Where Buddhism Meets Gendlin

Month: August 2009

Body-Mind dualisms

I recently met someone who was upset that my language reflected what he called the body-mind dualism. He was against talking about mind and body. When I talk about mind, I am referring to a different kind of experience than when I talk about body, however. The words ‘point back’ to different spheres of experiencing.

The so-called “dualism problem” isn’t one at all, of course. It’s a matter of frames of reference really, referring back to the implicit field that gives rise to experiencing; experiencing (vijnana = consciousness) itself is a bubble on the ocean of tacit knowledge. David Bohm, a quantum physicist, makes a comment that points back to ‘where’ the body and mind arise:

“Evidently this kind of tacit knowledge is very important in every phase of life. In fact, without tacit knowledge ordinary knowledge would have no meaning. In fact, when we talk, most of the meaning is implicit or tacit. And also the action which flows from it is implicit or tactit. In fact, even to talk or to think – although thinking may be explicit as it forms images – the actual activity of thinkikng is tacit. You cannot say how you do it. If you want to walk across the room, you cannnot say how it comes about, right? It unfolds tacitly.

On the basis of all of this I would then propose for further ddiscussion the notion that both mind and matter are ultimately in implicate orders, and that in all cases explicate orders emerge as relatively autonomous, distinct and independent objects, entitites and forms, which unfold from the implicate orders. This means that the way is opened up for a world view in which mind and matter may consistently be related without adopting a reductionist position.

Here we may say that mind and matter both have reality, or perhaps that they both arise from some greater common ground, or perhaps they are not really different. Perhaps they interweave. The main point, though, is: because they both have the implicate order in common, it is possible to have a rationally comprehensivle relationship between them.”

I’d suggest that it can’t be determined whether they are the same, different or both. However, we can experience and ground ourselves in what they have in common – the implicit order.

The Mind-Made Body (manomayakaya)

It is interesting that we Western teachers pass over this teaching. I have never heard a talk by a Western teacher on the ‘Mind-Made Body.’ My earliest experiences with meditation, back in 1967, immediately connected me with the fact that the way I experienced my body – at that time, in terms of size, space and light – was a dependent arising. (I wouldn’t have used that phrase then, but that’s what I was recognising, just the same.) It was a dependent arising that depended on ‘coming in there,’ so to speak. That is, it depended on my doing something to break the habits of waking mind’s version of the body-mind. That something was to sit the body down somewhere and stay put for a while. In my early days the sittings were confined to about twenty minutes, twenty minutes sitting in one spot. But the kind of body I had/was, in that twenty minutes, went through some very dramatic variations. I was stunned to realise that the body was so variable.

I think this was the beginning of the realisation that it might be possible to cultivate a subtle body. The Buddha’s practice (as presented in the Pali Nikayas) clearly states that mastery of the mind-made body is an important stage of the inner work. In later teachings (e.g. the Lankavatara Sutra) it is referred to as the Will-body. An example in the Pali Nikayas is in the Digha Nikaya – in the Samaññaphala Sutta (the ‘Fruits of Reclusehood’). (See Maurice Walshe’s translation, for example, or Thanissaro’s at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.02.0.than.html.)

I think too much is made about the supernatural feats that are supposed to come for one who has mastered this part of the contemplative life. I think the promise for me is in the integration (after the split) – or the holism (in the reality) – of emptiness with form, spirit with a worldly life, citta with a ‘worldly’ body. It also involves seeing that we have created our body out of our explorations of our contact with the environment (more on dependent arising), and that the body is not fixed, but in constant flux with the environment (continually dependently arising). So, it’s important for me that the ‘mind-made body’ is not about escaping embodiment, but about making embodiment more real.

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