Point/Counterpoint: A Buddhist Monk vs Mitch Borkowski

A Buddhist (left) and Mitch Borkowski moments before Mitch defeated the monk in a debate about soul.

Point: Human Beings Have No Souls

By A Buddhist Monk

Human beings do not have souls. No being has a disconnected, separate soul. We are all interconnected parts of an ever changing whole, and our part itself is composed of interdependent sub-parts. The existence of a permanent, individual soul is in fact an illusion.

This illusion creates a sense of, “I”, “Me”, and “Mine”.  The cause of suffering is our clinging to false notions of an unchangeable soul. This is Buddha’s Anatta doctrine.

It is easy to understand how we would want to believe in a mythology to protect us from the fear of losing our identity. As humans, it is our nature to long for security. We want to believe there will be an angel version of ourselves, same mindset, just hanging out for eternity in bliss. Forever rewarded for getting a passing grade in one life.

But when you look at yourself, is your soul in the matter? No. Does your soul reside in the awareness of matter? No. Is it in your judging of life, or the feeling you get from life, or the reaction you make to the feeling? Chances are, no.

Buddha taught that what we perceive to be a “soul” is in fact 5 groups of phenomena called the Five Aggregates or “Khandas”. When we examine them closely, we see that they entirely lack substance, and are subject to change just like all other compounded things.

The Five Aggregates are: matter (rupa), consciousness (vinnana), perception (sanna), feeling/sensation (vedana) and reaction (sankhara). They function together like a chain of events, perpetuating each other ever onward into endless cycles of suffering.

But when you look at yourself, is your soul in the matter? No. Does your soul reside in the awareness of matter? No. Is it in your judging of life, or the feeling you get from life, or the reaction you make to the feeling? Chances are, no. All of these are but another layer of the onion, which leads to…no center. The only thing the Onion produces, is the seeds to more Onions.

If there is no soul, you may ask, what part of us is escaping from the suffering of incarnation?

Buddha does not deny that there is a non-material aspect of our being which continues after death. In fact, much of his teaching is centered on an ever-evolving consciousness. But this consciousness is more like an accumulation of impulses instead of a static being hiding behind a body.

The only true way to understand it is to meditate, every day, on the reality of impermanence, suffering, and absence of soul.

Counterpoint: Steely Dan Has No Soul

By Mitch Borkowski

Steely Dan has no soul. No living musician, connected to the industry or separate, has less soul.  Great bands influence all musicians. And even those bands have been influenced by smaller solo-artists. But regardless the influence upon Steely Dan, their status as “Rock and Soul” musicians is total bullshit.

Any given George Harrison song, “I, Me, Mine” for example, has more soul than the entire Steely Dan library. The cause of my suffering is from seeing so many Yacht rockers cling to false notions of soul. It’s elevator music. This should be simple stuff. This isn’t Buddha’s Anatta doctrine.

There are aging soft-rockers in the suburbs everywhere, terrified of listening to music with some balls. If they actually hear actual soul, their whole identity would be shaken. They’d be like, “Oh no! Our personalities are as stale as this Steely Dan crap we’ve been listening to!” But instead they think Steely is forever cutting edge, like the cassette players on which they listen.

Steely Dan is only in the Rock and Roll hall of fame because of record sales, and that’s a no-brainer: Thousands of soft-rocker douche bags equal thousands of sales. It still doesn’t mean they have soul.

I think what people perceive to be “soul” in Steely Dan is just the grouping together of five musical factors, or “Instruments”. They were all very competent musicians and could play all of their instruments together in the right key with the same tempo. They even bent strings, had prevalent bass, and played 16th notes to create the illusion of soul. But when we examine closely, we see that they entirely lack substance, and lose my attention like “Rikki” losing that number.

Look closely. Is there any soul in Donald Fagan? No. Walter Becker? No? What about Random Replaceable Studio Musician, Random Replaceable Studio Musician, and Random Replaceable Studio Musician? Chances are, no.

Their five main musical factors: Donald Fagan (keyboard, vocals), Walter Becker (Guitar), Random Replaceable Studio Musician (Bass), Random Replaceable Studio Musician (Horns), and Random Replaceable Studio Musician (Percussion).

Look closely. Is there any soul in Donald Fagan? No. Walter Becker? No? What about Random Replaceable Studio Musician, Random Replaceable Studio Musician, and Random Replaceable Studio Musician? Chances are, no. This is just more shit. And there is no soul in the center of this shit. Just more shit.

These are rich kids from the New Jersey suburbs. They know the pentatonic blues scales, but they’ve never felt the blues. They play sheet music Jazz, not jazz from the heart. And their lyrics are so, “wry.” Oooh, Wryness! Watch out Otis Redding! How can their music take a creative leap when they have never taken any actual risks in life?

If they have no soul, you may ask, what part of us actually wants to listen to them?

I, Mitch Borkowski, do not deny that there is some aspect of Steely’s music that is catchy. It gets stuck in your head like a radio jingle. But these jingles could be created by the demo mode of any GarageBand-type computer program. It is only a part of a larger body of Muzak.

The only way to understand it is to listen, every day, to real music that expresses the reality of fucking, really hitting a groove hard, and the absence of being over-produced.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

3 comments for “Point/Counterpoint: A Buddhist Monk vs Mitch Borkowski

  1. Jeff W
    August 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I like how you identify the Buddhist in the photo as the “Buddhist (left)”. Subtle funny!
    The Point is actually one of the clearest accurate explanations of the Anatta concept that I’ve read. I think I learned something!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *