Neurotheology

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  • Ryumon
    Member
    • Apr 2007
    • 1706

    Neurotheology

    If "we realize that mystical experiences originate from the same neurological mechanisms that underlie hallucinations ... I bet dollar to donut that the reality experienced by meditating Buddhists and praying nuns is entirely contained in their mind and is not a glimpse of a 'higher' realm, as tantalizing as that idea may be," he concluded.
    Exactly right, and I tend to discount most mystical experiences as dreamlike fantasy.

    Of course, my experience of Kirk's words right now is just a recreation within my neurological circuits, as is the experience of the sweet tea I am drinking (I think I am drinking) right now. Who is to say for sure which sweet taste is real? What is to tell me that there is a 'Kirk' behind those words (no offense, Kirk)?

    And we are left with the mystery of just how every twist and turn of physics, chemistry, earth development, biology and evolution twisted and turned just right to allow a brain so wired as to let me savor Kirk's words, plus all the rest that went into evolving a 'me' and a 'Kirk' ...

    In other words, it is a 'Koan' because there are mysteries. 'Great Doubt' because we cannot say for sure. All we have are our suspicions, this seeming miracle of being alive in a universe to ponder it all, and this life ... just like this cup of tea ... that seems to sit before us. I think.

    Agnostic Gassho, Jundo
    ---
    Ryūmon (Kirk)
    流文

    SAT/LAH

    I know nothing.
  • Urug
    Member
    • Jul 2007
    • 39

    #2
    Re: Neurotheology

    Originally posted by kirkmc
    If "we realize that mystical experiences originate from the same neurological mechanisms that underlie hallucinations ... I bet dollar to donut that the reality experienced by meditating Buddhists and praying nuns is entirely contained in their mind and is not a glimpse of a 'higher' realm, as tantalizing as that idea may be," he concluded.
    It seems to me that all our experiences originate from our neurological mechanisms. Including our "ordinary" perception of reality and everyday consciousness as well as mystical experiences and hallucinations.

    For me, part of what I think Buddha is teaching us is that our "normal" experience of consciousness is somehow flawed and that this leads to much of the suffering we experience ourselves and tend to share with each other. By practicing and meditating, I think we are in a way healing our neurological mechanisms, and returning to a more real experience of reality.

    I think the mystical experience may be our direct experience of reality here and now without the usual interpretative functions of our central nervous system interfering.

    As Socrates said in the movie Peaceful Warrior, "Sometimes you have to go out of your mind to come to your senses".

    Love and light to all.

    Namaste,

    Urug
    "You must be present to win"
    "The answer is not what you think"

    Comment

    • Ryumon
      Member
      • Apr 2007
      • 1706

      #3
      Urug,

      I have to disagree - I don't think anything is "flawed". That suggests that we have to fix something. My understand of the buddha's teaching is that we have to simply accept what is, and not try to fix things; when we try to fix or change things, that's what makes everything worse.

      Kirk

      BTW, it looks like my original post got deleted, and Jundo somehow assumed my identity to write about, well, his identity and mine. Intentional? :-)
      ---
      Ryūmon (Kirk)
      流文

      SAT/LAH

      I know nothing.

      Comment

      • Urug
        Member
        • Jul 2007
        • 39

        #4
        Hi Kirk,

        I think we may be actually saying something very similar, but are just saying it in different ways.

        I think the "flaw" (perhaps mistake would have been a better word) is our constant thinking, or perhaps more correctly our identification with our thinking mind. I agree with you that we as our mind can not fix this, since it is the constant doing of our mind that is creating the veil between us and reality, and in so doing creating suffering. When our mind is calm and we accept what is as it is and are here now, then we can directly experience what is, and that I think is the "mystical" experience.

        I think it is the conundrum of doing not doing (wei wu wei) that is difficult to express in words.

        Urug

        PS Thanks for clearing up what happened with your original post, I was a little confused by the one that seemed to be from you and Jundo at the same time. 8)
        "You must be present to win"
        "The answer is not what you think"

        Comment

        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39458

          #5
          Hi. This is Jundo (as Jundo),

          I would only say this about "mystical states". They are interesting, a lot of fun, wouldn't want to live there (nor could I ... especially since there is no "I" there). Much rather get back to the here and now. Also, how to interpret them: Are you touching the face of god, becoming one with Brahma, or simply feeling some endorphin rush of the brain??? None of the above?????

          I would much prefer to get back to the most magical, wondrous, incredible and miraculous state of all ... namely, buying paper clips, fighting with my wife, changing the oil in the car, hearing from the dentist that I need a root canal, watching the war news on tv and crying, celebrating a niece's birthday.

          That is what we have to embrace, realizing that there is nothing to fix, dropping all resistance and preferences. I think.

          Yes, there is nothing flawed (even the flaws) when we stop viewing them as flaws. And what we must fix is our desire to fix.

          Gassho, Jundo
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

          Comment

          • Urug
            Member
            • Jul 2007
            • 39

            #6
            Hi Jundo,

            Thank you. And thank you for your wonderful site and teachings.

            Your comment on mystical states rings true for me. Especially "...there is no 'I' there".

            I am still having trouble however, fully grasping the concept of nothing to fix.

            That is what we have to embrace, realizing that there is nothing to fix, dropping all resistance and preferences. I think.

            Yes, there is nothing flawed (even the flaws) when we stop viewing them as flaws. And what we must fix is our desire to fix.
            I had thought that the meaning was that I as my thinking mind could not fix the problem because the problem was identifying myself as my thinking mind. I thought the Buddha's message was to relinguish my concept of myself as my mind and to open myself to the moment as it is. To be here now as it all is now. To be the silent witness behind the thoughts and emotions. To then be able to still act without attachment to outcome. Doing without doing or wei wu wei.

            If there is "nothing to fix", what is the purpose of studying Buddhism or meditating? Is not trying to "drop resistance and preferences" or fixing "our desire to fix" trying to fix or change ourselves?

            I am trying to grasp the idea of "nothing to fix" (or "everything is perfect the way it is"), although for me it often becomes a paradox. Can you help me better understand what you mean by nothing to fix?

            Thank you.

            Namaste,

            Urug
            "You must be present to win"
            "The answer is not what you think"

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39458

              #7
              Howdy Urug,

              Originally posted by Urug

              I am still having trouble however, fully grasping the concept of nothing to fix.

              ...

              I had thought that the meaning was that I as my thinking mind could not fix the problem because the problem was identifying myself as my thinking mind. I thought the Buddha's message was to relinguish my concept of myself as my mind and to open myself to the moment as it is. To be here now as it all is now. To be the silent witness behind the thoughts and emotions. To then be able to still act without attachment to outcome. Doing without doing or wei wu wei.
              Well, I like your description. It is right, I think. In Zazen, we learn to taste a self-less, non-thinking, "open to the moment as it is", here and now, silent behind the thoughts and emotions, without attachments, without seeking outcomes, without doing .... beyond being/not being "way to be". We do experience that way to be via the radical "non-seeking, non-judging" I preach about around here.

              But ... mountains are mountains again. We can't live like that. So we must live in a world of self, thinking, time passing, places to go, choosing, likes and dislikes, talking, concerned for the future, possessing, seeking outcomes, doing. Otherwise, we could not do anything as simple as screwing in a lightbulb (we would be content in the dark) or catching a bus (where would we wish to go??).

              However, it is not the self same world of self, thinking, time passing, choosing, etc. that we probably knew before our Practice of Zazen.

              Now, you see ... it is a world of self/self-less, thinking not thinking [aka non-thinking], time passing in the moment just as-it-is, places to go while always here and now, silent while talking, concerned for the future while non-resisting events, possessing things to which we are not attached, working for success without seeking outcomes, having likes and dislikes without likes and dislikes, doing by non-doing ...

              ... like a fellow with a split personality, but in a good way. Living on two levels not even one, like two sides of a single coin.

              Got it?

              That's when, for example, you work hard to save money for a new house for you and your family, yet can smile as lightning strikes and it burns down. That is when you can choose your favorite ice cream flavor (a metaphor for all of life, not just ice cream), yet accept whatever flavor you are handed. Something like that.


              If there is "nothing to fix", what is the purpose of studying Buddhism or meditating? Is not trying to "drop resistance and preferences" or fixing "our desire to fix" trying to fix or change ourselves?
              Yes. Our goal is to get to goallessness. How to get to goalessness? By radically dropping even the goal of getting to goallessness.

              Yes, we need to fix our desire to fix. How to fix our desire to fix? By radically dropping even our desire to fix our desire to fix.

              I am trying to grasp the idea of "nothing to fix" (or "everything is perfect the way it is"), although for me it often becomes a paradox.
              I like to say that life is rarely "perfect" [meaning how we would judge things if they were 100% as we would like them] but they are "perfectly what they are" [when we give up likes and dislikes about them]. And to repeat, we give up likes and dislikes, but do not.

              Gassho, Jundo
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Urug
                Member
                • Jul 2007
                • 39

                #8
                Thank you Jundo.

                That helps.

                The paradox of life unfolds in the present moment.

                Gassho,

                Urug
                "You must be present to win"
                "The answer is not what you think"

                Comment

                • Jundo
                  Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                  • Apr 2006
                  • 39458

                  #9
                  Originally posted by HezB

                  Hi Jundo,

                  What's your view on psychotherapy and, in particular "Buddhist Psychotherapy" where meditation techniques are employed as part of the therapy?

                  Regards,

                  Harry.
                  I can recommend Zazen to almost every human being on the planet.

                  That being said, I do not think that Zazen is a cure for many things ... it will not fix a bad tooth (just allow you to be present with the toothache ... you had better see a dentist, not a Zen teacher), cure cancer (although it may have some healthful effects and make one more attune to the process), etc. There are many psychological problems or psycho/medical problems such as alcoholism that may require other therapies, although Zen can be part of a 10-Step program or such (a few Zen teachers in America with a drinking problem had to seek outside help). Serious depression can have physiological origins, and respond quickly to pharmaceutical intervention (but I think that too many people confuse basic sadness and "the blues" with something requiring a pill). In fact, Zazen can often trigger or irritate certain psychological conditions, and I have witnessed its leading to a breakdown in a couple of folks during retreats.

                  That being said too, I do think that we run to psychotherapists too quickly in the West. Our way is not about analyzing our thoughts/emotions and cruel childhoods, it is not about needing to be happy or free from anxiety. Instead, it is about freeing ourselves from thoughts/emotions and not wallowing in the past, and embracing our human condition even when we are not happy or are anxious.

                  So, I do not really know how to answer except to say that I would not recommend Zazen combined with psychotherapy to someone except in a case of special need. Zazen is perfectly sufficient for most folks in most situations, I think.

                  Gassho, Jundo

                  PS- Certain forms of depression can involve "overthinking problems," or confusing emotions at the moment with "how the world really is." For example, I went through a long depression as a teenager (lasted until I was about 21). I thought the world really black and hopeless, like being at the bottom of a dark well, because that is how my thoughts and emotions made me view things. I now see that, when my thoughts and emotions changed, the world changed instantly! The world did not change, only my experience of it.

                  I also "overthought" problems, magnifying small problems into mountains. Again, I now see that it was my mind at work. Zazen has been shown to be very effective in treatment of that kind of depression and neurosis.
                  ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                  Comment

                  • Ryumon
                    Member
                    • Apr 2007
                    • 1706

                    #10
                    Yes, that overthinking is one of the causes of depression. And meditation can help people think less. And also take things in perspective more.

                    Kirk
                    ---
                    Ryūmon (Kirk)
                    流文

                    SAT/LAH

                    I know nothing.

                    Comment

                    • Davidseon
                      Member
                      • Jun 2007
                      • 10

                      #11
                      I think there is nothing wrong in mysticism, " A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience", Buddha was a Mystic. I look at "Mysticism" as true insight. However, a mystic experience is only an answer, one cannot rely on Mysticism for food shelter or clothing. This brings me to the 10 Oxhearding Pictures. These pictures show a journey from begining to end, with a mystic experience in the middle. Korean Zen Master Seun Sahn, refered to it as the compas of Zen.
                      When we start our quest, wer'e after something more than we already have (enlightenment). As our journey progresses, we have a glimpse of the mind, 1st pic. Finding the tracks, we progress Through to seeing the ox, right through to no ox no I. Eventually though, we return with gift bestowing hands, 10th pic. This last pic. is returning to the start, or in the Zen compass, travelling 360degrees. However now we have real insight. We still have to work, cook and converse with each other , though now through this mystical insight, we know why!
                      David
                      It's like a finger pointing to the moon, Look at the moon stupid.
                      First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

                      Comment

                      • Ryumon
                        Member
                        • Apr 2007
                        • 1706

                        #12
                        Why do you say the Buddha was a mystic? There is no proof that I know of that suggests this...

                        Kirk
                        ---
                        Ryūmon (Kirk)
                        流文

                        SAT/LAH

                        I know nothing.

                        Comment

                        • Davidseon
                          Member
                          • Jun 2007
                          • 10

                          #13
                          The reason I believe the Buddha to be a mystic is: The life of the Buddha states, that he sat under the Bodhi tree untill he had the answers for which he was searching (enlightenment). This was a mystical experience.
                          If one has not achieved (attained) Enlightenment, how would one know if a mystic experience is valid or not, otherwise it's pure conjecture.
                          David
                          It's like a finger pointing to the moon, Look at the moon stupid.
                          First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

                          Comment

                          • Ryumon
                            Member
                            • Apr 2007
                            • 1706

                            #14
                            If I'm not mistaken - and Jundo will clear this up - the Buddha never preached any mysticism, and told people not to look for mysticism, but rather to look at everyday reality and understand it. Why do you suggest that his enlightenment was in any way a mystical experience? It was simply an understanding. (Unless we're disagreeing on the meaning of the term mystical - I tend to see it as being something with flashing lights, colors, out-of-body experiences, etc.)

                            Kirk
                            ---
                            Ryūmon (Kirk)
                            流文

                            SAT/LAH

                            I know nothing.

                            Comment

                            • Davidseon
                              Member
                              • Jun 2007
                              • 10

                              #15
                              If you check my earlier post, you will notice that I described a mystic experience as real insight. I don't know where you got the idea of flashing lights etc.
                              David
                              It's like a finger pointing to the moon, Look at the moon stupid.
                              First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.

                              Comment

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