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Writing Down Your Mind

Just pay attention. It's the key.

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

January 28, 2014 - 8:00 am
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I came to Buddhism, like a lot of people in the 60s, through Zen.

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I’ll warn you that the video is about 12 minutes long, but that’s a really good talk by Alan Watts, whose books were among my first teachers of Buddhism. There are probably a dozen columns in it, so it’s a real time saver.

Zen, as Alan explains, is widely imagined in the West to be anti-intellectual, but it really isn’t — it’s, instead, non-intellectual. It says that underneath the intellectual uinderstanding of Buddhism, there is a place where you are already the Buddha; Zen is, as Alan says, a way of directly pointing to that underlying reality that simply can’t be achieved intellectually.

So, of course, I’m going to write today about reading and writing and how my academic studies have affected my understanding.

I didn’t really start reading the sutras until … well, I guess it’s been quite a long time now, ten years or more, but seeing as I’ve been a Buddhist for something getting close to 50 years, it really came rather late in life. I started with the maha-prajña-paramita-sutra, the “Great Sutra at the Heart of Wisdom”. Fairly short, pithy, and very obscure on first reading. There are all these words for which the translations aren’t very satisfactory. So I started reading more widely, into the Pali Canon, the Tripitaka, and reading various people’s commentaries, and paying more attention to studying Sanskrit and Chinese.

This isn’t really foreign to Zen; there are lots of writings used in teaching Zen, and lots to be learned from them. I was thinking about listing some, but I think I’ll save that for another column. In the year I’ve been writing these columns, I’ve really found pretty much everything can be taken back to the Dharmachakra Sutra, the first teaching Buddha offered, directly after his Liberation. That’s where he first explains the Eightfold Path and the Four Great Truths.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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Charlie, I recommend -highly Zelazny's Lord of Light for a different take on the Buddha
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I *love* that book.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
"After it was over, a woman came up to me and asked if we could talk. She was a psychiatrist but also a science writer and said, "You said that you live in a flat emotional world—that is, that you treat everybody the same. That’s Buddhist." I don't know anything about Buddhism but she continued on and said, "It's too bad that the people close to you are so disappointed in being close to you. Any learned Buddhist would think this was great." I don't know what to do with that."

An interesting passage ftom this article:

http://m.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/life-as-a-nonviolent-psychopath/282271/

It strikes me as bogus he's defining a "warrior" psyche as psychopathic, I'll tell you that.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I just read that article myself, and have kindled the book. I don't know what I think about it yet.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
it gives them a place to go. It’s as if, being written down, they don’t have to be on my mind any longer.

That reminds me very much of the approach in "Getting Things Done". I think your columns are converging. ;-)
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, there's only one guy here. But yes, and in fact I'm noticing the same thing with my steno-pad GTD: things don't stay on my mind once they're written down, and I can return to whatever it is I'm trying to do.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...I’ve been a Buddhist for something getting close to 50 years..."

Curiosity has me by the throat. Have you in all this time ever experienced, or as some have it achieved, satori? Or is this a really dumb question?

42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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