Saturday, May 31, 2014

Leggo my Ego - 'Cause It's Not Even There

It seems that the Western language of Buddhism is stuck in some fundamental ways in a psychological vocabulary long extinct. I easily read 1 to 5 bits of Buddhist ephemera a day (blog posts, Facebook comments, etc...) that use the word 'ego' as if it means something.

I think that ultimately Buddha, and the many of the great leaders of Zen thought were striving to understand the human 'self'. The self-experience. How the human perception of the world gives rise to suffering. How I interact with my surroundings, how my person was informed by past events, that gives rise to my 'now.' Buddhism is a science, but importantly, a practical science, not a science of wild un-experienceable theories. I love the phrase 'natural philosophy' so I'll marry it with Buddhism. Buddhism, and I think most specifically Zen, is the attempt to really probe human experience as a practical reality, which must admit the role of mind. Zen strives to unravel mind, to step outside mind. To SEE mind.

Therefore Zen does not look well on theories alone. Zen trips up theories in subtle and important ways. "Pain is only the mind a work, I have transcended it" -- until you stub your toe and cry "ouch". You have transcended nothing, Zen teaches.

Zen-speak is very stuck on ego. But serious Zen practitioners (or perhaps l should be more generous and simply say, practitioners who are striving for the truth in the manner I expound above), should be very careful of the idea-set that has "ego" at its center. Zen is a science, and must move forward with new understandings in how mind works and how "self" is experienced in the body.

I think the ancients knew well how "things worked" in the human experience. I think the ancients did their best to express what they saw and knew. It think many translations and subsequent teachers using English have completely mis-colored Zen with the idea of Ego.

Ego was largely invented by Freud and is now largely discredited. It no long has meaning. It was a theory set of how the mind works that is no longer held by most modern technical analysts of the human condition. "Ego" was just a fantasy of Freud that appealed as religion to the tribal lust of a generation. It was not based on scientific method.

Quoting from "Why Freud Still Matters, When He Was Wrong About Almost Everything" (Emphasis added)

"Freudian Fallacies

The primary trouble with Freud is that, while his ideas appear intriguing and even common sensical, there’s very little empirical evidence to back them up. Modern psychology has produced very little to substantiate many of his claims.
For instance, there’s no scientific evidence in support of the idea that boys lust after their mothers and hate their fathers. He was totally, utterly wrong about gender. And his notion of “penis envy” is now both laughable and tragic.
There’s no proof of the id, ego, or superego. There’s also no evidence to support the notion that human development proceeds through oral, anal, phallic, and genital stages. Nor that the interference, or arresting, of these stages leads to specific developmental manifestations."
I may do wrong things, and sabotage myself. I may insist "I" exist. I may be drawn to certain false idea's. But it is not because of a pernicious 'ego' acting in me. The brain is a complex and real system of interconnects of matter, of flesh. And, indeed, modern science is beginning to see in demonstrable ways how the brain is not alone in our bodies in informing our experience of self. Nervous and endocrine systems not between my ears are a significant part of experience of 'me'. 
I am not a theory run by some disembodied rule set, which is what Freud's theories essentially described. E.g., where was the seat of the compulsion he described for me to want to kill my father? In which part of the brain was a knot of neurons consistently formed in all peoples to carry this desire? Of course, in fact, there is none. 
Freuds ideas, including Ego, are a story. A well meant fairy tale of red riding hood and the wolf that tasted of the truth but was not indeed the truth. 
It is time for Buddhists to let go the fallacy of 'ego.' The earth is not flat. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Danger, Will Robinson

I currently think....

When certain feeling states or action impulses are identified as (effectively) "sin" people tend to feel shame when they arise and will tend to hide or mask them so as to seem not to have them, rather than "deal" with them. To the extent that such feelings or impulses might be toxic, this behavior seals them under an effective scab of pretending, trapping the poison closer to the self where it eats away and does double damage.

When certain feeling states or action impulses are identified as (effectively) common, human occurrences, but which are a little dangerous, I think people will tend to talk about them, deal with them, seek help for them, try to mitigate them. The more they can be open about them, the more quickly they can be expressed (sent out) leaving the safer person behind.

The precepts are a list of potentially dangerous activities. Warning posts of what might cause harm to me. I suffer from all of them from time to time. They are not a list of sins.