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Susan Law
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This is a document being entered from my ChromeBook - and I think perhaps I should look through the documents on this blog to see if they're worth keeping. If not, dump them and the blog. Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2014 at New For 2010
Thanks for your comment Pete. You asked what was different about Thomas Merton. He was one of the first monastics to become interested in the hermit's lifestyle in the current revival of that lifestyle. At the time he became a monk, in the 1940's, there were two small orders of hermits, the Camaldolese and the Carthusians and they had no monasteries at all in the US. Merton joined the Trappists - who were so-called cenobitic monks. That means they placed their emphasis on communal life. The Trappists worked together, prayed together, ate together, studied together, and even slept in large dormitories where each monk had only a simple cubicle. No one had a room of any sort where they could go and shut the door and be alone. There was no privacy or solitude at all. From very early in Merton's monastic life he showed a real desire for solitude. Bit by bit he worked toward it, and finally a hermitage was built and he was allowed to spend time in it. At first he had to return to the main monastery for meals, prayers, and at night. Later he was allowed to live in the hermitage. This in itself was highly unusual at that time. So - from an external point of view, his life in the hermitage was very different from the lives of his brother monks. Unfortunately for Merton's readers, and those who benefited from his writing, he did not say much at all about his inner life. He talked a lot about monastic life, about the bare facts of it, both in the hermitage and outside it. But his deep spiritual life - that he kept quiet about. Griffin, on the other hand, is very open about his own spiritual experiences. He writes beautifully about what it was like to be in that isolation and solitude. My assumption is that this may give the reader, in addition, some clues about what it was like for Merton to be there.
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Hi Tony - Thanks for another comment. Yes, Ingram took the term Dark Night from Christianity - where it is most fully spelled out in a poem by St. John of the Cross called "The Dark Night of the Soul" and in St. John's own commentary on that poem. There is a lot in Christian literature developed from this. Strangely, the poem itself seems to describe spiritual 'consolation' in rather sensual if not erotic terms - and yet it is really about a time of no consolation, which in the Christian view can persist for years. Personally, without the commentaries, I would not really understand what the poem was getting at - but then, it was intended as a sort of short-hand expression of a profound experience. Here's a reference to a good Wikipedia article on the topic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Night_of_the_Soul I'll have to look at Ingram's book again to see what he says about visualizing and chanting - but in general, as I said, the material I've read within the Vajrayana tradition makes no mention of the sort of granulation or fragmentation of sensory experience that Ingram and folks on his forum talk about. I have no doubt that such experience is part of the meditative path to enlightenment - it would appear that, depending on method, the path can vary a lot. Do you, or does Ingram, equate the dark night with "the suffering caused by maintaining the illusion of self?" Thanks again, Susan
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Hi Tony - Thanks for your comment. It's great that you had such good experiences - personally, I think they're encouraging, but not to be grasped, etc. etc. I've been thinking lately of adding some new entries under the "Dark Night" heading because it's a topic under very wided discussion, a discussion that sometimes seems pretty confused or confusing. I certainly don't have much in the way of answers myself - but I'd like to get a better handle on the terminology. I really respect Daniel Ingram and have appreciated his book, and also his forum, at least some of the posts. However, my own path and experience are a lot different from his - all the vibrations, etc. are something I have never encountered. I follow Vajrayana Buddhism which makes heavy use of mantra repetition accompanied by elaborate visualization - I think this gives very different sorts of results at what I suspect is the 'intermediate' level. Though there is no mention in traditional Vajrayana texts of something as defined as a 'dark night', there are plenty of cautions about difficult reactions, bad patches, and so on, although these seem to vary a great deal among individuals. There are some people working on this issue from an academic perspective - most notably, Willoughby Britton http://research.brown.edu/myresearch/Willoughby_Britton She is involved in something called Cheetah House https://cheetahhouse.wordpress.com/the-dark-night-project/resources-and-online-support/ - there are a lot of good resources there. Take care, Susan
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Hi Maggie - Thank you for your comments too. In regard to renunciation you remarked, "I wonder if in fact the reason it draws one more as time goes by is that at a very deep level it is no longer 'asceticism' but rather what one knows one must do to sustain and be open to the gifts that practice offers?" Yes; exactly. It is what one must do (and I confess to radical failure myself.) I think one of the things that makes this difficult is that the result is a 'gift' - through renunciation I can not get anything - it can only render me more capable of receiving. Without some sense of what the source of these gifts is, and trust in it, it's a pretty hopeless process given its unpredictability. Susan
Toggle Commented Jul 8, 2012 on Great Freedom at On Trying To Be Buddhist
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Thanks for your comment, Amy. I don't remember the end of the dream - and can't find any notes of it. Sorry... By the way - I also went to Smith.
Toggle Commented Jul 3, 2011 on What Pattern? at On Trying To Be Buddhist
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Thanks for your comment, Greg. I don't always agree with Warner, but always find him worth reading.
Toggle Commented Jun 16, 2011 on Times Are Changing at On Trying To Be Buddhist
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A very simple point. You said, " Buddhist who believe they are Bodhisattvas are not. They are deluded." This can be interpreted several ways - but all of them seem flawed, in my opinion. Are you saying that Buddhists who are truly Bodhisattvas know that they are such - so those who only believe it are mistaken? My guess is that this is not your point - it is too trivial. If you are not making such a distinction between knowing and believing, then are you saying that there are no Bodhisattvas at all, and so someone who thinks they are a Bodhisattva is mistaken? Or are you perhaps saying that if there are Bodhisattvas, they are unaware of the fact so that if they say they are, they are wrong, according to their own understanding. Neither of those views seems at all satisfactory. So what do you mean? On a different point, regarding theosis - the Orthodox position is that theosis is "becoming by grace what God is by nature." That "by grace" is essential. It is also what differentiates the Orthodox from Buddhists - for some of us at least consider that we are by nature what the Buddha is. In addition, the Roman Catholic church also accepts the view of theosis although it gets rather complicated.
Toggle Commented Feb 4, 2011 on Transcendent paths at The Zennist
You said, "It is only possible that full enlightenment is without beliefs. Thus, Zen without beliefs really means final knowledge. It is also impossible, short of enlightenment, to be without beliefs..." Excellent point. That's it. Before enlightenment, one can choose to walk with the crutches of belief, crawl without them, or maybe just lie in the dirt.
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2010 on Zen without beliefs at The Zennist
Nice extended metaphor, imho.
Hi Paul - Thanks for your comments. I agree with you and hope to write a bit more on these topics. I also agree that there are facets of aging one can only see through aging itself. And theyre not all bad.
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Mar 15, 2010
As I noted yesterday, I did not get to the early sitting. In addition, I didn't do the exercising I'd hoped to start. This morning, however, went better. Starting at 9:15AM I got my sitting in. This was made much easier because I'd gotten to bed early last night, and as a result, rose right when my alarm went off (8AM) and got moving. My pattern has been to sit up late watching junk on TV because I'm too tired to do all the get-ready-for-bed stuff that needs doing. Occasionally I'll run into something really interesting and then I stay... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2010 at New For 2010
Decided to use the date as title - easier to sort out that way. Yesterday went fine, but this morning, as I was finishing my tea, Diane (Dot's daughter) showed up, and came in to chat. We were interested, of course, wanting news on progress in selling the house. She was here for about an hour - so for today, I'm giving myself a pass. A problem I've run into in the past is that as I get more organized, I also get more rigid - positively impatient when anything interferes with my schedule. Not good. Meanwhile - I decided... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2010 at New For 2010
Hi again, Luke - I find Ingram's writing helpful and convincing. But each person must judge for himself of course. I totally agree it would be interesting to have him as a doctor.
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OK - my task for the day is done. Sat - a bit longer than yesterday. The longer part was made easier by the fact that I was up earlier, and so had more time for everything. Even though I was tired, I was not tempted to stop early. In terms of changing the definition of the habit - yesterday I was thinking of specifying thirty minutes rather than an hour. Now I'm thinking of thirty to forty-five (with more always an option.) But if more is always an option, why bother with specifying a range? Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2010 at New For 2010
Third day - I've already done my sitting this morning (and I would have to have done it to be logged in here!) I was thinking back this morning over the number of methods I've tried in the past few years - Getting Things Done - and similar schemes. I do build habits, and one or two have persisted (putting out my vitamins in the morning, for example.) Most are great for awhile and then fade. So - perhaps what I need is a "meta-habit" - I need to include in my list of new habits to establish one that... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2010 at New For 2010
OK - yesterday I started. I did sit in the morning, before doing anything else. In addition, I set up this blog as the 'public commitment' part. Then, this morning, I sat again. So far so good. I also see the possibility of more modifications to my plan. First since my second habit, exercising before lunch, hits a different time of my day from the first one, perhaps I could overlap them rather than working on them in a strictly serial fashion. If I get one full week completed for my first habit, maybe I could add in the first... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2010 at New For 2010
I'm trying to set in some new habits for this year. A web site, 6 Changes, that I came across a couple of days ago presents a good method which includes making one's efforts public. So that's what I'm going here. I've modified the method slightly, and come up with this: Habits. Pick 5 habits for the first half of 2010. Pick 1 of the 5 habits to start with. Commit as publicly as possible to creating this new habit in 1 month. Break the habit into 5 baby steps, starting with a ridiculously easy step. Example: if you want... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2010 at New For 2010
Hi Luke - Yes, Ingram's claim is a bold one, and has raised a lot of eyebrows. He discusses this situation in several places in his book, on his website, and elsewhere. One of his main points is that a person can tell when they have reached the various levels, and it can be a good thing to be open about achievements, at least where it is appropriate, especially to encourage others that it is possible. I think this is a good point. On the other hand, a lot of people think they have attained levels that they have not - and telling all these people apart is very tricky. I have my own way to distinguish - I find that when I'm reacting with a lot of ego to someone, it's very often because they are also demonstrating egotism. And in reading Ingram's book, I had no ego-reaction whatsoever. So, based on this very personal yard-stick, I think his claim to arahat-hood has a lot of merit in it.
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Thanks for your comment. Labels - to me, they're words that represent concepts, and concepts, according to Websters, are ideas "comprehending the essential attributes of a class or logical species." They summarize a lot of information. So - to say I'm Buddhist, or am trying to be, is a condensed way of expressing my intention to adhere to what I understand of the teachings of the Buddha. In general, that's what people mean when calling themselves or others Buddhist. The use of labels and the use of concepts, are huge topics - they both are necessary to normal thinking, but also are misleading and do not represent reality.
Toggle Commented Dec 8, 2009 on What View? at On Trying To Be Buddhist
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Hello Elizabeth - You asked, "So it's like an illusion, moment by moment, and all your experiences are mind?" Not quite - all my experiences as I perceive them, are constructs of my mind. The perceptions themselves in their complete forms are some kind of illusion, just as, for example, the image of a constellation in the sky is an illusion. That's an extreme example, but I think the process is similar in all perceptions. I'm not sure.
Toggle Commented Aug 27, 2009 on My Mind on Tape Delay at On Trying To Be Buddhist
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Hi Joan - Thanks very much for your comment. I think a large part of the difference here lies in the theoretical understanding in Christianity that God is permanent, and also that we are not identical to God (except possibly thru grace, as the orthodox theologians sometimes say;) whereas in Buddhism there is emptiness that is ultimate - and 'luminous' in nature - and we are not separate from that, tho not identical either - gets rather subtle and rarefied here. The point is that the Christian view as an intellectual or conceptual view conflicts with meditative/contemplative experience whereas the Buddhist view is consistent with it. Ultimately in both Christianity and Buddhism, experience trumps concepts, even though the conceptual structure is essential in both for its discipline and guidance. But this lack of outright conflict between the conceptual and the experiential eases one source of difficulty. As you put it, "Buddhists anticipate the experience of emptiness, so it's not a shock to them..." I think Buddhists tend much less to encounter emptiness as utter void. Even so, there are plenty of others difficulties. No path is easy. What does being a secular Carmelite mean?
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Hi Sammy - Thanks for the comment - I really understand your feeling about viewing the Free Tibet video. The sense of helplessness really makes it difficult. To some extent maybe it helps to find some way to do something. Contribute, write letters to people who are in a position to make a difference, offer prayers, etc. Susan
Toggle Commented May 9, 2009 on Ignorance at On Trying To Be Buddhist
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Hi Sammy - Merry Christmas to you too. Just last night I read a sutra on how you must practice while you can comfortably - if you are to have any hope of doing so when the going gets tough. Take care.
Toggle Commented Dec 23, 2007 on Be Happy at On Trying To Be Buddhist
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