Jules Shuzen Harris
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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 psychological problems in favor of “pretend Enlightenment.”
His method is to apply the Buddhist philosophy using not only meditation, but psychotherapy, mainly the Mind-Body Bridging & the I-System (system that regulates mind-body states by calming your default-mode network).
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 present moment.
Dedicated practice & reaching Enlightenment is a painful process & it's natural to see your ego dissolving as a loss. Quite terrifying actually! It takes a lot of courage & commitment to fight against the ego who is trying to conserve itself.
For Jules, true enlightenment can still be obtained in the modern world.
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:
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 favourite food, but the real problem is when an unexpected event like its xlosing ruins your day.
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:
All of these usually happen in less than a second. Experiences are actually made up of multiple groups.
For Buddhists, these 6 realms represent all possible states of existence. They were traditionally conceived as real places, but can also be interpreted symbolically:
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.
Jules Harris proposes we interpret the realms psychologically to guide us to make mental maps for ourselves.
You can use meditation to investigate these questions & write the answers as a mind-map.
Zazen, the Zen meditation, can start easy and progress towards complexity:
Don't look at these techniques as a progression. You can study koans one session & do counting in the next.
A Zen student needs 3 foundational conditions:
Life-long learner. Passionate about leadership, entrepreneurship, philosophy, Buddhism & SF. Founder @deepstash.
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.
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