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Made You Think

Oct 31, 2017

Every time that you’re putting a label on something, you are abstracting away from what it truly means.

Meditation has taken western interest by storm… but what is Buddhism, anyway? We try to figure that out in this exploration of The Way of Zen, which lays out the different forms of Buddhism and how they differ. Neither of us knew much about the subtleties, nor how much it’s misrepresented in western marketing.

We covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • Differences in Eastern and Western wisdom
  • The origins of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism
  • The negative effects of putting labels on things
  • Reducing attachment to things and becoming more open-minded
  • Non-conscious and indescribable knowledge
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Finding joy in the journey, not the destination

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of The Way of Zen and to check out Nat and Neil’s notes on the book!

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to check out our episode on Letters From a Stoic, to learn ancient wisdom for a better life and our episode on In Praise of Idleness, to reduce the guilt from overworking and to improve your leisurely time.

Mentioned in the show:

Books mentioned:

People mentioned:

0:00 - Introduction, a powerful quote from the book, and some thoughts on why you may want to re-read books intermittently.

1:56 - A bit of background on the author Alan Watts, some information on the book, and discussion on the similarity between Zen Buddhism and Stoicism.

3:52 - Discussion on the first section in the book and some comparisons between Western and Eastern types of knowledge. Also, some interesting differences in Western and Eastern language.

6:07 - (Tangent #1) Successful startup and company names being both nouns and verbs, such as Google and Uber. Also, thoughts on nouns, verbs, and labels.

7:03 - How when things aren’t labeled in the west, things can get confusing. Thoughts on freeing yourself from these “boxes” of labels and restricting labels, as well.

9:54 - The spoken, explained, and labeled things, versus unspoken, unexplained, and unlabeled things. Some more thoughts on labeling things and putting them in the box of that label. Also, thoughts on labeling ourselves and defining ourselves by our past actions.

11:28 - Discussion on the illusion of reality and our reality shifting based on our goals and actions.

12:47 - Further discussion on the narrative fallacy of putting a label on something. Also, the differences in the meaning of words between different people, and the communicative problems that arise due to those.

14:38 - Thoughts on the categories of things and changing your perspective on how you view them. Also, changing your interpretation of reality, to reduce attachment in general and attachment to these categories that things have been labeled under. Seeing the true nature rather than the label and being open to new ideas.

15:37 - The word complexity and how our attempts to understand things with categories is obsolete and overly complex.

17:05 - The example of learning music in the West compared to the East. Also, the comparison of learning language in an immersive and challenging way versus than the traditional approach found in schools.

19:08 - (Tangent #2) Some thoughts on the similarity between the books on the podcast so far and some thoughts on why Zen is not considered a philosophy.

21:39 - Being open to new ideas and ways of thought, and some thoughts on non-conscious and indescribable knowledge.

23:40 - Requiring an indescribable experience to both experience and understand some of the aspects of Zen and non-conscious knowledge. Some talk on where our thoughts come from and asking ourselves the question of where they come from.

26:33 - (Tangent #3) How much of our reality we don’t experience because there are no words to describe it. Discussion on our past visual spectrum and not being able to see certain colors in the past, compared to now, where we can see more colors.

30:57 - Neil’s personal experiences and life changes after meditating. Becoming more mindful and aware of things that we may normally be mindless to. Also, thoughts on the metaphysical aspect of our reality.

34:08 - The next chapter, discussion on the origins of Buddhism, and comparison between other religions. Also, how Buddhism may be considered a school of thought rather than a religion and some thought on religion in general.

40:09 - Some discussion on the history of Buddhism as well as a bit on other religions.

46:19 - Watt’s on Buddhism coming from Hinduism and Buddhism sharing ideas. Also, thoughts on ego, our desires to be in control, and Nirvana.

49:18 - Discussion on brief moments of clarity, being in the zone, and the flow state.

50:56 - The book’s section on Mahayana Buddhism and some talk about Bodhisattvas. Shortly after, discussion on Zen awakening and achieving Sattori.

55:32 - Sitting meditation versus bringing meditation into everything that you do. Also, some more discussion on enlightenment and zen versus other Buddhist traditions.

1:00:20 - The principles and practices of Zen Buddhism. Some more on giving up control and some thoughts on control in general.

1:04:49 - (Tangent #4) Thoughts on emotion as a heuristic and Watt’s thermostat analogy in regards to human happiness.

1:08:17 - Discussion on Zazen meditation and Watt’s views on seated meditation. Also, some talk about our attention spans, the constant entertainment we get, and comparing that to sitting quietly where we don’t get that stimulation. Also, discussion on the moments of clarity and mindfulness we get throughout the day.

1:12:26 - Thoughts about whether Zen meditation is getting more popular and discussion on just doing meditation for no purpose, instead of doing it to gain something.

1:15:16 - The last section on Zen and the arts. How the practice of Zen influences art and makes it so much more beautiful. “So much of it was built, for the sake of just building.” “The process is the reward”. The joy is more in the journey, rather than the destination.

1:21:04 - Wrap-up and a powerful quotation to ponder on.

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It’s a very limiting view to believe that everything needs to be really clearly defined to be true.