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  1. #1

    Annoyed and questioned by "buddhist metaphysics"

    Hi !

    I'm full of questions about the purpose of buddhist metaphysics statements such as : "the world is a dream" (or an hallucination, would say neurosciences today), or "there is no self". Everytime a teacher writes about this, everyone seems so pleased with it and so comforted by it ; for me, those are really scary perspectives ! If the world is a dream, then what can i trust ? Am i alone in it forever ? If there is no self, then, same question, what am i ? The worst is that i can see that, during zazen, i can't find or name something that would be my "self" ; but this is not something comforting, more like something bewildering... Still, i discovered that it is when you stop searching that you begin to understand what you are, which, i guess, is a progress...

    I thought that buddhism was a practical religion / philosophy whose purpose was to end suffering and not about metaphysics ; but those statements 1 - seem like metaphysical to me and 2 - do not seem to help with ending suffering, at least for me (feeling like i'm the only one, hahaha).

    Sometimes i wonder what good all of this is. When i look around me, people who seem to feel ok don't have all these questions, don't practice meditation, don't search for anything, they just live their lives without caring too much about what it is... For me, it's questions all the time, watching myself, trying to find unanswerable answers... Could someone explain how those ideas help them ?

    Sorry for running long !

    Uggy,

    Sat today,
    LAH
    Last edited by Ugrok; 02-12-2021 at 04:05 PM.

  2. #2
    Hi Uggy,

    It might seem scary at first, especially to folks who have a bit of a fragile identity, but I assure you that both teachings are meant to be liberating:

    - "There is no self" is NOT an assertion that there is no provisional sense of self (Uggy) which is quite useful on a daily basis. It is the assertion, in addition, that you are not only a separate self. Rather, your self is everything because your sense of being a separate, independent, isolated self is wrong. This is liberating because it means that you are not only your separate, mortal little self that constantly conflicts with other apparently separate selves and things. No separate self, thus, no two to tussle, no friction, no problem! No death (or birth) either! So, don't worry, you are still Uggy for all intents and purposes, but also, you are every galaxy, moment of time, grain of sand and atom. (However, don't let that go to your head, because so is everyone and every ant or worm, everything too).

    - "The world is "largely" a dream" created between the ears by how we process data into objects, creatures and people which we delineate, categorize, label and judge as pleasing or displeasing to ourselves. It is liberating because we can change aspects of the dream which are counterproductive. As one example, we can change the belief that we are only a separate self, as above.

    They are not so much metaphysical statements as psychological, saying that the personal sense of "I" created in the brain (with its self-identity, self-imposed borders about where it ends and begins, and all the frustrations it feels) is not the only way to experience who one is.

    Yes, most people don't bother with this, more worried about buying a new car, what's for dinner and who is playing in the football matches this week.

    (Sorry to have run long).

    Gassho, Jundo

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-12-2021 at 04:48 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    You calling me an aperture?

  5. #5

  6. #6
    Hi Uggy

    I get it. They often irritate me too!

    However, these sayings, a bit like koan stories, are a short cut to the underlying message which Jundo has outlined above. But, if you don't have personal experience of the lack of self or similar they do seem rather meaningless. It is like a Christian minister talking about God's love. If you have a feeling of God's love already, you will feel that connection. If you don't, it just feels meaningless. So we sit to understand the meaning of phrases like 'life is all a dream' and 'there is no self' which point to a deeper understanding of life and reality.

    For me, it's questions all the time, watching myself, trying to find unanswerable answers...
    I don't think this is such a bad thing but it can be helpful to see that the questions don't always need to have answers and be comfortable resting in the not knowing.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  7. #7
    Hahaha, but i don't want to be the whole universe ! I just want to be good old simple me, enjoying simple stuff.

    Thanks for the explanation. I get that the "world is a dream" thing can be liberating if you can change the dream ; but it seems that you can't... If it snows, it snows ; if it rains, it rains. All i can change (maybe ?) is how i deal with those experiences, am i right ?

    Gassho,

    Uggy,
    Sat today

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Ugrok View Post
    Hahaha, but i don't want to be the whole universe ! I just want to be good old simple me, enjoying simple stuff.
    Hey there Uggy!

    You and I have the opposite issue; I *want* to be the whole universe, so much that the idea of being "just" good ol' Jesse (or Koushi, Uncle, Brother, Partner) is sometimes frightening! I don't see myself individually as anything special; yet, just by being ourselves we *are* special. We *are* the manifestation of billions of years all coming together to meet this moment. We *are* good ol' simple "us", enjoying the simple stuff (and big stuff! And boring! And everything in between!).

    To me, it's about wearing the appropriate hat at the appropriate times. My nephew and nieces don't care much for Koushi, but they love Uncle Jesse. I need to switch from uncle to partner when having conversations or intimate moments with my partner. Etc. So, when you want to enjoy the simple stuff and be good ol' Uggy, enjoy the simple stuff and be good ol' Uggy! When you want to explore your place in the vast cosmos, then do so. (and know that regardless, everything keeps spinning right on along perfectly)

    Sorry for running long,

    Gassho,
    Good ol' Koushi,
    ST
    広 Kou (Vast)
    髭 Shi (Beard)

  9. #9
    This is a great thread, with some really, really good responses! I cannot help myself - and I apologize for going over three sentences

    So the whole universe doesn't want to be the whole universe? That is universally unacceptable.

    Seriously - I think what draws me into zazen practice is that it's ultimately optimistic and shows us how to get out of our own way. The fact that I'm an expression of the universe, I have everything I need and I am complete - while at the same time "I could use a little work" (as Suzuki Roshi said) is such a great view. When it comes down to it, this is all my responsibility and I have the capability to do what needs doing. I don't need to look around for answers - I don't need to grasp to constantly strive to fill that void; I mean that dissatisfaction is there - that is what it means to be human, but we can be with it and feel it and understand it without having to try to chase after things to avoid it.

    We can set it down and watch it. Isn't this zazen? Isn't this life? Have you (and I've been there myself) met someone who constantly chases after the "next" thing to distract themselves as if they are avoiding the deeper flow of life, the real questions?

    I'm no judge, and I'm certainly nowhere near perfect (although I am, and you are too. hahaha ) but I do know that I want my life to mean something; it's up to me to bring that meaning. I mean we owe it to ourselves to understand and dive into this life fully. That's what the precepts and jukai are all about - it's about taking the difficult path; about doing what needs doing.

    Now whether or not I want to do something is totally besides the point; we got to do what needs to be done. I mean isn't that what it means to grow up and become an adult (which Dainan Katagiri Roshi would say the whole Bodhisattva path is)? Despite our little self desires, we do what's right because that's what needs to be done.

    Isn't this what Dogen means in Genjokoan? Sure there is air, but if you aren't going to fan it then you don't get the whole meaning behind practice. Just as in Tenzo Kyokun - you can delegate stuff, but you have to be responsible and make sure what's done is done right; if you delegate, you still own the outcome. If not you, who? If not now, when?

    Everything that enters your life - enter is the wrong word - is you; it's up to you to take care of this.

    Great posts everyone - very excellent thread and questions Uggy

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah
    Last edited by Risho; 02-12-2021 at 11:07 PM.

  10. #10
    Thank you to Jishin for posting pictures as BIG as the universe.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ugrok View Post
    Hahaha, but i don't want to be the whole universe ! I just want to be good old simple me, enjoying simple stuff.
    Oh, but you still can, right until the day you die. Live. Have your corn flakes for breakfast, and pet the cat. It is just that much of the conflict with other separate selves is seen in a new and freeing light (although your provisionally separate self will still bump its knee on the provisionally pointy table leg sometimes), and you realize that death (birth too) are not the only ways to see things. You can still pet the cat, realizing that the hard borders of petter and pet and the whole world flowing are not as separate as they often seem.

    Thanks for the explanation. I get that the "world is a dream" thing can be liberating if you can change the dream ; but it seems that you can't... If it snows, it snows ; if it rains, it rains. All i can change (maybe ?) is how i deal with those experiences, am i right ?
    Yes, I often give two examples from my own life, two times I was late and caught in the rain, soaked to the skin in almost the exact situation. The first time I became angry at the rain, the second time I danced "singing in the rain" and smiled ... the rain me and me the falling rain ... same rain. Also, when I had my cancer, sometimes I was afraid and worried about death, sometimes I dance and smiled ... and death was not such a bother either.

    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    People (including Buddhists) say a lot. Sometimes something said will create a shift, where you experience a little less suffering, a little more joy, a little more compassion, a little more connection. Sometimes it won't create that shift.
    Yes, sometimes the hard borders of self/other fully drop away, and all flows in and out and as each and all ... and sometimes the hard borders merely soften and the tensions, conflicts and fears soften too ... and other times it just serves to make us an easier, sweeter, more giving, more accepting, peaceful person in the meantime.

    Some lovely responses from the folks here.

    Sorry for running long (everyone, let's try to keep it short, and apologize if we just have more to say and need to run long. )

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-13-2021 at 02:53 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Hi Uggy,

    My personal experience, if it's helpful...

    People (including Buddhists) say a lot. Sometimes something said will create a shift, where you experience a little less suffering, a little more joy, a little more compassion, a little more connection. Sometimes it won't create that shift.

    If not, it's okay to set the teaching aside for now. Maybe at some point it will be helpful. Maybe it will never be helpful, and that's okay, too.

    Just my two cents.

    Good luck with your exploration.

    Gassho,
    Jim
    Stlah

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Ugrok View Post
    Hahaha, but i don't want to be the whole universe ! I just want to be good old simple me, enjoying simple stuff.

    Thanks for the explanation. I get that the "world is a dream" thing can be liberating if you can change the dream ; but it seems that you can't... If it snows, it snows ; if it rains, it rains. All i can change (maybe ?) is how i deal with those experiences, am i right ?

    Gassho,

    Uggy,
    Sat today
    If you could change it, what would you change? Seeing snow and not wanting snow is from the perspective of "I" don't want snow. However, the mountains want snow. The hibernating animals and plants want snow. The snowpack for the next years streams want snow. The entire universe is at play and you are merely an observer of the beautiful snow. The part where liberation comes in is this: if I cannot change it, should not change it, why worry?

    Gassho
    Sat, lah
    求道芸化 Kyudo Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  13. #13
    Jishin - I get your point but I wish you would have uploaded larger pictures

    Gassho

    The Universe
    -stlah

  14. #14
    Speaking of dreams - thanks Jishin for those inspirational quotes. Looks like I'll be having Alan Watts induced nightmares tonight

    Uggy, when it comes to questions of who am I, I agree with JimInBC. Maybe it's worth it to keep it aside for a bit and just sit in "non investigative" pure Shikantaza. Off the cushion you might explore instead how your body-mind is working, how it responds to senses, situations, etc, without any judgement just paying attention to what and how it's happening.

    Gassho
    Sat
    Last edited by Inshin; 02-12-2021 at 10:18 PM.

  15. #15

    Annoyed and questioned by "buddhist metaphysics"

    Quote Originally Posted by Ugrok View Post
    Hi !

    I'm full of questions about the purpose of buddhist metaphysics statements such as : "the world is a dream" (or an hallucination, would say neurosciences today), or "there is no self". Everytime a teacher writes about this, everyone seems so pleased with it and so comforted by it ; for me, those are really scary perspectives ! If the world is a dream, then what can i trust ? Am i alone in it forever ? If there is no self, then, same question, what am i ? The worst is that i can see that, during zazen, i can't find or name something that would be my "self" ; but this is not something comforting, more like something bewildering... Still, i discovered that it is when you stop searching that you begin to understand what you are, which, i guess, is a progress...

    I thought that buddhism was a practical religion / philosophy whose purpose was to end suffering and not about metaphysics ; but those statements 1 - seem like metaphysical to me and 2 - do not seem to help with ending suffering, at least for me (feeling like i'm the only one, hahaha).

    Sometimes i wonder what good all of this is. When i look around me, people who seem to feel ok don't have all these questions, don't practice meditation, don't search for anything, they just live their lives without caring too much about what it is... For me, it's questions all the time, watching myself, trying to find unanswerable answers... Could someone explain how those ideas help them ?

    Sorry for running long !

    Uggy,

    Sat today,
    LAH
    Uggy, the basic buddhist concepts simply tell us that everything depends upon something else, so everything has a cause and is thus empty of an independent existence. That includes our thoughts, emotions, feelings, attachments and thus, our suffering, for which we understand there is a solution: the Eightfold Path.
    Simply put, understanding these concepts provides us with tools to help us make choices and decisions as we navigate our existence, that is constantly bombarded by “causes” (external factors like events, sounds, faces, people, sights, sensations, acts done by others etc).

    The idea is to understand that WHAT HAPPENS is not the same as how we FEEL ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS. We can’t always control what happens but we can control how we react to the feelings we generate about it.

    People not asking themselves questions still struggle with the same emotions you and I do... their issues are just based on their own experiences.

    The “self” you mention is the same as it’s always been, so understanding that it is a product of your genes and experiences, environment, people you’ve talked to and seen, places you’ve visited, things you’ve heard or touched, will not make you less you, but will help you understand how you came to be.


    Sorry for running SUPER LONG

    SatToday lah
    Last edited by Bion; 02-13-2021 at 12:19 AM.
    Bion
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  16. #16
    Everything that enters your life - enter is the wrong word - is you; it's up to you to take care of this.


    Permeable . A nice word I've learnt from Jundo's and Kirk's talk on ego.

    You can still pet the cat, realizing that the hard borders of petter and pet and the whole world flowing are not as separate as they often seem


    I don't have a cat but I like to wash the dishes

    Gassho
    Sat

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Ugrok View Post
    Hi !

    I'm full of questions about the purpose of buddhist metaphysics statements such as : "the world is a dream" (or an hallucination, would say neurosciences today), or "there is no self". Everytime a teacher writes about this, everyone seems so pleased with it and so comforted by it ; for me, those are really scary perspectives ! If the world is a dream, then what can i trust ? Am i alone in it forever ? If there is no self, then, same question, what am i ? The worst is that i can see that, during zazen, i can't find or name something that would be my "self" ; but this is not something comforting, more like something bewildering... Still, i discovered that it is when you stop searching that you begin to understand what you are, which, i guess, is a progress...

    I thought that buddhism was a practical religion / philosophy whose purpose was to end suffering and not about metaphysics ; but those statements 1 - seem like metaphysical to me and 2 - do not seem to help with ending suffering, at least for me (feeling like i'm the only one, hahaha).
    As far as I have understood it, much of our suffering arises because we believe that the self is hard, and not interconnected with everything, and that we believe that reality is what we see, twisted by our minds to meet our expectations (or to conflict with our expectations). Understanding this will free us, and we can learn this by sitting, where it can happen naturally, over time, like silt settling in water, or through studying books or koans. A lot of the sudden realization we see recounted in koan stories happens when a student is at that point where a nudge - either gentle or a bit violent - will bring them to understand these things.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Ryumon View Post
    ...and not interconnected with everything ...
    "Interconnected" is not the half of it, although we are interconnected too, as well as our own individual self too. No, "interconnected" does not even scratch the surface.

    "Interidentical" starts to get there, and fails too ... because what "two" to be identical? It is like your thumbnail and your knuckle arguing about which one is really the hand or your thumb. Or your thumb wondering if it is nail or knuckle. Something like that.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    "Interconnected" is not the half of it, although we are interconnected too, as well as our own individual self too. No, "interconnected" does not even scratch the surface.

    "Interidentical" starts to get there, and fails too ... because what "two" to be identical? It is like your thumbnail and your knuckle arguing about which one is really the hand or your thumb. Or your thumb wondering if it is nail or knuckle. Something like that.
    I've been playing with this saying: You don't live life, life lives you. It's not quite there (lol) but it's helping (for now).

    Gassho
    Kyōsen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  20. #20
    This is an absolutely wonderful thread, and exactly what I needed right now. Thank you, Uggy for asking, and thank you all for your answers.

    Gassho
    krissy
    sat


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Thank you for teaching me.

    I am very much a beginner and appreciate any words you may give me.

  21. #21
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Hi Uggy,


    So I have a sort of different take on this. (apologies for the length) My initial reading on life is a like a dream is from the Chuang-tzu its the old story of Chuang-tzu dreaming he was a butterfly then waking up and wondering if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a man. So the images in dreams are often chaotic and fleeting. But so is much of waking life. While waking life is more orderly things come and go and often without clear meaning. So I see it primarily as a teaching on impermanence.

    That said, I'm also reminded of a passage from David Hume's Treatise on Human Nature. He spent a lot of time trying to "find the self" but all he could find was a bundle of ideas ( reminds me of the Skandhas.) So he writes that he was filled with this kind of despair. His solution was to go play billiards with his buddies. Which to me sounds a lot like fetch water and chop wood. Basically, when this kind of thing happens it might be time to just go engage in some sort of activity. If these are things that your feeling then maybe you can do something that makes you feel different. Basically, your changing the conditions that give rise feelings. If introspection is causing despair then take a break.

    Anywho, that's just my reading on this.

    Gassho
    Hoseki
    sattoday

  22. #22
    Hey Hoseki !

    You are so right. Basically, nowadays, when the questioning or the introspection is too intense, i just grab a shovel and go to my garden and plant some stuff or dig trenches for my future vegetables. Then the questions fade away and even sometimes seem stupid. What do i care if i don't know exactly who i am or what is the world ? It's a bit stupid in the first place when you think about it. Like, we don't know exactly what water is, or how electricity works, and yet we drink and use our computers and lights everyday... Maybe life is too short to ask oneself what it is, i think we're better living it. So that's what i'm trying to do, by doing stuff. Yet there's something in me that seems to want to be perfectly secure, perfectly safe, and that thinks that knowing everything and how things are really would be a really good thing. And i feel this is this part of me that is scared when it realises that it's not possible. Oh well, still got a lot to learn to live quietly with my "self"...

    Gassho,

    Uggy,
    Sat today
    LAH and planted 15 small trees !
    Last edited by Ugrok; 02-14-2021 at 06:34 PM.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Ugrok View Post
    ... i just grab a shovel and go to my garden and plant some stuff or dig trenches for my future vegetables. ...
    Do the tomatoes ask themselves whether they truly are, and whether tomato-ness is a dream or not?

    In fact. is it clear what is the garden and what is tomato?

    Or is the tomato just the garden in tomato form ... and does every seed of the tomato contain the whole garden as much as the whole garden fully contains every tomato?

    Is the tomato aware where it begins and the ground ends ...

    Is a tomato a tomato or a tomatoe ... or a fruit or a vegetable ... is ketchup still a tomato ... or a hot dog a tomato ...


    ... or is it just this? ...



    ... or this ...



    In any case ... plant the garden, the sun is warm ... DELICIOUS!

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    Last edited by Jundo; 02-15-2021 at 01:37 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  24. #24
    Dear Uggy, it may seem like everyone is going about their business not bothered by these questions, but just the existence of religion proves that the vast majority of Humanity is concerned with the answers--or lack thereof. If it is not comforting to you that you are part of a much bigger picture than what the brain and five senses can process, perhaps try to leave the intellectual part of all that aside for now and just sit, dropping all the questions and allowing all the annoyance, uncertainty and confusion of life to be just okay as is.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    She/her.
    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).

  25. #25
    We are also fifteen small trees. Gratitude. _()_

    gassho
    doyu shonin sat, some lah
    Visiting unsui, take w/salt.

  26. #26
    Thank you Uggy for the questions and thank you everyone else for your answers!
    Gassho, Nikolas
    Sat/Lah

    Στάλθηκε από το SM-T510 μου χρησιμοποιώντας Tapatalk

  27. #27
    Hi Ugrok!

    Small self / big self - no opposites, but merely different sides of the same coin.
    Nothing to worry about, all good, even when things aren’t seemingly.
    Just sit without thinking about metaphysics and eventually it will all dissolve.

    (Sorry for my longish absence from the forum everyone - I’ve been with you via Insight Timer though)

    Gassho,

    大哲

    Sat2day
    no thing needs to be added

  28. #28
    Hi Daitetsu!

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  29. #29
    Hi Jundo,

    Sorry for being silent for so long...

    Gassho,

    大哲

    Sat2day
    no thing needs to be added

  30. #30
    Good seeing you around Daitetsu

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  31. #31
    Hahaha, just found this guy on youtube thanks to Brad Warner's facebook, really good for those (like me) sometimes obsessed with "big metaphysical questions" :



    And (even funnier in my opinion) :



    Sat today and LAH
    Last edited by Ugrok; 05-04-2021 at 11:37 AM.

  32. #32
    From a non-dualistic point of view, he is not quite correct.

    Everything in the universe is either a potato or not a potato, yet all is a non-potato.

    In fact, the whole universe is mashed potatoes.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  33. #33
    Member Seikan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Massachusetts, United States
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    From a non-dualistic point of view, he is not quite correct.

    Everything in the universe is either a potato or not a potato, yet all is a non-potato.

    In fact, the whole universe is mashed potatoes.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    So... Does this mean that zazen is the gravy we pour on the universe, slowly saturating the entire universe with flavor until there is no separation between gravy and the universe?

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-


    Sent from my Pixel 4a (5G) using Tapatalk
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  34. #34
    Potato or not potato,
    I am hungry now.

    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidou Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  35. #35
    If we are what we eat, I am a chocolate potato.
    Gassho,
    Naiko
    st lah

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Naiko View Post
    If we are what we eat, I am a chocolate potato.
    Gassho,
    Naiko
    st lah
    hahahahaha that sounds delicious

  37. #37
    Can I get fries with that?

    gassho, Shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

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