[Buddha-l] Re: Laughing at enlightenment

Stuart Lachs slachs at worldnet.att.net
Mon May 9 22:52:07 MDT 2005

Brook Ziporyn has written extensively on Tiantai Buddhist thought. His book
"Evil and/or/as The Good" may be viewed as an explication of the one
sentence "Other than the devil there is no Buddha; other than the Buddha
there is no devil," written by the monk Siming Zhili (960 - 1028).
Ziporyn deals with non-duality though it is hardly mentioned as such. The
index has has only two pages listed for the term in a book of 450 pages.

It is not an easy book!


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Richard P. Hayes" <rhayes at unm.edu>
To: "Buddhist discussion forum" <buddha-l at mailman.swcp.com>
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 7:37 PM
Subject: [Buddha-l] Re: Laughing at enlightenment

> On Sun, 2005-05-08 at 22:06 -0700, W. Codling wrote:
> > But modern zennies don't talk about the 'middle way', they talk about
> > 'non-dualism'.
> Non-dualism is dependent on dualism in that it is a rejection of
> dualism. But as you know well, there are many kinds of dualism. There is
> mind-body dualism (which most Buddhists accept), good-evil dualism (such
> as Manichaeism), the sort of dualism that makes one draw distinctions
> between members of one's own tribe and outsiders, and and on. Indeed,
> anyone who makes a false dichotomy of any kind will probably have a non-
> dualist come along to point out the fallacy involved.
> It seems to me some that sophomores in philosophy, and perhaps some
> zennists, have a tendency to absolutize non-dualism. Rather than being
> wary of a particular kind of dualism (which takes thinking), they take a
> course (which requires no thinking at all) of rejecting ALL dichotomies,
> no matter what they may be. Part of rejecting all dichotomies, of
> course, is to reject two-valued logic. And, since all words have meaning
> only insofar as they partition the conceptual universe into those things
> to which a given word applies and those things to which it does not,
> language becomes a source of dualism that requires rejection. So
> characteristics of this mindless sort of dualism are railing against
> Aristotle, Descartes, all logicians but Hegel (who, as Russell pointed
> out, was one of the worst logicians in the history of philosophy) and
> against language. They tend to talk indefinitely about the inadequacy of
> language and the necessity of remaining silent (a necessity that is
> often deficient in actuality, if I may borrow a phrase from Whitehead).
> > One of my basic questions has always been, "why insert a whole other
> > vocabulary (that of non-dualism) into something as fundamental to
> > Buddhist thought as the middle way?" (the 'Middle Way' being simply the
> > avoidance of falling into extremes).
> Why insert the potentially misleading word "emptiness" into a discourse
> that was already doing quite well with its synonym, "dependent"? I guess
> people get bored with clarity. The teachings of Buddhism are just about
> the most transparent and easy to understand of any in the history of the
> world. A child can easily understand them. But how many people are
> capable of following them and attaining nirvana? It's a little
> embarrassing after a while to understand Buddhism really well and still
> to be on the suffering side of nirvana. One of the best ways of dealing
> with this embarrassment is to dive into obscurantism. Throw in a few
> dozen obscure terms, use them inconsistently, keep saying that nobody
> who has not attained the ninth level of bodhisattva training can
> possibly grasp what the Buddha said, toss in some gibberish and tell
> everyone that they have to pronounce it just right to get the desired
> effect. Whenever people show dangerous signs of seeing through the scam,
> tell them they are deluded and need a few more sesshins or empowerment
> ceremonies, and bring them back into the darkness of manufactured
> obscurity. If you keep that up long enough, you can keep people's mind
> of the dharma almost indefinitely, thereby giving them an excuse for not
> having attained nirvana. But at least they'll have an excuse and won't
> feel obligated to feel embarrassed about still being shy of nirvana.
> > But even so, I do concede that in meditation it is possible, and even
> > common, to have some experience that can be described as somehow
> > integrating disparate or contradictory 'extremes' such as subject and
> > object or nirvana/samsara.
> Yes, I think such experiences are pretty common among people who
> practice certain types of meditative exercise.
> > And further, that such experiences are quite powerful and often
> > pleasurable.
> One could also say of such experiences, accurately I think, that they
> are seductive and addictive. This is perhaps why it's helpful to have a
> good friend on hand who can help one break through the addiction to
> meditative states so that one get get on with more important tasks.
> > Dogen called this moment the dropping away of body and mind.
> That's an excellent phrase to describe a certain kind of experience that
> comes sometimes with certain kinds of meditative exercise.
> > But for many Zen teachers, what they call 'non-dualism' has some
> > significant and active component, a better mode of perception,
> > a superior understanding of something.
> A lot of people are not very good at thinking clearly, so they need to
> find a way of selling their lack of clarity as a kind of profundity.
> (Didn't Nietzsche observe that those who are profound strive for clarity
> while those who wish to appear profound strive for obscurity?) Although
> not all Zen people are obscurantists, of course, a good many are. And of
> course those who insist that what they do is superior betray, by the
> very claim, that they have no idea what non-dualism means.
> > I also thank Angela for her suggestion that 'nondualism' refers to our
> > own inner light which is the nexus of the ten thousand things.
> One of my heroes, Swami Vivekananda, explains non-dualism in just those
> terms. If I understand him correctly, his claim is that the sort of
> dualism one should avoid is the sort that posits the goal of practice as
> something outside oneself, something that comes to one through an
> external agency. He uses a lot of God-talk, but for him it is essential
> to realize that God is nothing but one's own mind. So pleasing God is
> just pleasing oneself. And being alienated from oneself as one is is
> therefore to be temporarily separated from God. This is not the way I
> would choose to talk, but it is a way of talking that speaks to my
> condition (as Fox would say).
> > Again, I suspect that many teachers are actually talking about this
> > sort of experience, but lack the willingness to find a more honest and
> > useful way of speaking about it, relying instead on this wishy-washy
> > attempt to be evocative rather than descriptive.
> Unfortunately, a lot of teachers become economically dependent on their
> supporters and so must continue to tell their disciples that they are
> deluded and therefore should give the teacher more money.
> > I still see no reason to talk about non-dualism in regard to any of
> > these notions or experiences.
> It's good you see no reason, for there IS no reason to talk about non-
> dualism. Not much good comes of it, but perhaps not much harm comes of
> it either.
> > I think it is just confusing, especially within the normative
> > 'western' sensibility.  Whatever that is.
> Well, people can get confused about just about anything. I know of quite
> a few Christians who manage to get seriously confused by listening to
> dualistic teachings. So maybe the nature of some people is to be
> confused no matter what they are taught, while others manage to remain
> pretty clear and loving no matter how you talk to them. (How's THAT for
> a dualistic claim, eh?) Perhaps the nature of what is taught has very
> little causal impact on clarity and confusion of mind.
> -- 
> Richard Hayes
> Department of Philosophy
> University of New Mexico
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