The story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment is usually told as a quest story with a lone hero. What does that miss?
On the first night of our sesshin (residential retreat) celebrating the Buddhist holiday of Rohatsu, we read a pretty standard, simplified recounting of the story. It starts with Siddartha Gautama riding away from his family and palace and ends with his transformation into Shakaymuni Buddha. The plot is pretty familiar, really.
We can widen our views of the types of relationships that are possible by comparing our habitual “entity” thinking with Zen-inspired “process” thinking. This may help organizations prevent or deal with abuses of power.
Recall that in “process thinking” we acknowledge that what we commonly perceive as “things” actually arise from activities and relationships (Non-Duality Part I). There are no static “essences,” and the world is in continual cycles of creation and destruction. The provisional “thing” I call “me” is no exception.
Our usual way of viewing the world as made up of entities that first exist and only later act and relate to each other constricts our thinking. Within it, we can only image three ways of relating: equality, merger, or domination.
In the yin-yang diagram, both light and dark are necessary, and their relationship is dynamic. But in our habitual Western thought not only do we separate the two and think of them as fixed, we tend to associate light with superior and dark with inferior.
The yin-yang diagram illustrates how nonduality includes duality—but must be understood through dynamic “process” thinking rather than static “entity” thinking.
While the metaphor of the ocean (oneness) and the waves (many) that temporarily arise is a wonderful illustration of nondualism, it doesn’t spawn much further understanding. The ancient Chinese yin-yang diagram (shown here), associated with Daoism, highlights more dimensions.
To understand nonduality, we have to take a step backward and look at the fundamentals of how we think about the world. If we take an “entity” view, it makes no sense. If we understand the world as “process,” though, we can see that this is, in fact, the reality of our life.
Abide not in duality, refrain from all pursuit of it. If there’s a trace of right and wrong true-mind is lost, confused, distraught…
From One-mind comes duality, but cling not even to this One…
These verses are from the Zen sutra entitled “Affirming Faith in Mind” (“Xinxinming” by Jianzhi Sengcan).
While the conclusions it comes to are broadly correct, the article “A Feminist Review of Behavioral Economic Research on Gender Differences” by Sent and van Staveren should not be used as a model for methodology.
In their article “A Feminist Review of Behavioral Economic Research on Gender Differences,” published in the April 2019 issue of Feminist Economics, Esther-Mirjam Sent and Irene van Staveren state that their work was inspired by my own work. In a series of articles (here, here, and here) and a book, I had performed meta-analyses of behavioral economics work concerning gender and risk-taking. Sent and van Staveren are to be commended for taking on the ambitious project of extending the focus to include investigations into not only risk, but also overconfidence, altruism, and trust. They also come to conclusions that are, based on my own investigation, broadly correct: “[F]ew studies report statistically significant as well as sizeable differences,” “large intra-gender differences (differences among men and differences among women) exist,” and “[m]any studies have not sufficiently taken account of various social, cultural, and ideological drivers.” I feel obligated, however, to point out that there are a number of methodological problems in their article. While the article is certainly notable, considerable caution should be exercised about taking its methods as a model for future work.Continue reading “A Caution about Sent and van Staveren’s “Feminist Review…””
Zen is about awakening, and not about experiencing any particular state, or becoming “good,” or displaying any peculiar powers.
Zen is about awakening, and not about experiencing any particular state, or becoming “good,” or displaying any peculiar powers. These points, which I talked about in Part I of this two-part series, are beautifully summarized by the following text by Keizan Jokin, a Japanese Zen teacher born in the 13th century. Continue reading “Dangers of Zen, Part II”
While the benefits of Zen are real and profound, and talked about often, the dangers tend to receive less attention. Yet they are also real, and can arise among both beginning and experienced practitioners.
Recently, due to both personal health issues and stuff going on around me, I’ve been reflecting on some of the hazards that involved in Zen practice. While the benefits of Zen are real and profound, and talked about often, the dangers tend to receive less attention. Yet they are also real, and can arise among both beginning and experienced practitioners. Continue reading “Dangers of Zen, Part I”
If Zen doesn’t make us feel better, or make us into better people, is it a total waste of time?
Two years ago I had a sudden bout with a virus. As yet, I still haven’t gotten entirely over it. The acute phase slowly morphed into a long-term, sometimes debilitating, slog through fatigue and general crappiness. I don’t like it. And it has helped open me up to the wide universe. Continue reading “Sick and Useless Zen”
The social science literature is full of claims about the differences between men and women, blacks and whites, rich and poor, and so on. But how can we also examine similarities? This post offers a method.
Men vs. women. Blacks vs. whites. Rich vs. poor. Muslim vs. Christian. We hear a lot, in the social sciences and in the popular media, about how different various groups of people are in their preferences, traits, or behaviors. The finding of a “difference” based on empirical research is considered interesting and publishable! But it also, alas, often leads to much misunderstanding, and even invidious stereotyping.
This is because differences get a lot more attention than similarities. Because similarities are rarely reported on, we have a tendency to slide into thinking that differences are much larger than they actually are. It’s an easy slide from categorizing people under some labels—for example, drawing on people’s self-identification as “a woman,” “a man,” “white,” or “a person of color”—to thinking that traits and behaviors divide easily into the same categories. Continue reading “Index of Similarity (IS): A Tool for Breaking Down Stereotypes”