What is "Mind?"

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Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 27, 2014 - 08:24pm PT
It kinda seems like you are trying to skirt the issue.
--


The problem is, you're defining the issue as thought Zen is something, some task or some mental feat that someone "does." Then you're getting in a tissy or making comments when I (or others) don't respond - not because we are skirting the issue, but rather because internal practices involve letting go of all "doing."

If you to ask: What is the process here? What is involved - now I could answer those questions. Or try to.

JL
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 27, 2014 - 08:30pm PT
If you to ask: What is the process here? What is involved - now I could answer those questions. Or try to.

Exactly. This is going to bridge some gaps if you talk to us.
PSP also PP

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jun 27, 2014 - 08:38pm PT
Base ; just go do it for a few months. Then you will get a taste. It is a lot like climbing that way. But make sure you have a real teacher who will set you straight about trying to get special experiences.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 27, 2014 - 09:11pm PT
First off, as PP just said, meditation is NOT a solo endeavor. It's a GROUP endeavor. So the first thing to "do" is to cast about and find a group that feels right and a teacher that you won't project on too terribly hard. You WILL do this, so don't worry about it. You will be judging the sh#t out of the whole thing till you realize it's not about them. It's about you.

So the first step is searching out a group and a teacher. If you're really skiddish, just find a friendly vapassana or Insight group and blend in and do the work a baby step at a time. Like exercise or any other study, you have to stay consistant to get past your conditioning, so it has to become an everyday thing, and it might takes months before you feel things starting to shift. But they will - that is a fact.

JL

jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jun 27, 2014 - 10:31pm PT
meditation is NOT a solo endeavor

Zen meditation.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 28, 2014 - 08:13am PT
Well, Wiki has a page for everything, and it has a really long Zen Buddhism page.

It is pretty interesting. I encourage people to check it out. Just from that page I get a better understanding than a year of bickering about the nature of matter here.

As for meditation being solo, it says this:

Zen meditation[edit]

See also: Dhyāna in Buddhism

Central to Zen-practice is dhyana or meditation. The Zen tradition holds that in meditation practice, notions of doctrine and teachings necessitate the creation of various notions and appearances (Skt. saṃjñā; Ch. 相, xiāng) that obscure the transcendent wisdom of each being's Buddha-nature. This process of rediscovery goes under various terms such as "introspection", "a backward step", "turning-about" or "turning the eye inward".

Observing the breath[edit]





Venerable Hsuan Hua meditating in the Lotus Position. Hong Kong, 1953.
During sitting meditation, practitioners usually assume a position such as the lotus position, half-lotus, Burmese, or seiza postures, using the dhyāna mudrā. To regulate the mind, awareness is directed towards counting or watching the breath or put in the energy center below the navel (see also anapanasati).[web 5] Often, a square or round cushion placed on a padded mat is used to sit on; in some other cases, a chair may be used. This practice may simply be called sitting dhyāna, which is zuòchán (坐禅) in Chinese, and zazen (坐禅) in Japanese.

Observing the mind[edit]

In the Soto school of Zen, meditation with no objects, anchors, or content, is the primary form of practice. The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference. Considerable textual, philosophical, and phenomenological justification of this practice can be found throughout Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō, as for example in the "Principles of Zazen"[web 6] and the "Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen".[web 7] In the Japanese language, this practice is called Shikantaza.

**Intensive group meditation[edit]

Intensive group meditation may be practiced occasionally in some temples. While the daily routine may require monks to meditate for several hours each day, during the intensive period they devote themselves almost exclusively to the practice of sitting meditation. The numerous 30–50 minute long meditation periods are interleaved with short rest breaks, meals, and sometimes, short periods of work should be performed with the same mindfulness; nightly sleep is kept to seven hours or less. In modern Buddhist practice in Japan, Taiwan, and the West, lay students often attend these intensive practice sessions, which are typically 1, 3, 5, or 7 days in length. These are held at many Zen centers, especially in commemoration of the Buddha's attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. One distinctive aspect of Zen meditation in groups is the use of a flat wooden slat used to keep meditators focused and awake. In the Japanese language, this practice is called Sesshin.**

Kōan practice[edit]

Main article: Kōan





Chinese character for "nothing", Chinese: wú (Japanese: mu). It figures in the famous Zhaozhou's dog kōan
At the beginning of the Song Dynasty, practice with the kōan method became popular, whereas others practiced "silent illumination."[75] This became the source of some differences in practice between the Linji and Caodong traditions.

A kōan, literally "public case", is a story or dialogue, describing an interaction between a Zen master and a student. These anecdotes give a demonstration of the master's insight. Koans emphasize the non-conceptional insight that the Buddhist teachings are pointing to. Koans can be used to provoke the "great doubt", and test a student's progress in Zen practice.

Kōan-inquiry may be practiced during sitting meditation (zazen), walking meditation (kinhin), and throughout all the activities of daily life. Kōan practice is particularly emphasized by the Japanese Rinzai school, but it also occurs in other schools or branches of Zen depending on the teaching line.[76]

The Zen student's mastery of a given kōan is presented to the teacher in a private interview (referred to in Japanese as dokusan (独参), daisan (代参), or sanzen (参禅)). While there is no unique answer to a kōan, practitioners are expected to demonstrate their understanding of the kōan and of Zen through their responses. The teacher may approve or disapprove of the answer and guide the student in the right direction. The interaction with a Zen-teacher is central in Zen, but makes Zen-practice, at least in the west, also vulnerable to misunderstanding and exploitation.[77]
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Jun 28, 2014 - 08:38am PT
But make sure you have a real teacher who will set you straight about trying to get special experiences.

This is pure Zen and does not represent all traditions.

1. Not everyone is trying to get special experiences. For some people they just happen in the course of ordinary life and then the person goes searching for explanations of what and why and how it happened.

2. By cultivating unusual states of mind as in some traditions, one is led to the same conclusion, that they are all fleeting and illusory and in the end, it is the state of pure wordless awareness (no-thingness) that is ultimate. In the meantime, through various techniques such as lucid dreaming, one learns the various levels of mind and how to master them in preparation for the deeper levels of mind.

3. Depending on one's karma (at a minimum, one's childhood experiences or adult traumas like PTSD), the individual may need to wash a lot of garbage out of their unconscious. Just breathing and letting thoughts pass away is not so easy in that case, and one may need to do purification exercises before being able to successfully quiet the mind. Learning to deal with the powerful emotions of anger for example, or envy, or insecurity and greed, may take more than just watching the breath and if really focussed on to learn their source, may also bring one to altered states.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jun 28, 2014 - 08:51am PT
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6190/1243091.full
Science 344 1357 (2014)
DOI: 10.1126/science.1243091

REVIEW

The cultural evolution of mind reading

Cecilia M. Heyes, Chris D. Frith

ABSTRACT
It is not just a manner of speaking: “Mind reading,” or working out what others are thinking and feeling, is markedly similar to print reading. Both of these distinctly human skills recover meaning from signs, depend on dedicated cortical areas, are subject to genetically heritable disorders, show cultural variation around a universal core, and regulate how people behave. But when it comes to development, the evidence is conflicting. Some studies show that, like learning to read print, learning to read minds is a long, hard process that depends on tuition. Others indicate that even very young, nonliterate infants are already capable of mind reading. Here, we propose a resolution to this conflict. We suggest that infants are equipped with neurocognitive mechanisms that yield accurate expectations about behavior (“automatic” or “implicit” mind reading), whereas “explicit” mind reading, like literacy, is a culturally inherited skill; it is passed from one generation to the next by verbal instruction.


Conclusions and future directions


We have argued that explicit mind reading is culturally inherited in the same way as print reading. The neurocognitive mechanisms that allow us to deliberate and talk about mental states are constructed, or recycled (3), from mechanisms that evolved genetically to fulfill more general functions (to parse and predict dynamic sequences of events and to get information from others), and the construction process depends on tuition. Expert mind readers communicate mental-state concepts, and ways of representing these concepts, to novices. As the present generation of novices becomes expert, it passes on the knowledge and skill of mind reading to the next cultural generation.

Most, possibly all, human neurocognitive skills are shaped by culture, and many are culturally inherited, but the parallels between mind reading and print reading are extraordinary. For example, linguistic communities vary in the ways that they categorize colors, but color perception is not culturally inherited in the same way as print reading. Unlike print reading, color perception is rooted in highly specialized, genetically inherited mechanisms that humans share with other species. Although cultural input adjusts these mechanisms, it does not make them into a whole new neurocognitive system.

The analogy between print reading and mind reading is not perfect. “Sound symbolism” shows that the relations between inscriptions and their corresponding speech sounds and referents often depend on structural features of the nervous system (63), but it is likely that these relations are more arbitrary than the relations between observable behavior and mental states. In this respect, numeracy may be a better analog than literacy. However, explicit mind reading is comparable to print reading, not only in terms of its weak dependence on specialized genetically inherited mechanisms and strong dependence on tuition, but also in the shape and size of the cultural legacy. Like print reading, explicit mind-reading mechanisms represent representational relations—between mental states, behavior, and events in the world—and allow the mind reader to regulate and interpret a virtually limitless range of mental contents. Consequently, the print reading and mind reading legacies are also alike in promoting the cultural inheritance of other, more specific skills. Reading and writing enable us to teach others almost anything we know through the written word, and mind reading improves the efficiency of all teaching by allowing the expert to represent what the novice does and does not already understand. Like print reading, mind reading is a cultural gift that goes on giving, a culturally inherited skill that facilitates the cultural inheritance of an enormous range of other, more specific skills (64).

We have suggested that in infancy, when the enculturation process is only beginning, implicit mind-reading mechanisms produce, under some circumstances, accurate expectations about the behavior of agents. A priority for future research is to find out whether these implicit mechanisms are specialized for mind reading, or whether implicit mind reading is mediated by domain-general mechanisms. In either case, it is clear that implicit mind-reading mechanisms continue to operate throughout the life cycle, enabling swift social coordination of behavior when time is short and other demands on the neurocognitive system are heavy. It is possible that the outputs of these implicit mechanisms also contribute to the development of explicit mind reading by, for example, segmenting the stream of observable behavior into units that can subsequently be aligned with mental categories. However, in our view, implicit mind reading is radically insufficient for the development of explicit mind reading. Our view suggests that no amount of individual learning—implicit mind reading, introspection, and watching the behavior of others—would be enough for the development of explicit mind reading. If a group of human infants managed to survive on a desert island, in a cruel Lord of the Flies–like experiment, they would be no more likely to develop a theory of mind and become explicit mind readers than to develop a writing system and become literate print readers.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 28, 2014 - 09:04am PT
I googled up the local Buddhist temples and centers. We have a fairly large Vietnamese population, and most of the centers come from that branch of Buddhism.

There is one, probably the largest, that has numerous classes and sessions that are meditation oriented...which is Zen pretty much.

I might go check it out.

I will say one thing about meditation. Let's say that I were a susceptible person who believed that David Koresh was Jesus. If I concentrated my mind on a daily basis, at a deep level, I could end up believing damn near anything.

My opinion is that David Koresh was a lunatic kook, but all of his followers certainly DID believe in him...to the point of death.

This is where I see danger in religion. It is possible to delude yourself, and all of us know many circumstances where this has happened to man over the centuries, often with horrific results.

If I go check out the temple, I will still have my scientific skepticism. Because of that skepticism, I would be a little wary if it requires blind faith. I don't believe in blind faith.
Randisi

Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
Jun 28, 2014 - 09:11am PT
I'm surprised by how little internecine bickering there has been among the meditation proponents.

Perhaps they have been falsely united against a common foe.
BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 28, 2014 - 09:25am PT
Huh?
jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jun 28, 2014 - 09:28am PT
For an entirely different perspective of meditation there is Teresa of Ávila who walked through Jesus's mansion many times with her savior.

I think Zen practitioners have been so well indoctrinated they cannot recognize the value of any other form of meditation or mental adventure. This is similar to religious fervor.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 28, 2014 - 09:32am PT
If I concentrated my mind on a daily basis, at a deep level, I could end up believing damn near anything.


BASE, this is one reason to get a teacher - he/she will sort out that "beliefs" have nothing to do with the practive. Believe in what, when the whole practive is giving up attachment to all "things," thoughts, feelings, need for life to be diferent, more better, more spiritual, et al.

And of course you can "cowboy" meditation and do it by yourself, but it usually ends up being ego directed which is the point of having a group and a teacher - to get past yourself, lest you keep operating at the very level of ego, or evaluating mind, basically inventing your own practice. And as PP has repeatedly warned, this can be a huge trap. But if that is where your comfort zone is, have at it. Most people who can't join groups ae projecting onto the outfit or feel they are giving up atonomy - basically control issues. We all have those.

The reason most people in meditation don't argue is that they are all moving in the same direction, just by way of slightly different vehicles. For example, Renzai Zen is obviously too harsh and extreme for Jan, but I don't fault her for taking another path because they all lead to the same place. In fact, the moment you sit down and drop, it's all basically the same practice.

JL

BLUEBLOCR

Social climber
joshua tree
Jun 28, 2014 - 09:43am PT

3. Depending on one's karma (at a minimum, one's childhood experiences or adult traumas like PTSD), the individual may need to wash a lot of garbage out of their unconscious. Just breathing and letting thoughts pass away is not so easy in that case, and one may need to do purification exercises before being able to successfully quiet the mind. Learning to deal with the powerful emotions of anger for example, or envy, or insecurity and greed, may take more than just watching the breath and if really focussed on to learn their source, may also bring one to altered states.

Is believing in karma a part of all zen type mediators? Is it common for teachers to use language like "karma"? if this is the same kind of language WB talks, then do you all believe in an afterlife? Werner goes on and on about multiple lives. But we havn't the ability to remember them or their lessons so what good are they? Certainly a good lesson is,"you reap what you sow" and life proves that the harder you work the more money you make. But in WB's universe, negative actions only produce negative results?

And would there be a higher authority that is keeping tabs on each persons karmic bank account? Or are we ultimately responsible only to ourselves?
Is there a God, God's ??
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Jun 28, 2014 - 11:11am PT
I'm surprised by how little internecine bickering there has been among the meditation proponents.

Our differences are over method, not dogma. Likewise, once you understand the method through personal experience, you can see it in all traditions. jgill mentions Theresa of Avila who is an old favorite of mine. Her Seven Roomed Crystal Mansion clearly corresponds to the seven chakras, while John of the Cross, her prayer partner, is more along the lines of formlessness Zen style. Likewise, I've had conversations with Christian Pentacostals and Charismatics and we were all talking the same language when discussing our methods and experiences, though we were light years apart on dogma.

BASE104

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jun 28, 2014 - 11:20am PT
Our differences are over method, not dogma

Yep. I think you nailed it there. Science is ALL about method. That method can become a philosophy that colors your entire perception.

Kinda sorta
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Jun 28, 2014 - 11:32am PT
blueblockr-

There are as many different understandings of karma as there are denominations of Hinduism and Buddhism. People in tropical countries tend to take it more fatalistically, and those in cold countries who have to store up for the winter, tend to have versions closer to 'God helps those who help themselves'.

As for remembering past lives, most traditions I know of say that it happens when you reach the right level of personal spiritual progress. Before that, if you could see how badly you have screwed up over and over in the same ways, you would be too depressed to handle it so that's why most people can't remember. Of course that's true of this present life as well, if one really reflects on it, so no need to worry about the past. Buddha said, "if you want to know your past life, look at the present one. If you want to know your future life, look at the present one".

As far as keeping count, there is no St. Peter in the sky with a book. Rather, it is seen as a universal principle of cause and effect which operates in the world in a consistent fashion whether you believe in a personal God or in an impersonal universe and even whether or not you believe in karma. The beauty of a belief in karma combined with reincarnation, is that you have endless chances to get it right (everybody wakes up someday), and therefore people pay less attention to other's business, are less judgemental, and are not out to convert others to their particular dogma.

As for scientific explanations, I have often pondered this one. Some people have hypothesized a collective unconscious or a morphic field, and I suspect a better knowledge of DNA and genetics will find some physical evidence for it as well.

As for what the afterlife might be like, both Hindus and Buddhists see it as multidimensional, including plenty of heavens and hells. None of them are permanent states however, only enlightenment is forever.
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Jun 28, 2014 - 11:44am PT
and base104, my first real teacher appeared in the form of a book - The Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda. I became very interested when he wrote, 'spiritual progress works according to certain principles, every time, like mathematics'.

As for Vietnamese Buddhism, it incorporates both Theravada insight meditation and the zen forms of meditation. If you go to a Vietnamese temple, you will probably encounter both and can see which way is most beneficial for you personally. There is another old saying - 'when the student is ready, the guru appears'. If nothing resonates there, just keep looking, there's a method and a teacher waiting for you somewhere.
Largo

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 28, 2014 - 12:33pm PT
Another insight per "what we are doinig" is to abandon whatever precoceptions you have about how to approach the work. For instance, most people trowl around trying to get some mental picture of what is involved, whereas it is MUCH better to consider the initial phases of practice NOT as mental exercises, but as a physical discipline. You're not going to get anywhere with meditation till you can stabalize your awareness and attention and that is most easily acomplished by getting your nervous system to settle and the mind will follow. Trying to control the mind, and make it calm down, is tryig to use the mind to change the mind and it usually leads to prfound confusion.

So forget about the mental aspect entirely. Develop a good base (lotus or whatever), learn to sit with a straight spine, let your breathing settle, get used to a soft-focus gaze and not fidgeting and let yourself settle and let the mind run wild, running no kind of interference.

The mental part kicks in WAY later. Trying to start there, striving to "understand" everything mentally, is a common mistake. Get the physical part dialed. It will take you about two years on average.

JL

jgill

Boulder climber
Colorado
Jun 28, 2014 - 01:52pm PT
Trying to control the mind, and make it calm down, is trying to use the mind to change the mind and it usually leads to profound confusion (JL)

Quite possibly the same is true trying to use the mind to understand the mind.
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