Paperback

Good news! There’s to be a paperback edition of “Ten Zen Questions”. At least, I should say there is to be a paperback edition of a book previously called “Ten Zen Questions”.

The publishers have decided that the title is not good enough and I can see their point. Arguably I wrote the book only because I thought of the title and liked the alliteration, but their argument is that they want it to appeal more directly to neuroscientists and others working on the problem of consciousness. So it needs a different cover and a different title.

They have suggested all sorts of (in my opinion) rather good possible titles, but I’d love to know what you readers think about them. Here is a list of their suggestions.

Consciously Zen

Zen and the Conscious Mind

Zen and the Meditative Mind

Zen and Your Conscious Self

Zen and the Art of Consciousness

Contemplating Consciousness: Ten Zen Questions

Contemplations on Consciousness: Ten Zen Questions

The Meditative Mind: Ten Zen Questions

Your Brain on Zen

Do please comment on any or all of these suggestions, or add some of your own. Also, if you have noticed any errors or problems with the text, now is a good time to tell me about them. I have to submit any changes (which can, of course, only be small) by the end of this month. Your help is much appreciated.

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15 Responses to “Paperback”

  1. puerhan Says:

    Ug to all the “Zen and the…” titles! I would go for “Contemplating Consciousness: Ten Zen Questions” 🙂

  2. marjon Says:

    Congratulations!

    I really like the title “Ten Zen Questions”, so I’d leave that in. All the ‘Zen and …’ titles remind me of a lot of other Zen book titles and giving your book one of those titles doesn’t distinguish it much.

    My favourite is ‘Contemplating Consciousness: Ten Zen Questions’, because it has both the contemplation and the consciousness.

    My 2 cents. Good luck!

  3. john260660 Says:

    It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon as “Zen and the Art of Consciousness”. “Publisher’s wanting to appeal more directly to neuroscientists?” mmmm. Publisher’s jumping on a bandwagon maybe. Still, I hope it gives the book a boost because I thought it was very stimulating and unique even if I am still looking for and pondering its conclusions. I predict further hostile feedback from Zen practitioners with its new title.
    Your book made me think about why it is necessary to quieten and clear the mind via meditation to explore consciousness. Why is there so much antagonism to “thought” in Zen and similar practices? I wish you would supplement this book with another that considers what it means to be conscious in an everyday mind noticing the the arising of impulses/habits/itches/urges/movement/stimulii/reaction/experience.

    The insights of someone who is mindful or “self-remembering” in this state and is able to articulate the insights from it would be may be widely valuable. Actually this thought came to me when I was reading your book on holiday and was distracted by something. I immediately wrote this stream in my PDA…

    I’ve just “woke up” after reading four pages of this book that I obviously didn’t digest. Where was I during this time and what part of my mind was reading (a part of me must have been reading since I am 4 pages further from where I was) And why can’t I control what I think about, why can’t I direct concentration and stop following one association after another. I don’t want a quiet empty mind. And if I decided to control thought what am I doing? Is an insight verbal? What will I think about if I decide to think? What am I doing when I create concepts or words or any act of creation? why do I like this view of the sea, what’s going on in my consciousness when “I like…? I don’t like this dismissal of the apparatus and “intellectualising” activity that actually has created so much

  4. tenzenbookblog Says:

    As you say …. mmmm. John Crook also thinks it a very bad idea, and some other Buddhists I have spoken to give mixed reactions. Anyone else out there got a view on this title?
    I loved your description of missing out on reading 4 pages and then “waking up”. This is precisely the kind of noticing and thinking that has led me to my radically disintegrated view of self – and some of it of course is there in 10Zen.
    I would now suggest something like this: Whenver there’s a self constructed (e.g. when I’ve just “woken up” or reappeared after a break) I assume that it’s “really me” – that it’s the same self as I always have, the same self who has lived my whole life, holds my opinions, has my desires, and is conscious. All this is a false assumption. Actually new selves keep on being concocted and keep on thinking they are the same one reappearing. I think this is what William James meant with his subtle notion of self. I suspect there can even be multiple selves of this kind coexisting e.g. one reading the book and another noticing the waves breaking on the beach, and another listening to the conversation going on nearby.
    There are lots of ways in which I have tried exploring this in meditation. Chapter 2 of 10Zen has some of them.
    As for another book mmmm ???? Thanks for the encourgement but not for a long while yet I suspect. I think I need to do a lot more sitting first.

  5. antonyhateschoosingusernames Says:

    Hi,

    I thought you were really good on Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” the other day.

    I agree with the previous commenters in liking “Contemplating Consciousness: Ten Zen Questions” best out of the suggestions.

    It’s a year since I read the book so the best I can say is it certainly contains no errors or problems with the text that stand out after that length of time. I am however just over half way through the recently published second edition of “Consciousness: An Introduction”. I find it breathtaking how comprehensively the subject feels covered. There do seem to be a few minor errors (these tend to be in the margins). I don’t know if you’re interested in these, but I’d be happy to try and dig them out.

    Best wishes,

    Antony

  6. tenzenbookblog Says:

    Thanks.
    If anyone else wants to listen to “Beyond Belief” it’s still available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006s6p6 – the 16 August programme.
    I’d appreciate a list of errors in the textbook (if you can face making one) because the US edition is not yet finalised and at least I could put them right in there. I’m glad you like the book.

  7. gerschurink Says:

    My Choice: Contemplations on Consciousness: Ten Zen Questions

  8. PJ Says:

    From the list above, my choice would be “Your Brain on Zen”. I am happy to see you updating this blog again. I recently discovered your work through a reader of my blog and instantly became a big fan.

  9. odinslefteye Says:

    Dr. Blackmore no offense but you do not know what you are talking about.Buddha denied nihilism and eternalism. You are not qualified to discuss it .its obvious that you ha e grasp of the mahdyamika,,kegon kyo. yogacarans.yOU mistake soteriological langage for ontologicaL ONES.
    Shogaku Zenshin Roshi

  10. tenzenbookblog Says:

    No offence taken but I do not understand your comment. I don’t think I have lapsed into nihilism and I am not sure what eternalism means. Could you explain a little more clearly please.

  11. odinslefteye Says:

    “When consciousness becomes established there and comes to growth. Wherever consciousness becomes established and comes to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form. Where there is a descent of name-and-form, there is growth in the karmic formations (sankhara). Where there is growth in the karmic formations, there is the production of future renewed consciousness ”
    Abhidharma
    Also and hundreds more like it
    (Nayam…kayo tuhaka na ‘pi aññesa. Puraam idam kammam abhisankhatam abhisañcetayitam vediniya dahabba)

    .I declare, monks, that actions willed, performed and accumulated will not become extinct as long as their results have not been experienced, be it in this life, in the next life or in subsequent lives. And as long as these results of actions willed, performed and accumulated have not been experienced, there will be no making an end to suffering.

    The doctrine of the Buddha nature is disclosed in order to awaken philosophers from their clinging to the notion of a Divine Self or a transcendental personality, so that their minds that have become attached to the imaginary notion of a ‘soul’ as being something self-existing, may be quickly awakened to a state of perfect enlightenment. Buddha, Lankavatara sutra

    BY nihilism I mean annihilation of consciousness at death., eternal-ism is a translation of a Sanskrit word meaning subscribing to eternal personal characteristics. Nagarjuna the father of both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism said

    “The Buddha’s teaching of the Dharma Is based on two truths: A truth of worldly convention And an ultimate truth

    Those who do not understand The distinction drawn between these two truths Do not understand The Buddha’s profound truth.”

    The two errors Nagarjuna stressed are one that their is an abiding eternal existing self and two that Consciousness ends with physical death.When Zen Buddhist teachers who are also Buddhist scholars hear such things we have the same reaction you have to Creationism.This is why you hear so much reference to the unborn undying mind in Zen.
    The idea that Zen exists out of its Buddhist context is somehow as valid and authentic as that which is within a Buddhist context denies its historical and philosophical reality.,There is no denying that Buddha taught rebirth. Buddha did not teach there is no afterlife in the sense of annihilation of mind at death.(something you have been quotes saying) Though the wave arises out of conditions and when condition change ceases, the ocean remains.
    One can choose to believe it or not,but please when you start writing books on Zen and distort its meaning to fit your scientific materialistic worldview..I have to object
    Yours
    Shoigaku Zenshin Roshi

  12. tenzenbookblog Says:

    Thank you for explaining more clearly what you meant, although I am confused by the way you seem to equate personal rebirth with something like the remaining of the ocean after the conditions cease. I think the former is daft and the latter potentially profound.
    I have indeed often said that consciousness ends at physical death – meaning the illusory personal self-consciousness that we so easily get trapped by. Given all we know about the brain and body and how they work there is no sense in the idea of a personal self continuing after death. That’s not to say it is impossible but that we’d need a complete revolution in science for it to make any sense at all. There are, of course, many people who want and expect such a grand revolution (rather than the continuous small revolutions that go on all the time in science). They want materialism to be overthrown and consciousness to take its place. However, I think that replacing all the problems of materialism with those of ‘consciousnessism’ would solve nothing. We would still be embroiled dualism – hence my being a neutral monist – not a materialist. I prefer to try to make sense of spiritual experiences and the effects of training without recourse to such a dramatic rejection of what we know so far.
    And I would defend my right to say and write whatever I believe to be true. In my book on Zen I make it very clear that I am not a Buddhist and that I do not write as one. Indeed, in the introduction I say this:
    “I am not a Buddhist. I have not joined any Buddhist orders, adopted any religious beliefs, nor taken any formal vows. I say this now because I do not want anyone to think I am writing under false pretences. Nothing I say here should be taken as the words of a Zen Buddhist. Rather, I am someone with a questioning mind who has stumbled upon Zen and found it immensely helpful. It has pushed me further and further into the kind of questions I have always asked – including the ones I have chosen to tackle here. They are the sort of questions which concern the very mind that is asking the question.”
    I assume you are not trying to silence people who write what they believe to be true, or prevent people from expressing their gratitude to the Buddha’s teachings even when they interpret them in a way you do not like. I have been perfectly honest in what I am trying to do, and for this reason I disagree that you “have to object”.

  13. odinslefteye Says:

    “Given all we know about the brain and body and how they work there is no sense in the idea of a personal self continuing after death. “That’s not to say it is impossible but that we’d need a complete revolution in science” for it to make any sense at all.”

    There is no sense in a personal self continuing from moment to momment.. First, by these definitions of science , the authority of the term ‘science’ as invoked in ” what we know about the mind and body”(who the we kimosabe?) invoked directly, without relying on those methods and properties of science is a rhetorical device, a term you can define according to your needs. I do not see the knowledge sorry.

    I see a lot of what I call “grant speak” about neuroscience. Unfortunately unlike Quantum physics which has produced the most effective technology in history,neuroscience has produced pretty much nothing..Placebos as often as not out perform depression meds,anti psychotics are still in the stone age. The science you are talking about works as if Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schrodinger had never existed.

    This reductive physicalism Ignores( IMHO) the quantum-mechanical revolution by pretending to work in an intellectual universe in which that revolution had never occurred..Quantum biology is already upon us photosynthesis and in the cell. Consciousness manifests itself in mental intentions. The consequent voluntary actions become effective by momentary increases of the probability of vesicular emission in the thousands of synapses on each pyramidal cell by quantal selection.,Or so my granddaughter miss smarty pants, Psychiatrist/nueroscientist told me.

    Aaron OConnel has already proved quantum effects in metal plates. While it does not in any way “prove for instance that consciousness is a quantum phenomena it no longer makes it an absurd concept either.. Buddhism is not dualistic or monistic Because it holds that matter and mind are a unity,that is what the ocean and wave metaphor was meant to to express. One might say they are two sides of a coin spinning in superposition and we are always struck looking at one side and not seeing (rather crude I know.) the other.
    I think your friends Messieurs Dennet, Dawkins et all are far more into silencing people through ridicule than I am by pointing out that Buddhism is not a doctrine of annhilation..I know science is an enterprise with multiple methods and theorys since .each as every holiday I have to listen to the two sons one a Chemical-physicist and one a plasma physicist argue over cosmology. I call it the Steady State Big bang headache..I will not bother you anymore had to say what I had to say.

    Best
    Steve
    I have two books coming ot next year that explore these ideas further.

  14. tenzenbookblog Says:

    I remain baffled.
    You say “There is no sense in a personal self continuing from moment to momment”
    My point exactly.
    Whether from a neuroscience perspective or from personal experience there is no personal self that continues from moment to moment. This is how I interpret notions of rebirth and the escape from rebirth – recognising that selves appearing can be let go of moment by moment.
    In case you are interested, I write about this in a recent article:
    Blackmore, S. 2012 She won’t be me. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 19, No 1-2, 16-19 http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/JCS2012.htm

    How then can such a thing persist from life-time to another?

  15. odinslefteye Says:

    Thus, the Sorry this took so long I counses war veterans and we had an emergency situation with one and I have been essentially with someone most of the time for several days.
    If there is no continuing self, who is it that experiences these karmic effects? This is a legitimate question. In essence the answer is Viññaa pure sentience. What I am about to write next comes out a bit like the Finger pointing at the moon.Ulatimately, only the awareness itself is imortant. All jabber is like reading a map and never taking the trip.But here goes.

    Portraying an individual as a continuous stream of psycho-physical processes which arise and cease depending upon their causes and conditions, the Buddha declared that it is neither the exact same person nor a completely different one who experiences the results of karma. Just as one cannot step into exactly the same river twice, since the flowing water is always changing from one moment to the next, so too are we never exactly the same person, because the conditions and processes which constitute our lives are also always changing from moment to moment.
    On the other hand, neither are we completely different, because, like the stream whose currents fall into consistent patterns depending upon the consistency of their supporting conditions, so too the continuity of individual “mind-streams” depends upon the continuity of their causes and conditions. Thus, even if we are never exactly the same person we were a moment ago (or last week, or last year, or last lifetime), neither are we wholly different; rather, what we are is the continuously evolving result of a multitude of past actions and events, whose “heirs” we are.

    Viññaa is closely associated with the continuity and perpetuation of cyclic existence in a variety of ways. First, as one of the four sustenances – along with edible food, sensation, and mental intention – consciousness “sustains” each single life as well as one’s stream of lives.26 Driven by craving, the sustenance of viññaa becomes one of the preconditions for rebirth itself: “if there is delight, if there is craving for the…viññaa sustenance” the Buddha declared, then consciousness becomes established (patihita) there and comes to growth. Wherever consciousness becomes established and comes to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form. Where there is a descent of name-and-form, there is the growth of karmic formations. Viññaa is thus a precondition not only for the development of a new sentient body (name-and-form) in this life but also for “the growth of karmic formations” (sankhara). After birth, viññaa and other accompaniments of life, the “life factor” (ayu) and sometimes translatged as”heat”(more like energy )(usma), continue uninterruptedly throughout that lifetime until, upon their departure,
    Now I do not expect you to but into any of this given your skepticism of all things not a falling within the physicalist paradigm,but that’s OK. Just as I do not look to “science” for all answers because I think its method alone preclude much of the answers to existence.
    Best
    steve

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