Return of the prodigal son

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Don Lively 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #42110

    Don Lively
    Participant

    Hello, fellow breathers! I am back, after a brief intermission.

    My name is Don Lively, once known on this site as waynel140, and then as Ajahn Don. My practice is going on ten years, since I was introduced to the dharma, and I have followed the path toward awakening. I may not be there yet, but I am surely different from the person I was. (I’m using these words to communicate, not because I don’t know the emptiness of them.)

    I once was a frequent poster-arguer, provocateur, irritant, feel free to pick a word–and was often a pain in the backside. I probably still will be, until I go off to work on it some more.

    My practice is my life. From this site, I picked up the idea that I might get there when second-nature of practice becomes my nature. It was an intriguing thought which never left my mind. I think that’s a very good description of constant awareness, the rising of mindfulness off the cushion. When practice becomes life and life is the practice.

    I hope to share your insights into the path of enlightenment. I have many questions.

    Namasakan,

    Don Lively

  • #42111
    XenMan
    XenMan
    Participant

    Hi Don

    If you are after some pragmatic discussions, I may be your adversary.

    Application in daily life is where Zen excels, but early Buddhist principles are more useful.

    Retreats and surrounding yourself with other seekers of the Dharma through group meditations can compartmentalise your practice. The middle path and Chan’s doubt is where your daily life becomes as smooth as an empty minded meditation session. This is a solo pursuit.

    It is an individual’s choice on how they approach the Dharma; my personal view is that being caught up in the details of the philosophy can be detrimental. If you are raised in a western culture you are already on your way understanding the basics of ‘be nice to people’, so the next step of being nice to yourself can be advanced immediately.

    There are also some expectations that the Dharma will change your life. It is unlikely, but it will change how you view it, which is worthwhile.

  • #42116

    Don Lively
    Participant

    My experience is meditation did change my life. Vipassana changed my mind. There is scientific evidence that it changed the pathways in my brain in which different modules react differently. The person who was Wayne is no longer the person who is now Don. I started using my first name when I realized I no longer felt resentment at my father, but actually thought it fit me better than my middle name. I can’t explain the mindfulness of it, nor offer proof, other than my deeply held belief that vipassana works.

    I also believe that practicing vipassana not only deepens understanding and opens the mind, but also increases compassion. I’ve never heard of someone with a strong practice becoming a Nazi.

    What is Chan’s doubt? Please, tell me more, or direct me to a thread where it’s discussed? Thanks.

  • #42126
    XenMan
    XenMan
    Participant

    There may be a case of semantics on internal vs external change, but if your external life has changed for the better, nice work.

    My point was about ‘being told what to think’ as opposed to ‘how you can think’. Buddhism will never be mainstream because it tells you what to think; with many ideas which are fanciful or just not applicable to modern living. Scientific mindfulness is about how you can think, but is only about 10% of the potential of Buddhist meditation practices.

    As for Chan’s doubt, good luck finding any common sense anywhere.

    Koans are used for this, but are probably the hardest way to make sense of the process. If I asked you what is the square root to 6 decimal places of 58674 you would have a blank mind. Also, if you monitor your mind when you hold your breath, or breathe out and hold, you will also find a quieting of mental activity. Remember these feelings of just not knowing and an empty mind.

    You will find that most thoughts, memories, and reactions to events have an emotional response of some kind. You replace the empty mind as a response, which is the principle of reactivity as the core of Gotama’s view of being the source of suffering.

    The middle path is more for the past or the known, and doubt for new experiences. You need a bit of CBT to help with the middle path as any subject can be approached with the ‘it is not good, it is not bad, I don’t approve and I don’t disapprove’. Some people will go kind of nuts over this concept as if you are supporting all the bad things in the world. If you think that way, well this isn’t for you, but if you can understand that this is just in your head and for reactivity, it is worth exploring.

    Doubt is about new experiences. From an emotional point of view everything is seen with the same ‘it is not good, it is not bad, I don’t approve and I don’t disapprove’; a doubt on the validity as a first response, similar to the response of the maths problem above. You still have your intellect to know what is correct or incorrect, but as far as emotional response is concerned, it is nothing.

    Part of Zen is about changing your view and perspective, which is a good start to loosening up your mind. You can build on that with an empty mind while meditating, and then in daily life, using the blank mind to find the middle path and doubt in reactivity.

    This is not easy…

  • #42127
    kauva
    kauva
    Participant

    I keep retyping this post to try and not appear stupid. I am now resolute that this will be the final draft.

    I rebuilt my personal existence with the help of Buddhism. From the quantum level up. Meta and actual physical. Buddhism let me do that without the conflicts of a christian framework. I didnt hafta have a beginning and end that was some fable – I could start off understanding the immediate moment. I spent the first years of my secular existence as an atheist trying to enjoy the now. That was how I first sought refuge in the Buddha.

    Once in the moment I black-boxed my existence metaphysically back to the beginning of time. This means I took out all the major questions we had yet to resolve scientifically and replaced them with black boxes. Then I rebuilt everything up to now and forward based only on what I knew as fact or black boxes with reasonable theories vice magic.

    Now I use my new understanding (combined with a simple philosophy from the Upanishads) to guide my thinking in other directions. Done routinely this helps develop new neural paths that seem to alleviate some of my weaknesses of mind. It’s like developing muscle memory in my brain. Thanks Buddhism!

  • #42128

    Don Lively
    Participant

    I began reading your first reply and this stopped me:

    Buddhism will never be mainstream because it tells you what to think; with many ideas which are fanciful or just not applicable to modern living.

    We disagree, unfortunately. This has not been my experience, at all. We have not experienced the dharma in the same way. I don’t know how we can come to any kind of understanding if we do not see this fundamental in a similar way. I don’t know if this is the result of a difference in practice, quality or quantity. I simply know that this is not true in my mind. It would be impossible for anyone or anything to tell me what to think. Literally, impossible. I cannot even tell myself what to think. If that statement confuses you, then we understand each other. We are not thinking the same. No disrespect. Not saying better or worse, but different. I do not have the answers to why.

    I believe practicing the dharma is the ONLY answer to modern life.

    Best wishes.

  • #42129
    XenMan
    XenMan
    Participant

    This is an interesting response to ignore antidepressants, psychological therapies, mindfulness practice, exercise, relaxing activities and softer versions of Buddhism as remedies to modern living.

    It is easy, which is without compassion or empathy, to say that one person’s experience or path is the only way, for everyone.

    Some people have a gap in their lives that a whole encompassing philosophy fits very nicely, as this void is driven by uncertainty and often mental frailty from bad experiences. These people will probably find the full Buddhist experience as the best of the religions around as it gives you a world view, but most importantly, a way to achieve it.

    Other religions tend so say ‘you will believe this’ but no way to achieve it. Christianity is the best example, which is why Zen is a great companion, as it is purely secular and compatible with any faith or lifestyle.

    However the majority of people, including myself, have a world view that is incompatible with Buddhist mindsets of dogma, doctrine and lifestyle. This is the beauty of Dzogchen, the great perfection, that leaves the philosophy behind. Modern psychology is based on, or grew in convergence, with Buddhist meditation principles and is very slowly validating the neurological and physical benefits to be able to incorporate it with therapy.

    Gotama described anyone who took on as much of the Dharma as they wanted as stream entrants. This shows that even in its inception, what the modern world labels as Buddhism, was a take what parts you want or need, as a way of making life easier.

  • #42196

    Don Lively
    Participant

    This is an interesting response to ignore antidepressants, psychological therapies, mindfulness practice, exercise, relaxing activities and softer versions of Buddhism as remedies to modern living.

    Not ignoring. Add vipassana, shake, stir, give it time, and then all of these other things become more valuable, not less. But am I saying they will lead to a deeper understanding, not that I’ve seen. Not so far. Mindfulness meditation, MBSR, Secular Dharma, is the mechanism by which all other things get better. I want a t-shirt that says : “Mindfulness–Resistance if futile.”

    It is easy, which is without compassion or empathy, to say that one person’s experience or path is the only way, for everyone.

    Didn’t say it, never have. The Dali Lama said he’s a Buddhist. If someone finds something better, he’ll be that. If someone has a better way, I’ll be that. But vipassana worked for me. It helped me see things more clearly. It got me going the right way. I’m not the only one. It is working for millions. So I’m not saying it’s my way. Where did you get that from?

    Some people have a gap in their lives that a whole encompassing philosophy fits very nicely, as this void is driven by uncertainty and often mental frailty from bad experiences. (You mean, dukkah, right?) These people will probably find the full Buddhist experience as the best of the religions around as it gives you a world view, but most importantly, a way to achieve it.

    Most would be turned off by the very name Buddhist. The full Buddhist experience is inaccessible. They are not turned off by mindfulness meditation–it’s normalized now for most people, those would are most likely to use it if not the most likely to need it. Those who are most likely to need it will not ever get past Buddhism.

    However, they already have no problem with mindfulness nor meditation. Vipassana, mindfulness meditation, doesn’t answer all the questions the Buddha answered, but it does let you get there.

    Other religions tend so say ‘you will believe this’ but no way to achieve it. Christianity is the best example, which is why Zen is a great companion, as it is purely secular and compatible with any faith or lifestyle.

    Zen is not only a religion itself, but a caricature in the West. Once upon a time, people used “Zen Buddhist” to differentiate themselves from those other Buddhists. I was stopped from using a meditation bench because it was Mahayana. Zen is a religion. You may not agree with it, but that’s the reality. Zen works for millions of people, who accept it and practice it. Prayer works, too, for those who spend the time practicing it. Who prays for a hours a day? And in the West, we don’t understand the difference between the expectations of monks and the expectations of lay people. We don’t know very much about Buddhism, and less than we think. For those who think of Zen and the Art of Archery–or heaven forbid, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance–it doesn’t work. Get them to sit still. Good luck with that.

    However the majority of people, including myself, have a world view that is incompatible with Buddhist mindsets of dogma, doctrine and lifestyle. This is the beauty of Dzogchen, the great perfection, that leaves the philosophy behind. Modern psychology is based on, or grew in convergence, with Buddhist meditation principles and is very slowly validating the neurological and physical benefits to be able to incorporate it with therapy.

    Hmm, you sound like a convert.

    Gotama described anyone who took on as much of the Dharma as they wanted as stream entrants. This shows that even in its inception, what the modern world labels as Buddhism, was a take what parts you want or need, as a way of making life easier.

    I practice, and have for a long time now. I practice what the Buddha taught. I practice the dharma. I live the dharma, because, well, it’s my nature. I practice Secular Dharma. I have no religion. I have no use for one, not even Theravada. I follow the evidence, and the evidence has been good for me. We do not disagree, you and me. We are just following our own paths, which seems to be good ones.

    You are a bit contradictory, however, so that’s a good place to start, the next time you do Zen meditation.

    🙂

    Namasakan

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