Rightbrain Zen

Buddha's Dharma of Non-Duality

  • Brain science and Zen's approach to Non-Duality
  • Sperry's Nobel prize for rightbrain-leftbrain research
  • Interesting bicameral studies by other brain researchers
  • Buddha and old masters' teachings on Non-Duality
  • Rightbrain's operations tend to be holistic and non-dual
  • Leftbrain's operations require a dualistic perspective
  • 176 pages
  • 10 Bodhi-bird illustrations


    1 Ravana
    Lankavatara Sutra: Buddha Lectures to the King of Demons

    2 Rightbrain Zen
    It’s All Rightbrain Zen - There’s No Such Thing as Leftbrain Zen

    3 The Tang Dynasty Zen Masters
    The Classical Golden Age of Zen

    4 Rightbrain / Leftbrain Science
    The Empirical Perspective

    5 Duality (The Opposite of Holistic)
    Buddha Rejects Duality

    6 Buddha’s Flower Sermon
    The Origin of Zen (Dhyana Buddhism)

    7 Labels, Words, and Language
    Leftbrain Superpowers

    8 Leftbrain Methodology
    Straight, Rational, Linear Processes

    9 Bodhidharma
    The Indian Monk Who Took Zen to China

    10 Proto-IndoEuropean
    The Root Language of Buddha and the Sutras

    11 Prajna
    The Greater of Zen’s “Two Truths”

    12 Vi-Jnana
    The Lesser of Zen’s “Two Truths”

    13 Dog-Meat-Zen
    Old Golden-Face Plays Bait and Switch with Us

    14 Master Zhaozhou’s Dog
    Why is Having Buddha-Nature Not-Having Buddha-Nature?

    15 Upaya
    A Proper Way of Saying Dog-Meat

    16 Cause-and-Effect
    Buddha Denounces Causality

    17 Static Time
    The Holistic Present-Centered Moment

    18 Zen Metaphors
    The Necessity of Beating Around the Bush

    19 The Holistic Wheel Metaphor
    When is a Wheel Not a Wheel?

    20 The Indra’s Net Metaphor
    Pratitya-Samutpada - the Infinite Interconnectedness of All Things

    21 The Beardless Barbarian Metaphor
    And Black Holes Have No Hair

    22 The Killing Buddha Metaphor
    All Zen Teachings are False, Including this One

    23 Dried Poop On A Stick
    Another Perspective on Old Golden-Face

    24 Tasting It For Yourself
    There’s No Such Thing as Cookbook Zen

    25 Juzhi Teaches A Copycat
    The Student Who Couldn’t Taste Zen for Himself

    26 A Puddle Of Piss In The Pure Land
    Zen is “No Holiness At All”

    27 De-Digitizing The Boy And Other Zen Thuggery
    Stories of Bad-Boy Zen

    28 Guisan Attacks The Water Jug
    New Headmaster: Direct, Disrespectful, Non-Verbal and Violent

    Appendix 1 - Zen Koans
    Appendix 2 - The Sound of One Hand Clapping
    Appendix 3 - Versions and Translations
    Appendix 4 - Ramachandran’s Perspectives on “Mind Only”
    Appendix 5 - Ramachandran: The Roots of Language
    Appendix 6 - A History of Bicamerality and Chirality
    Appendix 7 - Jaynes: A Recent Evolution of Mental Software
    Appendix 8 - Culture and Hemispheric Dominance
    Appendix 9 - Bicameral Mindsets and Modern Physics
    Appendix 10 - “Gamification” Computing with Rightbrain Powers
    Appendix 11 - (Chapter 4 Part Two) - More Bicameral Brain Science
    Appendix 12 - (Chapter 16 Part Two) – More About Cause-And-Effect
    Appendix 13 - (Chapter 17 Part Two - More About Static Time
    Appendix 14 – A Metaphysics Exercise

    Zen Masters Referenced (47 masters)
    Works Cited (77 works cited)

    Bodhidharma the First Patriarch of Zen
    When Emperor Wu asked Bodhidharma "What is the highest truth of the holy Buddhist doctrine," he replied "Vast emptiness, no holiness at all."

    ________ . ________


    Buddha and Zen constantly urge us to avoid the dualistic mindset. Modern research shows our rightbrain to be orientated holistically. But the leftbrain’s perspective is duality, and that’s exactly what Buddha teaches against.

    Brain researchers over the last half-century have shown that we essentially have two distinctly separate brains, one in each hemisphere of our heads. Even their wiring schematics are fundamentally different. Leftbrain is wired for step-by-step linear processes, while rightbrain is wired for acting simultaneously on multiple inputs.

    The dominant leftbrain is the seat of language. Its operations are linear, direct, rational, and dualistic. (It sees a lot of individual trees, but not the forest as a whole.) Rightbrain’s mindset, on the other hand is indirect, intuitive, non-rational, and holistic rather than dualist. Its nature is to ignore the individuality of the trees.

    Interestingly, modern physics shows that the basic operations of the universe are often irrational, a-temporal, random, and non-linear. In some obvious ways they seem to accord better with rightbrain’s perspectives, rather than those of the dominant leftbrain. There’s something to be studied there.

    Since shortly before China’s Tang Dynasty, Zen masters have been teaching students how to take a look at the big picture. How to stop thinking with words and language, stop insisting on directness and linearity, stop imposing rationality on everything, and become familiar with a holistic mindset. We can see, point-by-point, that Zen's main effort has essentially been promoting rightbrain methodology. And that it’s teaching against how the dominant leftbrain operates by forcing our round pegs into its square holes.

    The duality that Buddha always tells us to avoid is clearly leftbrain methodology. Conversely, Zen’s holistic bodhi-mind requires rightbrain operations. And so among other things Zen is a layered collection of examples and advice for promoting a rightbrain mindset.

    ________ . ________


    You can’t get there from here. It’s impossible to walk through the non-linear Gateless Gate. The only way to get past that gate is to suddenly find yourself already on the other side. You just have to recognize that you’re already there.

    ________ . ________

    Once when he was a student, Master Mazu (709-788 Japanese: Baso) was sitting on a rock meditating. His teacher, Master Nanyueh (677-744 J. Nangaku) sat down nearby and asked Mazu (709-788) what he was hoping to accomplish. “I wish to attain Buddhahood” he answered. The teacher picked up a brick and started vigorously rubbing it with a stone. “What are you doing,” Mazu asked.

    “I’m rubbing the brick to polish it into a mirror,” replied Nanyueh.

    “You can’t turn a brick into a mirror by rubbing it, Master.”

    “If you understand why working away at a brick with a lot of rubbing will never turn it into a mirror,” Nanyueh answered; “then why can’t you understand that no amount of meditation will ever polish you into a buddha?” At that moment Mazu suddenly understood the metaphor and he was enlightened; finally grasping the nature of the subtle and instantaneous dharma his teacher had been trying so long to transmit.

    What we now know from brain research confirms that this traditional Zen “koan” illustrates the power of rightbrain operations (metaphor, and sudden intuitive understanding). And in contrast, it exemplifies how leftbrain’s traditional well-planned linear processes and paradigms can often be essentially useless.

    Mazu’s linear approach of sequentially following a planned course of actions, is leftbrain methodology. It’s very foreign to the way rightbrain operates; and foreign to the mindset Zen recommends to us.

    ________ . ________

    Neuropsychologist Roger Sperry received half (maybe the left half?) of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1981, for his pioneering bicameral studies on the two individual halves of the human brain. The following are quoted parts of the Nobel Prize official announcement:

    The left hemisphere is the center for speech and, accordingly, has been described as the dominant one and has been considered to be superior to the right hemisphere. …[Sperry showed that each cerebral hemisphere has] its own world of consciousness and is entirely independent of the other with regard to learning and retention. Moreover, each has its own world of perceptual experience, emotions, thoughts and memory completely out of reach of the other cerebral hemisphere.

    As Sperry was able to demonstrate, the isolated left hemisphere is concerned with abstract thinking, symbolic relationships and logical analysis of details, particularly temporal [time] relationships. It can speak, write and make mathematical calculations; in its general function it is analytical and computer-like. It is also the more aggressive, executive, leading hemisphere in control of the nervous system.

    The right hemisphere is mute and... Because of its muteness, the right hemisphere has so far been completely inaccessible for experimental studies... The right hemisphere... lacks almost entirely the ability to calculate and can only perform simple additions up to 20. It completely lacks the power to subtract, multiply or divide.

    It can read and comprehend the meaning of simple, mono-syllabic nouns but cannot perceive the import of adjectives or verbs. It cannot write but is entirely superior to the left hemisphere when it comes to space perception and reproducing three-dimensional pictures. Almost 50 years ago the great Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov concluded that mankind can be divided into thinkers and artists. Perhaps the left hemisphere is the dominant one in thinkers and the right hemisphere in artists.

    ________ . ________

    D. T. Suzuki; introduction to his translation of the Lankavatara Sutra

    Going beyond all forms of dualism, …whether as being and non-being, or as oneness and manyness, or as this and that, or as causation and no-causation, or as form and no-form, or as good and evil, or as ego and non-ego, …ad infinitum - this going beyond a world of oppositions and contrasts constitutes one of the most significant thoughts of the Mahayana.

    ________ . ________

    Our brain’s two hemispheres are normally connected by a pencil-thin communications cable of 200 million nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. Because they communicate constantly with each other, the two sides work together and we tend to not notice how different they are. But in his book The Right Mind, brain researcher Robert Ornstein notes that as far back as twenty-four hundred years ago Diocles of Carystus was very well aware of significant bicameral differences. Not to put words in Diocles’ mouth, but is he suggesting something like awareness-per-se versus analysis?

    Diocles of Carystus
    There are two brains in the head, …the one which is lying on the right side is the one that perceives; with the left one, however, we understand.

    ________ . ________

    Brain Researcher Michael Gazzaniga
    All the evidence indicates that separation of the hemispheres creates two independent spheres of consciousness within a single cranium, that is to say, within a single organism. …We are really dealing with two brains, each separately capable of mental functions of a high order.

    Brain/Mind Researcher Robert Ornstein
    [Humans have] two major modes of consciousness, one analytic, one holistic, …the first analogous to the process of viewing in sequence the individual parts of the elephant, [and] the second to viewing at once the whole animal. …[The two hemispheres can also be described as] the rational and the intuitive sides.

    Author Thomas Blakeslee
    After hundreds of experiments, a clear pattern …emerged, proving that the two halves of our brain think in distinctly different ways. …The left brain not only thinks in words; it excels at the kind of one-step-at-a-time logical sequences that are the basis of language. …The rightbrain thinks in images.

    Cognitive Scientist, Professor Lay Leng Yeap
    There is a need to recognize and accept the fact that there are two equally valid methods of acting upon, processing, perceiving, and storing information.

    ________ . ________

    When Buddha and Zen tradition reject dualism, objectivity, sequential logic, cause-and-effect, words and language, they’re rejecting the means and methodologies specifically of the leftbrain.

    Conversely, rightbrain’s operations reflect its particular diffuse, parallel-rather-than-linear, architecture. It specializes in synthesis, integration, and simultaneous processing of multiple inputs. It sees the forest instead of individual trees, and views the world in a holistic manner. Buddha and Zen tradition recommend a transcendental consciousness not based on words and language, and not cognizant of individuality or separation. They recommend a mindset that’s holistic and non-dualist rather than being focused on oppositions such as right and wrong, subject and object, form and formlessness, etc. They’re specifically recommending rightbrain methodologies.

    ________ . ________

    There’s a solid, demonstrable, general distinction between the operations and duties of leftbrain and those of rightbrain. People with leftbrain damage have trouble with language, with understanding time and sequential patterns, rationality and linear thinking. People with rightbrain damage have trouble seeing the big picture, trouble with spatial activities, and with understanding higher-level non-literal information such as metaphors, and sarcasm, etc.

    The two sides of the brain are even neurologically wired up differently. The leftbrain’s wiring is more digitally organized, to process discrete chunks of information in a linear, sequential manner. It looks at a forest but sees a bunch of trees. Conversely, the rightbrain’s wiring is more diffuse and integrative, designed for synthesis, and simultaneous processing of many inputs. It looks at the field of trees and instantly sees a forest.

    One indication of how different the hemispheric strategies are is how physical damage affects each differently. Because the leftbrain is arranged as separate individual modules (analogous to its dualistic thinking), limited damage tends to be more obvious. An entire sequentially-chained process can be affected if one link in the chain is damaged. But since rightbrain architecture is diffuse, or “massively parallel”, an equivalent amount of damage may simply reduce its overall efficiency by a small, and perhaps unnoticeable percentage. The two hemispheres are wired up very differently.

    Another interesting indication of how the hemispheres are designed differently is how it takes less alcohol to get rightbrain drunk, and how it gets significantly “duller” than the left on the same amount of alcohol. Further, marijuana causes a greater increase of activity in the right hemisphere than in the left.

    ________ . ________

    As noted above, the two hemispheres are anatomically wired up differently. The left is wired in modular fashion to support linear, sequential operations. The right is wired in a more global, diffuse manner that supports holistic, simultaneous processing of multiple inputs. The effects of these oppositely-styled architectures are discernible in the two different modes of thinking, in the different effects of physical damage to each hemisphere, and even in response to bloodstream chemicals, such as alcohol and marijuana.