Re: Zen

Chris Lees (
Sun, 11 Apr 1999 01:09:51 +0100

Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 01:09:51 +0100
From: Chris Lees <>
Subject: Re: Zen

Aaron Lynch wrote:


> But if philosophy Z embraces contradiction, then it could be a
> more robust competitor in an environment selecting for the least often
> refuted philosophy. Zen might owe some of its evolution and proliferation
> to just such a kind of natural selection. Once it establishes its
> reputation as resistant to conventional lines of refutation, many people
> may learn not to even try to refute or even criticize it. This again can
> help it to out-propagate philosophies and religions that do not embrace
> contradictions, non-sequiturs, etc. Once its reputation is established, it
> finds more settings in which it can spread unopposed.

I find that extraordinarily interesting , Aaron.

There is a saying in the tradition, that any pupil has to prove that he/she
is better than the teacher, before they can inherit the mantle of authority,
thus the tradition will always grow stronger.

Also, there is a well documented account, purported to be a record of the
exact exchange of words which took place between masters,on each occasion,
as the 'authentic' teaching was transmitted from one generation to the next,
stretching right back to the Buddha..

So, maybe, that record could be looked at in this light: The supreme master
of one generation, impervious to all the memes that had been thrown at him
during his stint, then meets a zen student with a new, original meme against
which the old master has no defence, and so he is defeated and therefore bound
to hand over the title.

I don't, myself, think that zen buddhists focus upon contradictions, or non-
sequiturs, as something of great merit in themselves. I would say that there is
something much more important than that, which gives of the apparent
illogicalities as a side effect, as it were. For example, a rude gesture at a
policeman indicates an attitude toward authority, in a direct, risky and
unambiguous way. By contrast, a written verbal account by a law abiding and
subservient citizen could say ' I hate the police ', but actually be the opposite
of their real attitude. So, these apparently opaque and irrational acts and
statements by zen buddhists, are in fact, conveying important and profound
memes (?) which cannot be intercepted other than by the cognescenti.

In other words, a master can judge the maturity of the pupil's achievement
as they work with the 'meme-eating meme' during their training, by questioning
them and observing the response. If they are chockfull of memes, as all the
beginners are, then that will be obvious. If they are 'empty', - as in Liane Gabora's
"unbiased conceptual space", - then what would you expect their reponse to
be ? It will not be a typical cliche, nor anything from the common memepool.


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