Monday, July 29, 2013
How Do Surfers and Waterpeople Utilize Zen Ideas Honestly? Part 2
Author Studying Buddhism in the Barrel!
Zen for Surfers and Water people. How Do We Utilize Zen Ideas In An Honest Manner?
By Dr. Len Barrow (Asian/Polynesian Religion Specialist)
Note Please Read Part One as this Article Is Prefaced by It
The historical Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) noticed and elaborated on a linguistic mismatch between how reality is described by language and how reality actually manifested. As an example he noticed that a chair is not actually a chair even though it was represented by the word- ”chair”. The chair was just a linguistic convention, a common referent, that everyone agreed upon (in common language convention) to call this otherwise random “pile of wood”. The Buddha rather saw the chair as it was in the ultimate reality of inter-being or emptiness which is explained in part one of this series.
(Note: A chair is used as a approximate example for explanation purposes)
Buddhist Logic reveals the following. The chair is actually an amazingly vast ecosystem of sorts. The chair included parts of the tree that it was made from. The tree itself, from which the chair was made, needed the nutrients of the earth for it to grow. The nutrients needed the geology of the whole earth to manifest! The tree also needed the sun to grow. The tree needed a woodsman and a craftsman to make the chair and all their ancestors to bring the craftsman to be hence the chair into being. The sun needed other stars to hold it in perfect position (via gravity) to shine on the tree. The list of inter-relationships, ecosystems,social ecosystems and interbeing are endless. In this manner the Buddha rather saw the chair not as a chair but rather as "interbeing" or as what is called emptiness.
The Buddha was careful to point out that chairs do indeed exist on a conventional level (as we sit on them in conventional reality) but asked us to look beyond the linguistic convention of the chair to the whole universe of inter-relationships behind it (ITS ULTIMATE EXPRESSION) which is termed inter-being by the great Vietnamese Monk Mr. Han and emptiness by his holiness the Dalai Lama.
It is important to note that in this this argument there exists absolutely no “chair substance” that exists in the chair to make it an individuated, individual chair. This is a key point as we progress to Buddhism’s analysis of the self.
Just as the chair manifestation elicited linguistic problems the historical Buddha noticed and elaborated on a similar linguistic mismatch between how the self is conventionally viewed by language and how the self actually manifests in reality. So let us look at this issue like this. We conventionally refer to each other as selves. We have linguistically agreed with each other via shared language that we will call this pile of flesh and bones and so- on a “self”. One must ask if this is a logical view of the self.
Well if a self truly existed on its own power, by itself (as conventional western reality has it), it would have to have a type of “self-substance “; which would allow us to exist as individuals. This is the philosophy of the Westerner Renee Descartes which we blindly accept today. It is summed up “I think therefore I am”. In short this is the philosophy of “individualism and dualism” which is held in such high regard in western society. The self is set apart from nature as an individual on its own power which controls nature and others through manipulation, force and sometimes violence. If you have any doubt about this, look at what western culture (among other cultures) has done to its environment and its tragic history of wars. All cultures (whether Asians or whatever) fight but the westerners took it to another level in WW1 and beyond. This follows the Western philosophy of individualism and dualism. As surfers we have a better chance to see through this profound ignorance which is termed “Avidya” in Buddhism. If this is irritating you, you should stop reading this now as here is where the Buddhist philosophy gets very profound and truly mind blowing.
Buddhist and many hard core surfers like myself find the argument of individualism and dualism to be extremely flawed and a source of great suffering. I suppose Zen Buddhists notice something while meditating while surfers notice some different reality by surfing. Let us take a Buddhist argument of how a self exists in its ultimate logical manifestation.
If I am Len in individualism and its related philosophy, a Len substance or soul must permeate my body in acccepted model of the theory of Renee Descartes. In individualism where the individual cannot be divided, and dualism following the Philosophy of Renee Descartes which we blindly follow; ” what is in my body is called Len” and “what is outside of my body is not Len”. Yet is this reality possible?
Let me do a funny thought experiment to analyze the above question. Let me take my liver or "Len's" liver (My first “Name” is Len) Do the cells have little labels on them that say Len’s Liver? No; that is ludicrous. Does my liver have a little soul or self-substance that exists in it. No. No one has ever found one. In fact the liver can be transplanted into another individual. Let us say that that liver gets transplanted into “Fred”. Does it become Fred’s liver (for it is his body?, or is it?!). Do little signs appear on the transplanted liver cells saying ‘this is now Fred’s liver”? No. Does the Fred’s liver, attain a new Fred’s liver self-substance or soul. No. No one has ever found one.
Thus the liver completely and totally lacks a self or self-substance and can be transplanted into another individual. The kidneys lack a self, soul or self-substance and can be transplanted also. Arms have been transplanted! Arms lack a self and a self-substance or individual soul. IN FACT NO PART OF THE BODY HAS AN INDIVIDUAL SELF SUBSTANCE; THUS A SELF IN AN INDIVIDUALISTIC AND DUALISTIC VIEW (AS HELD MY WESTERN MATERIAL REALITY) IS COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE. This is Buddhism’s basis of the idea of Anatta or no self.
In the end we find the self is made totally of non-self-components. Our selves are an inter-being of proteins, minerals, carbons among other amazing nonself things and forces! How exciting. This is amazing to me. Not one part of us can be said to be made of our own self element. We are empty. It is that simple. We are empty as we are filled with everything in the entire universe!
As surfers, I think we can notice this in the ocean. Have you ever been floating in the water and gotten a feeling of complete unity with the universe in the ocean. The self simply disappears into interbeing. This is honestly one of the reasons why I surf. My Roshi (Zen Teacher); the eponymous Zen Master Aitken Roshi once told me “you have some understanding…….because you surf” Maybe? Could it be so? Let’s take our sport and really try to understand what we are doing in a Zen manner. More importantly let us let what we learn in Zen and the surf influence how we treat nature and other humans even if they seem different to us! In the end, let us be honest, kind, devoid of greed and harm. The other alternative is violence against Mother Nature other humans and the like. What kind of world would you like? Look in the mirror.
What I am getting at is very abstract and complex yet really quite simple. I will stop here to keep things at least partially understandable. There is still more to come. Stay tuned for part three in a few days! If you are a bit shocked at the above analysis, don’t worry. I still blow my mind to this day when I think of this matter.
Dr. Len Barrow (Polynesian and Asian Religion Specialist)
Occasional Letters, July 22, 2013