Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘self development’

Meditation Means You Don’t Like Your Self?

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 9, 2011

Do you like your self? Does being a person in the world, living, loving, laughing make you happy? Why would you want to lose this self, then?

At present I’m working on a paper which is a Foucauldian reading of Buddhist meditation. As part of it I’m trying to understand the Buddhist doctrine of anatman, translated “no-self”. Here are some quotes:

Consider the way meditation is recommended by some doctors: their view is usually that meditation is simply a therapy for reducing stress. It is true that the ability to manage stress is a likely fringe benefit of meditation. From a Buddhist perspective, though, the point of meditation is to stimulate a process of change and development towards the ultimate goal of Enlightenment.” (Kamalashila, 1992: 4)

Epstein (2007: 42) speaks of “Misappropriation of Freudian terminology by scholars and practitioners of these Eastern traditions. Nowhere is this more evident than in the confused concepts “ego” and “egolessness” … “This goal [of egolessness] is understood from a Western psychological perspective, rather than with the more subtle, originally intended Eastern meaning”. He quotes the current Dalai Lama who says, “this seemingly solid, concrete, independent, self-instituting I under its own power that appears actually does not exist at all” (Epstein, 2007: 52)

mind

From a look at the canonical and commentarial works of Theravada, “[Cessation] is, in brief, a condition in which no mental events of any kind occur, a condition distinguishable from death only by a certain residual warmth and vitality in the unconscious practitioner’s body.” (Griffiths, 1986: 13)

Khema has a chapter titled “Removing the illusion of self” (Khema, 1997: 129). Buddha says to Poṭṭhapāda that there are three kinds of “acquired” (or assumed) self. The body, the “mind-made”, and the “formless acquired self”. “The Buddha continues: ‘What is the formless acquired self? It is without form, and made up of perception.’ … [Khema interprets this as] There is neither physical nor mental form. In the infinities of space and consciousness there is nothing that has any kind of boundary, but there is perception. If that were not so, we would not know we had experienced infinite space and consciousness.” Perception can also be considered consciousness. But perception is not “my” self, it just is. (Khema, 1997: 134) But even this is ultimately not the true self, but it’s the best we can do for now at this level of teaching. Although it’s hard, we have to realize we are “thinking in the wrong way” (Khema, 1997: 147,148, 153).

I include one quote from an academic that seems to imply something else. Dr V.V.S. Saibaba (2005: 187) writes, “the condition of the enlightened one is incomprehensible”, but “it is nowhere stated that the Buddha after his parinibbana has been annihilated”. He says this is why it can be considered orthodox even in Theravada to pray to or worship the Buddha- because the Buddha is still in existence.

In contrast, consider these words of Aristotle, from the 8th and 9th books of the Nicomachean Ethics.
“Seeing that we are alive is in and of itself sweet, for life is by nature good, and it is sweet to sense that such a good belongs to us. … All people find the fact of their own existence desirable … Existence is desirable because one senses that it is a good thing” Agamben (2009: 32)

As we can see, these viewpoints are very different. According to Aristotle, existence is self-evidently good and desirable. According to the First Noble Truth, existence is dukkha (suffering) and should not be desired. Although it’s subtle, the goal of Buddhist meditation seems to be to lose one’s own existence. So is meditation ultimately an anti-human activity? I’ve grown up with Western points of view, and I like having the experience of my “self”. I think experiencing a life, and valuing people as individual selves is a good thing.

What about you?

Respond

Is existence and the self a good thing? What do you think?
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References:
Agamben, Giorgio. (2009). What Is An Apparatus? Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Epstein, Mark. (2007). Psychotherapy Without the Self. A Buddhist Perspective. New Haven:Yale University Press.
Griffiths, Paul. J. (1986). On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation and the Mind-Body Problem. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court.
Kamalashila. (1992). Meditation. The Buddhist Way of Tranquility and Insight. Birmingham: Windhorse publications.
Khema, Ayya. (1997). Who Is My Self? A Guide to Buddhist Meditation. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
Saibaba, V.V.S. (2005). Faith and Devotion in Theravāda Buddhism. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

Disclaimer: I’m well aware that a non-adherent of a religion usually makes mistakes in emphasis, nuance and understanding when writing about it. My apologies for any factual errors. I feel uncomfortable criticising a spiritual path from the outside so I’m relying on those writing from the inside. I also acknowledge the large number of good, moral buddhists.

Check out one trippy Western response. “Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream It is not dying It is not dying…”
The Beatles | Tomorrow Never Knows

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Grinning to Death

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 21, 2010

“Think and grow rich”. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it”. “Your thoughts create your reality.” Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve seen “The Secret”. I was interested to hear Barbara Ehrenreich had published a book on the negative side of positive thinking but didn’t realise it started with her experience of breast cancer. Here’s an excerpt from Smile or Die.

I wanted to link to a friend’s blog reviewing Ehrenreich’s book, but can’t find the article. Message me if it’s you, huh? [Edit: Found it! Linked in the comments]

I did find this perceptive review by Eliza, a Lupus sufferer. A short sample:

My disdain for the Positive Thinking movement only grew as I began to become disabled about four years ago. I cannot even count how many people lectured me about the merits of “thinking positively” once I began to suffer sometimes-debilitating pain. …

rainbow

continued…

Constantly lectured about how I should learn to see my chronic pain and fatigue as “positive developments” that “teach me to be more loving of humanity,” I call bullshit. And I was thrilled when I learned that Barbara Ehrenreich had written a new book on the subject.

On the whole, I would say that this is a highly flawed book that is nevertheless worth reading. …

She effectively draws on her scientific background to expose the pseudo-scientific claims (usually drawn from quantum physics and psychology) that are often quoted in order to add a scientific veneer to what is primarily an ideological movement.

This article notes

While Ehrenreich seems to harbor no ill will toward Christianity, some of her harshest critique is directed at positive thinking’s inroads into American churches. She indicts the usual suspects—Joel Osteen, Robert H. Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale—but she also includes much of the megachurch movement. Like other critics, the author believes the pressures of church growth have caused many pastors to adopt principles from the world of business and commerce at the expense of Christian distinctiveness.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in christian meetings with razamatazz and hyped-up motivational speakers, thank g0d. I don’t like the way positive thinking has crept into spiritualities that have emphasised humility and even poverty in the past. Somehow it just seems fake to me.

Respond

How does this stuff make you feel? What place do you think positive thinking should have in our lives?

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The Streets | Positive

Posted in agnostic, personal development, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

I Believe In Pain, Cruelty and Infidelity

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 31, 2009

That was a more interesting title than “Why Spritzophrenia?”, wasn’t it? As evidenced by this comment, it’s probably about time I clarified the theme of this blog.

Yes, it’s a bastardisation of schizophrenic. I was going to call it SpiritoPhrenic, but that just sounded like a stupid CCM title. So spritzophrenic kinda evolved from there. After all, if I’m an open agnostic there might not even be any spiritual world to connect with. But I’m sure having fun exploring unreality.

I don’t fit. I don’t like boxes. As you know, I’m an ex-evangelical. I’m probably beyond post-evangelical in that I’m totally uninterested in churchianity at all. At least from the point of view of practicing it; observation, c’est très amusant. I suspect this is a frequent outcome of post-evangelicalism. By way of boast, I bought and read The Post-Evangelical when it came out in 1995 and was relatively unknown outside of the UK. I’m that cool.

Sometimes in my mind I go beyond mere atheism and become a nihilist or a satanist. In my conception, reading and practice, there’s not a lot of difference. That’s where the title quote came from [1]. If I become a nihilist, I’m not a nice guy. At all.

Rarely I’m a fluffy all-is-one new age buddhisto-hindu. It goes really well with many types of trance music, which is fantastic for getting me to a worship-state. But it’s just so damn hippy, and has all the intellectual credibility of a limp paper tissue. Yes, I know about Fritjov Capra and the new physics.

I love ideas, I love intellectualism, I love novelty. I’m probably a rationalist, ‘tho I find most card-carrying rationalists crashing bores. Edit: See Am I A Rationalist?. I read Dawkins and the rest of that pack of miserable gripes. As a philosopher, Dawkins is a great biologist. If you take my meaning. Would he rate a plumber’s book on evolution? – I think not. But I digress.

I have a friend who is multiple personality disorder, or “multiple” as they prefer. She/he/they are sane. Sane by many definitions, anyway. Likewise it depends on who’s “fronting” for me today as to which hat I wear. But they’re all me. I hope to integrate – a dirty word for multiple people – one day. I may be closer than I think.

Oh, I nearly forgot: 21st Century Schizoid Man is a song by progressive rock outfit King Crimson.

I apologise to schizophrenics for perpetuating the “split personality” idea. But hey, we lost that battle a long time ago. Language changes because it’s appropriated by the ignorant masses. eg, “evangelical” used to mean “of the Bible message” when it was used by certain christians to self-define. Now in popular culture it means “ill-educated right-wing fundie bigot”. Or have you noticed how people under 30 now use “gay” to mean “stupid, effeminate, bad taste”, much like the word “homo” was used when I was a teenager? That battle is over too, my dear queer friends.

I have schitzo aquaintances; my cousin is a loony too. I do understand, support, and sympathise with you. I’m thinking of making a paypal donation link from this blog to support mental illness awareness.

By spiritually schizophrenic, I mean that I am really not sure of my final resting ground. But it’s all me. Really me. This is not to say I don’t have opinions or beliefs; with a surety I do. It just means that I’m still exploring. I hate to quote saint Bono, but “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. Or maybe I have, and I’m just taking an extended holiday.

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Respond

? What do you think?

tful [2] Hahaha, Ricky Gervais sings a lullaby to Elmo
reading Appignanesi & Garratt | Introducing Postmodernism

Front Line Assembly | Bio-Mechanic

[2] Today’s Fun Unrelated Link

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, humor, humour, meta, music, New Age, personal development | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »