Re: Zen

Joe E. Dees (
Fri, 17 Sep 1999 19:50:36 -0500

Date sent:      	Fri, 17 Sep 1999 10:28:01 -0700
From:           	Ken Clements <>
Organization:   	Innovation On Demand, Inc.
Subject:        	Zen
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> Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

Zen is to Buddhism as Sufism is to Islam and as Hasidism is to Judaism (approximately).
> > > Zen is a Japanese variant of Mahayanan Buddhism, BTW.
> > > Kathryn
> >
> > I think that's more of a cultural accident than a good fit
> > though; Zen is really orthogonal to any religion.
> This point about orthogonality is important to me. I am currently working on
> a book that, I hope, will explain some of it by showing how concepts from Zen
> apply to the future of subjects, like uploading, when full nanotechnoloy
> makes it possible to do the kind of tests that have only been thought
> experiments in the past. I am calling this book _Zen and the Art of
> Molecular Nanotechnology_ and expect to put a chapter on the Web soon.
> Here is a small clip about Zen:
> > Zen is quite simple to follow from a historical standpoint. It started as a form of Buddhist training in India in the fourth and fifth centuries, was carried to China a century later, then to Japan some 600 years after that. The long incubation period in China allowed ancient Taoist
principals to influence its practice. Two main styles were started in Japan, Rinzai in 1191 by the monk Eisai, and Soto in 1227 by the monk Dogen. A great deal of the American interest in Zen can be traced to the writings>> Zen is not simple to follow from an explanational standpoint. Its only rule is that it has no rules. Its objective is that the student achieve "enlightenment," an end that is a beginning. The teachers of Zen typically (paradoxically) follow the words of Chinese Taoist Lao-tsu:

> >
> > Those who know do not speak;
> > Those who speak do not know.
> >> > I, myself, am in a good position to speak of this, because I clearly know that I do not know. This flavor of contradictory self reference is a favorite of Douglas Hofstadter, who wrote the magnificent exposition o
f multilevel creativity and metamathematics, Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. This work also struggles to speak of Zen. Hofstadter wrote:

> >> > One of the basic tenets of Zen Buddhism is that there is no way to characterize what Zen is. No matter what verbal space you try to enclose Zen in, it resists, and spills over. It might seem, then, that all effor
ts to explain Zen are complete wastes of time. But that is not the attitude of Zen masters and students.

> > (1979 GEB p. 246)
> >
> > In the preface to The Way of Zen, Alan Watts wrote:
> >> > To write about Zen is, therefore, as problematic for the outside, "objective" observer as for the inside, "subjective" disciple. In varying situations I have found myself on both sides of the dilemma. I have asso
ciated and studied with the "objective observers" and am convinced that, for all their virtues, they invariably miss the point and eat the menu instead of the dinner.

> >
> One of ideas I hope to be able to show is that Zen is connected to the meta
> level distinction between the machine and the simulation that runs on the
> machine. I see enlightenment as breaking through the simulation that
> produces the Self, and BEING the underlying machine. This is the big step,
> but once made, it is simple to see that the machine does not exist in a
> vacuum, but is an extension of the processes of the Universe, or just a place
> where a tiny fragment of the Universe "sticks out." Seeing yourself as the
> tip of an iceberg that is the Universe, makes it easier to move the line
> where you stop and everything else begins to wider and wider circles until
> you achieve the ultimate Zen goal.
> Although it usually takes many years of work for humans to break into the
> control room of the underlying machine, if you exist as a simulation in an
> upload situation, you might start hacking the code right out from under
> yourself. This would seem to lead to some serious problems in maintaining
> pattern integrity, and avoiding lockup. The difficulty of self modification
> has some survival value as well as cost. I feel we will need to dust off
> some of the old debates of philosophy and look at them anew in the light of
> what we are about to be able to do.
> -Ken