psychology seems quite dated and imaginative (to many modern eyes), but was a pretty good model of human behavior and pretty observant for 2000 or so years ago. What is more, the traditional model, with a few updates, is still very useful and relevant and was absolutely right in its basic points and conclusions ... the core system is true and confirmed in more modern models, namely, that we create our experience of the world fundamentally as the "virtual" recreation of the mind fashioned from incoming sensory data, upon which the mind then lumps all manner of names, categories, relationships, judgments, aversions, attractions, other thoughts and emotions (I have never actually met "my wife", just an image created from light and other incoming sense data upon which all manner of things are added including a lot of emotions). So, says the Buddha, change (or discard) those names, categories, relationships, judgments, aversions, attractions, other thoughts and emotions, and change the world (or, at least, your self's experience of the world. In fact, change your "self's" whole experience of "selfness"!) Buddhism provides the tools to do just that!

    Personally, I am not sure about the very ancient Buddhist description of a "Store" or "Seed Consciousness", which is said in traditional Buddhist psychology (of some schools) to hold the "seeds" of all our experiences and potential actions ... love, hate, peace, violence, you name it. The effects of the past leave these "seeds" in our "Seed Consciousness" and when a particular seed gets watered and come to bloom, we act such way ... angry effects of the past leave an "angry seed" in us which, when sprouting, results in "angry action" and an "angry" experience of life. (The Thich Nhat Hanh book I mentioned, "Understanding Our Mind", provides a very readable, if somewhat too simple, explanation of how this system works, as well as attempts to update the idea and make it more relevant to the modern world.)

    Now, is there actually a "Store/Storehouse/Seed Consciousness" and "Angry Seeds" and such actually located somewhere, as ancient Buddhist philosophers asserted? Probably not, I think.

    But the general mechanism is true and insightful as a description of human behavior. Effects from the past (for example, a violent childhood) leave scars and "seeds" for potential anger and violence within the victim which, when he/she grows, have the potential to cause the person to act in angry and violent ways. When we act and perceive the world with that anger, the world is perceived as an ugly and violent place. When we have "seeds" of peace within us, and can nurture that ... we tend to experience the world with peaceful eyes.

    So, whether actually existing or just a symbolic description, the "Seed Consciousness" is a good and useful image for how we bear the effects of the past, and how our minds shape our experience of life ... and how we should try to water the peaceful seeds within us, and not the angry and violent seeds.

    That is one reason that I recommend a daily "Nurturing the Seeds" practice, very much inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh ...

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1730

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Now, is there actually a "Store/Storehouse/Seed Consciousness" and "Angry Seeds" and such actually located somewhere, as ancient Buddhist philosophers asserted? Probably not, I think.

    But the general mechanism is true and insightful as a description of human behavior. Effects from the past (for example, a violent childhood) leave scars and "seeds" for potential anger and violence within the victim which, when he/she grows, have the potential to cause the person to act in angry and violent ways. When we act and perceive the world with that anger, the world is perceived as an ugly and violent place. When we have "seeds" of peace within us, and can nurture that ... we tend to experience the world with peaceful eyes.
    Thank you very much Jundo Sensei for that lovely post!
    Gassho.

    Those are my thoughts exactly. These theories probably shouldn't be taken for the 'truth', but as you say they can function as a description or a model for human behavior. I also find it refreshing to look at something we think we are familiar with from a completely different angle. Both the cultural perspective and the way of living and studying psychology and philosophy two thousand years ago is so dramatically different compared to our modern western psychology. I view it more as a brain exercise and a way to broaden my horizon than the final explanation of how stuff 'works'.

    Thank you again.

    /Pontus

  12. #12

    Re: Just This...And This...And...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    the good of the present moment can occur despite the bad which occurred in the moment before. The reason that it is possible for the good of the present moment to occur despite the bad which occurred in the moment before is just because this world is arising and passing away, coming and vanishing moment by moment, instant by instant.
    I didn't say it before. But thank you for posting this.

    This is good news.

    Every moment in time is a chance to do something different.

    May I surprise myself by doing something good.

    gassho
    Greg

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