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 Bubbles of Delusion - from David Loy (sweeping zen and shambhala sunspace)

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Bubbles of Delusion - from David Loy (sweeping zen and shambhala sunspace)   Fri Mar 14, 2014 8:55 pm

This was posted last year, but I don't think I shared it with this forum.  I like the term - "bubbles of delusion" and I think David has some good insights about this dynamic.  Worth reading.  And this is why, even if a group like the OBC/Shasta creates some new ethics rules and follows them, it is still all taking place in the bubble, inside the distortion field.

Bubbles of Delusion, with some Sex - Posted by: David Loy March 2, 2013
A shorter version of this blog was posted on the Shambhala SunSpace blog.
David Loy  What makes human beings unique is also our Achilles heel – the defect that may yet destroy us.


Like other animals, we have instincts, but, thanks to our large neo-cortex, we can gain some degree of freedom from them by choosing how to respond to them. This is something that must be learned. We are born helpless and incomplete. During our extraordinarily long childhood – when the cortex is developing – we are dependent upon, and vulnerable to, the conditioning controlled by caregivers.

Thus, the downside of our relative freedom from instinct is our susceptibility to ways of thinking and acting inculcated by others. Much of that training process occurs before we have the conscious awareness to understand what is happening, much less any ability to evaluate it for ourselves. A common consequence is lifelong subordination to authority figures of one sort or another.

The sense of self develops in relation to other selves: we internalize our caregivers’ and siblings’ understanding of what the world is, and our role within it. And the conditioning does not end when we become adults. Since our egos are inherently insecure, in need of constant reinforcement, we remain very concerned about what other people think and especially sensitive to what they think about us.

Why do we usually believe something, such as a particular political ideology? Not because that belief-system is based on evidence. It’s no coincidence that children normally have political opinions very similar to their parents’. We learn to believe something because it is believed by others whom we respect/identify with/want to be like/want to be liked by. We are good at finding reasons to justify what we believe, but it is much more difficult to examine critically and sincerely our deepest beliefs. In fact, we are not usually aware that they are beliefs: they are not just true, they are reality. We do not normally distinguish the stories we hold about the world from the world itself.

The Buddha was aware of this problem, and emphasized the importance of not being attached to views. He applied this to his own teachings, which he described as a raft that can help us to get across the river of samsara (this world of suffering, craving and delusion) to the “other shore” of enlightenment. He warns us not to think “this is a great raft, I’ll carry it with me everywhere.” Let it go!

In place of the Abrahamic duality between good and evil, Buddhism focuses on ignorance and wisdom – the insight that comes with awakening. Delusion (moha) is one of the “three fires” or “three poisons” (the others are greed and ill will) that cause suffering when what we do is motivated by them.

Because it emphasizes individual awakening and personal transformation, Buddhism has not had much to say about collective delusion. Yet it is of some importance that my delusions are usually not that different from the delusions of other people, especially those around me. I live within a bubble of beliefs that’s not separate from theirs: in fact, our bubbles normally overlap so much that we can refer to group bubbles of delusion. These collective bubbles can help us understand why the world works the way it does, especially the institutional structures that perpetuate social dukkha (suffering).

For American Buddhists, some examples of institutionalized delusion have recently been receiving much attention. Once again, sexual scandals by senior Zen teachers have come to light, which expose not only widespread suffering on the part of those abused but also widespread denial within the centers involved – something especially ironic, since the point of Zen practice is to free us from delusion, especially the delusion of an ego-self that is separate from others. I wonder if sexual abuse by teachers is not the fundamental problem for such communities: perhaps even more alarming is the inability of senior students to acknowledge and address such incidents in a compassionate way, which suggests a deficiency in their training.  One person takes advantage of his situation to abuse; but he could not continue to get away with it without the complicity of many others.

Because of ego-investment in the enlightened example of their teacher, students – especially senior ones, who have the most responsibility, as well as the most at stake in the outcome – end up perpetuating a collective bubble of delusion regarding what their teacher is getting up to. There is cognitive dissonance between their image of the teacher and what they actually see and hear. They can’t both be true, so … they repress what their eyes and ears reveal. Or they rationalize it: the master is wise, so what he is doing must be okay.

Denial in such situations is not uncommon, of course, but it is especially damaging for those on a path of awakening. The motivation to deny or ignore is understandable, because personal benefit complicates the issue: long-term students have sacrificed much to devote themselves to intensive practice under the guidance of this particular master, and whatever authority they have gained, or hope to gain, derives from his approval. They are especially vulnerable to this father figure’s opinion of them. Yet such self-concern undermines the whole process of personal transformation for everyone involved. Not only do the students tacitly agree to maintain a collective bubble of denial; the need to do so conflicts with developing the compassion that is just as much the goal of Buddhist practice.

The sexual abuse is bad enough, yet what the scandals indicate is arguably worse: these Zen centers, which ostensibly exist to cultivate wisdom and compassion, are inculcating collective delusion and indifference to the suffering of others. When does such a community become a cult?

Such group bubbles of denial become much more difficult to dispel, or even to become aware of, because people consciously or subconsciously believe they benefit by not seeing them. That suggests a Buddhist response: by truly letting-go of the most fundamental delusion of all – a sense of self whose well-being is separate from others’ well-being – the self-interest that sustains the bubbles is undermined. Whether or not Zen students have realized their true nature, however, the challenge cannot be evaded. When teachers engage in inappropriate sexual behavior, members of their practice communities need to recognize that the kind of personal awakening and transformation they seek does not occur if they are indifferent to what is happening to other members of their community.
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maisie field



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PostSubject: Re: Bubbles of Delusion - from David Loy (sweeping zen and shambhala sunspace)   Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:59 am

Thank you for this Josh-it is well written and argued.

I take the writer's point that denial and collusion occur because of an institutional dynamic within Zen groups


My response is that the collective denial of such abuses is a feature of most societies-so the larger institutions-the state,the community,also fail to acknowledge these things-"a bubble within a sea of bubbles",you could say.
Thank you for posting-to your usual high standard

maisie
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Bubbles of Delusion - from David Loy (sweeping zen and shambhala sunspace)   Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:14 am

yes, that's my experience.  there are many bubbles, many distortion fields, the OBC is a tiny bubble in the scheme of things, but the dynamics are similar... many flavors of bubbles i guess.  But it is very important, crucial, in seeing things clearly, in being awake, to know what's really going on, to know when you are in a bubble, to know that the particular rules of any game are just that - not reality, but a simulation, a narrative with specific variations and biases and confusions.....  that's why it is so important to question, challenge, inquire, wonder.... ask over and over again, "Is this true?"  and how can you know that something is true or just a belief, maybe even an ingrained belief?  But that's the process of waking up - it is not that some grand authority figure tells you it's true, but that you find out for yourself, first-person waking up - not given to you by another.
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PostSubject: Re: Bubbles of Delusion - from David Loy (sweeping zen and shambhala sunspace)   Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:16 am

I have been thinking about "bubbles",and have been reading the Bendowa-There's a bit where Dogen spells out the particulars of discrimination and projection with regard to women-sexism really.He has a very clear message that the people who feel they have to exclude some others-eg men who think they have to "avoid" women ,are just postponing the ill effects of aversion-they grow to hate that which they tried to exclude.
It is a good book,the Shobogenzo.
I was thinking that I have always felt like I had to keep a critical distance from institutions,still do feel that.Until I find the Zen temple that makes a clear statement,in bright neon,about zero tolerance of bullying,harrassment,sexual predation,I will always keep a critical distance .

And I agree with you about the importance of wakening being a personal responsibility.
And at the same time,it is good to train with other people,as that is the only way to find out that ypur cherished fantasies are just that,and other people have different views and experiences.

Got to do my laundry now.
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