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Thread: Ego based in Language

  1. #1

    Ego based in Language

    I was thinking(which always causes me trouble) how much of the concept of self is reinforced by our everyday speech.

    Everyday we say things like ;"I am hungry" yet is there really an "I" who is "hungry"? there is only "Hunger" yet the way we use language and think about everyday things is constantly reinforcing the duality between self and other.

    Any thoughts?


    Gassho


    Seiryu

  2. #2
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    Hi Seiryu,

    What you are saying is understandable! Having tried to avoid such words when possible one finds out It is quite challenging to do so!!
    A reason for trying not to use them started when studying Japanese. The Japanese language avoids personal pronouns if the sentence is clear without them!
    It wasn't until learning this about Japanese that the light went on regarding their overuse in English. The realization of how much language programs us to think and view things in certain ways. With the many me's, my's and I's we "chant" over and over it's no surprise when we come to a practice such as Zen we really have to wrestle with the ego!

    Gassho,
    John

  3. #3

    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    True, I wonder if that is the reason why countries like Japan, China, Korea are more Buddhist so to speak. Maybe the Buddhist teachings fit into the language more than in English. I also have been studying Japanese. Now after two years of studying I can see just how much the language in which we use plays a major role in just how we see the world.

    Maybe we would be completely different if we spoke a different language altogether.

    Gassho


    Seiryu

  4. #4
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    I wonder if that is the reason why countries like Japan, China, Korea are more Buddhist so to speak
    Perhaps? But my guess to that would be more along the lines of proximity for the spreading, adopting, and internalizing of the teachings. China, Japan, and Korea have gotten the message sooner and as a result have had more time to have been able to incorporate it into their developing cultures. Being as though the teachings are newer to the western world which has already established a culture which idolizes the individual it may take a while. No doubt though that the influence of Buddhism has shaped the developing culture and language of many of these places and could do the same for ours! At least I'd like to think so

    Gassho,
    John

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    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    Well, Pali was an Indo-European language, so it wasn't that different from English or other European languages. It had a complex system of cases, not unlike Latin, so if anything was the exact opposite of Chinese, which has no type of verb morphology.

    I would say, therefore, that there's nothing in the language as such that led to a different world view. To be fair, much of the pre-Socratic Greek philosophies was astoundingly similar to early Buddhist thought, and to Confucian thought, and there was a lot of trade between the different regions.

    As to the transmission, that is certainly due to trade and commerce that led ideas along with goods.

    Historically, it's also fair to say that the transmission to Asia occurred in a time of relatively vibrant civilization, whereas post-Rome, in Europe, was the dark ages (so called in part because of extreme climate that led to a serious decline in farming yields, population and commerce). So even if the dharma had gotten to Europe after the fall of Rome, it probably wouldn't have been able to spread far.

    (I'm just a reader of history, not a historian, so the above may not be totally accurate...)

    But back to the original question. There is no doubt that language is, in its earliest incarnations, about Me, Myself and I, about what I want and what I need. It is also about You and Your wants and needs. The human body needs to express its needs, whether or not we consider the existence of self or not. I would guess that during the earliest development of language, the brain wasn't large enough to examine the idea of self as we look at it now.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    Kirk wrote:
    There is no doubt that language is, in its earliest incarnations, about Me, Myself and I, about what I want and what I need. It is also about You and Your wants and needs. The human body needs to express its needs, whether or not we consider the existence of self or not. I would guess that during the earliest development of language, the brain wasn't large enough to examine the idea of self as we look at it now.
    Very good point! Using it daily without effort and in such complex ways besides just our immediate needs its easy to forget the original reasons why language even exists. Language is associated with survival, and survival is associated with the self!

    Gassho,
    John

  7. #7

    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Well, Pali was an Indo-European language, so it wasn't that different from English or other European languages. It had a complex system of cases, not unlike Latin, so if anything was the exact opposite of Chinese, which has no type of verb morphology.

    I would say, therefore, that there's nothing in the language as such that led to a different world view. To be fair, much of the pre-Socratic Greek philosophies was astoundingly similar to early Buddhist thought, and to Confucian thought, and there was a lot of trade between the different regions.

    As to the transmission, that is certainly due to trade and commerce that led ideas along with goods.

    Historically, it's also fair to say that the transmission to Asia occurred in a time of relatively vibrant civilization, whereas post-Rome, in Europe, was the dark ages (so called in part because of extreme climate that led to a serious decline in farming yields, population and commerce). So even if the dharma had gotten to Europe after the fall of Rome, it probably wouldn't have been able to spread far.

    (I'm just a reader of history, not a historian, so the above may not be totally accurate...)

    But back to the original question. There is no doubt that language is, in its earliest incarnations, about Me, Myself and I, about what I want and what I need. It is also about You and Your wants and needs. The human body needs to express its needs, whether or not we consider the existence of self or not. I would guess that during the earliest development of language, the brain wasn't large enough to examine the idea of self as we look at it now.
    Thank you. This is very interesting. Some even believe that Siddhartha was educated in a famous Persian university of his time. Not sure about how use of language affects attachment to this ego self. In most cultures it seems most people are more concerned about what they own or control rather what their purpose and function is. And I think this is the self we are trying to let go of.

  8. #8

    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    We have to speak. Or sometimes we choose to speak. We could go around grunting if you want. The things that reinforce ego are the things Joko talked about in the quote. Poor you. I this, I that.

    But how is someone supposed to know you have an appointment and can't make it if you don't say "I". Well, I guess we could say "Appointment. No do." I Tarzan. You Jane."

    Gassho

  9. #9

    Re: Ego based in Langauge

    Interesting question.

    I don't really think the problem is the "I". Just like in zazen, thoughts are not an issue, but the issue is the way we entertain , play, follow or escape from them.
    "Neither one, nor two" is not broken by a mere word.
    What we put into this I is what matters, what matters is what it stands for. The weight of attachment.


    gassho


    Taigu

  10. #10

    Re: Ego based in Language

    Thank you, Taigu. Lovely.

    Language reflects and describes the mind's view of the world, and in turn language helps create the mind's countless ways of seeing the world too. Certainly language expresses how we cut and divide this world into pieces ...

    ... personal nouns and pronouns such as "me" "you" "us" "them" "that" "table" "chair" ...

    ... possessives such as "mine" and "yours" ...

    ... descriptive nouns such as "peace" "war" "treasure" "trash" "country" "religion" "prince" "pauper" "friend" "foe" ...

    ... adjectives and adverbs such as "beautiful" "ugly" "noisy" "quiet" "above" "below" "agreeable" "disagreeable" "happy" "sad" "up" "down" "successful" "unsuccessful" ...

    ... verbs such as "want" "crave" "need" "love" "hate" "make" "release" "open" "close" ...


    ... all the rest to fill the dictionary ... ... each word and combination of words defining and making the experience of life.

    Most often in life we think that what is expressed in language is the real and unchangeable way to look at things ... that, for example, there is an "I", and that "I" is truly separate from "you" and each separate from "that chair" over there. Maybe I will add judgments of "you", that "you" are "friend" or "foe", "beautiful" or "ugly", "prince" "pauper" or a trillion other appraisals and descriptions. If you have a chair or other treasure and I do not, perhaps I will "make war" to make "yours" into "mine". I will judge that my life is heading "up" or "down", that it is a "success" or "failure", that I am "above" or "below" others. These are each examples of our usual ways of looking at and experiencing life.

    Buddhist practice, however, adds some other ways of understanding and seeing through language:

    There is a Peace of One Piece that shines right through all the broken pieces of the endless words. Drop the shattered words and Wholeness manifests.

    What is more, we can choose our words carefully in this world. We should, the Precepts guide us, choose words of peace, cooperation, loving kindness, gentleness. The words we choose ... and the world we make ... is largely up to us.

    We can see that "I" is not apart from "you" or "him" or "her" ... but all are interconnected so intimately that all are one beyond one. Just "I-You-Him-Her-All-Of-Us-Together".

    And while "I" am "I" and "you" are "you" ... "I" am "you" and "you" is "I" and the trees and rain and stars too ... each grain of sand holding all space and time ... all one phrase, all one word ... all connected and interpenetrating in the most intimate sense beyond even any separation in need of "reconnect". (I am he and you are he and you are me and we are all together ... I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob )Thich Nhat Hanh has a lovely image of this which he likes to call "interbeing" ... another way of expressing what we are discussing ...

    Imagine something as real and tangible as the word "paper" ...

    If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

    If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And wesee the wheat. We now the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

    Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here-time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

    Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without “non-paper elements,” like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.

    From: The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra
    However, even such images do not capture how intimate is our wholeness and inter-penetration with the grass and stars and trees and, most especially, every creature and, even more especially, every sentient creature ... not only now, but that has ever or will ever live throughout time.

    I like to think that there are, from one marvelous perspective, no true nouns or pronouns, adjectives or subjects and objects ... but only a living GREAT VERB-ING. Not even the noun "BEING" covers this if we just see the "BE" as fixed and stagnant but miss the "ING", for this GREAT VERB-ING is alive and ever moving ... BE-ING ... flowING in every action of life here there and everywhere. In fact, what is the WORD beyond even small human thoughts of "being vs. not-being"? (Hamlet asked "to be or not to be" ... but Buddha offered further options 8) )

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    What is the WORD beyond and fully expressing beginnings and endings, being and not being, all human thoughts of God or Man or Buddha?

    We sit with that WORD ... we sit that WORD ... WORDLESSLY VERB-ALL-I-ZING ... in each instant of Zazen.*

    * (pardon these very imperfect words to express what cannot be expressed)

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: Ego based in Language

    language has so may subtle ways to speak. Movement, touch, sound, colour, line, shape......
    Just a sound can say all that is needed for the moment. Like our meditation bell.

  12. #12

    Re: Ego based in Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Undo
    language has so may subtle ways to speak. Movement, touch, sound, colour, line, shape......
    Just a sound can say all that is needed for the moment. Like our meditation bell.
    Yes, and though this Zen Way is said to be "beyond words and letters", Dogen and many other Zen Masters in China and Japan were great poets, writers ... Dogen would say that the problem was not "words", but in finding words that bring Truth to life.

    Dr. Hee-Jin Kim has often touched on this theme in his amazing writings about Dogen, and Ted Biringir has one of the nicest descriptions of that ...

    Dogen’s refutation of the traditional notion of Zen as “A separate transmission outside the (written) teachings,” pivot on his view of the significance of “expression” (dotoku). The central position of expression (inclusive of language) in Dogen’s Zen teachings was first explicitly elucidated in English in 1975 by Hee-Jin Kim in his landmark book Dogen Kigen: Mystical Realist (revised in 1987; and again in 2004 [re-titled]). ...

    Meditation has long been acknowledged as central to Zen, but, until [the 1975 book], language was usually portrayed as, at best, an expedient for deluded beginners which more advanced (i.e. enlightened) practitioners could happily leave behind. The whole role of language was typically described in Zen books as “mere fingers pointing to the moon” or as “rafts, to be left behind once one reached the other shore.” While Kim’s book affirmed that Dogen was well aware of the limiting aspects of language (of which he advised caution), it went on to reveal that for Dogen there was more to Zen language than that, much more. Indeed, the substance of Kim’s elucidations on the role of language in Dogen’s Zen is substantially the same as in his latest book, Dogen On Meditation and Thinking, published in 2007 ...

    Kim’s works point out something that is become clearly evident in Dogen’s own writings, most of which have translated to English since Kim’s first book; expression (dotoku) for Dogen is not only necessary to Zen practice, it is Zen practice.

    ...

    Dogen offers what I call the "realizational" view of language, in contrast to the "instrumentalist" view that is epitomized in the Zen adage "the finger pointing to the moon" (shigetsu). This [instrumentalist] view is derived from the assumption that language has no intrinsic place in the salvific process of Zen, and accordingly, serves only as an instrument for the sake of enlightenment. [In contrast, Dogen's] view pinpoints [language] as discriminative thought, and yet, as possessing the capacity to liberate discriminative thought ... Language has a dual function--one is limiting and the other liberating. ... Dogen contends [that] inasmuch as language is the core of discriminative thought, it has the power--perhaps the only power there is--to liberate it. Enlightenment, from Dogen's perspective, consists of clarifying and penetrating one's muddled discriminative thought in and through our language to attain a clarity, depth, and precision in the discriminative thought itself. This is enlightenment or vision.

    Related to the preceding observations is that Dogen's view of language is deeply grounded in his notion of temporality. His reasoning here is that if the cause of affliction and suffering lies in language, the way to release oneself from this predicament is in language itself. In fact, such a language-bound situation, Dogen would suggest, is the only locus where one can attain realization. Dogen thus focalizes language as the agent of liberation. It is small wonder then that, as we shall see presently, he meticulously explored and explicated the interior and exterior of language as the very fabric of existence and, hence, of his religion.

    Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen On Meditation and Thinking: A reflection On His View of Zen, pp.62-63
    http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... =17&t=2564

    Well, don't lose the silence-music in the words and noise. Hear with the eyes that Silence-Music that is each of silence, words, music and noise. Well chosen words can speak a symphony of Silence.

    Something like that (I'm no great word-smith myself :? ).

    Maybe Taigu, our poet, will have some words to add?

    Gassho, J

  13. #13

    Re: Ego based in Language

    Thanks brother. Lovely words. Yes, the taste of painted cakes, the moon-finger. Dogen's genius is rocking the whole dualistic take on language versus reality.

    I am but a very bad poet but all I know is once you craft words out of silence, chips of silence as birdsongs can be, once you invite the eloquence of stillness and make it speak in your flesh and blood, the borders between the world and the word fade away. Or rather you observe sound and silence endlessly turning into each other, responding, echoing,shouting, whispering, singing, laughing...This circle in motion, always in motion is the fabric of the real world.

    Split this, and silence is dead, words empty.

    gassho

    Taigu

  14. #14
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Ego based in Language

    Norman Fischer on language (and poetry) via Tricycle
    http://www.tricycle.com/dharma-talk/...guage?page=0,0

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