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Thread: No 'doer'

  1. #1

    No 'doer'

    Hello Jundo, Taigu and others.

    I've been away for a while but I'd be very interested to get your take on something.

    Free will is something that most people take for granted most of the time. They believe themselves to be 'persons' who make free decisions and choices and control what happens.

    Buddhism, however, teaches that their is no self and I got to thinking that if there is no self there is no doer and if there is no doer then there are no people, decisions, choices or control over what happens.

    All we can say is that there is consciousness/awareness in which actions arise, but they are not done by any individuals. Likewise, thinking arises but there is no 'thinker', there is hearing but there is no 'hearer' etc. Is it not so?

    Gassho,

    David

  2. #2
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: No 'doer'

    B does not follow from A. Even if self is illusory, it is a powerful illusion. Ultimately there may be no self, but realizing that is not the same as realizing that. IMHO.

    Chet

  3. #3

    Re: No 'doer'

    Welcome back, David.

    The fact that everything is arising and vanishing in every moment is a wonderful teaching. The bad we did in the past falls away, making room for the good we can do with our very next choice in this present, thus changing the course of our future, and even that of the whole world. We have the ability to choose our next moment, our next thought, our next action. We are as free as we want to be. All we have to do is stop picking and choosing. Yet at the same time, in order to live a full life, we have to pick and choose. :roll:

    Nobody said it better than Nishijima:

    "If we thus forsake the making of efforts in line with our will and desires, we then begin to merely drift along, entrusting our life and our fate to objective factors. Moreover, if we think of the meaning that should be present in one's "being alive," "living life," we are left to reflect on what kind of meaning we would then find in merely casting ourselves adrift to the unseen forces of objective events and circumstances, having no regard to personal efforts pursuant to our personal will and desires....Thus Buddhism is a religion of "action, for it focuses on our creating our life through our doing , our actions here and now.

    I have found that through sitting, the choices I make come from a wiser place, a more solid place than my mind. It's almost like I think with my gut. I was a puppet once, but shikantaza pulled those strings down. Now I'm free to choose. Free. No Greg in my way anymore. No buddha either. Just open road with lots of scenery. What long strange trip it's been 8)

    gassho
    Greg

  4. #4

    Re: No 'doer'

    Hey David,

    Good to hear from you, and I remember sitting retreat together here at Treeleaf Tsukuba.

    A few years ago, this fellow named "David/Borsuk" asked a series of "Big Questions", one about free will/determinism that I answered in the below thread (with a quote from Nishijima Roshi). Was that the same David/Borsuk then or, with the passage of time, are you a different David/Borsuk now? 8)

    viewtopic.php?p=17962#p17962

    In nearly all schools of Buddhism, Mahayana or Indian back to the oldest, the "small self" is seen as a composite fiction, a shadow or illusion of sorts created by the mind. In the constant change of impermanence and emptiness, I cannot really nail down a fixed "you' there ... cause every inch of you is constantly changing, and you are just a temporary composite of circumstances come together. You are like one of those characters in the Star Trek Holodeck (for our Trekkies), made temporarily of swirling photons held in the shape of a human by force fields, who nonetheless stubbornly persist in the belief that they are alive and sentient! 8)

    New David/Borsak persists in insisting that he is the same as prior David/Borsuk just due to the persistence of memory, but really there is a new David/Borsuk born and dying each instant!

    That being said, looked at from another perspective and despite the constant change, some temporary composite we call "David" wrote a posting to this forum (and another temporary composite is trying to respond!). So, you are there ... but not there ... depending on how it is looked at. Yes, even the holodeck creatures are alive and sentient (until the holodeck plug is pulled! Heck, maybe in some sense, even after ... if they are reborn in a later holodeck life! ).

    Buddhism has always taught about 'Karma', which means that we (though "no self" from one angle) are also sentient beings who do volitional acts ... and bear the consequences. I suppose that Holodeck characters might bear their Karma too! :shock:

    It seems that ... old David and new David, real or imagined ... still is asking the same old Big Questions! :roll:

    Do you have free choice or not? I advise you to choose to sit Zazen, and let the question be!

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: No 'doer'

    Hello,

    just some insolent two cents of mine...when you radically drop the notions of freedom and slavery, doer and non-doer, what is that which you are left with? Is there anything missing? Is there any one person in true need of an answer at that point? Look at that place whence the questions come from. ( a little hint, you can't not be at that non-place).

    Please treat my comments with caution. Half baked novice priests like me are very likely to spread fox spittle wherever they tread.


    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen

  6. #6

    Re: No 'doer'

    Threads like this are a half a hair away from "how many angels on the head of a pin" debates (or as my dad from the Bronx used to ask, "If my aunt had testicles, would she be my uncle?" :shock: ). Best to be cautious, not waste too much breath over it, as Taigu so eloquently advised in his more recent talk.

    viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4718

    So, yes ... from a certain viewpoint, in Emptiness ... no people to choose, nothing to be chosen. Just the flowing of Emptiness, Mind, God, Dharmakaya Buddha, The Verb-ing, Stanley, whatever ya want to call that calling which cannot be called.

    Yet Samsara is just precisely Emptiness ... so in Emptiness too, there be people and there be choices.

    Both at once as one, not mutually exclusive.

    All we can say is that there is consciousness/awareness in which actions arise, but they are not done by any individuals.
    Yeah? Tell that to the IRS/Inland Revenue when they ask David to pay his taxes. Tell them that since there is no individual there, David don't owe any income tax!

    How about "we" (or what we think of as "we") just choose to leave the discussion there?

    Gassho, J

  7. #7

    Re: No 'doer'

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    "If my aunt had testicles, would she be my uncle?"
    I'm stealing this one. :mrgreen:

  8. #8

    Re: No 'doer'

    Quote Originally Posted by Borsuk
    Hello Jundo, Taigu and others.

    I've been away for a while but I'd be very interested to get your take on something.

    Free will is something that most people take for granted most of the time. They believe themselves to be 'persons' who make free decisions and choices and control what happens.

    Buddhism, however, teaches that their is no self and I got to thinking that if there is no self there is no doer and if there is no doer then there are no people, decisions, choices or control over what happens.

    All we can say is that there is consciousness/awareness in which actions arise, but they are not done by any individuals. Likewise, thinking arises but there is no 'thinker', there is hearing but there is no 'hearer' etc. Is it not so?

    Gassho,

    David
    David, thank you for asking this.

  9. #9

    Re: No 'doer'

    Borsuk
    I got to thinking
    There you go.

    Gassho

    W

  10. #10

    Re: No 'doer'

    Thanks for all the replies.

    Recently, it's seemed to me that I'm watching a life unfold as one watches a play at the theatre. In the play, this life is called 'David' and he has his story. But strictly speaking, I am and never have been the character called David at all. I can't be said to 'do' anything because I'm the space in which events and apparent doings happen, though there's no one there to do them. And anyway, characters don't write scripts.

    I could let the question be or pursue it, but either would just be part of the movie (it's a movie now). I could go and sit zazen, but even that would be another scene in the movie.

    I don't wish to waste time with concepts and thinking, but perhaps we suffer because we take ourselves to be something we're not.

    We might toss around comments like 'I make choices' and 'I do this and that' but what do we really mean be 'I' in these sentences? Have we really looked into it?

    If an actress playing Lady Capulet became delusional and actually believed that her daughter Juliet had stabbed herself to death, wouldn't you want to scream, 'Wait! You are an actress and this is just a play!'?

    But then again, do we not enjoy movies and theatre pays all the more when we get really absorbed in them and kinda take them to be real? As I think Jundo was saying, the play has its own reality from the standpoint of the play. So in a sense I am that pattern/process/character called David and that's beautiful. However, to avoid fear of what might happen and be at the mercy of events, it's also very important for me see what I'm not and be what I am, which is way beyond what happens.

    So in the play the character David is now choosing to let this be and go to bed.

  11. #11

    Re: No 'doer'

    David, I'm sure you realize that this is not a play or movie. So take care. Even an actor must pay attention.

  12. #12

    Re: No 'doer'

    Quote Originally Posted by Borsuk
    Thanks for all the replies.

    Recently, it's seemed to me that I'm watching a life unfold as one watches a play at the theatre. In the play, this life is called 'David' and he has his story. But strictly speaking, I am and never have been the character called David at all. I can't be said to 'do' anything because I'm the space in which events and apparent doings happen, though there's no one there to do them. And anyway, characters don't write scripts.
    Yes, yes, yes ... most so-called "Eastern Religions" including many flavors of Buddhism teach us to recognize this self-life-world we experience as very much like a mentally created fictional play or movie, a delusion, that seems real to us. They teach us various practices to realize the fiction, knock down the paper scenery, drop the script and get the heck off stage!

    However, many flavors of Mahayana Buddhism (for example, Dogen's flavor) ... while also teaching us to recognize this self-world-life as very much a mentally created play or movie ... also teach us that "THE SHOW MUST GO ON, LET'S GET ON WITH PLAYING THE PLAY"! It is, perhaps, a show ... but it is OUR show, so ACT IT WELL! It consists of tragedy and comedy, and also (like any good story) something profound shining in/as/right-through-and through all that ... so enjoy the play and don't make a muck of it by bad acting (bad acts, thoughts and words )!

    One can experience "reality" from both perspectives at once!

    For example, Dogen wrote the following about a painting or drawing of rice cakes being able to satisfy our hunger in life. Usually in Buddhism, a "painted rice cake" is taken as a fiction, a delusion. Dogen says, however, that a painted rice cake can satisfy the hunger of the Wise (I imagine that this talk was delivered during tea time at the monastery 8) ) ...


    Only a few have heard that "painted rice cakes do not satisfy hunger" and none have really understood what it meant. I've asked several of these skin bags about it and everybody was quite certain about it without even bothering to look into it. They were like someone overhearing a conversation that they were not involved in. You should understand that this "painted rice cake" is the face that you were born with and the Original Face you had before your parents were even born. A rice cake, although made of rice, is neither born nor unborn, neither exists nor does not. As a rice cake, it is the moment displaying itself as impermanence; and yet what it is as such never moves. It cannot be understood if it is only understood as something that comes and goes.

    In painting a rice cake you use the same materials as you would to paint a landscape. You can use blue pigment to paint mountains and rivers and powdered rice to paint a rice cake. The work of composition is the same. This being so, sesame cakes, vegetable cakes, milk cakes and so on are all this "painted rice cake." There is no difference between paintings, rice cakes, or any thing at all and you should understand that these rice cakes in front of you that you are about to eat are all "painted rice cakes." If you are looking for these "painted rice cakes" anywhere else you still don't know how to eat a rice cake. Sometimes they appear as rice cakes, sometimes not. However, they completely transcend any coming or going, old or new and it is in this that the realm of "painted rice cakes" reveals itself.

    "Hunger" which is "not satisfied" means that, although we are not bound to the conditions of contingent existence, somehow we do not know that we are encountering "painted rice cakes" and so, even though we eat these "painted cakes" we are still "hungry." "Hunger" means that we have distanced ourselves from "painted cakes" but there is no need to try to satisfy this "hunger" because there is really nothing lacking. This "hunger" is what presents itself as all of the changing manifestations of confused experience. But "painted rice cakes" display themselves as this whole bodymind; blue, yellow, red, and white; long, short; round, and square.

    ...

    The entire universe with all of its events is only a painted picture. People and all beings arise there and Awakened Ones and Ancestors Wake Up and become what they are through it. So, if there is no "painted rice cake" there is no way to "satisfy hunger." Without this painting of "hunger" how can you meet the True Person? If there is no painting of "satisfaction" how can there be the energy of Awakening? Without "painted rice cakes" how could you ever "satisfy hunger," "satisfy non-hunger," "not satisfy hunger," and "not satisfy non-hunger?" You should practice this whole world as a "painted rice cake."

    (Translation: Yasuda Joshu and Anzan Hoshin)
    Now, some may ask, "Who or What exactly is the Playwright of this Play ... and what precisely exists "Back Stage" when we step behind the curtain? Is there a Playwright at all?".

    Hmmmm. The Buddha himself, and most of the Zen Ancestors, were of few words on those questions. (I mean, it really ain't that important to the Buddha's central tasks of uniting sentient beings with 'the Big Show' and freeing one from Dukkha. When watching the Godfather, do you keep thinking constantly about Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo and the wardrobe mistress, or just enjoy the incredible, epic story? Is Brando but Brando when the projector is rolling, or is he TRULY Don Corleone in that film?) Rather, though this show be just a show, fiction or not ... how the show goes from this point forward is largely up to us, the actors. The script is only partly written by the previous scenes ... and the coming acts are an open book! You may be a "character called David", but don't make a muck of it! ... (and fiction or not, take care not to fall off the stage!) So ...

    Lights! Curtain Up! Enter Stage Left! This Scene Begins!

    Gassho, J

  13. #13

    Re: No 'doer'

    By the way, to those who would say all this "Buddhist Philosophy" as taught by the Buddha and Ancestors in the Sutras and Commentaries is unimportant to the "Real Matter of 'Zen" ... Dogen would disagree. An understanding (not just "book knowledge", however) of the Sutras and Commentaries is important to this Practice, provided one does not "fall into the books", "armchair philosophy" and mental wheel spinning. We must Practice the Teachings and bring the "play to life". Dogen writes ...

    An old Buddha said, "Painted rice cakes do not satisfy hunger." ... So, some people say that it means that studying the Discourses and Commentaries has nothing to do with opening to primordial Knowing and that they are "painted cakes that do not satisfy hunger". Others say that the [Mahayana] and [Hinayana] teachings are separate from the path of complete and utter Awakening, that they are "paintings of rice cakes and cannot satisfy hunger."

    This is a serious mistake. To think that the teachings of the Discourses are something other than the Way is itself incomplete and those who think in this way cannot transmit the complete Path but are just making a career out of selling the words of the Ancestors. "Painted rice cakes do not satisfy hunger" says the same thing as "Wrong action does not arise," "There is only the arising of benefit," "What is it that comes Thus?" or "At all times, each being expresses its totality." You can really only understand these statements through practising them.

  14. #14

    Re: No 'doer'

    Quote Originally Posted by Risho
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    "If my aunt had testicles, would she be my uncle?"
    I'm stealing this one. :mrgreen:
    Yep it made me spite beans on my monitor

    pardon my offtopic-ness

    Gassho
    Shohei

  15. #15

    Re: No 'doer'

    Thanks, Jundo, for the wholehearted relpy. I've found the discussion very enriching.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    One can experience "reality" from both perspectives at once!
    Yes, indeed.

  16. #16
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: No 'doer'

    I think we all come to a point where we question the very nature of life and reality. We might see things like in a dream sequence and start making questions that will find no answer... except when we sit with them.

    Even if we don't get any written answers we just know that things are okay and that we just sit and enjoy the ride.

    Thank you for all the replies to this thread.

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