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Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists

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Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 12:30 PM
Hi there,

I am preparing a seminar on buddhist practices for martial artists. I have written a 650 word introductory reference sheet, and I would be very grateful for any suggested corrections or improvements. The text follows below.

Cheers

Malcolm


Background to Buddhist Practices
 
The aim of Buddhism is to end suffering, both at a gross level, and at the subtle level of the nagging sense of angst or un-satisfactoriness that often seems to pervade life. The Buddha identified the proximate cause of suffering as craving, and the ultimate cause of suffering as ignorance about the true nature of the world. This ignorance combines with an out of control feedback mechanism to trigger passionate actions, reactions and urges that continually create and reinforce suffering. 
 
While Buddhist ideas have been incorporated into many national religions, the original project is psychological, rather than religious. The aim is to get control of the feedback mechanism, erode its power, and eventually destroy the ignorance and craving that feeds the whole mess. This is achieved by engaging in moral behaviour, developing concentration skills and then gaining insight into the true nature of the self and reality. One surprising aspect for many people is to find that Buddhists don’t necessarily object to emotion or enjoyment, but rather to the uncontrolled impulses, obsessions, resentments and resistances that so easily flourish in our dealings with the world.
 
As noted above, Buddhist practices involve morality, concentration and insight. For martial arts, it is the low to mid-level concentration and insight practices that are the most relevant, although morality practices can also be helpful. Deep level concentration and insight practices are quite technical. Deep level insight practices are also quite philosophical – they involve first deconstructing the simplistic sense of self and its relationship to reality, and then finding the ultimate source of craving and pulling it up by the roots. Detailed study and considerable effort is needed to understand and apply the advanced practices.
 
However, a lot of insight may arise even during low-level concentration practices, and this can be quite disorienting. As the ignorant default mode of perception gets shaken up, people may occasionally get tipped into altered mental states, bliss waves, ecstatic raptures, out of body experience, de-realisation and de-personalisation, merging or relocation of perceptions, or a sense of gigantism. There can be a series of emotional upwellings as ingrained defence mechanisms get eroded, and there can be shocks to the sense of self as some parts of the mind see through ignorance, while other parts resist the insight. You may become more aware of how you regularly cycle through emotions, and that achieving ecstatic highs can in turn trigger a cycle of challenging emotional lows. So, participation in these practices should be based on an informed choice, and you should make sure you have a teacher available to talk through any unsettling experiences.
 
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with learning to experience lower level raptures or bliss. And sometimes you may get lucky enough to get a glimpse of one of the three marks of existence - suffering, not-self, and impermanence, followed by a mental crash or reset, bliss waves, and a changed relationship to the gross craving for things in the world. This is a cessation event, and it will make you permanently happier, should it occur.
 
So in this seminar we will build on your existing martial arts experience to develop low-level formal concentration techniques and some basic insight. The goals will be to (i) develop formal mindfulness of breathing and movement, (ii) unshackle the mind from the tense spot behind the eyes, (iii) learn to let go of some of the suffering that comes from urges, passions and resistance, (iv) reach an expanded non-conceptual mental state, and (v) establish a state of flow that promotes relaxed intuitive action. If this goes well, we may also develop minor raptures in the body, and do some more technical work on body hacking through the breath. The results should be that you become more relaxed and effective in your martial arts, suffer less when physical pain arises, generally be a little happier, and have some new tools to help you deal with emotionally challenging situations.
 
Malcolm

RE: Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 12:49 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
... the ultimate cause of suffering as (is?ignorance about the true nature of the world.

I think this should read:

... the ultimate cause of suffering as (is?ignorance about the true nature of the mind.

Thus the aim of Buddhism is not psychology, but to understand the mind 
phenomenologically. We don't deal with thoughts and emotions by trying to understand their content but by understanding their process.


I think these are important distinctions to make for any audience but especially for this audience.

RE: Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 12:59 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks Chris, that is exactly the kind of feedback I'm hoping for!

RE: Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 2:11 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
curious:
Hi there,

I am preparing a seminar on buddhist practices for martial artists. I have written a 650 word introductory reference sheet, and I would be very grateful for any suggested corrections or improvements. The text follows below.

Cheers

Malcolm


Background to Buddhist Practices
 
The aim of Buddhism is to end suffering, both at a gross level, and at the subtle level of the nagging sense of angst or un-satisfactoriness that often seems to pervade life. The Buddha identified the proximate cause of suffering as craving, and the ultimate cause of suffering as ignorance about the true nature of the world. This ignorance combines with an out of control feedback mechanism to trigger passionate actions, reactions and urges that continually create and reinforce suffering. 
 
While Buddhist ideas have been incorporated into many national religions, the original project is psychological, rather than religious. The aim is to get control of the feedback mechanism, erode its power, and eventually destroy the ignorance and craving that feeds the whole mess. This is achieved by engaging in moral behaviour, developing concentration skills and then gaining insight into the true nature of the self and reality. One surprising aspect for many people is to find that Buddhists don’t necessarily object to emotion or enjoyment, but rather to the uncontrolled impulses, obsessions, resentments and resistances that so easily flourish in our dealings with the world.
 
As noted above, Buddhist practices involve morality, concentration and insight. For martial arts, it is the low to mid-level concentration and insight practices that are the most relevant, although morality practices can also be helpful. Deep level concentration and insight practices are quite technical. Deep level insight practices are also quite philosophical – they involve first deconstructing the simplistic sense of self and its relationship to reality, and then finding the ultimate source of craving and pulling it up by the roots. Detailed study and considerable effort is needed to understand and apply the advanced practices.
 
However, a lot of insight may arise even during low-level concentration practices, and this can be quite disorienting. As the ignorant default mode of perception gets shaken up, people may occasionally get tipped into altered mental states, bliss waves, ecstatic raptures, out of body experience, de-realisation and de-personalisation, merging or relocation of perceptions, or a sense of gigantism. There can be a series of emotional upwellings as ingrained defence mechanisms get eroded, and there can be shocks to the sense of self as some parts of the mind see through ignorance, while other parts resist the insight. You may become more aware of how you regularly cycle through emotions, and that achieving ecstatic highs can in turn trigger a cycle of challenging emotional lows. So, participation in these practices should be based on an informed choice, and you should make sure you have a teacher available to talk through any unsettling experiences.
 
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with learning to experience lower level raptures or bliss. And sometimes you may get lucky enough to get a glimpse of one of the three marks of existence - suffering, not-self, and impermanence, followed by a mental crash or reset, bliss waves, and a changed relationship to the gross craving for things in the world. This is a cessation event, and it will make you permanently happier, should it occur.
 
So in this seminar we will build on your existing martial arts experience to develop low-level formal concentration techniques and some basic insight. The goals will be to (i) develop formal mindfulness of breathing and movement, (ii) unshackle the mind from the tense spot behind the eyes, (iii) learn to let go of some of the suffering that comes from urges, passions and resistance, (iv) reach an expanded non-conceptual mental state, and (v) establish a state of flow that promotes relaxed intuitive action. If this goes well, we may also develop minor raptures in the body, and do some more technical work on body hacking through the breath. The results should be that you become more relaxed and effective in your martial arts, suffer less when physical pain arises, generally be a little happier, and have some new tools to help you deal with emotionally challenging situations.
 
Malcolm

I write for magazines when I'm not doing tech, therefore I hope you don't mind if I choose to interpret "help" from that perspective.

  • Remove "at the gross level" and replace it with something more concrete. I use it in the same sense all the time, but very few people who aren't writers, philosophers, physicists, lawyers do and most people have only heard it used in conjunction with the words "negligence" or "incompetance". 
  • Delete the word "proximate". 
  • "Craving"...desire, craving, desire, craving....craving is probably right. Less threatening for newcomers, particularly Americans. Craving...good job!
  • "Out of control feedback mechanism"...do these martial artists work at Google, to think in terms of "out of control feedback mechanisms?" How about "leads to a vicious cycle". That would allow you to use the words "virtuous circle" later, which sounds very appealing, doesn't it? 
  • You may wish to replace "moral" with "ethical", less baggage and pious sounding.
  • Oh, I see you reference the feedback mechanism again...less threatening than saying "penetrate the illusion of Self?" Probably. Leave it in then, but what is a single word for "out of control"...
  • ..."runaway"..."a runaway feedback mechanism..." Unbalanced? Something...
  • There's "morality" again...that doesn't really map to "right thought, right action" and is heavily loaded with Christian concepts/baggage...I just think it will make a lot of people inwardly cringe.

Overall, B to B+ as it stands. Your writing really becomes stronger with every paragraph...and that's the problem, as I see it with my Editor's Hat on and red ink pen in hand: It's backwards! Your first paragraph should be irresistible, hooking the reader immediately.

Instead, you've Buried the Lead: Your last 4 lines or so are what people want to get out your seminar, so why are they buried six paragraphs down? Lead with your closing argument right at the beginning: How will this help them, in the pragmatic sense? 

Why should they keep reading, nevermind show up?

If this were a song, a A&R rep would listen to the first 10 seconds and decide whether to sign you, because that's exactly how long people give a new song on the radio before changing the channel.
 
Literary Agents give you two paragraphs max, because that's precisely how long most bookstore browsers give a new book by author they've never read.

Think about it like this: Everyone is going to read the first two or three sentences. After that, you're losing people just through things like phones ringing, distractions, late for something, too many words they don't know the meaning of, "I'll finish the rest later" (but they don't). 

RE: Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 2:15 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Possibly expand the word ignorance into a more user-friendly context. The word ignorance can be received negatively in most societies. Perhaps try some variations of...

Ignorance - ignoring the larger picture in favour of our wants and desires.

RE: Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 2:22 PM as a reply to Bardo.
Ignorance in Buddhist terms is very different than the usual meaning of the word. In Buddhism, it means not knowing how the mind operates. I think there's nothing wrong with using Buddhist terms as long as they're explained and defined.

Curious - were you expecting to get a letter grade?  emoticon

RE: Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 2:28 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:


Curious - were you expecting to get a letter grade?  emoticon

No - it was an unexpected blessing.  emoticon  But very welcome, especially when it comes with such extremely useful advice. 

RE: Intro to Buddhism for Martial Artists
Answer
12/3/19 5:09 PM as a reply to Not two, not one.
I am preparing a seminar on buddhist practices for martial artists. 

I've been a martial arts rookie for a few years. Been in a few fights and have met people. emoticon

You have to consider the target audience, most of them will hopefully already come into this curious. There's bound to be a lot of cases of "how can I use this?". Captivate their attention first before exposing the esoteric philosophy. How 
does Buddhist practice translate into martial arts? Meditation is the mental discipline of the yogic sciences. There is also the physical discipline. Yoga is a tool that grounds you with your physique. Good martial arts isn't about how many techniques you know, it's based on how well you can use your body. In order to take full advantage, you have to know every part, every muscle, and every bend. It doesn't stop at just enhancing flexibility and core body strength. Having this type of knowledge is essential in avoiding serious and preventable injuries too. The long term benefits of yoga include stronger bones and increased athletic performance.

Yoga is used by buddhist meditators in order to sustain their postures for longer hours sometimes even for days. What "yoga" truly means is "unity with the divine". It means to unify with all that is in this existence. Right now we are all individuals, which would be almost inconceivable were we not living the experience first hand. To be indivisible means you can no longer separate it further. Everyone's experience of this life is guided through their engagement with their own psychological universe. To develop a healthy perspective on this. The mental discipline of meditation is adopted. 
In order to coalesce and join with every thing, one must become no thing.

I realize this isn't a yoga seminar, but meditation is only one side of the Buddhist coin. I think a good lead-in would be necessary. The rest of your piece is well-spoken for emoticon I hope this helps and your conference goes well.