Wednesday, November 13, 2013

ZEN: emotions, Don Quixote, intuition (video)

Amber Larson and Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly; Dr. Elizabeth Ashby, "Three Mental Faculties" (Buddhist Publication Society, Bodhi Leaves No. 44)
(RD) With Thurston Howell III as "Mr. Magoo" as Don Quixote de la Mancha as a US cartoon
Toyokan Museum (Stuart Rankin)
The Zen School in particular stresses the importance of intuition. A great feature of Zen is to accept life as it comes and to make the appropriate response. Note, it is the appropriate or right response. This does not mean acting on the first impulse that comes into one’s head.

Most human impulses arise from greed, hate/fear (aversion), or delusion [the three roots of all unprofitable karma], and it is only the trained disciple who can act both spontaneously and rightly every time. Impulsive action frequently ends in disaster, as in the case of Don Quixote.

A Western writer has said that Don Quixote is “Zen incarnate.” This is a sad travesty of the facts as recorded in that glorious [Spanish] fiction. The author Cervantes has drawn the picture of a very courageous and idealistic gentleman (Hidalgo, a man of good family), whose intellect had been vitiated by a prolonged course of sensational fiction.

He believed the romances of chivalry to be true histories, and he thought it was his destiny to sally forth as a knight-errant, in order to right wrongs and relieve the oppressed.

No one doubts his high motives, but as he was completely lacking in judgment he committed innumerable follies, whereby he not only suffered himself, but also brought trouble on other people.

He believed that in the practice of his calling a knight-errant was above good and evil. Hence he bilked an innkeeper and, in order to obtain the supposed “helmet of Mambrino,” committed a bare-faced highway robbery.

On another occasion he imagined that a flock of sheep was a hostile army, and dashing into the middle of it, he killed seven of the creatures before the shepherd could beat him away. He was then severely cudgelled, and Sancho Panza, the loyal peasant who served him as squire, was also badly mauled. 

This unbalanced behaviour was typical of the poor deluded man; when he scented adventure he never waited to ascertain the facts but at once issued an arrogant challenge to the supposed aggressor, with the result that he was at once attacked and beaten up.

The pitiful thing was that the knight really had a very good intellect. Judged by the standards of his time, he was a man of considerable culture; he could read and speak Italian, and also knew some Arabic. He could converse sensibly and even eloquently upon most subjects; it was only when chivalry was mentioned that he “slid off into madness.”

Part 2/2 of silly Mr. Magoo's Don Quixote for kids of all ages

His monomania was such that he never attributed his misfortune to his own stupidity, but believed they were the work of a malign enchanter who had a grudge against all knights errant. If anybody questioned the validity of his opinions he fell into a fury, drew his sword, and at once became the centre of an unseemly brawl. This may be “living by Zen” (which is open to doubt); it is certainly shockingly bad Buddhism.
If, as postulated, Don Quixote were “Zen incarnate,” why doesn't the story end with some kind of apotheosis equivalent to satori [epiphany in Zen parlance]? Instead the knight -- we call him so though even his knighthood was spurious, having been conferred upon him for a joke by a village innkeeper -- is overthrown by a bogus knight-errant, a young man from his own village, a graduate of Salamanca, newly down from the university, who with the connivance of Don Quixote’s good friends, the priest and the barber, had gone out to bring the wanderer home.

The knight creeps back to die of a broken heart, first making a pathetic recantation of his follies.

It is begging the question to say that Cervantes did not know his business. His object was to ridicule the books of chivalry, because they were silly in content and usually bad as literature.

WARNING: Nudity! (New AtlantisDon Quijote of the Jungle (Sydney
Possuelo, Dept. of Tribes Unknown), preserving Brazil's Amazonians
He did this supremely well, and incidentally produced one of the most tragic stories ever penned -- the ruin of a noble mind.

This long digression is not an attack upon Zen. Zen is so great and so venerable that its position is unassailable. But Don Quixote is a warning against the assumption that spontaneous action is necessarily right action. It is frequently just the reverse.
That practical conclusions can be drawn? First we should remember that the Noble Eightfold Path is a discipline. The second “step” is a combination of right intention and right thought. To achieve this, mental culture is needed. This is the function of the intellect guided by intelligence.
Smile  with clarity (
“Mental clarity” is one of the phenomena (dhammas) listed as occurring in good (kusala) consciousness. It is essential for the practice of the Four Right Efforts, that is, to (1) recognize unskilled mental states, and not only to (2) “send them to their ceasing,” but also to (3) discourage them from arising in the future; then to (4) encourage the arising of healthy mental states and to strengthen them when they have arisen.

It is a commonplace that intellect can be strengthened by use. Some of its dangers have already been pointed out; another danger is that it enjoys diversity. It is always playing with ideas and forming concepts. It therefore encourages dualism and is obsessed with “the ten thousand things,” so that it never sees them in their “such-ness” [just as they are]. It is the function of intuitive wisdom to actually experience “suchness.”
According to the Western scholar-monk Ven. Nyanaponika Thera (The Power of Mindfulness,, Wheel No. 121-122), intuition can also be cultivated.” A careful and frequent study of this will benefit us all.

Moral Tribes (forum)
Why can't we come together on global warming? Should the rich pay higher taxes? Or should they help desperate strangers on the other side of the world? Does everyone have the right to marry? Does someone with an unwanted pregnancy have a right to choose? Is it right to kill and eat animals because we want to? On Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, explore how we make decisions about such questions as KPCC's science reporter Sanden Totten speaks with guest Dr. Joshua Greene, director of Harvard University's Moral Cognition Lab and author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them. Through a "Me vs. Us" and "Us vs. Them" lens, Dr. Greene takes a penetrating and unique look at the ways in which neuroscience and evolution guide our moral decision-making process. In the tradition of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow... More

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