Thursday, March 09, 2017

Where does it all take place?

Just watching and listening to the world,

my world! The only one any of us will ever have.

Do you know where it all takes place?

In the body, in the body, in the body--where else?

The sheer impossibility that worlds exist anywhere else

is mind-boggling. Don't you think?

With loving attention, one can arrive at this sacred intimacy;

one can feel the worlds alive inside.

They cannot possibly be anywhere else, in living truth.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Resurrection of the Body: the Mind/Body Problem

In our last examination, we were left with the mind/body problem. Briefly, this problem stems from a conception of experience or subjectivity that seems to necessitate an answer to what is termed "the hard problem"; can the "physical" body, i.e., the brain, give rise to subjective experience--something so radically different than itself. Or, how can a physical body produce non-physical experience? How can subjective experience, i.e., first personal experience arise from something so very different? Let's take a look at this problem from another perspective.

The mind/body problem arises as a result of several presuppositions going unexamined. First, we have been historically conditioned to use the word "body" in a physical (i.e., biological or medical) sense. The body conceived to be this thing that houses a mind, including the self. We shall refer to this body as the "medical body." Allow me to illustrate. When are get sick, perhaps a flu, we think up a body that has been inhabited by a virus that causes very uncomfortable symptoms. From a medical or biological perspective, this conception is true. I don't think many would argue. However, the felt experience of the body displays something radically different. The "feeling body" is the experience of symptoms. The medical body is the body we conceive. It is a purely conceptual body. No one has ever perceived their whole body. We can see limbs but not our backs. We can see but we cannot perceive our eyes, except in the form of a reflection in a mirror or something that reflects light. But we do feel various symptoms such as hot with a fever, aching muscles, sore throat, etc. Basically, I am referring to the body as it is lived, not as it is thought. Our living body, and that is what I'll be calling it, is our experience body. The entirety of all experience takes place in our living bodies, not in our theoretical, biological, or medical bodies. The latter are purely conceptual. Now this is not to degrade the medical body in any way shape or form. But it is to say that any conceptual body will always be a product of thought. 

In the mind/body problem, we are conceiving of a medical body that somehow gives rise to first personal experience. However, if we suspend the concept of a medical or physical body we can adopt a more life-like body, the experience body. If we conceive of our bodies as the locus of all experience, even thought, the mind body problem dissolves. 

The same is true of the mind or consciousness. If we conceive of consciousness as something produced by the medical body, then we are stuck with the mind/body problem again. But, if we take note of how we actually live the body, then we might be brought to the point of realizing that we don't live with a mind or consciousness separate from the living or feeling body. We can certainly distinguish what we call "mental activity" from feelings, but we cannot separate feelings from any sort of mental activity, surprisingly even from thought. I don't think it much of an exaggeration to say that most of us are not aware of the feeling impact of thoughts as they are occurring. Frequently, it takes some sort of meditation or sensitivity practice to realize the intimate connection of thoughts and feelings. Yes, even thought takes place in feelings. 

So, what are we now left with? Well, our conception of the body is one of a lived body, not a theoretical one. Consequently, we are brought to realize that no living separation is possible; the separation is only an analytic process. We live body/mind we think body and mind. We do not live in a singular body inhabited by a mind, and consequently a self. This conception of "self" must dissolve along with the mind/body problem. More on that later.  

Sunday, March 05, 2017

A personal note on our blog....

I wish to let my readership, however small at present, know that despite the seemingly diverse topics covered in the blog, there is one primary intention. This intention is the alleviation of our suffering. I suspect that the diversity, and often incomplete nature of some of my posts, may lend to a feeling of confusion or, at the very least, misunderstanding. However, I wish to convey to you my sincere assurance that, no matter what the content of the various posts, their overall intention remains singular. There is not a day that goes by that I am not deeply distressed by the human faces, considerations, and "world" events that manifest our collective suffering. I am compelled to address this.

I have not provided much information with regard to my background simply because I am basically a private person. However, I will say that I have been trained in and have practiced meditation for over forty-five years. My academic background includes both undergraduate and graduate work at two of the finest universities in the U.S., Stony Brook University and Fordham University, both in New York. These schools provided me with a rather thorough education in both Eastern and Western philosophy as well as the history of religions. I am very grateful that, despite my limited means, I had the opportunity to study at these fine institutions and give back what I learned in my work as a college professor. My meditation background, or shall we say yogic training, began with a woman from India who brought a wealth of insight and compassion from India and built an Ashram in New York that still exists to this day. I was given the opportunity to learn from and work for her for over 22 years. I am forever in her debt for the path that she helped to provide for me. Needless to say, I have been extremely fortunate.

The main point I wish to convey here is that no matter what the blog topic the intention is "write only what is useful in the quest to attenuate human suffering." Whether I am addressing philosophy all the up the abstraction ladder to politics, the intention is the same. How each reader uses the material presented is, of course, idiosyncratic. I will do my best to make each blog entry relevant to my stated intention, but each reader bears the responsibility of "connecting the dots" making it work for their own life. Questions and comments are always welcome, but only if they are in keeping with the blog's stated intention.

Having said this, I welcome your participation.

Thank you,


Burning as living, Living as burning

On the Dangers of Translation

One of the most important texts of Mahayana Buddhism is the  Bodhipathapradipam ("Path to Awakening") by Dipamkara Shrijnana Ati...