|MY NATURE-INSIGHT BLOG Although starting this blog as a personal diary recording development, it has now become more of a description of my journey. On the way I make mistakes, and I try to go back to correct them; it is important to me that you note the warnings. Please read the journey that is part of all our journeys. The blog is now archived. I originaly termed it my Buddhist-Spirit blog because I oscillated between the two, now there is no oscillation in Nature's Insights blog.|
First Half of 2007 Go to Archive
I have previously discussed the three platforms of developing mind, energy and body. I have put this together in a personal development system:-
Apart from suggesting that development occurs through these three platforms Zandtao suggests nothing new, it is more about integration.
|Theme - Personal Development|
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|Fire from Within|
Most books I read are concerned with my journey. Often I compare the understanding in the books with my understanding of Buddhism, and as a result it enhances my real understanding - understanding of Nature - the purpose of the journey - learning about Nature. So I intend to formalise this by blogging it, but it will make my blog unworkable having a huge entry for each book. So each book will have its own blog - referred to in the appropriate blog -usually Nature Insight blog.
The book I am beginning with is Carlos Castaneda's "Fire from Within". The Knowledge of Don Juan through Castaneda was very formative in my 20's. After hitting bottom through drink and rejection of system education, I began exploring some of the 60's literature espoused by the hippies. One book that had a profound impact was Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (see warning), this is not a 60s book - written 1976 but I believe it grew out of the 60s. Another was the book Journey to Ixtlan by Castaneda. This caught me at just the right time, and as part of my understanding I went off into the forests of the Ardennes, intentionally got lost, and found myself again. Amusingly I didn't have the strength of my convictions as when I found the road I followed it thus adding an extra hour onto my journey. I was at no time in danger but the experience was valid and I would trust again my insight to find my way out.
Anyway here is the link to Fire from Within blog.
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I have just realised that breathing is an important part of the energy system, but I don't understand how as yet. Dan Reid describes "The Art and Science of Breathing" including the four steps of breathing - inhalation compression exhalation and intermission, and I have begun this [p124-135]. Because I am concerned about alignment and balance at the moment, I have also begun alternate nostril breathing. He mentions that the nasal passages are lined with chi receptors [p127], that's the theory but at the moment where is the insight on breathing?
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Bangkok Sabaie-Sabaie I am too comfortable. This has led to too much entertainment and an appalling attachment to computers. The computer attachment was crazy, for a while I was a full-time network manager. This was a mental attitude. I wanted the computers just so. I had fallen into the trap that the computers were my "people bit" because of the website and the "people bit" and computers became synonymous. But computers are job, they are daily life. As such they are to be done right but without attachment.
In computer terms I need to find the best way the computer functions and leave it at that. This means establishing the computer setup and then cloning it. The data will change but the setup won't. I will have to evaluate the system to include clone updating, how often this is I will have to work out? I waste time on entertainment - on the downloading. I need to evaluate how much time as it is now too much. But the downloading leads to the USB external problems. I need to learn about the tools to check hard drives, and I need to learn about data recovery. Hopefully I can then control the hard drive situation. At the moment backup is under control, but is changing. Data and clones on two drives and clones online, occasionally updating the data online. Maybe I clone the data as well, it might be quicker. As part of my computer job I will understand hard drives so that they will be under control as well. I will use the Thai system for Windows rather than buying legal Windows. This means updating the Windows CD rather than buying legal. It will mean a regular (annual?) format and reinstall of Windows, and then new clones. ACER laptop and netbook have legal windows so once I have cloned they should be legal. I can use my legal Windows on ACER and remember to download the correct drivers - I think this was my blue screen problem. As for the new computer we will have to wait and see what I end up with.
But this is job, and as job this sets the priority as not important but daily life. The use of the computer for entertainment is also daily life and needs to be placed in that context. Entertainment and computers have become too important, and have eaten into the journey. They are not journey but distractions, and need to be treated as such.
I want to add here the issue of movement and stillness as yinyang. The movement has taken great strides at balance through the improvement of food and Chi-gung but as such they are movement, and stillness needs to balance. Recently meditation has been treading water, much-too-much a daily requirement rather than an active stillness. Bangkok Buddha Nature will help this - see next blog for this.
But daily life has recently gained too much importance with the over-emphasis on computing and the gradual incursion into more of the day of entertainment. Returning to Trat I need to reclaim the balance for the journey. And journey might be an appropriate word here. Travelling previously took me out of my sabaie environment, and the self-reliance in travelling made me re-evaluate. Again Bangkok has done this for me but trips to Bangkok are good as different but not as good in terms of what it is - a shopping spree. What I need is back-to-Nature self-reliance and that is the Phantom - there is no other way of getting in Nature and eating the right food. Phantom! Big step!
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|Bangkok Buddha Nature|
On Sunday I listened to HH Phakchok Rinpoche - a very powerful man - perhaps too raw. I was impressed with his bootstrap honesty, it was inspiring. I suspect he was asked to speak of the differences between Vajrayana and Theravada, and I felt as if Theravada was belittled. I don't believe that was the speaker's intention but must happen naturally as His Path is Vajrayana. There is also a Vajrayana teaching that places this in context. HHPR continually spoke of Hinayana. Hinayana means lesser vehicle, by the very use of the term Theravada comes in second.
I recall two clear distinctions that HHPR made between Vajrayana and Hinayana - Buddha-Nature and "free from hope and fear". There were more but these registered. Buddha-Nature hit home during the talk. I have now worked out a weakness in my meditation. Unity with Nature sometimes happens so that is good but it would be better at times to add Qualities to this Nature. I recall here the 4 Braham-Viharas that have helped before:-
Metta - Lovong Kindness
Karuna - Compassion
Muditta - Sympathetic Joy
Upekkha - Equanimity
So in meditation trying to be the 4 Brahma-Viharas will be the beginning of my being Buddha-Nature. At the same time I need to investigate what Vajrayana means by Buddha-Nature as in Theravada, hopefully Pandit Bhikkhu's paper will shed light on this second and the book the "Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen" will help with the first. More on this.
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|Following One Tradition and Monasticism|
I have repeatedly discussed my concerns over eclecticism being an attraction of the intellectual mind rather than the insightful mind. This came up again with regards to Vajrayana and then later in discussions with Mahayana. Here is a specific example, that of Buddha-Nature. Whilst never calling it that I have always believed that if we are in tune with Nature then Nature guides us. Once tuned in there is an aspect of Nature guides. Where is that aspect? Inside us or still in Nature doesn't matter to me because of the Unity of all things in Nature. Whilst Nature exists around us including us, it is not the phenomena of Nature that I am talking about but the noumena. I am tempted to use the duality of manifest and unmanifest but in truth that can't be right. It is a question to be asked.
For me this aspect of Nature that guides us is Tao, and I have always taken what Buddhadhasa calls Voidness or Emptiness as the same. And I thought I could safely call this Buddha-Nature.
But it is not safe because the above apparently crossed the three traditions of Therevada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. And this is from a person who thought he was a one-tradition man - Theravada.
So I need to examine my allegiance to one Tradition. I chose Theravada because I was a Communist. As a Communist I learned that there are dangers to revision as opportunists use revision to gain power. I met this notion of revisionism elsewhere. How often in literature do people write what the original author is saying, and yet in truth it is only an interpretation. So therefore I didn't want an interpretation of what the Buddha said, but what he actually said.
Now this is not easy to do within Theravada itself. There is an informed Bhikkhu Bodhi talk that describes in detail the following, but here is how I interpreted it. At the time of the Buddha nothing was written down. However at the time it was the practise that people were responsible for oral tradition. It might be the case that one particular person was responsible for recounting the details of the Buddha's trip to London and what he said there. After about fifty years the people who were responsible for these oral aspects came and wrote them down, and these became known as the suttas.
I used to know what the Pali Canon and the Tipitaka were defined as but I have forgotten - Buddhist Dictionary!! Not on my netbook here, will have to wait until I go home before I sort that out. But I want to discuss the Abhidhamma. Now the Abhidhamma as far as I understand it is a collection of intellectuals who attempted to collate all that is in the Suttas to make it more presentable. It was ratified by some Theravada council, I think. I gave up on the Abhidhamma because it required that I condition my mindset to the vocabulary and concepts of the Abhidhamma before I could reach an understanding, and that looked as if it would take a long time.
Why else do I call myself Theravadin? Because of Ajaan Munindo and Harnham. He came from the Forest Sangha tradition which is Theravadin, and because I followed his Dhammsakkachas I considered myself Theravadin. And there was Ajaan Chah whose books helped me a lot. So in fact I have never studied the suttas, says much for my back to the originals position.
And then at some stage I latched onto Ajaan Buddhadhasa who I have just been told was part Mahayana. Then recently I have studied some of Thay, and I knew he was Mahayana. And this weekend I listened to Vajrayana. Two people suggested I consider the monkhood this last week, and quite simply how can I with this lack of clarity?
But what is this lack of clarity? It is that I am unclear about the labels. In the opening paragraph I discussed Buddha-Nature or .... or .... or .... synonyms. Forget the words. There is something discussed as Buddha-Nature that I know a little of, it is Real and The Most Important Thing (RTMIT). Now the words that are used within different traditions, approaches, whatever to describe RTMIT - they can never do it justice and can never convey understanding of even the little that I have experienced(?). But RTMIT is RTMIT, and RTMIT is. Nothing can knock down that statement, it is completely solid. But if I try to tell someone what I mean, I cannot. I end up using words that there is debate about, traditions with differences that are small or big or whatever.
So even if I wanted to take up orders I now cannot - whose robe would I put in. I am seeking understanding, but only one person can give me that understanding. His Holiness Phakckok Rinpoche had great power. He took time out at the beginning to thank his teachers and lineage. He clearly stated that he was who he was because of that teaching and lineage. Obviously true. What if I were to see emulation of HHPR as a Path? Then it wouldn't be the case that I could listen to his teachings because his teachings would only scratch the surface of his teachers and lineage. So the Tibetan robe requires immersion in a great amount of teachings.
To be Theravadin would require a great deal of Sutta stuff to be sure. And what Mahayana stuff would I need? Many years in Plum Village?
I thought I had immersed myself in the Theravadin Path but in truth I haven't. Taking the decision not to be a monk has led me on an independent Path which has inadvertently crossed into other traditions.
As a result of this week I have picked up a number of cross-tradition books, it now looks as if my Path is eclectic despite my criticism of the approach. Maybe deepening what is in Zandtao is my way forward as independence seems to be the choice my heart has made.
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|Warning - Learning and Being|
This is my first blog as an independent Buddhist. I therefore must put out a warning. Previously I felt I had followed Theravada and perhaps moved away from that by studying Ajaan Buddhadhasa, but there was clear traditional authority there. Now as an independent Buddhist, my eclectic combining is not going to have any authority other than my Inner Guide - hopefully I will not allow my ego to get in the way. My intention is to study more widely, and hopefully learn from the different practises.
To begin with I altered my meditation today. Rather than just following my own version of vipassana ie not enough focus on the breath and practises of unity with Nature, I also tried the Brahma-Viharas. I have used them before when I was Theravada, now I was using them as a recognition of Buddha-Nature. So there was a dual process going on, at one time I was Learning through Insight and at another time I was being Metta, Karuna, a little Muditta and no Upekkha. They felt different, and it felt that I shouldn't attempt both at the same time.
But I didn't feel any antagonism, there was no antagonism between learning and being. However learning was different, for learning became unlearning what was stopping me from being. Both processes were incompatible at the same time but not incompatible as a process of realising. The incompatibility lies in the technique or perhaps my misuse of vipassana. Focus on the breath and let the mind go where it wants and then bring it back. Being metta does not allow the mind to go where it wants, it is metta. At my current stage these are different. But it felt good to be metta, to be karuna. I can see a way forward at the moment. Begin the morning with insight meditation, use the insight to learn - unlearn, and round it off with being meditation. If this works then add this to Zandtao.
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|First on death|
The next investigation of the independent Buddhist is death. Death is not an issue that I have previously investigated much. I have always said I don't fear death, and as far as I see I don't. I have a fear of getting old and being incapacitated and in pain, but death itself I don't fear. Why? I have always believed in reincarnation, maybe that has something to do with it. This is really difficult, there must be a lot to it. Once I found the Path - hitting bottom, I have always tried to follow it to varying degrees. This has led to a level of happiness and fulfilment, and I have felt that being in such a state of happiness and fulfilment it would be OK to die. I clearly don't have a good answer.
Let me consider the recent death of others, my parents. My mother spent the last 20 years in pain, lived a fulfilling life in those years - more fulfilling than her earlier life for personal reasons, and apparently even in great pain she was in hospital couple of days and struggled on her death bed to stay alive. My father on the other hand wished himself to death. He had been without my mother for 5 months, went to the club and on the way home died of a stroke. What does this mean? My mother was spiritual and struggled, my father did not - he was willing to die. Maybe he saw himself escaping the pain that was his life or the pain of separation from his wife?
So I have no understanding of death, have a vague notion that I don't mind dying as I have lived a life that is fulfilling.
To investigate this I have begun a book called "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche. My contact with Tibetan Buddhism has been very mixed. I have read some of HHDL, always clear and straightforward and wise - and without too much dogma. I was greatly impressed with Tibet but maybe that was the country. And then I had that interesting flirtation with the New Kadampa Tradition in Chorlton where the people were great but the requirements of Guru worship and litany-bashing did not bear well with me.
The first thing I note was a description of dying [p12]:- "Realisation of the nature of mind, which you would call our innermost essence .... is the key to understanding life and death." That's meaty. "For what happens at the moment of death is that the ordinary mind and its delusions die, and in the gap the boundless sky-like nature of our mind is uncovered. The essential nature of mind is the background to the whole of life and death, like the sky, which folds the whole universe in its embrace."
Paraphrasing what is said on the same page, if we only know the ego then when we die we are so wrapped up in the ego we do not know of what continues. If we do understand the nature of our minds then when it is revealed though the gap (of dissolved ego), we can identify with what is revealed and achieve liberation.
This holds great meaning for Nibbana. Nibbana is some sort of state of perfection to be in through good practice, to be quite honest I have never felt the possible likelihood of Nibbana, nor does it matter as I am hopefully following my Path and that's all I can do. But somehow if this following of Path produces with it an understanding of innermost essence that can identify with revealed essence at the time of death, then there is something here. And that something is greater work to understand and be the essence, and to develop the ability to be that essence at will so that at the time of death the identification - returning to the Tao - can occur.
This is a lot.
Just an interesting Theravadin observation here - a bit of a devil's advocate. "The bardo teachings show us precisely what will happen if we prepare for death and what will happen if we do not" [p14]. This does not talk about doing it for all sentient beings. It is not necessary to talk about as it is assumed - as it is assumed in Theravada. My point is that it is not necessary to always be explicitly caring for all sentient beings as it is understood. Yet at the same time in the mould of wish-fulfilment tapes the more you say it the more it happens.
For myself it is important to weigh the balance of my helping sentient beings and my personal journey, but my journey is owed much by the 30 years of service in teaching.
|Theme - Death|
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|Death and Inconsistency|
Warning - In these discussions on death I am not relying on a tradition. It is no good my saying I am taking a bit from this tradition and that tradition, and giving that as a justification for what is being said. That does not have its own integrity. Integrity or sila is what I hope to achieve through my journey but in these initial steps on the death journey I cannot claim that integrity. Having given this warning I still see these blogs as being as a result of meditational insight. Previously with that insight I thought I had the protection of the Theravadin tradition as an authority, but I have since realised, being independent, that I cannot guarantee those insights can be attributed to a tradition. Whilst that makes no difference to me in my acceptance of them it might cast doubt for those reading (if anyone does!!). But of course what matters with Buddhism is persona acceptance, and that leads me to death.
In consideration of death in meditation a number of avenues are opening up. First there is a strange one - death is life. This sounds truly crazy except that what underlies it is that there is life after death, and that is the life essence that is present throughout an individual's life and then passes on. For this life there is continuity - reminds me of Tan Punnyo's clarity on "consciousness". And recognising this continuity makes me feel more likely to accept death as the rejoining of essence. And in this rejoining what happens to the ego it disappears, and it helps to recognise this disappearance in life because then there can more easily be an identification with the essence at death.
Thinking of death makes samsara so much more easy to accept, and this is so important. Why should Buddhism be inconsistent? Throughout Buddhism it says that we must be comfortable with what we believe/know, and then suddenly they say reincarnation and you must believe that because the Buddha says that if you are advanced enough you can believe it yourself. Looking at death moves one away from that, examining the continuation of life essence in death means the wheel has a road. Along this essence road the wheel travels dipping in and out of individuality as learning grows - with kamma directing the learning.
In the egoic dissolution this essence road implicitly defines, one immediately sees the consistency of the essence road, and the inconsistency of the ego that holds to life. What this is is the ego of personal knowledge. Through manifest life we are taught to see our egos as consistent - as intelligent, this is the hold the intellect holds on us. This apparent intelligence, the intellectual ego, explains all supposedly, and in so doing we can attach ourselves to this ego. So where is the inconsistency? Death. Ego cannot hold onto death unless ego comes up with gardens of paradise as life after death, and no matter how many people hold onto this image it clearly is not a real image. Whatever death may be surely we, as in our current personal ego, cannot see it as a garden where we sit endlessly in supposed bliss? I for one would go crazy if this personal ego were forced to sit in eternity on a swing eating apples. However if best states of mental bliss were sustainable, wouldn't that be heavenly? This is not connected to swings and apples.
Here again is where the intellectual ego compromises with belief. The ego can work with faith in an after-life whilst the after-life does not threaten the ego. But thinking about death surely has to bring that precarious balance into question, that precarious balance of delicate faith in death, with incumbent fear to prevent true insight, and rational intellect in life. How much more consistent is it to feel the essence road that travels through many deaths and lives?
But what stops acceptance of this essence road? The survival instinct of the ego in life, the personality that is all. Letting go of that personal ego allows the essence to become more part of our manifest lives and helps in the identification process in death.
And any destruction of the consistency of human ego is helpful. The more we see that there is no identity or personal ego, the more in life we can identify with this essence. Intellect holds onto this consistency by its reputed ability to explain. It purports that our intellectual personality is a collection of thoughts and ideas that are held together by rational connections, and in so doing creates a significant part of ego. It further implicitly purports that this intellectual ego explains all that there is to explain through science and rationality, but on close inspection there is a complete inconsistency in this. However the survival need of the ego protects these raison d'etres through expressions of anger, insulting and deriding alternative positions, and creating fear either through individuals or institutions that cement the ego's foundations - that there is an intellectual ego that explains and justifies all.
Death is an important tool in the destruction of the intellectual ego.
|Theme - Death|
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|Death as a Motivation|
Warning - Even as I write this I have doubts about whether it should be done, yet at the same time it helps me at the moment. What is the motivation I am talking about?
I had given up on Nibbana. I wake up every day, and see the selves and defilements in me. I don't beat myself with a stick, but I look at the desires and other things that take me away from meditation and I give up on Nibbana. To be fair to myself much of this could be included in responses to everyday life but all make Nibbana seem so distant.
But death brings it nearer because in death there is an objective, as the Borg would say assimilation. But in this case the assimilation is voluntary, and you have many conditions to be met. It makes me look at my meditation, and the control I have of my mind. What if I died in the evening? In the evening I have difficulty meditating and clearing my mind so would I recognise the "Light" in the evening? What if I died in my sleep, would there be a state of mind for fusion? That one I don't have an answer for. In the morning however my mind is much clearer. Having the motivation that my mind should be clear and ready for death helps.
This reminds me of Castaneda's "death is always over your left shoulder". Now when I read this I interpreted it as meaning that I must do something of value with my life as death can always happen. And that doing should be immediate with death being always present - no prevarication. But the above brings a whole new level to the approach - working towards the situation where my mind is ready for fusion.
What is the warning about? I am concerned about this being a shortcut. Making the mind ready for fusion might well just be a misdirection. Can I ever be ready without removing all defilements? However it appears easier to make myself ready to recognise death so that is a motivation. Perhaps in the end I will do more about removing the defilements that I am too complacent about.
After writing this I came across this quote in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinoche [p12] "A description of the nature of mind leads naturaly onto a complete instruction on meditation, for meditation is the only way we can repeatedly uncover and gradually realise and stabilise that nature of mind." This gives some credence to the direction I am following but to understand the full nature of mind there will have to be no defilements.
|Theme - Death|
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So I ask myself is there anything to be gained in my practice by thinking of Buddha-Nature? This is a question I posed in the Littlebang thread:-
For me the answer is yes, it gives me a sense of duty and responsibility. And in my limited understanding of Theravada I can see a role for Buddha-Nature, and a distinction between the traditions.
Nature has given me my part of Buddha-Nature, and I have a responsibility to It. It is my duty to look after It. It is my duty to keep It clean and pure and not damage It with defilements. It is my duty not to block It off with delusion and ignorance, or cloud It with fear and anger. It is my duty not to create egoic barriers (atta), such as intellect and desire, that prevent It from showing through. These descriptions of duty and responsibility bring the process home. my Buddha-Nature must shine, and it is my responsibility to make sure that happens.
Does Theravada bring it home? Ajaan Chah, among others, talks of one of the three characteristics, anatta. Combining that with a word used in the Littlebang thread, we have removing the selves leaves the Unconditioned. This has a feeling of not being a personal duty. OK they are my personal defilements, my fear and anger, my intellect blocking, but what are they all limiting - the Unconditioned - something distant and not personal. In a sense it feels remote; my Buddha-nature does not feel remote, it is right at home always.
Having said this there is a major danger of ego in this, hence the intentional non-capitalisation of my throughout. Let me draw a comparison with a Course in Miracles, a book I consider dangerous and stopped reading (see Course in Miracles warning). At the time I stopped studying it, it was building up to the notion that "I am God", presumably that then by accepting that I am God I am in a position to perform miracles. There was power in this course - the power to create "miracles", and this God-like power was being given to I. It felt so dangerous that the ego could become I, and have such awful consequences - extreme example Crowley.
This is a danger of my Buddha-Nature, It is not mine, It is Unconditioned, It is Unity, Tao. But the ego (selves) will want to make it "possessed by ego". One thread contribution quoted this Mahayana teaching:- "But this Buddha-nature remains one. My root teacher when asked about this has used the term Hanmaum for Buddha-nature, and Juingong for the Buddha-nature in each person, but she is very clear that it is a mistake to talk of MY Buddha-nature or YOUR Buddha-nature!"
This could also be the danger in being bodhisattva, as referred to by another in the thread. The ego will be happy being a bodhisattva, and this might not be skilful.
So there is a tightrope to walk in accepting this duty towards my Buddha-Nature, but we always walk the tightrope of ego. Therefore as a temporary mechanism for me, taking on the duty and responsibility of caring for my Buddha-Nature is skilful.
|Theme - Buddha-Nature|
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|The Trickster Guru|
I found this funny and have purloined it from Monkeymind via Marcus (Marcus has discontinued this blog)who provided the link.
The Trickster Guru
by Alan Watts
The attractions of being a trickster guru are many. There is power and there is wealth, and still more the satisfactions of being an actor without need for a stage, who turns "real life" into a drama. It is not, furthermore, an illegal undertaking such as selling shares in non-existent corporations, impersonating a doctor, or falsifying checks. There are no recognized and official qualifications for being a guru, though now that some universities are offering courses in meditation and Kundalini Yoga it may soon be necessary to be a member of the U.S. Fraternity of Gurus. But a really fine trickster would get around all that by the one-upmanship of inventing an entirely new discipline outside and beyond all known forms of esoteric teaching.
It must be understood from the start that the trickster guru fills a real need and performs a genuine public service. Millions of people are searching desperately for a true father-Magician, especially at a time when the clergy and the psychiatrists are making rather a poor show, and do not seem to have the courage of their convictions or of their fantasies. Perhaps they have lost nerve through too high a valuation of the virtue of honesty - as if a painter felt bound to give his landscapes the fidelity of photographs. To fulfil his compassionate vocation, the trickster guru must above all have nerve. He must also be quite well-read in mystical and occult literature, both that which is historically authentic and sound in scholarship, and that which is somewhat questionable - such as the writings of H.P. Blavatsky, P.D. Ouspensky, and Aleister Crowley. It doesn't do to be caught out on details now known to a wide public.
After such preparatory studies, the first step is to frequent those circles where gurus are especially sought, such as the various cult groups which pursue oriental religions or peculiar forms of psychotherapy, or simply the intellectual and artistic milieux of any great city. Be somewhat quiet and solitary. Never ask questions, but occasionally add a point - quite briefly - to what some speaker has said. Volunteer no information about your personal life, but occasionally indulge in a little absent-minded name-dropping to suggest that you have travelled widely and spent time in Turkestan. Evade close questioning by giving the impression that mere travel is a small matter hardly worth discussing, and that your real interests lie on much deeper levels.
Such behavior will soon provoke people into asking your advice. Don't come right out with it, but suggest that the question is rather deep and ought to be discussed at length in some quiet place. Make an appointment at a congenial restaurant or cafe - not at your home, unless you have an impressive library and no evidence of being tied down with a family. At first, answer nothing, but without direct questioning, draw the person out to enlarge on his problem and listen with your eyes closed - not as if sleeping, but as if attending to the deep inner vibrations of his thoughts. Conclude the interview with a slightly veiled command to perform some rather odd exercise, such as humming a sound and then suddenly stopping. Carefully instruct the person to be aware of the slightest decision to stop before actually stopping, and indicate that the point is to be able to stop without any prior decision. Make a further appointment for a report on progress.
To carry this through, you must work out a whole series of unusual exercises, both psychological and physical. Some must be rather difficult tricks which can actually be accomplished, to give your student the sense of real progress.
Others must be virtually impossible - such as to think of the words yes and no at the same instant, repeatedly for five minutes, or with a pencil in each hand, to try to hit the opposite hand - which is equally trying to defend itself and hit the other. Don't give all your students the same exercises but, because people love to be types, sort them into groups according to their astrological sun signs or according to your own private classifications, which must be given such odd names as grubers, jongers, milers, and trovers.
A judidous use of hypnosis - avoiding all the common tricks of hand-raising, staring at lights, or saying "Relax. Relax, while I count up to ten" will produce pleasant changes of feeling and the impression of attaining higher states of consciousness.
First, describe such a stage quite vividly - say, the sense of walking on air - and then have your students walk around barefooted trying not to make the slightest sound and yet giving their whole weight to the floor. Imply that the floor will soon feel like a cushion, then like water, and finally like air. Indicate a little later that there is reason to believe that something of this kind is the initial stage of levitation.
Next, be sure to have about thirty or forty different stages of progress worked out, giving them numbers, and suggest that there are still some extremely high stages beyond those numbered which can only be understood by those who have reached twenty-eight - so no point in discussing them now. After the walking-on-air gambit, try for instance having them push out hard with their arms as if some overwhelming force were pulling them. Reverse the procedure. This leads quickly to the feeling that one is not doing what one is doing and doing what one is not doing. Tell them to stay in this state while going about everyday business.
After a while let it be known that you have a rather special and peculiar background - as when some student asks, "Where did you get all this?" Well, you just picked up a thing or two in Turkestan, or "I'm quite a bit older than I look," or say that "Reincarnation is entirely unlike what people suppose it to be." Later, let on that you are in some way connected with an extremely select in-group. Don't brashly claim anything. Your students will soon do that for you, and, when one hits on the fantasy that pleases you most, say, "I see you are just touching stage eighteen."
There are two schools of thought about asking for money for your services. One is to have fees just like a doctor, because people are embarrassed if they do not know just what is expected of them. The other, used by the real high-powered tricksters, is to do everything free with, however, the understanding that each student has been personally selected for his or her innate capacity for the work (call it that), and thus be careful not to admit anyone without first putting them through some sort of hazing. Monetary contributions will soon be offered. Otherwise, charge rather heavily, making it dear that the work is worth infinitely more to oneself and to others than, say, expensive surgery or a new home. Imply that you give most of it away to mysterious beneficiaries.
As soon as you can afford to wangle it, get hold of a country house as an ashram or spiritual retreat, and put students to work on all the menial tasks. Insist on some special diet, but do not follow it yourself. Indeed, you should cultivate small vices, such as smoking, mild boozing, or, if you are very careful, sleeping with the ladies, to suggest that your stage of evolution is so high that such things do not affect you, or that only by such means can you remain in contact with ordinary mundane consciousness.
On the one hand, you yourself must be utterly free from any form of religious or parapsychological superstition, lest some other trickster should outplay you. On the other hand, you must eventually come to believe in your own hoax, because this will give you ten times more nerve. This can be done through religionizing total skepticism to the point of basic incredulity about everything - even science. After all, this is in line with the Hindu-Buddhist position that the whole universe is an illusion, and you need not worry about whether the Absolute is real or unreal, eternal or non-eternal, because every idea of it that you could form would, in comparison with living it up in the present, be horribly boring. Furthermore, you should convince yourself that the Absolute is precisely the same as illusion, and thus not be in the least ashamed of being greedy or anxious or depressed. Make it dear that we are ultimately God, but that you know it. If you are challenged to perform wonders, point out that everything is already a fabulous wonder, and to do something bizarre would be to go against your own most perfect scheme of things. On the other hand, when funny coincidences turn up, look knowing and show no surprise, especially when any student has good fortune or recovers from sickness. It will promptly be attributed to your powers, and you may be astonished to find that your very touch becomes healing, because people really believe in you. When it doesn't work, you should sigh gently about lack of faith, or explain that this particular sickness is a very important working out of Karma which will have to be reckoned with some day, so why not now.
The reputation for supernormal powers is self-reinforcing, and as it builds up you can get more daring, such that you will have the whole power of mass self-deception working for you. But always remember that a good guru plays it cool and maintains a certain aloofness, especially from those sharpies of the press and TV whose game is to expose just about everyone as a fraud. Always insist, like the finest restaurants, that your clientele is exclusive. The very highest "society" does not deign to be listed in the Social Register.
As time goes on, allow it more and more to be understood that you are in constant touch with other centers of work. Disappear from time to time by taking trips abroad, and come back looking more mysterious than ever. You can easily find someone in India or Syria to do duty as your colleague, and take a small and select group of students on a journey which includes a brief interview with this Personage. He can talk any kind of nonsense, while you do the "translating." When travelling with students, avoid any obvious assistance from regular agencies, and let it appear that your secret fraternity has arranged everything in advance.
Now a trickster guru is certainly an illusionist, but one might ask "What else is art?" If the universe is nothing but a vast Rorschach blot upon which we project our collective measures and interpretations, and if past and future has no real existence, an illusionist is simply a creative artist who changes the collective interpretation of life, and even improves on it. Reality is mostly what a people or a culture conceives it to be. Money, worthless in itself, depends entirely on collective faith for its value. The past is held against you only because others believe in it, and the future seems important only because we have conned ourselves into the notion that surviving for a long time, with painstaking care, is preferable to surviving for a short time with no responsibility and lots of thrills. It is really a matter of changing fashion.
Perhaps, then, a trickster may be one who actually liberates people from their more masochistic participations in the collective illusion, on the homeopathic principle of "The hair of the dog that bit you. " Even genuine gurus set their disciples impossible psychological exercises to demonstrate the unreality of the ego, and it could be argued that they too, are unwitting tricksters, raised as they have been in cultures without disillusioning benefits of "scientific knowledge," which, as ecologists note, isn't working out too well. Perhaps it all boils down to the ancient belief that God himself is a trickster, eternally fooling himself by the power of maya into the sensation that he is a human being, a cat, or an insect, since no art can be accomplished which does not set itself certain rules and limitations. A fully infinite and boundless God would have no limitations, and thus no way of manifesting power or love. Omnipotence must therefore include the power of self-restriction - to the point of forgetting that it is restricting itself and thus making limitations seem real. It could be that genuine students and gurus are on the side of being fooled, whereas the phony gurus are the foolers - and one must make one's choice.
I am proposing this problem as a kind of Zen koan, like "Beyond positive and negative, what is reality?" How will you avoid being either a fool or a fooler? How will you get rid of the ego-illusion without either trying or not trying? If you need God's grace to be saved, how will you get the grace to get grace? Who will answer these questions if yourself is itself an illusion? Man's extremity is God's opportunity.
The cock crows in the evening;
At midnight, the brilliant sun.
And there have also been such effective mother-magicians as Mary Baker Eddy, Helena Blavatsky, Aimee Semple McPherson, Annie Besant, and Alice Bailey.
© Alan Watts (1915 - 1973) The Essential Alan Watts, Celestial Arts (1974).
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|HH Sogyal Rinpoche|
Eclecticism, still doesn't feel that good, but anyway here are some clips from HH Sogyal Rinpoche. His book has altered my meditation but I am not sure whether it is different from Theravada. To explain the difference would bog me down in language I am sure. He describes three steps of meditation all within a context of calm abiding:-
1) Bring the mind back home
I am certainly focusing more on non-attachment and Buddha-Nature - mind back home.
The six clips are in no order:-
|Theme - Eclecticism|
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|Was it really eclecticism?|
The key to this is understanding the demands of my intellectual ego. It is so difficult to judge and I have just been tricked into apparent eclecticism. And yet underlying this the trickster has been out-manoeuvred by meditation.
My meditation had become bogged down in intellectualism. And yet as I write this I know it is not true, the meditation was not bogged down, but outside meditation I had let intellectualism rule too much - worrying about minutiae etc.
When did this eclecticism start? HHPCR, when he spoke of Buddha-nature. It was this Buddha-nature that I immediately felt an affinity for. I wanted to relate to this Buddha-nature. But what actually wanted to relate to this Buddha-nature? Meditation. My meditation wanted to be more concerned with Buddha-nature. But even as I write this it is not true. My meditation always ambled towards Buddha-nature, emptiness, voidness, Nature etc. So as usual the problem was daily life in which intellectualism began focussing on minutiae instead of being empty.
This changing daily life focus, from minutiae to Nature, took a long time of convincing. I moved into consideration of JuIngong and Zen, until finally meditation told me the truth. The truth that I was really changing meditation and the focus of meditation in daily life.
So where does this place eclecticism? Again I now feel it is a chimera. Theravada lends itself to intellectualism. It talks of defilements, emotions, and other attachments. The three characteristics of anatta, dukkha, and anicca do not talk of Buddha-nature although Buddha-nature is implied in all three. My approach to Theravada has not been directly in Buddha-nature but my intellect has dragged me out into the minutiae. And I have languished too long in these minutiae with the chattering intellectual taking over.
So it is not Theravada, but my weakness - and that makes far more sense. Where was my humility?
What other lessons can be learnt? I have to be careful of input from others. Firstly all such input is genuine so that makes assessing it difficult. No-one genuinely is trying to say "get eclectic so gestalt intellectualism can get you off your path". Yet in a sense that is what eclectic intellectualism does. Until meditation steps in. If you listen to genuine people such as HHPCR, he of course must make you want to be Vajrayana. After all that is his tradition and he learns and teaches it. Is he going to say "Bill you have the wrong emphasis on Theravada and improve your meditation and how you perceive it in daily life"? No he is going to say focus on Buddha-nature and remember that Hinayana is only part of the three paths. Are people who believe in Mahayana going to give a similar Theravadin analysis? No. For the simple reason they are not Theravada, so that is not their frame of reference, their means of assessment.
And when I am unclear it is easy to be persuaded.
So the search for eclecticism has helped me to regain focus in meditation and the input of meditation in daily life. And here is the main lesson, remove intellectualism. I know it is only a small tool for developing insight but it so easily slips back into being ego and powerful. Meditation now is much more Nature and daily life is not minutiae-controlled. Nature is going to direct the changes in daily life.
I must be careful not to allow the intellectual tendencies of Theravada with all its minutiae to take control of my daily life.
And finally death!! Amusing. In Theravada the study is maranusati apparently. I hope to learn more of what that is, and there is always HHSR, Sogyal Rinpoche to help.
This whole debacle make me realise I am a Natural man, maybe a Buddhist although I don't like being termed a man-follower however great the man is, but the Traditions are only important as a means to the end. It is still therefore better to stick to one tradition, and work out one's failings within that tradition rather than eclectically hopping from path to path. Remember intellect plays on the surface and does not penetrate deeply. Intellect moves laterally rather than to the point, it is insight that is pointed - that has direction. Unless that lateral movement produces detachment it is not progress.
|Theme - Meditation , intellect|
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|On life after life|
A friend asked me how was the meeting and I answered "OK, not satisfactory". So he said "it was not OK", and I had to agree- I got no answers. But was it OK? I made more contacts, and it made me reflect on the issue. I improved my relationship with the monks - that was good.
The question I had beforehand did not get answered "As there is no soul where do the memories of past lives come from?"
The first session was "through the tunnel into the light and returning". Unequivocally this had no basis in the teachings. Two aspects of teaching were discussed, the 4 types of kamma that are incorporated in rebirth - look those up. At a high level of meditation we can know past lives. It was noted that the purpose of this is to teach no self.
Rebirth happens immediately. This hit home, come back straight away. No respite, no kammic purgatory, come back straight away.
This leads me to some questions:-
1. As there is no soul where do the memories of past lives come from?
2. What about learning lessons? I was 50 before I meditated daily, so I come back and have to be 50 again?
3. Do I have to wait for a possible cancerous disease before I learn to eat properly?
There was some discussion on the deathless. I remembered thinking that the teaching that there was the constant true mind from HHSR made the implication that there was rebirth. Apart from right view rebirth was not presented with conviction, passive belief. However HHSR states that understanding of the true Nature of mind implies rebirth. Sadly I could only remember the teaching and not why I believed it - must work on that.
Preparing for the point of death, other than being mindful, was not considered Theravadan. I must seek answers in Tibetan, buy, book of the dead and see if there is anything else on death.
|Theme - death|
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|On death again|
Consideration of death is moving forward. HHDL has written a book "The joy of living and dying in peace", and it has opened some interesting avenues. Firstly he starts with the awakening mind as being a life's purpose, a second step being a wish for nirvana, and thirdly compassion. This is a recipe for happiness.
Rebirth as putting on new clothes is helpful. But I baulk as usual with the thoughts of all the pain suffered in life especially in the West with its intellectualism and money first orientation. However the three steps seem to provide an answer for that in that the pain in rebirth has to be accepted in order to help others.
And perhaps more importantly the lamaism might have an application. I have always had doubts about the process but it seems that through meditation you can leave pointers, they have a word - something like tulko. There are people trained in the recognition of these tulkos. What if one could control these tulko?
Initially in this I focussed on the pain but what if I moved beyond selfishness and focussed on compassion? OK that still means that maybe I have to spend a long time getting to my current stage of understanding however little that is, who knows how Kamma works? If Zandtao is anything for example it started when I was 56. Do I have to overcome addiction again? Do I have to damage my body with unhealthy food again? Do I have to spend 53 years without regular meditation? And as for sexual desire!!! These are the issues for planning for my death. Develop the compassion so that the selfishness of the pain is not important and try to work out what more can be done planning for my death.
Maybe this is all tied in with the time of death, and HHDL mentioned a visualisation. Visualise when you are dying. What does that sound like? Maybe it is something like this. As you are dying your whole life flashes before you as you enter the tunnel into the light. As you enter the tunnel remember the ways you want to influence Kamma, daily meditation, addiction, diet, what Kamma still needs you to do. Is this the process? If so it sounds dangerous. Nature as in Kamma knows best, focussing on some might be pre-empting Nature and you will have to go back and learn other lessons already learnt?
This minefield of Kamma and rebirth is so important and it initially appears so little that one can do except live the best you can. More Tibetan stuff needed.
|Theme - death|
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|Changing meditation - on the stool|
Two inputs have elicited a change. In Phra Pandit's summary of his last talk - The Guaranteed Method - he spoke of on the cushion, the hindrances need to be addressed "on the cushion". Here is his hindrances summary:-
Compared to a bowl of water coloured with dye or turmeric - one cannot see ones own face in the reflection
Cause - paying attention to the attractive element in things (all objects of sense can be seen in their attractive or unattractive view, depending on your disposition or intention)
Cure - paying attention to the unattractive element in the object of sense desire
Result - One has no more 'hankering for the world', or can 'abide free from attaching, independent, not clinging to anything in the world'
Compared to a bowl of water that is boiling
Cause - paying attention to the unattractive element in things
Cure - Metta cetovimutti - or release through loving kindness
Result - One abides compassionate for all living things.
Sloth and Torpor
Compared to a bowl of water choked with weeds
Cause - regret, laziness, too much food, indolence
Cure - exertion and striving
Result- aloko sa~n~nii - or perception of light, and mindfulness (note that perception of light in meditation can also be used as a cure for s&t)
Compared to a bowl of water whipped up and disturbed by wind
Cause - non-tranquillity of mind
Cure - valuing and developing tranquillity of mind
Result- one is unagitated, with mind inwardly peaceful
Compared to a bowl of water with mud stirred up
Cause - unwise attention
Cure - Paying wise attention - that is paying attention to aspects that generate wisdom rather than desire, hate or delusion
Result- one is not perplexed about what is wholesome (kusala) or unwholesome.
On the cushion means for me that the awakening insight mind needs to address these issues, not simply being conscious or accepting what is being said but actually grappling with the cures on the cushion.
The second input that has led to this change on the cushion has been Thay's "No Death, No Fear". This book has had a profound effect on me to the extent that I started a book journey of quotes from the book. But that effect I cannot describe in this blog as so many things he said elicited a response on a levgel that I can weakly describe as being related to insight. I can describe a change during meditation where my consciousness has moved from being inside the body to being inside the aura (for want of a better word). This change in consciousness is not limited to an experience in meditation. I am unsure of the meaning of this change in consciousness except that there is a greater sense of unity not held back by body and intellectual mind.
But Thay's quotes are so much more and they address the awakening insight mind so they need to be addressed on the cushion as well. And that is what I will be doing with each of the quotes - and with the hindrances, examine the cures on the stool.
|Theme - Meditation, No Death No Fear|
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|The Mahachula Incident|
This is just a diary - not insights, here are my views on Mahachula on my involvement with Mahachula.
First of all I was impressed when I visited Mahachula and think I could work there. The students seemed keen to get quality teachers so I hope I would match that. I do not understand the organisation because I do not know what goes on behind the scenes, but if you care about teaching you are organised. My own situation cannot be put down to disorganisation however. I was considering a part-time position, that has got to be fairly low priority. In the interview I seemed to get on with the Dean, and I was pleased that he wanted to speak to Mark before offering me any position - that loyalty is good.
Finding a place to live was difficult. Firstly Su found me an unacceptable place, small house in a whole row of houses surrounded by noise. I then discovered she was a commuter but the security guard was the source of the property. Then Mahachula is Wang Noi district and not Wang Noi, and Ayutthaya was maybe 35 km away - less on the other freeway (maybe 25km), the minibus took me the long way. But Ayutthaya is too far.
Bangpa-In is the nearest biggish place. It is primarily an industrial estate, sprawls over about 5km, but in all maybe not much bigger than Trat. It is polarised. There is old Bangpa-In near the palace with some nice older properties. This extends to the market and small Tesco. Then there are industrial places separating to the properties near Soi Khlong Phutsa where the pink house is.
Interestingly enough the final motor-ceik taxi took me to a small farming village, there would be a nice place to rent. I think this is the place from Google Earth - Ban Len. Around the back where Pao's relatives are seemed nice but again unlikely.
So the job would be fine. Pink house would be reasonable, and to find that place again would be difficult. So why did I phone and say no?
I got back to Trat, and someone said my life was cosy. Then I began meeting a few people, and yes my life is cosy and relationships are pleasant. But they are not dhamma conversation relationships. That is the crux of why I wanted to move but then I have to question how much dhamma conversations will occur in Bangpa-In? (Answer that later).
If the move was right why was I so agitated? I haven't felt so agitated in such a long time - since retiring? Possibly with the exception when I was angry about the breaking of my rental agreement. I felt stress that I associated with the fast, but was it the fast? Was it new stress? I was getting angry because the Dean hadn't phoned but job responses have never been that quick in the past so why was I angry? I have waited for answers before, why was I unhappy at waiting for an answer here?
Then I had a sleepless night. When I cannot sleep I give up and watch TV, yet I watched all night. I went to bed after 6.00 am, and then woke up and knew I didn't want to go to Mahachula at this time. But that conviction wasn't deep, yet by lunchtime I made the necessary contact. Phramaha asked me why, and my answers were not good, but the words that I remember were "I am not ready".
The next morning I woke up with a deep conviction I was not ready, and I knew my decision was correct. That morning I lay there for a while and a number of insights came to me and I felt light inside - good signs. Jay who had helped me in Bangpa-In phoned and there was no doubt in my voice, there had been much doubt the previous day.
Where does that leave me? I am hoping Mahachula is still a possibility, I have unofficially been advised it is. Bangpa-In might also be a possibility. Maybe not the pink house but a house nearby. Bangpa-In seems a good place to get to Bangkok. Train, bus from market, minibus to Tesco from Victory Monument. There is more choice with shopping. Tesco Lotus on the way home, Tesco and others in Ayutthaya, Future Park 30km away. And how much more? Disadvantages are the lack of countryside, but although I like the lake I am not totally enamoured of Trat countryside - it is not hills where I can walk - my definition of countryside. I could have explored Bangpa-In and find something. That lake 7 km away.
But compassion is going to make me move from Trat at some stage, and fairly soon based on this Mahachula incident. I don't want to live in Bangkok but maybe I could commute once a week. I could conveniently attend LittleBang Tai Pans and perhaps other stuff. That refugee project might be of interest. To do this I will have to be committed - with the required energy. I was quite energetic around Mahachula and Bangpa-In, far more than I have shown recently. Just a serious commitment needed. I wasn't ready to move yet, did not have that commitment, and only agreed because it seemed the easiest thing to do. My May timeline might be more realistic. But then I would have to move without a job. So I will have to be committed without the promise of the job.
So I didn't want to rush leaving Trat. When I woke up I was learning stuff, and in my journey I am still learning stuff, learning about stuff and so on. It is for this need for the completion of this phase of learning, that I want to stay. Then I want to move slowly and get set before I get rushed into teaching. I had originally thought May for these kind of reasons, then reconsidered whilst at Mahachula, and now have slowed down. After wavering in the interview situation I have remained consistent.
Despite waking up well meditation was too dark and agitated. I need to reclaim meditation. This episode just shows how far I am from maintaining stability if placed in a non-peaceful environment. "Be sure not to mistake the peace of having little to do for spiritual attainment." I have no doubts at all that I am wallowing in peace - slothfully - after 30 years of stress and strain. I must think more on the difference between peace and spiritual attainment. Ultimate Peace is Nibbana, no I am not saying I have reached Nibbana, but some sort of genuine peace cannot be attained with my agitated mind unless I have achieved something.
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|Compassion, Peace and Spiritual Attainment|
Compassion has killed death for the moment. On a recent Bkk trip I found myself talking with a friend about reincarnation. As usual I was a wingeing pom "I don't want to have to go through all the stress of dukkha". My friend said that's the way it is but lessons learned this time don't occur again. Accepting this I still didn't want all the grief again. Thinking about this I realised my interest in the Tibetan side of death is that I am looking for a way to avoid dukkha. There are two ways to avoid dukkha, Nibbana and the 4 Noble Truths. I have much too far to go to Nibbana, and the 4 Noble Truths leads me to think of attachment and conditions.
The conditions I hold onto are the ones that I have to deal with next time. It's as simple as that, things don't go away. Whatever the Tibetan death stuff is about this Kamma is fact, and in this life I must deal with the conditions I recognise.
"Be sure not to mistake the peace of having little to do for spiritual attainment." Descriptions of peace and spiritual attainment bring one into the world of manifestation. For example Ultimate Peace is one description of Nibbana, I could imagine Ultimate Spiritual Attainment would be another. Here is a Tibetan quote "nirvana is the realm of inner peace in which all gross and subtle turbulence of mind has subsided" as an example of Nibbana as peace.
"having little to do" is a temporary deserved reward after 30 years of teaching, whilst recognising that in that 30 years spiritual development suffered. So rather than a description of "having little to do", a better description might be "an opportunity to study Dhamma whilst not being dragged down by wage slavery". The peace that I feel then rests on my reaction to this opportunity. In my terms, am I following my journey? Do I follow my Path?
But the real issue about work is not the activity - "little to do", but the fact that there are not people with the power telling me to do things I don't agree with, and which were usually wrong by my criteria - the criteria of being educationally good for the students. In truth the amount of activity I am involved in now is less than the teaching day (with marking and preparation), but not significantly less. But it is of my own choosing, and therefore makes me feel peaceful.
Throughout my life compassion has always driven me to teach, to give back as a teacher. This compassion is difficult because it is sometimes in conflict with spirituality. Recently after considering the Mahachula Incident I have been thinking again of Africa - the small village school. But this is in conflict with a need for spirituality. Should it be? Perhaps not, but the reality is that I would get sucked in and then lose the spiritual way.
In this way compassion is also difficult for my peace. I want peace of mind but how do I attain that peace of mind and also satisfy compassion? Maybe Mahachula.
I have just read this quote "just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simply will not go away". I feel peaceful now so this natural unsatisfactoriness is not a factor, I associate this with following my Path.
So I finally come to spiritual attainment. I had not mistaken peace for spiritual attainment, quite simply because I had not included spiritual attainment as a criterion. After much consideration of the quote, I realised that my spiritual Path should have a spiritual aspiration. For a long time I had considered that Nibbana was beyond me, and therefore it was inappropriate to recognise Nibbana as a spiritual aspiration. However when considering this spiritual attainment I realised that Nibbana is that aim. My thoughts on death helped here because if it is not an aim for this lifetime it is a permanent aim - until Nibbana itself. So Nibbana has become my spiritual aspiration. I feel better for it, and note from the Littlebang talks that "The sutta (MN24) also mentions that the ultimate goal is Enlightenment. People get into meditation for various reasons, but sooner or later those reasons fall away, and you set your sights on the ultimate goal".
|Theme - death, Nibbana|
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|Pirsig Warning Rescinded|
Well I made a complete mistake about Pirsig, fortunately a friend corrected it by showing me a recent interview he did. This interview best speaks for itself and is on his website -
In case, I have stored it without pictures at
Here, however, is the explanation for my mistake, as usual I was too judgemental.
Zen was a wonderful book. It was full of discovery, having a fervour I wish I had to learn and understand the truth. It was about his insanity amongst others, and it did not clearly establish a sanity at the end. Lila never matched up in passion, and left me feeling that Pirsig was stagnant, and hadn't moved forward. I struggled with the book, and felt great disappointment. When I studied Zen, since retiring, it appeared to me to leave insanity as a potential continued issue, and as he spoke little of meditation, despite the title, I felt the key to his understanding and ability to cope was not practised. Hence I gave the Pirsig warning.
In the interview he discussed both books, and gave a strong meditational context for his work. I assume judgementally that his work was predicated on meditation, and Pirsig now lives comfortably with his new wife and child in the country away from the glare and stress of the conflict that is the academic life for the true educator. Again I assume the joy in his life is based on meditation.
Therefore for me Pirsig is a justification for the exact opposite of my warning, he has found joy in his life through meditation. His exploration led him into such areas that he had a breakdown, a more legitimate one than hitting the bottom of a glass because of a repressed upbringing. In the interview he described that breakdown as zen enlightenment, and has interesting views on it. But the sense and sensibility of his life came through his journey guided by meditation.
The interview shows light on his book, presents zen in a different context, gives me some justification for the mistake I made, and makes me want to read Lila again now.
Zen was intended as a description of his zen enlightenment. "I went up into my room and took some sleeping pills. That may have produced a certain trance-like effect where I could not sleep and I could not stay awake, and I just sat there cross-legged in the room. All sorts of volitions started to go away. My wife started getting upset at me sitting there, got a little insulting. Pain disappeared, cigarettes burned down in my fingers. I knew about it, but I did not respond to it. Soon a kind of chaos set in. I looked around and suddenly I realised that this person who had come this far was about to expire. I was terrified, and curious as to what was coming. I felt so sorry for this guy I was leaving behind. He did not deserve this. It was a separation. This is described in the psychiatric canon as catatonic schizophrenia. It is cited in the Zen Buddhist canon as hard enlightenment. ....
"The thing about Zen is that if you try for enlightenment you can never achieve it. You have to give up everything. This guy had quit, all his ideas, all his hopes, all gone. There was a Christian hymn which I had never heard before to my knowledge: 'You got to cross a lonesome valley, you got to cross it by yourself.' That was going through my head. All this could be insane talk, and would be so judged by psychiatric people. But over the years I have maintained these two points of view. That's why the book is called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and it can be judged in that way, though most people read that period as pure psychiatric insanity."
"I felt I was being guided by a centredness. It is widely discussed in Buddhist literature. You are no longer directed by your mind or your body, but by a centredness. I avoid that term because it is easy to criticise. But if you ask a certified Zen master if there is such a thing as centredness he will undoubtedly answer 'yes'. It is a feeling that if your dharma takes you in front of an oncoming train, that is where you stand. People have said Zen had no Zen in it, but enlightened people know that every word of it is Zen. It was written in a centred way. If a sentence was throwing me off-centre I would change it." For me I had read the book, Lila as well, and wanted it to conclude with a definitive meditation message. His life is that message, his books are what meditation and enlightenment led him to write. Excellent, I am sad I missed this.
"TA: Did you think of it at the time as a Zen experience?
RP: Not really. Though the meditation I have done since takes you to a similar place. If you stare at a wall from four in the morning until nine at night and you do that for a week, you are getting pretty close to nothingness. It's like a clock winding down. And you get a lot of opportunities for staring in an asylum."
Lila was intentionally lacking in verve, "I was resolving things in Lila; the sadness of the past, and particularly Chris's death, is there. Zen was quite an inspiring book, I think, but I wanted to go in the other direction with Lila and do something that explored a more sordid, depressing life." I have to accept that and read Lila in that context to get something from it - no expectations as I had when I first read it.
Finally I want to mention Metaphysics of Quality at Liverpool uni. This also added to my negative view, as this appeared to be a bunch of intellectuals killing the vitality out of Pirsig - I subscribed to the mailing list for a while. He talks of this, Dr McWatt "first wrote to me with a masters paper he wrote. It wasn't right, .... Anthony McWatt is the one person who has a PhD in my work [from Liverpool University]. He has had to face a huge amount of academic hostility." Pirsig gave McWatt support "It took him 12 years to complete his PhD, and during that time he would teach classes, and he would email me a question and I'd send him an answer. So he had absolute authority for a statement. [laughs]". Although he is a recluse the acceptance of MOQ at Liverpool has given him academic acceptance, and that gives Pirsig some satisfaction; on the website there is a description of a conference at Oxford. But his meditation has given him the strength to come out of the other end of the academic mill with integrity and a major contribution.
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|Lila - A reminder of judgementalism|
Lila is beginning to fascinate me, and so has become a book blog. I am becoming more and more aware of my judgementalism. First and obvious was that I judged that Pirsig had become stuck in a rut, because Lila was not innovative and full of fire like ZMM. But is that true?
I start reading Lila again, and it is not. It is not pacey, there is a gentle consolidation about it and this I suspect is where Pirsig was going. But now that I have made the mistake I must stop judging. What I am talking about is not Pirsig, it is my interaction with Pirsig or even less than that, my interaction with two of his books and now one interview. So if I refer to understanding Pirsig again - an if, I will use ZPirsig meaning my "interaction with two of his books and now one interview".
This gentle consolidation leads to a broader conception, what am I really talking about with one-hit wonders such as Eckhart Tolle? I am sure judging me has claimed that Tolle was a one-hit wonder - Power of Now, Now meditations, Now is the Truth, Now-Now is more True, Now and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But is he a one-hit wonder? Or better is he a one hit wonder who is stuck?
This needs more careful consolidation, and placed in the context of rebirth. Suppose Tolle is the concept of Now, and Pirsig is the concept of Quality. Then they die and move on to develop their understanding - maybe improve Now or Quality. Then the first rush of understanding has to be immensely powerful - Pirsig's Zen Enlightenment, the depression Tolle describes though I cannot remember the details. A powerful rush that is a breakdown, it has to be to get rid of the system miseducation that tries to educate out soul. But then consolidation of Now and Quality become life's works and meaning, yet this is slow and plodding - not buzz, buzz, buzz ....
I mention soul again for the first in a long time. In meditation soul has now become important, and it is necessary to clarify my position on soul. As a Buddhist I moved away from using the word "soul". This is sound dogma, but is it a sound practice for me? At present I think no.
The Buddha talks of a soul as being an unanswered question - perhaps like Kamma a question we are not meant to ask. Soul in Buddhism has an Eastern context, the soul as a reincarnating ego moving from life to life. Yet the Buddha clearly states that there is no reincarnating ego, and that it is unresolved conditions that become the essence of the new life.
Accepting this, why have I moved back to the use of soul?
It is not a Christian soul either. I am not trying to suggest that there is an aspect of incarnation, conditions that ascends to heaven - Nibbana.
So again why use soul?
Because soul has a meaning in creativity, and this soul-creativity is substantive and meaningful. What words does this soul comprise of? OK, creativity. Once we have gone beyond the intellectual chattering mind we reach a mind that can be creative. Once we go beyond the intellectual chattering mind we can reach a mind that has insight. We create a channel through the intellectual chattering mind in meditation or otherwise, and there is insight - note insight is not sourced from beyond the individual any more than any thought is - thanks PP. Insight or Wisdom is personal, it comes from our individual incarnation, our conditions.
And then there are the 4 Braham-Viharas - metta, karuna, muditta and upekkha. These aspects of metta, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity also come as personal characteristics of the soul which is beyond the intellectual chattering mind.
So I am using soul as a term which includes all of the above - creativity, insight, wisdom, 4 Brahma-Viharas. I had started using soul as sila, as soul has such a personal strength and security. But my use is more than sila although it includes sila - integrity - right honesty, right speech, right livelihood.
Soul is an important term that needs to move beyond the dogmatic approach that is Buddhism. Soul is a term that relates to many people - Buddhist, Hindus, Christians, Muslims? - expect so, artists, etc. I want to use the word to build bridges and help move along understanding.
Future writings on Lila will be here - a new book journey.
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A friend had been involved in a search for transcendence, and it made me wonder about its meaning. The word came to me first with the Beatles and Mahareshi Yogi. An erstwhile friend would come home from legal practice, and sit in his room with a mantra everyday after work. In truth mantras haven't done it for me but I commend his diligence. If I can judge it helped him.
Transcendence - A state of being or existence above and beyond the limits of material experience. Not sure about that, is it the limits of material experience? What about attaching to intellect, feelings, perception, etc - ego? Isn't transcendence above and beyond these attachments?
Words are always difficult as they describe concepts, and having discovered I belong to the mystical school of metaphysics (Pirsig in Lila) words only limit those concepts. Mind is one of those, of course. Philosophically mind is not defined, this however for me is not a mystical scholasticism but an effort of academic gatekeeping. They have for example not even decided that mind is not connected to the brain, so a whole spectrum of intellectual speculation and circumambulation is opened up without any common fundamental axioms. Mind you if academia were to define the axioms it would be a logical positivist closed door of rationalism that completely eschews the greater qualities of human existence.
Buddhist psychology describes a proliferation of attributes of mind, and whilst these descriptions are helpful in a Buddhist context they create a separation in terms of an important word - soul. Now soul is an unanswered question by the Buddha, avoided perhaps because in the East soul is considered more a vehicle for reincarnation than the soul that I grew up on. And that is not the Christian soul that ascends to heaven but the soul of the artist.
This artistic soul, whatever it is, is spoken of in a concrete fashion by those who put pen to paper and paint to canvas. Soul can be investigated as insight, wisdom, creativity, metta, karuna, muditta and upekkha, these are all conditions of existence and for Nibbana need be left behind. But to be able to focus one's life in the realm of soul as opposed to that of ego there is a transcendence that is beyond the limits of material existence or perhaps better the limits of egoic existence.
For me there is a clarity in the analysis of man when man is viewed as soul, ego, energy, and body, a clarity for communication with art that does not exist if mind is defined as soul and ego with the aspects of soul given as different attributes of mind. To transcend from one aspect of mind to another through insight or creativity does not demonstrate the power that exists when moving from ego to soul, nor does it describe the intense power or experience that is often associated with such transcendence.
Yet in practice such transcendence is no huge step, for recognition that focussing in the soul is simply non-attachment does not appear to have the magnitude it actually possesses. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creativity:-
Being creative or having the help of a creative genius does demonstrate that the chasm can be jumped, and at the same time is a means of transcendence accessible to all.
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|Religion and Creativity|
This strictly is not a bookjourney blog but as the thinking was inspired by Pirsig I am including it in the bookjourney as well as in Nature Insight. It was inspired by the discussion of the shaman and the priest [pp112-121], and discussions I am having with a friend on religious transcendence.
[pp112-121] Pirsig started with a priest who was overzealous and killed a "witch", and as a result the law punished the priest. After release he didn't feel right in returning to the priesthood. He began learning stories of mythology, ritual and cult songs. He became so successful that he was made governor.
Simplistically Pirsig interpreted this as initially the priest had a static quality by enforcing the religious code of the society. Following this the priest found another function, became invaluable to the society and moved the goalposts, dynamic quality in Pirsig's terms.
For me it is the interpretation of the process of change that is so interesting, and made me want to draw a parallel with religion and creativity. Religion by the nature of institution tends towards a static code - static quality. Its priests present a dogma and are the guardians of this dogma. Dogma need not necessarily be bad but it does restrict. Why? Sometimes because of the guardians and sometimes because people follow the dogma like sheep. These are the static qualities of a religious code. By people following the religion society gains a static quality, for those that follow the code produce a good society generally. However for these people this "sheep" characteristic is a limitation. They can only follow the dogma within the limits of their understanding of the dogma. Dogma is not an exact code of conduct, it requires interpretation. The following-of-sheep does not lend to such interpretation, and where do the people turn? Instead of turning inwards they turn to the guardians, the priests.
Now the priests can be static or dynamic but in general because they are guardians of the institution they are static. Especially if these priests are higher in the hierarchy of the institution. Together the sheep nature of the followers and the static quality of the priest gives religion an inertia - a lack of natural change.
This is where creativity comes in. Creativity moves the static institutional boundaries. Nature recognises the inertia in institution and wants to help it move. Its agents are the creative. Through creativity individuals question the nature of the institution and bring to it a dynamic quality. This is the function of the artist's soul - to bring the dynamic quality to the existing static quality of a religion.
Whilst Buddhism has much to offer it has a fundamental static quality, Buddhism is about "What the Buddha said" 2500 years ago. It is static per se. Now Theravada makes stasis a complete virtue by only holding to Dhamma as the Buddha spoke. Mahayana, including Vajrayana and Zen, brings to Buddhism a dynamic quality - a sense of revision. But the question is how legitimate is this dynamic change. What is important is the soul that is underneath the Theravada and Mahayana traditions, the quality that combines both static and dynamic in Buddhism. But it is the soul and not the dogma that is important, it is the soul that is understanding.
Creativity is essential to this soul as creativity takes one outside the dogma. Buddhism does this institutionally through Vipassana, by adopting a meditational approach to creating Insight. But a creative writer can also bring such understanding in the search for their own soul. Right concentration produces Insight, this is part of Magga - the 8-fold Path. Insight is not mindfulness but it is Understanding. It is a dynamic quality of the soul that is actually part of the Buddhist dogma. But is it part of the dogma of the guardians? If a guardian of the dogma were to eschew creativity because it is not mindfulness, does that not question the advice of the guardian? There is only one way forward in these matters and that is to value one's own experience - search for one's own soul.
It is important to recognise that all institutions can become static. In Buddhism there is an obvious example of such stasis - food. At the time of the Buddha food was natural. In ascribing the almsround as part of the vinaya the Buddha was feeding the monks with gratitude, it required a relationship between the monk and the lay people. An unwritten assumption of the time was that the food would fulfil a function of food - to provide health for the body. This situation has now fundamentally changed in contemporary society. Food is not now natural and in general does not fulfil the function of keeping the body healthy. Food needs to return to the natural content it had at the time of the Buddha, moving away from the processing that has been introduced for profiteering. Some Buddhist monks recognise that the food they eat is a limitation and can cause disease; other monks disrobe because the disease the food brings to their body can only be fought by leaving the monastery. I am no person to judge the quality of the vinaya as a whole but recognising the profiteering element in food production today and asking for change in this way is dynamic quality. Sadly the Theravada institution is mostly stuck in their stasis. If institutional stasis is evident in one obvious example, can it not occur elsewhere? For example is the situation in Thailand where women are treated differently to men in the way they can become monks an example of this stasis? That is not a question for me to answer as I am not Thai Buddhist.
But in some ways it is a question for me to consider with my affiliation to Harnham. I remember an incident that occurred when I was staying there one time. There was an Australian Nun (I don't remember her designation as at the time I was not aware of the issue) visiting Ajahn Munindo. She was sat at the front next to the Ajahn preparing to give what was a knowledgeable talk. For some reason I had to go up to them, it might have been to pass something to the Nun. Anyway as I came up I saw a huge look of fear on the face of the Ajahn, fortunately my intention had been to give the item to the Ajahn - although in truth it was only an unconscious "sensitivity" that made me do that. I interpret - never discussed - that I would have committed a huge error in protocol if I, as a man, had directly passed it to the Nun, and it was this fear that had shown in the Ajahn's face. Whilst an ignorant lay person can break protocol, why should this induce fear in an Ajahn?
I believe Richard Gombrich mentioned that women should not touch monks. I believe he inferred that this made women second-class citizens. But is this the case? I am no person to talk of control of my sexual urges but surely a monk needs to control those urges. Why should contact with a woman present an issue? Admittedly physical contact or women dressed in a way that a man interprets as sexually provocative are issues that all men have to deal with on the Path. Making rules which ease this process on the Path is good, but the look of fear? I do not understand.
However the issue of Thai Buddhism is connected with Harnham as Harnham is Forest Sangha and Forest Sangha Central is Wat Pah Nanachat in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. My Buddhist allegiance is towards the Forest Sangha although the way I follow Buddhism makes any such allegiance nominal, do I therefore have a stake in Thai Buddhism?
The issue I am presenting is that of dynamic vs static quality. All institutions have their stasis. I have touched on one such that is obvious, maybe a second? Religious stasis needs to be counterbalanced with a creative influx, that is the theme of this blogentry.
|Theme - religion, Soul, Creativity, Institution|
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|Ajaan Brahm Expelled|
To be quite honest I know very little of the details of this issue, and have no wish to become embroiled in them, but this is a sad day for Theravada Buddhism in the West and potentially for the world.
First here is some information.
Here is official information of the Forest Sangha by Ajaan Sumedho - check November 4th:-
Here is an official letter to Buddhist Societies of the Wat Nong Pa Pong Sangha decision:-
This letter explains some of what the Thai establishment tried to do:-
and this is the blog of a clearly emotional monk at Bodhinyana monastery:-
There is much to read if you want to get inside the issue, I don't particularly.
Why am I writing this? From my perspective as an English Buddhist living in Thailand I have a viewpoint to offer, and secondly I woke up thinking about it. And what I was thinking is that there is an awful lot of culture and ego going on in this, and for a matter of Buddhism is that right?
Is there a difference between Theravada Buddhism and Thai Buddhism? Other than it is Theravada practised in Thailand? If there is then there is a cultural element in Thai Buddhism - a condition, an attachment.
I know little of what went on in the echelons of power of Thai Buddhism nor in the Dhamma Hall at Bodhinyana monastery so I cannot comment about them directly. But I am in a good position to comment about the clash of cultures and the potential ego involved.
Speaking to lay Buddhists in Thailand there is nothing a westerner can say to them about Buddhism, they know it all - note I say lay people. Of course westerners in general are arrogant and are willing to transpose their own cultural values onto those of other cultures at a drop of a hat. This I accept as part of the western ego. So there is a clash of cultures concerning Buddhism.
Culturally in the West the issue of female ordination is a big one for the female ego. The female ego since the 60s has ridden into every corridor of western society and said we demand a right to be here. This ordination is a natural consequence of that process, western women would demand to be ordained. This is a cultural demand that would be accepted as valid by western society at large. This demand cannot be ignored by monasteries in the West, and they have to deal with it. If they are going to be monasteries in the West they have to recognise that the western lay people attached to the monastery will want female ordination.
But what of Thai women? In general they accept that the ordained are men. There is a Thai lady who went to Sri Lanka and became ordained. She did this but does not appear to voice discontent to the Thai Buddhist establishment. Her monastery survives and appears quite popular with women. What is clear is that there is a major cultural difference between the demands of western women and those of Thai women with regards to ordination.
So the issue ultimately becomes why do the western monasteries take their authority from the Thai Buddhist hierarchy as the Thai hierarchy has a different cultural perspective than the perspective of the lay people in the western monasteries.
I can only talk from the outside but it seems very important that western people have the opportunity to have access to the traditional teachings. In the UK the abbots whilst knowledgeable would never claim (I presume) that they could establish themselves independently as teachers. I am not suggesting they would want to. Nor do I believe would Ajaan Brahm although now he will have to.
But is there control beyond that of the initial teachings? I have absolutely no doubts there are but what they entail I do not know. These western monasteries are extensions of the Thai Forest Sangha but to what degree?
I don't know whether money is part of the control from the Thai Sangha, but it is difficult also to know whether western monasteries can survive without contributions from Thai people in western countries. Are these western monasteries subsidised to provide a place for Thai people to follow Thai traditions? If they are doing that then the Thai Buddhist establishment would require that the monasteries follow Thai Buddhist culture, and as such the issue of female ordination becomes a major issue.
Finally what about the ego that allowed this ordination to take place. Western principled institutions, particularly the political left, are renowned for their splits. This is ego. In the political left it is often a matter of following a particular political guru, and why the splits occurred seems stupid. It is a nature of western ego that intellectuals will take control and cause a split. Is this what happened in West Australia? I don't know, I am only making a cultural observation. What is also clear is that western perspectives in general do not take the overall perspective. Again I talk of politics. Particular issues become divisive forming the splits. With these splits the movement on the left became decimated and lost its power.
For a description of where Ajaan Brahm was at read
What is the result of this ordination? "One woman is ordained, and one monk is expelled" - not a correct summary - see later blog. This does not matter. What matters is how many people in the world are going to have less access to that Path described in Buddhist teachings. People following the Path is all that matters and this incident has caused a reduction in that. People will argue about natters connected to culture and ego, and will not be focused on the Path - to Nibbana in this case. This is the great sadness of the ordination.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Bodhinyana monastery if it remains with Thai Forest Sangha, and so on.
Here is a discussion in the forum of West Australia monasteries, Ajaan Brahm's monastery :-
West Australia thread on the fallout of the ordination - link is dead
More fallout, Bhikkhu Bodhi supports Ajaan Brahm - link is dead. The fallout doesn't stop as Bhikkhu Bodhi later revised his position
Finally I believe this is an aspect of Dynamic Quality working with Static Quality, there is Quality in both positions. Somehow that Quality needs to assert itself so that Buddhism can move forward.
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|My opinion revised|
My position on this is altering but whether it has fundamentally altered from this blog entry I am not sure - it has by the end of this blog entry:-
First of all there is the easy position, men and women are equal so anything can be done in the name of this principle. I do not accept that. That smacks of the Trotskyist positions I fought. A socialist society is correct -nominally agree - so any tactic we use to get this society is acceptable - completely disagree. Many a sound socialist position was lost on tactic, and not because it was incorrect - poll tax for example was lost as council tax. Whilst the bull-at-the-gate approach is good for certain Trotskyist groups, is it sound for a Buddhist especially a Buddhist monk?
Where I have changed most however is that in listening to the Bhikkhunis who had been ordained I learnt how much they had gained SPIRITUALLY from ordaining. To me that is the measure. A man cannot judge how much a woman gains from ordaining just because underneath we have no gender. Such a judgement has to be patronising.
I cannot state this statistically but Thai women in general accept that men should be ordained and women should not. It is easy to say that these women are indoctrinated because you disagree with this position but isn't it arrogant to make statements for other people like this? As a westerner it is even easier to say this because there is a cultural perspective that women and men are equal, that women in the West are more equal to men than elsewhere, and that therefore it is acceptable to make statements that such non-western women are indoctrinated. Personally I have found Thai women perfectly capable of fighting their own battles, and so it is for them to determine whether Thai Buddhism should support ordination of Bhikkhunis. Phra Pandit's blog clearly states "The Bhikkhuni ordination lineage is sometimes said to have died out. Since women can only be ordained by other Bhikkhunis, then it is not possible to restart the ordination line. This is actually complete nonesense. The Bhikkhuni line of ordination was maintained in the Mahayana (Dharmagupta) tradition - which traces its ordination back to the Buddha himself. And there are thousands and thousands of fully ordained Bhikkhunis to prove it. The ordination in Australia was preformed by several of these Bhikkhunis, so Sadhu! to the new nuns and best wishes to them."
However equally clearly the Wat Pa Phong monks state in their public notification that "the Sangha does not accept the act of ordaining Bhikkhunis on this occasion and holds it as void". Therefore the WPP Forest Sangha do not accept it as valid, and yet by acceptable general Buddhist practice as epitomised by Phra Pandit's statement the Bhikkhunis are Bhikkhunis. Does this mean that Harnham cannot accept the Bhikkhunis as Bhikkhunis? From little I know of Forest Sangha monastic order there is a free flow of travel between monasteries, what does such a public statement mean for that flow for the particular Bhikkhunis. Despite what Phra Pandit says in playing it down this is a major issue for the Forest Sangha - so divisive. I am therefore back where I started - ego institutional and defiant, and what harm has been done?
But for me the issue hinges on a non-religious matter - the home. For me the position of Thai women is better than the position of western women, in Thailand life is mostly focused on the home, and the home in the village - despite the huge urban monstrosity of Bangkok. And for me society needs to be based on the home, and the bringing up of children. Whilst there are political power plays and whilst there are very rich and powerful Thais, the majority of Thai people are relatively poor. Yet it is a happy place because they are focused on their families. It is a country about people and for their own people through the family.
Any proposal that moves the orientation away from the family cannot be good for this positive aspect of Thai society. At present Thai women readily accept that monks are men, and few are looking for any form of ordination. There are some Bhikkhunis, and they have ordained outside Thailand. Bhikkhuni Dhammanando appears to have a thriving mostly women-only monastery without any form of conflict. And yet the Thai monastic establishment is supposed to be anti-Bhikkhuni. I feel this tells the story. The Thai establishment wants these women to be Bhikkhunis but comes up with the dubious "lineage" argument so that it is not seen to be encouraging Bhikkhuni ordination. Whilst I am sure that a significant part of their position is institutional reaction, this is a positive aspect of their decision-making.
But then there is the problem that western women want to be ordained. In western society such ordination is a much more serious issue because the home has been lost. When the women's movement of the 60s and following sought equality they did not base their movement on the home, they based it on equal power in governance and finance. Many such women have shown dissatisfaction with this when in their 30s they do not have a happy family. This is a problem amongst many others that the intellectually-dominated West has to deal with. In my view however because of the powerful and legitimate spiritual drive for Bhikkhuni ordination expressed by Bhikkhunis, then western monasteries have to address the issue. Ajaan Sumedho has said he will wait for permission, I believe that will not happen and for Thai society should not happen. Ajaan Brahm pushed the boat out. In terms of Thai society it was necessary for the Sangha to issue a stern warning to deter further western ordinations so that this intellectual problem (equality without consequence) will not affect Thai society.
In the Wat Pa Phong statement they referred to Ajaan Brahm's fund-raising tours. I further note Ajaan Brahm's move towards Engaged Buddhism. In a statement from Wat Pah Nanachat on the Forest Sangha site they said the following:-
"Ajahn Brahmavamso is unlikely to be adversely affected by the exclusion. His reputation and fund- raising activities may well be enhanced. His social ties with Wat Pa Phong were already weak. He has neglected relations with his Thai colleagues for some time now. Over the last few years several of his trips to Thailand have been devoted to teaching laypeople without including visits to Ubon (most notably the one that coincided with the Wat Pa Phong annual general meeting of June 2009 in which the bhikkhuni issue was discussed). The most common view of the Western theras is that Ajahn Brahmavamso had agreed to host a 'World Abbots Meeting (WAM) in December in which discussion of the bhikkhuni question was on the agenda. If he had waited until that meeting, and after talking things through, announced his decision to leave the WPP Sangha in order to follow a path he felt deeply to be correct and noble, his actions would have been considered regrettable but honourable."
This seems a good considered opinion. It appears to me that Ajaan Brahm's actions were designed to bring conflict because of his belief in Bhikkhuni ordination and Engaged Buddhism. As such I agree with the Sangha that his actions were inappropriate and divisive.
Throughout the world there are Bhikkhunis who have been ordained and carry out their devotion without any interference. This can continue within the framework that maintains the Thai focus on the home by Bhikkhunis legitimately ordaining outside of the Thai Sangha. By attempting to alter this status quo by holding the ceremony within an offshoot of the Thai Sangha Ajaan Brahm was acting incorrectly. I am sure he could have persuaded his disciples to ordain in another monastery in Australia and that they could then continue working with him within the Thai Forest Sangha. Because of the greater consideration for Thai society I consider it inappropriate for the Thai Sangha to actively support Bhikhuni ordination, although I would hope they continue to support Bhikkhunis who ordain outside their purview.
There is a "have your cake and eat it" occurring in the West. Ajaan Brahm owes a great debt to the Thai tradition for their learning as I believe he and all the Forest Sangha Abbotts were trained in Thailand. As part of that debt he/they should support the social structures which the Thai Sangha are a part of, and not attempt to alter the fabric that leads to those structures. Ajaan Brahm intentionally attempted to do so, and was expelled because of it. I now see nothing wrong in the institution for doing so.
For info this blog-entry is about Bhikkhuni running a centre in Chiang Mai. To ordain as Bhikkhunis they have to travel to Sri Lanka, but the centre appears to run fine. In the clip about Bhikkhuni Ordination , the Bhikkhunis referred to various spiritual needs that appear to be satisfied at this centre. I don't personally know but it seems that it is not ideal intellectually - men and women treated exactly the same, yet spiritually complete?
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|Intellectualism and intellectuals|
This is so difficult - the intellectual and intellectualism, these are different from the intellect. Now I am in the process of re-evaluating the intellect through a limited understanding of the intellect in cognitive psychology - as previously blogged. But the issue of the intellectual and intellectualism is not about the intellect, it is about the ego. In the intellectual we have the ego brought about by raising intellect beyond its position and in intellectualism we have a mutual acceptance and science that this ego is accepted. In academia we fundamentally have the institution for both.
So the real issue is how does this ego manifest itself? Put simply there are two types of awareness, that which the intellect can perceive - the outer, and that which wisdom or insight perceives - the inner. I need to investigate the boundaries between these two awarenesses, but the ego of the intellect is easily recognised - it is the ego which attempts to recognise all awareness through the intellect.
So how does one perceive creativity through the intellect? How is goodness perceived through the intellect? Truth? Wisdom? Quality? And many others? The answer is that they cannot be. If they cannot be why would anyone try? Intellectualism and being intellectual.
The intellectual needs to hold onto the institution of academia, and the process of intellect, as these have given the intellectual power and position. There is a need for the intellectual to justify this power and position so the ego becomes involved, and gradually the situation where the intellectual attempts to understand both awarenesses through the intellect develops.
Now when the ego is clinging in this way, it is difficult to get clarity about the two awarenesses - Inner and outer. The outer awareness is much more defineable and the inner awareness is beyond words. However because the Inner is beyond words it is easily ridiculed and dismissed as it cannot be verified by objective proof - although it can be verified by empirical practice. It is also easily assimilated into the intellect's purview but this assimilation does not work well under scrutiny. One approach is to ascribe fluidity to ideas. Whilst this is interesting and extremely difficult to dispute, it detracts from inner understanding. This fluidity allows for creativity and good to somehow be appreciated by the intellect, I don't know how but it does. Under scrutiny there comes a clear delineation between that which can be defined and that which can only be learnt through an Inner journey - wisdom. This process of defining brings doubt to the intellect's assimilation by exposing the lack of clarity. And this is where the difficulties start.
The intellect can only do what the intellect is meant to so what happens? The ego that is clinging to this intellectual assimilation becomes threatened. It is often easy to see the fear this engenders, and I have experienced this fear exhibiting itself as anger and insecurity. One anger has been caused by the inability of the intellect to grasp paradox, as it attempts to rationalise the contradictions in paradox. It also eschews all the contradictions inherent in the position of the intellect assimilating the two awarenesses, and anger is increased if focus is placed on the contradictions.
Other emotions that come out with this fear and insecurity is hurt. The intellect cannot assimilate the two awarenesses, but rather than move Inner the ego takes this as an attack on the individual and the intellectual becomes hurt. Such hurt can be obviated by going Inner but the ego associated with not recognising the Inner can be too strong.
Of course none of this is easy. How do we recognise the difference between the paradox that is beyond words and the discomfort that contradiction brings to the ego?
Then there is insight and idea. Insight is an internal dynamic process where wisdom happens. Often ideas can develop from this insight but once the ideas are clarified that is the end of the insight. The function of the intellect is to remember the ideas or develop them through reason but insight is not a process of intellect. How do you discern? Objectively you cannot as insight is a process of the Inner. The intellectual in assimilating the Inner into the intellect fails to discern, and as a result misses the Inner experience of insight. Fascinating.
On assimilation by intellect I was watching a number of TED videos last night, and there was clear appropriation going on as a hidden curriculum. Lewis Pugh swimming the North Pole to raise the issue of climate change, Amy Tan and Elizabeth Gilbert discussing creativity, James Balog photographing melting glaciers, Emmanuel Jal as a warchild of Sudan, Willie Smits creating an ecosystem in Borneo, are these ideas or are these people in action that the intellect admires? It sounds semantic but it is an aspect of assimilation. What is happening with this type of assimilation? The intellectual is replacing the action with the idea, sitting at TED is sufficient as an act? Recognising this aspect of TED as assimilation is only a small issue - not worth mentioning in a sense - as the TED talks are very good. TED itself is called "Ideas worth spreading" as if the ideas are driving the change. This is an interesting question of historical materialism that intellectuals don't like. In the historical materialist process it is mooted that in history ideas arose when the time was ready for them, in other words it is not ideas that changed history but Nature. When Nature was ready, then through insight someone got the idea, and then people recognised that the idea was appropriate and people changed the world. Again one could argue that this description is semantic except that there is a pattern. And that pattern is the appropriation of the process by the intellect, the intellect not knowing its place in Nature - an egoic weakness. Ironically enough Lewis Pugh and James Belog were talking of climate change - a TED theme I think, and the cause of the climate change has been ego - greed fuelling technological change that is not respecting Nature.
Finally there is embracing the intellect. This is not an egoic act but is recognising that the intellect has a function to perform. Throughout my life as a maths teacher I have accepted intellect in an appropriate position, I hope. In myself maths was not important, just a good teaching tool for the nurturing of intellect, although quite obviously my role as maths teacher gave it more credence than I would personally want to. In retirement I have in some ways negated the function of intellect, and I now recognise this. The world of intellect is important in allowing wisdom to discern. In the mind there is all kinds of stuff. Meditation can clear it but study of intellect can help - in the same way clearing the mind through blog entries can help.
Today meditation did not clear the mind. Thoughts kept coming in. Good thoughts as I developed a plotline for Colwil. But at the same time ideas were coming in and I couldn't let them go - I started to blog.
This morning I resolved the Mahachula incident. It was another attempt to seek help from others, for me the guide is internal. I realised that I am happy with my life in Trat but there are times that I need to sharpen up - too much TV and stuff in Trat. Taking trips can sharpen me up, even in Bangkok I sharpened up although Bangkok would drain me. This week's trip to Chan sharpened me - gave me a change of routine and the routine broke some of the static living patterns (TV and stuff). But the comfort is OK so long as I break the patterns occasionally, this is the Phantom and maybe camping. There is still compassion to resolve but seeking help by teaching monks, befriending the intellectuals of Littlebang, and helping in Bangkok is now not the way. Rely more on my guide and not on the system, Nature will provide. There is too much to learn, about intellect, about the Inner that is not intellect, about the directoriality of Quality and Virtue or Sila - is there a difference between Quality and Virtue, how Quality integrates cells and bacteria, how bacteria integrates into health - see Bonnie Bassler - what that means for my health, SO MUCH. This is what was in my mind in meditation - SO MUCH. My own guide is enough for the moment.
One problem with intellect - I have to buy books!!
|Theme - Intellect|
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|Conviction of Soul|
I listened to a Buddhist Geeks podcast with Alan Wallace. I have edited the Podcast but it is Episode 2 from Buddhist Geeks and this clip begins at 7 mins 30 secs :-
He described 10 stages leading to Shamatha, I presume this is a description from Tibetan Buddhism but am not sure. At the achievement of this Shamatha as described, the mind has reached a threshold which is accompanied by bliss and then stepping over achieves a pure stage of concentration that can be used in daily life.
It is this Shamatha I wish to consider in light of conviction of the soul. What about the "one-hit wonders"? Eckhart Tolle on the Power of Now, Pirsig on quality, I am sure there are many more, Neale Donald Walsch in conversation? Have they not attained an aspect of Shamatha? I consider this very important because it is connected to the Natural mystic. Ajaan Buddhadhasa certainly accepted there were people who through a Natural process in their lives attained some form of enlightenment, have the above three not done similar?
The issue is how similar, what is the similarity? This is difficult to talk about if you haven't done both, and based on the podcast I think it unlikely that one-hit wonders are going to follow Alan Wallace's process to Shamatha. Why should they? In some way they have attained this Shamatha as have perhaps artists, writers etc. The problem is that of language. The subjective experience of the above three, of the artist or writer, is that of powerful concentration at the moment of inspiration, and could be considered as an aspect of Shamatha. Is there a process of holding to Shamatha-only dogma happening (not suggesting Alan Wallace here)? Is there an institutional desire to hold to Shamatha and perhaps negate the experiences of those described?
Insight does not require a religious perspective. Insight is a moment of concentration that leads to a tuning-in that produces a clear thought, inspiration for a work of art. Does insight require the above 10 stages of Shamatha first? I think not. This therefore means that a form of Shamatha can partially occur along the road to full Shamatha. And it can occur to those who are not meditating to achieve Shamatha.
I wonder whether there are names for these partials. I would like to know as it is important for people to know about the Path, know that they are on the Path, and that they can feel comfortable with those who describe a Path in a different way - such as the suttas. How much division is there in the world through people following different Paths and not recognising the similarity because of language? Whilst this is probably not a problem with the Enlightened who would be able to recognise it is more difficult for others especially with the way the intellect confuses and casts doubt.
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|Eschewing Consciousness - 6th sense|
I had been aware of the Buddhist description of six senses, and had recognised that I can be attached to these six senses. But I have never understood them, nor made the effort to understand the dogma. Particularly I have never tried to see why consciousness is considered a sense. This was clarified for me by Susan Blackmore yesterday. She gave a talk to a Skeptics conference at Cal Tech, and I have downloaded it from somewhere - download or watch.
In her talk she described an experiment that I didn't fully understand academically but I realised something important this morning. The experiment showed that the 5 senses are functioning all the time. Inside our sense sees what is happening around, that seeing is ongoing. But do we need to see what is happening all the time? No. Now I see the fish tank, it is there but it is a fish tank that is just "fishtanking". But if I want to feed the fish or annoy them I must become conscious of "seeing the fishtank". This does not require a new act of seeing, it simply requires an acknowledgement by consciousness of an existing act of seeing. This explains things like the sixth sense when driving. It seems that we know of road conditions before we are conscious of them. That is not a sixth sense but one of the ongoing 5 senses, the sixth sense is when we become conscious. If we are in an accident we pull all six senses together and often act in a "superhuman" way. We do not , we just somehow access the ongoing 5 senses by the 6th sense of consciousness in a more attuned way.
Why this experiment brought this home to me is that somehow the experiment showed that there was a sensual awareness before consciousness - a time lapse. How can it be explained another way?
We do here have an issue of terminology. This Buddhist term of consciousness, citta, has a particular meaning whereas the Hippie meaning of consciousness .... man! is different. Therefore it is necessary to be careful that when we eschew this aspect of Hippie consciousness we are not eschewing a deeper meaning of consciousness that might be termed awareness. But it is the investigation of this deeper meaning of consciousness that is so important.
|Theme - Consciousness|
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|Insight or Spark before Insight?|
Recently a friend described my blog as intellectual because it is full of ideas. Then we discussed insight, and it became clear that what was important to me as insight could also be seen as ideas. Objectively is there a difference between an insight and an idea?
This then led me to an understanding that the difference lies in the process of arriving at an insight. I discussed the insight in my meditation process. Through meditation ideas come and go, but sometimes after a while an idea cements itself as important. Sometimes in meditation this cementing process deepens and another idea develops that I recognise as insight.
But sometimes as well this blog comes into play - as in this case. The insight in this case is concerning the spark so the blog is about explaining this insight. So here I am explaining about the spark before insight, and am suggesting that maybe we could distinguish between insight and ideas by recognising this spark. It is where this spark comes from that makes the process insight, and that is essential. Where does it come from?
I have always seen this spark as some sort of cosmic, and in truth I am not sure. We start to get into unity, what part of me is united and so on. Is the spark permanent? Or is the spark temporary but of a deeper wisdom? Need to dwell on this one. This is hard, and is connected with the other consideration of consciousness (just blogged). There was an interesting Buddhist Geeks interview with (Dan Ingram cropped or go to Buddhist Geeks -) that has left me totally confused. He was discussing his own moments of revelation and the process he went through, and his description involved that of cycles, "dark night" - a Rosicrucian idea, and dissatisfaction with daily life. I wanted to try and recognise in his description part of where I came from as his early revelations were sporadic like mine. I couldn't see it. He did however relate his revelations to the dogma, and that is interesting.
To try to clarify consciousness and where the spark comes from, I am going to look into cognitive psychology. This is a study and not insights so I will start a blog on my studies. Hopefully something insightful will come out of this study, and I can then blog that here. Here is the Study - nothing as of July 17 2010.
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|The Sixth Sense|
I cheered today in meditation, the moronic two hands in the air. Waa....heey! I woke up and got that consciousness is one point. But then the meditation today was struggling. Consciousness is not mind. So consciousness must let go of the mind. But what is the mind? Then I remembered the confusing Abhidhamma talking about mental factors. So consciousness is not the mental factors. But what are the mental factors? Are they the brain? Does the brain reason? This didn't feel right. So the brain doesn't reason, then reasoning is a mental factor. So there is the sixth sense - citta consciousness. Then meditation told me "forget the dogma". So what is the sixth sense? Mind, and I cheered. Citta consciousness is confusing for me at the moment. But the mind as a sixth sense, distinct from consciousness, free to roam the body - that is not confusing for me. And I cheered. This is going to help my study of cognitive psychology.
Addendum - 8/12/09:-
However stimulating the meditation was the blogentry is not so good. Firstly the confusion is not over. The one-pointedness was real but the terminology might be mistaken - perhaps better called awareness. As for the process of consciousness which attaches to the senses to make one aware of them that is part of mind where mind can be considered as this sensory consciousness and mental processes and factors. But this consciousness must not be filled with the contents of mental factors. The mind as a sixth sense is distinct from one-pointedness I felt, but it is not distinct from the consciousness that attaches to the senses. It is necessary to develop the faculty of mind that controls this consciousness - is this mindfulness?
And what is this one-pointed awareness?
So still confused.
|Theme - Consciousness|
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|Right View - Eating is Health|
I am convinced more and more about the importance of healthy eating, and the contribution this makes on the Path to Enlightenment. In other words it is a spiritual choice to eat naturally and healthy. What happens when we don't eat healthily? It gives the body potential for disease. If that potential starts actuating then it will become a distraction, and consciousness will be required to act. And at the least meditation will be affected. Now maybe good meditators will be able to work through the distraction, but why is the distraction there in the first place? Ignorance - not having the right view. The body will look after itself but only if the body is functioning according to its nature, and the proper way for the body to function according to its nature is for it to partake of natural foods - ONLY.
On an individual level decision-making to eat naturally is straight forward, although not always easy with addictions in place - and sometimes resource issues. Institutions should lead the way in this but in this case the institution is way behind. A dictum made 2500 years ago by the Buddha means that today people give almsround, and are unintentionally creating disease in their monks. The establishment needs to remove the ignorance that surrounds the food, recognise that contemporary food has been intentionally poisoned by profit-making Big Food, and require its lay members to donate healthy food. The Buddha always allowed for health within the Vinaya, but he could never have predicted that humanity would use food to poison each other in the name of profit. In retrospect the Buddha might perceive that greed could manifest in this way but he could never have predicted it. It is time for institutions to change with regard to healthy eating.
But if they are stuck in a rut of Bhikkhuni ordination, how can they orient towards healthy food?
And what is worse is that where they can directly control the food such as the cafeteria at Mahachula they don't.
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