Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Scientific Buddhism

I read a new website Scientific Buddhism. Someone's been reading their western philosophy and believes in hard determinism. I like the idea of free will, whether or not it's a fiction. I actually have a friend who is a determinist. He still strives for self actualization, which hard determinism might seem to be against, but really is neutral. Determinism is probably true, but what I find interesting is the diversity of belief in real people, not the best paper debating free will and determinism. "Logic is a bird twittering in my ear," said Spock to confound the robots.

Buddhism can be combined with anything. Other religions and ideologies. To make a living there are people who consult with companies to help inject mindfulness into business. I like the Atheist Buddhism of Stephen Batchelor for some reason. It's quite appealing to me, and I really enjoy reading his books. I also like Buddhism and psychotherapy. I like Buddhist fiction, whatever that is.

My friend who respects and reveres science does not base his life on it. When I send him articles about how good meditation is, he doesn't care. So how far is his belief in science, if he doesn't act on it. He loves technology, that is his refuge.

It can be smart to reject the mind control of religion. The critique that religion just turns everything on end, fun becomes bad, unpleasant becomes good--feels true in some cases. On the other hand, you need to think about everyone else more. I don't think we all have to be ceaselessly self sacrificing, we're not all going to choose abnegation as our faction. But following Ayn Rand down the rabbit hole of selfishness isn't better. A true individual isn't a scumbag, a piker or a conciencia, and can imagine other's experience, and feel the interbeing. The me/you balance is never solved conclusively.

I don't think there is any avoiding that our theories of life are like pulling rabbits out of a hat. That's what a guy said to me in the philosophy of science class. Science is pretty cool, but if you've read The Logic of Scientific Discovery, you know it's not exempt from fads and pigheadedness. A modern person will balk at the traditional beliefs that seem so naive if you look at them through the lense of science. But if you see spirituality as binding us together, you see it for the social aspect that helps bind us together. When my grandmother was sick, she got so many casseroles. Not having that kind of community is a loss to me, even if you have to put up with some malarkey.

Evidence based practice in social work is a sham. Some study about child welfare in Kansas City might not apply easily to New York City. Child welfare is a hard game that won't yield to easy solutions. We are advancing in our knowledge of the social science, but it's a battle of inches, and can be perverted. Evidence based practice feels like a liberal way of defeating the hooey of conservatives. And yet we're moving too slowly to decriminalize substance abuse, which has been proven to solve many problems in Portugal. The unintended consequences of prohibition were a needed corrective in the thesis and antithesis of early America, which was considerably alcoholic. Johnny Appleseed wanted more apple cider. We're too sophisticated now to just have a moral approach to substance abuse. Marsha Linehan proved DBT works, but she also believes clinicians with good instincts can bring about any system.

What I learned in philosophy is that every theory can be defeated. Not always true might be a motto of mine even if Kant was a rock star. Godel's Theorem or Turing's similar results proved you could not reduce everything to one true science and know it to be true. There's no one area of study you can focus on and then coast the rest of your life. You have to work all the time to keep learning, in many different areas. That is the higher evolution.

Science without heart has lead to nuclear bombs, global warming and the current ADHD of technology. Shakespeare warned us not to divorce our heart from our intellect: "My crown is in my heart, not on my head; not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen: my crown is called content, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy." (The Third part of King Henry the Sixth Act 3 scene 1)

So if you like science and you like Buddhism, cool. You want to do some head banging philosophy with your Dharma. Try some madhyamaka. OK. Sure, when you meditate, you can develop some amazing sophistications and abilities with your powers. How about some heavy metal Buddhists.

We also need simplicity sometimes and the simple truths of being kind to others because we are all connected, is an insight I can't erase. It's a simple experience that sounds like a cliche, but was profound and hard to express. All those books that prove Buddhism scientifically contribute, I'm sure, but leave me cold. I'm sparked more by poetry, myth and the dialectic. I know in my heart that the dharma outlook is important for me. That's all I need. And it's through meditative experience that I move closer towards the Buddha, my hero.

I hope the blogger of Scientific Buddhism enjoys his journey. I'll be interested to see how things go for them.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Full embodiment

Lion's Roar had an article that caught my interest with Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman answering questions from Sandra Oh.

"...we teachers often teach what we ourselves need to learn how to embody more fully!" I'd say that was true of teachers and non-teachers.

Kornfield also points out that in sanghas where the teachers came from another land and stayed here, there is a felling of the country they came from. IMS teachers didn't stay so the American teachers have a more American flavor.

Kornfield also points out the diversity and inclusiveness in American Buddhism. I wonder if we could ever get to a point where we wouldn't even have to make a point of being inclusive, it would be a shoulder shrug progress like the gay governor of Colorado.

I really liked this quote from Trudy Goodman:

It takes courage to move out into the world—to work to heal oppression and violence in our culture. It’s courageous to extend our efforts in awareness to call for racial, social, and ecological justice. Engaged compassion means making sure that practitioners who have been on the margins of American Buddhism are more fully represented in our communities. What a joy and privilege it is to study with more Asian-American Buddhists, more Black and Brown teachers. To practice with all kinds of people from all walks of life, united in our love of the Earth, our ancestors, our children, and our descendants!

There is more in the interview transcript about Buddhism and Psychotherapy mixing together.

Ethical concerns

Kamala Harris points out that when we wake up in the night worried about things, it's not as a democrat or a republican.

Cory Booker talks about love as motivation in politics.

Here are things I'm worried about:

1. Your phone tainted by the misery of the 35,000 children in Congo's mines

2. The oceans are warming faster than we thought they were.

3. Myanmar has jailed 2 journalists who help expose the genocide going down there.


Reading Me and Shakespeare by Herman Gollob has been wonderful. He found the religion of Judaism that he wasn't really brought up with, and Shakespeare. Reading Shakespeare was part of his spiritual awakening. I started reading Shakespeare last year. The plan is to read through the whole of the plays and poems. I'm afraid this blog is going to suffer as I devote myself to the Bard, but I'm planning a post on Macbeth for Going For Refuge Blog.

Reading the word simony in Me and Shakespeare, I had to look it up: buying or selling of something spiritual or closely connected with the spiritual. Sounds like spiritual materialism to me. I apply all spiritual insights to myself. Projecting them onto others doesn't work, I'm mostly in control of myself. I say mostly because I'm not fully in control of myself and it's really hard to control others, though a positive influence in others through exemplification is not to be sneezed at.

Simony got me thinking how I covet retreats, books, audiences, museums. To me spirituality is living to the fullest (mindfully) and in doing that we're inevitably kinder. Coveting the hyper health of lots of meditation assumes you can't practice deeply in regular life. You can! I was always warned that being in a monastery wasn't as fun as I imagined it, but I still yearn for that life.

I love the Dali Lama saying kindness is his religion. Retreats certainly enhance mindfulness, but the focused meditation wears off and is hard to carry over in the worldly life. One suggestion (by Sangharakshita) is to live in a single sex community, attend the local center, and work in a right livelihood business. That is the equivalent of being in a monastery to some extent. I made the choice to have children and have responsibilities, but that doesn't mean I can't work towards a supportive community.

I can be mindful about mindfulness wearing off after a retreat, and bringing insights from retreats into your regular life. My desire to always be on retreat is a little like my desire to travel. There's a part of it that likes being served meals, and not worry about cleaning or responsibilities beyond exploring. It's not realistic to be constantly exploring and learning and developing insight. After the Ecstacy, the laundry was one of the first books I read on Buddhism. It's a great book and a great slogan for using the Dharma not for escapism, definitely a temptation as I'm a dreamy type.

Awakening The Buddha Within was the first book I read in my conversion to Buddhism, if I don't count all the crazy Zen stuff I read in college that I didn't even understand as Buddhism, and I wasn't meditating. Little did I know was that there is a tidal wave of Buddhism books. While reading is an important part of my practice, I want to apply my Buddhism to reading fiction, history, psychology, poetry and nonfiction.

So what I want is to not buy spirituality but to inhabit, utilize, work for spirituality in all my circumstances, and not imagine more pristine circumstances where maybe there I could pursue this urge. Perhaps that why I find Pure Land Buddhism so distasteful--the idea of putting off that striving--which is probably a misreading of Pure Land. For me Pure Land Buddhism would be about making this world a pure land, though pure is perhaps a strange word. The pure land is an inspirational goal, a fantastic place that captivates the mind, and is very much about the spiritual life. An important aspect of the spiritual life is to strive, even if inhabiting is also important. Start where you is is the drum that Pema Chodron beats on, and it is a worthy drum to beat on. Thump thump thump.

I'm reading Love's Labor's Loss, and it's about, inter alia, the dangers of following utopian ideals. I think you could do worse than Bardolatry. Lowell said Shakespeare is the poet of experience.