The Zen of pure physicalism

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Feb 6, 2016.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Everything being exactly what it is and nothing else. The chair. The dog. The cup of tea. The lamp. Nothing meaning anything more or less than what it is being just now. Myself? Just this physical body, living out its life moment by moment. Everything simply being just THIS. Thought an illusion. A constant surge to be elsewhere than just here in this moment. Pure meaningless absolute presence of what is now. Nothing more than this. Nothing else needed. All is here.

    “The future that we want - this is it. This is the future of all the previous thoughts you've ever had about the future. You're in it. You're already in it. What is the purpose of all this living if it's only to get some place else and then when you're there you're not happy anyway, you want to be some place else. It's always for 'when I retire,' 'when I graduate college,' 'when I make enough money,' 'when I get married,' 'when I get divorced,' 'when the kids move out.' It's like, wait a minute, this is it. This is your life. We only have moments. This moment's as good as any other. It's perfect.”
    ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness for Beginners
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Even the simplest reflective thought requires several moments to unfold or be carried out as process (which is to say: cognition, identification, meaning abhor a temporal singularity). So if it was possible to be stuck or rooted in whatever could be the smallest elemental duration[*] of consciousness, where there is just a frozen snapshot of phenomena without the associations from memory and the conceptual / interpretative commentary... That might be a kind of "pure stupidity or nescience" in some welcome, nirvana-like context (just be-ing rather than know-ing). A lack of theorizing, analyzing, caring, being compelled by needs, beliefs and ideology, etc. The loss of intellect if the latter is considered a curse that introduces a new depth of understanding to suffering (undesired appreciation). Of course, similar could be accomplished just by being dead or non-conscious in that respect, albeit minus any frozen sensation or qualitative presence of the "lone moment" or state.

    David Darling: Zen is . . . difficult to talk about. So alien, indeed, is Zen to the analytical Western mind that it is perhaps easier to say what it is not.

    Zen is not a faith because it doesn’t urge the acceptance of any form of dogma, creed, or object of worship. Nor is it antireligious or atheistic; it simply makes no comment on the matter. Zen is not a philosophy or even, to the Western mind, a form of mysticism. As we normally understand it, mysticism starts with a separation of subject and object and has as its goal the unification or reconciliation of this antithesis. But Zen does not teach absorption, identification, or union of any kind because all of these labels are derived ultimately from a dualistic conception of life. If a label is needed that best approximates to the spirit of Zen then “dynamic intuition” is perhaps as close as we can come.

    There is a saying in Zen: “The instant you speak about a thing you miss the mark.” So, presumably, this saying has also missed the mark — and this one, too. Our endless analysis can lead us into all sorts of difficulties. But how can we break free of it? Living in a world of words and concepts and inherited beliefs, says Zen, we have lost the power to grasp reality directly. Our minds are permeated with notions of cause and effect, subject and object, being and nonbeing, life and death. Inevitably this leads to conflict and a feeling of personal detachment and alienation from the world. Zen’s whole emphasis is on the experience of reality as it is, rather than the solution of problems that, in the end, arise merely from our mistaken beliefs.

    Because it eschews the use of the intellect, Zen can appear nihilistic (which it is not) and elusive (which it is). Certainly, it would be hard to conceive of a system that stood in greater contrast with the logical, symbol-based formulations of contemporary science. More than any other product of the Oriental mind, Zen is convinced that no language or symbolic mapping of the world can come close to expressing the ultimate truth. As one of its famous exponents, Master Tokusan said: “All our understanding of the abstractions of philosophy is like a single hair in the vastness of space.”

    [...] Zen uses language to point beyond language, which is what poets and playwrights and musicians do.
    --Zen Physics

    - - - - - -

    [*] Planck-time is so ridiculously far below the threshold of what awareness spans or can measure (by itself) that it need not be considered in this context.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
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  5. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Deleted redundant copy of post here.
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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh”
  8. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    “We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infintesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.”
    Alan W. Watts
  9. river

    But of the FUTURE THOUGH; The vision of where we go... Should be important ; and is very important.
  10. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    The future is highly overrated considering we never get there.
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Problem is, that is how animals think. They are forever in the now. No future.

    Which would be great, except for one flaw:

    No chairs would exist. You'd be sitting in the dirt.
    Dogs would still be wild wolves. You'd be eaten.
    Tea would not exist. You'd eat only what berries you could pick.
    Lamps would not exist.

    You'd be asleep by sunset. In the dirt. With an empty belly. Surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves. With your tiny fingernails, naked body and flat teeth.

    The one thing that makes humans human is their ability to anticipate and abstractify.

    Zen physicality would be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Noone ever made a chair by anticipating it. Noone ever sipped the mere abstraction of tea. All our actions take place in the here and now. Each thing leading to the next. Each leg of the chair fitting one after the other. Each twig of the bird's nest bent around the next. All that we know and can know comes to us in the present moment. That is the only place our mind touches reality.
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    In contrast, from ancient philosophy to modern science, the Western emphasis on intellectual activity demotes the world of the senses or an immediate world of "this moment" from the status of being the "world as it actually is". The former is instead deemed a product of mind (abstract, generic object) or brain (specific, concrete object). With the real world being something which is prior in rank to the commonsense realism of the outputted, "shown" representation. "The world as it actually is" for the West is something worked out by reason / inference. Even the role of contemporary experiments to test an idea have to be planned. Interrogation of nature requires inventive thought, concept-guided interpretations or systematic discriminations, integrations and evaluations of resulting data.

    Despite it often being referred to as mental-independent, this "world of some other level" than the shown one could hardly be bereft of such mental properties if our lengthy path of reasoning is still the hotline for the claimed apprehending of it, along with the lingering sensory experiences (tied to experiment) being used to selectively cull down the hypotheses and theories. For the deeply abstract or quantitative constructs, invented symbolic description has to fully replace anything that is not intuitive as a "picture" or cannot be converted to our inherited empirical representational abilities. (Which is to say, such disciplinary languages would hardly be non-artificial or free of psychological affairs and taint, either, as they often seem reflexively treated).

    Even if "thinking" can't be compacted into the narrow confines of a small or frozen duration, I wonder if even an ordinary instant of the experienced environment can actually be totally free of contamination from either our acquired ideas or the prescriptive routines native to our "operating system". Kant considered the psychological version of space (which sensations conformed to) to itself be a kind of pre-Understanding tool for keeping phenomenal objects distinct from each other, a kind of identification method or "discrimination of one thing from another" before cognition proper kicked in. [Note that tense items like "pre-" and "before" are intended as replacements for "prior in rank" here rather than "prior" time-wise, or the temporal meaning).

    On the flip side, however, Zen advocates could contend that its practitioners' concept-free version of reality isn't anything like the experiences of Oliver Sack's "frozen in time snapshot" patients (that he examined and queried years past).
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  14. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Robert Burns:

    But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
    In proving foresight may be vain:
    The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
    Gang aft agley,
    An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
    For promis'd joy!

    Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
    The present only toucheth thee:
    But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
    On prospects drear!
    An' forward, tho' I canna see,
    I guess an' fear!
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  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Here's a thought experiment. Imagine standing underneath the sun. Now be mindful of it's true presence without abstraction: the blazing blinding warm spot in the sky above you. Just that and nothing more.

    Now consider what the sun is: a giantic star of burning plasma floating 93 million miles in outer space. The ideas and abstractions inform and enrich your experience of the sun as "The Sun." Yes..that sun, the one I grew up with and saw science documentaries about and understand completely.

    Which experience of the sun was the real sun? The mindful purely sensory experience of it right here and now, or the cognitive abstractions about it that filled your head after that? Where does "this blinding spot in the sky" intersect with the concept and narrative of "The Sun"?
  16. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Foucault appealed to nescience / stupidity, or thought without conceptual guidance. But he expressed it in a way that caused analytic philosophy to feel it was just a strategic tactic to avoid being demonstrated wrong. [Which is to say, communication for intellectual descendants of Europe seems interpreted as either true or false proposals -- as if there's none that is "lumber" or "practice" or "leisure".]. Rather than a means of becoming disoriented enough to achieve cognitive innocence again (like a non-systematic toddler or animal) to at least temporarily lose the Greek / Western need for reality more fundamental than the experience (phantasm).

    The meaning of "common sense" seems to deviate for Foucault as well -- one might usually associate it with acceptance of the phantasm (naive realism) or the diverging folk prescriptions relativistically revolving around it (each ethnic canon considering itself the "commonsense" of its cultural territory). Rather than either synonym or precursor for the driving logic that compels inference about a non-shown, non-intuitive or rationalized manner of existence (coupled with the "goodwill" of converting all societies to the Western moral, political, epistemological, and methodological "oughts").

    Mark Goldblatt: But what exactly is this new metaphysics? According According to Foucault, it is the metaphysics of the "phantasm" behind which "it is useless to seek a more substantial truth" (ibid). Common sense is the enemy for Foucault because it carries "the tyranny of goodwill, the obligation to think 'in common' with others, the domination of a pedagogical model, and most importantly--the exclusion of stupidity". Because a metaphysics based on common sense and goodwill--in other words, a humanist metaphysics--excludes stupidity, Foucault argues, "we must liberate ourselves from these constraints; and in perverting this morality, philosophy itself is disoriented" (ibid). How, then, do we get with the new metaphysical ellipse and thereby become fashionably stupid? According to Foucault, stupidity "requires thought without contradiction, without dialectics, without negation; thought that accepts divergence; affirmative thought whose instrument is disjunction . . . What is the answer to the question? The problem. How is the problem resolved? By displacing the question."

    [...] Such passages beg the question: why would postmodernists reject such a fundamental logical rule? The answer returns us to the thesis of this essay--that humanists cannot talk to postmodernists. For I believe that the postmodern rejection of the law of non-contradiction is strategic: Without the law of non-contradiction, no one can ever demonstrate that you're wrong. In an argument on any topic between a postmodernist and a humanist, each party will attempt to discover a logical contradiction in his opponent's case. For the humanist, the discovery of an actual contradiction is deadly; he must abandon, or at minimum clarify, his position. But for the postmodernist, a contradiction is only a contradiction--a sign, perhaps, of the depth of his thought. The postmodernist's position, in other words, becomes unfalsifiable.
    --Can Humanists Talk to Postmodernists?
  17. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

    I must add that there is a huge difference between recalling the past or planning for the future and "attaching" to same. Zen practice is simple and clear, no need for lots of big words. That is why the Buddha had a companion dog for constant reminder to 'be here, now'.

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