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
8 Leftbrain Methodology
Straight, Rational, Linear Processes
The Indian Monk Who Took Zen to China
The Root Language of Buddha and the Sutras
The Greater of Zen’s “Two Truths”
The Lesser of Zen’s “Two Truths”
Old Golden-Face Plays Bait and Switch with Us
14 Master Zhaozhou’s Dog
Why is Having Buddha-Nature Not-Having Buddha-Nature?
A Proper Way of Saying Dog-Meat
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.
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
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.