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Denis Wallez
Works at koan.mu
Attended International Buddhist College
Lives in Rhône-Alpes (France)
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Denis Wallez

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Which meditation instructions not to follow?

   Even if one gives the benefit of the doubt and acknowledges good intentions from the author, many meditation instructions are so wrong, it's painful to see… and irresponsible to stay silent.
   If you're interested in buddhist meditation, there are a few criteria you might use to partly assess whether a 'teacher' is improvising:
• a key notion in Buddhism is causality. Instructions are to be consistent with considering cause and effect;
• another key notion in Buddhism is relinquishing views, or letting go of prejudices, preconceptions, preferences, biases… in order to focus on the situation at hand. Instructions are to be consistent with appropriateness to the context, with allowing specific conditions and circumstances to be navigated creatively, without one-size-fits-all dogma or blame games ("if you're experiencing this-or-that [negative phenomenon], you're doing it wrong / you're not correctly following my [obviously good] instructions").

   A key aspect to remember —at all times— is that "good intentions" aren't enough: execution matters too.
   Good intentions are not an excuse to squander an opportunity.
   Good intentions do not magically make the world comply with one's wishes., not even the wish to constructively and efficiently help others.
   No matter how good intentions about one phenomenon might be, a negligent execution will betray the presence of less wholesome intentions interfering… to the point of possibly causing more suffering than ease. An example of such a classic less wholesome intention is impatience (craving for fast results, ignoring some causal constraints).
   Cf. also gplus.wallez.name/NZottat2b3m


   Recently, I saw some instruction which presented the arising of pain during meditation as an opportunity for mindfulness (of body) and for training oneself not to immediately / automatically run away from discomfort (all perfectly valid points, in general), but then concluded thus:
   « But if after a time, the pain has increased and becomes unbearable, you must ignore the pain  and continue with the contemplation of rising and falling. »
   This conclusion is extremely unhelpful advice!

   First, buddhist meditation is not  asceticism. There certainly is a point in disciplining the mind, and in not immediately reacting to what's unpleasant, yes, but that's different from falling into stupidity or stubbornness! Cultivating stubbornness isn't helpful.

   Second, people can actually hurt themselves by a bad posture (rendering them less able to practice, less able to help others, etc.), and a bad posture will usually be more and more painful before it turns plain dangerous! Even if you don't want to let your body decide for you, it remains wise to consider whatever information your body gives you, before taking a decision on what to do next!
   Causality? Your body is unlikely to be screaming if everything is fine. Ignoring relevant information is not a sign of freedom, it only manifests blindness! You don't want to be fidgety? Sure! This doesn't imply being stuck, however. Adjusting your posture, as you gradually 'learn your lessons', is integral to manifesting the fruits of learning!


   Mindfulness is not blindness.
   Concentration and stability are not stubbornness.
   Wisdom lies in responding appropriately to the conditions at hand: only fools stick to prejudices and preconceptions (dogma), regardless of reality. Dogma about meditative postures or practices is no exception to that.


   It's fairly easy enough to copy meditation instructions, and to spread them with good intentions. Many practitioners believe they help others by doing so. Sometimes, it's true. Other times, it's not!
   When instructions are (made) dogmatic, it doesn't help. Even with a positive intention of striving for clarity and simplicity, it still doesn't help! In a world of ineffable richness, nuances count. Simplicity is great only as long as it doesn't fall into caricature.
   When there's not enough understanding of causal processes to deal with what might go wrong, it doesn't help either. Most people might suggest an aspirin or a paracetamol for a headache, but what happens when the 'patient' has an allergic reaction afterwards? One doesn't improvise oneself a medic! One doesn't even improvise oneself a first aider! Similarly, one doesn't improvise oneself a psychologist or a meditation instructor… without having the tiniest clue on how to deal with the difficulties that might arise.
   Behaving responsibly is not optional on the eightfold path!


#meditation   #Buddhism   #Dharma  
Illustration: very common mistake, which easily goes unnoticed when meditating moderately every day at home, and which therefore easily becomes a bad habit… but it turns into a very painful habit once meditating many hours a day e.g. during a retreat! « Ignore the pain, and continue with the contemplation of rising and falling » is certainly not the appropriate response once you realise the problem! And to let go of the unhelpful habit, one needs to repeatedly  correct one's posture, until the habit ceases! 'Knowing' what to do is not enough: adjusting one's posture (based on one's circumstances: maybe the cushion ought to be adjusted too!), again and again, is required! And even 'knowing' what to do is not necessarily simple; it often is 'simple' only in hindsight  (gplus.wallez.name/T5bf9LuqTFF). Neither fidgeting, nor stuck, the middle way: a constructive engagement with reality… a creative engagement, not a dogmatic engagement! Don't ignore pain.
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Hi for the mindfulness it takes practice I help my self to positive awareness and peace thanks Ralph
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Denis Wallez

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   1'55'' www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoRdCbDd50o

   Syria… Homs… once the third largest city of Syria, "capital of the revolution" in early 2011, before the governmental siege…

   Region now "controlled" by the government.

   Not sure what's left to control!
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Very sad indeed. 
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Denis Wallez

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January

   9 original contributions on g+:
It feels right…
  gplus.wallez.name/CqNmiDsDPGA
Dont' trust anyone
  gplus.wallez.name/JqYneaxNFp3
Don't trust yourself
  gplus.wallez.name/fNntpgXdTHj
• Agnotology
  gplus.wallez.name/BspgU8uE3M6
« AN ECONOMY FOR THE 1% (…) » and a particular aspect of the 'buddhist' economy…
  gplus.wallez.name/c5vnqXhzY8s
Utopian restraint?
  gplus.wallez.name/euu4jHRfJSc
• Pali Online School (for complete beginners)
  gplus.wallez.name/J24mwkvRDEc
Is mindfulness making us ill?
  gplus.wallez.name/NZottat2b3m
An appropriate response is not unique
  gplus.wallez.name/UnoFyYsg9n2

   Those interested in AI and ethics might also have a look at the discussion thread on "Go: Going, Going...Gone...to the Machine"  at
plus.google.com/+GideonRosenblatt/posts/ZeCc8YF6c6L, somehow related to refraining from the blind trust of "it feels right…",  and enquiring into what conditions such a feeling.

   Dharma.house (plus.google.com/collection/cO7I2) is getting fresh paint and some security checks from tomorrow; it will hopefully be ready for retreats this spring!

#Buddhism   #TableOfContents  
Previous monthly summaries: plus.google.com/collection/Uh5H2
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Pali Online School (for complete beginners)

If you're ready to
• block 3 weeks, and
• over that period, spend 4.5 hours online,  Monday to Saturday, and
• spend offline  an extra 1 to 3 hours every day  on 'homework',
  extra exercices, additional translations, etc.,
then
   if you want to be able to read (not write, not speak: read) Pali and access some of the closest (or the closest) sources we may have of the Buddha's teachings, then I highly recommend this course (which was previously endorsed by +Justin Whitaker too, who many people who follow me will also know on g+, at least as a moderator of the "Buddhism & Meditation"  community plus.google.com/communities/105840296523530134569).

   Please note, however, that I cannot stress enough that extra work outside of class is needed to fully benefit from the class.
   Students quickly split into two levels: those who perform extra work, and those who don't. If you cannot do the homework because of other commitments or difficult circumstances, you might still benefit from the course, naturally, but far far less than if you're really, fully committing three weeks of your life!
   Sometimes it's wiser to admit that circumstances are temporarily not supportive (or that you're not that much ready to "do whatever it takes" to learn) than to commit to do what you cannot really do. Just be realistic: learning to read a new language in three weeks can't truly be a half-time job. And don't assume you're so inherently talented that you can pull it off with minimal homework… "Seeing things as they are",  remember?

   The next session would be March 22 – April 9, 2016, assuming there's enough demand. For all we know, unless there's more demand arising, it might also be the last session… so maybe some people should keep in mind that "later" might prove "too late".
   The schedule for the coming session is Asia time zone friendly, but anybody in the world is welcome to attend. Please be mindful of daylight savings time.
   Hong Kong time: Mon-Sat  17:00–21:30 (HKT)
   London time:       Mon-Sat     9:00–13:30 (BST)
   Pacific time:        Mon-Sat     1:00–  5:30am (PDT), for insomniacs

   This is an excellent course, with a great teaching team. This is, however, an "intensive" course, so please kindly plan for the intensity! All classes are mandatory and build upon each other so missing even one class can have a detrimental effect.

   If you can afford this expenditure (time-wise and money-wise), then at the end of the course you should be able (using the normal aids available, i.e. dictionaries, grammars and contextual knowledge (maybe from other translations)) slowly to read a Pali canonical text and understand it for yourself.

   If you're interested, you can get more info at ocbs.org/courses/pali-online-school/ (or by contacting +Ilona Budapesti). Even if you cannot make the next March-April session, it might still prove useful / constructive to let Ilona know of your interest for future sessions (for they might never come into existence otherwise)!


#Buddhism
PS: you do not  need to buy additional books for this  course… but you might later on, if you want to keep progressing… The course however gives you an opportunity to "test the water" before buying grammars and/or dictionaries.
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   A schedule easier for Americans (I mean this at large, not just USA) has just completed, +Amitabha Elliott. Which is why I wrote to let +Ilona Budapesti know if you're interested!
   A more amenable schedule can definitely be made to exist, but it's critical to let them know that there's interest for one!
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« AN ECONOMY FOR THE 1% — How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped »
and a particular aspect of the 'buddhist' economy…


   Oxfam's new report on inequality is linked below (or via www.oxfam.org/en/research/economy-1).
   It is likely to be followed, like virtually every year, by 99% of people burying their heads in the sand and pretending that "I can do nothing, but surely  [some unidentified, generic] 'others' should!"  and later acting on such views (notably by voting not only against the interests of most, but even against their own interests! and notably by consuming in ways that condone the system: complicit silence is all the system needs to perpetuate itself).
   It'd be so great if 50%+ of the population finally voted in agreement with whatever head-nodding they manifest while reading the report! With several key elections in the richest countries coming next year, this could wholesomely reduce much suffering in the world.

   Let's highlight a critical paragraph, for those who wouldn't even follow the link otherwise, while clinging to a classic but fallacious defence of the status quo:
   « Apologists for the status quo claim that concern about inequality is driven by ‘politics of envy’. They often cite the reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty as proof that inequality is not a major problem. But this is to miss the point. As an organization that exists to tackle poverty, Oxfam is unequivocal in welcoming the fantastic progress that has helped to halve the number of people living below the extreme poverty line between 1990 and 2010. Yet had inequality within countries not grown during that period, an extra 200 million people would have escaped poverty. That could have risen to 700 million had poor people benefited more than the rich from economic growth. »
   700 million is no small number…

———
In response to a related question I regularly receive in one form or another:

   No, we don't have to stop capitalism and go toward socialism / communism. And, for 'buddhists', buddhism doesn't intrinsically condemn capitalism, but it should reject a stupid interpretation of capitalism!

   Capitalism isn't the same as condemning people to perpetually wanting more, more, more… Capitalism merely is an economic system to allocate resources efficiently.
   Now, one way to embody such theory is to ask the question « spending the same investment, can I produce more?  That's the classic way to look at it, which seems to 'work'… 'Seems', for as long as you're unaware of the medical, environmental, social, political costs of your investment…
   But another  way to embody capitalism would be to ask the question: « spending less, wasting less, polluting less, can I produce the same? » That's also a way of thinking in terms of efficient use of resources!
   So we don't have to abandon capitalism. We have to stop confusing capitalism with "getting more": capitalism is efficient allocation of resources, via the freedom to switch the investment at any time for a more efficient plan! It neither supposes nor fundamentally aims for "increasing output", but for "increasing efficiency"!

   A 'buddhist' economy —with high value on sharing, on compassion (not letting others suffer for our own little selfish benefit) and overall on ethics— doesn't automatically imply socialism or communism. But it would require to stop ignorance, stupidity and indeed the confusion between capitalism and "more, more, more". The best route towards dana  is via saving resources, rejecting automatic appropriation, rejecting automatic accumulation, refusing automatic hoarding: resources thus 'freed' from our grasp can then be constructively used by others.
   A "capitalist buddhist economy" appropriates less and less, and embodies restraint (not going for more than we need, in particular when others' needs are not yet met) combined with wise use of resources…


#engagedBuddhism  
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One word: Greed
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Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

« Kenyon rightly points to a fear of, or inability to exercise judgement as a root cause.  Antonyms of judgement include ignorance, inability, ineptness, stupidity, misunderstanding, unsoundness, inanity, indecision, and misjudgement. »
— +Peter Strempel 


Related: (gplus.wallez.name/R9q3ZDBnY5t) "being Zen but having an opinion?"  as well as (gplus.wallez.name/cU1H1wGq9j3) "Ignorant silence is not wise silence."  Aversion towards discerning is not the same as freedom from views. Discernment is the root-cause of ignorance; it also is the root-cause of wisdom! How one relates to (the process and to the result of) discernment is key.
How do people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge? Georgina Kenyon finds there is a term which defines this phenomenon.
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Don't trust yourself

   I posted yesterday about « Don't trust anyone » (gplus.wallez.name/JqYneaxNFp3) and it included a section on not trusting yourself.  As this might sound counter-intuitive, given that our practice requires strong determination/willingness, I suggest to look at the Pali Canon for another illustration.

   As you know, Mara  (aka. the lord of death) in the Pali Canon might be interpreted as our subconscious impulses (primal / unexamined thoughts, pushing us to act ignorantly rather than wisely… and therefore pushing us to perpetuate samsara  and its repeated cycle of life-and-death).
   It is correct that Mara  might also  be seen as a 'real' god, but the mind always interferes in Buddhism… so, whatever Mara  does, the veils of his "victim" 's mind get in the way, and what the person perceives often says more about himself/herself than about Mara.  The psychological dimension cannot be dropped.

   With this in mind, let's look at the Soma sutta  (SN 5.2):
«
   The nun Soma  has entered Andhavana  (Blind Man's Grove) near Savatthi  to practice meditation. Mara,  the embodiment of delusion, sees her there and desires to make her waver and abandon her concentration. He addresses her with a verse:
      That which can be attained by seers
      — The place so hard to arrive at —
      Women are not able to reach,
      Since they lack sufficient wisdom.
[ Soma  replies: ]
      What difference does being a woman make
      When the mind is well-composed,
      When knowledge is proceeding on,
      When one rightly sees into Dhamma?
      Indeed for whom the question arises:
      "Am I a man or a woman?"
      Or, "Am I even something at all?"
      To them alone is Mara fit to talk!
»
[translation by Andrew Olendzki, www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn05/sn05.002.olen.html]

   Interpreted in psychological terms, the story tells of Soma 's doubts about the ability of women, doubts she has appropriated from her education, from her social and cultural context (in India, 26 centuries ago… not the most "men and women are equal"  feminist context).
   The doubt is an example of unexamined thought: a thought based on habits, on hearsay, on dubious over-generalisations, on logical fallacies (e.g. the call to the crowd: "everybody knows that…").
   And Soma 's "reply" is the result of her examining this thought.

   Note that she responds to the doubt, she doesn't merely ignore it; her approach is to consider the thought, to examine it, to assess its veracity (or lack thereof)… In short, her approach is to 'engage' with the thought and arrive at valid cognition, not merely to suppress the thought by force (of concentration) but to cease its very cause!
   The sutta doesn't describe the whole mental process of Soma,  only her conclusion, only her attainment of true knowledge, which makes ignorance / Mara  lose its power (Mara  might propose wrong views to cling to, but if you don't grasp such a view, then Mara  has no pull on you!).

   In relation to the previous post, this sutta is an example of not trusting oneself:  not trusting one's own biases, one's own ignorant thoughts, one's own fears… solely because they're one's own.
   You might note that, to attain the truth, Soma  takes a step back, refrains from taking the doubt personally!  She basically doesn't frame the question in terms of 'persons' anymore, but goes right down to the core, or the heart, of the issue.
   In this case, the issue is some prejudice about gender. So she questions the phenomenon of gender in and of itself, without confusing  it with people  (people 'having' a body with said gender, but —as per the analysis of the five aggregates— the body is not the self, is not the owner of the self, nor is it owned by a self existing outside of it…). And once she isolates the core of the doubt, then the vacuity of the view which serves as its basis, the stupidity of considering that a mind would inherently be limited by a gender (irrespectively of how  the mind relates to gender) appears in plain sight.
   BTW, she's not denying that women might face different difficulties than men, from experiencing different circumstances; she's just rejecting the unexamined view that a mind 'inherently' is limited by a gender irrespectively  of how  the mind relates to gender. She simply becomes clear that this 'irrespective'-ness, this independence, this separateness, the 'self', is empty of essence: phenomena (including limitations) are dependently co-arising, or inter-dependent! The different difficulties than men and women meet on the way depend on the context, on circumstances, etc. but also on how one relates to this context, to this circumstances, etc! And it is possible to cultivate different ways to relate, e.g. ways endowed with equanimity, compassion, loving-kindness, ways endowed with patience, perseverance, wisdom!

   In this sutta, Soma  trusts neither Mara (although a very wise and powerful god) nor herself (projecting her unexamined doubt in the form of Mara):  she trusts no one. She doesn't trust what her society culturally holds as truth about genders, either. She trusts nothing, not what she knows, not what is told, not what is thought, not observations of the past (which would amount to forgetting that her circumstances now are not the same!): nothing and no one! But she engages with the difficulty, she enquires, she looks into it… she responds, she doesn't ignore.
   In the end, the clearing of the difficulty is not based on "my teacher told me that women could make it too"  (even though her teacher is the Buddha himself), but on her directly discerning the stupidity of an assertion that women inherently cannot attain nibbana. And the cessation of doubt (required for stream entry) is therefore linked to dropping a view, more than to clinging to any certainty: her 'trust' is tied to considering potentials and possibilities, instead of considering 'definitive' answers; it is tied to 'iterating' and 'engaging'!


#Buddhism   #Dharma  
Image: « Buddha's temptations » (1921) by Eduardo Chicharro y Aguera  (1873–1949).
   Another famous episode with Mara  is, of course, when Mara and his daughters assail the Buddha-to-be when he's on the verge of breaking through his last veils of ignorance, in the last hours preceding his awakening. Usually, this is represented in a very politically-correct way, as if it was no much of a threat to Gotama, as if he was already beyond temptations somehow, already awakened…
   There's an alternative interpretation though: in Seon (Korean Zen), there's a saying which goes "Great doubt, great awakening. Small doubt, small awakening. No doubt, no awakening."  Great doubt might mean questioning everything, trusting nothing! Small doubt would for example mean questioning the self, but not all phenomena. No doubt is sticking to prejudiced answers (even if Buddhist: without questioning, without testing, without —at the end of the day— actually trying them out!).
   With such a perspective, maybe the temptations of Gotama on his last night before awakening were not innocuous, but on the contrary were the most extreme. Gradually seeing most preconceived truths and certainties break down before his eyes, Gotama might have been seized, for a moment, by the groundlessness he was now (not) standing on… He might have been shocked, in some sense, by the extent of the 'loss' that was about to unfold (virtually the loss of everything most people hold dear, hold somehow important, hold worthy-of-effort: money, knowledge, security, reputation, pleasures, sex…).
   So, at the risk of disturbing, I'll illustrate today's post with a European rendering of Mara  and his daughters assailing the Buddha-to-be. The painter being Spanish, the painting doesn't come with the Asian 'respect' and desire to present the not-yet-Buddha as buddha-already. It might thus represent better the sheer magnitude of the temptation, or the associated fear of losing 'everything'… It might represent better the importance of not  listening  to all these unexamined temptations a man (in this particular case) holds, of not trusting one's feelings and desires and views and certainties about what's worthy and what's not, what's valuable and what's not, what's pleasant and what's not… and the importance of relentlessly enquiring into these instead!
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All I said was that the pic was nasty. That's it! 
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Have him in circles
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   43'35''… notably on what we share… on religious freedom and the founding fathers of the USA… on the duty for all to speak against bigotry, any bigotry… on dealing with #NotInMyName  expectations… on questioning assumptions… on political agendas… on terrorism… on the multiplicity of voices, trust, mutual respect… on the fallacy of caricaturing one's own multi-faceted identity…

#interfaith  
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An appropriate response is not unique

   One key manifestation of the notion of buddhist freedom is that one can respond to the situation at hand 'appropriately'  (without bias, preference, prejudice or preconception getting in the way —one might note that "not getting in the way" isn't automatically the same as "not arising at all" even if not-arising is, of course, a pretty reliable way not to become a hindrance).

   Unfortunately, it is easy to assume that there's often only one 'best'  response, at any given time, whatever the circumstances are.

   If we think in terms of an optimisation problem, it's easy to imagine there's only one 'global best'.
   The distinction between good-doers and buddhas could even be imagined as similar to good-doers reaching their 'local best' and buddhas reaching the 'global best', getting rid of the 'local' dimension of subjectivity, of self-centredness (getting rid of 'their'  best to attain 'the' best).


   If one thinks along such lines, then the notion that preference or preconception might still arise in a buddha (even if it's not fed energy that would allow it to render a response inappropriate) might even start appearing impossible…
   As I once explained (gplus.wallez.name/RSEqmZacaJ6), an early conception was that a buddha has simply ceased all afflictions, all hindrances, all ignorance and is therefore 'unrelated'  to Evil.
   But a later conception, and in my view a richer conception, is that what distinguishes a buddha from ordinary beings is the buddha's ability not to identify with such thoughts, hence not to perpetuate them: they arise, they cease, the buddha didn't act on them, nor did (s)he cling to them in any way. This is what the freedom to choose what you act on  brings: it lets Evil cease… In such a perspective, buddhas know evil (gplus.wallez.name/295spuRVpFv), or to phrase it like in the Pali canon, buddhas know Mara! Buddhas see things as they are, so they discern biased thoughts as biased thoughts, but it's not the same as pretending such thoughts never ever come to exist.


   To understand further, one needs to consider that there’s hardly ever "only one way", only one best response. If there was, maybe there'd also be only one path to attain Nirvana… Both caricatures should be abandoned (gplus.wallez.name/AMTiDhCZeAa).

   In optimisation literature, we usually get a Pareto boundary… a curve (possibly with seemingly chaotic contour) of equivalently-good solutions.
   One way to imagine this is simply to consider a mountain top: assume that a variety of conditions (e.g. oxygen seriously lacking above a given altitude) prevents you from reaching the top but also assume that, for the sake of all sentient beings, there’s still some interest in moving "as high as you can get".
   However high you might reach (based on the circumstances at hand), the acceptable responses will constitute a close loop around the top, a "contour line”, i.e. an infinity of equivalently good solutions… and 'choosing' which point of the line to aim for is then not so dependent on the goal, but on your starting point and obstacles in between! And in these starting point and obstacles, maybe one could find 'traces' of individual preferences…
   Would this suggestion constitute an insult to the Buddha? I don't think so: after all, even the most conservative school (Theravada) admits a distinction between nibbana-with-residue and pari-nibbana! 'Residues' or 'traces', if the distinction doesn't lie in 'unconditioned' nibbana, then it has to lie in the circumstances and challenges met.


   But that’s still not the reality we live in, in which impermanence rules!

   So imagine having to do the same, but now instead of moving as high as you can on a fixed  mountain, you have to be to the highest pressure point you can get to… not only facing that the masses of air move around and that the isobar lines are constantly moving, but also facing the fact that the highest point is constantly changing (not just moving around, but ceasing and arising/'jumping' somewhere else!), etc.
   Imagine navigating the attached video, with additional constraints like a maximum finite/conditioned speed at which the practitioner can move around, or a finite amount of energy based on donations (food, clothing, shelter, medicines) received to keep your body functioning…

   Does it sound like there’s only one unique best thing to do and that it’s always crystal clear?
   A temporary, local solution might be relatively easy to find (follow the local gradient!) but finding the best solution under constraints at all times isn't so straight forward.
   The very assumption that 'the' best solution might exist is dubious: predicting the weather beyond a short horizon is notoriously complicated (just like seeing the causal / karmic consequences, exponentially growing as one looks further in time) so aiming for the 'current' highest point might e.g. take you away from a future highest point about to arise (thereby preventing you to reach this future best in time)… Moreover, initial conditions would play a key role in which solutions can be attainable given one's constraints.
   If you add that the constraints themselves might be impermanent (e.g. your own ageing impacts them, ups and downs in donations impact them…), then how confident are you that there's only one  "best or most appropriate" response, even for a buddha?


   It is said that clinging to ideas about "what Enlightenment is" prevents from awakening…
   Even if one may legitimately 'aim' for supreme enlightenment, it's about 'doing', a lot more than about clinging to some preconception or prejudice (about how one 'should' behave in order to manifest supreme enlightenment). It's about 'functioning' as a buddha, more than 'being' (i.e. appropriating the label of) buddha.
   By focusing on 'doing', on 'embodying', you prevent the idea of (the unattainability of) perfection (of buddhahood) from sabotaging your motivation, your intention.

   Similarly, it's helpful to drop the idea of 'perfection' and/or 'uniqueness'  of "an appropriate response".
   By focusing on 'doing', on 'embodying', you prevent the idea of perfection (of an idealised response) from sabotaging your motivation, your intention.
   The buddhas we can see live in samsara, i.e. in the midst of conditioned phenomena (gplus.wallez.name/eEeAzENn9pp). And among the conditions and circumstances, among impermanence and unsatisfactoriness, under ineffable and contingent constraints, there's no unique best global 'solution'… but an infinity (most of the time anyway!). Which solution you get to might manifest traces of preferences, or traces of past deeds that influence your starting point, and that's OK: these traces do not prevent from reaching one of the numberless 'best's (no more than the karmic residues of the Buddha prevented him from attaining nirvana!).
   If you keep in mind one of traits of existence, "all conditioned  phenomena are impermanent ,"  then you can avoid the caricature of a unique, perfect answer… and recenter on mindfully enquiring into « what would be an  appropriate response now, a response that I can embody, given the constraints and conditions I face? »


   To aim to do our best, moment after moment, is to embody a wholesome effort, a wholesome intention not to settle for a self-serving "good enough" (gplus.wallez.name/Tnx1pJdhsvv).
   This being said, perfect can be the enemy of best ;-) notably when perfect is unattainable and there's an infinity of equivalent bests (not all attainable from all initial circumstances)!

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+Martin Swain - you write, But this is getting pretty esoteric and I'm not sure it's that useful

Well...yes. It is rather a divergence from practical matters. Personally though, I find esoteric discussions to be entertaining and even fun. The differences here are small, and I don't expect any of us will be changing their outlook on life as a result of this conversation. If you aren't enjoying the process then there is little reason to continue. But I do think I understand what you meant by "discreet", even though (as Denis pointed out) Zeno's paradox wasn't the ideal example. I think of drops of water falling into a bucket. Ten thousands drops might be enough to make the bucket overflow, but 9,999 drops will not. Each drop of water contributes to the final effect but without that last drop there is no effect (overflow) at all. And since the initial source (water) is finite, if you hang another bucket under the first, and so on, then eventually you get to a bucket that doesn't fill. This sort of effect chain is what I think you mean by describing actions and effects as "discrete".

I do not agree, but I do see merit in the argument. I would argue that the concept is flawed because it allows for only one type of effect when in reality effects are varied in many ways. If all effects were threshold dependent then the concept would make sense. And eventually yes, all threshold effects of a particular action must always eventually cease. But some things are not like that. Some effects vary in intensity or have complex dependencies. Consider an example man who chooses a mate and has a child. That child is the result of his decision to mate. And all of his descendants as well, and also there are all the people who don't exist because he didn't choose a different woman instead, and the other men he prevented from coupling with his mate. Each of these people is an effect of his one decision. And the ripples continue into the future as long as humankind continues to exist - which may not actually be infinite but the difference seems trivial to me.

Of course, I freely admit that this is only an interpretation of my perceptions, and none of it definitively disproves your own interpretation. Although the logic seems sufficient to me. (to bring it back to the original post, I guess you could say that this interpretation "feels right" to me. )
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Is mindfulness making us ill?

   The article attached is a tiny bit 'catastrophic' maybe… in the sense that, you know, boarding planes isn't for everyone either, driving cars isn't for everyone either, etc. The very assumption at the basis of the article (the idea that mindfulness is for everyone, independently of the context at hand) is utterly naïve!
   But maybe this article is a useful reminder nonetheless, for anyone tempted by naïve views.


   Mental cultivation (samādhi) without the foundation of ethics (sīla)  is basically seen as an aberration in Buddhist traditions.

   That's for good reason: the engagement with ethics is not only a way to build a supportive context (in which guilt, fears, regrets, etc. won't assail you "too much" while you meditate) but also a way to assess one's present compulsions, subconscious tendencies, etc. (and therefore to discern who can meditate safely right away from who's not in the appropriate mindset just yet)!

   It might be useful to remember that the embrace of mindfulness / meditation by lay people is a relatively new phenomenon in Buddhism. Historically, lay people cultivated ethics and generosity (notably via supporting monastics, teachers, projects…), only the utmost dedicated practitioners —monastics, hermits, teachers— would go beyond and start meditating (and not even all of them!).

   This too is for good reason: it's a lot harder for lay people, given the constraints they're subject to (social, economical…), to be in a place where they can be equanimous to what they see in the mirror. It's a lot harder in the midst of ordinary life not  to find compromissions, and other sources of shame, when 'looking inward'. And, importantly, it's also a lot harder to have the necessary time to successfully 'digest' any view-shattering insight… and living life with undigested insights can be akin to not finding one's footing again!
   "Harder" certainly does not imply "meditation should be avoided", but it does promote that cautious planning might be helpful, that qualified support might be helpful…

   It's not that it's wrong to share meditation to a larger audience.
   On the contrary, it offers great potential for more awakening… but one should use caution, intelligence and wisdom!


   It's useful to have a teacher, not just a book or some pre-recorded app' / audio ("guided meditations").

   Fixed records will never pick up signs when something goes wrong, fixed records will never answer ad hoc  questions: a live teacher is a critical safety net (it doesn't matter much if it's online or face-to-face, frequent contact or irregular, as long as  you can ask questions, report your experiences, discuss when needed!).
   This is true for any skill really: you can always re-invent the wheel, as an autodidact, or you can benefit from pedagogical means and expertise available (and be smart in how you leverage such supportive conditions to fasten your learning)!

   But not everyone is qualified to be a teacher: e.g. knowing how to make a few yoga moves doesn't qualify one as a psychologist, having attended one or two week-long retreats isn't enough to qualify either.
   While pastoral or psychological work shouldn't be reduced to a piece of paper (the ownership of it not guarantying in the least that its owner does actually 'care', and vice versa),  one way or another, any meditation teacher should be able to justify a rather extensive level of engagement with models, theories, practices, experiences… in order to know some antidotes when things go wrong  (or, at the very least, know where to quickly look for such antidotes)! This comprehensive knowledge might be acquired in relation to western or oriental psychology, in academic or monastic environments, or even in relation to a wide-enough range of deeply-examined personal experiments… but, whatever the way, expertise or mastery isn't acquired in just a few weeks.
   And, as a student, blindly confusing a piece of paper or an endorsement by the establishment with proper 'qualification' would be a sign of ignorance: you have to assess a teacher yourself, and take responsibility for that (cf. "In tribute to Søren", gplus.wallez.name/HehsaSmxXpV)!


   Personally, I address ethics with any student who asks me for direct guidance. It's not always fun, and many abandon when it gets more 'demanding' but, in this particular sense I appropriate the "buddhist" label, in this particular sense I am a "buddhist" teacher: I do see ethics as a necessary foundation for mindfulness practice to be beneficial.
   If such an approach requires more patience and perseverance, if it offers no promise of silver-bullet or magical wand, if it's a lot more engaged and demanding than merely listening to tapes in your car and expecting a great Awakening with capital A out of that, this is okay by me: patience  and perseverance  are paramita (wholesome qualities, useful to manifest a wise way of life) anyway! One cannot cultivate mindfulness very far without concomitantly cultivating these qualities.
   The eightfold path is… eightfold! It cannot be reduced to a unique "right mindfulness", no more so than a wheel can easily keep its strength and shape if you remove 7 spokes out of 8 (cf. "If someone tells you there is only one path to nirvāṇa (whatever the proposed path might be), reject the idea!", gplus.wallez.name/AMTiDhCZeAa). None of "right view" (by opposition to e.g. naïve, hopeful beliefs in one-size-fits-all silver-bullets), "right intention", "right speech", "right action", "right livelihood", "right effort" and "right concentration" can be forgotten if you're to cultivate "right mindfulness" successfully!


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   There are a lot of positive studies, +Rei Alexandra, the problem starts when people consider it's a one-size-fits-all solution to the ills of existence… Or when people take a study where mindfulness was studied in relation to a specific context, a specific difficulty / addiction / problem, with a specific protocol, and generalise the conclusion to much wider circumstances…
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Utopian restraint?

   In a recent post (gplus.wallez.name/c5vnqXhzY8s), I suggested that restraint  was key, even within a capitalist system!

   It seems restraint  would be a gate towards fairer distribution of wealth, and towards less harm (on many fronts, including social and political)… and should it be based on wise capitalism (efficient reduction of investment for equivalent output, instead of efficient increase of output for equivalent investment, when appropriate), this restraint could be without stifling innovation, and without some people (above —government— or sideways —peer-pressure) dictating for others what's good for them.

   Someone privately replied to me that it was utopia.
   However, I truly believe that most/all people have the potential to "awaken" (with the help of Buddhism or not!) to the consequences of their actions and therefore to their ethical (collective and  individual) responsibility. That this potential is commonly wasted doesn't imply it's not present: some might call it buddha-nature  (the absence of inherent, essential  blocking point between where we're at now and buddhahood), the possibility to find a way to live (more) wisely, whatever the current "starting point of the journey" is.
   Moreover, restraint  is not as unlikely to arise as an alternative way of life as some believe: for example, quite a few people currently review their eating habits and notably their meat consumption, in relation to the suffering involved as well as to the medical and environmental costs, and many of them are ready to adapt their consumption, on ethical grounds as well as for individual benefits. Quite a few people would chose an environmental-friendly product over another similar product, if given the choice… Many of these people, though, might come to realise that their meat consumption is not even the biggest suffering they cause in the world, and that how vegan food is packaged could well harm more sentient beings (including highly intelligent cetaceans) than 'reasoned' farming would, or that when they buy into "programmed obsolescence" and FOMO marketing, they support not only slavery in the poorer regions of the world but they also condone mindless waste and wide scale destructions of resources!

   I've written about it (gplus.wallez.name/TGBUJMuqewF) previously: for anyone interested in the welfare of others (be it out of unexamined compassion, philosophy, spirituality, secular ethics or humanism), a primary ethical behaviour is to reduce waste, i.e. to embody restraint  (independently of the economic system at hand, which is more about the allocation of resources —'planned' or 'free'— to meet a demand than about the demand itself).

#engagedBuddhism  
 
By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans, study says - The Washington Post

'... But that quantity pales in comparison with the amount that the World Economic Forum expects will be floating into the oceans by the middle of the century.

If we keep producing (and failing to properly dispose of) plastics at predicted rates, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound in 2050, the nonprofit foundation said in a report Tuesday.

According to the report, worldwide use of plastic has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years, and it is expected to double again in the next 20 years. By 2050, we’ll be making more than three times as much plastic stuff as we did in 2014.
...'

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/20/by-2050-there-will-be-more-plastic-than-fish-in-the-worlds-oceans-study-says/
About 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world's waterways every year.
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Thanks. I already do a lot of that stuff. :)
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A World in Turmoil
The Origin of Conflict

The brahmin Ārāmadanda approached the Venerable Mahākaccāna, exchanged friendly greetings with him, and asked him: “Why is it, Master Kaccāna, that khattiyas fight with khattiyas, brahmins with brahmins, and householders with householders?”

“It is, brahmin, because of attachment to sensual pleasures, adherence to sensual pleasures, fixation on sensual pleasures, addiction to sensual pleasures, obsession with sensual pleasures, holding firmly to sensual pleasures that khattiyas fight with khattiyas, brahmins with brahmins, and householders with householders.

“Why is it, Master Kaccāna, that ascetics fight with ascetics?”

“It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.

(AN 2: iv, 6, abridged; I 66)

From "In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pāli Canon", edited and introduced by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Photo: cover of Anouar Brahem's CD "Souvenance", taken by Nacer Talel ©2011

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Thank you +Denis Wallez it feels like little advanced teaching for now, but it may slowly come to my understanding :)
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Education
  • International Buddhist College
    M.A. in Buddhist Studies (award for academic excellence), 2012 - 2015
    Theravāda Buddhism, History of Indian Buddhism, Mahāyāna Buddhism, Buddhism and Society, Lamrim Chenmo, Buddhism In Japan, Theravāda Abhidhamma, Chinese Buddhist Thought, Bodhisattva Ideal, Buddhist Psychotherapy, Survey of the Doctrines of the Abhidharma Schools — independent research on "Japanese Buddhism in the Tale of Genji".
  • Chartered Institute for Securities & Investments
    Certificates in Securities & in Derivatives + annual CPD certificates, 2007 - 2012
    FSA-approved Financial Advisor + individual charter (2009–2012)
  • Armée de l'air
    Certificat d'Aptitude Militaire, 2000
    Sergent (R)
  • École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne
    M.Sc. in Telecommunications (ingénieur Grande École), 1993 - 1996
    Computer science (major in «Parallel and Distributed Computing»), maths, physics, economics, foreign languages (fluent: English, Spanish) + options (Japanese language, art history).
  • Lycée du Parc, Lyon
    Math'Sup' & Math'spé' M, 1991 - 1993
    major in mathematics; minor in physics — ∫ x.dx = 3/2
  • Lycée Lumière, Lyon
    Baccalauréat C, 1991
    majors in mathematics & physics; minor in biology
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«Intentions do matter.»
Introduction
For the time being, my g+ posts are voluntarily limited to Buddhism (as an Eastern mix of philosophy and psychology, not so much as a religion). However, in relation to Buddhism, nothing is considered off-limits!
My primary take on Buddhism is «Might as well be happy, since we're here!» The secondary take addresses how we can cease dissatisfaction in practical terms (considering that mundane life is not an obstacle to the dharma).

Given my other interests and experiences, I might however comment —sometimes at length— on others' posts regarding investment banking, economics, economic policies, politics; computer science, networks; philosophy, psychology;  typography, photography, sculpture; aikido, iaido; music; argentinian tango dancing…


Some popular original posts included:

The most commented-upon post is: Vegetarianism and lay buddhists
The second most commented-upon post is: Porn

The popular «meditation» series is now accessible via koan.mu/meditation.htm

The «karmic continuation» series is: 1. Capitalism, 2. Dualistic views, 3. "The end justifies the means", 4. Arms race, 5. News (Newtown, MA)

The «Christianity and Zen Buddhism» series: part 1 with annexpart 2part 3 and part 4


I am not a big fan of clinging, and so I quite naturally reject "clinging to traditional translations because they're classical." This includes the usual translation of the four noble truths (classic presentation): cf. the four tasks of the noble one, cf. life is pleasurable and ordinary minds can't get enough of it, cf. "on clinging to a particular translation of the 'four noble truths'."


My energy currently is directed toward opening a dharma house, a face-to-face setup hopefully better suited for an active participation by those attending than the passive, TV-like, social media 'streams'. My online presence might accordingly evolve towards more Q&A and less 'broadcasting'.
Work
Occupation
Buddhist teacher
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Listening & responding with compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity… Cutting through veils of ignorance (notably ignorance of logic and of causality)
Employment
  • koan.mu
    teacher, 2012 - present
    Many different labels (teacher, ajahn, 師傅, गुरु, 先生, sir…), only one function: transmission of knowledge and tools, to support further enquiry! Learning never stops.
  • various banks
    investment banker, 1996 - 2012
    Quant'; Head of "R&D"; Head of "model risk"; Trader; Product development lead… but also mentor, coach, trainer, teacher, volunteer, first aider…
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Rhône-Alpes (France)
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Amiens - Lyon - Plouzané (France) - Budapest (Hungary) - Paris (France) - Bruxelles (Belgium) - London (United Kingdom) - Chennai (India)
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