And Your Ass Will Follow….

Dont-PanicChapter 70 of Shobogenzo is called Hotsu-Bodaishin or ‘Establishment of the Bodhi-mind.’ Whereas Chapter 69 was a quick trip through Bodhi-mind for the lay public, this chapter is a more technical discussion of the same topic for Monks and Nuns. Shit just got real. What’s really exciting about this chapter (and let’s face it after 69 chapters anything is gonna get me excited) is that it includes something that Nishijima refers to as “The Theory of the Momentary Appearance and Disappearance of the Universe” or “The Theory of Instantaneousness.”  This feels very much like Douglas Adams territory to me…

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” ~ Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Dogen kind of builds on this by relating the meaning of life, the universe and everything to action. Nishijima surmises:

1) “Life is just a series of moments of action.” (p.225)
2) “Once we have done an act we can never return to the past to undo it.”
3) “At the same time  we can never perform an act until its time comes to the present.”
4) “An act is always done just at the moment of the present.”
5) “The  moment of the present is cut off from the moment immediately before it and the moment immediately after it.”
6) “We can never act in the past and never act in the future.”
7) “Our life is momentary and the whole Universe appears and disappears at every moment.”

There are some chaos magicians working with quantum ideas who argue that in fact you can create embedded events now which trigger in the future and likewise you can do an action now that changes the past and I’ll come onto that later. For me, the seven arguments outlined above are enough to be working with and are more satisfying and dare I say it verifiable. So what are the kinds of mind that we need to consider here?

1) Citta – or thinking mind.
2) Hridaya – reason
3) Vriddha – which I am going to sum up as wisdom based on experience

Bodhi mind connects with thinking mind  – ‘citta.’ As with the previous chapter, Dogen attempts to describe and define what exactly he means by mind:

“The mind is not innate and it does not now suddenly arise; it is neither one nor many; it is not natural and it is not formed; it does not abide in our body, and our body does not abide in the  mind…. it is neither of the past nor of the future; it is neither present nor absent, it is not of a subjective nature, it is not of an objective nature, it is not of a combined nature, and it is not of a causeless nature….” (p.226) Establishment of Bodhi-mind  seems to happen in moments of “empathy between a master and disciple,” the so-called “mystical communication of the truth” (fn 10 p.226). I much prefer to think of this as being about the direct experience of “wisdom” or Do/tao in Zazen described as “the harmonized state of body-mind in Zazen; it is not a means to an end but is complete in itself.” (fn 9 same page.)  This approach may be more helpful for us in the 21st Century as it downplays (but doesn’t eliminate) the role of the teacher – an interesting debate going on in American Buddhism at the moment summed up recently at Hardcore Zen (even if Brad Warner gets his knickers in a twist about gender and pronouns but let’s leave that for a future post I’m gonna do on his Sex and Zen book….) Also, as Dogen writes, even if you do somehow luck out into Bodhi-mind there are kalpas and kalpas of practice to get through so everyone else can get on board too:

“Constantly making this my thought:
How can I make living beings
Able to enter the supreme truth
And swiftly realize a buddha’s body?”

soupnaziSo, no bodhi-mind for you (to paraphrase The Soup Nazi) unless there’s bodhi-mind for everyone. Dogen suggests that bodhi-mind has a networked, emergent quality, it’s not in our minds, it’s not in others’ minds but it “appears” (p.227) when we give up or let go of any identification with self, other, man, woman, “head, eyes, marrow, brain, body, flesh, hands and feet…citta the thinking mind of the present, is neither close nor distant and neither of the self nor of others….” (p.227) We’ve just gotta give it up, baby give it up, give it up. All of this rests or relies upon the “instantaneous arising and vanishing of all things” in an instant. (p.288) Dogen talks about a ksana or an instant and 65 ksanas equal one snap of the fingers and in each one five aggregates arise and vanish…Dogen breaks this down further and further but the main point is that in one moment a lot of stuff happens:

“In sum, as we pass from living existence,  into middle existence and from middle existence into the next living existence, all things move in a continuous process, ksana by ksana.” FYI the stages of existence are 1)birth existence – existence at the moment of one’s birth, 2) original existence – the living of one’s life 3) death-existence “existence at the moment of one’s death and 4) middle existence “an intermediate stage through which conscious beings are supposed to pass following the moment of death” (fn 22 p229) And of course what is meant by middle existence is compost if you go into the ground, or ash if you choose to go up in flames. Buddhist-pagan blog doesn’t believe in reincarnation or an after life. Deal with it.

So, our lives are an experience of extremely fast “instantaneous arising, vanishing and flowing.” (p.230) and within this we vow to help others to understand this and experience Bodhi-mind before we do. However, once we have established bodhi-mind “we should steadfastly guard it, never regressing or going astray.” (p.231). You think anuttara-samyak-sambodhi is da bomb? Well, bodhi-mind knocks it into a hat and then launches the hat into outer space. Blimey! There are lots of reasons it can all go pear-shaped though,  but essentially not having a good teacher and not hearing the right teachings and losing sight of cause and effect are the key ones along with caving in to the five desires of property, sexual love, food and drink, fame and sleep – all things I quite like myself so no bodhi-mind for me….

Behave yourself, says Dogen and avoid demons. Yay. Demons. Demons of hindrance, demons of the five aggregates, demons of death and celestial demons.  Like I said previously, I don’t believe in demons (except the ones in our heads) but demons of five aggregates are interesting, I think because it’s possible to approach them psychologically and bio-socially  –

Lorne - cool demon.

Lorne – cool demon.

Matter, feeling, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness + the body’s four elements(earth, water, fire, wind)  plus matter made of four elements and matter sensed through our sense organs = the aggregate of matter + feelings + countless thoughts + pleasure/displeasure = habits that “accommodate mental states such as greed, anger, and so on….the aggregate of conduct.” (p.233) + six senses and their six objects (form, sound, odour, taste, tangible objects and “objects of the mind such as thoughts, wishes, ideas, attributes, patterns, movements and so on…. ” (fn 51 p.233) equals the countless states of mind that arise from “the differentiation and synthesis of these six kinds of consciousness; the aggregate of consciousness.” (p.234)

Demons of death sound a bit like the Harry Potter Dementors, remove consciousness, heat and life. Celestial demons are in our attachments to “worldly pleasures.” It sounds like those demons have quite a good time…. Dogen gives a final warning here – watch out for those demons kids, because there aren’t really four of them just one.

So, back to chaos magicians…. I was going to trawl through various books to try to get a clear explanation of how probability runs at a right angle to time,  but luckily came up with this interview with Peter J. Carroll which explains it in an uncharacteristically pithy manner:

We have to remember that our past or pasts only exist in the now, at a particular moment of observation as physical evidence and memory. Any past that could have led to the moment of observation has to be considered, but we can only infer a change to the past when subsequent moments of present go off at an unexpected tangent. You cannot change the present moment, but you can change the “angle” from which the past approaches to modify the future.

This reminds me of a film by Herzog, Fata Morgana, which is made up of shimmering Sahara desert mirages; memory and reality all flicker and glitter like light on water or like information nodes in William Gibson’s cyberspace – if I’ve read the above quote and interview right, what’s being suggested is everything exists now (so far, so Zen)  but there may be other pasts we’re unaware of that influence our understanding of the now (so far, so holographic.) However what does it mean for a “subsequent moment of present to go off at an unexpected tangent?” Is this about emphasizing aspects of the past so they shimmer and flicker more prominently in the future and are therefore more likely to be noticed by us and others? Also if we’re all doing this, which to a certain extent we all do in terms of how we construct memory and filter experience,  doesn’t this mean the past and the future are continually modified? Maybe the “special place” of the chaos magician is to be the one who has the skill to place intentional emphasis on the embedded aspects of now (using complicated mathematical formulae) to influence situations and events but then this wouldn’t be an unexpected tangent, it would be an expected one.  Who knows.

From a Zen point of view, this seems to be irrelevant because it doesn’t actually matter if the now we’re experiencing is “our” now or a “modified” now – it is still the now we have to work with, and is still the result of causes and conditions and the momentary appearance and disappearance of the universe. Even if you and your pointy headed, psycho-terrorist, time- travelling shamanic renegades are  fucking around with my now, it’s still the one I have to deal with whether it has Cthuhlu-esque tentacles, Eris in a snit, or a broken down car in the middle of nowhere with someone giving birth on the back seat. Reality doesn’t give a shit what you do with it, it just is.


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