• Wayfarer
    12.6k
    ‘Mu’ is indeed a symbolic form or reference to śūnyatā. It is often used as the negation of both arms of a dilemma, as you say. Think back to the passage - that the world ‘neither exists nor doesn’t exist’ - and also the ‘ten undetermined questions’ of Buddhism - whether the Buddha continues to exist after death, or doesn’t continue to exist, and so on. ‘Mu’ is an answer to such question, or rather, a way of negating the question because it is based on a faulty apprehension of the nature of existence.

    Zen is not intellectual in the sense that Western philosophy is, although there are academics and scholars who approach it that way, and there’s nothing the matter with analysing it philosophically provided it’s understood that this is what is being done.

    many Western enthusiasts for what they imagine to be Zen have never actually come into contact with this branch of the Buddhist Tradition as it still exists and functions in the Far East. Not only have they received no initiation into one of the three main Zen sects, but they are acquainted with their doctrines and methods only from books written about Zen in European languages, often at second or third hand. Such dabblers and dilettanti are usually interested in Zen only as a philosophy - which relieves them of the task of ever trying to put it into practice…..

    Those few who took the trouble to visit Japan and begin the practice of Zen under a recognized Zen master or who joined the monastic Order soon discovered that it was a very different matter from what the popularizing literature had led them to believe. They found that in the traditional Zen monastery zazen is never divorced from the daily routine of accessory disciplines. To attenuate and finally dissolve the illusion of the individual ego, it is always supplemented by manual work to clean the temple, maintain the garden, and grow food in the grounds; by strenuous study with attendance at discourses on the sutras and commentaries; and by periodical interviews with the roshi, to test spiritual progress. Acolytes are expected to develop indifference to the discomforts of heat and cold on a most frugal vegetarian diet and to abstain from self-indulgence in sleep and sex, intoxicating drinks and addictive drugs. Altogether Zen demands an ability to participate in a communal life as regimented and lacking in privacy as the army.
    Harold Stewart
  • Gregory
    3.3k


    Zen experience a Vision of the Cosmos and Hindus have Vision of Eros (for spirituality itself). Atheism is spiritual in a way because it's Buddhism without transcendent meditation. Atheists have all kinds of cool ways of looking at the world.

    Union with God is the last state Christians say. But there is Vision of Agape when you live in spiritual love with everyone (a non-dual state) and mystics see a pre-vision of it. Buddhist sometimes say this too. People who have been in love know something of this

    I started a book called The Protestant Mystics today to get some thoughts on these questions. I don't think any tradition knows everything and that is why Indian philosophers have the analogy of the elephant
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    ‘Mu’ is indeed a symbolic form or reference to śūnyatā.Wayfarer

    I didn't know that. Updated my database. :up:

    Zen is not intellectual in the sense that Western philosophy isWayfarer

    As far as I'm concerned you hit the nail on the head. What I meant to do was offer an explanation on how the Mu/sunyata state of mind is achieved.

    Take into account the fact that Western philosophy, to my reckoning, has been and is by and large about thoughts (ideas, hypothesis, isms, and so on) and their relationships to each other and the world. This particular character of Western philosophy can be summarized, in a broader context, as the interaction between mind and thoughts - the mind taken as that which holds, deals, tinkers around, with thoughts.

    As far as I can tell, the Mu (sunyata) state of mind as without or not bears a close resemblance to mysticism defined, by some, as "conscious without being conscious of anything." In fact, a case can be made that they're the same thing.

    As you already know, the mind is constantly thinking, either logically, associatively or even randomly some times. There's not a moment that goes by when the awake person's mind is not having some thought or other. Thus, if we're to achieve Mu (sunyata), our first order of business is to empty the mind (Mushin) and only then can one be "conscious without being conscious of anything"

    How can we "empty the mind"? you might ask. There maybe different ways of doing that of course but one that I suspect Nagarajuna developed was predicated on one particular property of thoughts that makes them, in a sense, mind-apt (capable of being held by the mind). This "particular property" is truth value. Consider the sentence, "I love hamburgers". It's true for me but may not be true for you for other people but what I want to emphasize is that the sentence "I love hamburgers" is mind-apt only if it has a truth value. It's worth noting that truth value maybe a surrogate for meaning i.e. semantics determines truth value. You know, from experience, that the meaningless i.e. the semantically empty sentences (utterances, writings) are not mind-apt - the mind experiences great difficulty translating the meaningless into thoughts, in fact what always/usually happens is the mind fails to generate a thought that corresponds to the meaningless. To make the long story short, the meaningless, those missing a truth value, can't be thought about i.e. they're not mind-apt i.e. they're unthinkable.

    Nagarjuna's tetralemma, by denying every possible truth state for a sentence, any sentence, is attempting to strip sentences of their truth value which is one way, even though it may be going round Jack Robinson's barn, of saying that sentences, all of them, are meaningless, semantically empty and when that's done to all possible sentences that can be generated, the mind, since it's incapable of thinking about the meaningless, becomes empty - Mu/Sunyata/Mushin/"conscious without being conscious of anything"

    In conclusion, yes it's true that "Zen is not intellectual" - it is after all the quest for the state of mind in which we're not thinking about anything (Mu). However, to get to Mu, our minds, habituated over generations and lifetimes of constant, unceasing thinking, must devise ingenious ways as a workaround, Nagarjuna's tetralemma being one of them.


    It's like Useless Machines

    The most well-known "useless machines" are those inspired by Marvin Minsky's design, in which the device's sole function is to switch itself off by operating its own "off" switch. — Wikipedia

    I don't want to make this post longer than necessary but I think an analogy will help in understanding Nagarjuna's tetralemma. Imagine a world of objects and these objects can be only of two colors, black or white. Your eyes can only see these two colors. Imagine now that someone walks up to you and says, "there's an object in this world but it's not white, it's not black, it's not black and white, and it's not neither white nor black". Would you be able to see this object?

    Substitutions for the analogy to work.
    1. objects = sentences
    2. white = true
    3. black = not true/false
    4. eyes = the mind
    5. It's not white = it's not true
    6. It's not black = it's not false
    7. it's not black and white = it's not true and false
    8. it's not neither white nor black = it's not neither true nor false
    9. Would you be able to see this object? = would you be able to think about such sentences? (Mu)

    The idea, it seems, is to take the mind beyond the possible (consistency) to the impossible (inconsistenct) and, Nagarjuna seems to be hinting, beyond that too (Mu).
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    What I meant to do was offer an explanation on how the Mu/sunyata state of mind is achieved.TheMadFool

    Without wanting to sound dismissive, that's why I posted that snippet from Harold Stewart.

    To attenuate and finally dissolve the illusion of the individual ego, it is always supplemented by manual work to clean the temple, maintain the garden, and grow food in the grounds; by strenuous study with attendance at discourses on the sutras and commentaries; and by periodical interviews with the roshi, to test spiritual progress. Acolytes are expected to develop indifference to the discomforts of heat and cold on a most frugal vegetarian diet and to abstain from self-indulgence in sleep and sex, intoxicating drinks and addictive drugs.Harold Stewart

    Nāgārjuna’s concern is soteriological - release from saṃsāra. There’s really no obvious counterpart to that in the Western philosophical tradition.

    I’ve had a little experience with Zen and Pure Land Buddhism. According to Pure Land, the path of Zen is exceedingly difficult, and very few master it. They refer to it as ‘the way of sages’. The Pure Land path is based on faith in Amida Buddha and recitation of the Name (which is the Nembutsu.) It’s often said to be the school of Buddhism most like Christianity because of the emphasis on faith, which is true in some ways, but the doctrine is obviously completely different.

    The point is, it is assumed that virtually nobody attains or realises enlightenment in this life, according to Pure Land. What is attainable, according to their teachings, is ‘shin jin’, meaning something like ‘serene acceptance’, in the faith of being reborn in Sukhavati. The site which the Harold Stewart quote was from is a Pure Land site.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    Without wanting to sound dismissive, that's why I posted that snippet from Harold Stewart.Wayfarer

    I guess the idea is to stop people, practitioners mainly, from cogitating in any sense of that word (Mu) by, in a way, distracting the mind with physical activity. I'm just guessing though, could be completely off the mark. I've done my share of manual labor - not the kind those who have menial jobs perform but close - and I've noticed that when physically engaged, especially when its strenuous, one stops thinking or even if one is thinking, one can't recall it (this seems a topic in itself but outside the scope of this conversation). Perhaps Nagarjuna's technique was exclusively intellectual in character, something that didn't go down well with his fans in the far east. Plus, the physical approach used in Zen gives the body the respect that's due to it - body & mind together will probably go much further than either of them alone.
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    Nagarjuna's techniqueTheMadFool

    I think there’s something deeply mistaken in that phrase.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    I think there’s something deeply mistaken in that phrase.Wayfarer

    Possible but care to clarify. I respect your intuition if it's one but if you have good reasons, I'm all ears.
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    ‘Technique’ is too narrow a term for what Nāgārjuna’s philosophy conveys. Techne is craft or skill or know-how in achieving an outcome. You might then say, well, isn’t enlightenment an outcome that Nāgārjuna wishes to achieve? That’s a deep question in its own right. But your analysis of ‘useless machines’ and logical puzzles is about as far from Nāgārjuna’s intent as it is possible to be. Nāgārjuna’s intent is soteriological, I think he would have no interest in so-called philosophical analysis, if that’s what it is, for its own sake.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    ‘Technique’ is too narrow a term for what Nāgārjuna’s philosophy conveys. Techne is craft or skill or know-how in achieving an outcome. You might then say, well, isn’t enlightenment an outcome that Nāgārjuna wishes to achieve? That’s a deep question in its own right. But your analysis of ‘useless machines’ and logical puzzles is about as far from Nāgārjuna’s intent as it is possible to be. Nāgārjuna’s intent is soteriological, I think he would have no interest in so-called philosophical analysis, if that’s what it is, for its own sake.Wayfarer

    How right you are, it takes a great deal of ignorance to reduce Nagarjuna's philosophy to a technique - the odds are great that there's a lot more to it than just that. I concede your point wholeheartedly. If you found my analysis inappropriate or worse, inimical to the gist of Nagarjuna's ideas, treat it as an idiosyncratic interpretation that though different is not all that truthful.
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    Hey don’t take it personally. I think you’re writing and analytical skills are OK, but just be mindful on the subject in this case. There are some writers who work on the relationship of Buddhist doctrine and modern philosophy, I’ll try and find some references.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    In what way, gentlemen, is the 'Mu' mind-state distinguishable from the prefrontal lobotomized mind-state? How does Nagaruna's purported soteriology differ from psychosurgical zombification? And isn't the latter much easier to attain, and therefore more worth the trouble, than the former?

    (Asking for a karma-challenged and depressive realist / absurdist friend.)
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    I think the doctrinal answer is that ‘zombification’ is a form of nihilism arising from aversion to existence, and as such will always generally culminate in birth into a bad place. You will find admonitions in Buddhist scriptures along the lines of ‘lest you find yourself in the womb of a cow’. Buddhists take that seriously, although of course it’s totally up to you if you do.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    Hey don’t take it personally. I think you’re writing and analytical skills are OK, but just be mindful on the subject in this case. There are some writers who work on the relationship of Buddhist doctrine and modern philosophy, I’ll try and find some references.Wayfarer

    :up: :ok:

    In what way, gentlemen, is the 'Mu' mind-state distinguishable from the prefrontal lobotomized mind-state? How does Nagaruna's purported soteriology differ from psychosurgical zombification? And isn't latter much easier to attain, and therefore more worth the trouble, than the former?

    (Asking for a karma-challenged and depressive realist / absurdist friend.)
    180 Proof

    Excellent question. If you remember our discussion about Mind No-Mind Equivalency Paradox and the more recent...er...engagement in the Knowledge Is Good OR Knowledge Is Not Good (Ethics & Epistemology), you'll get a feel of what Mu vs Zombie is all about and before I forget, Jesus Christ was an authentic zombie.



    [...]Because something is happening here and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones? — Bob Dylan (Ballad Of A Thin Man)
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    'The only way out of it is through it' ~ some dude.
  • Gregory
    3.3k
    Modern philosophy is sometimes about total skepticism of truth and so is like Buddhist practice except it doubts its way out of reality instead of doing it with meditation or yoga
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    The only way out of it is through it' ~ some dude.Wayfarer

    :up:
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    Reminds me of

    "If you're going through hell, keep going."
    ~Winston Churchill

    Excellent question.TheMadFool
    ... yet left like a bride waiting at the altar.

    And sure, JC is the original "rabbi zombie on a stick". :halo:
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    ... yet left like a bride waiting at the altar.

    And sure, JC is the original "rabbi zombie on a stick". :halo:
    180 Proof

    You crack me up! I have very few reasons to laugh. Thanks for giving me one and that too free of charge. I guess as Po says in Kungfu Panda, "there is no charge for awesomeness." :rofl:
  • baker
    1.6k
    In what way, gentlemen, is the 'Mu' mind-state distinguishable from the prefrontal lobotomized mind-state? How does Nagaruna's purported soteriology differ from psychosurgical zombification? And isn't latter much easier to attain, and therefore more worth the trouble, than the former?180 Proof

    The contemplation of mu brings the mind to a halt, so to speak, similar as they way a computer freezes when it faces too many requests or when it's caught in a loop. But a mind in mu is still capable of action, unlike a frozen computer or a lobotomized person.

    The contemplation of mu is like wiping the slate clean, which makes it easier to see one's priorities and act in accordance with them.

    Like they say, in its proper application the analytical mind exhausts itself.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    But a mind in mu is still capable of action, unlike a frozen computer or a lobotomized person.baker
    Not all lobotomy victims are incapacitated; some have managed to function even with greater inhibitions and impairments. And since most will never attain 'Mu', lobotomy gets you to "lights on, nobody home" ease of living (or bland idiocy) quicker and more reliably than zazen or whatever.
  • baker
    1.6k
    Not all lobotomy victims are incapacitated; some managed to function even with greater inhibitions and impairments.180 Proof
    And that's something to count on when applying for a lobotomy?

    And since most never attain 'Mu', lobotomy gets you to "lights on, nobody home" ease of living (or bland idiocy) quicker and more reliably than zazen or whatever.
    Whatever happened to critical thinking ...

    (So who is that "karma-challenged and depressive realist / absurdist friend" on whose behalf you're having this conversation?)
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    In Zen, teaching is a dubious proposition. That’s why it’s called “scattering dust and sand.” Like Cuiwei, with his “ladleful of foul water,” Zen ancients recognized that all religious and moral systems, however necessary, must be taken lightly. They will always be partial and therefore potentially destructive in this checkered world. Even the buddhas, as Zen sees them, are still working on being able to understand their own lives, and ours, well enough even to be able to spread the half-truths that constitute Buddhist teaching.Review of Norman Fischer When you Greet me, I Bow
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    Can a point have no point? Pointless to ask, and yet ...
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    There is a point. The point of that particular passage is, I think, that it illustrates what scepticism means within that particular religions domain of discourse. It expresses scepticism about religious and moral systems, while acknowledging that they're necessary. I don't think you find that it Christianity.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    So you don't think fideism counts as 'skepticism within Christian discourse'? Or apophatic theology (i.e. via negativa)? Maybe I misunderstand you ...
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    I think you have. ‘Fideism’ is the elevation of faith over knowledge. I think Protestantism can rightly be accused of fideism with its doctrine of ‘salvation by faith alone’. As I understand it, which may not be very well, fideism is discouraged in Catholicism (might even be a heresy?)

    The point about that passage I quoted from Norman Fischer is its acknowledgement that religious doctrines are always imperfect, ‘scattered dust and sand’. That iconoclastic streak in Buddhism goes back to the ‘parable of the raft’, in which the Buddha compares the dharma (i.e. his teaching) to a raft which is used to ‘cross the river’ - but then to be abandoned on ‘the other shore’. The raft is ‘thrown together with sticks and bits of twine’ - it’s nothing fancy.

    But you do find this attitude in the Indic traditions more broadly - the awareness that teachings and doctrines and the like are never the final word or ultimate in themselves. ‘They’re a stick used to stoke the fire - when the fire is alight, the stick can be thrown in with it.’ But it’s characteristic of the kind of counter-cultural aspects of those cultures - I’m sure there are plenty of fideistic strains as well.

    But, all that said, rafts and sticks and the like are still necessary, as the passage says.
  • 180 Proof
    4k
    ‘Fideism’ is the elevation of faith over knowledge.Wayfarer
    Follow the link in my previous post if you're interested. Faith sans (or over above) reason as the ground for knowledge is fideism (vide Tertullian, Luther, Pascal, Kierkegaard ... Witty).
  • Wayfarer
    12.6k
    Faith sans (or over above) reason as the ground for knowledge is fideism180 Proof

    Right. Just how I understand it also. I do notice that Wiki article has become a lot more complicated than when I last looked at it.
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    Also see Graham Priest on Nagarjuna (Aeon Magazine).Wayfarer

    Read the linked article. Almost felt him as a kindred spirit but Priest is a full-time philosopher and I'm just a beginner. :sad:

    Anyway, here's what I discovered in Priest's writing:

    1. For every given propositionn there are only 4 possible states in re truth and they are:
    i) True (t)
    ii) False (f)
    iii) Both true and false (t,f)
    iv) Neither true nor false ( n )

    Priest claims that, with reference to the question of the Buddha's existence beyond death, the Catuskoti is meant to negate every possible answer and that he goes on to claim erects an entirely separate category of possibility viz.

    v) Ineffable (i)

    At first, I was under the impression that option iv) Neither true nor false was what people would treat as ineffable. Priest's reasoning for why this isn't so is, let's just say, based on a technicality: Priest believes that (t v n) is true but (t v i) is ineffable and thus n and i aren't the same. My own opinion on this is that n can be conceived of as a possibility despite not making any sense insofar as sense is a function of truth value but to ask someone to contemplate i is to quite literally ask that person to think of the impossible as possible.

    Your thoughts...
  • TheMadFool
    10k
    Sorry for the double post but I really need your opinion on this. The Mu state of mind that we were discussing is also humorously reffered to as N/A (not applicable). An illustration:

    Name: Smith
    Age: 4 years old
    Gender: Male
    Occupation: N/A

    Asking questions that make sense in the so-called nominal reality (the one unenlightened beings exist in) of ultimate reality (the world of enlightened beings) is to commit the same error as asking for the occupation of 4 year old toddler Smith above. N/A!

    Graham Priest believes the correct, most appropriate, Western concept to apply to Budhhahood and the way Buddhas contemplate is the ineffable - a state of being that's beyond, out of reach of, words.

    Preist then goes on to talk about the paradox inherent in describing/attempting to describe the ineffable (indescribable). I've mentioned a few months ago that this particularly unenviable position is nothing other than "beating around the bush" and never really getting to the bush itself. Nevertheless, we at least know there's a bush out there somewhere. Unfortunately, we no know nothing else about this "bush" or what it conceals from us :rofl:

    All this thinking seems to be foreplay?!
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment