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Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Why would understanding require one to care about what he understands? I'm more curious as to why should you care?

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

I care to start a conversation, if possible.

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Hi, Daniel--

Thanks for your appreciation.

Early Buddhism, which was derived from even earlier Taoism, did not contain the moral/ethical element which is found almost ubiquitously in present day Buddhism--particularly the European/American version of Buddhism. Early Buddhism was about non-duality, not self-improvement. Later the moral/ethical elements were added, but those were intended for people who lacked the experience of non-duality, not those who had it.

I believe that modern Western-style Buddhism really is an amalgam of Buddhism and Christianity, and that the weighty moral/ethical elements in that neo-Buddism derive mostly from Christianity, not Buddhism. In other words, people who have seen through the God-fantasy but still want something "spiritual" to follow are attracted to what they imagine is Buddhism, and bring their old church habits with them when they make the move.

The short answer to your question: In my view, it is entirely possible to have an experience of nonduality without necessarily experiencing any great compassion or sympathy for others; however, that would also mean that one also would feel no compassion or sympathy for oneself either (since all are one).

My experience of psychopathy is that many or most such people feel plenty of compassion for themselves--or at least feel sorry for themselves, proud of themselves, etc.--but none for anyone else. Other beings are seen mostly as pawns to be manipulated so that the psychopath gets what he/she wants, and sometimes as sources of sadistic pleasure as well.

I am not sure that I have ever met a psychopathic style of person who had any deep understanding of these matters, but that does not mean there are no such people. Most of the psychopaths I have known were far too self-satisfied to want to dive into an serious self-investigation. I see quite a bit of that here on this Forum: self-satisfied fantasies of superiority which to a practiced eye seem obvious compensation for feelings of inferiority.

That kind of thing--self-described psychopaths looking down upon, belittling, and insulting non-psychopaths as foolish, or overly emotional, or lacking in logic, or whatever--could not occur in a psychopath who had truly experienced nonduality. That psychopath might still, in my opinion, have a psychopathic-style personality (no guilt, no shame, no compassion), but would not feel superior to those around him/her because he/she would not see others as separate from oneself.

I don't know if I have made this clear or not. Let me know. All of this is difficult ground to cover with words on a page.

p.s. I wish those of you who seem to savor the flame wars so much would grow up a bit. You sound like a bunch of young teen-age boys. When someone comes here (occasionally sent here by me) with a real question, please try to respond in a helpful way or else stay out of it.

I feel sad when a serious inquiry is met with one or two serious replies followed by the usual Toby vs. Whitewolf vs. Hexi, vs. etc. free-for-all, which is really much ado about nothing. You seem to delight in stealing the stage as quickly as possible from the real direction of the thread. Are you all really that greedy for attention and approval? When you indulge in that kind of thing you imagine yourself to be clever, but everyone else sees how empty and foolish you really are.

By the way, it is a bit cowardly to insult someone anonymously online when face to face you might hesitate fearing a real reprisal--not just words.

To all: Be well.


Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Dr. Robert,

I have been moved more by the Tao Te Ching than any other text I've ever read, and I'm trying to inform myself about Buddhism.

Although Buddhist concepts were often translated through Taoist concepts when introduced to China, I've found nothing else in my research to link Buddhism to Taoist Philosophy other than that legend about Laozi going to teach Buddha after leaving the western pass.

I would be most grateful if you could point me to a reference or two for your claim regarding early Buddhism.

Thanks in advance

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?


I am not an historian, and so what you are calling my "claim" in not at all authoritative, but simply my own understanding based on my reading of Tao Te Ching and early Zen sources. Personally, I am far more interested in understanding and experiencing the ideas in Taoism and in Buddhism (particularly Zen Buddhism) than I am in trying to unearth historical references.

That said, there really is not much authoritative history regarding Taoism. Even its supposed founder, Lao Tsu, may be only a legendary figure: "The question of whether there was a historical Lao-tzu has been raised by many scholars . . . The Tao-te Ching, as we have it, cannot be the work of a single man . . . and the book as a whole dates from about 300 BC. . . . The name Lao-tzu seems to represent a certain type of sage rather than an individual." [Encyclopaedia Britannica]

There is little question, I believe, that early Buddhism was strongly influenced by Taoism. I remember reading in D.T. Suzuki that "Tao is Zen, and Zen is Tao." [sorry, like so much I have read I cannot cite it]

Be well.


Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Buddhism i

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Dr Robert,

Thanks for replying.

As far as Zen/Chan Buddhism goes, I completely agree. Indeed, Taoist terminology was used to translate Buddhist texts upon introduction in China. However this is quite a late forming branch of Buddhism, many centuries after the historical Buddha, and much as I'd love to find it, I really fail to see how early Buddhists and Taojia could have interacted.

Except, of course, from interacting within the same human experience, condition and soul. Where they are, obviously in my view, talking about the same thing. While I am interested in the history behind this stuff, I completely respect your view, and think I see what you're getting at in not being all that interested in this area. All too often people get hung up on how various groups and cults relate to and interacted with each other historically, and pay little attention to what their views actually WERE. 'How does eastern mysticism relate to western mysticism, and which one is more mystical?' and so on. Focus on this can be so boorish, the proverbial finger pointing at the moon.

So sorry if I came across as a bore. I was really just hoping you might be able to recommend a good book :)

[As an aside, and because I think you might enjoy this, as far as my own reading in contemporary Taoist scholarship goes, one view is that Lao Tsu was indeed a historical figure called Old Tan, whom numerous accounts have being visited by Confucius (over the way to perform certain rites).

Often, a philosophy or religion forms and retrospectively attributes itself to a founding figure, to give a level of authority or legitimacy. Some scholars, like A.C. Graham, think that in order to make early Taoism legitimate against the entrenched Confucianism, they co-opted the only man whom Confucius himself was known to consult on ritual matters.

Thus, the glorious Lao Tsu, passing through the western gates and into legend, may actually have been a historical man so dry that he might actually have bored Confucius.

Humour worthy of Chuang Tsu. Always makes me giggle.]

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?


You are most welcome, both for my reply and welcome for your erudite presence on this forum. You have not been a bore at all. An interest in the history of these matters, if it is pursued with intelligence, would never be boring in the least. I only meant to say that my particular personal focus is on understanding and experiencing the gist, and not on the historical aspects.

When I spoke of Zen as "early Buddhism," my intention was to contrast "early Buddhism," to modern day western (European/American) Buddhism which has been, in my view, influenced—some might even say polluted—by Christianity, particularly by its savior-of-humanity myth, and its contemporary focus on sin and morality.

Because Daniel was asking whether I thought his experiences of non-duality could have been authentic given that they had not resulted in any great change in his somewhat psychopathic attitude towards his fellow-humans, I thought it important to point out that early sages did not normally concentrate on morality or compassion, but rather non-dualistic understanding. In other words, in the context of my reply to Daniel, Zen is early Buddhism, although your point about the Buddha's having lived centuries before the birth of Zen is, of course, correct.

This story--which may be apocryphal since there is great doubt concerning the existence of an historical Lao Tsu--is told of a meeting between Confucius and Lao Tsu:

When Confucius first saw Lao Tsu (6th century BC), Confucius was a young man, while Lao Tsu was much older, a nationally renowned scholar. Arriving at the capital city gate, Confucius was surprised that Lao Tsu had come to welcome him outside the city wall. According to the custom, Confucius had brought Lao Tsu a wild goose as a gift. Lao Tsu admired this young scholar’s thoughtfulness and his eagerness to learn.

With Lao Tsu as his host, Confucius literally buried himself in books for days on end in the royal library. Books were a rare possession of a few privileged people, and Confucius had never seen so many books before. That library opened his eyes, and laid the foundation for his career as an educator.

At his farewell party, Lao Tsu told Confucius, “Men of wealth give money as a gift on such an occasion, while men of virtue give advice. I have neither money nor virtue. Let me pretend to be such a man just for the moment in order to say a few words to you, Confucius. First, what you are studying and teaching now is all from ancient men, who died so long ago that even their bones have rotted away. Those words in books are only their footprints, and not even their shoes nor their feet, let alone what was in their minds. Don’t regard such words as dogma. Second, as a man of knowledge, you can live a luxurious life, but even if you do not, you will be okay as long as you can manage to survive. Third, there is an old saying: 'a good merchant does not show his goods and a man of utmost virtue is always simple.' It would be better to cut off your pride, get rid of your greed, reduce your haughtiness, and throw away your ambitions."

Confucius was puzzled, and felt totally lost when Lao Tsu finished his speech. At one point, Confucius had determined to ask as many questions as necessary to get to the root of the matter. But at the end of the conversation, he felt shrouded in thick fog where nothing was clear. He knew neither what to ask nor how to ask. His heart was still pounding, and his throat choking when everyone at the party had dried their cups and were saying goodbye.

Was this really the same Lao Tsu whom he had stayed with in the last few weeks in the capital? That Lao Tsu had been a kind, warm, and often humorous, old gentleman, treating him as his own son. There had always been a full answer whatever Confucius’s question was. Now he doubted this memory because the Lao Tsu who had bid him farewell seemed critical, discouraging, and cold.

Along his route home, Confucius saw some men hunting on horse back. A duck fell from the sky, and seeing it, Confucius said, “Birds can fly, but fall at the hunter’s arrow. Fish can swim, but are hooked by the fisherman. Beasts can run, but drop into people’s traps. Only one thing is beyond man’s reach: the legendary dragon. The dragon can fly into the skies, ride on clouds, dive into the ocean. A dragon is supremely powerful, yet intangible to us. Lao Tsu is a dragon, and I will never understand him.”


Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Dr. Robert,

I'm glad to you find me so.

Thanks for the story. Who knows about Lao Tsu, but the Tao Te Ching is indeed such a dragon, ableit one I'm content not to grasp fully, which perhaps is the point of the author/authors/spac.etime disturbance from whence it came

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Daniel Birdick
I care to start a conversation, if possible.

I know you don't like me but did you give what i wrote ANY thought whatsoever? Or were you simply looking for somoene to affirm your views without questioning the basis of your question? I ask again, who says you have to care about what the knowledge you've gained implies? Can't you gain knowledge for the sake of knowledge without acting upon it or it changing something fundamentally?

Dr Robert. I know it's foolish, childish and pointless. I don't think any of us even care after we hit "post message". It's a game without a victor, means without an end, utterly meaningless to even the participants. It's just amusement and, apart from that one post, i never derail a thread unless it's already in the gutter and the question asker hasn't replied at all. On many occasions serious discussion has emerged from the nonsense though, so it's not entirely pointless. But i'll declare now that i'll refrain from jumping in from now on.

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Thank you, Hexi. I appreciate it. Many of your posts have shown intelligence and an original p.o.v., so I look forward to seeing more.

If you refrain from the flame wars, perhaps Toby will as well (or is that too much to ask?).

I would love to see the level of discourse here rise to the best we all can come up with instead of the low-speed. stupid, pointless insults. There are some good minds here--anything is possible if we want it. Take it from an old guy: Life is short. Make the best of it.

Be well,


Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

If you refrain from the flame wars, perhaps Toby will as well (or is that too much to ask?).

Sure I will!
Now, hopefully Whitewolf will follow suit...

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?


I misunderstood your question. My bad. To answer your fleshed question, of course I don’t have to care. I don’t have to do anything but die one day. I “care” because I am a holistic thinker. Areas of knowledge are not separated by invisible partitions in my mind. A nondual understanding would have several implications for other areas of my psychological understanding of self… Then again, for a guy like me, perhaps not. After all, I remain the same.

For the record, I neither like nor dislike you. I feel for you what I assume you feel for me. Nothing. One barbed comment or sarcastic remark doesn’t mean ongoing animosity. At least not in my lexicon. I also like to play with people’s screen names sometimes when I reply to them (hence the Hexigon thing). I do that a lot. It amuses me. No disrespect intended.

Dr. Robert:

What can I say other than bravo! You apparently are the real deal. No self righteous protestations from you about the importance of compassion or of love being fundamental to… whatever. Just pure, unadulterated awareness, which is amoral.

Love, compassion, kindness, generosity… These are as delusional in their own way as the other side of the “I” coin, indifference, self involvement, disdain and greed. All those enlightenment chasers, pursuing their happily ever after, thinking that awakening is going to get them somewhere special… They are just as lost in non-factual mindstates as the traditional religious folk the enlightenment chasers often deride. All people really want, if they were honest with themselves, is a never ending orgasm. All positive, all the time. The bliss bunnies do not want reality. They want to cop a feel from the universe.

Anyway, congrats to you for telling it like it is Dr. Robert.

As an aside, I don’t know if I feel compassion for myself or not. I do of course have an abiding interest in myself, whatever that self ultimately is. And yes, I am more likely to feel things in relation to my own issues than others. But compassion for myself… meh, not so much.

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

At times i have trouble putting into words what i mean, you misunderstood me again, i think. What i meant was that for someone who doesn't feel compassion the realization that everyone is connected doesn't have to mean anything. It's not so different from knowing what is right or wrong, intellectually, but simply not caring in a sense that it would not affect your actions. I didn't mean to suggest apathy towards the subject but rather it's implications.

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?


If I understand you this time, then I agree. That is how it has been for me. I am no more a compassion filled bliss bunny than I was prior to my experience. But I thought it would be. Like I said, I like to examine various implications of whatever idea I am examining at the moment, if there are any. When it came to my "satori" moment, I assumed there would be massive implications, but in my case, there wasn’t.

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

That is what i meant. You asked if there should have been some fundamental change in your outlook and i replied with "why should there be, why would you magically care about others all of the sudden". I'm not verbose in the slightest so i have to elaborate my cryptical ramblings often. :P

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Daniel Birdick

If I understand you this time, then I agree. That is how it has been for me. I am no more a compassion filled bliss bunny than I was prior to my experience. But I thought it would be. Like I said, I like to examine various implications of whatever idea I am examining at the moment, if there are any. When it came to my "satori" moment, I assumed there would be massive implications, but in my case, there wasn’t.

What is this experience your saying you had? If the experience was the greater enlightenment discussed for example of Dogen Kigen (Zen Master from the 1200's) in the 95 chapter book The Shobogenzo, then it would raise the question of "Who is the I who can be compassion filled?." And are you filled with anything, and if so, what?

Re: Is it possible to be a heartless Buddha?

Enlightenment is a Gamble

Time to cash in your chips
put your ideas and beliefs on the table.
See who has the bigger hand, you
or the Mystery that pervades you.

Time to scrape the mind's shit
off your shoes
undo the laces
that hold your prison together
and dangle your toes into emptiness.

Once you've put everything
on the table
once all of your currency is gone
and your pockets are full of air
all you've got left to gamble with
is yourself.

Go ahead, climb up onto the velvet top
of the highest stakes table.
Place yourself as the bet.
Look God in the eyes
and finally
for once in your life