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Babaloo’s Chinese Brain

There is a “new” (2003ish) theory, backed by research and such formidable technology as MRI, of course, that says our brains are wired differently according to culture. The studies were of East Asians and Westerners (mostly Americans). See here, here, and here.This is especially interesting to me because it comes particularly close to home. . . .

Jung wrote about the differences between Easterners and Westerners many years ago, before all the sophisticated technology. I think it speaks volumes that so many of Jung’s ideas and observations are proving to be right on the mark- but that’s another post.

. . . .So the reason this comes close to home is that after reading yesterday’s post (Morning. . . . see next post below this one) here in my blog, the person who introduced the “culture wires our brains differently” theory in one of my forums, said that-

“For whatever reasons, you appear to possess an (allegedly East Asian) perceptual mind rather than the (allegedly Western) discursive mind. Is one superior to the other and if so why?”

And I answered- “I would say you are correct. Interestingly, I am an American, and have never been out of my country. I have always been this way, even before I discovered Jung, zen, or Asian culture, literature and writing. I do not know if one is superior to the other. I only know that for me, the way I am is best. It does cause me difficulties though – I am often misunderstood, very often. People don’t know ‘how to take me’ many times. They think me quite eccentric and strange. Also I have been told often that I would ‘fit right in’ in Asia and that people there would not think me strange at all.”

Not only that, but according to the Jungian system of psychological types, my type is less than 1% of the population in America – but the majority of the population in China. I have been told I’m “strange”, “weird”, “different”, “eccentric”, and yes, sometimes even “crazy” all my life. It has caused me serious problems sometimes. Yet I have a clean bill of mental health. So I’m just different, VERY different, according to my culture.

What I want to know is- how did an American girl child, with parents of caucasian European stock, who never had any Asian caregivers or friends, and was never exposed to any Asian culture beyond occasionally eating at the local Chinese restaurant, end up with a Chinese-wired brain??? All of my exposure to Asian culture came later in life, MUCH later, and yes, it really did feel like coming home! I hate to poke a great big hole in all the research, but what can I say? Or maybe the theory already has a hole in it?

And while this post is funny – still it’s a serious question, I’m very curious about how I got to be so different. I mean, less than 1% of the population is not just a little different – that’s a BIG difference.

Now when someone tells me I’m weird or crazy I can say, “Don’t hate me because my brain is Chinese!” or “I’m an egg!” (white on the outside, yellow on the inside) or “Get lost round-eye, you just don’t get it!” or “Kiss me! I’m Chinese!” Such reactions no doubt would make them SURE I’m very weird and/or crazy – – then maybe they will leave me alone. . . . . . . . .

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© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.

Morning. . .

This morning I followed my usual routine. I splashed cold water on my face, made coffee, and took my cup out onto the veranda. The sky was palest blue-gray-lavender, nearly white, backlit by the sun behind the thick clouds. Mist hugged the earth, dragon’s breath, turning some of the trees that sage-ish, more-gray-than-green and making others a bright, vibrating green. The usual morning choir of cicadas was silent in the dimness, the night crickets still singing mutedly. The birds were hushed too. My spirit expanded and relaxed and sighed with deep happiness as I sipped my coffee and let myself be absorbed into the mists. . .

A little while later, after breakfast, I went out again to leave what remained of the morning meal for the neighborhood strays and fill the bird feeder. Now the sun, a little higher and stronger, had thinned the clouds and mist some. The sky was bluer. The mist looked like thin veils made of pearl, shining with that muted rainbow light, as pearls do. The trees and plants looked as though they had been hung with nets of diamonds as the sunlight prismed through the moisture clinging to them and making hundreds of sparkling little points of light.

And I was caught up, soaring into pure joy. . . . .

“The mountains, rivers, earth, grasses, trees, and forests, are always emanating a subtle, precious light, day and night, always emanating a subtle, precious sound, demonstrating and expounding to all people the unsurpassed ultimate truth.” –Yuansou

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© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.

Puppy Love

There is a koan from The Gateless Gate where the student asks the master whether a dog has the buddha nature. I don’t know the answer to the koan. What I do know is that my dog teaches me daily, by excellent example and with not a single word spoken, about zen.

If he sees a rabbit, he does not stop and ask me if it’s really a rabbit. He does not ask where the rabbit came from, or where it is going. He does not ask me what rabbits mean. He does not ask me why there are rabbits. He doesn’t ask what should be done about the rabbit. He doesn’t ask what the implications of rabbits are. He doesn’t ask why rabbits are brown and white, and not purple. He doesn’t ask if it’s a sin to chase rabbits, or if he’ll get bad karma.


He just does what comes naturally.

“Act when you need to, without hesitation or doubt. People today can’t do this – what is their affliction? Their affliction is in their lack of self-confidence. If you do not spontaneously trust yourself sufficiently, you will be in a frantic state, pursuing all sorts of objects and being changed by those objects, unable to be independent.” –Linji

If he needs to make water, he asks to go outside and makes water. When he is tired he goes to sleep. When he wants to play, he brings me his ball. He eats whatever food I give him happily.

When I’m tired, or disconcerted from ‘having a bad day’, or when something has made me sad, he comes and lays his head in my lap or cuddles up to me. He does not ask what is wrong. He doesn’t tell me I’m silly to worry or feel sad. He doesn’t ask philosophical or existential questions.

And yes, I’m attached to my dog.

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© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.

Absurdity of Assumption – Part 2

Well. . . . .

Sometimes a perfect example drops right into one’s lap! This is an actual, verbatim conversation from a public forum. I did not participate in this conversation in the forum. My comments, added for this post, appear in italics.

Notice how Person X’s words are full of assumptions about life, reality, and Person M – Person X definitely thinks s/he knows! Notice how personally Person X takes what is said, as if it were some kind of attack, and something to be ‘proven’. The error here is not in Person X’s personal truth – the error is that Person X thinks personal truth is universal truth – and that people who don’t believe this ‘universal truth’ are somehow wrong or lacking or bad or something negative somehow.

Person M, in true zen spirit, does not take it personally, and keeps going back to the ACTUAL. Person M is much more patient than I would be in such a situation; I can never see the point of talking with someone like Person X. I have nothing to prove or defend, and I prefer to use my energy for other things.


[Person M] No cause, no effect, no previous moment. Just now, just THIS!

[Person X] Just this arose from somewhere. The house that appears NOW
arose from the past. The cause of this now is the past. You exist as an
illusory form because in the now of the past your parents had sex. If they
did not there would be no now for you. If there is no cause and effect
there would be no response to my posting from you now. My posting was
the cause of your response. This is all illusion yes, but in the illusion cause
and effect exists and functions. To deny this is to say that the illusion is
the same as your zen experience which then would contradict your belief
that this is an illusion. If the illusion is not the same nature as your
experience of non-illusion how can you say cause and effect do not exist.
They exist in the illusory world, to deny they don’t is to say then that the
illusory world is the same as your zen experience.

[Person M] Say what? The above paragraph is way too complicated for me to decipher. All I can say in response is that there is no past and no future, just now, so there can be no cause-and-effect. Just THIS!

{Babaloo’s comment} Person X’s statement above is a perfect example of western (particularly American) ‘logic’. It is really a complex chain of assumption and attachment. A psychologist I once knew had an interesting way of describing such chains – he called them “belief structures.” And he said, “the acronym for belief structure is BS, and we all know what BS stands for!”

[Person X] To the worldly compassion may be subjective. Some may label
certain acts as compassion, others may not

[Person M] No comment.

[Person M (requoted from earlier)] What objective measurement would you put on compassion?

[Person X] Compassion has a definitive effect. The measure is again a
worldly illusory measure, but it is increased worldly happiness and peace
as well as that which brings liberation to others. From virtuous actions
arises virtuous effects. Even acts of compassion from those who are just
following some guide will have an increasing seeable affect, but there is a
difference between acting concepts of compassion and acting out of
compassion. Compassion sees others suffering and tries to free others
from that suffering, though ultimately compassion transforms the human
aggregates to that of a Buddha to perfectly do this.

{Babaloo’s comment} Person X’s statement above is full of assumption and judgement.

[Person M] You started this paragraph saying this ‘measure is again a worldly illusory measure’, so I can’t disagree with that. I won’t argue with you about your illusions.

{Babaloo’s comment} This reminds me of a line from Richard Bach’s book, Illusions: “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”

[Person M (requoted from earlier)] What do you have to say of compassion when the duality of subject and object dissolve?

[Person X] The compassionate being becomes even more effective in the
transformation of others. What do you have to say about the normal self
when duality of subject and object dissolve? From your experience you
still eat, drink and interact,

{Babaloo’s comment} Person X assumes a ‘compassionate being can be effective in transforming others’!!! There is no transformation – everyone is already enlightened. It is only a matter of awareness. The very idea that anyone can ‘transform’ anyone else is antithetical to zen.

[Person M] When duality dissolves there is no self, normal or otherwise – so I say nothing.

[Person X] If subject and object have dissolved how do you chose what to
eat or drink, or even to join this site and respond to posts. You express
your subjective experience and make use of objective functioning things.

[Person M] Subject/object are not dissolved all the time. I have illusions and sometimes I have attachments to those illusions. So what?

[Person X] The duality of subject and object dissolving is perfectly
expressed through compassion as they have only dissolved for you not the
others in the world to which you abide.

[Person M] When subject and object dissolve there are no ‘others’ – just THIS!

[Person M] Without self there are no others.

[Person X] There are no others to you because you project no self on
others. There is a self that appears even though there is no self to your
experience. You project your subjective view of no self onto the objective
appearance of the world of form and the others who inhabit it.

[Person M] No. There are no ‘others’ because there is no self. There is no good because there is no bad. Just THIS!

[Person M (requoted from earlier)] Without valuation there is no suffering.

[Person X] There is no suffering for you since you hold no valuation, but
others suffer from it. Also with correct valuation there is no suffering as
compassion is not a source of suffering. You may say you have no
valuation, but from your no self appears a valuation of your experience
through your illusory self. You place value on your experience.

[Person M] I didn’t say I place value on my experience. I said it is all I have. Everything else is hearsay, someone elses experience.

{Babaloo’s comment} Our own experience is all any of us have, indeed. In my view, zen is not personal, but it is individual. As R.H. Blyth said, “My zen is not your zen. A man’s zen is not a woman’s zen. It is the same, yes, but it is different. . . We must be on our guard against the absolute. . .We must respect the individual.” Arguing about whose zen is the “correct” zen (as Person X does) is NOT zen!

[Person M (requoted from earlier)] Without effort all things exist.

[Person X] Tell that to the construction workers working in the hot sun to
build a sky rise or to the person who works day and night to support their
family. Again you are projecting your view of Buddha nature onto the
illusion which is just not how the illusion or those in it functions. For you
without effort, but for those without your experience, by the sweat of
their brow things exist.

[Person M] Okay, I’ll change that statement to ‘With or without effort, all things exist.’ Is that better for you?

{Babaloo’s comment} Person X says “. . .for those without your experience. . .” How can anyone have someone else’s experience?!?!!! Person X assumes that everyone will interpret an “experience” the same way!

[Person M] Compassion does indeed arise from the mind, but like all products of the mind, is not spontaneous. Spontaneous is before mind, before self, before duality, before valuations, before compassion

[Person X] The spontaneous may be before the mind, but when it appears
through the mind to the world of form, compassion is spontaneous. It may
not be spontaneous for you, but it can be. Your spontaneous nature
appears as bill eating and drinking and doing things, a being of
compassion spontaneous nature appears through a spontaneous mind of

[Person M] Read my statement on spontaneity again. If a being acts without engaging the mind (or to be really technical about it – without becoming attached to the engagement of the mind), then he acts spontaneously. If he engages his mind and is attached to it’s concepts, like the concept of compassion, and places a value of ‘good’ on compassion, then he is not acting spontaneously.

[Person M] A car is used to go from one place to another. When you realize that one place is no better than any other, attachment to the car dissolves. And like you said you still use it to go here and there. Compassion can be used also without attachment though you do not believe this.

[Person M] I use it to go here and there but I am not attached to it. I don’t live in the car…see below…

[Person M] You don’t live in your car.

[Person X] You do live in your mind and body though and like a car that
functions to get you from here to there, the mind and body function. The
nature of the mind and body can be changed which in turn changes its

[Person M] I live in my mind and body when I create dualities such as self/other. When dualities dissolve so do mind and body.

[Person M] Compassion is an illusion.

[Person X] So is a car, but as you say so long as you are not attached to it
you can use it to go here and there. A person can not be attached to
compassion and still use it, like a car, to perform a specific function, the
liberation of others.

{Babaloo’s comment} I just cringe at the above statement!

[Person M] Okay, I finally agree with something you’ve said, although I’d advise you to be careful with the ‘specific function’ part. That’s getting very close to intent, and intent implies something planned, something not spontaneous.

[Person M] I am definitely a worldly being.

[Person X] I was meaning a normal worldly view to which your own
experience is contra to. Your experience is not shared by most of the
world views.

[Person M] It is shared by most of the worlds religious teachings, or at least by most of the people on whom religions were founded (even though now the teachings have been polluted)

[Person M] There is indeed a contradiction in your statement above, but it is not what you think. The contradiction is with ‘liberated being’ and ‘chooses’.

[Person X] I was speaking of your view. Do you not choose anything? Or
do you just eat what is offered or is it a spontaneous appearance of your
body walking to the fridge to spontaneously grab food? Do you not go
anywhere unless requested, or do you just see you body move from place
to place doing things?

[Person M] When there is a self, an ‘I’, then yes, ‘I’ do all those things. When self dissolves, then no, there is no ‘I’, no anything to be done.

[Person M] Those that ‘become one with their true nature’ have no NEED to display compassion. This is true.

[Person X] You are right, but those who are not one with their true nature
need them to. They have needs liberated beings don’t, hence the value in a
liberated being abiding spontaneously in a spontaneous mind of

[Person M] Okay. I just wanted to make that distinction.

[Person M] How can this being have compassion for ‘others’ without first having the illusion of ‘self’?

[Person X] How can you function and talk to others without first having a
view of self? There are illusion others appearing and interacting with
your illusion appearing self. The being is aware that there is a self that
appears to others but is are not attached to it, just as you have a being the
appears and are not attached to it.

[Person M] How can I stay attached to the earth without having knowledge of gravity? How can I catch a ball without having knowledge of parabolics? That’s how I can function without ABSOLUTELY having a dualistic self/other split going on all the time. (It does go on most of the time, but not all the time.)

[Person X] Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them. (By
dissolving the self you dissolve the concept of others, thereby saving them
How is the suffering that is appearing in the now helped by a being who
has no concept of self?

[Person M] When self dissolves, attachments dissolve; when attachments dissolve, suffering dissolves. This is Buddhism 101.

[Person X] With eyes one can see how suffering is helped by the mind of

[Person M] Compassion will not end suffering. It might make both you and others feel better for a while, but the suffering will return. the only way to end suffering is to end attachments; the only way to end attachments is to extinguish your concept of self. The only two ways i know to do that are zazen (shikan-taza — clear mind), and koan study – although in actuality koan study is really just  a technique to lead you to shikan-taza — clear mind.


For the first part of the Absurdity of Assumption, see here.

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© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.



Mother of Pity,
Grant me, I pray,
One dewdrop from thy willow spray,
And in the double lotus keep
My hidden heart asleep.

~Poem taken from the tomb of an unknown woman, in the Fu Kiu mountain district of So-Chau in the Province of Kiangsu. The date of the poem is many centuries old.



The American concept of enlightenment is full of foolishness. Most Americans think enlightenment is something like sainthood combined with a get out of jail free card. (I’m an American, so yes, I am allowed to say this.) The Buddhist concept is just as bad, equating enlightenment with nirvana. Nothing could be further from the truth. Concepts! They are NOT reality! As Fayan said, “It is not possible to fathom the intention of the words or acts of the enlightened by indulging in fantasy.”

Enlightenment brings its own challenges. You have knowledge many people don’t know they have. In other words you know you are enlightened and so is everyone else, but they don’t know they are enlightened. They are still trapped. They have a lot of fear. They take almost everything very personally.

Fortunately nature abhors a vacuum, and the psyche is no different. All the energy once spent in defense and fearfulness is freed. . . and can flow naturally into creativity and compassion. This is how enlightened people are able to accomplish such (sometimes) seemingly miraculous things. There is really nothing mystical about it. It bubbles out like water from a spring. You remember your own struggles when you were trapped, how afraid and defensive you were – – so you tend to go easy, and to want to help.

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© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.

Chinese Poem

The rustling nightfall strews my robe with roses,
And the scented petals bring forgetfulness
Of shadow after shadow striding past.
I arise with the stars and exultantly follow
The sweep of the moon along the hushing stream,
Where no birds wake; only the far-drawn sigh
Of voices whispering farewell.

Li Po – 706-765 AD – China

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if they can’t find me

just say: she fell down a well – or

she went swimming in the dark

and something in the blue-black water swallowed her.

or tell them I went to Detroit

to look at the river

and got carried away.

but don’t let them call the fire and rescue

or send out boats

cause I’m not really there.

don’t tell them I’m putting myself on hold

for anyone’s sake

or leaving out one single thing.

don’t tell them time is too much for me

or that I don’t like the ordinary sky

cause it’s not true.


if they can’t find me

tell them not to worry-

I want it that way.


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© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.