About “Me”

I am an American Soto Zen practitioner who has been on the path, and strayed from the path, for all of my adult life from the time of my mid-teens. At this time, there is really nothing else to say about me. I could easily have been you, instead. I am not special in being me. Everybody can say they are “me”.

I began talking about practice on Twitter and then added a profile on Facebook, which is mostly an echo of what I post on Twitter. Follow me on either if you want. You’re also free to subscribe to this blog and ask me questions. I prefer to keep my identity anonymous. You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook as “TheBuddhaWay”, but I prefer to answer questions here so that others may be helped, as well.


3 Responses to About “Me”

  1. Guido says:

    On Sound vs. Noise,

    Trying infer the right meaning of the words of Shunryu Shuzuki Roshi in the video linked here: http://www.sfzc.org/zc/display.asp?catid=1,10,165&pageid=551.

    Talking about subjective and objective. Is he talking about the nature of our understanding of ‘noise’ vs. our understanding of ‘sound’, and that when we understand noise we think of it as something outside ourselves, ‘objective’, but when understanding sound as both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’, then sort of saying there is a noise, but the portrayal of that noise is a quality of the mind, the subjective part? When he says, ‘primitive understanding of being’, does he mean looking at the way that a phenomena exist that is more intimate than usual, usual being objective, intimitate including the subjective part? Last but not least, the significance of this. Being relatively new, coming from a Tibetan tradition, there’s alot of focus on loving kindness & compassion. How would you tie these two together?

  2. TheBuddhaWay says:

    I would say that the intention Suzuki Roshi seems to have here is to show that “noise” is pejorative labeling, born out of a reaction of aversion to a phenomenon that is also, in truth, just more sound. In that sense, “noise” isn’t objective at all, and is subjectively charged in a negative way, whereas “sound” implies no such pejorative subjective labeling, and has a balance of objective and subjective. We confirm sound as sound via others, as well as via our private sense impressions we can recall, as well as via reasonm though reason is not necessary here. Or in short, yes, “noise” is more a response to a certain sound, rather than a purely utilitarian mental marker to bookmark a type of perception. When the hearer and the heard become one, then there can be no “noise” or even “beautiful chirping”, but rather, just this.

    “Primitive understanding”, I think, is a sly way of making the hearer consider the deluded way of labeling things according to an emotional reaction before storing it away in our mental cataloging system. The cataloging system that isn’t objective enough to strip away any predisposition to preference is considered “primitive” we might say here.

    The significance of all this is that this becomes a universally-applicable example of a universally true teaching of Buddhism: in the perceived as well as in the cognized, there is just the perceived and the cognized, with nothing added and no remainder. Without this ability to detach from ther labeling frenzy of emotionalism and narrowly utilitarian goals so inherent in our judgment and the subsequent cataloging of perceptions, we are too subjectively occupied to see things (or more accurately, dharmas with the small “d”–things–including people) as they truly are, part of the goal of Buddhism.

    Many will be tempted to draw out a more tangled philosophical discussion with reference to this via some established phenomenological theses, etc., and that’s fine, because Buddhism doesn’t deal with many absolutes beyond that of emptiness itself–it’s fine, but it’s a diversion from the main point here, which is the heard as just the heard, regardless of whether there may be more to the heard than what we seem to recall upon reflection, or to notice upon becoming mindful of the phenomenon in question.

    “Being” is actually a way of saying becoming, not only for Buddhism and Zen, but for the Western philosophical tradition as well (eg., Heidegger and Sartre). Being is thus naturally an illusion in Buddhist thought, so here I think Suzuki Roshi means being as in what we are becoming by perceiving, and here is where being/becoming can become an enlightened form of delusion–deluded awareness looking back at itself, the “backward step” of Zen. A becoming that becomes what is without any gaining idea does not seek to label and thus to cling or avert new contact with a phenomenon, and this is a hallmark of enlightenment in general. Or perhaps it does seek to label it, but ot has begun checking that urge and thus curbing it. Loving kindness and compassion are not possible to be fully practiced with the sound so long as it remains even in the slightest as “noise” or even as “transcendent” or other such modes of grasping via emotionally-originated labeling. When the bird chirps during my reading, I also am that chirp, the bird, and the entire world surrounding us. This is the space needed for loving kindness and compassion to most fully be expressed and practiced/performed. We could also practice it with our own experience of “noise”, of course, before we are able to sustain such an enlightenment mind so strongly as the previous way of seeing the chirp implies. In fact, I think this is how many of us will have to practice before we can be the bird and the chirp and the world surrounding.

    I wouldn’t normally be so wordy here, but I sense (perhaps incorrectly) that yours is a somewhat philosophically inclined background. If not, then perhaps no harm, no foul.

  3. Guido says:

    That explanation is actually very helpful, thanks. 🙂

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