Sunday, December 21, 2014

Language and thought can be 'enlightened' too

In this video at 59:50 Thompson discusses the difference between Yogacara and Madhyamaka on the self. He follows this with comparing them to the neuroreductive and enactive views in cognitive science. The latter includes social cognition through language, so language is a legitimate part of a performative self, whereas in Yogacara it is merely illusion. We discussed this quite a bit in the IPS Batchelor thread. He sees the enactive view as a middle way where "the self is a dependently originated process with a conventional identity." The self is not an illusion while not being an independent essence (1:05:30). Around 1:21:15 he is asked about the narrative self. He responds that it is doesn't have to be seen as an fixed substance with independent existence or substance (1:23:30). Which reiterates previous points above that the narrative self through language is not necessarily an illusion divorced from our pre-linguistic or core self but can be an extension of it.

This also relates to the IPS real/false reason thread. Real reason, including language and discursive thought, when grounded in the pre-linguistic and pre-rational image schema as well as the emotions, is not of the same kind as false reason. The latter is ideationally abstract and creates the mind-body and other dualistically metaphysical splits. Hence we can have our cake (symbolic thought and language) and eat it too (connection with our pre-rational core selves). Which reminds me of one of my favorite David Loy quotes:

"Well, this relates to the way we understand spirituality and meditation. For example, we often tend to understand meditation—in Zen especially—as getting rid of thoughts. We think that if we can just get rid of thought, then we can see the world as it is, clearly, without any interference from conceptuality. We view thinking as something negative that has to be eliminated in order to realize the emptiness of the mind. But this reflects the delusion of duality, rather than the solution to duality. As Dogen put it, the point isn’t to get rid of thought, but to liberate thought. Form is emptiness, yet emptiness is also form, and our emptiness always takes form. We don’t realize our emptiness apart from form, we realize it in form, as non-attached form. One of the very powerful and creative ways that our emptiness takes form is as thought. The point isn’t to have some pure mind, untainted by thought, like a blue, completely empty sky with no clouds. After a while that gets a little boring! Rather, one should be able to engage or play with the thought processes that arise in a creative, non-attached, nondualistic way. To put it in another way, the idea isn’t to get rid of all language, it’s to be free within language, so that one is non-attached to any particular kind of conceptual system, realizing that there are many possible ways of thinking and expressing oneself. The freedom from conceptualizing that we seek does not happen when we wipe away all thoughts; instead, it happens when we’re not clinging to, or stuck in, any particular thought system. The kind of transformation we seek in our spiritual practices is a mind that’s flexible, supple. Not a mind that clings to the empty blue sky. It’s a mind that’s able to dance with thoughts, to adapt itself according to the situation, the needs of the situation. It’s not an empty mind which can’t think. It’s an ability to talk with the kind of vocabulary or engage in the way that’s going to be most helpful in that situation."

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