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Denis Wallez
Works at dharma.house
Attended International Buddhist College
Lives in Rhône (France)
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Denis Wallez

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1h09' video, food for thought
 
William Reese: Ecological footprints and capital

The average ecological footprint of a human on Earth is 2 Hectares (ha).
The average ecological footprint of a Canadian is 8 ha.
The average ecological footprint of an American is 10 ha.

At 2 ha/person, we fill 100% of the Earth's land area.

At 8, 4 earths, at 10, 5 earths.

We're going to need to find a bigger planet. Or reduce footprint.


Reese also raises two other good points:

Humans show little sign of intelligence, forward planning, or compassion, at large scale. That's quite similar to my earlier observation that humans are anti-ants: individually smart, collectively idiots.

He raises the point of drawing down natural capital. This gets to a principle failing of economics: consistently under-pricing ecological inputs.
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Quote from 43 min: 'the notion that we are a science based culture is our biggest cultural myth. It simply allows us to ignore the reality that we don't behave that way at all.'
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April

   6 original contributions on g+, on top of many answers on the posts of others (e.g. in the "Buddhism Q&A" community):
The core skill of meditation is -showing up- coming back
   gplus.wallez.name/EBDqZwQRbqV
Expedient means, or plain distortion?
  gplus.wallez.name/4mUw2vQyxm8
’Apocalypse’ as ‘enlightenment’? ‘Enlightenment’ as ’apocalypse’?
  gplus.wallez.name/27Ey6YSSi1N
The fake determinism of karma in some Buddhist instructions
  gplus.wallez.name/Yo69JtSdDKU
A comic about a comic-artist dropping comic-school
  gplus.wallez.name/jcrZXzm8JYx
What if?
  www.koan.mu/what-if.htm

   The first retreat at dharma.house is on the way. Could still with some help on the budget (en.dharma.house/donate.htm) if you feel like supporting a place spreading the dharma.


#Buddhism   #Dharma   #TableOfContents  
image: "one line buddha"  via tattootribes
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No, I didn't read the comments, just the original post. I'm glad that the clarification is available ... somewhere.
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CRITICAL THINKING - Fundamentals: Bayes' Theorem [HD] - YouTube

'Published on Apr 22, 2016

In this Wireless Philosophy video, Ian Olasov (CUNY) introduces Bayes' Theorem of conditional probability, and the related Base Rate Fallacy.'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqmJhPQYRc8
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The Buddha's insight about the Creation

   A few days ago, +Justin Whitaker posted an explanation 
 (plus.google.com/+JustinWhitaker/posts/XjrXJgFzA6C) on the Aggañña sutta  (DN 27). In the second part of this sutta,  the Buddha tells a story of how human beings came to dwell on Earth, i.e. proposes a story of the Creation.
   Justin did so in relation to a TV show… a show from the same series that triggered my recent post on ’Apocalypse’ as ‘enlightenment’? ‘Enlightenment’ as ’apocalypse’? (gplus.wallez.name/27Ey6YSSi1N). Visibly, this show is good at providing food for thoughts ;-)


   It might be noted that an historical reading of the Pali Canon might suggest that this Aggañña sutta  might have been grown in importance at a later date. In the third part of the sutta,  the Buddha discusses the origin of hindu castes. While Hinduism was gradually spreading over India in that period, it wasn't yet particularly dominant in the region where the Buddha lived, at the time of the Buddha… Sure, the Buddha could know of the hindu views and of their growing influence, he might also have replied to proselytisation efforts by hindus, and yet he would have replied to these views just like he would have replied to many other views.

   As he often did (as attested by many suttas),  the Buddha took the views of his interlocutors, to then bend them into a wiser perspective. In this instance, he appropriates their description of castes, to then assert the universality of wholesome behaviour! He also appropriates their claim of knowing the origin of the world, to turn it into a denunciation of 'craving'!
   That he often used such a pedagogical method creates a heightened risk when suttas  are partially quoted, because the quotes might reflect more the positions of an interlocutor of the Buddha than that of the Buddha himself!
   Of course, Justin didn't fall for such a mistake of misquoting: his presentation of a specific text, the Aggañña sutta,  clearly states that it is a moral myth first and foremost, rather than some definitive view on the Creation. However, someone else who read his post then wrote another post… in which the second part of the Aggañña sutta  apparently became "the  (!) Buddhist take on creation"  (tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/22/where-did-we-come-from/).


   So, below, I discuss how this Aggañña sutta   does not  constitute all the Buddha says about the creation (for a translation of the sutta  as well as useful notes, see Piya's dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/2.19-Agganna-S-d27-piya.pdf).

   I'm not convinced that the "discourse of origins" from this sutta  is about "creation", in and of itself. The key reason, to start with, is that there's no "creator", only causal unfolding!
   So it seems very much an ethical teaching to me, and I agree with Justin's conclusion that « the sutta is a morality tale wrapped in a cosmogony. » The wrapping is not to be taken seriously though, it's just a gift wrapping, the gift being the moral teaching! To take the wrapping seriously would go against many other suttas,  and basically take one sutta  out of context for the sake of confirming one's craving for a definite answer regarding the "creation"!

   One key idea in Buddhism regarding the 'creation' is that the self-perceived 'creator' is only delusional (about being the cause of the creation).
   This is supported in the Brahmajāla sutta (DN 1), §40–44 (www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.01.0.bodh.html#paragraph-40).
   A few paragraphs before, in the same Brahmajāla sutta, the beings involved in the "discourse of origins" are described. They pre-existed the 'contraction', so if there was a 'creation' then it had to be before the 'contraction'… which then sends us into a potentially cyclical world, of which the origin cannot be found (due to infinite regress). In modern science, this would link to the en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bounce theory.
   In a sense, the Buddha accepts that one being might see himself as 'the creator' (with reasons to back this up) and others might also see that being as 'the creator' (with reasons to back this up)… but he asserts that this is an ignorant perception and a faulty reasoning (an ab ignorantiam logical fallacy, in fact)!

   One way to look at the infinite regress even with a 'creator' is in questioning what intention caused the creator to create, then what caused such an intention, then what caused that, etc. It then appears the creator is subject to tendencies and causalities (i.e. karma)… and one ends up having to ask what created these… the creator is created, therefore is not 'the' creator… This was made explicit very clearly by Nagarjuna, but the idea long preceded Nagarjuna! It basically ends up with "we, humans, don't / cannot know what 'created' the world… so stop seeking an answer, and most importantly do not answer 'God' without proof, or that's just prejudice / preconception, not 'seeing' " (the Canonical version of this would be Acintita sutta  (AN 4.77)).
   This is not so much about asserting the factual existence of an infinite regress than about avoiding to waste time trying to find a beginning that cannot be found!
   The Assu sutta  (SN 15.3) has the Buddha state « From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. »).
   The Tiṇakaṭṭha sutta  (SN 15.1) has « Monks, without an end is the train of existence, a beginning cannot be pointed out of beings enveloped in ignorance and bound by craving, running from one existence to another. »


   The Buddha rejected the relevance of attributing everything to a creator, as he described the 'sectarians' in Tittha sutta  (AN 3.61). That is not necessarily to say that he entirely rejected the idea of a creation, BTW, but rather would question the usefulness of dwelling on such questions and views, which can prove spiritually counter-productive.
   It goes thus: « There are brahmans & contemplatives who hold this teaching, hold this view: 'Whatever a person experiences — pleasant, painful, or neither pleasant nor painful — that is all caused by a supreme being's act of creation.' » to who the Buddha replied: « Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of a supreme being's act of creation. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of a supreme being's act of creation. » and the Buddha continued to his sangha « When one falls back on creation by a supreme being as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], "This should be done. This shouldn't be done." When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my second righteous refutation of those brahmans & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views. »

   The idea that discussing of the creation might be spiritually useless or even misleading, is asserted clearly in the Kathavatthu sutta  (AN 10.70), when the Buddha said: « It isn't right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not. »


   With all these references, it should now be clear that the very existence of "the (!) Buddhist take on creation"  is an illusion.
 
   Historically, some teachers —including within the most orthodox tradition— may well have answered questions on the creation, notably if they saw that a clear answer would allow their students to go back to studying something else (e.g. how their own mind works!) and stop dwelling on a pointless quest… but this has to be understood as an "expedient means", not the transmission of the Buddha's insight.

   If anything, the Buddha's insight about the creation is that… dwelling on such a question is, spiritually speaking, a waste of time!


#Buddhism   #Dharma  
See also gplus.wallez.name/3N9DUFYPnh7 and its annex gplus.wallez.name/g7achUU7wci
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this, as stated above, is why i am a Buddhist and not a Deist. :)
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The fake determinism of karma in some Buddhist instructions

   It tends to be considered that there are several types of kappa (P.) / kalpa (Skt.) / aeon in Buddhism, defined as multiples of one another.
   The smallest kappa  would be the life expectancy for humans (supposedly 'decreasing' expectancy in our day and age —the "later days of Dharma"— according to traditional Buddhism, although that's a very dubious perspective from a scientific perspective!). The longest would be either a trillion years or so, or the duration of one cycle of the Big Bounce (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bounce).
   The Buddha didn't make such distinctions though; instead, he relied on a few analogies. A kappa  is longer than the time needed to fill a (16-miles)^3 cube by adding one mustard seed every 100 years, and is longer than eroding a (16-miles)^3 mountain by wiping it every 100 years with a piece of silk. Based on such definition, the 'past' that the Buddha took into consideration was rather vast: passed kappas outnumber the number of sand particles in the Ganges river, from where it begins to where it ends at the sea.
   The dictionary definition seems adequate:  « an indefinite and very long period of time »

   In Tibetan Buddhism, one easily comes across statements such as « generating compassion has incredible power to purify many aeons of negative karma » or « if we become angry at our guru, we will destroy aeons of merit we have accumulated in the past equal in number to the moments of our anger ».
   By repeating the Cundī Dhāraṇī  800,000 times, « one's deadly karma in every place, created over innumerable aeons, will be completely annihilated. » 800,000 times might seem a lot but compared to innumerable  aeons, it's all relative! For the impatient, another particular mantra might also be described as « more powerful than if one makes merit by making offerings, reciting mantras, making extensive offerings everyday for aeons to the countless buddhas of the ten directions… » And another might be described as « whoever sees, hears, remembers, or touches this mantra will be purified of all negativities and gain freedom from rebirth in the lower realms. Merely seeing this mantra purifies 100 million aeons of negative karma. »

   So… one  good / meritorious / wholesome action might cancel many aeons of negative karma… and one  bad / reprehensible / unwholesome action might cancel many aeons of positive karma…


   Even if we take this in relation to 'small' aeons as short as human life expectancy, the above statements relate to very large spans of time… and they're not particularly expressed in context-dependent manner, they're not meant as humorous, these come from 'instructions'.

   As instructions, they're weird though, for several reasons.
   For starters, nirvana  is 'unconditioned' and is not attained by simply 'earning' enough merit. The schools these instructions are from all accept 'emptiness' as a core teaching, and 'merit' is therefore empty of essence: merit is defined in relation to context, and has no inherent consequence. [It is not to say that merit has no place whatsoever in Buddhism: just like opening a door helps but doesn't automatically make you cross its threshold, merit removes barriers but this doesn't make you automatically reach the other shore… yet, it's still helpful not to run into walls or closed doors!]
   Moreover, our 'understanding' of karma  necessarily is non-deterministic. Causality 'appears' context-dependent even to the broadest, most discerning, least biased mind. Acts unfold into consequences just like seeds unfold in plants: without water and sunlight, the seed won't grow; it will still affect the environment (maybe it'll participate in feeding an animal…) but in a very different way than if it grew into a tall tree; the seed has no inherent consequence, that might be defined independently from a context. It is important to understand that even if karma was  deterministic (which isn't the case if other causal laws, or niyama,  are considered in parallel), this wouldn't necessarily imply that we can make reliable predictions! Because multiple conditions influence each event, the system appears chaotic to any observer who discerns a foreground and a background, and just like stable mechanical 'laws' might lead to chaotic systems for which we cannot easily predict the evolution far ahead (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stability_of_the_Solar_System), karma  remains largely unreadable to us as long as we cannot know, exhaustively and with infinite precision, all the ('initial') conditions of the system's evolution… i.e. it remains forever largely unreadable. When the Buddha commented on the karma  of specific people, he always focused on relatively short term, BTW, at most one life ahead… even the Buddha, even considered 'omniscient'! We cannot forget the mind, and the limitations of concepts and of language, when we consider someone reading / seeing / interpreting / using causality (gplus.wallez.name/aVJ7pgjKZT6)!


   Given you have no clue of how many eons you have been in this game, not even a clue about how many acts you've done one way or another in this very life, where does this leave you?
   Living in fear of making the tiniest mistake? Motivating you to seize every tiniest opportunity to behave wholesomely? Maybe… but this might be seen as inappropriate tension.
   Doing a lot of evils because you reassure yourself you'll be able to cancel them all with one single mantra before you die? Maybe… but this might be seen as inappropriate (lack of) tension, and as major delusional views (you don't know when you'll die, and even if you did, you cannot impose what you'll think about at that point! You cannot even control what you'll think about in a second or two!).

   Perseverance or energy is a Perfected Quality, doubt is one of the ten fetters, and yet the Buddha explicitly said that "right concentration" is neither too tight nor too loose. Like a musical instrument: too tense and the string breaks, too loose and the string doesn't vibrate to emit a sound. This concentration can be seen in relation to meditation, of course —that's how it's usually interpreted— but it also applies to the eightfold path itself: too tight and one becomes obsessed, unhelpfully clings to a goal and to the 'raft', and tends to become blind to the suffering of others… Too loose and one too easily postpones the actual practice for the sake of worldly cravings.

   Most teachers would suggest either to take these instructions literally, presenting their school as the 'truth' (even if they potentially understand that it's a 'conventional' truth here…), or to interpret them with a pinch of salt.
   Sometimes the same teacher might suggest either, based on the specific student at hand! Literal interpretation might be recommended to negligent or nonchalant students for example, those who need of lot of pressure before they even start considering ethical dimensions in their day-to-day life. Pinch of salt might be recommended to students who are depressed and think their past condemns them to many lives in Hell and cannot find anymore the motivation to resolutely change for the better.
   There's (at least) a third way.

   The point lies with your not knowing your past merits and past faults, not from previous lives, not even from this life! You might be clear on a few  of them, but if each  act may cancel millions of previous acts, and if you admit that there's a myriad of 'small' events from this life you don't remember (clearly or at all!), then you have to admit you just plain don't know your current 'meritorious' tally.
   So these instructions are directly pushing you toward a sense of humility. No matter how meritorious or unmeritorious you thought you were, if you think about it further, you have to admit that you don't actually know. And therefore your past doesn't matter much. How many years as a monk you've had, or how transgressions of precepts you've had, doesn't give you much relevant information, because you've forgotten most of the small acts that cancel millions of preceding acts.
   50 years as a monastic doesn't count much if a single moment of anger toward one's teacher cancels an entire aeon of merit… but a past crime doesn't count much either if a single moment of compassion toward an 'enemy' cancels an entire aeon of inappropriate behaviour.

   Once you develop this humility, you're likely to come to acknowledge that you don't know if you will be able to avoid spoiling lives of effort by a single moment of anger in the future.
   You'll acknowledge that you don't know if the best behaviour now will make much of a difference in the long run.
   You'll relinquish the permanency of 'merit', and realise that, just like maintaining concentration requires vigilance (so drifts are caught, and awareness is brought back to its object), maintaining merit requires vigilance and 'coming back' (gplus.wallez.name/EBDqZwQRbqV).

   So, although it is framed in terms of 'merit', the instruction pushes you to see the emptiness of 'merit', and the ludicrousness of counting merit, of hoarding merit, of craving merit… the ludicrousness of using the Dharma for a personal agenda.
   It's the same logic and skilful means as the apparently-paradoxical koans of some Zen traditions. The paradox can be resolved, but it takes to go 'beyond' words, beliefs, preferences, prejudices… beyond attempting to turn the Dharma into a tool to force reality to comply with your wishes. When the accounting doesn't make sense, you have to drop 'accounting' as the way to direct your life.

   And if you cannot take much of the past and much of the future into consideration to define what to do now, then the instruction boils down to "do your best, here and now"!  (gplus.wallez.name/Tnx1pJdhsvv).
   You don't know if it'll be enough to entirely cancel a heavy past, but the instruction asserts that there's no doubt it'll improve the situation. You don't know if you will ignorantly spoil it in the future, but the instruction asserts that there's no doubt the situation will be better anyway (partly because any spoil is finite, no matter how large…). You don't know if there's any point in counting individual merit, and the instruction leads you to consider expanding your horizon beyond 'merit' and beyond yourself (gplus.wallez.name/Z38n35NGvyB)!
   How do you do your best beyond 'merit'? You stop presuming that you 'know' what's meritorious or not: you pause, look at the situation at hand, and consider what the present conditions call for! You also stop presuming there's only one  'best' (gplus.wallez.name/UnoFyYsg9n2)!

   Although these instructions might seem extremely deterministic and to focus on long time periods ("do <this>, it is meritorious and <so many> aeons will be covered"),  they're in fact sending you back to the inadequacy of leading a life entangled in two delusions: that of 'deterministic' knowledge (including of how karma unfolds, and of a 'recipe' for enlightenment), and that of looking far back and far ahead even though you can only act / affect / influence what's happening now and you cannot know how far the ripples will go!
   Like a koan, the apparent deterministic certainty is more a question than an answer, as soon as you reflect on the instruction you received and try to embody it in practical terms! And this question is: what is the most appropriate behaviour, in the present situation, while acknowledging that all sentient beings seek not to suffer?


#Buddhism   #Dharma  
image: "point de fuite" by Nadine FOURRÉ (Photo: Jean-Louis Dalloz) www.facebook.com/nadine.fourre/posts/1117855361560794:0
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   See? That's exactly  where I suck, +Martin Swain! Please accept my apologies.

   'Guilt' is not  what I try to give rise to: guilt is dissatisfactory, guilt is dukkha,  people feeling bad about themselves doesn't help the world. What I'm trying to do is to inspire people, by leading by example or walking the talk, as well as by explaining the logic behind!
   Now, of course, as previously said, it takes 2 to tango: people may feel 'guilt' based on their own self-judgement, regardless of what I say! But I wish I could find a way to explain karma, dana,  etc., without so easily triggering negative self-views! I've done a lot of research on this, but I haven't found any other teacher (even among the most advanced ones) with a solution! It seems the individual reckoning comes with discomfort, and the question "what now?"  (which is itself uncomfortable as it challenges the status quo,  i.e. challenges the 'known' assumed to be, and felt or experienced as, 'safe').
   I understand that the 'guilt' might be relabelled as a form of insight, and that, if it pushes people to reform something they realise as inadequate, then it's wholesome and useful in the long run… but I wish I could minimise the difficulty of (and, therefore, aversion to) this particular insight!
   I regularly explain that 'effort' doesn't have to be equated with suffering, it can also be seen as a manifestation of 'enthusiasm' and 'joy' (like people put 'effort' into getting better at a hobby). I'm trying to show people that it feels good, it reduces suffering (that's scientifically proven, BTW), when we take care of each other, in practical measurable ways. But somehow it never gets through without some sort of 'guilt' at the time of the insight.

   The 'details' in relation to my teachings are on both my websites: http://koan.mu/donate.htm and http://en.dharma.house/donate.htm .
   This being said, it's important that you consider your means: as I explained, wisdom requires not to spend what one doesn't have. Of course, the difficulty is not  to use this as an excuse not  to give anything at all: its counterpart is that every  contribution helps, no matter how small! This applies to me (not spending time I cannot afford writing teachings on g+, but still contributing teachings whenever I can…), and this applies to you too ;-) Moreover, I understand that you might think other sanghas, or other charitable causes, are 'higher priority' than my teachings, and that is a perfectly legitimate point to ponder.
   The practice of dana,  charitable and generous giving, is important. The 'allocation' of your gift is another question though! Any wholesome allocation calls for wisdom and nuanced understanding: the world cannot be caricatured as having a single priority… but, at the same time, sprinkling donations too thin on too many causes doesn't get much done, except giving processing fees to banks… Scientifically speaking, that's partly why 'giving' has spiritual value: to allocate your gift, you have to cultivate awareness (notably of causal consequences, including 'cascading' effects —so education is a great charitable cause) and discernment!

   I hope this helps.
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and the cost of each Javelin could fund a lot of education, which is as far as we know one of the best antidotes against extremism…
 
Think about it... ;-)
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Our "rehearsal retreat" is now over and was a great success… so we're now ramping up toward the inaugural one-week retreat, June 4th–12th, in France, on "practicing in the midst of lay life"!
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Great job +Denis Wallez .../\...
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   Well… Ready or not, the dice is cast! The house is now on its last trial run before hosting week-long retreats!

#Buddhism   #DharmaHouse  
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I wish you well Denis.
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What if?

   Our capacity for auto-conviction is large. This can be a strength or a weakness. We generalise abusively from a few examples to grand rules, this can mean efficient learning, it can also mean unexamined prejudices and unrealistic expectations.
   A key to separating strength from weakness is cultivating awareness of these 'discernment', 'grasping' and 'generalisation' processes: to know that we're generalising, and to know the bases of the rule we draw, so that we might enquire into the appropriateness / usefulness of the drawn rule in another context! The awareness allows to question, beyond the "I feel like it"  or "that's what feels right".
   It is known that expertise comes with familiarity, and basically with having seen a sample large enough to draw 'rules' that are less caricatural than most observers with a small set of observations would draw. And to have integrated such rules so that they become 'intuitive'. There's nothing inherently wrong with "I feel it's the answer",  but it doesn't allow to improve if we cannot pin-point how we came to be wrong, whenever we are. In accordance with this, the Japanese culture has long promoted introspection and awareness in the search for perfection (be it in calligraphy, pottery, poetry, flower arrangement… or drawing swords!): being an expert still goes hand in hand with paying attention to the situation at hand, rather than blinding oneself by arrogantly assuming that one knows 'everything'.
   The quality of attention even when one 'knows'  is what distinguishes the highest masters. It's also what allows them to correct any flaw arising early on, before it takes significant proportions. This is totally compatible with what the Buddha describes as "right effort": a zeal for the non-arising of unarisen evil unwholesome states  (as well as a zeal for the abandoning of arisen evil unwholesome states, a zeal for the arising of unarisen wholesome states, and a zeal for the increase and fulfillment of arisen wholesome states).


   And so a key aspect of buddhist practice, in which some qualities or factors, and wisdom, ought to be 'perfected', is to remain vigilant, to pay attention, to one's practice! And a pertinent question to do so is "What if?".
   So… what if I'm over-generalising here? Maybe projecting some well-known past into a future, while missing that my practice itself has changed the context and therefore might change the unfolding? [Quite obviously, the fact that I couldn't do something in the past doesn't necessarily imply that I cannot now, most notably if I trained specifically in the meantime in order to become capable! ]
   So… what if I'm caricaturing a difficulty, making it an unassailable big and hard ball? What if I'm confusing what I feel (which is influenced by what I expect!) with what's actually happening in my body? What my body ends up tense, not because of external factors stressing it, but because of my unexamined mind triggering a fight-or-flight hormonal response (even in the absence of physical danger to fight or flee)?
   So… what if I'm doing body-scan but forgetting that my mind highlights some phenomena and ignores others, thereby biasing any auto-diagnostic? Sometimes I'll convince myself that a pain is unbearable even though it's perfectly manageable if I just sit through it; at other times, I'll convince myself that a pain can be ignored, when I'm actually damaging my body and should wisely move, letting go of unwholesome stubbornness…
   There's no predefined answer to "what if?"  We cannot presume whether it will confirm or infirm a previous conclusion, but it's a tool to examine, to learn, to expand the awareness and therefore the understanding of causality.

   It's OK to ask "what if I'm right?"  and "what if I'm wrong?",  but these are still caricatures of a black&white world.
   It's usually more helpful to find nuances, additional information that might tweak an approach without invalidating it completely. So "what if I'm exaggerating?"  and "what if I missed some useful information?"  might be more promising than "what if I'm right/wrong?"


   A recent example I came across with a student was in dealing with the view "something is wrong with me",  on a medical level… and making a big, hard unassailable problem that entirely blocked her horizon.
   Given the symptoms described and the environment she lives in, an 'easy' question though was "what if it's not 'with you', but with the environment?"  i.e. "what if you're not sick as an individual, but suffer from a peak of pollution?"  There's no immediate or easy answer to such a question, but it highlights that some possible causes for the observed symptoms were highlighted by the mind and others ignored… and, unsurprisingly, the mind focused on 'me, me, me' and ignored the rest: "what's wrong with me?"
   Self-preservation may seem an effective default strategy, with no downside if we're wrong ("false positive" signal): when we make sure we're healthy, we're not creating risk if we already were healthy. It might seem so but, really, it's an ignorant delusion! By wasting our attention on the wrong object, we might ignore what actually creates a risk, and we might ignore it long enough (an 'enough' which might be pretty 'short'!) for the risk to materialise… and then we're taken off-guard, because we were focusing on the wrong risk all along, and we respond in a sub-optimal, ill-informed way! There's no wisdom in planning a response to a non-existent risk, while being blind to an actual risk! So a wise, unbiased diagnostic is the most constructive approach, without self-indulgent biases and preferences, without belittling some risks and magnifying others (e.g. considering a 4/1,000,000 risk as a 40% risk), etc. If what we need is to change the environment and have some fresh air in the countryside, staying in a polluted town to see a doctor to determine what's wrong is worsening rather than helping the situation! There's no easy answer: "see the doctor" is not one either! [Another classic example is that people's heart rate is faster when a doctor listens to it… which doesn't help doctors with diagnosing heart conditions! No easy answer!]


   Many students forget that, as they progress, they gradually learn to cultivate an equanimous 'open awareness'… but that, no matter how useful opening up to a wider perspective is, sometimes the appropriate approach is not  to take an ill-defined problem in its entirety but precisely to decompose it into smaller, better-defined parts! What if the form of meditation you rely on today isn't the most appropriate to your context? What if, instead of cultivating equanimity to all thoughts that arise, today you need to examine the said thoughts, discern those which are caricatural and treat them as such (letting them be, but not taking them too seriously prior to further nuances being asserted)? What if today you need to pay attention to the nuances between perceptions, sensations, feelings, thoughts, conclusions, views? What if today you need to pay attention to the nuance between the body informing the mind, and the mind informing the body (both channels possibly counting on hormones as a communication medium… and therefore possibly tricking themselves, creating self-perpetuating stress-worry-stress loops)?


   Sometimes, as an antidote to complacency, "what if I die tomorrow?"  is a good motivator to get back into practice, or to make the phone call or the apology we know we need to do but keep postponing anyway…
   But at other times, "what if I'm not dying (right away)?"  is the more useful question. Letting the fear of death dictate our responses, and letting it blind us from others, isn't particularly helpful to anyone, least of all to ourself! Even if we're dying (i.e. the answer to the "what if" brings a nuance, but doesn't invalidate the initial diagnostic), the fear of death might prevent us from appreciating whatever good there is between now and our death!

   So… what if we missed a nuance? "Keep paying attention", "don't-know" (as Korean Seon Buddhists would say)! 
   A question that has proven helpful to many is "what is this?"  (this experience, this life, this reality…). It's a call to pay attention, rather than a call for definite answers. It points that definite answer might well be true in a moment but unreliable the next, and that attention and iteration are more constructive than certainties to deal with life: there's no reliable "user manual" for life, even if many books have been written on the topic! This 'many' is itself a strong hint that there's no reliability in them!
   But sometimes, in spite of knowing that this hwadu  is a call to pay attention, the brain does nonetheless grasp a definite answer, a 'certainty', and clings to it. In such a circumstance, "what is this?" can be used recursively: what is this answer? what is this certainty? is it as certain as it appears to be? etc. But an alternative can also be used: « what if our answer now blinds us from on-going changes, becomes outdated no matter how right it 'was', blinds us from opportunities now arising? »


   There's this line, starting the Dhammapada,  that most translators struggle with, about "the mind precedes the worldly phenomena, is their chief".
   Partly, it is a problem only because too many people confuse some 'objective' world (I probably should use more quote marks!) with the 'perceived' world: they turn a sentence which indicates that one's anticipations and expectations bias one's perceptions  into some grand causality on rebirth.
   Partly, it is made difficult by turning 'chief' into a sort of controller, what's in charge and dictates (like a law), rather than simply the foremost, the most important, the one we hear most loudly… But if I say that we automatically pay a lot more attention to whatever goes on in our head, than to whatever goes on in the world, there's nothing highly metaphysical or surprising! The mind is the ruler of phenomena, as  we look 'up' to it whenever it makes itself manifest, not as  a God that can dictate what the world actually is based on its will!
   ;-) But what if I'm missing something here?


   Insterestingly, even if one stays partly blind due to preconceptions, prejudices, fears, etc., answering to "what if I'm right?" (a question already described as less than optimal) should still help to get out of a mind pointlessly going round in circles, and to kickstart action!
   OK, I'm going to die (we all know so, no?), nothing I can do about that, so then… "now what?" What else can  I do? Who do I want to be between now and then? Can I improve whatever legacy I leave, no matter how small the improvement is? Can I bring a conflict to a close? Can I breathe slowly and let go of the panic? What if I can reconnect with my better, generous, loving, « self-less 'true self' » (cf. gplus.wallez.name/3pnjLP3xrTN), free from the conditionings, social programmings or societal clothing, etc. that impede it and turn it into a manifestation of passive-aggressive self-obsession (presently freaking out about the existential fact that everyone dies, 'me' included)?


   For the avoidance of doubt, "what if?"  is not  to get lost in mental fabrication about hypothetical worlds where we wouldn't have to face what we have aversion to, about hypothetical worlds where the past would have created a different present… "What if?"  is to reconnect with our potential here, in this world, while we're here, now! "What if?"  is to escape the mental caricature of problems, blinding us from present options, blinding us from present potentialities. Hence the suggested long form (What if my present perception / conclusion is not all there is?  What if I missed a nuance?)  and the explicit call for attention, not for more and more 'planning'.

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art by +Pausha Foley 
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+Boris Borcic
We all know the sky is blue; everyone's perception of the world is strongly influenced by their own uniqueness; each world-view is different.
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Denis Wallez

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A comic about a comic-artist dropping comic-school

   It's funny that v.1, linked below, actually presents the drop-out in a lot more 'human' and less 'dogmatic' way than v.2 ;-) In my eyes, it represents a very valuable personal enquiry by the school drop-out, into the deep questions of "what is this?" and "what now?"  It's inspirational!

   However, v.1 supposedly included statements that the to-be-monk expressed concern about, and provided a correction to… hence v.2 (the link is at the bottom of v.1). Interestingly, v.2 introduces more difficulties than it solves though!

   To start with, while it is worthwhile to try and express oneself as clearly as possible, trying to control how others will receive it, trying to force reality to 'understand' us, is clearly delusional. We do our best, we influence, but we have to let go of being in perfect control ;-)

   Moreover, to assert that Buddhism is suitable for oneself because one "needs structure"  is probably a better reason (and a perfectly valid one, since Buddhism —contrarily to the recent rise of consumerist 'mindfulness'— does  offer a strong ethical frame and even institutions!) than to assert that Buddhism is the "most direct"  spiritual path (without the tiniest proof!). Suitability or appropriateness is a relationship between path and student; it's not an inherent characteristic of the path ;-)

   Finally, the "relativity of values",  observed when people in different contexts react differently to the same announcement, is a much wiser observation than "a monk's path can only be understood by a monk",  which is classic claim of being 'special' in some way (gplus.wallez.name/1Uogq22rQ4Q) and/or the arising of common 'conceit' by monastics.

   Deep questions of "what is this?"  and "what now?" !
   Let's wish a good continuation to this young novice!


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This is the story of Jacob Canepa, a third year student at the Graphic Storytelling program (four year bachelor study in…
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I believe I understand some Buddhist philosophy. And as +Denis Wallez says, it depends on the tradition. And as an artist and a Buddhist, as someone who has only ever drawn or painted or cartooned, as someone, who, as a Buddhist discovered a bit about self and ego and all that stuff, as someone who thought that they might even become a monk, and as someone who found that drawing, looking, seeing and reproducing is actually really the process of 'who I am' , I get it. Because one or the other is identity, attachment, clinging, a fixation, a fixed position, a label, not being.


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Denis Wallez

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« Toutes les cultures se valent-elles ? »
('replay' disponible jusqu'au 12/05/2016)
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Raphaël Enthoven s'entretient avec la professeur de philosophie Claire Delnatte.
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’Apocalypse’ as ‘enlightenment’? ‘Enlightenment’ as ’apocalypse’?
(food for thought)

   I struggle to link 'apocalypse' with 'enlightenment'.
   It's a question of frames of reference: it sounds to my ears like trying to shoehorn Buddhism into a box where it doesn't fit, just like it would seem incongruous to present Christianity in terms of 'selflessness'. Of course, comparisons and mutual enrichment are possible, thers value in inter-faith dialogue… And, of course, one cannot use language without introducing some sort of "frame of reference" one way or another (which e.g. prevents two people from being sure they mean the same thing when they use the same word, or which e.g. makes the art of translation difficult, when a word in one language doesn't have an equivalent word in the other)… Yet, we can strive to appropriate multiple frames of reference, learn multiple languages, broaden one's horizon, minimise distortions, rather than force everything into one frame.

   The very idea of ‘apocalypse' is tied to the destruction of a former creation, of a former order. Meanwhile, nibbana  is regularly described as "the deathless", and it is explicitly described as death-less because it’s also described as un-created: it is "beyond life and death”, “beyond arising and ceasing” (conditioned dhamma are impermanent, but nibbana  is unconditioned, uncaused, unborn: impermanence doesn’t apply)! And ‘enlightenment’ relates to nibbana…
   This being said, ‘enlightenement’ relates to nibbana  without ‘being’ nibbana,  it's an insight into the existence of nibbana (an insight beyond what is told by others, be they buddhas), so maybe there’s still some equivalence to find.


   'Apocalypse', to my ears and according to the Oxford dictionary of English, refers to a "complete, final  destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation.” However, it may also take the more secular meaning of "an event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale".
   According to Buddhism, regularly, a world ceases and another comes (with some causal links between the two: how  one ends will influence how  the next arises… maybe similarly to how small local fluctuations during the Big Bang end up causing galaxies and spaces in between). This arising and ceasing is 'change' or 'impermanence', rather than 'destruction' (I suppose we could still consider it to be of 'catastrophic' scale).
   If one goes on the basis that no energy (be it in the form of matter, radiation, movement…) is added or lost, but everything is transformed, then talks of 'destruction' implies the discernment of specific 'arrangements' of energy, and these particular arrangements cease (maybe to give other arrangements, or to remain in a state of chaos) while their constituents don't necessarily ‘vanish'… This is similar to breaking a vase: you still have all the pieces of glass, no physical matter has vanished, but the arrangement has ceased and the disorganised elements no longer play the function of a 'vase'.

   For all we know, the Buddha didn't vanish in thin air upon getting enlightened though… His physical appearance didn’t change… His personal history didn’t vanish or become irrelevant (on the contrary, he recollected all ‘his' previous lives and could therefore now consider the total set of accumulated lessons!)… So the "final ending of the world” or even the "destruction on a catastrophic scale" are difficult to project on 'enlightenment'.

   Somehow, ‘enlightenment’ does relate to a 'final' cessation, explicitly so even… but not of the world (in which the Buddha abides, to teach), and not of life: it’s the "blowing out" of three specific fires, it is the cessation of lust, aversion and ignorance. It's not,  however, the cessation of compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, equanimity, patience, perseverance, wisdom… It's a freedom from automatic / prejudiced / biased responses… but it's not disappearance, it's not indifference, and it's not death (karmic residues from the past don’t even vanish, and will unfold!).


   Now, one could naturally argue that the Biblical ‘apocalypse’ doesn’t destroy identity or compassion either! If there’s a Judgement Day, and people end up in Paradise or Hell, the destruction of the world is about the material world, not souls. So maybe the apparent continuation of the Buddha after ‘enlightenment' might be not so problematic, even when ‘enlightenment’ is linked to ‘apocalypse’… 
   This is a funny twist though, because when Buddhist consider the impermanence of the world, they include heavens and hells in what they mean by ‘world’: heavens and hells cease too, not just the physical world!

   Buddhism contests the idea that an external judgement is necessary for people to have their comeuppance.
   In particular, ‘enlightenment' isn't like any judgement: it isn't a 'judgement' on your past performance, on your past morality, etc. So there’s no need for a supreme judge in Buddhism, and karma  isn't a retribution system, it's a causal system: if you make the world to be crap, you'll live in a crap world… This is a simple consequence of not having the option to live in ‘another' world, it's simple causal continuity, nothing requiring a judge or a judgement! The one key assumption is that the ‘world’ includes hells and heavens too, and therefore there’s no disconnect through time or space between what you do now and you will experience later: your present acts directly shape the context (the world) in which you will live, it’s the same (all-inclusive) world.
   ‘Enlightenment’ is letting go of ignorance and therefore it’s seeing what works and what doesn’t. From such a ‘seeing’, it’s ‘easy’ to do what works; why would you sabotage your own contributions, by voluntarily doing what you know doesn’t work? There’s no need for ex-post judgement; there’s need for discernment and for taking responsibility for one’s contributions.

   Going back to an ‘apocalypse' that preserves identity, there’s another key reason why it’s difficult to link it to the teachings of the Buddha: he refused to assert anything about the existence, non-existence, both, or neither, of a buddha after death! This is part of the famous 14 "unanswered questions”.
   This silence might certainly seem puzzling! Attaining nibbana  is seen as attaining freedom from rebirth (i.e. ceasing any 'automatic', compulsive rebirth, without choice, without control). And it is generally admitted (in early Buddhism) that the Buddha entered parinibbana  when he died, i.e. he was not reborn [supposedly because it was the only way he had to prove to his students that he had a choice about it, which makes sense if rebirth was considered as the automatic, unescapable default]. If it is admitted that there's no rebirth for the Buddha and that he —as a human— died, why would he have refused to answer about the existence or non-existence of a buddha after death? To the non-enlightened mind, death without subsequent rebirth (not even in Paradise) implies inexistence of a soul, and therefore lack of existence; it tends to be relatively straight-forward (and nihilistic).
   But what happens when you realise ‘selflessness’, one of the key insights of the Buddha?
   And, even further, what happens when you see that, when you realised selflessness, you simply saw a trait of reality that had always been there (i.e. your realisation didn't change your nature, from self-based into self-less)?

   What happens when you realise that you are like a vase: a specific arrangement, ‘real’ in some momentary sense, playing a function, and yet ungraspable because it’s unclear what makes a ‘vase’?
   Does the colour of a vase make it a vase? Can a vase exist without an associated colour? Would coating the vase make it less of a vase, more of a vase? Would chipping the vase immediately destroy it? At what point would ‘damage' equate ‘destruction’? Would the ‘destruction' be irremediable, or could some Japanese kintsugi  or kintsukuroi allow for the function to be recovered, or some other function to arise (gplus.wallez.name/4pauGPXRG1c)? And could a vase become 'more' useful, more appropriate to what the situation needs, once recycled into something else? Could the legacy of a vase long destroyed remain, e.g. inspiring new forms? Could you separate such a legacy from its function?

   If you philosophically talk of 'ending' in Buddhism, you can talk of the ceasing of some dhamma  (fundamental ‘atoms' of existence, atoms in the sense that you cannot decompose them further without irremediably losing sight of their ‘function’ and ways of interacting with the rest): conditioned dhamma  typically cease when their supportive conditions themselves come to cease (a simple change of context).
   But you cannot ultimately talk of the ceasing of a 'person', who (like a ‘vase’) is not a dhamma,  not an atom: a 'person' can be analysed in terms of body, perceptions, sensations, ideas and consciousness (themselves decomposable into smaller units). And a 'person' is neither its body, nor its perceptions, etc. A 'person' isn't not reducible to any single aggregate (change the body, e.g. by cutting a limb, and it doesn't seem you're automatically changing the associated 'person'!), a person doesn't 'own' any aggregate either (there's a lot of biological automatisms that were not chosen and are not controlled)…
   Talking of a 'person' ending doesn't make much sense, if you cannot reliably define what a 'person’ is! Talking of a ‘person’ may be convenient at times, in some contexts, sure: quick, approximate reasoning and choices sometimes are appropriate enough! But if you’re interested in ultimate realities, you have to be able to define what you’re talking about… or accept that 'unborn' silence might be the best you can come up with! And since we struggle to define ‘life’ or ‘consciousness’, defining ‘person’ is in great difficulty! It manifests a limit of perceptions, of words, of ideas! We don't even know if a specific 'person' actually exists in any way, because all we access is our own mental perception of it, like in a dream! We usually forget our own mind (gplus.wallez.name/aVJ7pgjKZT6), we ignore its filters.

   If ‘enlightenment’ is presented as the great ending, the ‘apocalypse' (be it preserving a self, or destroying it too), such a presentation implicitly relies on a notion of 'person' which is foreign to enlightenment, foreign to the cessation of ignorance (and notably of the ignorant belief — sakkāya-diṭṭhi — in a 'self’ or ‘personhood’ which cannot be found!). The "personal revelation” of the 'awakening’ comes with the insight that a 'person’ ultimately is not  like whatever concept we have of ‘person'!

   I struggle to link 'apocalypse' with 'enlightenment'.
   Apologies, my limitations!

———

   I’m not entirely convinced the Karmapa  is "trying to understand why we're here"  (which can be interpreted as seeking either a cause or a purpose).
   If one ignores questions about the creation (nothing can be done about it now, and it’s only an infinite regress if you move up the causal chain), and if you’re mindful not to lose yourself into far-fetched speculations about the future, then "what to do?"  (neither in relation to cause or to purpose, but appropriately to the contingent context at hand, without presupposing a direction, a destiny or even criteria set by god(s)) might be a more helpful question.
   In Tibetan Buddhism, they often phrase it thus: « Since death alone is certain and the time of death uncertain, what should I do? » (gplus.wallez.name/XEAFHM4tH8X)


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   As I wrote, +George Kozi, no I do not think that « enlightenment is apocalipse for the ego », not at all!

   You have two ways to look at this:
• The ignorant belief in a self — sakkāya-diṭṭhi — is the first of the ten fetters. Clearing it alone doesn't even get you to stream entry: you need to also  clear doubt and the attachment to rites to achieve stream entry! And stream entry is a long way from arahantship.
• "Realising selflessness" (even if you take it as something much more advanced than merely dropping sakkāya-diṭṭhi) doesn't change your nature: you always were selfless, even before seeing so for yourself!

   There's no ego that could die or cease! The apparent 'ego' was/is a misperception, it associates an entity, or a 'self', to a fleeting appropriation of aggregates (including an aggregate of various ignorant opinions). Enlightenment might be linked to the cessation of 'clinging', and by seeing the impermanent nature of the aggregates and stopping their reification, the perpetuation of the misperception of an existent ego becomes unsustainable. But the ego was illusory all along.
   Then, 'enlightenment' is accessing the ultimate truth… but it doesn't make the conventional truths any less true! The Buddha could still talk of himself, after awakening, and of other persons. The conventional labels can still be useful and effective.

   So no, there's no apocalypse of the ego tied to 'enlightenment'. Depending on how you look at it, it may occur much earlier, or it doesn't occur at all (there actually isn't any ego which could disappear): either way, it's not a key trait of 'awakening'.

   Food for thought… is precisely to try and go beyond the hearsay, the "what I hear" ;-)
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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…

To search through my content, it can be helpful to use the search box at koan.. My energy currently is directed toward opening the bricks-and-mortar manifestation of this endeavour, called dharma house: a face-to-face setup hopefully better suited for an active participation than the passive, TV-like, social media 'streams'.


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'."
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Buddhist teacher, philosopher and counsellor
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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)
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  • dharma.house
    teacher, philosopher and counsellor, 2016 - present
    The bricks-and-mortar continuation of koan.無! Founded in 2016, it enables deeper and further ways to practice. [http://dharma.house]
  • koan.無
    teacher, philosopher and counsellor, 2011 - 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. [http://koan.mu]
  • 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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Lyon - Plouzané (France) - Budapest (Hungary) - Paris (France) - Bruxelles (Belgium) - London (United Kingdom) - Chennai (India)
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