Intellect 3

Pirsig has just introduced the Church of Reason, and the beginnings of why he became so fanatical; discussions on the Church or Reason was perhaps the major attraction to me after I hit bottom and was with the arts crowd. I have read ZAMM a few times since even analysing previously but had not got the sense of Pirsig’s age when Phaedrus went mad. Checking he was born in 1928 and ZAMM was first published in 1974 (46), how long did he take to write it?

My earlier perception of Phaedrus was of a younger man, but Phaedrus had spent 10 years in India as well as other stuff. It has come as a surprise to me that the fanaticism, and eventual breakdown, presumably occurred in his late 30s or early 40s.

It was good to read today that he saw that the fanaticism was caused by a blind faith in reason – one reason for the term “Church of Reason”. One simplistic way of looking at this fanaticism is putting reason in its place – something that has not been evident in ZAMM so far, it wouldn’t be - his Chautauqua is a recount. This is a lesson I would love to see Buddhists learn. Well everyone really, but as I consider that deep within Buddhism is a clear imperative to put reason in its place I want to discuss that first.

Dogma is not Buddhism. My quoting Buddhadasa and saying “removing attachment to the 5 khandas” is just that – a quote, if I understand what Buddhadasa is saying then that is Buddhism. Sadly it is my view that there is little of the understanding of the dogma. However the Sangha lifestyle is so good, the meditation and the daily routines, the sustainable existence and so on, many monks are convinced they have understanding. In truth I am not in their heads so any judgement is not real, but there is a practice that could be without understanding – but most important there is practice.

In my view there are many who using reasoned acceptance of the dogma consider themselves Buddhists. I perceive this as making Buddhism a faith for them, a traditional religion akin to beliefs in bearded wonders somewhere out there. There has to be a dominant indefinable core that excludes reason (whilst being innately and deeply reasonable), in the “Platform” I am calling this zen although previously I have used insight.

One reason I have used the word zen is that I have just become more hooked into zen but the other is that I discussed with one intellectual insight and he had found a way of appropriating it as reason. I have a problem when I discuss reason with these intellectuals, my own penchant for reason makes me fall prey to them. It took a powerful awakening to shake the traps that I was falling into during the discussion with him.

This discussion is of two paths, the insight path and the analytical path. It began with a quote from HHDL:-

““If you are serious about Dharma practice, it is important to cultivate a good understanding of the teachings. First of all, it is important to read the texts. The more texts you read – the more you expand the scope of your learning and reading – the greater the resource you will find for your own understanding and practice. When, as a result of deep study and contemplation on what you have learned as related to your personal understanding, you reach a point on each topic when you have developed a deep conviction that this is how it is, that‘s an indication you have attained what is called understanding, derived through contemplation or reflection. Before that, all your understanding will have been intellectual understanding, but at that point it shifts. Then you have to cultivate familiarity, make it into part of your daily habit. The more you cultivate familiarity, the more it will become experiential.” Dalai Lama, The Middle Way: Faith Grounded in Reason”.

I broke this down into 6 stages:-

“1) Deep study 2) Contemplation or reflection 3) Deep conviction that this how it is – these 3 are intellectual

4) Shifting 5) Cultivating familiarity 6) Experiential understanding”

and felt that the shift was most significant. When I said this, the intellectual ignored it – had to, but he admitted lacking realisation. Very reasonable, after all saying we realise all is very arrogant – I am not saying that. When I spoke of insight the intellectual described it as unconscious reason, I had not heard that before - impressed. This intellectual was better than most. He never lost his temper when inconsistencies in his approach were exposed – he glossed over them. In fact he was too good; his knowledge of Buddhist scriptures and all the different varieties of Buddhist far outweighed mine. We had a concurrent position, he liked Buddhadasa. I gave him this quote:-

““Now intuitive insight, or what we call ‘seeing Dhamma’, is not by any means the same thing as rational thinking. One will never come to see Dhamma by means of rational thinking. Intuitive insight can be gained only by means of a true inner realization” [from Handbook of Mankind quoted here]” and he said he had to disagree; that was all. For me this quote is fundamental putting reason in its place but the intellectual was not phased. At the end of my discussions on the two paths I had a turbulent night in which an awakening clarity prevailed. Analysis was so clearly NOT a path, and reason was relegated back to that of khanda – sankhara. Soon after something linked me to Brad Warner, and I began zazen; this Dogen quote putting reason in its place:-

““Consequently, those who sit in meditation will, beyond doubt, drop off body and mind, and cut themselves free from their previous confused and defiling thoughts and opinions in order to personally realize what the innate Dharma of the Buddha is” Shobogenzo [p35].”

This intellectual is dangerous because of his knowledge and sincerity - and because of his lack of anger. Intellectuals are supposed to be detached but most are not. Their adherence to the processes of intellect means that when the inadequacies of that intellect are exposed, when the intellect is exposed to the zen there is usually anger – bitter anger (future case studies will show this). This intellectual had none of that, and because he was so widely read he could deflect. He was older than me, and I suspect has spent years defending his approach and becoming skilful at that. But he is not seeking the insight, not seeking the zen, accepting no meditation; he seems content with discussion, talking about Buddhism. Whilst fulfilling many characteristics of the good this intellectual is dangerous – so unintentionally dangerous.

This also highlights an online danger. In person we communicate much more than in words – they sometimes call it non-verbal-communication, but what is NVC in my view does not begin to talk about the level of communication that is carried on in person. You know when someone does not understand, you look, you can see – and when you see you can focus. Online this cannot happen, it is no wonder online is the medium of the intellect.

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