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Posts tagged “language

High Visibility Zen

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This post is about people you may know, from other media, who bring us excellent examples of zen principles and show us how they work in everyday life.

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Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear- Why Americans Are Afraid Of The Wrong Things. This book is an unflinching look at reality, the reality of how one of the most powerful and primal human emotions – fear – is being used to sell us everything from newspapers to burglar alarms, and to get us to vote for some very questionable people. If you are interested in REALITY you will love this book. It will probably make you angry, make you feel better, and tell you some very interesting things you probably didn’t know.

From the cover of the book: “In the age of terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, financial collapse, Amber Alerts, and vaccine scares, our society is defined by fear. But are we living in exceptionally dangerous times? In The Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception  of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. Glassner exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears, including advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases and politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime, drug use, and terrorism. In this enlarged and updated edition of a classic bestseller—more relevant now than when it was first published—Glassner reveals the price we pay for social panic.”

2003 Interview with Barry Glassner

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Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer- Week after week, Mr. Milan patiently, compassionately, intelligently, and sensitively reminds us that dogs are dogs, not people. He shows us that treating dogs like people are bound to cause problems, for both our dogs and ourselves. Week after week, the people he helps with their dogs are happily surprised at how well treating a dog like a dog works. Often as I am watching his television show I wonder how many dogs he has kept from being needlessly euthanized or given up to rescue organizations. The relief and happiness of the dog owners is obvious. He exemplifies zen leadership; stressing reality and balance, always remaining calm, patient, and a “firm correctness.” In his own words,  “I rehabilitate dogs, I train people.” And lucky for those of us who love and live with dogs, he does it very well.

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


Babaloo’s Chinese Brain is- – !GASP! Damaged!

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irst I find out my brain is Chinese and now this!

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These, it seems, are heady days for brain research. (Or maybe this is just what happens when you give men with advanced degrees a lot of research money and fancy computers and MRI’s to play with.) Apparently, according to the latest findings, menstrual cramps may permanently alter (that is, damage) the brain.

And you thought we had come a long way, baby(!) from the days when people believed menstruating women caused milk to sour and crops to fail! Now we are told it makes us retarded and brain damaged, and what’s more MRI proves it – computers can’t be wrong, of course.

For the effects of testosterone on the male brain, see here.

I was so alarmed by this frightening information, I hurried off to the test area of the Psychology Today website. You can’t imagine my relief when the non-verbal IQ test revealed that my IQ was actually up 2 points from the last time I was tested. Whew! Apparently divorce and menopause reverses the damage. So yes ladies, there is hope!

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As for the Chinese part, never one to be shy about such matters, I emailed one of the authors of the “culture wires our brains differently” studies. (See Babaloo’s Chinese Brain) I explained that I had read the information with great interest, but that I was puzzled to find my brain seems to be wired as though I am from Asian culture, when I’m actually a life-long American. I asked what the studies had found with regard to exceptions and deviations. He emailed back, asking me some questions, which I answered cheerfully and sent back to him. He emailed again, saying my brain does indeed seem to be wired Asian style, and that this is very unusual, and that there had been no other persons like me in the studies, so he was unable to give me any further information. I told him it’s ok, my brain is very happy the way it is, and that I was just curious.

So much for advanced degrees, computers, and MRIs!

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


OK – Time To Get Serious About Assumption

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N June of this year a new book was released, Supernatural Selection: How Religion Evolved, by Matt Rossano. The author is head of the psychology department at Southeastern Louisiana University. (I haven’t decided if I want to read this book yet, once you read this post you will understand why.) According to reviews, one of the main premises of the book is that “Religion made us human.” Already I have a problem. . . . . .

What exactly do we mean when we say “human’? Technically speaking we are animals, primates, homo sapiens.  Surely you have heard it said that humans and chimpanzees share 99% of DNA – what you may not have heard, or thought about is, one of the things this means is that a human and a chimpanzee could produce viable offspring. That’s how close we are! A very similar situation as is found with domestic dogs and wolves.

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So. . . .again, what exactly do we mean when we say “human’? There are some basic assumptions here, assumptions that I think can result in bad science, especially in the areas of psychology, sociology, and cultural anthropology.

First there is an assumption that “humans” are unique in a special way, superior somehow to other “animals”. Hmmmmmm. Let’s see, would you say that otters are superior to giraffes when it comes to living most of life in the water? Are bats superior to dogs when it comes to flying? Are bears superior to chinchillas when it comes to catching salmon to eat? Now, compared to a dog, humans are positively stupid when it comes to sense of smell. Compared to cats, humans are blind in the dark. Bonobo (a species of chimpanzee) social structure makes that of humans look horribly primitive. Hmmm, yes, chew on that one a bit – humans may not be the most highly socially evolved critter on this planet. And I have kept my examples within the class of mammals. Insects, critters that technically don’t even have brains, have adaptations that are truly brilliant compared to humans.

“Humans” are different, yes. But so are giraffes and dogs and chinchillas. What is actual is that nature (evolution) adapts each species to it’s environment. “Humans” have their adaptations and so does all the rest of life on this planet.

What about intelligence, consciousness, self-awareness, etc? Does this really set “humans” apart from the other “animals”?

Well, when it comes to intelligence, dolphins have bigger brains than we do, and may actually be more intelligent than people. There is a school of thought that emerged in the 1980’s that says we may not be equipped to correctly evaluate the intelligence of other species, because we are limited by our own adaptations and biology. As I said in a previous post, we only have one lens to look through, the “human” one. And how can we hold other species to the same standard we apply to people? Another way to say this is: Maybe you have to be a dolphin to correctly evaluate the intelligence of dolphins.

Science has debunked all the myths of what we want to believe sets us apart from the other animals so far: Other animals use tools, have symbolic language and complex communication, practice deception, form lifelong friendships, make choices and decisions, have some degree of self awareness, etc. It has been known since 1967 when it was written about by Desmond Morris in his book The Naked Ape, that dolphins, chimps, whales, and elephants have culture. Where mammals especially are concerned, the only real differences in any of these things are in degree, not kind.

So. Whatever else religion may or may not have done, it didn’t make us “human”. Nature, through evolution, made us what we are.

Now, lets look at some of the things “humans” do that other “animals” don’t. Other “animals” DON’T invent religions and then go to war over them. Other “animals” DON’T go to war over ideology. Other “animals” DON’T kill, maim, and torture others over religion. Other “animals” DON’T invent religion and then try to force it onto all the other “animals” through government, public policy, and culture.

Oh, they do fight, and some even have “wars” – ants and chimpanzees come to mind as warring creatures. But chimps go to war for only 3 reasons: territory, resources, and mates. Ants go to war for only 2 reasons: territory (expanding colonies literally need more physical space) and resources.

Interesting, no?

I think I’ll come back as a chinchilla in my next life!

Sources – related reading:

What Makes Humans Unique?

Are humans unique?

Do Animals Know Who they Are?

A Comparison of Some Similar Chimpanzee and Human Behaviors

Liberating Women – an interesting perspective from bonobo social structure

How ants carry on war

Apes of War – is it in our genes?

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


The Waters of March by Antonio Jobim

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I got an email today asking, “What is zen?” from someone who seemed very sincere. This, with a bit of further explanation, is how I chose to answer – it’s the lyrics to an old (circa 1970’s) Brazilian song. It’s long been a favorite of mine. I think it answers the question “What is zen?” perfectly. . . .  .

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A stick, a stone,
It’s the end of the road,
It’s the rest of a stump,
It’s a little alone

It’s a sliver of glass,
It is life, it’s the sun,
It is night, it is death,
It’s a trap, it’s a gun

The oak when it blooms,
A fox in the brush,
A knot in the wood,
The song of a thrush

The wind in the wood,
A cliff, a fall,
A scratch, a lump,
It is nothing at all

It’s the wind blowing free,
It’s the end of the slope,
It’s a beam, it’s a void,
It’s a hunch, it’s a hope

And the river bank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the end of the strain,
The joy in your heart

The foot, the ground,
The flesh and the bone,
The bend in the road,
A slingshot’s stone

A fish, a flash,
A silvery glow,
A fight, a bet,
The range of a bow

The bed of the well,
The end of the line,
The dismay in your face,
It’s a loss, it’s a find

A spear, a spike,
A point, a nail,
A drip, a drop,
The end of the tale

A truckload of bricks
in the soft morning light,
The shot of a gun
in the dead of the night

A mile, a must,
A thrust, a bump,
It’s a girl, it’s a rhyme,
It’s a cold, it’s the mumps

The plan of the house,
The body in bed,
And the car that got stuck,
It’s the mud, it’s the mud

Afloat, adrift,
A flight, a wing,
A hawk, a quail,
The promise of spring

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the promise of life
It’s the joy in your heart

A stick, a stone,
It’s the end of the road
It’s the rest of a stump,
It’s a little alone

A snake, a stick,
It is John, it is Joe,
It’s a thorn in your hand
and a cut in your toe

A point, a grain,
A bee, a bite,
A blink, a buzzard,
A sudden stroke of night

A pin, a needle,
A sting, a pain,
A snail, a riddle,
A wasp, a stain

A pass in the mountains,
A horse and a mule,
In the distance the shelves
rode three shadows of blue

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the promise of life
in your heart, in your heart

A stick, a stone,
The end of the road,
The rest of a stump,
A lonesome road

A sliver of glass,
A life, the sun,
A knife, a death,
The end of the run

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It’s the end of all strain,
It’s the joy in your heart
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© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.

The Waters of March © Antonio Jobim


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.


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.

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CONVERSATION:

[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
compassion.

[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
function.

[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
compassion.

[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
compassion.

[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.

END OF CONVERSATION

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

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