Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A true dialogue with "western science"

One the one hand, there's folks like PZ Myers.  On the other hand, there's the Zennist...

In the Dalai Lama’s continuing dialogue with Western science, I would not be surprised to read one day that neuroscientists have decided that Buddhism’s pure Mind or One Mind is not real.  In other words, Buddhists have been deluded for over twenty-five centuries!  Poor Buddhists, like the Dalai Lama, really don’t grasp the nature and function of mind/ consciousness that, in fact, mind is an epiphenomenon of the human brain.

The Scientific Method  is  what I presume the Zennist rails against, because "Western science" is a body of knowledge, and you can no more have a "dialogue" with a body of knowledge than you can have a war on drugs or terror.

And all the Scientific Method is good at is is measuring, observing, and testing hypotheses that are within the realm of that which can be verified by the Scientific Method. It's a closed system.  Anything beyond that is metaphysics, as most of us scientific or not, in the Buddhist blogosphere get.  While it's understandable why folks like Myers and Dawkins have the metaphysics they do - and as far as we can describe with words, there's always the possibility they're right1, as far as their being right is important - the Scientific Method is still a closed system.

The only reason the Dalai Lama admires the West is because the West is good at a few things like inventing (I have in mind Thomas Edison).  Take the examples of fly screen, refrigerators, washing machines, radios, airplanes, ballpoint pens, to name just a few items among countless others.

The Zennist really ought to read my blog more.  Or at least he ought have a dialog  (Or is it dialogue? He ought to have at least one of them) with people who you know, respond and interact,  even if only online. And just 'cause he doesn't, and evidently doesn't read Matt Taibbi either...

I give credit to the Dalai Lama for  thinking a bit more about the West than refrigerators and such.  Not entirely good and rosy and all that, but then again, I don't think about the "East" that way, either.


It is only the Buddhists who have dared to plumb the mystery of thought, itself, and behold its clear light substance.  By doing so, they have declared the universe is only Mind; what we are perceiving, in other words, is mind phenomena.  Unfortunately, the West has been derelict in this undertaking.  Westerners see no benefit in seeing the clear light substance from which our thoughts are made from.
 This is probably neither completely true or false, but it's the sort of statement that I'd hope Buddhists avoid making, because no matter how bone-headed a non-Buddhist can be, it detracts not one iota from the degree to which Buddhists can be bone-headed, including but not limited to yours truly.

1. Note: In no way is this contradictory to my comments here, as I see it.  That there can be something transcending  and ecompassing my notion of "me" and "you"  in no way invalidates the very real point that folks like Myers and Dawkins would make about all the historical bits about me and you stored away in our brains don't really exist after our deaths, except insofar as the ripples of cause and effect (you know, karma) perpetrate throughout space, time, beings, nonbeings, form and emptiness after said  deaths.


Barbara O'Brien said...

Oh, Jeez, Mumon, you read the Zennist? You have more forbearance than I do. Zennist is a poser in love with his own opinions.

His Holiness has engaged in what seem to me are fairly heavy-duty dialog(ue)s with theoretical physicists on the nature of reality. Some of these dialog(ue)s have been published in books that I have read. Some of the discussion went over my head, but I'm pretty sure they weren't talking about refrigerators.

Angulimala said...

You've gotta be kidding me, Barbara. PZ Meyers is a poser as well as Brad Warner. How the Zennist feels about his opinions as reflected in your response says something more about yourself and nothing about the Zennist.

I will admit that he is a bit of a tough read and not too easy on western/secular Buddhism, but I would hate to find myself fifteen or twenty years down the road in a practice in which I had not even bothered to investigate the background history of my teachers or their doctrinal lineages.

The Zennst is opinionated, I will agree, but check out the referenced links and scholarly articles offered on his blogsite. They are not proofs of his personal opinions, but rather an opportunity to investigate the history of Buddhism rather than swallow what might possibly be mythological truth sold as the real deal at your local Zendo.

I refuse to "just sit" still with out weighing the evidence.

Barbara O'Brien said...

You've got to be kidding me, Angulimala. Brad Warner has got to be one of the least pretentious bloggers on the Web. And he's a bleeping dharma heir, for pity's sake.

Note that I've been a formal Zen student since 1988. At this point I can sniff out Zen bullshit a mile away. I don't always agree with him, but Warner's not a bullshitter.

And PZ -- whom I have met and discussed some of these issues face to face -- is a science professor who has a big blind spot where spirituality is concerned, but he is no poser, and he doesn't annoy me that much. He's dedicated to the truth as he sees it -- even if there is truth he doesn't see -- and he's a nice fella.

But the Zennist has got to be one of the most pretentious hyper-intellectual bullshitters on the Web. He's not the worst; there are a bunch of them these days. But for this post alone, the Zennist needs to be called out, loudly an often, as someone who not only has no clue what Zen is; he also wouldn't recognize authentic dharma if it showed up in a gift box with a label. And there have been plenty of other posts just at appalling.

Mumon said...

I think I wrote somewhere a while back that the only reason I continue linking to folks such as the Zennist is because folks stumbling across what he writes might actually mistake him for someone who's a kind of authority on the subject of Buddhism. While some bits of what he says is quite valid, much of what he says is...well...would it be right speech to say "ridiculous?"

As for the Dalai Lama & scientists; more power to 'em I say. To the extent that any representative of any body of thought & human experience makes empirically falsifiable claims, I'd say let's discuss the science.

I've only corresponded with PZ; I like him; his curmudgeonliness is a bit of a persona...

And yeah, I differ with Warner on things, but he's no poser.

Angulimala said...

So, in effect Barbara you have read me the riot act. I am supposed to be impressed with your credentials, Brad Warner's credentials and now have a warm and fuzzy spot in my heart RE PZ. Well I am not and I don't.

I did enough looking aroung in the archives to know this bile has nothing to do with me. I resent being puked on by some one whose blog I once read from time to time and had some measure of respect for.

Perhaps you should take some of your own advice here: http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/anger.htm.

Good Day, Lady.

Mumon said...


I don't read anywhere where Barbara actually implied what you're implying here.

And as for PZ or the Zennist or Brad Warner or Barbara or myself, as I see it, it's not an issue of having a warm and fuzzy spot...and neither is it something to be resentful over. What is it?

Since you've brought the subject of credentials up: the issue of "credentials" is one, as a friend of mine with a Ph.D. put it, of "initial value" as I've written before. The credentials are good only insofar as they correlate to other aspects of what you observe from them.

Take Dogen. His writing gets Buddhism pretty much right; there's some phraseology in the translations I'd not use, but the big picture's right.

Take Warner. If Dogen's references in his writing didn't exist, Warner's thing would still come across to me as authentic Buddhism, because of my experience and practice and learning in the subject.

Ditto for Barbara. And, in his own way (excluding the Buddhism and inserting science in its stead) PZ, when he talks about science and (usually) excesses of literalist fundamentalist monotheism.

Don't believe me, Barbara, Warner, or the Zennist or PZ.

Do your own homework.

Mumon said...


And I left out Barbara in that bit over there, but it's absurd to question her experience and "credentials" as a Buddhist.

I know where she's come from there, and it's easy for you to know too.

Barbara and I have critiqued each other quite a bit in the past but we've never questioned each other in regard to our basic Buddhist-iness.

Angulimala said...

Mumon said: “I don't read anywhere where Barbara actually implied what you're implying here.”

I see, Barbara did not actually imply ,but your implication is that I actually did in fact imply something here other than what is there. In addition, the above is your experience of what was said by one person who is a stranger to you, to another which is your good friend. This forms the basis for the totality of what you have to say to me. You did not read anywhere where Barbara actually implied, but you do posit that I did imply. Good, now you’ve formed a sound basis for all that follows. It starts to sound like something out of R.D. Lang’s Politics of Experience, doesn’t it?

You raise the issue of resentment. I was not aware of any such problem until Barbara went off. LOL!

Mumon said: “Since you've brought the subject of credentials up: the issue of "credentials" is one, as a friend of mine with a Ph.D. put it, of "initial value" as I've written before. The credentials are good only insofar as they correlate to other aspects of what you observe from them.

Spot on, Mumon. I continue to correlate the aspects as this spectacle continues to arise. Or is it already ceasing? And a friend with a Ph.D.? ,oh, goose bumps, my lord!!

As far as Dogen goes, there are questions, you know. What I mean to say is that the whole of Buddahdom does not hinge on his writings. I am aware that as more scholastic research is revealed, there is a greater level of threat (paranoia) felt in some Zen communities. I hope they can successfully “just sit” it[the storm] out. In fact, I would go so far as to say that many dogenites (lower caps intended) are guilty of the “literalist fundamentalist monotheism” that PZ speaks of. Of course, it is not lost on me that they think/believe or are of a different primordial mind substance on the subject than myself.

Angulimala said: “I refuse to "just sit" still without weighing the evidence.” I made this
statement in my first reply to Barbara. Had you read it as well as comprehending its implication, perhaps you would not have made the unctuous comment of:” Don't believe me, Barbara, Warner, or the Zennist or PZ. Do your own homework.” There never really were any plans to take it on the word of a “consensus” Buddhist’s for anything, as you can now see.

In regard to Barbara’s credentials, if you look closely you will find that I did not question them, as you misattribute to me, but merely stated I was not impressed with them. I did read her bio, by the way. You know where she comes from and I know a bit about your digital posturing. You know nothing about me, yet imply much.
Or perhaps it is more like:

“It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing Bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to
the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he
says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly
indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter,
however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side
of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of
the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away
with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality
correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”


It is nice that Barbara and yourself have critiqued each other over the years, but if you really want to learn something about yourself go ask your enemy what he thinks of you.

Mumon said...


1. If you write that A Y, I can pretty much write that you imply A Y, or where the verb's got a pretty close synonym. It's the nature of English.

2. I'd work on the resentment. It's not being used too productively from where I'm viewing it.

3. No, the whole Buddhist world doesn't hinge on Dogen, but then again what the Zennist says about him is a joke, especially when compared against to what the canon actually does say. Again, I've got some differences with Dogen on his writing, but his writing, you know, isn't the special transmission outside the scriptures, now is it?

3. Neither does the whole Buddhist world depend on the positions of the Zennist, me, Barbara, you, PZ Myers, or Nichiren or the Dalai Lama or... Your point?

4. I wouldn't attribute "paranoia" to the Soto Zen movement. And I don't know what you mean by "scholarly."

5. Neither do I know what you mean by "stranger" and "good friend."

6. Please try to keep in mind, that this is all bits of pixels and electrons winding up on a screen somewhere. On some level...

Weasel Tracks said...

Barbara fails to mention that she has experience from about twenty years ago with this person, who engaged in interminable arguments with many others as well as herself, in a number of venues on the innertubes. Before I encountered him, I believed "Zen heretic" applied to no reality, so I owe him a debt of gratitude.

Buddhists can get resentful when they see Dharma perverted, though. I've often thought Barbara a bit deficient in restraining her expressions of disapproval, but her personal style certainly arouses energy in conversations like this.