Secular Dharma Semitreat :: Day Three

Day three, at last our horrific kammic past has been fully extinguished, and we’re enjoying a change from that perfect weather.  Rain, all day.  And you know, that really is okay, the rich scents the moisture brings is better than incense.

Our dish cleaning team of Stan, Stan, Bill, and Ted (yes, Bill and Ted, please restrain yourselves) got our groove on today, despite Stanford’s cursing us the day before with a comment about our good fortune not having to clean up zucchini.  So of course that was today’s meal.  I’ve didn’t have any.  Zucchini was cool when I was a kid because it had the letter “z” in it, but that quickly fell away as I discovered what it tasted like.


Stephen again guided us through fully knowing dukkha, leading inevitably to letting go of craving, and that the Four Noble Truths, “describe a sequence of contingencies.”  It’s not an enforcement of ideological values, it’s a description of a process of conditioned arising (which, again, blends so well with Dependent Origination).  This means the emphasis on dukkha is problematic, “Buddhism has been held captive by a world-renouncing view of Indian thought.”  The focus should perhaps be on what we can work on, craving, rather than its result, dukkha.

He had an interesting point in that the process of fully knowing dukkha, of living with Mara, doesn’t mean that Mara vanishes.  Mara still shows up to Siddhattha Gotama long after his enlightenment, throughout his life, even a short time before his death.  Again, another indication like in the last post about Buddha being human, still subject to human temptations, thoughts, and stresses, and that enlightenment is not a mystical perfection but an ongoing practice.

For Linda Blanchard, a note that Stephen used “spin” in I believe the same context you have in your paper, which was very exciting to hear.

As we spoke a bit about Nama Rupa, Stephen pointed out that sankhara is the active form, that which does the forming, not the form itself.  The division was Rupa as Form, then Contact, Feeling, Perception, Intention, and Attention as Nama, and Consciousness last as an emerging *from* Nama Rupa (note that this is the five skandhas, plus two more active components of Contact and Attention).  He said his Tibetan teachers described this as the fingers of Nama Rupa are contingent necessities to have a hand (consciousness), that it is the totality of name and form that gives rise to consciousness.  Consciousness is dependent on something to cognize, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Intention was described as not necessarily being measured and reasoned choice, but can also be an inclination to the object.  This brings it closer to a more secular model of kamma being cause and effect.  Nama Rupa is already in the Upanishads, again not an original idea to Buddhism, with a meaning of the multiplicity of the world.  And that is all value neutral, it applies to any phenomenon we encounter.

Again, we discussed that Buddha is not trying to be a “proto-scientist” describing the natural world, but is creating a formula for action of a specific issue, suffering, which is *based* on the observation and analysis of it.  We may want to exercise caution in our use of saying how Buddhism is scientific; it may be more accurate to state that the methodological analysis of what we see works in the natural world is in synch, but that it is not an attempt to *be* science.  Secular Buddhism is a working model for practice, not a scientific reduction of brain process.

He and Martine had some good things to say about the teachers’ get together the other week at Garrison Institute, which was nice to hear and in contrast to much of the blogosphere’s criticism.  Martine’s continued investigation of the Eightfold Path this evening concentrated on Appropriate Speech, and what the conditions are which may lead to unskillful speech — things like being tired, stressed, or busy.  My favorite quote from her for the evening was, “There is no ideal meditator.  There is only the one here and now.”