The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
. . . still studying and learning how to live

Latest Rambling Thoughts:
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Spirituality ... Zen ...

Was pondering Buber’s I and Thou at work not long ago, and had recently listened to Teaching Company lectures on nominalism vs realism in the Middle Ages, along with the Christian mystical tradition of the Middle Ages. The lecturer has a very interesting classification system for mystics — but of course, are those categories “real” or nominal in and of themselves? Probably nominal, i.e. “in name only”. The lecturer himself admits that his classifications are ad hoc, many other academics would disagree.

But as to what is real, what is fundamental: Buber appreciates that existence / being, as we know it, requires relationship, and relationship requires some level of dualism. To talk of “oneness”, of monism, is to talk of an abstraction. Perhaps our minds, tuned as they are to abstractions, can conceive of one-ness in some weak, distant fashion (see thru a glass darkly).

But our lives and everything we know of in the universe lives in relation to something else, we live in a sea of duality. If there is an “edge of the universe”, if the universe is like a ring of connected things, and then we try to think about what lies beyond that ring, and we think of nothing but an abstraction — the mind’s own construct.  The “one”, the monism, the stillpoint, is not a part of our lives. It’s not part of our ring of being.

Didn’t the Buddha teach not to get too concerned about that which is not part of our lives, but only part of our mental construction? Don’t modern Zen teachers warn over and over again against the abstract constructions of “the mind” ? And yet, if they don’t like “mind”, then isn’t it a bit ironic on how Buddhists spend so much mental energy seeking and agonizing over “the one”? Isn’t “the one” something that exists mostly in the mind, something only known thru the mind with its many senses and “meta-senses”?

Yes, we all would like to think that there is some real “oneness” that gives all of us diverse individual things some deep-rooted commonality.  This theoretically would encourage a life that we would rather have, one of peace, cooperation, co-ordination. But in reality, we can only find such oneness in our mental constructs.

If that is so, then why do Buddhists then spend so much energy attacking mental constructs?

Perhaps you can’t have it both ways – you can’t have “the one” without abstract mental constructs and a “mind” to create those constructs. But most western Buddhists don’t seem to have received that memo yet.

Buddha people can argue that mystical experience is just as valid a path to knowing oneness as abstract mental construction. Or even more valid !  But the argument then becomes somewhat petty, you start arguing about nominal differences between two close cousins within the “contemplation” family. If there is a “one-ness” found somewhere in our brain-space, why shouldn’t it manifest in several ways, including both meditation and deep thought (as well as artistic experience and other ways).

I believe that Buddhism (and other related eastern and modern western spiritual philosophies – perhaps including Centering Prayer !!) should embrace a broader view of “contemplation”, one that includes BOTH mystical and abstract mental activity, accessed by both meditation and critical-logical thinking. (And art and being with nature, as my friend George would have it).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:54 pm      

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment:


To blog is human, to read someone's blog, divine
NEED TO WRITE ME? eternalstudent404 (thing above the 2) gmail (thing under the >) com - THE SIDEBAR - ABOUT ME - PHOTOS
Church of the Churchless
Clear Mountain Zendo, Montclair
Fr. James S. Behrens, Monastery Photoblog
Of Particular Significance, Dr. Strassler's Physics Blog
Weather Willy, NY Metro Area Weather Analysis
Spunkykitty's new Bunny Hopscotch; an indefatigable Aspie artist and now scholar!

Powered by WordPress