Friday, December 14, 2018

The Watcher

“Empty yourself of everything. Let the mind rest at peace. The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.”—The opening stanza of Chapter 16 of The Tao Te Ching

This post is more than likely going to result in a big yawn since the message should be self-evident, but probably not. Go see a movie (it’s instructive to my point) and you’ll undoubtedly notice two things: (1) You are sitting in your seat and (2) you’re seeing images moving on a screen. No-brainer. Watch TV; Same thing. Neither of those images is real and you know that. 

So far, so good. Now take it to a not-so-evident level—You see the world and it moves. There is still you but is what you’re seeing real? That is taken for granted as being real but as far as your mind is concerned it is no different from a movie or TV. Your true mind doesn’t distinguish. It just notices movement and you could be asleep and, in principle, it is the same. Dreams come, they go and there must be a you who sees what moves. That you, the true Self, is a constant. Yet it is not yours. It never moves and it can’t be found. It just watches, listens, smells, tastes and feels. It perceives everything but in itself is nothing.

“Look, and it cant be seen. Listen, and it cant be heard. Reach, and it cant be grasped.

Above, it isnt bright. Below, it isnt dark. Seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing. Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end. You cant know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life. Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom.”—Chapter 14 of The Tao Te Ching

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Separating wheat from chaff.

Throughout recorded history, there is evidence that agriculture began as far back as 20,000 BCE. For that long we have recognized that in harvesting grain, the good and the bad grew together, and it was necessary to separate the two in order to glean the good. Consequently, numerous texts can be found that illustrate the practice of separating the wheat from the chaff for extracting the useful from that which is not.

I mention this as a means to illustrate a vitally important distinction between religion and spirituality. It is commonly accepted that spirituality runs through the core of religious thought, from any and all corners of our human global community. The issue of the day is to challenge this view. And the reason, for any serious student of history, is that religious dogma has perhaps never been as blatant a bludgeon as it is today. And religion is now being used as a means of political manipulation to appeal to the most base and egregious of human tendencies, all the while employing twisted thinking by using holy texts to justify really bad behavior.

So the question becomes: Can the purity of spirituality be extracted from the hull of religious trappings, that appear on the surface as pious? Is this a matter of a wolf in sheep’s clothing? And to answer that question all we need to do is reflect back to the answers of two of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time: The Christ and The Buddha. Without cherry picking scripture, but instead looking at the big picture, it is unavoidably clear that The Christ came into continuous conflict with the religious institutions of his day and often times was very critical of their hypocritical nature. The Buddha likewise castigated the religious institutions of his time and place by urging his followers to rely on what is good for one and all, instead of relying on religious institutions or holy men.

Ultimately economics, religious thought, and politics run together like wheat and chaff. Can these matters be successfully isolated? Probably not, but it is instructive to do so momentarily and once looked at, bring them back together into the blended conglomerate they represent. Can we, as a human society honestly go forward with the attitude that a political/economic system that divides people into camps of haves and have-nots be justified by quoting scripture? To do that requires mind-numbing, mental flip-flops that defy all reason. But yet that is what is taking place today.

The free enterprise system of economics is allegedly based on individual initiatives, but without integrating the element of morality into the mix, it descends downward into a disgusting slug fest of greed and selfishness. The buggy-man of the free enterprise system was Karl Marx who is known for his stance that, “Religion is the opium of the people.” He did not, however, say that spirituality was an opiate. Ultimately this comes down to a much more fundamental issue which is best expressed as a question: Is spirituality something we do, or what we are?

If you are of the mind, as many are, that our core nature is in need of an overhaul or renovation, and can only be cleansed by divine intervention, then perhaps there could be a place for a religious or spiritual practice that is foreign to the nature of man. On the other hand, the alternative view is that we are fundamentally spiritual to the core, and no overhaul is required. Consequently, there is no way of being human as “non-spiritual” beings. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

In this case, the need is not one of renovation but clearing away the impediments that distort our thinking into conclaves of alienation, superiority and self-righteous obscurity. In other words, clearing the mind of twisted perspectives that seem to justify self-centered behavior but instead move us toward rejoining the human family as indiscriminate vessels of compassion and love.

So then I return to the beginning matter of separating the wheat from the chaff. Is that a worthwhile endeavor? And if it is, then what does it mean to be religious yet not spiritual? Or, said differently, how can we best express our fundamental spiritual nature without diluting it with extraneous and dogmatic teachings that stand in the way.

One of the greatest Zen Masters was Rinzai Zen Master Bassui Tokushō (1327–1387), born in modern-day Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan

He said to his students (about reading scriptures and trying to glean understanding): “One whose dharma eye has truly been opened will know the original great wisdom. Why would he then have a strong desire to study? Delicious food has no value to one who has had his fill.” He went on to say, “First open the mind that reads and then you’ll know what you are reading.”

The bottom line: Religious texts can be (and often are) used as band-aids to justify bad behavior that stands in direct conflict with the heart of spiritual unity. Bassui was correct: the essential task is to cut through the dross that shrouds the purity of the human heart. Once that has become established, there is no need to keep reading, over and over religious texts that, at best are admixtures of wheat within chaff. Once your eye is clear you’ll be able to see what ought to be evident, but isn’t.

Monday, December 3, 2018

How high is the sky, how deep is the ocean of consciousness?

The depths of consciousness.
The Buddhist concept of 9 levels of consciousness gives a great template for living your life and for transformative change. The Buddhist teaching of the close interconnectedness of all living things shows also how changes you make for the better in your life leads to positive changes in others, as we are all connected like myriad cogwheels.

It is doubtful that anyone questions the depth of the first five levels of consciousness since we use these 24/7 to interface with the outside world in which we live. Sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch are as deep as the vast majority go. And their world is understood based on these objective measurements. The next level is the commingling (gestalt) of these five and we know it as the ordinary mind of thoughts and emotions. For most, these first 6 levels of consciousness are where we spend most of our time in performing daily activities. 

Then comes a deeper level of consciousness that is inner looking rather than focused outwards. This 7th level is what we would call the discriminating mind, concerned with the sense of self (ego), and our ability to distinguish between good and evil. Here everything is separated, mutually exclusive, alienated between opposites, is based on the first six levels of perception and processing, like an upside-down tree with roots in the air.

Deeper yet is the 8th level where the seeds of karma from previous lives reside and is known as the alaya consciousness, or storehouse consciousness: the place where all the actions and experiences in this life and the previous lives generated by the seven consciousnesses are stored as karma. It is the only level of consciousness which comes along with every birth. This consciousness influences the workings of the other seven consciousnesses by coloring (biasing) the layers of consciousness above. Because of the karmic seeds contained in the alaya consciousness, one may die a premature death, be stricken with unexpected disease or inexplicable misfortune, be overcome by strong desires, aversions, and obsessions, can think and do things that one should never even imagine, etc. So strong is the influence of the alaya consciousness a person may not wish to harm anyone and yet end up killing a hundred or a thousand people. He or she is, in fact, referring to the influence of past karma contained in the alaya consciousness.

The base consciousness—the foundation of them all is like the ocean floor. It is known as the ground of all being and is free from the impurities of karma and is therefore called the fundamental pure consciousness. This is the ground level basis of all life and being free of impurities it is known as emptiness (Sunyata in Sanskrit), yet upon this base lies the deep and the waves of change. No ocean exists without both a base and the waves above.

The “how to” exercise of genuine awakening to all levels is a matter of going within, penetrating down and through the depths, through the darkness of alaya like the shaft of a lotus plant. Becoming aware of the entire fullness of mind entails first dissolving the artificial sense of individual existence, as a single drop merges with the ocean. When you are set free from knowing who you are not, then immediately you become aware, not as an image of self, but rather that which you truly are: identical to and merged with every other drop that constitutes the entire ocean.

Understanding our mind is essential to the discernment of our true nature, and without that understanding, we will remain vulnerable to the influence of the ignorant and despots. The father of Zen said this: “The mind is the root from which all things grow if you can understand the mind, everything else is included. It’s like the root of a tree. All a tree’s fruit and flowers, branches, and leaves depend on its root. If you nourish its root, a tree multiplies. If you cut its root, it dies. Those who understand the mind reach enlightenment with minimal effort.”—Bodhidharma, The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Compared to what?

Our frame of reference.
At the instant of birth, we know nothing. The world, as we will come to know it, suddenly bursts upon us. All of our sensory capacities are intact but until light invades our in-vitro darkness, a sound is heard, other than the sound of a beating heart, aromas are smelled, touch is perceived, taste is savored and thought produced, we are an invisible capacity in-waiting, only. And then the next moment comes and conditional life begins, all based on what we perceive, and corresponding thoughts produced, but by whom? Or what?

We learn slowly what one thing is by comparison to something different. The one thing in isolation (an impossibility) doesn’t have any meaning—alone it means nothing. All of our perceptual capacities readily create what we come to know, by comparison.

Thus far nothing extraordinary seems being said. But when thoroughly examined, much is extraordinary. A few days ago I wrote a post that revealed two aspects of this extraordinary understanding: dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) with emptiness (śūnyatā). The Sanskrit names confuse the mind and muddy the waters of understanding but those two comprise the matter of comparison.

When one thing is examined by itself (e.g., “up” for example) the question becomes, “compared to what?”. Up, by itself, can’t exist, nor can its partner “down”. Consequently “up” or “down” are, in truth, empty of self-essence, and this is true for all things. EVERYTHING comes into being and goes away in relation to an opposite. We take it for granted that opposites are in truth independent and not originated dependently. Yet the undeniable truth is everything is originated “dependently”. Even conditional life exists only in relation to unconditional life. That observation probably seems extraordinary to the un-illuminated (e.g., those perceiving life through lenses colored with dogma/bias and forming conclusions, followed with actions, which produce Karma—reaping what we sow: cause and effect) but that understanding leads everyone into the realm of the unconditional presence of the true Self, which is not “ours” but rather our piece of the entire unconditional, eternal, indefinable spiritual arena.

Surely, so the thinking goes: good and evil are independent matters and thus opposed to what is imagined as the other, and thus “to be” defeated and/or subjugated under the control—enslaved—by the other side.

Thus, compared to what? It all begins through that process of comparative learning, colored/stained by the dance of life. And then the third matter of extraordinary insight concerns existence, “at All”. Are WE real, except—“by comparison”? Is our existence real, apart from a comparison, to an unchanging matter distributed to all of us, without discrimination? And if so, what is the unswerving, infinitely distributed, measure? How about time? The matter of time is the always just, and impartial judge. Our thoughts and deeds, wherever we live, in whatever period of time we have lived before—are imprinted onto an imaginary, fabricated construct that in—itself doesn’t exist, and therefore our lives are a mist upon the-rose of changing time frames that can/could, only exist “by comparison to what criteria”? And that inquiry reveals an identity no different, by comparison, in the tiniest of difference between ourselves (the created) and the un-create. We are “IT”. Thus the matter of illumination approaches.

But what does it matter if it is all a cosmic dream: a figment of collective, inter-active imagination that continues, instant-by-instant, eternally, via karmically-applied outputs of collectively produced suffering? Was Shakespeare correct? 

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
seeking a bubble reputation.
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”?

That, I’d suggest, is a poetic grasp of the “big picture” with all of the pieces in play and moving in a global-dance of “illusion”.

Albert Einstein likewise viewed the dance of illusion in a similar fashion: “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

In like fashion, the window of clarity opens when individually constructed illusion is seen for what it is: Māyā—The spiritual concept connoting “that which exists but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal,”—Note: Within a Buddhist understanding, reality is defined as that which does not move or change. Everything else (all that moves and changes) is lacking the basis for being real—instead conditional life, always moving and changing, is a dream, from which we can awake, and the power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality. 

Hear the words of Zen Master Hui Hai, known as the Great Pearl:

“When there is no clinging to any of those three periods (e.g., past, present and future) they may be said not to exist. When memory and reverie are cut off, past and future cease to exist. The present does, of course, exist in a firmer sense than either of the others, but it is not present except when thought of in relation to past and future. The state of mind of an illumined person is independent of time-relationships.”

You see, by many vantage points, the entirety of life is a dream, which we all see as real. And it isn’t! It’s all an illusion when removed from the matter of comparison, which is not possible, to another dimension of “compared to what”?

Again, Einstein was nearly the first person to ever define relativity (or so we think; in truth, many before Einstein, such as Nāgārjuna described the matter) by pointing out that time and space are an inseparable partnership arrangement: Neither time nor space exists out-of-the-context-and pull of the other. Yet we all function because we are part of an illusion from which we can’t yet escape, desiring an out-of-the-box role to play. We really don’t have any possibility of collective survival so long as we cling to the idea of an “unreal, always good-vs-evil” mindset. The collective consciousness dance of Māyā is the certain pathway leading to more and more suffering until we all wake up from the dream and see it for what it is: The Spiritual Context within which the dream is constructed. Until that moment of collectively perceived peril, we will continue to not cease from raising an unreachable bar that exists only in un-reality, as our measure of worth.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The fundamental “why” of suffering.

Everyone suffers, nobody wants to and the vast majority of humanity wonders “why”. The short, answer is desire (or craving): we suffer because we crave something (or someone). So long as we possess or achieve the object of our desire, all is well but nothing lasts forever and when that object is no longer ours, we suffer. But that’s only a surface answer. We desire many positive things such as a desire to be free of suffering, love, joy, compassion, kindness, freedom, humility, and other desirable human qualities. Are we not supposed to desires such things? What would life be like without those positive qualities?
So the short answer is not enough since life would be grim without those qualities, albeit fleeting. To adequately explain the problem of suffering it is necessary to not only understand the locus of suffering but to experience the opposite. The easy part is the explanation. The hard part is the experience. One of the most preeminent Buddhist patriarchs (Nāgārjuna) summed up this challenge with what has now become known as “The Two Truth Doctrine”.

In Nāgārjuna’s Mūlamadhyamakakārikā the two truths doctrine is used to defend the identification of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) with emptiness (śūnyatā):

“The Buddha’s teaching of the Dharma is based on two truths: a truth of worldly convention (e.g., relative/conditional truth—my addition) and an ultimate (absolute/unconditional—my addition) truth. Those who do not understand the distinction drawn between these two truths do not understand the Buddha’s profound truth. Without a foundation in the conventional truth, the significance of the ultimate cannot be taught. Without understanding the significance of the ultimate, liberation is not achieved.”

Delving into the essence of this doctrine can be daunting. However, when the dust is blown away, the answer appears in gleaming splendor. The relative truth is one based on the perception of what we can see, touch, feel, smell, hear and think. That truth tells us we are all different, distinct and judgmentally, relatively worthy, or not. That truth is the basis of our ordinary sense of self (an ego). And so long as anyone understands themselves and others that way there will be war (of one form or another) and suffering will perpetuate. 

Critical to this perspective is the two-fold premises of śūnyatā/emptiness and dependent origination—the combined principle that everything can exist ONLY with an opposite dimension. Consequently, relative truth exists ONLY by virtue of absolute truth. And this latter is what destroys egotism. Anything that is absolute is without differentiation, and thus identical to things that seem different perceptibly. And neither the relative nor the absolute can exist apart from the other—they are joined at the hip.

What appears above is an explanation but not the experience (which alone will set you free from suffering). Sokei-an Shigetsu Sasaki said, “If you really experience ‘IT’ with your positive shining soul, you really find freedom. No one will be able to control you with names or memory of words—Socrates, Christ, Buddha. Those teachers were talking about consciousness. Consciousness is common to everyone. When you find your true consciousness, you will not need the names or words of any teacher.” 

That experience alone will set you free from suffering AND arising simultaneously will be the realization that all of us are absolutely the same. Consciousness just reflects like a mirror. It never dies, it doesn’t make judgments of good and bad, it eradicates the fear of dying since it is eternal, and at that deep level of being we will know with certainty that there is serenity in the midst of relative disaster.

Some may say, yes that may be so but what about the relative suffering of the world? Are we to simply “take the money and run” into seclusion with our own new-found wisdom and security? And the answer to that question is the mission of a Bodhisattva—one who has experienced the unity just depicted and chooses to return back into the fray so as to heighten awareness that suffering has a solution. 

And what must never be ignored is the value of suffering itself: the motivation that compels us all to seek a solution. Bodhidharma pointed out that we must accept suffering with gratitude since when we suffer we are compelled to reach beyond misery to find the way to bliss and eternal joy. He said, “Every suffering is a buddha-seed because suffering impels us to seek wisdom. But you can only say that suffering gives rise to buddhahood. You can’t say that suffering is buddhahood.”

It is our natural tendency to resist the bad and savor only the good, but the nature of relative life is constant change—here today, gone tomorrow and therein is the dilemma. 

In conclusion, I’ll share a poem of profound wisdom written by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (or simply Rūmī), the 13th-century poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic…

The Guest House

“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

Thursday, September 27, 2018

East meets West meets East

Merging East and West
Some years ago I wrote in a post (Journey thru Hell to Heaven), “I stand between the two worlds of East and West and my challenge is to fuse the two just as they were for me…” That comment created a misunderstanding of my intent causing some to think I was deprecating either the East or the West, with some responding that the movement from West to the East had corrupted the East (and some the reverse). My response was that it wasn’t a matter of who started what since my intention was to promote unity without concern for the initiation of the exchange. What few seem to recognize is this exchange is nothing new. The truth is it began as far back as the 6th century BCE following the death of The Buddha, due to the Diaspora of Buddhism out of India along the Silk Road to the West (and also throughout Asia). What even fewer recognize was the influence Buddhist thought had on the development of early Christianity. Today I want to put this issue into the proper framework by connecting a few important historical events of this exchange.

The latest archeological discovery of the Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal (the birthplace of the Buddha) establishes The Buddha’s life in the 6th century BCE. When he died his teachings moved out of India to the West along the Silk Road, through Asia Minor, Central Asia and eventually as far to the West as the Balkans. At that time in history, the Balkans included ancient Greece and philosophers who accompanied Alexander the Great during his conquests to the East carried Buddhist thought back to Greece.

Alexander’s conquest ended in India at the battle of the Hydaspes River in 326 BCE and he died three years later. During his eastern conquest several Greek philosophers, such as Pyrrho, Anaxarchus and Onesicritus, were allegedly selected by Alexander to accompany him and thus the exchange commenced. Pyrrho then returned to Greece and became the first Skeptic and the founder of the school named Pyrrhonism.

Upon the death of Alexander, a struggle for succession of power began ending when General Seleucus defeated his adversary in 312 BCE and started the Seleucid Empire that lasted for 259 years, ranging from northern India to the Balkans. The nature of the culture in this empire was a blend of Greek philosophy and Buddhism known as Greco Buddhism. Meanwhile, Buddhist thought was being well established back in Greece and is documented by quotes from philosophers of the time:

“Nothing really exists, but human life is governed by convention, and nothing is in itself more this than that” (Diogenes Laertius IX.61)

Another of these philosophers, Onesicritus, a Cynic, is said by Strabo to have learned in India the following precepts: “That nothing that happens to a man is bad or good, opinions being merely dreams. The best philosophy is that which liberates the mind from both pleasure and grief.” (Strabo, XV.I.65)

The Allegory of the Cave (also known as Plato’s Cave, or the Parable of the Cave) was presented by the Plato in his work The Republic: a major work that reflects the fundamental understanding that perceptible life is like a shadow whereas real life occurs by those perceiving the shadows.

The next critical step along this path of exchange occurred between educated Jews and the syncretic blend of Greco Buddhist thought. The Apostle Paul, more than any other person is responsible for the writing of the New Testament and because he was reared in a Greek and Roman environment, he received a thorough education in the Greek language, history, and culture. It is highly unlikely that he didn’t absorb this blend, even though he may not have been aware of the roots. By the time of his life, the syncretism had become common coin.

What has never been established is the impact this had on Jesus but what has been established is the effect on the emergence and proliferation on a branch of early Christianity known as Gnostic Christianity. During the nascent development of the official church, the Gnostics were considered as a heretical threat to the political development and eventually were destroyed. However, before their movement was brought to an end they hid their scrolls in a cave which were then discovered in December 1945, in the Upper Egyptian desert by an Arab peasant. The discovery has radically changed our understanding of the early Christians and shown the correspondence between what Jesus was recorded as having taught and fundamental Buddhist tenets. It is thus not surprising to grasp that the essential message of Jesus was the same as that of The Buddha: Unconditional, non-discriminate love.

It is a gross mischaracterization of basic Christianity as being different from basic Buddhism since they both teach the same thing. What has unfortunately occurred is for modern Christians to have blended a distorted understanding of the teachings of Jesus with Old Testament Judaism resulting in a mismatch between an “eye for an eye” conflict versus universal acceptance and brotherhood among all people.

So much for the history lesson concerning the exchange between the West and the East. The whole point is not who started what but rather to be aware that the foundation of both is a view of life that acknowledges an imperceptible, transcendent unity. It is the reality of the seer (e.g. consciousness) not the seen that should govern our lives. At that transcendent level, everything is indiscriminate and unified. We are all that unconditional consciousness that lies hidden beneath the perceptible dimension of relative life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Power of Deception.

A couple of days ago, The Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit was convened at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. The President of the Family Research Council (Tony Perkins) introduced the keynote speaker, Vice President Mike Pence, and said of him: He understands himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican,” in that order.

Yet Pence’s speech was as far away from the essential nature of genuine Christianity as one might be. His chosen venue has been designated as “anti-LGBT hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and what he said affirmed that description. If you wanted to sum up the speech into a nutshell it would be “look how great we are under Trump—chest-thumping and ideological superiority (e.g., us, the white-hats against them: the black-hats). Nothing about his speech promoted unity and caring for our fellow man but instead promoted the opposite.

Following a panel titled “How Gender Ideology Harms Children,” which included Dr. Michelle Cretella from the American College of Pediatricians, (also designated a right-wing quasi-religious hate group) Pence echoed the panel’s perspective that those who define themselves as LGBT are just sick individuals who are determined to break God’s intentions, are sinful and need to change their ways. According to the Family Research Council’s website, the Values Voter Summit was created in 2006 to “provide a forum to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, the sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.” 

Cretella has been excoriated by The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) with a response, titled: “I’m a Pediatrician. How Transgender Ideology Has Infiltrated My Field and Produced Large-Scale Child Abuse,” saying that Cretella pushes a perspective of “political and ideological agendas not based on science and facts”. SAHM destroyed her position showing how she cherry-picked bad science to reach her conclusion. Nevertheless, Pence continues to endorse Cretella’s conclusion with his own bad theology and in so doing destroys his own view of himself as being “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican.” And why might I say such a thing? To answer that question we must first define some theological terms and say what it means to be a real Christian instead of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

To the second issue (e.g., a real Christian) one must abide by the essential teaching of Christ to “love one another as I have loved you”. It is specious to claim the title without abiding by the essential teaching of the founder. And to the first issue (e.g., Theological terms) when Jesus taught that sort of love he was referring to a term found only in the New Testament. The term, in Koine Greek, is ἀγαπάω (agapē ) and meant “unconditional love”, or if you prefer “love with no strings attached—be they gender, race, ideology or any other means of discrimination”. So the concluding question here is whether or not Pence, and his puppet master Trump, are in fact promoting genuine Christian unity and love amongst all people, or a faux Christian wanna-be agenda that promotes division and one-up-man-ship? 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Paradox of Non-Choice

Some months ago I wrote a post called, “The high price of choice: winning battles, losing wars.” In that post I spoke about making choices based on perceptual differences. This post is an extension of that one, which I’ll call The Paradox of Non-Choice.

For nearly forty years I’ve tried, and failed, to articulate an experience that transformed my life. The reason for my failure concerns words, which by definition are reflections of matters that can only be expressed in reference to something else. The other thorny dilemma that has contributed to my failure is there are some things that can never be adequately explained, and this was one of those. But this morning I awoke with a sort of pictorial vision that perhaps gives me a way of describing that indescribable experience. I can, however, describe the picture which you can imagine in your minds-eye, and if you can assimilate the essence of the picture, there’ll be a reasonably good chance of grasping my experience beyond words I’ve struggled to describe for these many years. And this in turn can give you hope of realizing the goal of peace and harmony—unity with all things.

Picture in your minds-eye a three dimensional ball with an empty core. To help you see that, imagine “Wilson” the soccer ball that became the sole partner of Tom Hanks in his movie Cast Away. For those who didn’t see the movie, Hanks was a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashed in the South Pacific. Everything was lost except a soccer ball made by the Wilson sporting goods company. To keep from going insane Hanks developed a “relationship” with Wilson and that kept him from losing all hope.

Like Hanks, anyone can perceive the outside of a soccer ball but no one can perceive the inside (except through imagination, and imagination became the friend of Hanks). In order to perceive anything (and understand what is perceived) requires certain conditions, one of which is contrast. For example if everything is the color white and the surface of the ball is white, the ball couldn’t be seen. The outside of that ball then is properly called conditional—one thing contrasted with (or conditioned upon) another different thing. That being the case we could label the outside “relative,” or “conditional.”

Now we come to the inside of the ball which is empty or hollow. It’s invisible for two reasons: first, because it is hidden by the outside surface, and secondly because its empty, meaning nothing is there (except air, which can’t be seen). We could properly label the inside unconditional since emptiness, by definition is a vacuum lacking limitations or definition (except when seemingly confined, as in the case of the outer surface of a soccer ball). If we were to remove the outer surface, what was inside (nothing) would be the same as if there were no surface. It wouldn’t go anywhere since it was nowhere (yet everywhere) to begin with.

Now we can describe the ball entirely: the outer surface is relatively conditional and perceptible, while the inside is unconditional and imperceptible. Thus the ball is constructed within the framework of three dimensions: the outside with two dimensions and the inside with another. And (importantly) the outside is completely opposite from the inside (and in that sense also relative): neither the outside of a ball nor the inside could exist without the other. But when the inside core is isolated it is wholly unconditional. However, it can only be that way when confined within the outside conditional surface of the ball.

Now take the next step and relabel the ball as a living organism (one of which is a human) and this living organism is constituted in exactly the same way as the ball with only one addition: consciousness. Consciousness is a two-way street: there is an unconditional source that functions through perceptual mechanisms which are outwardly oriented to perceive relative things that are conditional. The one dimension that consciousness can’t perceive is consciousness itself since it is an unconditional, non-relative non-thing (no-thing/empty). And furthermore, anything unconditional is everywhere at once—outside as well as inside and completely lacking detection.

Since the function of consciousness is perception, it remains the source, wholly complete, and undetectable (empty). As such we remain unaware of its presence. We are aware of only things that are detectable and composed of two dimensions of differing natures. And unfortunately, we differentiate (or discriminate) these things into judgments of good/bad, right/wrong, black/white, up/down and on and on.

The problem here is that we conclude that everything is either this or that and go unaware that at the core everything is united into an unconditional, indefinable non-entity. Enlightenment is the pure sense is self-awakening (the experience of) penetrating through the outer surface of differentiated things and into the core where we experience/realize that everything is actually constituted as nothing (meaning emptiness). We then “know” our true, fundamental nature and at the same moment as this dawning, we realize we are neither good nor bad, white or black, or any other this vs. that. And with this dawning, we come to realize that everyone is exactly the same at that fundamental level—all united and unconditionally the same. 

So the next time you’re tempted to judge yourself, or another, just remember Wilson the soccer ball and know that your true self is just as empty (and thus the same as everything else).

Friday, September 7, 2018

Politics of fear.

I first wrote this post some years ago. Conditions have changed significantly since then. From time to time I revisit my posts to see if any have legs that continue to walk. This one does so I’m reposting to remind myself and others of the basic issues at stake.

My primary focus in writing is spiritual, and purists resist the notion of mixing that focus with political commentaries. I’m not a purist but rather of the opinion that if spirituality is of any worth it must integrate with changing conditions otherwise, it will remain a matter of navel-gazing, good for the gazer but not much beyond that. I am committed to sharing the wealth and honoring the responsibility of a Bodhisattva.

So what are the basic issues at stake? In a few words: freedom, liberty and equal justice. Those are the principles that underpin, not only our republic but are also the principles that all freedom loving people desire, wherever they live, throughout time. Without those principles, it is questionable if any form of spiritual practice can prevail for very long. Historically religious and spiritual leaders have been the keepers of moral standards that must guide any ship of state to ensure it steers clear of the rocky shoals. 

So then we come to the matter of before or after. Do spiritual leaders have an obligation to influence captains, crew, and occupants of the ship before it ends up on the shoals? Or must they act only once the ship is wrecked? And what obligation, if any, do the occupants have to the captain, or to the ship? Those are penetrating questions that must be thoughtfully considered. Human history shows examples of both the before and the after, but perhaps the most poignant statement came from Edmund Burke, the 18th century Anglo Irish political philosopher“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

As you will see from the link provided above, some question remains about the exact wording of that quote and who said it but the spirit is the same. Today good men and women are being bullied and subjugated into cowardice conduct by a man who is incapable of leading the free world, but is talented in divide and conquer. He is a master of instilling fear, not only into the hearts and minds of the occupants of the ship but also the lieutenants who are critical to keeping the ship off the rocky shoals.

 Unless you’ve been away on a distant planet, out of communications with people here on earth, you know that as of yesterday an equivalent of “deep throat,” from within the Trump administration, has warned of the hazards of his leadership. In effect, this amounts to an administrative coup that could very likely make the man even more paranoid than he is already, increasing the hazards instead of the opposite.

Years ago another New York Times article appeared written by Tom Edsall—professor of journalism at Columbia University and political commentator writing on events inside and outside of Washington. He grappled with controversial perspectives from a cross-section of social scientists who are researching the matter of “genopolitics”: the premise that we are hard-wired to see life through defined prisms that determine our political perspectives and affiliations. His article was inconclusive but ended by saying, “With so much riding on political outcomes—from default on the national debt to an attack on Syria, to attitudes toward climate change—understanding key factors contributing to the thinking of elected officials and voters becomes crucial. Every avenue for understanding human behavior should be on the table: how do we evaluate our goals? How should we judge trade-offs? And just how do we actually make decisions?” I couldn’t agree more. Indeed every avenue for understanding human behavior should be on the table, and that takes me to the focus of this post.

So long as we remain ignorant of the fundamental basis of being human, genopolitics or not, will make little difference and I (and many others) will continue to spin our wheels. The only relevant question is this: What is the fundamental basis of being human? And the related question: What happens when we fail to understand this central issue? The answer to that last question is painfully obvious: We continue on with the same failed behavior, dictated by fear, as always—we fight over differences, to our mutual destruction. All of us are riding in the same boat, enlightened together with the unenlightened. There are not two boats, only one, and how we collectively behave determines the outcome of us all. And to the first question, the fundamental basis of being human: Unity. Underneath all is our unity. As wise men have noted in the past—when water is subjected to the freeze of negativity, it turns into divided ice crystals. Heat ice with the warmth of unity and it turns back into indivisible water. We are all fundamentally water. After that, nature and nurture can and does shape us into divided conclaves.

We are the only animal on earth that has to learn how to be human. Ducks know, without being taught, how to be ducks. The same for every other animal, except us. We have to learn what it means, from the depths of our souls outward what it means to be “good men and women,” and until we do, evil will reign.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Perpetual host; Holy ghost.

The Spirit arises
This is going to be a risky post since adherents to different faiths get disturbed with connecting dots of similarity. Nevertheless I’ll willingly choose to go where “angels fear to tread” since my topic is of utmost importance. The best way to begin is with a quote from Shakespeare: “A rose by any other name smells as sweet.” His point, and mine, is while the name may change, the essence stays the same.

I’ve danced around this burning bush numerous times trying to convey the essential point that our human nature is like a constantly eroding house within which lives a permanent resident (with no name or status). Such posts as “Back to grammar school: the ghost of you and me,” “Guests and Hosts,” “The Watcher,” “Transcendence and the Middle Way,” “Nature of mind and the desire for liberation,” “Already, not yet,” “Separating wheat from chaff,” “East meets West meets East,” “If it walks like a duck…” and others, all address the point of this post but all by not reaching across the aisle. Now I will.

But before that reaching, my spring board will be a quote about a towering giant in the long line of Zen Masters: Huang Po

“The text (e.g., The Zen Teachings of Huang Po: On The Transmission Of Mind) indicates that Huang Po was not entirely satisfied with his choice of the word ‘Mind’ to symbolize the inexpressible Reality beyond the reach of conceptual thought, for he more than once explains that the One Mind is not really MIND at all. But he had to use some term or other, and ‘Mind’ had often been used by his predecessors. As Mind conveys intangibility, it no doubt seemed to him a good choice, especially as the use of this term helps to make it clear that the part of a man usually regarded as an individual entity inhabiting his body is, in fact, not his property at all, but common to him and to everybody and everything else. (It must be remembered that, in Chinese, ‘hsin’ means not only ‘mind’, but ‘heart’ and, in some senses at least, ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’—in short, the so-called REAL man, the inhabitant of the body-house.) If we prefer to substitute the word ‘Absolute’, which Huang Po occasionally uses himself, we must take care not to read into the text any preconceived notions as to the nature of the Absolute. And, of course, ‘the One Mind’ is no less misleading, unless we abandon all preconceived ideas, as Huang Po intended.”—Commentary by John Blofeld (Chu Ch’an): The Zen Teachings of Huang Po: On The Transmission Of Mind

That’s a safe segue onto the other side of the aisle, that addresses the Christian principle of The Holy Ghost who/which resides in “born again Christians”. The rose smells as sweet but the name changes, as do the presuppositions. In the case of Buddhism, the host (True man of no rank, according to Master Lin Chin/Rinzai; Huang-Po’s student) was the eternal “REAL man, the inhabitant of the body-house”

The obvious difference between the teachings of orthodox Christianity and Buddhism, concerning the indwelling Spirit, is that Christian dogma says only those who confess Christ as Lord will be “born again” and receive the Holy Spirit. However, this dogma contradicts another fundamental aspect of Christian teaching which says that God is eternal and omnipresent. Consequently there is a fly in this ointment, that was addressed by Meister Eckhart (Christian mystic)“We shall find God in everything alike, and find God always alike in everything”.

Mystics (all) have plunged the depths to the essence of their natural being whereas those who remain unenlightened see the surface and not the depths. For these, “…the great majority of people, the moon is the moon and the trees are trees”.