"Friends in Dharma, be satisfied with your own heads. Do not put on any false heads above your own. Then minute after minute, watch your steps closely. These are my last words." 一Nyogen Senzaki, Zenji Dai Osho
The word “Religion,” is an interesting word. At it’s root, by definition it means, “What one binds themselves to.” The most powerful religion across the Earth is that of the Screen. Most of us carry some version of a screen with us. Most of us can’t get away from them. In fact to read this post, we have to look through one. It bonds not only to our eyes, ears, and attention. It can grab our emotions. And what can grab our emotions, is what can move us into action, for better or for worse.
We look to and in them to guide our life. We use them trying to discern and decide, what's relevant and what’s not... what's real and what's not... what's static or noise and what's signal. Going a little deeper, we use them as interfaces of virtual connection for pretty much every aspect of our life. We use them to project our sense of self to others both personally, professionally, and oddly at times to ourselves... by way of meme-ing ourselves down to an avatar, that for some serve as a summation of our personhood.
It’s the screens, and what’s projected into ours that has become our sense of “Reality,” even though it’s virtual, and unreality. Lately there’s been something that’s been trending up at greater speed... virtual reality headsets. The idea had previously been to provide immersive gaming experiences to flat-screens of Nintento’s, PlayStations, Xbox’s, and Smart phones. Now companies are looking at virtual headsets to provide virtual and "Augmented," reality experiences of everyday life as a form of entertainment and "Enhanced," life experience. We are to become the carbon-based version of the SIMS.
In my experience as monk and a technologist, VR headsets are a version of mainlining drugs... trying to more directly inject things into the bloodstream of mind to maximize effect to an end-user, as a fee for service, to get a dopamine hit. At the end of the day that can translate into addiction. If you think I’m exaggerating, put your phone away for three days, and see if you think and feel disoriented without it or not… experience cravings or have intrusive thoughts about it, in its absence. That could tell you everything you need to know, in a very non-theoretical way.
From that perspective, there's not a lot of difference from those that manufacture opioids and those who create these "Immersive..." experiences, managed by algorithms dutifully tracking every aspect of ourselves that they can capture, and amplify what we seem to want, which is really a code word for addiction. And like an addiction, it‘s progressive, not really curable... because it has to do with cognitive processes of mind... and therefore potentially life shortening, and altering... progressively diminishing our ability to organically appreciate Reality before it was virtualized and airbrushed out of sight by the screen one has bonded their mind and sensory process too.
Progression is not necessarily progress. People and other animals can get cancer, experiencing its progression, and definitely wouldn’t describe that as progress.
At this very moment technological feudal lords operate technological feudal systems. Each technological feudal lord, are managing and operating kingdoms that passively compete while actively waring with each other; not just for eyeballs, but literally the physical minds of real-life human-beings, with the explicit goal of gaining market share and value, towards another market that is largely virtual too... the stock market, at the expense of human-beings having the opportunity to experience what I call OR... Organic Reality... Reality without technology inserting itself between us and our REAL life experiences. Technology feudal lords are claiming that in some way they’re helping us to progress when in reality we’re not. We’re personal in progression of helping them reach their goal… to make as much money as they can, for as long as they can, like a parasite that weakens its host to keep it under its management. The weaker one’s attention-span, the easier they are to dominate and control.
As a society, we've gone from very localized musical and theater performances, to print, radio and televised broadcast of localized productions; that were always kind of clunky and at a cost. Just think about those who had the "War of the Worlds," broadcast and the effect on populations... and how crappy the technology was in that. Next was big screen movies, televisions shows, musical productions where you had to be in one specific place like your house... a movie theater or concert hall to check it out. Progressively those creating technologies were always thinking... "How can I make this experience more real... more engaging... more immersive... more intense... more attractive...," so we can make more money and be more influential. All the sudden... Walt Disney and amusement parts... 4D experiences... IMAX... and or and on, until we got to where we are now. I call it VR-lite... AKA smart-phones and tablets.
While we can have the appearance of being together, the reality is that we aren't. I remember hearing Dr. Wayne Dyer PhD. say, "The trouble with people can be that rather than looking into each others eyes, we spend too much time looking into each others wallets, to see what we can extract." In the same way, I could upgrade his words to, 'The trouble with people can be that rather than looking into each other’s eyes, and having analog conversations, we spend to much time texting, scrolling, and tic-tok-ing seeing how many likes and loves we can get, rather than experience deep and meaningful bonding with each other." We've meme'd ourselves out of authenticity, compassion, and integrity. The result is we can end up being nothing more than a glorified meme or soundbite.
In the Movie the Matrix, Morpheus asks Neo "What is real? How do you define real? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain. You've been living in a dream world, Neo. This...is the world as it exists today."
Instead of being shown a TV Set, rendering dystopian imaginings of the world, we could sit down on a meditation cushion. We could make our spine straight. We could make our chin level, we could place the back of our right hand, in the palm of our left, joining the thumbs together to make an oval, offering a kind of tender energy to sustain it with attentiveness. We could then direct our attention one or two inches just below the belly button, saying as we inhale... Right now, clearly breathing in.... Right now clearly breathing out... establishing conscious contact and embedded presence with body, intention, mind, noticing the present moment precisely as it is, without giving energy or attention to the labeling and defining function of mind.
The practice of Zen is analog. Paraphrasing Nyogen Senzaki... It's not putting a false head, on top of our authentic limitless nature of Universal Loving Presence. It's simplification, instead of complexification. It's blue-sky vacation mind. It's being without meme's. It's being without decoration of identity that we like to wrap ourselves in, as a way of protecting ourselves from Reality, which is delusion in and of itself. It's being without screens, being without task lists, being without never ending accomplishing machine mind.
Prior to Nyogen Senzaki's death, he quite deliberately offered his "Last Talk." Whenever I re-read it, it literally brings tears to my eyes. In closing this post, I leave you with his words, as you consider and perhaps actively work out what is the nature of these screens that are manifesting virtual reality... pseudo reality... make pretend reality of virtual worlds that so many use to avoid analog Reality going to be:
"Henri Bergson once wrote, "The spectacle of what religions have been in the past, of what certain religions still are today, is indeed humiliating for human intelligence. What a farrago of error and folly! Experience may indeed say "that is false" and reasoning "that is absurd." Humanity only clings all the more to that absurdity and that error.... Homo sapiens, the only creature endowed with reason, is also the only creature to pin its existence to things unreasonable."
You see, this Frenchman is quite indignant toward those who put false heads above their own.
Fellow students, you are the only group in the western lands to show this French philosopher how to shut his mouth. But, to do so, you must try to live in Zen. To live in Zen, you must watch your steps minute after minute, closely. As I have always told you, you should be mindful of your feet, not of your head or chest, in your meditation as well as in your everyday life. Keep your head cool but your feet warm! Do not let your sentiments sweep you off your feet!
Well-trained Zen students should breathe with their feet, not with their lungs. This means that you should forget your lungs and only be conscious of your feet while breathing. The head is the sacred part of your body. Let it do its own work, but do not make any "monkey business" with it.
These days I have been speaking about "awareness of breath," but to do it practically, you should try to pull down your inhalation to the bottom of your feet and then from there bring up your exhalation slowly-I am not speaking physiologically, but only about your attitude. Such striving is realization itself."
一We Are the Practice Itself