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Thread: New Buddhist Path - The Problem with Immanence/Mindfulness - PP 26-38

  1. #1

    New Buddhist Path - The Problem with Immanence/Mindfulness - PP 26-38

    And now the problem with aspects of "immanence", and with "mindfulness" ...

    I always say, with regard to combining mental health care with Zen Practice ...

    [In]in the very stillness of letting life be "as is it" and embracing all of life ... and in dropping the hard borders and divisions between our "self" and the world ... this [Shikantaza] practice does thereby leave almost all people better ... and often does work an effective cure (or is one helpful part of the cure) ... from depression, stress, addiction, compulsive disorders, eating disorders, anger issues, self loathing ... you name it. How? Just by letting us be more at ease with life and peaceful in heart.

    [However] Zazen is -NOT- a cure for many things ... it will not fix a bad tooth (just allow you to be present with the toothache ... you had better see a dentist, not a Zen teacher) ... There are many psychological problems or psycho/medical problems such as alcoholism that may require other therapies, although Zen can be part of a 12-Step program or such (a few Zen teachers in America with a drinking problem had to seek outside help). My feeling is that some things are probably best handled by medical, psychological or psychiatric treatment, not Zen teachers.
    I also feel that a change has happened in Buddhism as it moved from South Asia to the Mahayana, and now to the West. Rather than avoiding all desires and many ordinary emotions, there is now a greater emphasis on balance and moderation in desires and emotions, distinguishing healthy and positive emotions from those which are destructive, excessive, imprisoning and otherwise harmful. Love and sexuality are excellent examples of such emotions.

    Likewise, Buddhism may have much to offer those suffering psychological suffering. For example, someone in depression may learn that dark thoughts and "over thinking" are not the only way the mind needs to be, and to not "buy into" such thoughts. They may learn to press the "mental reset button" and also to replace the harmful story they are telling themself with alternative stories (as discussed this week on another thread LINK). Someone with childhood or other trauma may learn to see through all that, to let it be and let it go more easily.

    On the subject of Mindfulness and capitalism, I very much agree with most of Loy and Zizek's criticism of how "mindfulness" and Buddhism have frequently been used to enable to worst excesses of modern corporate life, consumerism and the like. I happen to be a fan of capitalism and modern western society to the extent that it has brought many modern people (not all, unfortunately, in society's inequalities) levels of health, food and housing, entertainment, education and other opportunities unprecedented in history. It is only the excesses in our hungry never satiated consumerism, abuses of workers, competitiveness that is never satisfied, endless growth and environmental destruction that are the real problem. Does "corporate McMindfulness" facilitate our modern "what's in it for me?" consumerism and corporate abuse of workers?

    What do you think about these chapters?

    Gassho, Jundo

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-05-2017 at 01:01 AM.

  2. #2

  3. #3
    This chapter touched a nerve. For me the question of the Mindfulness movement isn't straight forward. Part of the reason I am here at TreeLeaf is due to my attempts at being more mindful in my day to day activities. It was an entry point to my path here but what I was finding is that a lot of the literature on Mindfulness lacked depth and real substance. Maybe I was encountering the McMindfulness discussed in the book. I was looking for a more substantial foundation to being mindful and present to what is. It is saddening to see so much commercialism creeping in but I think Buddhism has the same risk. I can go to my local bookstore and find books on Buddhism that have questionable connections to true Buddhism written by authors with little or no practical experience (McBuddhism?) They are watered down easily consumable versions of Buddhism designed to make money. Maybe they'll lead some to a deeper understanding but will just as likely mislead many.

    Sat this morning Zazen not McZazen

  4. #4
    Still rereading this section, but it answered a question I have failed to formulate coherently enough to ask on here in the past. I have wondered about the essential human need for secure attachment vs. the practice of non-attachment. It actually reminds me of the recent thread about empathy, where we discussed how to have empathy and behave compassionately, yet come from a place of internal security.

    This section also brings up some personal questions for me, for example, am I sane. (Pondering the Donald Winnicott quote). I definitely am in a position both at home and work where I have molded myself into what others need, but have no idea if I am in touch with my own vulnerability, which is a nothing but a giant inconvenient nuisance as I try to get things done. I could go way down this rabbit hole but, but probably should think it through first! LOL.

    As for the section on McMindfulness, yes. It seems to echo everything Jundo has said on the subject. Going back to how Gudo Wafu Nishijima described this as a religion of action... not sitting around being mindful. Right mindfulness is important, but the Eightfold Path is just that--a Path to be walked on.

    清 道 寂田
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  5. #5
    I was not aware of corporate mindfulness so can't address that too much, but my guess is that it's just a fad that will die away in time for the simple reason that you generally can't cut off the roots of something and expect it to live a long life. The roots here are 2500 years of context in any of the schools of Buddhism. Because it seems to be treated as a goal, or means to an end, rather than a process, I suspect that some other goal-directed technique will come along eventually to replace it. That's what corporate does, move along to the next great thing, because to stand still is to go out of business.

    I can address mindfulness in western psychology somewhat because my job is to train counselors and it keeps coming up in the literature, but it is a very watered down version of mindfulness that has little to do with what we think of with the same word. It's really nothing more than awareness, which has been around and practiced with clients forever, but now it's dressed up in the new mysterious clothes of eastern thought called Buddhism, so I think it's kind of a fad here, too. I had a student write a paper on it last semester, and what she described as mindfulness was really nothing more than becoming aware of feelings and naming them, but to say it was like Insight Meditation would be like comparing cake flour to an actual cake. I use a textbook that calls for students to raise their level of mindfulness, and one of the students in that class asked if this meant she needed to learn how to meditate. I told her no, learn how to meditate if you want to learn how to meditate, not how to learn to be a counselor. Again, all the book was really asking students to do was become more self-aware, something that has been part of training since Freud identified transference and countertransference. Can it be a useful technique in the practice of counseling? Yes, but that's not our practice. There is a use for cake flour, nothing wrong with it at all, but don't try to put icing on it and call it a cake. (Hmm, I probably should have written rice flour and rice cake, huh, oh well, I prefer a regular cake, mmm )

    I remember a long time ago here in Treeleaf when Jundo introduced us/me to what is called Bompu Zen, zen for the purpose of achieving a goal. He explained how that's fine, but it's not our practice. I think that's what Loy is talking about in this section of the book. I have not read ahead, but I am pretty sure he is using a form of zen to set up a false dichotomy just to knock it down later, because that's how good philosophical arguments work. I don't see the tension between Buddhism and psychology he writes about and explores, and I don't think he really does either. He is building a mountain, and we are just in the foothills. I am not going to mistake the ride (these sections) for the peak (of his argument, his conclusion), but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in the ride along the way.
    AL (Jigen) in:

    I sat today

  6. #6
    Thank you everyone for your thoughts. I enjoy reading everyone's responses to this book.

    I'm not sure I know enough to respond to what is being discussed so far... but I do have a few of my own reactions to this section of the book I could add.

    I like how Loy makes the distinction of forming satisfying human attachments before genuine non-attachment is possible. Before, I was confused and thought the goal was to detach and live an unfeeling or somehow removed existence. How would this foster a strong sense of community and care for others? How is it realistic to live like this? This had since been cleared up by Jundo in his series of talks for beginners and it is nice to see it in this chapter as well.

    The term spiritual bypassing was interesting to me as well. A reminder to not use a sense of spiritual identity to cover up or hide a deficient identity.

    Maybe the most potent part of this chapter for me was on page 34 where he discusses the distinct quality of attention that depends on many factors and is not ethically neutral. I think this is the component that will help my practice stick. Reading this book, attempting to talk with you all about it, reading your insights and being a part of a community... is the beginning of something more substantial for me that is taking my practice beyond McMindfulness.

    Thank you all,


    ~sat today~

  7. #7
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  8. #8
    David Loy seems to have lost his way a little in this section Ė it seems like a rehash of a bunch of articles heís contributed to web sites like the Huffington Post. Each sub-section is interesting in its own way, but I donít think heís made a very effective argument about ďThe Problem with ImmanenceĒ.

    On the section on Mindfulness, I agree with David Loy that the bad guy in the McMindfulness phenomenon is capitalism, not mindfulness. Capitalism has done with mindfulness what capitalism does Ė it has twisted it into a vehicle to further its own interests. As David Loy argues elsewhere, capitalism institutionalizes greed ( ). Iíd add the poison of delusion to that. Capitalism is also leading us through the first mass extinction event largely influenced by man. Thatís not good!


  9. #9
    Just to stir things up here ...

    I would add my personal criticism of "mindfulness" meditation that is too much about just relaxing a bit and being less stressful: Nothing wrong with that, but a valium or a back massage or a run might do better. It is okay, of course, but it is also small potatoes in the True Existential Freedom which this Way opens. It is sometimes called "Bompu Zen" (here is one teacher's take on the subject) ...

    Bompu zen, or "usual zen," means engaging in a meditation practice in order to procure the same kinds of things that one has always been looking for; that is to say health and happiness, some sense of well-being. (Zen practice without the motive or intention to liberation, for physical and mental well-being, relaxation, or stress management.) There is nothing wrong with wanting to develop a sense of health and well being. We are not saying that any of these approaches to practice are "wrong"; it is just that some of them are more limiting than others. To limit oneself when it is not necessary is like tying your own hands. ...

    ... [However], the fifth kind of Zen is saijojo zen which means "Great and Perfect Practice." It is great and perfect practice because it is not based on trying to realize anything. It is based on practising practice. It is based on sitting the sitting. It is based on seeing what you see, hearing what you hear, not looking for Buddha in any way but simply realizing one's own looking to be Buddha.
    The real thrust of our way is truly transcendental, to see through the "little self" and its feeling of division and frictions with the rest of this life and world which we perceive as "not my self." That is the fundamental existential question resolved. That is the true power of this way. In the way I (and many folks) approach this "transcendental" however, it is not "other worldly", but available and always present and useful right here in this life and world.

    If I recall, David Loy, in coming sections of the book, makes a similar point.

    Also, in my opinion, Buddhism that becomes too "pop psychology" sometimes starts to sound like all the other light and general "self help" advice from magazines. Again, I am all for anything that helps folks have better marriages, raise their kids better, be happier in their lives, better adjusted. We try to do so around here, helping our member live wisely. There is nothing wrong with blending modern psychology with Zen Training as long as it is done well, and is not merely "California touchy feely inner child new age fluff". I have seen what appears to be both kinds, and I fear that the latter is very common, even coming out of the mouths of some respected Zen Teachers sometimes.

    Also, we do have to be careful about these teachings being used just to make us better consumers, better polluters, better contributors to labor abuse and the like. Equanimity and peace can become complacency and numbness to it all.

    Did I stir the pot?

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 03-10-2017 at 02:54 AM.

  10. #10

    New Buddhist Path - The Problem with Immanence/Mindfulness - PP 26-38

    A translation of Dogenís Bendowa fascicle, from Kazuaki Tanahashiís Treasury of the True Dharma Eye ---

    All buddha tathagatas individually transmit inconceivable dharma, actualizing unsurpassable, complete enlightenment, have a wondrous art, supreme and unconditioned. Receptive samadhi is its mark; only buddhas transmit it to buddhas without veering off. Sitting upright, practicing Zen, is the authentic gate to free yourself in the unconfined realm of this samadhi.

    ...Sitting upright, practicing Zen...

    Sitting upright, practicing Zen---what is the true name for this? Shikantaza? Receptive Samadhi? Mindfullness?

    All kinds of Zen are delusional and flawed. Why? Attachment to method.

    Erase the words.

    My 2 cents.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    Last edited by Jishin; 03-10-2017 at 01:17 PM.

  11. #11
    Capitalism institutionalized suffering? Well, sure. But where are systems outside of supreme Buddhahood that don't?


    Sat Today

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Just to stir things up here ...

    I would add my personal criticism of "mindfulness" meditation that is too much about just relaxing a bit and being less stressful: Nothing wrong with that, but a valium or a back massage or a run might do better.
    OK, Iíll take the bait ... That's a caricature of bad mindfulness. There's also plenty of good mindfulness around, at least in the UK. For example the good MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Relief) courses include a healthy dose of Buddhist psychology and towards the end have a metta practice, which they tend to call 'befriending' or 'loving kindness'. Nobody pretends this is full on Buddhism, and as a therapy for certain conditions, it works quite effectively. (That's my last word on the 'M' subject ).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    There is nothing wrong with blending modern psychology with Zen Training as long as it is done well, and is not merely "California touchy feely inner child new age fluff". I have seen what appears to be both kinds, and I fear that the latter is very common, even coming out of the mouths of some respected Zen Teachers sometimes.
    It's funny - as I was reading this section of David Loyís book, I got the feeling that he thinks the same thing, but didnít want to say so on record.


  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Byrne View Post
    Capitalism institutionalized suffering? Well, sure. But where are systems outside of supreme Buddhahood that don't?
    Hi Byrne,
    Iím not sure what you mean by 'systems' here. If you mean economic models, then there are others, such as Economic Democracy, which donít institutionalize greed in the way capitalism does. The problem is that vested interests get in the way of alternative models getting widespread adoption.

    Incidentally, I know saying that capitalism institutionalizes greed and delusion is a very one-sided description. It's not all bad, like Jundo said in the opening post


  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    "California touchy feely inner child new age fluff". I have seen what appears to be both kinds, and I fear that the latter is very common, even coming out of the mouths of some respected Zen Teachers sometimes.
    Hi Jundo,

    What you said here is what I tried to sum up in the word "McBuddhism" in my post above. I think the world is suffering from a real spiritual vacancy, especially the Western world. People are trying to fill that vacancy with all sorts of stuff, including consumer goods. Part of the risk Buddhism (along with other religions) face is the not-so-well intentioned individuals and corporations looking to exploit that spiritual vacancy with fluffy, watered down versions of Buddhism for commercial profit. An additional problem is that, at least in the West, Buddhism still has an exotic aura about it. The system of thought is different enough from say Christianity, that most Westerners have at least passing familiarity with, that it is hard to spot the fake and call BS.

    For what its worth, I lurked on TreeLeaf for quite a while before committing to joining the forum and participating. It was my "kicking the tires" if you will. I honestly couldn't believe my luck that there was a real functioning Zen sangha available online. It seemed too good to be true and so I approached with caution. But that's just me and my nature. Others will leap in and (hopefully) ask questions later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Did I stir the pot?
    Yes!!! As any good teacher should.

    Sat Today

  15. #15
    Watering stuff down to present it to a larger audience is nothing new. It' happened with everything: religion, music, martial arts, etc. Using a broad brush to paint capitalism in a negative light or to posit that all military action by the imperial West is evil is horseshit. Part of right speech is also using precise speech and not generalizing things to make a point, when that generalization is false.

    The evil West is not all evil. Greed is nothing new; it exists in other economical frameworks as well. I'm also certainly not saying the West is perfect or anything of the sort; I just hope Loy isn't going to do the cliched West is evil, bla bla bla. I don't think so and, to be fair, I'm actually starting to get interested in this book now. I really like how he's addressing that science should be accepted as well. It seems pretty obvious to me; although I feel sometimes that we are reverting culturally to superstition and pseudo-science a lot.

    Again, I bring this up because I feel it is very relevant to this reading. I really love zen because of its practicality and impact on my life and those around me; at the same time, superstitions that are attributed to zen or any other religion are not zen (in my opinion), but then again, I'm not interested in pseudo-science or nonsense, which I also believe is at the very opposition to Zen as well.



  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    ... I just hope Loy isn't going to do the cliched West is evil, bla bla bla.
    No, that’s not what David Loy does. For what it’s worth, I think his argument about greed (one of the Buddhist Three Poisons) and capitalism is quite clever. What he’s saying is that greed is not just an unfortunate side-effect of a basically good system. Greed is built into the system – it’s systemic: “The point is that this system has its own in-built motivations, quite apart from the motivations of the employees…”. This is similar to the idea of 'structural inequality', but applied to greed rather than inequality. In relation to capitalism, 'structural inequality' is the idea that inequality is built into the very structures that constitute the capitalist system. Inequality isn't merely a side-effect of a basically good system, it's a structural issue.

    All this is slightly off topic to the book. Whether you agree or not, I hope you’ll agree that it’s good food for thought .


  17. #17
    Equality is a tricky term. In some ways I guess people are equal. Maybe for example the way in which we treat each other. But then again, based on our actions, perhaps we deserve to be treated differently. So what does equality mean?

    Equality of opportunity is another one. I guess in some respect, we both have the right ( I believe) to good, solid education. But even given the same environment and education, etc 2 individuals will have similiarities but they won't be equal. Equality is an interesting topic.

    And so is greed. Greed is built in to all human-created systems because all human systems are built by humans, in my opinion.



  18. #18
    I'm inclined to agree with you Risho. When we sit we are equal. All of us are essentially doing the exact same thing regardless of how long we've been doing it or under what circumstances we are sitting. But the circumstances of our day to day lives are not equal. They are extremely complex.

    Traveling around America for the past 15 years has shown me that not all of us have access to the same life tools. Sometimes that's a problem. Sometimes it isn't. I hope to plant a few good seeds whenever I can, but I cant tell you how well that's going because I honestly don't know.


    Sat Today

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