Monday, July 28, 2008

Night Falls

"So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. I would stand upon facts." - Thoreau

Friday, July 25, 2008


We think! And we feel. Yet are not both thoughts and feelings tangled and woven together? It seems that thoughts arise just as easily as feelings, and often one with the other to accompany. Even the most studious and analytic minds are laced with feeling. So it's better to say that you are neither thoughts nor feelings, but slip in between. Yet, we commonly mistake ourselves with this thought-feeling process, pre-packaged in the illusion of time and space (thoughts, and objects). Sheesh! What's it all mean? Only that, you may witness both thoughts and feelings arise, but you are neither of them ultimately. Smile today, frown tomorrow. These are but ripples and waves, and remember, you are not neither.

So what's it mean? Ignore thoughts? Ignore feelings? To do so would be to utterly miss the point, to trip the sign-post and fall into another game (If you'd prefer that, by all means- and keep reading, too). If we see, non-conceptually the present, our filters fall away for a greater recognition of Self, Absolute and "No-thing." The thoughts and feelings, ripples and tides, people and places do not vanish, but they certainly lose their magical "objectivity." It makes life all-the-more connected, vibrant and sensitive. And by life, this is also meant for "you." So we begin to feel, think and breath- and play! For you, I have no interest in changing, waring, manipulating or pulling at egos. For who is there to attach the strings, and what hand is there to pull them?

On Papers, People and the Like

Leave it to us writers, thinkers to come up with such elaborates tales as "selves." What are such things? Are we not playing pretend when we scribble and theorize, propose and identify? Who is there to pretend? What fascinating masks we weave to ensue a drama of "me," or in academic cases, "us," to play it all out and act as if we are so certain of things, which are indeed nothing but passing in and out of nothing. Beneath our masks, under the stage, we rest in the void- and do not confuse this with nihilism (Yet another game of pretend). Truly, the only place there is anything is nowhere, and the only moment we can find ourselves, true selves (pardon these words, for they are ultimately signposts resting on infinity), is in this moment. What is the past? Do we think? 

Perhaps that is the problem; no past exists but our memories, and no future but a speculative gaze, lost in thought. All that rests is presence. This is not obvious, but inherent. If we want to understand ourselves, we can't do it through theorizing (Beating the bush, for certain!) It can only be done directly, now, here. Then we see there is no "we" nor "you," and so you are all things. You are other. You are sunsets, papers, peoples and the like. 

Even so, let us carry on and continue the rabble another day longer. 

Sociology Cocktail Spiked with Tao

Who are you?
You are not any object.
Where are you?
You are no place.
Then what is the meaning of all this?
There is no "You" to ask this question,
So who is asking?

In the Present

Staying in the present with "who we are," but are we really staying? If anything, all we can do is recognize the moment non-conceptually. It's before action, and before thought, so it's non-action, non-thought. 

There's no remaining, only training this little "self" to see, simply. Presence is, existence is. You can rest at the bottom of this ocean like the gently rolling waves, but you are not the currents, nor are you the ripples and bubbles that flow through. You, somehow, slip between the spaces and the concepts, somewhere elusive. Not even the term "somewhere" would signify or help us understand you, for this is no-where. Krishnamurti often said that total-negation is the essence of positive. And what does this mean? That to understand "nothing" as "no-thing," (relativity, objects, ideas, concepts) is our true nature. Far from being a barren wasteland, for such a notion would conjure an idea desert or an empty shell of a soul-which is still conceptualizing! True emptiness is the essence of all being- and actions, light, dark, relative and conceptual and yes, you and me as objects arise from it. Take the metaphor of a blue sky. In Dzogchen Buddhism, a meditative practice is to simply "sky gaze." Note that when watching a clear blue sky, you cannot see where it begins or ends, simply that it is without limit in any direction. You lose yourself in this, and that is nothing more or less than what I am trying to say.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Afraid of Who..

The one argument that is often cited against the spiritual experience: It is a false claim, a projection of the mind, and it is unprovable. It cannot be verified with another person. But what about Buddhism? 

It seems easier to pick on the metaphysics of Christianity, since a belief in God often implies a deity, a person or a conceptualized version of the ultimate. (That is a paradox- how can the infinite be expressed and believed in finitely?) This metaphysical being is not provable either way, and so the cyclical arguments go on.

Yet I can't help but question if they apply to some claims Buddhism makes:

-That there is a cosmic consciousness, super-mind, void, true Self, etc. 
-These claims are based on the teacher's experience.
-These claims can be repeated and verified.
-Test these claims empirically, through meditation.

Mystical Christians make similar claims, and from a philosophical or rational standpoint, these would not fall into the same category as blind faith, mythic beliefs or superstitions, nor a general fear of the unknown.

We may strive for security in a universe we do not totally understand, but it is not so much that we have "failed" to know things "out there," as much as we do not see our own identity clearly. Our fear is not of the unknown, it is our own shadows. We project fear into the unknown, and not necessarily the other way. Self preservation, psychological and physical security- these drive us to form ideologies and revert to seeing the world through them. It is only through self understanding, recognizing our unconscious fears, that we can transform our understanding and our action. We must be authentic in order to authentically see the world in a new light. Yet, self-reflection (not intellectual but directly observing ourselves) proves to be the hardest of trials.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Letter to a Christian Nation"

I'm currently reading this book by Sam Harris. Honestly, as great as "The End of Faith," was -this book is short, sweet and to the point. Today I found a short piece of writing by Vonnegut, in which he writes,

Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.
This holds true, especially for touchy, deep and complex issues; an equally complex style of writing can make the points elusive. From what I've watched of the debates between Harris and others, they only prove this point. Often times debaters will make points that were already addressed in Harris' book. At any rate, this writing style is simple and straight-forward for the most part. It contains statistics, opinions and basic reasoning for the attitudes in "The End of Faith." It's also much easier on the eyes. However, I wonder sometimes about the particular point in his thesis. I'll do my best to accurately portray it:

Religion is an enabler for human irrationality, tribalism and violence, more so than anything else. Therefore, faith, or blind faith in mythical deities is something that has been used as an excuse for hatred, bigotry and ignorance throughout history. By changing the dialogue from defending faith to questioning it's place in our society, we are moving to a better, more rational dialogue.

I sympathize with this view, except that I believe it has more to do with the human tendency to identify with particular ideologies that has created religion, and blind faith, in the first place. It is a form of security that has been built slowly over the eons. Our fear of what we think the unknown allows us to build up walls in defense, and to fight those who would dare to, or appear to, question the stability of those walls of security. Religion and faith, like any institution, is a result of human fear and psychological preservation, rather than a cause of it. It is used as an excuse, but who do we think created faith? This "it" out there must first be owned as a creation, and identified as a projection of our own desire for safety. To me, religion is a reaction, not an action in itself. 

Having said this, I do not believe that spirituality and religion are entirely separate entities. We do have spiritual experiences; they exist as a phenomenon that empirical science still grips to understand. Sam Harris seems to agree on this point, receiving much objection from his readers, one of whom believed he was, "Getting soft," on religion.

At any rate, the reading continues! 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Falling under the spell?

Ever notice how easy it is to find a particular view about the world utterly convincing? How we tend to adapt particular attitudes, some of them passionately and thoroughly, and at times find ourselves alienated from our own potential to understand another's viewpoint? Like finding ourselves at the driving end of an ideological spear, we suddenly realize we are defending a view, exploring how it works itself out in the real world. Take race and gender as an example; you notice how it permeates society, so you begin to (if it has been sufficiently imprinted on you by the university, or a particular interest of yours), see how it all plays out. You play the conquistador of equal rights, the bringer of multiculturalism. Seeing a real problem, a part of you sympathizes with the efforts, and wishes to play a part in the on-going war "against" ignorance, injustice and inequality. 

Or, in the case of the new atheists, part of you actively takes on a personal effort to immerse yourself in rationalist thought, watching dialogues between the greater ideological spokespeople, reading books and joining forums. You identify with the cause. Your forum tag becomes Dawkins quotes or Sam Harris, or any particular rationalist for that matter. Your identity, at this point, has immersed and linked itself entirely, or at least strongly with the movement, the effort, and the ideas involved.

In both of these cases, we allow ourselves to be strongly shaped by our passionate interest for a subject that we agree on. It seems natural for humans to bind together and identify with groups, be they larger or smaller. Yet it also seems at least a little dangerous in that by giving our minds over to be, in a sense, conditioned by an ideology (fanatic or not) is to limit our ability to understand another. By building the mind for specific tasks, we allow it to be less open to the receptivity of others (Not always, but frequently).

I find in many of the debates online, no matter what particular argument is going on, both sides fail to make the jump to a common ground in which one begins to thoroughly understand the other. Mistakes in interpretation, or simple strong identification with a viewpoint clouds the debaters judgement so that he or she may often miss a critical and interesting point about the "opponent." On the same token, the debater may even make poor arguments based on not thoroughly seeing what the oppositional view is. The fact that we disagree, conceptually, is not something that can be avoided. It goes almost without saying that to disagree is almost natural for us, but the inability to perceive another's attitude, to see through their perspective is something that is so far and few between, yet so important as the information age progresses. Unless we really do wish to see fragmentation, it's important for us to accept that perhaps we cannot entirely understand another's view, but maybe that is not necessarily important. Even agreeing or disagreeing, it may seem, may not be terribly important - save some vital issues and decisions.

In fact, that's the main point trying to be made here: Our agreements or disagreements, our theories and attitudes and ideologies we often follow are more about identification, emotional attachment and willing self-conditioning rather than objective "arguments" or clearly grounded perspectives.

Our ideas are ingrained into our psyche. They are rooted in our conscious and our unconscious, our battlefield, or playground of concepts in which we identify, and this occurs through various environmental and internal factors. The more we understand it's less about "I disagree!" and more about, "I identify strongly with this concept, and since this is who I am, I must defend myself!" We essentially allow our conceptual mind and emotional unconscious to continually shape our identity through time.

Perhaps more often than not debate is little more than ego battling ego, identity versus identity, using the other's defeat to build up your own. In many cases, our interests are sincere. They are not outright selfish, but to observe how we identify with a particular cause, it would greatly help us to not be so blinded by our own belief systems, and so arrogant with others.

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