Comment on Buddhism:hinayana/mahayana…
04.08.09 at 8:21 pm · “There is a problem with such an overly intellectualized formulation of spirituality, no doubt, but the know-nothing school of zen profundity (stay away from all mind concepts) has also backfired.”
I’m actually not a fan of the unsystematic and anti-scholastic nature of Zen (I’m not really a fan of Mahayana for that matter). My opinion (take it or leave it) is that the whole “no mind” school of thinking arose in the decline of Buddhism and probably did the most to prevent people from attaining nirvana (the Mahayanists tend to denigrate the Hinayana but the fact is that it more systematic and logical than Zen, etc.). You can make a strong case that the Mahayanists actually made “Buddhism” irrational and never had a good understanding of the early schools and their more systematic teachings:
“…most to prevent people from attaining nirvana”
I should probably explain this comment. One of the problems with “no mind” meditation techniques that try to remove all objects from the mind is that they are the prime culprit in inducing formless states of samadhi. If you don’t really have a good foundation in understanding how the mind fabricates these “states” then you’re going to fall for them and think you’ve attained “enlightenment:”
“When you become skilled and resolute at this stage, your concentration gains the strength that can give rise to the skill of liberating insight, which in turn is capable of attaining the noble paths and fruitions. So keep your mind in this stage as long as possible. Otherwise it will go on into the levels of arupa jhana, absorption in formless objects.
If you want to enter arupa jhana, though, here is how it’s done: Disregard the sense of the form of the body, paying no more attention to it, so that you are left with just a comfortable sense of space or emptiness, free from any sensation of constriction or interference. Focus on that sense of space. To be focused in this way is the first level of arupa jhana, called akasanañcayatana jhana, absorption in the sense of unbounded space. Your senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and ideation — feel spacious and clear, with no physical image acting as the focal point of your concentration. If your powers of discernment are weak, you may mistake this for nibbana, but actually it’s only a level of arupa jhana.
Once you know and see this, go on to the next level. Let go of the sense of space and emptiness, and pay attention to whatever preoccupation is left — but attention on this level is neither good and discerning, nor bad and unwise. It’s simply focused on awareness free from activities. This level is called viññanañcayatana jhana, absorption in the sense of unbounded consciousness. If you aren’t discerning, you may mistake this for nibbana, but it’s actually only a level of arupa jhana.
Once you know this, make your focus more refined until you come to the sense that there is nothing at all to the mind: It’s simply empty and blank, with nothing occurring in it at all. Fix your attention on this preoccupation with “Nothing is happening,” until you are skilled at it. This is the third level of arupa jhana, which has a very subtle sense of pleasure. Still, it’s not yet nibbana. Instead, it’s called akiñcaññayatana jhana, absorption in the sense of nothingness.”
They are very powerful when you first experience them: