I’m reluctant to make judgments about what other teachers are doing, but I will merely point to one important adaptation that has taken place in the contemporary teaching of vipassana meditation that can easily pass unnoticed. I get the impression that the purpose for which mindfulness meditation is being taught in the West has undergone a sea change from its traditional function, perhaps because many Western teachers are teaching outside the framework of classical Buddhist doctrine. Mindfulness meditation, it seems, is now taught mainly as a means to heighten our experience of the present moment. The aim of the practice is to enable us to accept everything that happens to us without discrimination. Through heightened mindfulness of the present moment, we learn to accept everything as intrinsically good, to see everything as instructive, to experience everything as inherently rewarding. We can thus simply abide in the present, heartily accepting whatever comes, open to the ever-fresh, ever-unpredictable flow of events.
Now at a certain level, such a style of teaching does impart valuable lessons to us. It is certainly much better to accept whatever comes than to live eagerly pursuing pleasure and anxiously fleeing pain. It is much wiser to see the positive lessons inherent in pain, loss and transience than to bemoan our miserable fate. However, to present this as the main point of the Buddha’s teaching would be, in my view, a misinterpretation of the Dhamma. The Buddha’s teaching, as given in the suttas, has quite a different logic behind it. The teaching isn’t designed to culminate in acceptance of the world, but to lead out beyond the confines of conditioned experience to that which transcends the world, to the ageless and deathless, which is also the cessation of suffering. Simply maintaining awareness of the present in order to arrive at a detached acceptance of the present could easily lead through the back door to a reconciliation with samsara, to a reaffirmation of samsara, not to release from samsara.
In the classical teaching, through mindful attention to the present, we zoom in on the arising and passing away of phenomena in order to gain insight into their impermanence. But we don’t affirm the impermanence of things; it is not in this way that we reach the end of suffering. The insight into impermanence, anicca, becomes, rather, the gateway to the insights into dukkha, the flawed nature of all conditioned things, and anatta, the selfless nature of all phenomena. And insight into these three characteristics brings disenchantment with all conditioned things. From disenchantment comes dispassion, and from dispassion liberation, the realization of nibbana here and now.
In our last episode, we took as our starting point the notion that Scrum and/or Agile Software Development is more about how to manage tasks than about how to design software, both for quality, and for the humans who need to maintain and extend it. We explored ways of getting design into the process as much as possible.
In this episode, we continue the theme by starting with the notion that Scrum/Agile, again, for all its success as a task management, estimation and communication strategy, has nothing to say about building and maintaining a great team.
You might find yourself joining a team successfully leveraging Scrum for all its worth yet be at a loss as to how you can contribute. It’s not that you don’t understand the process. That part’s easy. It’s that, well, there’s the software, the ecosystem, the politics, the personalities, the design and the architecture. The technical debt.
How might you onboard a team member when the project is complicated and the existing team are battle-hardened veterens? Does the nature of the project — its design — make this any easier? How do you define success for the new guy? Is there a place for ownership and responsibility?
This and more on Flipping the Bozo Bit Episode 13.
Christoph and I reflect on the cultural aspects of the use of open source techniques inside closed mega-corp businesses, from the tools themselves to how they might appeal to different sorts of developers and how they might facilitate projects at different points in their life cycles. It’s a ramble of insights, this one!