February 12, 2009

Ten Zen Questions

UK psychologist Susan Blackmore is a highly sought-after expert on a recurring theme in Buddhist inquiry: consciousness. She is the author of Consciousness: An Introduction, Conversations on Consciousness, A Very Short Introduction to Consciousness, and the acclaimed book The Meme Machine.

We've just gotten our hands on her latest project, a synthesis of philosophy and practice entitled Ten Zen Questions. The stumpers Blackmore poses are not easy to get a handle on, but that is exactly the point: Am I conscious now? What was I conscious of a moment ago? When are you? What happens next? Her chapter-length responses to each are firmly rooted in the dirt of personal experience; anecdotes from life on and off the cushion lay the groundwork for an engagement with these mental puzzles.

Drawing on an extensive knowledge of brain science, Blackmore enters the "Buddhism as science" discussion from an informed perspective, and her challenges are compelling:

Science needs clear thinking, and scientists have to construct logical arguments, think critically, ask awkward questions, and find the flaws in other people's arguments, but somehow they are expected to do this all without any kind of preliminary mental training. Certainly science courses do not begin with a session on calming the mind.

[...]

[This book is] my attempt to see whether looking directly into one's own mind can contribute to a science of consciousness. Bringing personal experience into science is positively frowned upon in most of science; and with good reason. If you want to find out the truth about planetary motion, the human genome or the effectiveness of a new medicine, then personal beliefs are a hindrance not a help. However, this may not be true of all science. As our growing understanding of the brain brings us ever closer to facing up to the problem of consciousness, it may be time for the scientist's own experience to be welcomed as part of the science itself, if only as a guide to theorising or to provide a better description of what needs to be explained.

Be sure to check the book out. And while you're thinking about the above quote, remember one thing about scientific questions:

They seem to require both the capacity to think and the capacity to refrain from thinking.

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amrit sorli's picture

we live in a timeless space (shunyata) where time is run of clocks

yoshizen's picture

Lost in the Abhidharma ?
Don't worry everybody does.

Yoshi Imamura's picture

I've managed to log in by formally created my account
in the Wordpress.
And as an unintentional by product, I got my own blog
spot called yoshizen.wordpress.com
I'll continue the same in my spot.----watch the space.

Yoshi Imamura's picture

It seems I misplaced this blog in here.
I thought this is a part of Susan Blackmore's site.
------though it seems isn't.
Trouble is I couldn't log in her main site. ------? ? ?
(they keep saying "pass word miss match"--- I don't
have password-----where its come from)
Does anybody knows ? Please tell me.

Yoshi Imamura's picture

PS: While I was typing above, my PC freezed and I
had to send it unfinished.
Though, it might have been an intervention of the
Buddha to stop it. (this kinds keep happening often,
some of them are appeared on the printed document
again and again, which anybody examine them)
I have no explanation, still, I guess, somebody is
whatching us. I want the scientist to examine this
phenomenon.

Yoshi Imamura's picture

I've born in a Soto Zen temple. (as my farther was happened to be a priest, though at moment I'm not a monk,----may be I might be
a Buddhist thinker, and may be a practitioner)
I studied and practiced the Buddhist teaching of many sects
not just the Zen, and found (in my view ) the Buddhism is not a religion, may not even be a philosophy, but it is the wisdom of DO.

How to DO, how to handle, and on the end,
the life can be handled with the same way---
---- That is what The Buddha taught.

All the sects asking the followers to practice
some thing useless, again and again, banging a drum, chanting endlessly, walk
round round etc---- in fact making them tired and abandon to ask the question "how
silly, why do I need to this".
On the end, the novice will learn to do the
things without thinking, JUST DO IT.
----- its mean, let the subconscious to take
the control. (in subconsciousness where
the Dharma may reside, or controlled by)

Rinzai Zen asking the novice the endless
questions and made them to answer without
thinking.
So that I was really amazed to see
Susan keep asking the question (I don't know how many years).
Is the Flag stone anything matter to her ?
Unless she faced a needs to over turn a flag stone she doesn't need to worrying about it
AT ALL.
Just go back to your life, if you need to cook
for a super, do your best cooking and eat competely, while appreciate all the taste of
the ingredients you sacrificed for you to
live.