Intellectualization

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Intellectualization

Post by DGA »

This is an offshoot of the "Bliss" thread, starting around here.

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 60#p332654

It has been claimed that intellectualization is to be avoided in Zen practice. If you understand "intellectualization" as prapanca, conceptual elaboration (or "mental masturbation" to be vulgar)--ideas for the sake of ideas, confusing concepts for realities--then there's no dispute, I think anyone would agree that intellectualization is to be avoided.

But it seems as though there's no clarity on what "intellectualization" means in that thread at all, or in some others in this sub-forum, so I propose we use this thread to square it away, because this is an area that has real consequences for practice.

What do you say?
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by DGA »

In particular, it was claimed that "tangled discussions" such as the Bliss thread tend to impede realization, and that intellectualization--while valuable to other traditions--has no place in Zen practice.

OK then. Here's the thread in question.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=69&t=22385

I'd like to know:

1. which posts in that thread qualify as "intellectualization," and by what criteria, and according to whom. I say this because it didn't read like a tangled mess to me, apart from some well-meaning but repetitive and off-topic reminders that it's a bad idea to seek after bliss experiences in meditation practice (yes, we get it).

2. what "intellectualization" even means. is it prapanca? If so, then it would have no place in any Buddhist practice; it's not something that would have value in some but not others; and therefore, it seems to be something other than prapanca. But if it isn't prapanca, then what is meant by it?

3. what is it about the discussion on Bliss that might impede realization? It seemed to me that the discussion was oriented around practice and largely constructive. What did I miss in there that was so counterproductive?
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by tingdzin »

I didn't read much of the bliss thread, because I found it not useful personally. But, in general ...

Intellectualization could mean the common tendency to master the vocabulary and mode of expression of a tradition, and believe that as a result one has mastered the meaning of that tradition -- mistaking the finger for the moon, or the map for the journey. At worst, one might come to believe the finger IS the moon.

IMO, this is a danger to not only Zen, but to any tradition that lays out an experiential path. The underlying premise is perhaps that reality can be reduced to a conceptual schema, and that becoming clever and glib talkers (internal talk included) we can become awakened.
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by jundo cohen »

Hello,

I posted this in that thread ...

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.ph ... 65#p332765

I suppose that it all I would say on the topic.

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Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by muni »

When this means we having knowledge of objects Dharma, it is like sitting under an umbrella on the beach with a cocktail and talking about the depths and so of the ocean. This expression I heard seems to fit.
And then we become drunken ( whether from the knowledge or the coctails) which results in clever fights.

I suppose in Zen there are beaches too? :namaste:
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Intellectualization =

What you accuse people of doing on Buddhist forums when you don't like what they say.

Really though, some level of intellectual muscle pumping is necessary for any Dharma practice, it becomes a hindrance when it "hardens" into something that prevents lived experience or practice, but it's useful at times.
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

3. what is it about the discussion on Bliss that might impede realization? It seemed to me that the discussion was oriented around practice and largely constructive. What did I miss in there that was so counterproductive?
I felt the same way. So far, the only answer I've gotten is that I don't talk like a Zen person due to one of my statements about bliss (or at least one or two people's definition of how a "Zen person" talks), so what I'm saying must be somehow missing the mark.

It was also mentioned that talk of "opposites" was somehow dangerous, but it was never adequately explained why this is exactly, other than again to say that in Zen people talk a certain way, which evidently doesn't include opposites. That doesn't remotely describe my experience with Zen, but I guess my experience in Zen was deemed invalid/not understood properly since I #1 moved to another tradition, and #2 apparently said something that violated "Zenny" language rules about opposites.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Intellectualization

Post by barndoor »

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Intellectualization =

What you accuse people of doing on Buddhist forums when you don't like what they say.
Yep. In the context of that thread, I read it as a passive aggressive way of saying "shut up", which is both ironic and very Zen, in a way. If it had been directed at me, I'd have been hopping mad :smile:

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Re: Intellectualization

Post by dharmagoat »

I wonder how many native to the Zen subforum are interested in this intellectualization of intellectualization at all.
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

dharmagoat wrote:I wonder how many native to the Zen subforum are even interested in this intellectualization of intellectualization at all.
Enough to keep posting in them, evidently.

Also what qualifies someone as a "Zen native" anyway?
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Intellectualization

Post by dharmagoat »

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:I wonder how many native to the Zen subforum are even interested in this intellectualization of intellectualization at all.
Enough to keep posting in them, evidently.
Enough to indicate the level of disinterest.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Also what qualifies someone as a "Zen native" anyway?
Someone who practices Zen and does not feel inclined to dissect it.
Last edited by dharmagoat on Sun Apr 10, 2016 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

dharmagoat wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:I wonder how many native to the Zen subforum are even interested in this intellectualization of intellectualization at all.
Enough to keep posting in them, evidently.
Enough to indicate the level of disinterest.
And yet, here you are. Genuine disinterest would mean not bothering to post, one would think.

IME despite some abrasiveness here and there, both of DGA's threads have been interesting.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Intellectualization

Post by DGA »

dharmagoat wrote:I wonder how many native to the Zen subforum are even interested in this intellectualization of intellectualization at all.
who, specifically, is intellectualizing about this ghost concept of "intellectualization"? For myself, I'm just after reason and accountability: trying to make sense out of something that was said that seemed like nonsense, but at the same time giving it the benefit of the doubt... that's why it's best to ask and not make assumptions.
Someone who practices Zen and does not feel inclined to dissect it.
are you suggesting that someone here is interested in such a dissection? any reason why dissection as you understand it would disqualify someone from being a proper Zen practitioner?

it seems to me that asking probing questions is a pretty good way to learn about something. again, speaking personally: if I wasn't genuinely interested, I wouldn't take the time.
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by dharmagoat »

Let me ask this question: What preoccupies your mind when you sit in zazen?
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

dharmagoat wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:I wonder how many native to the Zen subforum are even interested in this intellectualization of intellectualization at all.
Enough to keep posting in them, evidently.
Enough to indicate the level of disinterest.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Also what qualifies someone as a "Zen native" anyway?
Someone who practices Zen and does not feel inclined to dissect it.

I practiced Zen for 5 years or so. Prior to that, I actually grew up with it through it's low level, pervasive influence in Japanese and Okiawan martial arts. I try to integrate whatever I've learned in the past to what I do now, rather than discarding it. So, I actually consider part of my spiritual history to be related to Zen, believe it or not. So in some sense I am as much as "Zen native" as others who post here, even if I do not claim the tradition, have much book knowledge, or much less claim to represent it. It is important to me, and it's on my list of things to do to do some more study on Dogen, for example. So I believe I have a right, and decent intentions in being here, even if you disagree with my opinions.

As to 'dissecting it', if you refer to any study, questioning, or talk as dissection, there is not much to say. So far in these threads you only do that with people you disagree with though, I've noticed. Anyone who doesn't agree is "intellectualizing", however posting some slogan is apparently not. Can poetry be prapanca too?

Personally I say yes.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Mon Apr 11, 2016 1:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

dharmagoat wrote:Let me ask this question: What preoccupies your mind when you sit in zazen?

Really for this kind of meditation (same with Mahamudra btw) contents of the mind, and analysis of contents of the mind does not matter, potatoes, sex, the definition of bliss, doesn't matter.

if they do it then it is actually just basic shamatha/vipaysana, and not the aim of this sort of meditation. Just my experience, obviously.

If you can't sit with your own discursive thought liberated, and instead need to create a placid mental environment, IME, and by my understanding that is closer to basic mindfulness training, and not what meditation traditions that emphasize nondual meditation and contemplation are aiming at.

If you see thoughts as an enemy of Zazen, by my understanding, that is a sort of incomplete version of Zazen, with Zazen you sit without any preoccupation or expectations whatever, including having"correct" meditation.. This is identical to what I understand/have learned of Mahamudra.


Again purely an experiential answer on my part, with no scholarly expertise to back it up.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Meido »

dharmagoat wrote:Someone who practices Zen and does not feel inclined to dissect it.
That's fine in the beginning since Zen's gate is experiential rather than intellectual. But if one trains with correct motivation - that is, in accordance with vows to help others - then how could there ultimately be any limitations or prejudices regarding what tools one must learn to use in order to aid other beings?

We vow to practice infinite dharma gates, and to actualize the Marvelous Observing Wisdom and Perfecting-of-Action Wisdom i.e. the means by which we could help others in any conditions. Certainly this means that we should gain the ability to use words and concepts skillfully to suit circumstances.

This does not mean Zen practitioners must become scholars (I certainly am not). But I would say especially that a teacher who does not at some point "dissect the path" - or who is unable to have an intelligent conversation about it - is pretty useless.

~ Meido
Last edited by Meido on Mon Apr 11, 2016 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

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Re: Intellectualization

Post by dharmagoat »

Johnny Dangerous wrote:... with Zazen you sit without any preoccupation or expectations whatever...
This is exactly the point. When there is preoccupation of mind, what form does it take?
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by dharmagoat »

Meido wrote:This does not mean Zen practitioners must become scholars (I certainly am not). But I would say that a teacher who does not at some point "dissect the path" - or who is unable to have an intelligent conversation about it - is pretty useless.
It is important though to make a distinction between inclination and ability. A teacher will analyse aspects of the path when necessary for the student's understanding, not from habitual tendency.
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Re: Intellectualization

Post by Meido »

dharmagoat wrote:It is important though to make a distinction between inclination and ability. A teacher will analyse aspects of the path when necessary for the student's understanding, not from habitual tendency.
You do dissect, then! :smile:

Not just teachers: I should say all practitioners (I had edited my post to say especially teachers).

I'm fairly certain no one is arguing for a clinging to habitual predilections, and agree with you on that point.

~ Meido
It is relatively easy to accomplish the important matter of insight into one’s true nature, but uncommonly difficult to function freely and clearly [according to this understanding], in motion and in rest, in good and in adverse circumstances. Please make strenuous and vigorous efforts towards this end, otherwise all the teachings of Buddhas and patriarchs become mere empty words. - Torei

The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice

Hidden Zen: Practices for Sudden Awakening and Embodied Realization

Korinji Rinzai Zen Monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺] - http://www.korinji.org
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