Spiritual Bypassing: The Damnedest Thing

For some reason today I thought of the mythical Jed McKenna and his book Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damndest Thing. His article Blues for Buddha came to mind as well.

What I notice in McKenna’s writings is his all out attack on what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called spiritual materialism – i.e. adopting “spiritual” things and behaviors as a way to make the ego feel better, rather than actually undergoing any meaningful transformation through sincere practice. Ken Wilber calls this “re-arranging the furniture” rather than “moving upstairs”. And I think there’s a lot of weight to what McKenna says about this phenomenon. Eating a vegetarian diet, lighting incense, and adopting a spiritual vocabulary will not likely — by itself — result in spiritual enlightenment.

However, McKenna seems to have fallen into the Absolutist trap without realizing it. He more or less says, “All of that stuff doesn’t matter. Only the Truth matters. If only people could ask the right questions and get enlightened, then they wouldn’t see a problem with anything going on in the world. Nothing would need to change.” McKenna’s ego has taken up residence in the Absolute, in the Ultimate Truth, and now he parades himself as though he were an avataric sage of the No-Self. In this way, he seems to have traded spiritual materialism for a whopping dose of spiritual bypassing – i.e. allowing the ego to freeze around an absolute/universal view, providing a false sense of detached security that is then used as an excuse for not having to deal with personal or social responsibilities. “It’s all the play of Maya,” he says. “It’s all an illusion. What, then, is the problem?”

For many, adopting this position (i.e. falling into this trap) is par for the course on the path of awakening. When the ego-grasping tendencies first give way, reality is seen as it is… albeit temporarily. This first glimpse is usually not enough to completely dismantle the habit patterns that decide which to call “I” and which to call “other”. When these habits resume, they may just decide to freeze around this notion of being nothing and everything, the Big Awakened Mind. Where before one was stuck in their emotional reactions, they now find themselves stuck in their philosophical positions (hence the exaggerated emphasis on inquiry and Truth). To me, this appears to be the “place” McKenna is writing from.

Fortunately, this new ego-identity is just as shaky as any other. The foundation is built on a lie, and we will soon find out that there’s no escaping this human life. The bliss of detachment ceases to bring the satisfaction it once did, because we remain cut off from our experience in a way that denies its significance. In taking up residence in the Absolute, we cover our hearts. We deny our basic vulnerability, which is our gateway to experiencing the world of form. As long as this aspect of our being is ignored or denied we will remain cutoff from experience, divided, and unable to experience the fullness of presence that comes with the complete renunciation of clinging.

Compassion, empathy, equanimity, loving-kindness — these non-reactive emotions flow naturally when we are completely exposed. What McKenna disregards as spiritual materialism is only so when it is performed in a disingenuous or contrived manner. But the “enlightened person” lacking in compassion is not fully exposed, and thus not totally free from ego-grasping. I believe it was the Dalai Lama who said that genuine emptiness is no different from compassion. Until we allow our basic vulnerability and tenderness of heart to be exposed and receptive to our human lives, we will not experience the deeper freedom available to us all; a freedom that goes beyond detachment by clinging to the Absolute view. This is why the teaching that “Form is emptiness,” must be followed with “emptiness is the same as form.” Emptiness is no escape from form, and our selfless nature is not other than our raw and exposed heart. This is where McKenna’s teachings are lacking, and I believe this is why they leave me with the sense of, “Yeah, but…” One day McKenna may realize that spiritual bypassing, rather than spiritual enlightenment, is the damnedest thing.

Advertisements

22 Comments

Filed under Advaita Vedanta, Buddhism, Psychology, Religion & Philosophy

22 responses to “Spiritual Bypassing: The Damnedest Thing

  1. Ian

    Not read anything by McKenna before, but judging by that Blues for Buddha piece, he’s a combination of a whiny bitch and a pretentious asshole. Excuse the harsh language, but man, the lack of compassion in that piece is breathtaking.

    Maybe he’s better in the books, but I don’t think I’ll be spending the money to find out. Perhaps it’s an attempt at a skillful response to the largely-compassionate, de-emphasizing of enlightenment that Western Buddhism seems to be going through currently, but it just leaves me feeling like he considers himself THE expert and everyone else a moron.

    I agree with the sentiment that modern western buddhism needs a kick in the ass in regards to believing attainments are possible for people and that practice can make lasting, good changes. But responding to an overemphasis in one direction by overemphasizing the opposite direction is only going to cause more destability in the system. It’s very unlikely that it would bring things to a working equilibrium.

    • Jackson

      His books are written very much like the article you read, so I don’t think you would like them very much. I’ve read the first one and half of the second. It all started to get really redundant.

      Yes, the lack of compassion in his writing is startling. But I don’t think it’s that uncommon of a stance to take for someone whose ego-identity has latched itself to an Absolutist view. It’s an incredibly effective way to detach one’s self from responsibility, both personal and social. Of course, it also carries the potential to affect one’s life and relationships in ways that I would never wish upon anyone. He’s all head, no heart. Imbalanced indeed.

  2. Monkey Mind

    Hi Jackson,

    Nice one.

    I like Jed’s books. They are refreshing (as in sobering) and encouraging (as in challenging). They are also infuriating (as opposed to reassuring). And yes, he comes across as a know-it-all, and I don’t like that, either (Kafka’s great line about how we could write books we like to read ourselves…).

    Leaving his personality aside, leaving “attacks” on compassion aside (how is it possible to attack something like compassion anyway?), leaving aside his alleged heartlessness (but then why did he write these books which are so obviously motivated by the wish that others may awaken?) – what remains is your criticism of this central passage from the “Blues” article:

    … Buddhists, like everyone else, insist on reconciling the irreconcilable. They don’t just want to awaken to the true, they also want to make sense of the untrue. They want to have their cake and eat it too …

    I don’t find any fault with this. This, in my experience, is exactly what ignorance (avijja) is: that which wants to understand but can’t. Wanting to make sense of the untrue. It’s a really good way of putting it. And when we start out with ignorance (trying to make sense of the senseless), we end up with suffering. That’s just what the Buddha is reported to have taught.

    And yet, people who get hung up over Jed’s writing get hung up over just this point. Why is that so? Why are they dissatisfied? Wait – dissatisfied … are they suffering? Why are they suffering? Are they trying to make sense of the senseless? Oh. (and a lovely paradox, as well).

    When we exchange words to communicate (which is what we do), there are these huge shadow masses of assumptions that get exchanged along without speaking. That just comes with language, that’s how it works, but it pays to remember this fact now and then. A word like “water” may be fairly concrete, with an easily identified counterpart in experience, but “compassion”? Oh my. What’s that? It contains memories of childhood, and implications of some universal goodness (and what is that) and so on. It immediately gets really vague and complex. And then we use the word just like we would use the word “water” – “this cup holds no water”, “Jed has no compassion”…

    Please don’t understand me as defending Jed against your criticism: I’m merely offering a glimpse on how I read Jed’s books, after reading your description of how you are reading them.

    Looking forward to many more comments.

    Cheers,
    Florian

    • Jackson

      Florian, good to hear from you. I appreciate your counter-argument of sorts. It’s good to keep these kinds of topics balanced, so as to shed unfair overstatements and other less than careful remarks.

      I’m not sure we can say that the obvious motivation for Damnedest and McKenna’s other books was the wish that others may awaken. It sure seems that way at times. And yet, at times his writing sounds overtly self-congratulatory. Perhaps it’s the “know-it-all” thing (of which many of us suffer, including yours truly). But I also find his use of a pseudonym curious. It may appear like he is just being the humble enlightened guy, not wanting to draw attention to himself. On the other hand, he could be afraid of direct criticism, lest his giant paper-thin ego burst.

      I would also be careful not to equate dissatisfaction with Jed’s writings as dissatisfaction in general, i.e. suffering. That seems like a bit of a stretch. Care to elaborate?

      It’s funny that you should bringing up our tendency to make sense of the selfless, which is a root cause of suffering. In light of this, let’s take a look at an excerpt from McKenna’s second book, Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment:

      “This was discussed in Damnedest, but it can’t be overemphasized — not mine, but Thy will be done; the will of Allah; Brahma is the charioteer—if you don’t get this, you don’t get anything. If this isn’t your living reality, then you are, like most people, stuck in the ego-clad, nestling state.”

      The will of Allah? Brahma is the charioteer? On some level these statements could be considered high spiritual teachings. Conversely – which I would argue is more common for Westerners – this is just another way for the ego to adopt a philosophical position that allows it to bypass the difficulties and responsibilities of life, as well as their deeply felt sense of care and concern for others. Judging by McKenna’s description in Damnedest of his enjoying televised footage of natural disasters, I’d be willing to guess he hasn’t fully accepted his basic vulnerability in a way that allows him to be deeply touched/moved. I’m not suggesting that McKenna is totally deluded; just that he may not be as “done” as he thinks he is.

      To use analogous language, the path of awakening seems to start by taking a big step back from our experience to gain a different, perhaps larger, perspective. But so long as we remain on the outside – so long as the ego simply relocates from small-self to Big-Self – we are still divided, and our sense of freedom and security is still build upon a foundation of sand. We have to let go of the Big-Self, too, but re-engaging with life and becoming even more open to experience. That’s my opinion, anyway. There’s a good possibility that McKenna would say that I’m full of shit.

      • Monkey Mind

        Hi Jackson,
        I won’t speculate about the reasons for a pseudonym or Jed’s humility of lack thereof, or his willingness to engage with direct criticism.

        Equating suffering and dissatisfaction with Jed’s writing: note how I carefully and sneakily phrased it as dissatisfaction with attempts at making sense of Jed’s writing, which is something that leads to suffering.

        Regarding the “Brahma is the charioteer” quote – wasn’t he making a point about human maturity there, rather than a point about enlightenment? In the second book, he really elaborates on that theme. I guess in Ken Wilber’s terms he’d be talking about the shift from ego-centric to group-centric to world-centric here – that axis of development. At least, that’s what I understood him to be saying there. And that’s where I see a lot of what is commonly called compassion (and the other Brahmaviharas) in Jed’s writing, just not by that name. That second book is, roughly, equally divided between the developmental material (Hero’s Journey, Moby Dick, Bhagvad Gita study group, Julies mails) and the Virtue/Sila/Morals/Compassion material (“releasing the tiller”/ human maturity/Curtis’ mother).

        Regarding Ego – his technique of spiritual autolysis is sure to take care of that, Big Self and small self and subtle identifications with emptiness and the way things are and all that. I’m pretty certain of that. And the way he writes about it, he’s not speculating either. Ironically, the clearest passages on that are in the third book, which you have not read. If you compare what Jed writes with Davis Scoma’s stuff (He’s not Jed, btw), there are striking parallels, even down to the imagery.

        Re-engaging with life – yeah… that’s one area where I can really see the criticism of his writings. But I don’t know him. I don’t have a clue how his engagement with life changed, before, during, after his spiritual enlightenment process. And even if the process kind of continues, along certain axes, that’s not what I mean: I mean the big shifts, the dismantling of self-deception (which is how I prefer to call avijja).

        Man, I’m beginning to read like a Jed apologetic, which would be so completely beside the point.

        But I’d like to see more comments. I tweeted – twitted – whatever – your article, but that doesn’t seem to have brought the hordes of my twitter followers down on your blog yet… 🙂

        Cheers,
        Florian

      • Jackson

        Hi Florian. I’ll try to refrain from excessive speculation from here on out. I guess I’m assuming things about the author based on his descriptions of himself, which is always problematic.

        Yeah, McKenna’s “charioteer” quote had something to do with maturity. But it resonates with the greater body of his work, does it not?

        I can’t say that I think spiritual autolysis is sufficient to clear any trace of delusion. For one thing, it’s self-reflective only. It probes at material that has made its way into one’s conscious awareness. I know I’m not alone in assuming that this isn’t enough. We need others to help us discover our blind spots, our shadow. Relying purely on solipsistic practices probably won’t cut the mustard for most of us.

        And that’s what I see coming through in McKenna’s work – blind spots. The nature of blind spots is that they are pretty obvious to everyone except their ‘owner’ (for lack of a better word). He may have achieved a significant degree of freedom through practice, but it seems to me that there’s some junk in there that continues to operate behind the scenes, particularly in the form of the kinds of ego-defenses that provide an excuse for not having to experience the pain of care and vulnerability. His writings do seem quite heady, right? Or is that just my reading of them?

        All I’m saying is that I intuit some bypassing here. I could be wrong, of course.

    • Ian

      Nice point Florian. I wonder, though, what makes Jed (or anyone) think he’s found THE truth, or that the truth is indeed “simple”? Making a distinction between sense and senselessness is key, but if a seeker is stuck on resolving a certain issue, telling them that it’s simply untrue and that they should abandon it doesn’t seem to be all that helpful. You can’t just give up on trying to make sense of the senseless, you have to actually see that you’re doing it and stop.

      Anyway though, like I said, I haven’t read his books, only that article. And that article is all criticism and no evidence to back it up. It feels like an excerpt from something (which maybe it is?). For example, he says “Nothing about Buddhism is more revealing than the Four Noble Truths which, not being true, are of pretty dubious nobility.” But he doesn’t explain at all what he means by that. He just says it. The rest of the article is like that too, reading like an attempt to say the most outrageous, controversial things about Buddhism just to… well, I have to wonder, to do what?

      Are the books more empty rhetoric, or does he back up his statements with explanations?

  3. Monkey Mind

    Hi Ian,

    I wonder, though, what makes Jed (or anyone) think he’s found THE truth, or that the truth is indeed “simple”?

    Actually, this is at the heart of Jed’s technique of “spiritual autolysis”. The instructions are simple: write down something true. So hm … if it’s true, it’s The Truth, right? It can’t be true one way and false the other way, or true only if certain conditions are met. (That’s where his remark about four noble truths comes in. You know… four? Can they be separately true? Are three of them less true than all four? Noble? Would they be less true if they were common? Less noble if not true? Almost every paragraph in his books contains nice little koan-like ontological landmines like this).

    As to not being able to simply stop trying to make sense of the senseless – yes. And he provides lots of tools in his books to be able to see this. They are not expressed in terms of vipassana, and so they can be easy to miss by your jaded eyes. But they work just the same. Any way to really honestly, really closely look at one’s situation in reality, motivated by sheer reckless abandon, done with totality of application, will work. How to get oneself to do that is not the property of a single tradition, set of techniques, choice of words.

    From a certain point of view, every single book is full of empty rhetoric. Hell, you can make a computer read it aloud – how empty is that? But a book which challenges assumptions, page after page, which is not gentle, not reassuring, infuriatingly short in the answers department – that’s good kindling for lighting an all-consuming passion for Truth, and in turn, to power the reckless abandon and totality of application and dedication to not fooling oneself any longer, or to do away with avijja – ignorance – once and for all. If you’re into that kind of thing, that is.

    What a rant. I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Florian

    • Ian

      I hope you enjoyed it.

      I did indeed, thanks for taking the time to answer. I can appreciate Jed’s tactics more, based on your explanations, but they’re still not for me.

      So hm … if it’s true, it’s The Truth, right?
      No. All conditioned things pass away, and any truth put into words is a conditioned truth. I don’t think anything ultimately true can be said. Except maybe that very sentence “all conditioned things pass away”. 🙂

      Can they be separately true?
      Yes. “I was named Ian” is true, so is “you were named Florian”. These are two separate truths.

      And describing them as “noble”, the historic truth of that, as much as we can rely on history, was that they were noble because they lead one to nirvana. if anything’s noble, that is.

      But I don’t mean this as an argument with YOU, just with these points. I am enjoying ranting myself. 🙂

      I’m all for reckless pursuit of Truth and the end of fooling oneself, I just don’t know if criticizing others attempt at pointing to Truth is the most helpful way of doing that.

      Then again, its been said that the Buddha’s enlightenment solved his problem, its up to us to solve our own. And that is another truth I can stand by.

      • Monkey Mind

        Hi Ian

        Thanks for bearing with me – one last clarification on how I understand Jed’s toolbox:

        So hm … if it’s true, it’s The Truth, right?
        No. All conditioned things pass away, and any truth put into words is a conditioned truth. I don’t think anything ultimately true can be said. Except maybe that very sentence “all conditioned things pass away”.

        Can they be separately true?
        Yes. “I was named Ian” is true, so is “you were named Florian”. These are two separate truths.

        “A conditioned truth” in Jed’s book is not true, not a truth, the kind of thing he points out and pokes fun at in the short essay linked in Jackson’t blog post. So, doing it Jed’s way, you don’t stop there, but you keep questioning the assumptions. Is it really true that I was named “Florian”? What is naming anyway? What’s Florian? What is “I”, for that matter? (Ohhhh…) Are these things true, what is the truth in them? And so on.

        At this point we’re asking the question, can the ultimate be realized by conditioned means? Can I realize Nibbana by being mindful of in- and outbreathing? Can I attain to cessation by doing noting practice? Can I become enlightened by trying to write sometthing true…? Aha.

        This is no heady, intellectual, solipsistic practice. It will rub your nose in it just like noting and vipassana and anapanasati will.

        Cheers,
        Florian

      • Ian

        Thanks Florian, that does clear things up for me. It’s sort of a kind of koan: What’s True?

        Yeah. My nose hurts… 🙂

      • Ian

        Screwed up my tags there. “My nose hurts” was meant to be a reply to your “It will rub your nose in it just like noting and vipassana and anapanasati will.”

  4. Monkey Mind

    Hi Jackson,

    … it seems to me that there’s some junk in there that continues to operate behind the scenes, particularly in the form of the kinds of ego-defenses that provide an excuse for not having to experience the pain of care and vulnerability…

    Certainly. Compare this with arahants saying that karma continues to operate, just no new karma being made – and the same arahants stating that the pains of care and vulnerability still arise, they just don’t cause any problems –

    – so why do they arise at all? That’s a very important question to me at this point. Which is why I really liked your blog post, since it raised this point.

    Again I’m not, for all apparent evidence to the contrary here in this thread, generally inclined to defend Jed’s writing. His books were very useful to me at a crucial point, just like the Sutta Pitaka was very useful to me at various times: but different people can be into different things. If I can convey the sense that it’s not Jed’s (or the Buddha’s) character or writing style which is of interest, but the reader’s experience of doing something with these books, using them to smash through whatever it is that is holding him down, then all this apparent evangelizing on my part may have served something useful after all.

    Cheers,
    Florian

  5. Hi Jackson,
    Your original point is quite clear. I haven’t read McKenna but what you quote of his is a narrow view of what the Buddha teaches. It is possible for everything we do to be action that will contribute to our own “waking up”. We are already enlightened, we just don’t know it or feel it at times. Which, is just knowing, or feeling. As you said earlier, conditioned arising.
    To Florian’s question ” Why do they arise at all?” They arise because our conditioned nature experiences time. Our absolute nature is outside of time. Incomprehensible but able to be experienced.
    Our absolute nature completely interpenetrates the knowing, not knowing, feeling, not feeling, we experience. My teacher Ji Bong Soen Sah ( Zen Master Dr. Robert Moore) says: “Emptiness is form’s mode of being.”
    Your blog has a lot of clear teaching in it. Thanks.
    This point is fleshed out completely in Zen Master Seung Sahn’s Zen Circle teaching. McKenna is stuck at 180 degrees on the circle. He needs to move around to 360 degrees ( the same point as 0 degrees) and into “moment world. Which I think is where your comments suggest he go. (McKenna as described is a perfect example of Zen Master Seungh Sahn’s famous Cigarette Man.)
    You already understand words are always relative, they can only “point” to the absolute. Buddha and Nagarjuna are always reminding us of this, while they teach us.
    Poison ( Jed McKenna’s books) can sometimes be a cure, some medicines ( Buddha’s speech) can be poison.Your blog does a good job of finding the correct function of speech. That is enough. Wonderful.
    Thanks.
    Happy New Year.
    Cheers,
    Tim

    • Monkey Mind

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks for replying to my question. “Our conditioned nature experiences time” – I’m pretty sure I know what you mean by that, and in fact, you just restated my question in terms of an answer. So let me put this back into question form: What is this experience of time by my conditioned nature? The experience of time, and the experience of my conditioned nature – is that the same thing? What is the function of the two relations (or dualities, if you will) in this set-up, namely time (before, after) and identification (my, not mine)?
      Playing with these – is there a mode of experience for my conditioned self which does not include the experience of time? Is that the same as Ven. Seung Sahn’s “moment world”?
      Or is it that a mode of experience which does not include time cannot also include a conditioned self? But then, both are abstract entities, reinforcing each other – the tornado of self is perceived as moved on by time, and time is perceived as the mover of the tornado… but is that really clear perception, with all these assumptions about time and self as a lens? I’m by no means sure of the answers here, these are just indicators of where I’m at currently.

      The relevance to the original blog post by Jackson is this: we keep coming back to properties of Jed’s conditioned nature, which is a bit weird, considering how his books are material for seeing one’s own conditioned nature more clearly. So obviously, the pains of care and vulnerability are, in this case, resulting from some really strange contortions. Are these necessary consequences of our conditioned selves experiencing time? Do we have to do this, just because we can? Where’s the freedom in that?

      And yeah, happy new year to you all.

      Cheers,
      Florian

    • Monkey Mind

      Hi Tim,

      I’ve been playing with the cigarette man koan last night. It’s a good one, I had to remember certain aspects of my religious past a bit to get into it properly. At one point I had a funny thought: In the cigarette man story, Jed is the one doing the telling. 🙂

      Anyway, thanks for mentioning it.

      Cheers,
      Florian

  6. Hi Florian,
    I did not intend to re-state your question. Sorry. Here was the question again:(In case I missed it.)
    “and the same arahants stating that the pains of care and vulnerability still arise, they just don’t cause any problems –

    – so why do they arise at all? That’s a very important question to me at this point.
    On second reading I should not have tried to answer your question. I guess you would have to find an arahant and ask them. Sorry again.

    I train in/practice zen which is rooted in the Mayahana view. The Mahayana view, as I understand it, replaces the arahat ideal with the Bhodisatva ideal. By arahat I mean: one who rest in their entrance into Nirvanna. By bhodisatva I mean: one who puts off their own entrance into nirvanna so as to get every one/thing into nirvanna.
    My teachers taught me that Buddha taught two truths: (1) Absolute truth and (2) Relative truth. Non dual wisdom never separates these two. They completely interpenetrate and cannot be separated IE: the wave cannot be separated from water. (I’m sure you’ve heard this metaphor.)
    To your re-phrased question: “What is this experience of time by my conditioned nature?”
    I don’t know.
    I don’t think Buddha could answer this question.In my view only you could.
    I can’t follow your “playing” with the suggested split. Time is a condition created by our “after thinking mind” the relative truth.
    The relative truth has 6 qualities: time,space,cause,effect,name and form.
    The absolute truth has no time, no space, no cause, no effect,no name and no form. It is our “before thinking mind” it cannot be conceived of. (Much less written in a blog entry.)
    So in spite of your invitation to play,my thinking mind cannot separate time and conditioned.
    However I think we all have experiences “outside of time”, or “without time”, or “in eternity” all shadings of our experience of our “before thinking” mind, aka Buddha Nature,the Absolute, Christ Consciousness, The Way.
    Of course as soon as we say or think any of these words or ideas we have covered it up or obscured it.
    To your other question: Is this Ven, Seung Sahn’s “moment world”? Yes.
    To your last paragraph:
    The relevance to the original blog post by Jackson is this: we keep coming back to properties of Jed’s conditioned nature, which is a bit weird, considering how his books are material for seeing one’s own conditioned nature more clearly. So obviously, the pains of care and vulnerability are, in this case, resulting from some really strange contortions. Are these necessary consequences of our conditioned selves experiencing time? Do we have to do this, just because we can? ( Yes! Better then dog or cat or pine tree.) Where’s the freedom in that? ( Who wants freedom from being human? Not me. It is my most cherished quality of living.))
    I can’t write about whether Jed is a clear teacher or not, never read any of his teaching.
    I’ve been taught: Everyone’s conditioned mind ( Their “after thinking mind”.) is unique to them. No two are alike. Because the conditions doing the conditioning are unique. IE You and me.

    I am trusting your last questions are not rhetorical. I don’t see any contortion or split, and I’m not sure if anything is obvious in our writings.
    In my view, the pain of caring and vulnerability is our function as humans/ Buddhas/Bhodisatvas.
    When we are rooted in non self, impermanence,inconceivability, we use non dual wisdom to act for all beings. We don’t look to be spared from it. We embrace it intimately then act with wisdom and compassion. “We are free, but not to do what ever we want.”

    Thanks for “walking through the weeds with me”
    (If you read this far.)
    Warmly,
    Tim
    No mud, no lotus.

    • Monkey Mind

      Hi Tim,

      looks like our last two comments crossed on their way. 🙂

      Thanks for your reply. I’m familiar with the various ideals, Arahat, Bodhisattva, etc. (Incidentally, getting everyone/thing into Nirvana is a neat practice instruction – “everyone” would include the one doing the practice, wouldn’t it?)

      Regarding the split, time, relative truth and so on: well, what good is it to call something true if it is only kind of, relatively true? That only muddles the terms. Maybe some other word would be better – ignorance (in the sense of lacking truth), i.e. avijja seems more appropriate. But that’s a matter of taste.

      Freedom from being human – nah. Inevitable, after all, in a few decades we’ll have attained to that kind of freedom automatically. I was trying to say: there’s this subtle suffering which comes packaged with what is commonly called compassion (pains of care and vulnerability), but does it have to be this way? Is there a way of compassionate action which does not involve this subtle suffering? After all, the Buddha promised freedom from suffering. These are real questions of interest to me, not rhetorical ones. Sorry if they looked like rhetorical ones.

      I like walking through weeds. It shows, doesn’t it?

      Cheers,
      Florian
      No mud, no lotus – but no mud on the lotus.

      • Tim Colohan

        Hi Florian,
        I meant no disrespect in this 34 month delay in writing a reply. Just busy. Now with some unemployment at hand I am taking the bait again. I try to only “walk in the weeds” when it’s needed. (Len Cook’s remarks showed up in my email.)
        Yes, I share that view: everyone being saved includes the one doing the saving. The Diamond Sutra leads us further to : no particular being is doing the saving and no particular beings are being saved.
        We have to break our habit grasping on language/self/other to experience this aspect. Even though it is always ” here and now”. We don’t see it, hence we suffer.
        The “two truth” concept is a teaching of the Buddha. Not my idea.And like all concepts it cannot contain the truth. It can only point to it. The Buddha advises us: “don’t believe it either until it is our experience” (I am paraphrasing here.)
        You wrote ( 34 months ago):

        I was trying to say: there’s this subtle suffering which comes packaged with what is commonly called compassion (pains of care and vulnerability), but does it have to be this way? Is there a way of compassionate action which does not involve this subtle suffering? After all, the Buddha promised freedom from suffering.

        If we are lost in our “conceptual world” of thought/feelings we will suffer.
        If we are lost in our “compassion” we will also suffer.
        If we are subtly lost we will suffer in a subtle way.
        Try to always return to our direct experience in this moment. ZM Seung Sahn would always say: ” Enough mind fish never touches the hook.”

        My teachers have taught, and it matches my experience, that true compassion must include wisdom. ( non-dual wisdom) Ji Bong Son Sah always uses a “zen equation”——- compassion in the numerator and wisdom in the denominator.

        So at the moment of suffering, we ask: “What is this?” and/or “Who is suffering?” This question cannot be answered. It is to great of a mystery. ( which is what we are going for) This is an “absolute don’t know” it has no opposites in it. this is non dual.

        Losing the self is what frightens us most and it is in fact illusory, then waking up to it’s illusory nature yields the most profound freedom we can find. Our fear and anxiety can vanish in a moment.
        May be this helps.

        In your Jan. 4 2011 post you asked:

        So let me put this back into question form: What is this experience of time by my conditioned nature? The experience of time, and the experience of my conditioned nature – is that the same thing? What is the function of the two relations (or dualities, if you will) in this set-up, namely time (before, after) and identification (my, not mine)?
        Playing with these – is there a mode of experience for my conditioned self which does not include the experience of time? Is that the same as Ven. Seung Sahn’s “moment world”?

        Here I must apologize. I answered incorrectly in the post 2 years ago:

        To your other question: Is this Ven, Seung Sahn’s “moment world”? Yes.
        The above answer is not correct.
        Ven. Seung Sahn’s “moment world” has time, (a moment), space, cause and effect.
        Using his “Zen Circle” as his map of reality, ( just a map not the territory) ZMSS’s “absolute world” has no time, no space, no cause and no effect.
        We cannot “stay” at 180 degrees or “absolute world”. It’s not possible. But we have to have some experience of it to be capable of arriving at 360 degrees ( truth world) seeing the truth, or relationship to it, and our “correct function” ( Function can only appear in the moment, ZMSS calls this moment world.which is “off the circle” ( Acting with wisdom & compassion, or “out of the whole”.

        Staying at 180, or absolute world is Jed’s mistake and the cigarette man’s mistake. The possible result is no compassion or wisdom, in spite of the kensho experience because he/they have attached to emptiness. Which ZMSS always warns us against.
        Again, sorry for my mistake, if you have read this far. No reply needed. (Hopefully you are busy with more important things.)
        This was a good challenge for me to express carefully a view point.
        Your questions were thoughtful and sincere.
        with a bow of respect,
        Cheers,
        Tim

  7. I haven’t read all the comments here, but I’d like to add this anyway: I was very much inspired by the books (and youtubes) of Byron Katie some years ago, but now I think she has quite some spiritual bypassing going on for herself as well.

  8. Pingback: Spiritual Bypassing | Standing in an Open Field

  9. These books are completely refreshing, inspiring and while there is no doubt a great deal of personality is woven within its contents it causes me to be even more intrigued.

    Without any doubt the tone and directness offered the the books by Jed McKenna will not harmonize well with everyone but I don’t believe that is the point. If you are expecting another book about the BS version of Enlightenment in that the path is simply one big love fest it will never sit right with you.

    Jed raises some exceptionally good points, concepts and insights that I’ve not seen elsewhere and agree or not with everything the value is not the words itself but rather what it inspires you to ponder… and perhaps use as a tool to transform.

    Naturally, I’m very weary of anyone that suggests they are enlightened since usually this is the first indicator that they are not. I do find it odd that it is a mysterious author that no one knows a lot about but this may temper the point of the coming out of closet per say of being enlightened. The more I’ve read, pondered and learned from these books the more I feel that maybe… Jed may well be enlightened more so then the snake oil salespeople that are all so common in the spiritual marketing machine.

    Like, love him, hate him all you desire but if you read these books you WILL learn something and as long as you are open you’ll grow. If his words particularly put a sour taste in your mouth then perhaps that is something to seriously ponder because… what if he is right?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s