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Jules Harris, the first African American Zen master, makes an argument to go beyond mindfulness towards a more classical views of Buddhism. His method combines psychological interpretation of Buddhist text with psychology.

Zen beyond Mindfulness

Zen beyond Mindfulness

by Jules Shuzen Harris


5.5K reads

Jules Harris's Beyond Mindfulness

Jules Shuzen Harris, the first African American Zen master, argues that people in the West practice secularised forms of Buddhism or mindfulness, that hide the true meaning of Awakening. He claims mindfulness is also a form of “spiritual bypassing,” avoiding psyc...

True Enlightenment vs Mindfulness

To be aware is not about maximising your state of wellbeing (like in mindfulness), but about about realising (your) true Buddha nature. Our ego puts out a constant fight with us & others, but our true nature is one of connectedness. And every time we sit we re-connect with the true reality of the...

For Jules, true enlightenment can still be obtained in the modern world. 

  • Understand the Buddhist conception of consciousness and the role of ego in it.
  • Understand that clinging to a narrative is how the ego fights back. Know the Skandhas, or t...

Buddhist Consciousness

Consciousness is unresolved scientific problem. We don't really know what makes us aware. Because it's so hard to define we think of us as made up of matter and spirit. In Buddhism, however, there are 9 level of consciousness:

  • 6 senses (touch, hearing, smell, taste, se...

Desire And Clinging

We may think Buddhism is about living a world free of desires and pleasures. It's impossible and also not true. Clinging to desire is the problem.

Say you are excited about dining at your favourite restaurant, but when you get there you find it closed. It's ok to want to eat your favour...

Skandhas, Why We Suffer

In Buddhism, it refers to the 5 aggregates of clinging (the source of suffering). To understand them let's think of hearing a person clapping:

  1. form (or material image, impression) - This is the experience of the clapping sound
  2. sensatio...

The Six Realms of Existence

For Buddhists, these 6 realms represent all possible states of existence. They were traditionally conceived as real places, but can also be interpreted symbolically:

  1. Heavenly Realm: Life in heaven is a continual round or pleasure, but finite. Gods ultimately die.

Using mind-maps in Zen

Jules, proposes to adopt mind-maps (a tool in the I-System) and combine them with the Skandhas and the 6 Realms to get to a better understanding of yourself.

  • Chose a question from one of the realms. Like "What give me pleasure?". Write on the middle of a blank page. 
  • Using Zaze...

Jules Harris proposes we interpret the realms psychologically to guide us to make mental maps for ourselves.

  1. Heaven (pleasure, comfort): What I am addicted to? What are my desires?
  2. Demigods (jealousy, arrogance, power): How do I de...

Stages of Zazen

Zazen, the Zen meditation, can start easy and progress towards complexity:

  • Count breaths & exhalations. Breath in - 1. Breathe out - 2. Do it until you get to 10 & restart. If you notice any thoughts just label them.
  • Concentrate on full breath cycle

Hints for a better Zazen

  • There is no bad Zazen. If you start to appreciate your state or if you get frustrated by your thoughts you are only bringing your ego into the forefront. 
  • If you get addicted to a good sensation you only get through meditation, you most likely stranded off the path and you should see...

A Zen student needs 3 foundational conditions:

  1. True Faith: Have faith that everyone has Buddha nature. have faith that you can get to this truth.
  2. True Doubt: Doubt what seems to be reality. Most of the time the reality are just construct of you...

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