“The Practice of Selflessness”—Week 3 of Rodney Smith’s retreat “Selfless Practice“—ends today. The discussion page on the retreat this week has been very lively, and at times maybe even a little testy.

For example, one participant takes umbrage with Smith’s discussion of no-self.

Your problem, at an intellectual level, is that you leap from a single and extreme negative position to many positive and nuanced statements about reality as if the entailment was always necessary, which it is not, and you do it with the carefulness of an elephant in a porcelain store. Because the entailment is only a figment of your imagination, you are left relying on sketchy and magical thinking to tie all your affirmations together or make the proper connections. To evoke some ‘heart’ to explain or justify is summoning magical thinking.

Smith then attempts to explain his teaching as precisely as he can.

This video is attempting to build upon a realized observation of the mind and then go from there. The principle stated is that the mind divides itself in two with the “I” thought. The “I” thought assumes itself to be other than a mental process. It assumes a location outside of the mind, in which the mind is happening to it. When seen for what it is, the sense-of-I is observed as a thought of the mind. When the “I” divides itself out of the mind, it sees the world separate from itself, just as it sees itself separate from the mind. When the “I” is brought back into the mind by seeing it as a thought, the mind becomes whole and undivided, and so does the world.

These kinds of exchanges are to be expected when discussing such challenging and important ideas, though we should try to keep the questions and answers as respectful as we are able. Another participant notes the difficulty of using language to discuss the insights gained through meditation.

Outwardly, from the comments and from my own reading of the scriptures, I have realized that words are utterly inadequate and mostly a waste of time when it comes to meditation practice. The very few times that words have been of benefit have been when Rodney has endeavored to communicate a basic principle from a timeless source. And Rodney has done that very well. I am very grateful to him for that.

I have also realized that any comment, and any word-based scriptural teaching, must be met from me with “I will be the judge of that.”

Language is self-referential. There is no answer there.

To participate in this retreat you must be a Tricycle Community Supporting or Sustaining Member. Below is a preview of Week 3 of the retreat.

Also, when you become a Tricycle Community Member, you can join a Special Community Discussion with Robert Chodo Campbell and Koshin Paley Ellison, the founders and co-executive directors of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care.

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