THE NATURE OF EXPERIENCE
A series of nine lectures by Eido Michael Luetchford
The following files contain
transcripts of a series of nine lectures given by Eido Michael
the Tokyo Young Buddhists Association in Spring 1999. While
each talk is complete in itself, the talks all follow the theme
of "The Nature of Experience," with the word experience
meaning "to participate in or undergo something, to be
part of something," which describes something that is
at the heart of Buddhism.
Talks about the very simple kind of experiences
that we have when we do something active, where the experience
we have is so simple that we tend not to notice it. Then goes
on to look at the few assertions Buddhism makes about the world
around us, and suggests that the assertions Buddhism makes
and the very simple experiences that we don't usually notice
are in fact rather similar.
"...the very simple
state which Buddhism is talking about is present in all activity,
but it's overlaid
by our feelings
and our impressions and social conventions, so that we don't
notice it. But although we don't notice it, it's still present."
PDF file (22KB)
Talks about the experience of a baby when it's
very small and has not yet been subjected to the conditions
of society. Then talks about the kind of conditioning that
society places on the baby as it gets older, and how this relates
to Buddhist theory and Zazen.
"We're members of society, and because we're members of
society we receive social training. We put on pairs of coloured
spectacles and we see the world through our education and social
training. But when we practice Zazen we glimpse the real world
that exists always here and now. And that world is separate from
what we think about it, and separate from the so-called "social
constructions" that we use in our daily life."
PDF file (19KB)
Talks about language and the effect it has on
the way we perceive the world, and how we sometimes mistake
the view that language gives us for what is really here. Then
goes on to look at the difficulty in Buddhism about trying
to use words to try to describe reality.
"But in Buddhism, what we have to
try and do is describe reality in words, and because of the
almost impossibility of
this it has been said that Buddhist theory is like a finger pointing
at the moon, but only we can touch the moon. In other words,
language points us towards something, but what it's pointing
towards is not the same as what is pointing."
PDF file (18KB)
Talks about the material view of the world represented
by science and how it's closely connected with language. Then
looks at how people's view of the world has gradually changed
from a spiritual to a scientific view, and what Buddhism says
about this view.
"Science is something which is so
widespread in modern times that we don't notice, but if we
look back into history,
before the fifteenth century, we can catch a glimpse of a very,
very different way of viewing the world. "
PDF file (14KB)
Talks about the fundamental difference between
Buddhism and all of the social training that we're used to.
Then looks at this difference in relation to Zazen and what
Buddhism says about reality.
"And when we practice Zazen, instead
of solving problems by absorbing knowledge, we let go of all
that. We let go of our
thinking, we let go of our worries, we let go of our pain, and
we sit in something very simple, very immediate and very real.
And if we sit in that very simple state everyday, after a while
we notice the flavour of reality, the taste of reality, and then
we notice that what society says is reality has a different quality. "
PDF file (17KB)
Talks about how the world view based on science
is so pervasive in the modern world that we don't notice it.
Then looks at how Buddhism insists that the actual reality
in front of us is beyond science, although it includes science.
"Buddhism has a different view to
the view of science, but it does not exclude science. Buddhism
says that reality is not what we learned or what we saw on the
television, but what we actually experience here and now."
PDF file (13KB)
Looks at how science depends on language to
create an objective model of the world that is as close as
possible to our actual experience. Then talks about another
area which is outside of this objective model of the world,
where what is in front of us becomes whole and undivided and
"...we usually think that when we
look at the external world we see objects, but in one of his
verses Master Nagarjuna
says that when the external world appears in front of us, it
appears in front of us nameless, and the objects, the objectification,
comes afterwards. "
PDF file (21KB)
Looks at the difference between science
and religion from the aspect of "doubt," and at how
doubt is fundamental to the scientific view while absolute
is fundamental to the religious view. Then goes on to look
at what Buddhism says about these views.
"But the central belief in Buddhism
is only what is here and now, which we call reality. If it's
not here and now, we
don't believe it; we say it may be true. So the only thing which
we can be sure of is whatever is here and now. That which appears
here and now is what we can be sure of, and that which appears
here and now is what Buddhism believes in."
PDF file (23KB)
Reviews some of the themes discussed in the
series of talks, and goes on to describe what Buddhism says
about our experience of reality.
"When we sit in Zazen, the strange
thing is there is no sensation of perception of separate objects.
Of course, we may
suddenly notice someone coming into the room and we may notice
a spot on the wall or our foot and so on, so we drift in and
out of objective and subjective states in Zazen, but the essential
state does not separate the world into objects. And the same
is true of action."
PDF file (20KB)