Tagzen

A Buddhist priest confronts Japan’s suicide culture

Here’s a long piece by Larissa MacFarquhar from the New Yorker last year about Ittetsu Nemoto , a Zen Buddhist priest who works with suicidal people and shut-ins known as “hikikomori.” Read the whole thing, but I found this letter a hikikomori wrote to Nemoto, included in the article, particularly interesting:

Long ago, becoming a training priest was recognized as a way of living, and I think that considerable numbers of the priests were people who had troubles that prevented them from living in society—people who would be called depressed or neurotic in today’s terms. . . . The basic rule was to leave the family and friends, discard all the relationships and renounce the world. . . . The old society accepted these training priests, although they were thought to be completely useless. Or rather, it treated them with respect, and supported them by giving offerings. . . . In very rare cases, some attained so-called “enlightenment,” and those people could spread teachings that could possibly save people in society who had troubles. In other words, there were certain cases where training priests could be useful to society, and I think that is why society supported them. . . . I think that training priests and hikikomori are quite similar. First, neither of them can fit in to this society—while the training priests are secluded in mountains, hikikomori are secluded in their rooms. They both engage in the activity of facing the root of their problems alone. . . . However, nobody accepts this way of living anymore, and that’s why hikikomori hide in their rooms. . . . But hikikomori are very important beings. Hikikomori cannot be cured by society; rather, it is society that has problems, and hikikomori may be able to solve them.

Full Story: The New Yorker: Last Call

Technoccult Interview: Open Source Buddhism with Al Jigong Billings

Al Billings

Many Technoccult readers have probably seen Hermetic.com. Maybe you even got your first taste of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare or Hakim Bey there. What you might not know is that the site’s founder, Al Jigong Billings has given up the site to focus on what he calls “Open Source Buddhism.” I recently talked with Al about what Open Source Buddhism is, how it differs from other contemporary the Pragmatic Dharma movement and the secular mindfulness movement, and how he gravitated from Neopaganism to Buddhism.

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Finding the Right Type of Meditation for You Might be Key to Meditation Success

Did you give meditation a chance and decide it’s not your cup of tea? New research suggests you could be missing out on all the health benefits of meditation by simply starting out with a technique not well matched to your personal tastes. […]

Burke and colleagues recently conducted a study of college students new to meditation and their preferences among four meditation techniques — mantra, mindfulness, zen, and qigong visualization. […]

Published on July 7 in the journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, the findings reveal that by finding a form of meditation that works for you, you are less likely to quit. The result of sticking with it? Research-backed benefits of reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and help with addiction problems.

Full Story: NY Daily News: The right kind of meditation for you; Mantra, mindfulness, zen, and qigong visualization are different ways to relax

The paper is here, behind a paywall.

New Dossier: Susan Blackmore

susan blackmore

Blackmore was an important influence for me a few years ago when I was giving up on practicing magick because she had been through the same thing studying ESP: she researched it for years and determined that there wasn’t evidence to support her hypothesis. But she remained interested in “extraordinary human experience,” and showed me that it was possible to research and examine these issues from an open minded and respectful yet skeptical way. Blackmore considers these experiences an important part of the human condition worthy of our study and consideration, regardless of whether the causes are paranormal, psychological or neurological.

Dr. Susan Blackmore is a researcher of consciousness and what she calls “extraordinary human experience,” which includes experiences often referred to as “paranormal,” including out of body experiences and alien abduction. She has a PhD in parapsychology from the University of Surrey, where she studied ESP and memory and eventually gave up belief in the paranormal and adopted a more skeptical worldview.

Dossier: Susan Blackmore

Grant Morrison Documentary Out Now – Plus, New Wired Interview

Talking with Gods

Talking with Gods, the Grant Morrison documentary, is now available on DVD or for download from the Halo Eight Online Store or DVD from Amazon.com.

Update: There’s also a new expanded two disc version. If you already bought the original, you can also buy disk two separately, both on DVD or as a digital download.

Also, Wired has an interview with Morrison on his new Batman, Inc. series which sounds pretty interesting (perhaps he’ll get to incorporate his ideas from his aborted Wildcats series):

Superheroes have always been about becoming whatever we’ve needed them to be at any given time. Lately, we’ve made them like Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates, weaponized supersoldiers working for the military-industrial complex, which then grew into Iron Man, who is a superhero celebrity, an everyone-is-a-star kind of thing. But give it another five years and it could be cosmic seekers again, because of the new drugs coming onto the market. Or it could be something else entirely. They’ll take the form of whatever our dreams or ideals happen to be. […]

Most corporations seem pretty demonic. Corporations as entities are strange things. Because no one person is really in charge, we’ve conjured some predatory, ravenous entities. But Batman, Inc. is an attempt to reimagine what a good corporation can be. It’s not the first time this has happened in comics: Joe Casey tried to imagine the same thing with Wildcats. But this will be Bruce Wayne’s attempt, and I think it’s going to be quite progressive.

Wired: Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. Births Comics’ First Zen Billionaire

I think a case could be made that Adrian Veidt (himself based on Tibetan Buddhist Peter Cannon) as the first comics’ first “zen” (used loosely) billionaire.

Zen Meditation: Thicker Brains Fend Off Pain

zen meditation

I think they probably mean zazen (or am I nitpicking here?)

People can reduce their sensitivity to pain by thickening their brain, according to a new study published in a special issue of the American Psychological Association journal, Emotion. Researchers from the Université de Montréal made their discovery by comparing the grey matter thickness of Zen meditators and non-meditators. They found evidence that practicing the centuries-old discipline of Zen can reinforce a central brain region (anterior cingulate) that regulates pain.

Science Daily: Zen Meditation: Thicker Brains Fend Off Pain

Zen Anarchy

“Zen anarchy? What could that be ? Some new variations on the koans, those classic proto-Dadaist Zen ‘riddles’? What is the Sound of One Hand making a Clenched Fist? If you see a Black Flag waving on the Flagpole, what moves? Does the flag move? Does the wind move? Does the revolutionary movement move? What is your original nature-before May ?68, before the Spanish Revolution, before the Paris Commune?

Somehow this doesn’t seem quite right. And in fact, it’s unnecessary. From the beginning, Zen was more anarchic than anarchism. We can take it on its own terms. Just so you don’t think I’m making it all up, I’ll cite some of the greatest and most highly-respected (and respectfully ridiculed) figures in the history of Zen, including Hui-Neng (638-713), the Sixth Patriarch, Lin-Chi (d. 867), the founder of the Rinzai school, Mumon (1183-1260), the Rinzai master who assembled one of the most famous collections of koans, Dogen (1200-1253), the founder of Soto, the second major school, and Hakuin (1685-1768), the great Zen master, poet and artist who revitalized Zen practice.

I. Smashing States of Consciousness

This is what all the great teachers show: Zen is the practice of anarchy (an-archy) in the strictest and most super-orthodox sense. It rejects all ‘archys’ or principles-supposedly transcendent sources of truth and reality, which are really no more than fixed ideas, mental habits and prejudices that help create the illusion of dominating reality. These ‘principles’ are not mere innocuous ideas. They are Imperialistic Principalities that intrude their sovereign power into our very minds and spirits. As anti-statist as we may try to be, our efforts will come to little if our state of mind is a mind of state. Zen helps us dispose of the clutter of authoritarian ideological garbage that automatically collects in our normal, well-adjusted mind, so that we become free to experience and appreciate the world, nature, and the ‘Ten Thousand Things,’ the myriad beings around us, rather than just using them as fuel for our ill-fated egoistic cravings.”

(via Precious Metal. Also: Zen Anarchy-pt 2 “Killing The Buddha: Zen’s Assault on Authority”, Pt 3 “The Koan: Entering The Jetstream”)

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