"The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

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"The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sighclone » Fri Feb 11, 2011 8:41 am

The Iron Cow of Zen was written in 1985 by an active practicing Zen Buddhist and pretty good writer. That was 26 years ago, and there are some very period-bound comments. This post, though addresses mainly chapters 3 and 4 in which the author, Albert Low explores the paradox of personal duality…am I the object or the subject?

Low reminds us of the ambiguity of the photon or light-wave – is it a particle or wave? Einstein hated this ambiguity and a lot of other discoveries which emerged from quantum mechanical research such as nonlocality “Spooky interactions at a distance” and teleportation etc. By the way, I love this discovery -- it is as though the universe, Source, is saying: "hey, wake up...your mind and all its grand theories can't solve this fundamental component!!"

What Low fails to mention is that the cognitive dissonance we face when wrangling with a paradox is actually a product of the literal, thinking mind. The paradox, the Zen koan (the book is full of them, intentionally) are, in themselves, pointers to truth….pointing out that the mind which hiccups is simply doing its thing. It cannot digest a paradox, an enigma, a conundrum. All it can do is report that it’s stuck.

So what? Just because an abacus cannot do second derivative chain calculations or linear algebra does not mean we can’t use it to make change. The mind is simply the wrong tool. Feeling frustrated because you can’t pound a spike with a Phillips screwdriver is silly. Eckhart defines the ego as “the false self created by unconscious identification with the mind.”

Later, in Chapter 6, Low goes on to comment on our “point of view.” Like it or not, life appears to be experienced by us as the center. We see things, experience things, learn things, do things from “the center." But the mystics and our ballyhooed nondual teachers assert that there is no center (esp. Adyshanti) or “centeredness.” There is only the “I” that resides in and is “I am that I am.” Since there are not two, there must be one. Or simply there is only “amness.” Or there is only Consciousness. Not a bunch of “centers.” Tell that to the tax authority.

This is a key ambiguity. Are we all separate people, and unique, or is there simply one Unity, and the apparent forms but ripples in the fabric of the universe? Guess what: using your mind, you will not find the answer. So have a beer or play golf. But Mr. Low does a lot of hand-wringing. Both Peter Fenner (“Radiant Mind”) and Timothy Freke (“How Long is Now?”) are eminently comfortable with paradox, and point out that the ancient Sutras and Upanishads are full of them, and their writers were very content to let them be. "Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form." (Heart Sutra)

More comments later….

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby runstrails » Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:42 pm

Hi Andy,
Good to 'see' you again :D

sighclone wrote:This is a key ambiguity. Are we all separate people, and unique, or is there simply one Unity, and the apparent forms but ripples in the fabric of the universe? Guess what: using your mind, you will not find the answer. So have a beer or play golf. But Mr. Low does a lot of hand-wringing. Both Peter Fenner (“Radiant Mind”) and Timothy Freke (“How Long is Now?”) are eminently comfortable with paradox, and point out that the ancient Sutras and Upanishads are full of them, and their writers were very content to let them be. "Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form." (Heart Sutra)


Here is my take:
We are indeed unique sentient expressions and hence co-creators with God/pure awareness/energy of the various movements in life. It is our ignorance (conditioning/false sense) that creates the sense of duality and allows the movements within it. However, we are NOT real in any inherent sense that we can exist on our own (we can only co-exist). The reason for the co-existence is that God/energy/shakti apparently needs to dissipate as expression in form. So Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form. And as such, this form (ignorance in sentient beings) is critical to the existence of the universe.

Now, as part of the exquisite balance/dance of Form and Emptiness, in some small number of sentient beings, the world of form just starts to get exhausting due to the constant fluctuation between polarities. As awakening stirs in these beings, there is a recognition of their true nature as Emptiness. In this lucidity, there is transcendence of ignorance, such that emptiness gets to experience itself consciously.

Now existence is seen to be the dream of emptiness. The dream can be enjoyed thoroughly and explored since there is nothing to be feared now, none of it is inherently real. However, even when ignorance is completely seen through, conditioning will continue to lead the dance of form. It is life, it has to move one way or another. Perhaps if your form's karmic conditioning is completely dissolved you can live in a cave forever. But even Ramana came out, and ET after several years of lounging on park benches now is a businessman.

In my case, the conditioning is leading the dance. But it is seen through and not identified with (most of the time, anyway). The polarities are recognized for what they are and so the suffering is much less. That frees me to appreciate the present moment (where I exist as my true nature). Conditioning then moves me to the 'next' present moment and I am free to appreciate that as well. And so on.....Its like your true nature is taking a ride in the car of conditioning and it just enjoys the zig-zag ride to no destination in particular (or maybe there is a destination but I have not yet figured that out).

So, yes, I am comfortable with the paradox. YOU consist of the co-existence of conditioning overlaid on your true nature (which is universal/impersonal). And I consider it very fortunate that I got to see my true nature in this lifetime and not live my life just as conditioning. It's like your nighttime dream character realizing that it is a creation of your mind. It still remains a dream character but it is able to experience two realities. The difference between the night time dream and the waking dream is that my true nature is a wonderous sense of peace and aliveness (love?) and I get to realize that.

Thank you for this chance to explore. Please feel free to rip it to shreds--I always welcome that!
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby snowheight » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:19 pm

runstrails wrote:The reason for the co-existence is that God/energy/shakti apparently needs to dissipate as expression in form.


Bound in psychological time as we are we perceive a sequence of events. We can assign an arbitrary reference, such as the Big Bang, and construct time-lines.

Still reserving the possible, and in the following context paradoxical, notion of free-will, there is the idea that this perception is illusory and the eventual end of this Universe in heat death, Boltzman brains on an unfathomable time horizon or a Big Crunch is not the EFFECT. Consider that perhaps the "purpose" of form is not simply that need for dissipation, some outlet for the cycles, but rather that "God" is truly made of clay. Our minds perceive two possibilities due to their sequential nature: on one hand the sequence runs backward and the Big Bang occurred because the conditions for consciousness arose and collapsed the waveforms (Emptiness is Form), or on the other, more traditional hand the sequence runs forward and consciousness itself is the end result of the process of evolution (Form is Emptiness).

Accepting that neither view is either true or false and that both are true and false, that both hands are both full and empty cannot, as Andy points out, be done in the mind.
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby runstrails » Sat Feb 12, 2011 3:35 am

snowheight wrote:
Our minds perceive two possibilities due to their sequential nature: on one hand the sequence runs backward and the Big Bang occurred because the conditions for consciousness arose and collapsed the waveforms (Emptiness is Form), or on the other, more traditional hand the sequence runs forward and consciousness itself is the end result of the process of evolution (Form is Emptiness)

I concur completely! As perfectly demonstrated by this beer commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc6U7_-BeGc
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sighclone » Sat Feb 12, 2011 7:47 am

Lovely comments, rt and sh. How pleasant to hear your maturing nondual voice, runstrails.

Time is, for me, one of the ultimate paradoxes. Form cannot arise without time. We speak of a "lifetime." So the egoic sense of self is also afflicted with the limitations of time...we're "born" into form and later in time, we "die." But surely Consciousness transcends not only form but also time. Eckhart said once "you are the present moment." That's a pretty serious answer to the question he asks us to consider: "What is your relationship to the present moment?" But the present moment is eternal (defining 'eternal' as timeless.)

Here is Ramesh Balsekar (From "A Net of Jewels") - the entry for February 9 (this is a set of daily meditations compiled by Gary Starbuck, Advaita Press - and highly recommended by the Sighclone :) and Gary Weber)

Time is only a concept. The future moves into the past leaving no time for the present. When the relativity of time is understood as merely a concept for the measurement of apparent change, then there is only the present moment, which is eternity itself.


and elsewhere, quoted in Wikipedia:

"When we talk of time and space, we say infinite space and eternal time. It is still a mental concept of total space and total time. But the mind cannot conceive of that state prior to the arising of the space-time. The moment you think of Reality, the reality is a concept. You are the Reality of which the split-mind makes a concept. You are the Reality, but not as the "me."


Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby enigma » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:02 am

Paradox is mind trying to grasp what's true without letting go of what's false. Being comfortable with paradox usually means being comfy hanging onto illusions, though it can also mean realizing that everything is contextual.

All of experience is a movement, an event, which implies that all of perception is the perception of change. Thoughts and feelings are perceived only as arisings. An object is perceived only as it moves in relation to the observer, or as mind 'moves' in the identification that separates it from it's surroundings.

This is the fundamental process of perception that does not happen in time, but it does imply time. The perception is always that something happened, occurred, arose, moved, changed, and yet this is the result of mind's propensity to bifurcate, to isolate an appearance from it's background in which it appears, which does not move because it does not appear. The conceptualized conclusion is that something did not appear, and now it does, and therefore there must be a structure of continuity in which this can be framed, and we call this time.

Likewise, we conceptualize the idea of separate physical objects in relationship to each other, and this implies a spatial framework in which this relationship takes place, and we call it space. The function of the spatial framework is to support the temporal framework in the conceptualization of movement.

The senses are not separate from the conceptual function, and so they support the conceptual notion of a time/space framework in which perceived events take place, and yet all perception are happening precisely 'here' and precisely now, including the ideas of there and then.
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby snowheight » Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:35 pm

Sighclone wrote:How pleasant to hear your maturing nondual voice, runstrails.


yeah 'trails I gotta' say that the part of your post that didn't provoke my musing above gave me a great big warm fuzzy :D

Enigma I think I see what you were striving for: a non-dual description of subjective experience. Quite deep and worthy of many a re-read!

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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sighclone » Sun Feb 13, 2011 9:21 pm

OK enigma, we have heard enough on this forum :) . (You have to write a book!) You have been blipping in and out of fora and getting banned and re-emerging and so forth. Plus years of seeking and discovery and exposition...some of which you tell us about, some not.

That past post on space/time was elegant, clear and compact. It's just another example of your clear thinking and writing. PM me for more attaboys and direction if you like.

RE time, I'm going to yield to Ramesh again for a moment. This is from "A Net of Jewels" for April 12.

The crux of man's dilemma lies in the concept of time. While chasing his mythical happiness of the future, man has no time to enjoy the present moment. And actually, there is no such thing as the present because by the time one thinks of it, it has already become the past. Therefore, what is vital is not thinking about the present but actually being the present moment -- and that is nothing other than enlightenment.


That sounds so much like Eckhart that I'm tempted to say somebody is plagiarising. :)

But then, the tighter we refine our pointers, the more similar they sound.

Balsekar is a dilemma for me. His writing is wonderful, but what remains of his ego is pretty powerful. And he is all about non-doership, which I am still struggling with a bit. It's just my little machinations....

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby enigma » Sun Feb 13, 2011 10:07 pm

OK enigma, we have heard enough on this forum . (You have to write a book!) You have been blipping in and out of fora and getting banned and re-emerging and so forth. Plus years of seeking and discovery and exposition...some of which you tell us about, some not.

That past post on space/time was elegant, clear and compact. It's just another example of your clear thinking and writing. PM me for more attaboys and direction if you like.


HA! I've been encouraged by friends and loved ones to do that for years, and I did try to accommodate (3 times). It seems the motivation for book writing is rooted in something I can no longer locate. Maybe it will happen someday, but it doesn't look like it.

Balsekar is a dilemma for me. His writing is wonderful, but what remains of his ego is pretty powerful. And he is all about non-doership, which I am still struggling with a bit. It's just my little machinations....


I've had some similar machinations. Somebody recently posted a video he did, apparently shortly before his death. I commented that somebody else must be writing his books for him. Hehe.
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sufilight9 » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:25 pm

enigma wrote:
OK enigma, we have heard enough on this forum . (You have to write a book!) You have been blipping in and out of fora and getting banned and re-emerging and so forth. Plus years of seeking and discovery and exposition...some of which you tell us about, some not.

That past post on space/time was elegant, clear and compact. It's just another example of your clear thinking and writing. PM me for more attaboys and direction if you like.


HA! I've been encouraged by friends and loved ones to do that for years, and I did try to accommodate (3 times). It seems the motivation for book writing is rooted in something I can no longer locate. Maybe it will happen someday, but it doesn't look like it.

Balsekar is a dilemma for me. His writing is wonderful, but what remains of his ego is pretty powerful. And he is all about non-doership, which I am still struggling with a bit. It's just my little machinations....


I looove this, your being encouraged to write a book! hehe. :wink: If its meant to be, it will simply create itself through you, and of course, I will support you. Time to get to work on my book again, still short of about 50 pages or so.

And Andy, thank you so much for helping me to register with the forum, really had a hard time getting in.
Marie
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sighclone » Thu Feb 17, 2011 5:45 am

Welcome Marie...I'm in Spokane, by the way...

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sufilight9 » Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:03 am

Sighclone wrote:Welcome Marie...I'm in Spokane, by the way...

Andy


Thanks, Andy! I am orginally from New York but relocated to a semi-rural (culture shock for me at first, LOL) here in Oregon to share the journey with Phil. The best decision I made. :)
Marie
Simple kindness to one's self and all that lives is
the most powerful transformational force of all."

Dr. David R. Hawkins
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sufilight9 » Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:03 am

Noticed my post was posted three times, was having trouble with my computer. Yikes, don't want to be a spammer. :roll: Wanted to delete the duplicates but don't see the option to do this.
Last edited by Sufilight9 on Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
Marie
Simple kindness to one's self and all that lives is
the most powerful transformational force of all."

Dr. David R. Hawkins
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sufilight9 » Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:13 am

Meant semi rural town... have to type a little slower. ;)
Marie
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Re: "The Iron Cow of Zen" by Albert Low

Postby Sighclone » Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:40 pm

Not a problem re duplicate post - I removed it.

Andy
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