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Zen and the elephant in the living room

A conversation with Jürgen Dai Yu Windhorn about Zen, permaculture and the ubiquitous growth dynamics …

” What forms of renunciation and what forms of liberation would it mean for us today if we did not want to be museum administrators of a millennial tradition, but living beings with open eyes? “

3 treasures : Dear Jürgen, You live, work and practice Zen Buddhism in the Lebensgarten Steyerberg. To the extent that the Zen teacher, Christoph Rei Ho Hatlapa, engages in non-violent communication and mediation as a tool of “right speech” on the Eightfold Path, you are committed to permaculture in the narrower and broader sense, in the sense of the “right action”, a.

Jürgen Windhorn : Yes, the path element No. 5 of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism is: “Do not harm other beings through your (professional) activity” – or, to put it positively: “Promote the life of all beings through your actions”. However, our ecological footprint has been more than doubled for decades, meaning that our “normal” way of life not only damages our environment and our descendants, but also permanently deprives them of their livelihoods.

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3 Treasures : Where do you see us living on a big footing?

Jürgen Windhorn : In terms of consumption and comfort, range in terms of global availability, security, living space per capita, recently also data volume transmission per unit time, etc. – All these forms of use of resources that seem never enough, but still need to be increased , almost appear as a compulsive addiction. And even we as Buddhists are not free from it, and occasionally meditation seems to be used as a tool to become even fitter and more efficient in this growth game.

3 Treasures : This sounds a little bit like criticizing certain forms of Zen in the West.

Jürgen Windhorn : The thesis – which is only slightly provocatively covered – is that if we, as participants in Western industrialized civilization, practice something like Zen Buddhism, then we make this Zen practice WITHIN the framework of a “dynamic of growth”, which also our other life determines. In that sense, Zen practice can not only contribute to awakening, but also to maintaining an ecologically unsustainable “dreamy” situation. The means of awakening can then become an aid in stabilizing a pathological attitude.

3 Treasures : What is what you call “growth dynamics”?

Jürgen Windhorn : First of all, we naturally do everything we do – we have, naively, as we are, hardly any other chance – in the context and under the premises of the dominant ideology and ideology. So if we – we westerners within the ideological paradigms of the West – do Zen, then we do not just do Zen, but we also always operate the general “dynamics of growth”, that is, the fulfillment of the standard ideology of our cultural space, just coincidentally with the Means of Zen. And the instrumentalization of Zen meditation, mindfulness exercises, NLP, etc., in the name of fitness, concentration, and mental power, which we criticize in the morning meditation round offered by Goldman Sachs Inc. for their employees for professional gain and which they also enjoy using is just not a morbid deviation from what we do when we practice Zen, etc., but brings the matter to the point.

To our world view and ideology prevalent in our time and our world, is the fundamental idea that the uplifted, the better and the existing is not good enough. And within this ideology of a required dynamics of growth we do – first of all – everything we do. Also Zen.

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3 treasures : So what opportunities do we have to emerge from a seemingly self-stabilizing, but catastrophic, medium- and long-term attitude that runs counter to No. 5 of the Eightfold Path?

Jürgen Windhorn : The current “everyday life” is fundamentally different from that of the late iron age, at the time of Master Hyakujo or during the Tokugawa rule in Japan, due to our resource consumption and our emissions, which undermine our own livelihoods. So, when we speak of “Zen in everyday life” today, what kind of everyday life do we mean: that of the Buddha-time, that of Hyakujo, that of Hakuin and Issa, or which one exactly?

The “elephant in the living room” is the simple and simple fact that we, through the uncritical participation in everyday life, as he has developed today, for about five decades with us, have little chance, No. 5 of the Noble Eightfold Path also only approaching from afar …

In this respect, it is not so much the question of which eco-technology is best today, but of the question of which dynamics in US ensures that, in response to every inner impulse – as if we were driven by an obsessive-compulsive neurosis – there are increases in the outside get started and enforce …

” Our” distress “, since the times of the economic miracle, does not seem to portray the plight of want, but a strange kind of inability to deal with the overabundance ” .

3 guess : What would be possible solutions or just the next steps?

Jürgen Windhorn : First of all, perhaps it is about reacting to the demands for increases from our obsessively neurotic reactions, to everything and everything that stirs in us. And then, to develop a sense of enthusiasm within the measure and center that is independent of resource access and emissions.

For this, we would have to free ourselves from this – after all, we are free to panic – to respond to every vaguely tentative need or to any apparent need-conflict with hectic material-energy maximization and additional comfort installations.

Our use of the biosphere is already far exceeded and the solutions discussed so far are often not really thought out. And if you try to present the situation of things beyond a blue-eyed idealism realistic, you immediately draw the accusation of pessimism and the Schwarzseherei. And one explains: ” Pessimism is not helpful …” – which is undoubtedly correct, but – where do we need help? Are we in need? In one of the richest countries of the planet? With a – still – relatively well secured social structure? Of course many are “not good”, but what standards are set here? We have increased production and consumption in recent decades, starting with the “economic miracle”, at least three times on average, in many areas many times over, always in search of happiness and to meet our needs.

Since the times of the economic miracle, the “emergency” does not seem to represent the plight of want, but a strange kind of inability to deal with the overabundance. In fact, it is a constant challenge for our economy to still have to raise new needs in order to keep the system of production and consumption running. The productivity itself is in a sense in need, because it needs more and more productivity to maintain itself. In fact, our – societal, that is not valid in every single case – success is that we, dominated by him, have subjected him to everything around us. The success of the economic miracle – embedded in the mechanistic world view of our culture – has meant that we seem to be able to do nothing but associate the POSITIVE with bigger, better, faster, more comfortable, safer, etc. …

“We always see” happiness “and” success “in one more, one increase, one expansion”

When researching solutions to pending problems today, there are occasionally some wonderful media outlets that, first of all, raise morale, proclaiming, for example, “The world is full of solutions.” That sounds wonderful “uplifting”, because who does not want solutions. However, we also want success. And luck. What “success” is, however, can be defined by others, by and large by the ideologies and paradigms currently prevailing. So in concrete terms today: through the market. And in achieving success and happiness, meditation should help us. Amazon, for example, offers us 1213 suggestions for Buddhist counseling when we enter “happiness Buddhism” in the search mask. But sometimes, during the audience’s search for fortune, one of the traditional Buddhist teachers looks up and says in wonderment, but that would not have meant it. And now he’s writing a book called “Not for Happiness” (Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, 2012) in which he explains that the Buddhist path is more likely to disappoint and to experience your own inner misery because it affects us points to our (self-) delusions and wants to first make clear our Miskonzeptionen and delusions. But we would like to have the quick “solutions” that allow us to be lucky and guarantee our success.

3 guess : That sounds like the motto, less development (in the sense of higher, faster, farther) and back to simplicity?

Jürgen Windhorn : If you (over) increase things, you also have the chance to see them more clearly and to learn something. For example, to learn that an increase – and indeed an increase in what appears to us to be GOOD on its first attempt per se – can be ambivalent. Where “ambivalent” means, first of all, that things are not so easy … But to find out how things really are, in full, in full ambivalence, for the wisdom of the past alone seems no longer sufficient. We live in another world – in a massively changed by ourselves – world, which can be compared to anything that existed in the late Iron Age. And the quick fixes of New Age are often enough … rash.

Most areas of life, eg “energy / energy saving”, are simply very complex and the question of problem solving is not always easy and quick to answer. An example that has been well known for 150 years is the so-called Jevons paradox: more efficient technical methods often lead to increased energy consumption in the sequel. That sounds like a paradox. Hence the name of this phenomenon … In the days of Jevon, Newcomen’s old, inefficient steam engines had been replaced by innovative developments by James Watt. Watt’s steam engine was celebrated as a “solution” because it was able to convert the then-scarce open pit coal into power and movement much more efficiently than the old models. In addition, the Watt’s model was so compact and lightweight that it could be mounted on wheels. With that the railway was invented and the industrial revolution took its course. And the consumption of coal exploded. And because the deep coal seams could now be pumped out of groundwater and mined with the new powerful and efficient steam engine, it was also possible to meet the increasing demand – for about a hundred years until it was over.

3 Guess : That sounds a bit bleak at times. Where is the positive?

Jürgen Windhorn : Yes, it may be that you first see black when you open your eyes. Because things are not as rosy as they are painted in his (New Age) dreams. But even black-sighted eyesight would be preferable to pink-eyed, closed-provided one is interested in what is called awakening in Buddhism. And black-eye is of course not the last word. But it may be a first step, a passage stage, on a path of liberation that does not lead through a museum but through reality.

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Approaches, technical and organizational approaches, for an ecologically and socially responsible way of life we ​​have. The missing technique is not the problem. And we know today – we can know – that more material possessions and more world availability (an expression of the sociologist Hartmut Rosa) does not make you happier. What we do not seem to know – or not yet enough – is: What is behind our almost obsessive-compulsive reactions, which demand more in every sense of increasing availability, always associated with resource consumption and emissions? Why do we do that when it’s proven we’re not happier on the bottom line? And what do we really want? What makes us really happy? These are, of course, age-old questions, but today we have them with a very different urgency than in the times of Bodhidharma and Hakuin. It is no longer just our little private luck or misfortune that is at stake, but the biosphere of a whole planet and the future of life in general.

3 treasures : What does “luck” mean to you?

Jürgen Windhorn : Can it be so easily expressed and said? Also, what Buddhism should be about, if not naive happiness, is not so easy to say. The positive that survives the loss of primary naivety, beyond optimism and pessimism, finds itself just outside of a simple happiness …

3 treasures : Away from the garden of life Steyerberg, in the middle of the forest, the ToGenJi, a Zen temple and home of the Choka Sangha as well as permaculture project, has emerged. Please tell me a little bit …

Jürgen Windhorn : The ToGenJi project is originally a Zen AND Permaculture project. It is about connecting the meditative path with a way of life that cooperates with nature. A path that was already crucial to the (Chinese) Zen tradition and that could also be a transposition of Point No. 5 of the Eightfold Path, the Right Act, in a highly industrialized culture. Similar to the practice and application of non-violent communication and mediation, which can be understood as the concretization of No. 3, the Right Speech.

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We also need, says Oldenburg economist Niko Paech, “real laboratories” beyond the need for improvement and exploitation, where we can practice doing “our thing” and not compulsively with emotional and material increases and projects react.

Such “real-laboratories”, for example, already existing ecovillages, for example, have brought important impulses in the field of spirituality and ecology into the mainstream, but these impulses were then taken up and integrated in the mainstream sense.

Out-of-court communication is subsidized to the “industry standard” and meditation by health insurances. Success is undoubtedly obvious, but it is not so easy to guess which part is a real success and which is a Pyrrhic victory. Why is it all so hard to see? The Buddhists have a concept for this effect, something “actually” obvious to recognize difficult: delusion.

However, as a rule, this term “delusion” is usually understood by us only as purely intrapsychic. No wonder, when the Buddhists – traditionally, in the late Iron Age of the Buddha also quite appropriate – was central to the human inner world. But even today, authoritative Buddhist teachers say: “Our home is the spirit.” Such as a French Buddhist teacher from the Tibetan tradition to visitors from the Colombian Highlands, who live in their homeland as probably the very last group of people completely separate from the industrialized world. The Kogi shamans from the South American mountains could not understand the explanation of the Buddhists. How can anyone believe that they were so surprised that their own homeland is in the spirit when it is obvious where and how and what we all live on …?

Our industrial life, which is still largely fueled by fossil energy sources, is, as the bottom line shows, the manifestation of a kind of great perfected illusion because it simply can not be sustained in the existing form. So, in a sense, as a material transformation of the mental fetter that has grown into the global dimension, from which the exercise of Zen in everyday life should liberate us. From this illusion, or better: to awaken from this dream (in the double sense of the word!) – after all, the “awakening” is considered the ultimate goal in Buddhism – but today seems very much required. Because the mere acknowledgment of the fact that our obsessive attachment to the prevailing dynamics of growth in a dream – which is increasingly becoming a nightmare – are, making this dream at least lucid, is hard enough for us. And the question of how today a liberating-looking Zen could be possible in everyday life, taking into account point no. 5 of the Eightfold Path, has thus become a kind of meta-koan.

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3 treasures : Can the Zen Path and the Zen practice help us to find an appropriate answer for us, for today?

Jürgen Windhorn : Yes, that’s the question. What is the – real – alternative? What is the outcome of the self-inflicted immaturity towards the paradigms and ideologems that govern us? It’s not so hard … – Any relationship, any relationship between people and any relationship with the world that helps me to really transform things into anything and any relationship where people and things touch and talk to me in their own way – independent from questions of usability and making available – is already located and moves beyond the prevailing paradigms and ideologems.

It may also be that we experience such deepened “resonance experiences” (as Hartmut Rosa calls them) in our work, also in working through oneself; Every craftsman and every really creative person knows this, that one loses himself in a job, is fully absorbed in it, and afterwards realizes that while it was most satisfying and profoundly fulfilling to do so, no one will even be a tired Mark give for it. If you experience that, then you have at least once experienced outside of the prevailing ideology of usability … Such experiences and relationships are always highly personal and their depth is usually inversely proportional to the extent of their usability and availability. And, by the way, this resonant and deeply receptive world attitude is not plannable and can not be produced like an industrial product.

3 Treasures : So, less “wellness” and more “real revolution”?

Jürgen Windhorn : The idea of ​​taking a break from the hamster bike and then putting in a carefully planned summit or depth experience in nature or at a meditation weekend on weekends, so that you can devour it during the week, usually works Not. Resonance and depth experiences refuse just the increase as well as the planning and usability. The approach of understanding nature – external as well as internal – as a resource that can be calculated and used as it pleases, remains biased in the paradigm of the usability of all things and beings. The point, of course, as everyone knows, is that the value system of everyday life is different from the one that results from real depth experiences. And, as the half-century-old history of the New Age shows, attempting to “save”, improve, and heal everyday life has, often enough, resulted in the useful tools of the spiritual traditions being absorbed in the mainstream sense and accordingly were used.

The longing – and perhaps the satisfied desire – for resonance and depth experiences beyond the mainstream’s need to increase and exploit is not enough. If we do not become aware of the rapid changes that our ecologically unsustainable lifestyle produces as collateral damage, then soon we will be able to experience less and less resonant and profound experiences, because the nature one could still experience and ultimately the basis of all human beings Experiences, withdraws and preserving the status quo becomes more and more complex and expensive. Alone, to name but one example, the measures that will become necessary in the foreseeable future for coastal protection and the global rebuilding of the big ports, on whose function the global economy is based – even if one assumes for the time being only a sea-level rise of 1 to 2 meters – can easily require half of all human and material resources in the construction sectors of coastal regions. However, a functioning global trade is a prerequisite for supplying us with the resources and the high-tech for our regenerative energy plants. This is just a small example of the enormous changes that are coming to us, at the latest to the next generation.

” The Mantra” More, more, more, – growth, growth, growth “does not really seem to represent its solution “

“Productive” activities within the growth-driven industrialized society often lead to increases in things that turn out to be ineffective. Least of all happiness. As a connoisseur and experienced in the Zen tradition, we could now on the basis of such a statement with the ready walking staff on the table and say: “Hah! All in vain. An effort for nothing at all! “, And then, laughing happily, shoulder the backpack and take a swinging step on our way. And in Rinzai’s time, that would have been an appropriate Zen reaction … – Unfortunately, we are no longer living in Rinzai’s time. And not even in Hyakujo’s world. In our world, that is, in a world where every day of participation in industrial work means a day of diminishing the quality of life of our descendants, Hyjakujo would aptly say, “One day of work is a day without food!”

3 treasures : Does it mean to go the Zen way of living in a monastic structure after all? Will not a Zen in everyday life really work?

Jürgen Windhorn : No one says that a Zen path, if it is not limited to museum-worthy psychotechniques, is simple. A Zen pathway that includes things around us today, such as the first generations of Chinese Buddhists who have included the art of horticulture and self-defense and calligraphy in their path – and successfully – what would such a path be Include today with us – and through us? What forms of renunciation and what forms of liberation would it mean for us today if we did not want to be museum administrators of a millennial tradition, but open-eyed living practitioners?

And the reply: ” Begin with you, first sweep in front of your own door, look first into yourself, first make peace with yourself before you look at the world, ” – this answer is always correct and never complete , Not completely, because the “I”, the “in me”, etc. today, in our present range of effect and “power” something completely different means, as to Hyakujo or Hakuin’s times. This also means awakening: awakening to the realization of the physical, the industrial reality in and by which we live. Even if we agree that this reality is far from the last. But who dares claim to be on the way to the ultimate reality of denying the elephant in the living room at the same time?

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Jürgen Dai Yu Windhorn is the Dharma successor to Christoph Rei Ho Hatlapa. He lives and works on the grounds of ToGenJi, on the edge of the life garden Steyerberg and supervises the area permaculture. In addition, Jürgen Dai Yu coordinates the podcast of the Choka Sangha and writes the blog Hudewald – Notes on the connection between spirituality and ecology.