Question: My confusion is from the seeming paradox in Chapter 31. In it, you say you’re not a Buddhist, but rather possibly “Buddhish.” (I like that term, and will probably steal it.) But even on the Dharma Field website it says “Dharma Field welcomes everyone to the teachings and practice of Zen Buddhism.”
So, my question is: Since you’re not strictly a Zen Buddhist, is the teaching at Dharma Field similarly Buddhish?
Response: “Buddhist” is just another moniker people can easily disagree about and fight over. As my teacher used to say, “Buddhism is just one of the ‘isms.’” I do not say that I am not a Buddhist; I do not say that I am. Such statements are simply unintelligible when pursued far enough. The practice and teachings at Dharma Field are of this understanding. It doesn’t really have a name, though it’s often referred to as Buddhadharma—what the Awakened teach.
Question: Appendix B: Mind and Consciousness states, “Our concepts do not, and cannot, account for actual experience, let alone for Reality. This realization is pivotal if we would understand the nature of subjective experience, conscious awareness, and indeed, Mind.”
Is realizing that concepts do not account for Reality (fundamentally) different than realizing Emptiness? Is this realization different than Complete Awakening?
Response to Q1: Cannot say that it is, provided the realization you are asking about is seeing rather than conceptualizing—i.e., that it doesn’t involve the formation of ideas or the holding of views.
Response to Q2: Cannot say that it is.
Question: This is a comment and question sparked by the last 3 sentences of page 201 [after endnote 121 near beginning of Chapter 37]. It’s about the word “mystery.” So often religious understanding is presented as some kind of communion with the great unknowable mystery of life. But this is ultimately unsatisfying. Do I understand you correctly in saying that finally all conventional knowing ultimately leads to an impasse of mystery? Whatever the belief—we end up at the same dead-end? So—the only “thing” we truly know, that is, the only “thing” that is not mysterious, is actual Life, actual Mind—this is given completely “on a plate” through whole perception. So, the idea that life is a mystery is just a frequently repeated belief or conclusion based on the continued experience of beliefs not making any sense and unravelling. Or perhaps we’re told to believe life is a mystery because to think otherwise is tantamount to no longer being a believer, a follower or some sort.
Response: You have the gist of much of what I’m pointing out in The Grand Delusion—particularly regarding belief. Though I would not characterize knowing Life, Mind, Reality as the only thing we know—as if Knowledge were limited in some way. True Knowledge is Total. Nothing is left out. In other words, there’s ultimately no Mystery. Everything is clear and obvious.
Question: It “seems” from everyday experience that humans tend to be delusional...more so than otherwise...the efforts to provide direction toward “seeing” or “waking up” has a poor record for being of interest to us...is there anything to be said about this pattern except to point out its possible illusory nature?
Response: Yes. You can point out actual Illusion.
It is helpful to bear in mind that delusion is belief. Not so, illusion. For example, you see what appears to be water on a highway. You even see reflections of more distant objects in the “water.” As you draw near, however, the “water” disappears. It was a mirage. An illusion. Before recognizing the illusory nature of the experience, it’s easy to be fooled into believing that there’s actually water on the road. This is delusion.
My concern in The Grand Delusion is that people are regularly deluded into believing substantiality is Real—which is the source of virtually all pain and distress. I wrote the book to help people wake up from this “grand delusion.” (You may want to listen to my elucidation of the last page of Chapter 10 in The Grand Delusion. You can find it if you scroll down on the home page and click on the Wednesday discussions. Click on the talk, “What We’re Missing,” dated Feb 17, and then click again at about the 45-minute mark and follow to the end of the talk.)
Questions: You state that a machine which is conscious will not be created. Can you please explain how you have certainty that this will never happen? It seems like a belief [see response to Q1, below]. If we grant that even a little bird ‘has’ consciousness (I understand this cannot be proven), why not a machine? Dividing lines between ‘animals’ and ‘machines’ are surely just conceptual [see Q2].
You also state on p.123 [near end of Chapter 22] that when you ‘hear a bell, smell a rose, see a bird,’ so many elements are involved…from neurons in your brain to the space in between, to the sense organs, to the bell or rose. You say that if you remove any bit of this, ‘there’s no experience.’ I accept that if you remove the rose, there would be no experience of a rose, but there would still be experience [see Q3]. If you remove the brain, surely there would be no experience whatsoever (as far as we can reasonably assert) [see Q4]. It seems to me then that the brain is essential for any experience to happen whereas ‘the rose’ is not. ‘The rose’ is only essential for experience of ‘the rose.’ I would be quite happy for ‘the rose’ to be removed but not my neurons. How about you? [see Q5]
Response to Q1: As is shown throughout The Grand Delusion, consciousness does not appear to originate anywhere—let alone that it derives from matter. On the contrary, as shown repeatedly throughout the book, things, thoughts, and feelings—including matter—appear only with consciousness. Nothing else supports their verity. They appear as mind objects only.
Response to Q2: I do not grant that a little bird has consciousness. In fact, I do not grant anywhere in The Grand Delusion that anything whatsoever, whether machine, plant, animal, or human, has consciousness. (Carefully reread endnote 130.) The main reason I don’t grant consciousness to things is because, as is shown in multiple ways throughout the book, beyond conceptual appearances, we can’t find things—including time, space, motion, thoughts, feelings, locality, people, cats, birds, heartaches, photons…. You name it. Conscious awareness appears to come along with The Whole. It doesn’t inhere in “things.”
Response to Q3: There would still be perceptual experience, yes, but not necessarily conceptual experience (of a rose, say).
Response to Q4: Oh, but we can eliminate the brain from our attempts to account for consciousness (such as in Chapter 7, for example), yet there remains perceptual experience.
Response to Q5: There doesn’t appear to be anything necessary for perceptual experience. Still, I’d prefer to “keep my neurons”—in spite of the fact that “they” keep changing.
Question: It seems you are saying that Virgil, the man who had his eyesight restored midlife [Chapter 11, in the Time Out!], was having a religious experience that he could not recognize as such, in fact it was a source of confusion. Please elaborate.
Response: I made no assertion that Virgil was having a religious experience. His confusion was in his inability to (visually) conceptualize perceptual experience. I only used his story in The Grand Delusion to illustrate the distinction I am making between perception and conception.
Question: One question not asked by Anyone but which has always niggled me is where deep sleep figures in all of this. Is it Pure Awareness or is it a relative dualistic truth forming part of the duality of awake/asleep?
Response: Deep sleep holds no special place. Pure Awareness is direct Knowledge—i.e., pure perception, Objectless Awareness. It is immediate. Sleep (deep or otherwise) as well as waking, are mental constructs—i.e., pure conception—and neither immediate, nor direct.
Question: On page 195 [Chapter 36] of The Grand Delusion where you say of relative truth “It’s the familiar world that appears, not to consciousness but as consciousness.” [Q1]: Is consciousness none other than formless Awareness appearing as the multiplicity and diversity of things, form, time, space, thoughts (that is even though they appear as something they are the same formlessness as Awareness appearing just so)? [Q2]: So then even though they are not two, does consciousness appear to Awareness? [Q3]: That is, is consciousness the appearance of Awareness appearing to itself? [Q4]: And so to ‘SEE’ that this is so, one just needs to get out the way, via meditation, or repeatedly coming back to this moment as it arises?
Response to Q1: Conscious awareness, not be confused with Awareness (see glossary), is the appearance of diverse things, thoughts, and feelings. These appearances are of continuous flux, but they need not always appear.
Response to Q2 and Q3: No. Pure Awareness has no objects.
Response to Q4: Meditation cannot be used for anything. If you’re using “it,” “it” is not meditation.
Question: On page 195 [Chapter 36] of The Grand Delusion you state that Reality with a capital R is “... seamless UNCHANGING World of Totality ...” What I am misunderstanding is that I thought that Reality was CHANGE and FLUX. You state on page 227 [Appendix B, part 3] that “[This objectless] World of [undivided] Wholeness is none other than the everyday world of this and that.” Now the everyday world seems to be one of change and flux. So, if it is identical to the World of Undivided Wholeness, doesn’t that imply Reality is also change and flux? Or are you saying that things only APPEAR to change? That change and Nonchange are the same.
Response: Excellent questions. You’ve gotten to the heart of matter. But notice the title of Chapter 36: The Two Truths. Bearing this title in mind, slowly reread page 195 and continue on for three more paragraphs to where I point out that the “first aspect appears dynamic; the second, eternal.” Then skip to the top of page 207 (near the end of Chapter 37) where ANYONE asks, “What are not two?” Read from there to the end of the chapter. Please take special note of the line where I tell ANYONE to “first set down everything you’re carrying.” Including, I would add here, even the idea that “I exist,” as Zen master Ikkyu points out before the start of Part II. Set down everything. That’s actually the “secret” which, of course, is always in plain view.
Question: Throughout The Grand Delusion I think your “case” about the utility of science / belief within a limited sphere (Chapter 34) is fairly clear. At the same time, (Appendix B) you point out myriad problems (e.g. unwarranted assumptions like those contained in the hard problem) with the current status quo in branches of neuroscience and the philosophy of mind. Collectively, your “case” seems to at least approach a generalized skepticism about their inherent projects (i.e. given so much of their entire endeavor is predicated on “flat earth” perspectives, we may do more to perpetuate confusion rather than clarify).
Do you have any thought on what salvaging the metaphoric “baby” from the bathwater would look like for these branches of science / research? To put it another way, in Appendix B, Part 1, you say, “A radically different understanding of what is actually going on is needed.” Concretely applied, do you have thoughts on what that could / would that look like?
Response to Q1: Salvaging what baby? To continue with your metaphor, all such “babies” (I assume you mean “hypotheses”) are necessarily made of clays (concepts) which inevitably dissolve in the bathwater of silent, astute observation.
Response to Q2: Rather than formulating yet another hypothesis, what’s required is a response much like what I’ve laid out in this book. That is, one that encourages us to abandon searches for solutions solely within the conceptual but instead directs us to rely on perceptual experience alone—i.e., on pure Awareness, with no thought or mental construction (i.e., concepts) whatsoever.