Empirical And Non-Empirical Zen

11 Feb

Zen seems to be the most recent major development in the long and incredibly rich history of Buddhism. Zen is also one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in the world today. Despite the fact that often times, and especially to the uninitiated newcomer, Zen may appear as if it came out of nowhere, there is a definite long history of development that preceded and led directly to the emergence of Zen in Far Eastern countries. It is important to note that, even though Zen appears to be a unified, clearly defined form of Buddhist practice, it is not a monolithic system of teaching and practice. In other words, there are schisms and sects within Zen itself, which is the topic of this discussion.

Basically, Zen is often regarded as the pinnacle of the particular Buddhist movement known as Mahayana (or the Great Vehicle). In order for us to gain a clearer insight into the origins of Zen, we will have to briefly examine a few milestone events that occurred during the initial development of the Mahayana sect. This sect started with the pointed inquiry into the nature of the fully enlightened being (a.k.a. tathagata, the one who had successfully gone from bondage into complete liberation, and is often referred to as the ‘fortunate one’). During the Buddha’s times (some 2,500 years ago), people used to be perplexed and confused regarding his nature. This is due to the fact that the Buddha himself was notorious for denying any and all of the essences and attributes that various followers and interlocutors were trying to assign to him. Thus he would vehemently deny that he is a god, or a spirit, or any supernatural being, and, surprisingly, he would also deny that he was human! All he was willing to admit is that he cannot be defined by designations that others are capable of using. In other words, because the Buddha was liberated from defilements such as lust, greed, hatred, anger, confusion and such, any designation that came into usage through referring to these phenomena cannot be applied to him. What the Buddha was saying was that a god, a spirit, a supernatural being, a human being, etc., can only emerge in case phenomena such as greed, hatred, confusion etc. have also emerged for that entity. And since in the Buddha’s case such phenomena are nowhere to be found (in the sense that they do not relate to him), the Buddha’s nature also cannot be designated, cannot be found.

The above simple, straightforward explanation was apparently not acceptable to some of his followers. Such followers felt the urge to probe somewhat deeper, to try and get to the bottom of the mystery — what is Buddha, what is his true nature? These people were trying to reach the impossible — designate something that cannot ever be designated. But they were not prepared to give up, and continued working diligently on erecting a system that would bring the mystery back in, and in as a grandiose way as possible.

Naturally, in order to force feed the mystery into something that is by itself fairly straightforward and plain as a daylight, the first thing one needs to do is demote that straightforward situation into a situation that would be of a lesser stature, lesser importance. Thus, Buddha’s followers who were hell bent on discovering his true, hidden nature, declared that the straightforward denial supplied by the Buddha was meant for those dimwitted immediate disciples and followers who could not grasp deeper, more profound truths concealed within the Buddha’s teachings. In that way this overt teaching, as spoken by the Buddha and preserved in the Nikayas and Agamas, got labeled as merely provisional teaching, while the new teaching, pushed forth by the more ambitious followers, got promoted to the status of ultimate teaching.

The main challenge facing the proponents of the ultimate teaching was how to reconcile the fundamental doctrine of impermanence, no-self, non-substantiality and dissatisfaction with the goal of establishing permanent blissful presence of the ultimate reality. It was obvious that any hints toward the substantiality of the Buddha, the substantiality of the ultimate reality, would completely disqualify proponents of the ultimate teaching. That much was easy to discern, right off the bat. So the advocates of the ultimate teaching wiggled their way out of that cul de sac by latching onto the essence. While it is undeniably true that ultimate reality is non-substantial, it still isn’t impermanent due to the fact that its essence, its suchness, is unchangeable. And, according to the proponents of this teaching, the ultimate suchness, the ultimate reality is embodied in the ultimate person — the Buddha.

Buddha as the embodiment of suchness thus became the token for any discussion on ultimate reality. Now it became easier to explain the variegated world of phenomena, because once we adopt the view that there is invisible, mysterious, concealed ‘suchness’, all the non-mysterios phenomena around and within us become mere emanations from that very suchness. Thus the Buddha, being the concealed, invisible ultimate being, becomes the legitimate ultimate father of all beings. Meaning, all beings do contain in them, in the form of a seed or a potential, that same suchness, that same potential of eventually becoming the ultimate reality, the ultimate truth. And how to become that? Why, just follow the ultimate teaching!

It is in that climate that many venerable Mahayana sutras got formulated. Two of the most popular sutras are the Lotus sutra and the Lankavatara sutra. Of the two, Lotus sutra is the older one, and has the honour of paving the way for a more extreme teaching found in the Lankavatara sutra. It is therefore important that we first understand a few basic tenets of the Lotus sutra, before we can turn out attention to Lankavatara sutra.

Lotus sutra (also known as Saddharmapundarika sutra) contains the teaching that elaborates on the hierarchy of truths. This hierarchy was first introduced during the times when followers who were yearning for a more mysterious, more profound teaching declared that popularized Buddha’s words contained mere provisioning teaching. These same followers then portrayed themselves as upholding a more esoteric, arcane, mysterious and concealed teaching that only privileged and highly advanced practitioners were privy to. This claim is, of course, in direct violation of the Buddha’s claims, because the Buddha was very clear that he didn’t leave anything hidden or concealed. In short, the Buddha claimed that he is not a deceiver. The seeds of the Mahayana split seem to carry with them the assumption that there was something deceptive in the Buddha’s straightforward teaching after all, since the Mahayanists tend to adopt the ‘read between the lines’ approach to studying the Buddha’s words.

In the Lotus sutra, we read how the Buddha explained that there are three levels of truth, each level being higher than the previous level. At the entry level (the lowest level), where ordinary beings reside, what is truth for such beings is in reality untrue, as these beings are similar to someone who is blind by birth. The Buddha, being the exalted teacher, is capable of guiding such deluded beings out of their dark cave and into the broad daylight, where they get to see the truth of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, non-substantiality. This higher level truth is liberating those beings from the world of darkness, however this truth is not the highest one. It is only once one abandons this lower truth, the truth of ‘hearers’ (i.e. the immediate disciples of the Buddha, those noble beings who have liberated themselves from the cycle of deaths and births), that one can hope to attain the highest, ultimate truth.

It remains unclear what this third, ultimate level of truth represents. If the first, lowest level of truth represents dogmatic thinking that holds on to the the belief that there is a permanent mysterious substance that is unchangeable (thus being referred to as ‘blindness’), and if the intermediate truth represents the extinction of ignorance which in effect removes the naive belief in some mysterious, unverifiable substance, what is the third, highest level of truth affirming or negating? The stock answer to that question is that the highest degree of knowledge revealing the ultimate truth is not affirming nor negating anything, because it is not only beyond all description, it is also beyond all conceptual thinking. The highest ultimate truth cannot be verified using ordinary means, such as perception or inference, it can only be experienced in the highest states of intuitive wisdom.

But if that’s the case, it remains unclear how is that non-conceptual, non-verifiable ultimate reality different from the reality that is based on the equally unverifiable naive belief in the permanent, unchangeable mysterious substance? In other words, what remains as a mystery in the Lotus sutra, as well as in many other doctrinal sources of Mahayana, is how exactly is the first level, or the lowest truth, any different from the third level, or the ultimate truth? Same as the ultimate reality proposed by the Mahayanists who uphold the idea of intuitive wisdom cannot be an object of conceptual knowledge, the substantial reality of the naive practitioners, such as those following the Brahmanical, or other religious systems that believe in God, also transcends the object of conceptual knowledge. It would appear that both the lowest truth and the highest truth are transcendental by nature, and it gets extremely difficult to tell them apart.

Lotus sutra puts forth a heroic attempt to wiggle out of this conundrum by introducing a wholesale teaching on faith. It is only through faith that the above uncertainties pertaining to the lowest and the ultimate truths could ever be reconciled. As such, Lotus sutra remains the most popular Buddhist sutra ever, as it obviously caters to the masses by getting dangerously close to many other world religions which prophesy salvation through worship. In doing that, Lotus sutra revolutionized the Buddhist teaching and practice by eliminating the importance of empirically-founded experience and reflection, and by introducing transcendent concepts such as ‘unproduced dharma’. Buddhist followers cannot possibly have any understanding of that noumenal concept unless they reach complete Buddhahood. This orientation serves to deconstruct much of what the Buddha had formulated and constructed while teaching the dharma.

Furthering the agenda found in the Lotus sutra, Lankavatara sutra pushes this process of deconstruction to even more extreme levels (one could even say to the ultimate level). What Lankavatara does is takes conceptual thinking and deconstructs it to the point where there is absolutely nothing left. It does that following a pattern, or a formula, that reads as follows:

A statement or term concerning x is no statement or term concerning x (where x stands for a multitude of concepts, such as birth, arising, morality, and on and on).

So in this sutra we hear the Buddha allegedly saying things such as a statement or term concerning birth is no statement or term concerning birth, or a statement or term concerning mind is no statement or term concerning mind, and so on. Sounds flippant and wishy-washy at a first glance, but what is found behind such declarations is quite significant. First off, there is no denying that such statements read like deconstruction of the familiar concepts. “A term for this is no term for this” cannot be read any other way than to insist that such a term is not only useless, but wrong. And after repeating similar statements for many of the important terms and concepts, one gets to the point of realizing that all these terms, statements, and ultimately concepts are lame, invalid, a waste of time and useless. It is because of that approach that Lankavatara sutra is often regarded and the sutra on the Great Emptiness (“Maha Shunyata” in Sanskrit). To reinforce that grand emptiness of concepts and words, the main interlocutor in this sutra (Mahamati) puts forward the following proposition:

Fortunate One, is it not because of the reality of words that all things are? If not for words, Fortunate One, there would be no arising of things. Hence, Fortunate One, the existence of all things is by reason of reality of words.

Lankavatara sutra of course portrays the Buddha as completely agreeing with the above argument. Not only do we read that the Buddha is in complete agreement, we also learn how he hastens to add how in the buddha lands (populated by various innumerable buddhas) ideas get expressed using non-verbal means, such as gestures, frowns, steady gazes, rolling of one’s eyes, twitching one’s nose, shivering, laughing, smiling, clearing the throat, and so on. This emphasis on non-verbal forms of communication clears the way toward accepting the unspeakable, the ineffable, the transcendent. Thus, even the very concept of existence is eliminated as something that is imagined, something unreal. Here again we see the same triple hierarchy of truths that we’ve already seen in the Lotus sutra — the mundane truth, the awakened truth, and the transcendental truth. This third, the highest and the ultimate truth is described as a state one reaches upon thorough examination of the imagelessness of dharmas. Imageless dharmas are phenomena that have no appearance. These imageless phenomena are attained by the advanced practitioners who are capable of perceiving non-ceasing and non-arising, thus reaching the idealistic level of not discriminating between the subject and the object.

This explanation was at risk of being interpreted in a negative light, which would then paint this particular sect of Mahayana into a nihilistic corner. The only way out of that nihilistic corner was by providing something positive that would still retain the desirable non-substantialist slant toward impermanence. The only thing still left available after both the object and the subject get mercilessly eliminated from the experience is the action itself. That way, proponents of this doctrine could proudly proclaim that there is no doer and no deed, there is only doing. We will see shortly how this concept of action-only contributed heavily to some of the most essential flavours of Zen.

Origins of Zen can be traced back to Indian monk Bodhidharma, who lived around 6th century C.E. Bodhidharma traveled to China where he introduced Lankavatara sutra and inaugurated the development of Zen. Zen is a Japanese transliteration of the Chinese word Chan, which is in turn transliteration of the Sanskrit word Dhyana, meaning ‘concentrative absorption’. Once that particular brand of Buddhism got accepted in China, it was unavoidably infused with other local and customary practices, like Taoism, Confucianism, etc. It didn’t take too long for Bodhidharma’s brand of Buddhism to flourish into the new form, known as Chan, and later on, once Chan made its way to Japan, as Zen.

Bodhidharma, the undisputed founder of Zen, was also known as the “wall gazing brahmin”. Legend has it that, upon reaching China and introducing Lankavatara sutra and his particular flavour of Buddhist practice, Bodhidharma spend some nine years sitting in a cave, gazing at the wall. This famous incident set the tone for how will Zen be perceived and practiced in China and Japan, and later on in the West. We see that, right at the outset, Chan/Zen practice aimed at eliminating the subject/object duality by focusing on the purest form of non-dualistic action. This orientation is coming straight from the teaching found in Lankavatara sutra, which is, according to many Zen practitioners, the most important Mahayana sutra in Zen.

We have seen that Lankavatara teaching aims at transcending not only words and concepts, but also the experience itself. It is a wholesale going beyond, surrendering oneself to the mysterious, ineffable, unthinkable ‘essence’, the Absolute that is supposed to be always present in each and every sentient being. As such, this teaching appears to be fully founded on the concept of duty. This is hardly surprising, seeing how any and all other absolutist systems that propose to transcend any discrimination between subject and object invariably end up with the central idea of duty. Duty is basically just another word for action, which must be embraced wholeheartedly, without any reservation. The fact that, according to absolutist teachings, ultimate reality, ultimate truth, i.e. the Absolute, is not reachable by any conventional means (words, concepts, thoughts), leaves only pure intuition fully operable. And this intuition is pure action, which manifests itself in the form of a well-defined duty.

The question could be asked at this juncture: how is this arrangement different from what the original Buddhist doctrine is teaching? The answer is simple: original Buddhist teaching is centred on the contemplative aspect of the practice, which is why, at the very outset, this teaching eschews any idea of duty. Accepting the idea of duty means taking things on blind faith, something that Buddhism has serious problems with. As Buddhist practitioners are practicing the life of perfection, they perform it only by leading contemplative lives, not by submitting themselves to any calls of duty. The teaching found in Lankavatara sutra militates against the very value of leading a contemplative lifestyle. This is due to the fact that contemplative lifestyle is not conducive to embracing an absolutist world view. And we have seen how, according to Lankavatara teaching, the only worthwhile world view is the non-dualistic absolutist view. In other words, the only thing conducive to attaining the ultimate reality and obtaining the ultimate truth is the way that eschews experiential dimension, eliminates any empirically obtained knowledge, and relies on unfathomable intuitive wisdom.

This original form of Zen could be designated as non-empirical Zen. The ideal practice of that brand of Zen is embodied in an image of a monk who’s spending years avoiding reflective, contemplative way of living, and is instead fully embracing and practicing pure duty by facing the wall. This idealized portrayal illustrates the futility of gaining useful knowledge through experience amassed via obtaining precious knowledge by using faculties such as perception and inference. Not established in anything (by tethering himself to the absolutist notion of the Great Emptiness, or Mahashunyata), such monk is at the same token not interested in anything other than the attainment of full blown Buddhahood. And since this much coveted attainment of Buddhahood is definitely outside of the range of what’s perceptible, even outside of the range of what’s thinkable, there is no need whatsoever to concern oneself with leading the contemplative lifestyle. In fact, to do so would be to hinder one’s progress toward Buddhahood.

The absolute negation of conceptual thinking, as formulated in Lankavatara sutra and subsequently embodied in the original Zen practice, means that all empirical experience, including intellectual experience and understanding, is totally banned from the practice; only intuitive, mystical (non-empirical) experience is allowed. Followers of such austere practice are only fond of communicating by utilizing non-verbal means (similar to how the Lankavatara Buddha had allegedly explained the modus operandi that is fashionable in many buddha lands where buddhas wink, smile, nod, raise their eyebrows, etc.) If such Zen practitioners ever get to the point of using words, they are only willing to stoop to that level so that they could seize the opportunity to demonstrate how vile, how useless words really are. Thus we read how Chao-chu (a famous Chan master), after listening to the following question asked by one of his students: “I read in the sutra that all things return to One. But where does this One return to?”, offered the following answer: “When I was in the province of Tsing I had a robe made which weighed seven chin.” Completely illegible to the point of sheer mockery.

Thus we see that this absolutist lineage had painted this particular sect of Buddhism into a proverbial corner. Followers of this extreme form of denial of anything rationally comprehensible may have gained the belief in one unshakeable, permanent and unalterable transcendent ultimate reality (the Absolute), but what they have lost in the process is the ability to verify the fruitfulness of that practice. Whilst in the mainline Buddhist tradition the followers are capable of experiencing and thus verifying the fruits of their strivings to attain moral perfection, the absolutist Zen practice robs its followers of such traffic signals and road signs. One can sit and sit, gazing at the wall, refusing to drop down to any means of conventional communication, which is in itself fantastic and formidable, but one cannot possibly verify whether that kind of practice is fruitful or not. The only way one can hope to know whether things are going in the right direction or not is if one forms a tight, life-long bond with an officially authorized teacher. It is the teacher, the unquestionable authority, that imparts the sense of duty into the student. Therefore only such teacher can utilize the mystical powers of intuitive wisdom and gauge whether the student is nearing, or has reached the enlightenment and is now a fully liberated buddha.

This arrangement precipitated the Transmission of Dharma, a mystical ritual that is the innovation of the absolutist brand of metaphysical Buddhism. Such transmission is absolutely necessary due to the lack of any other indicators which would reveal whether the practitioner is doing the correct practice or not. Empirically, it would not be possible to ascertain whether a Zen practitioner is enlightened or not (due to the fact that this practitioner, not being established in anything, and subscribing only to the Grandiose Emptiness, could not possibly care about anything else but the ultimate Buddhahood). Thus we end up with a full-blown authoritarian patriarchal system where the top dog is an unquestioned authority on all things under the sun. It is this authority alone that can approve or reject the status of anyone in the Zen community.

The challenge for anyone studying Zen is to try and see whether there is a possibility of having a kinder, gentler form of Zen, the one that would not vehemently deny any and all empirical content. What we mean by empirical content in this context is anything perceived, conceived, and committed to memory. The hints on this path of seeking a less dogmatic brand of Zen practice could be found in the very fact that there is more than one sect within the Zen school itself. Upon closer examination, we find that the typical absolutist, non-conceptual and non-empirical school of Zen, the one originally introduced by Bodhidharma, is the so-called ‘silent illumination’ sect. This sect, also known as Soto Zen, insists on the practice of ‘just sitting’ (shikantaza in Japanese), which is the pinnacle the non-conceptual, non-empirical approach to practice. Starting with Bodhidharma in the 6th century C.E., and continuing with the series of Zen Patriarchs, this lineage splintered in its sixth iteration, with the emergence of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng. It is Hui-neng who had apparently introduced a revision into the orthodox Zen lineage, by turning his attention away from Lankavatara sutra, and bringing Diamond sutra back into prominence.

This fork in the road of Zen development resulted in a renewed impetus to go back and learn about the authentic Buddhist doctrine, as originally taught by the historical Buddha Gautama. The Sixth Patriarch had to initially flee and hide for the fear that such reintroduction of the basic Buddhist teachings would be so traumatic for the established Zen community that it would endanger his life. Hui-neng was thus forced to make a long journey south, where he was able to establish his own Zen sect, the one that differed radically from the Bodhidharma lineage. The new southern Zen school was characterized by a gentler, more reasonable approach to practice. This was governed by Hui-neng’s respect for the Buddha’s teaching on the Middle Way, which, according to the Buddha, was the teaching on the friendly way. One cannot attain moral perfection which is the sine qua non of freedom without being friendly both to oneself, and to others. In order to follow such practice, one could not abandon the world of creativity, meaning the world of rationally comprehensible, empirical content. In this manner, Zen practice got enriched by allowing perceptions, inference, and reflective way of thinking to enter the picture. It was not important anymore to simply focus on the duty, on action. Contemplation got reintroduced, and this realigning with the fundamental Buddhist principles had re-invigorated the Zen practice. Also, the dogmatic ritual of the Transmission of Dharma charade got discontinued by Hui-neng, for the obvious reasons (and that’s why we don’t have the Seventh Patriarch of Zen).

Thus we see that this new contemplative brand of Zen is mostly founded upon empirical grounds, while the original, absolutist Zen was founded upon the fundamental primacy of action, meaning a sense of duty that is not in the least interested in anything empirical. What is problematic for the modern practitioners is that currently there appears to be much stronger emphasis on the original, Bodhidharma flavour of Zen, while it gets to be much more difficult to find traces of Hui-neng’s Zen being practiced today. One of the most popular Zen masters in the world today is Shunryu Suziki, who is famous for making claims such as: “There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.” In this we see the blatant refusal to acknowledge the world of empirical reality (with its constellation of subjects, objects, and related activities). The absolutist, metaphysical slant in the Soto, or ‘silent illumination’ Zen school is exclusively interested in activity, in performing duty itself. Cultivating any kind of moral perfection is completely irrelevant in the world of pure action, especially since the followers are made acutely aware that there is no such thing as a practitioner nor something that could be perceived as moral perfection. Or, as Suzuki puts it: “Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality” (Wherever You Are, Enlightenment Is There, p. 127). The only thing that really matters to the Absolutist, such as a Soto Zen priest in this case, is perfect reality. That is to say, ultimate, absolute non-dualistic reality which is nothing but pure action itself (remember, get rid of the dualistic subject/object combo, avoid picking and choosing, and what’s left is just pure undefiled action).

The above state of affairs is highly troublesome, as it inevitably leads toward totalitarian approach whereby any and all plurality is strictly forbidden. It also flies in the face of our contemporary culture, which is bent toward encouraging individual initiatives and freedoms. We need to pay closer attention when forming our opinions about the Buddhist teachings and practices, and make it as clear as possible that only the pluralistic, morally sound approach to dealing with the uncertainties that the future brings can ensure that we don’t end up enslaved by some anachronistic feudal system.

Material That Didn’t Make The Final Cut

10 Feb

As is typically the case, when writing a book one ends up with much more material than one had originally planned. I am in the same position here; while I was writing my book, I wrote a number of chapters that got booted out during the final editorial process. But just because some chapters didn’t make the final cut for the book doesn’t necessarily mean that the material within those chapters is of a sub-standard quality. Often times, the excluded material was simply deemed ‘out of scope’, meaning not necessarily supporting the overall flow of the main discussion thread.

I am planning to use this blog to publish select material that I’m now finding on the cutting floor of my book writing studio (read: my bedroom). Stay tuned, I’ll be adding new material shortly…

“Difficult Points In Buddhism” Now Available In Paperback

4 Jan

Last month my book became available in paperback format. Quickly on the heels of that launch, the book became available for order anywhere in the world, not only from within US.

The book is now also available at a discount price ($14.39) from Barnes and Noble.

The book is also available from other vendors, such as eCampus, adLibris, cDon, BookPlus, etc.

Lastly, the book is now available even from the Japanese amazon storefront.

Happy reading! And don’t forget to drop by in case you have any questions.

What’s In This Book For Me?

29 Nov

The most natural question when someone is considering reading a book is: what do I gain from reading this book? In this case, the answer to that question will depend on several factors.

First of all, in case the prospective reader is an experienced Buddhist practitioner, the reader will find a very elaborate discussion on many important Buddhist topics in this book. Furthermore, since the book proposes to discuss some difficult points in Buddhism, an experienced Buddhist practitioner may find some useful explanations that are not readily available elsewhere.

On the other hand, if the prospective reader is not familiar with the Buddhist teaching/practice, this book would then serve as a useful set of guidelines that may expose certain interesting aspects to the curious inquirer. It is quite possible that a newcomer to this teaching and practice may develop further interest into this fascinating subject area. In which case this book will serve as a very comprehensive launch pad into the world of solid Buddhist study and practice.

Make no mistake, though: this book is definitely not intended for the academics or Buddhist scholars, as it utilizes colloquial, almost street level language constructs. The purpose of the book is exclusively pragmatic, as it intends to guide people deeper into the fruitful practice.

My Book “Difficult Points In Buddhism” is Published

25 Nov

Few weeks ago I’ve published my book Difficult Points In Buddhism. The book was published on most Amazon storefront sites, including the UK Amazon, French Amazon, and German Amazon sites. Somewhat unexpectedly, the publishing of this book garnered some interest and the sales started happening. Before I knew it, my book shoot up to the top of the list of Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” for the book’s category.

This attracted some attention, and so I got a chance to sit down for an interview about my book. Following that, I’ve decided to branch out and to publish this book on another popular online storefront. Now that I’ve realized that there is some interest in the topics I’ve covered in my book, I’ve decided to dedicate some more time to the followup activities. For example, I’ve received a number of additional questions and comments regarding some of the topics I’ve brought up in this book, and instead of repeating myself to various inquiries, I will provide some answers and further elaborations on this blog.

So to begin with, the answer to the question “what’s the easiest way to get this book?” would be to click on one of the links above and simply purchase the book. Many people have also asked me if they need to have a Kindle device before they could download the book. The answer is No — there are many free Kindle reading apps that will fit pretty much anyone’s need. In addition to that, readers can use free web-based Kindle Cloud Reader which will enable them to read the book in any modern web browser.

But fret not (in case you are a hopeless Ludditte) — I am preparing a printed copy of the book as well. Right now I’m awaiting the arrival of the final proof, and if it looks acceptable to me (bearing in mind that perfection in publishing is simply unachievable), I will give my approval to the printer, and you will have the opportunity then to order a good old-fashioned softcover paper copy of the book.

Now that we have clarified the technicalities, we will prepare for a more detailed discussion (to follow shortly). However, you should feel free to shoot me a question, any question, that pertains not only to my book but also to many other realted topics mentioned in there. Just send in your comments, and I will do my best to respond.