The Golden Calf

Many in the West are familiar with the Biblical account of Moses and the Israelites. When Moses ascended Mt Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from GOD, he was gone a very long time. The Israelites, without a leader, decided that they needed a idol to represent the gods that had delivered them from Egypt. Aaron gathered up the golden earrings among the people and a Golden Calf was made to make offerings to.
Of course, this false idol did not please GOD nor Moses. Moses destroys the original Ten Commandments tablets when he throws them to the ground and burns the Golden Calf in a fire.

The mind of man is weak and feable. Prophets and gods warn man not to construct plastic and stone monuments that only build walls between the higher level of consciousness and the external environment. It is from this level of consciousness, with feet off land, in a sea free of form, that mind unites and understanding begins. When man constructs the Golden Calf, when he holds strongly to the Golden Word, when he follows to the Golden Ritual, when he believes only to the Golden Tradition, he sinks down the base consciousness, the neighbor to simple logic.
"Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold."

Moses knows no GOD of plastic or wood. He knows no GOD of form. A GOD of infinite being to one who has ascended Mt Sinai does not fit into empty ritual and will not be found in the same words after 2000 years. Man is man. Teachings are delivered to free the mind. They are a vehicle and must at one time be let go. If we hold onto the Golden Calf we will be burned up in the flames during its destruction.

We find similiar stories in many traditions. To modify an old Buddhist story, a master and his student are sitting in a stone temple. The old master asked the student to bring him a piece of wood. The student looks and only sees stone, a Buddha statue, candles, a rug, himself, and the master. No wood!
The master repeated the request.
After some time the student admited that he cannot find any wood in the room.
The master then read the student the Heart sutra, and upon hearing the words, "Emptiness is form, form is emptiness," the student saw the Buddha statue as a piece of wood.
Who is the Buddha Shakyamuni?
When did he live?
He was very clear that he wished no images to be made of him.
The student in the story understood why.
The walls were thick in his mind.

The mind of man is here and there. It sees the chair as a chair. It has only been a chair. It was never anything else. The world is only concepts. In this sort of world, religion becomes a concept. When there is Unity of Awareness... there is no chair... there is something beyond is and is not. When this understanding expands beyond the internal to the infinite, the light of consciousness shows the way to freedom.




Named to the Nameless

Words are like cords of rope. Words bind the mind with concepts and ideas. Words limit. Words close off. Words separate us from the original mind. Whether Zen Buddhist, Christian mystic, Hindu or Sufi, the written word is seen as a possible danger, full of pitfalls.

_____ is _____.

When the mind fills in those two blanks the conception limits us and using our limited knowledge, limited scope of science and imagination, it tells us what something is or is not.

As the Dao de Jing tells us, "The Way is eternally nameless."

The foolish human mind likes to place the world into categories. When we place our spiritual world within this same context we build up a false palace that shines brightly from our own ego, not from any attainment or awareness.

"Start fashioning, and there are names;
once names also exist,
you should know when to stop,
By knowing when to stop,
you are not endangered.
The Way is to the world
as rivers and oceans to valley streams." -Dao De Jing

This spiritual life is very hard. When we are born we take our first steps away from the nameless to the named: hard/soft. me/not me. large/small. fuzzy/smooth.

Once we are at the age that we can define our spiritual beliefs and create an image in our minds then our little plastic god lives in a box in our living room. We must all move from the named to the nameless.

Words can be a guide but they can also be a trap. Outside of this duality, without our minds, transcending subject and object, the nameless expands to infinity. Words are useless. Moral guides are useless. We will act in harmony with the universe, for our consciousness has expanded and feels as if it reaches across time and space. We are in, out, and of the formless vessel. All is one. True learning can finally begin.




The Certainty of Science

I was recently having an interreligious discussion on various topics with a group of people of many faiths and beliefs, including one member who held firm to a total belief in science and atheism. When the discussion turned to prayer, he was the most active in the conversation, speaking about the lack of evidence to justify belief in prayer. For some, faith was the only requirement. Others felt that all the evidence had been provided for them.
For the man of science, prayer lacked certainty. He complained that when prayer works out, the faithful claim it is a miracle, but when it does not, the excuses begin. The so-called faithful rattle on about the many reasons why the prayer didn't work. He explained that in science, an experiment can be repeated over and over again with the same result to prove the merit of the belief. I personally have an interest in science, but of course, there are limits to the scientific method. An experiment can only measure what it can quantify. There are forces beyond the reach of scientific tools. Oh no? What does tofu taste like to me? What does it taste like to you? Limited to the perspective of observer, and limited by tools of this age, we can only wonder what is out there, waiting to be discovered. We look back 100 years and see how foolish we viewed the world in the past.
As prayer is not a part of my particular religion/belief system, I cannot give examples to support the claim itself. Nevertheless, the mind must always stay open to possibilities. I asked the man of science if he were so certain if his world of science fit so neatly in a little pink box with a small bow, and that these results were constantly verified. In this chaotic world of change, very little is exact and repeating (minus the general outlines of history).
The day following our discussion, I received an email from the man of science. It seems that his recently purchased car, the miracle of science, the internal combustion engine, failed to start. Jokingly he said that possibly his little pink box wasn't so perfect, but of course, there were many factors that could contribute to the car not starting.
I wrote back, "That excuse sounds familiar. If you listen closely you can hear the walls falling."




The Truth According to Puppetji

I first saw this video on the blog Spiritual Exile. I laughed and thought it was a joke but Puppetji is worth listening to.


Playing GOD

There is much debate these days about genetic research, cloning, organ regeneration, and the many future benefits of gene mapping. Despite the hope of curing many illnesses that have harmed or killed thousands or millions, many see these reaches into the very genes of the human as 'playing GOD.'
In a recent conversation this was said to me:
"I just don't think we, man, should be playing GOD."
Playing GOD?
When we find ourselves face to face with new scientific frontiers we must ask ourselves if these practices are ethical. From a religious standpoint, it can be difficult to judge if they violate our beliefs because many of these issues may not have existed in any form, and therefore, may not have been addressed in any clear way in a designated text or medium. We are left to judge for ourselves or leave it to those we place at the head of our belief system.
From a personal standpoint I cannot see how we can place genetic research on the same level as creation itself. Playing GOD? Clearly some have forgotten the power of the Biblical GOD. He is said to have created man from the dust of the earth. There was no life and then there was life. He then breathed life into man.
Compare this to the most extreme of genetics, which even most scientists would agree is unethical: cloning. We take life and from that we harvest new life. Much like cell division in the human body, this process is not creating something from nothing, or more correctly, creating the animate from the inanimate. We can see that in the case of genetic research, man is not playing GOD, he is just playing human in a different way.
Whether or not these practices violate our belief systems is another point altogther. Far too often the only opposition that I hear raised is that man is playing GOD. Clearly those that like saying that need a refresher course on creation.
As to whether any or all of this genetic debate is right or wrong..... I leave it up to you to decide.




Taking a Break

My initial goal in setting up this blog was to discuss religious ideas among different groups. Behind the scenes, I talked with leaders and regular practitioners of many faiths and religions, looking find a few willing participants for the discussion. While most were very willing to share their opinions and also to learn from others, or at least hear them out, another group of people held firm to the belief that there was no purpose to in dialog. 'This is how it is, and everyone else is wrong!' is how they would state it. As easy as it would be to simply include the willing participants and exclude those who have no room for the thoughts and ideas of others, a noticeable gap would be present and an explanation would be necessary. This blog serves to voice the expression of religious ideas of all those on the earth, but will not voice ideas of submission to only one idea. Deciding that perhaps the fault lay in my inexperience as a religious diplomat, I wrote about the 'Unity of Awareness' in various aspects, the nectar of what we seek in whatever path we find ourselves. While I study the religions of the world, I focus on the East, primarily on those of Asia. Recently I have focused solely on India and my posts will reflect this. I wish to bring to Western eyes many aspects of a world they may know little about and in this environment, compare ideas and learn from the past. We seem very confused about our present and future.
With various posts in the works, I have decided to take a short break from the blog and collect my thoughts and change direction. I had hopes of having one blogger from each religion posting on this blog, but now I will step aside for a month, perhaps two, and when I return, I will continue down the path that the blog seems to have taken on its own. I will speak of the Unity of Awareness in all religions and worldviews, whether Sufi or Hopi. We can explore the inner worlds, past and present, and learn how to live in the uncertain future. Reality is created through and understanding of ourselves. Each religion/worldview defines 'self' is a very distinct way. Even though the paths may waver, most ask many of the same things from the seeker. When we fight over the differences, we fall off of the path, and wallow in the mud. See you soon.




Hare Krsna

In Book X of the Srimad Bhagavata Purana, the epic story of Krsna's earthly life, comes a story from his infancy. Though only a baby, Krsna is all, and therefore held a relative-baby- and a universal -Ultimate- perspective. In Part 1, Chapter 7, V. 35-6, Krsna's adopted mother is suckling him at her breast when he yawns. When she peers down inside his tiny mouth, "she saw in there the sky, heaven and earth, the host of stars, space, the sun, the moon, fire, air, the oceans, the continents, the mountains, and their daughters [rivers], the forests, and the moving and the non-moving living things."
Throughout the beginning of the book, the demon Kamsa dreadfully awaits the birth of this powerful child. Fearful of his power, the demoness Putana, slaughterer of children is sent to kill the baby Krsna. She arrives in the village disguised as a one of the women and goes to baby Krsna like a mother offering her breast for milk. Krsna knows that this breast is tipped with poison and he suckles out not just the milk, but the very life from Putana.
When the villagers burned the demonic body of Putana, it did not have the horrid smell of thousands of murders and horrible deeds, but instead had the sweet smell of aloe, for in suckling Krsna had removed not only her life, but her sins as well. Even with murderous intent, Putana had approached Krsna as a mother with the gift of milk, and in the presence of such a being, she was sent to the land of saints, not demons. Surely she was surprised.
Upon reading this I felt a chill. Gone were the vengeful gods of old who demanded fire or blood or oaths or fealty at the consequence of external pain and suffering. Here was the earthly Krsna, who treats an assassin like a mother, and sends a demon to the land of saints. During a period of a brutal caste system, krnsa had an "untouchable" attendant. In a time when women were thought of as inferior, those women devoted to him attained the highest level of awareness. Too many great figures seem locked within the ideas of their time. Krsna seems to transcend them.

Bryant, Edwin Krishna: The Beautiful Legend of God (Srimad Bhagavad Purana Book X) London: Penguin Books 2003



Changing River

Just like the river...... you can never read the same book twice.

I purchased The Way of Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tzu) for a friend and thought back to the first time that I read that book, at about the age of twelve. Though I had no experience with Daoism or religious thought, observing 'how things are' and the natural flow that seems to exist within all life systems has always fascinated me, even before I knew how to describe or understand what I was seeing. Through the years, as I reread Zhuang Zi, different aspects stood out or fell into the shadows as life experience, insight, and the stages of life cast their light on the book. My life moved by like a river, and reading Zhuang Zi, so full of multiple layers of meaning, one layer would sprout, hiding another, coming back years later, like an micro-ecosystem. I realize now that a book is not a static learning tool but a living, teaching part of this world that moves with the stream. None of us can ever read the same book as each other, and none of us can ever read the same book twice. This is what makes like so beautiful and grand......change.



The Whole Universe Has it as Its Self

Hubble photo:Nasa

This portion of the Chandogya Upanisad from the Sama Veda details the character of atman or Being. I have always enjoyed reading this work and thought I would share small portions here, though there will be no original amendment, for the words of Svetaketu's father stand on their own.

[Once upon a time] there lived [a man called] Svetaketu Aruneya. To him his father said: "Svetaketu, you should [now] live the life of a chaste student of sacred knowledge. No one in our family, my dear boy, is uneducated, a [mere] hanger on, as you might say, of the Brahman class."
So at the age of twelve he went to [a master], and when, at the age of twenty-four, he had studied all the Vedas, he returned, conceited, priding himself on his learning, and obdurate.
Then his father said to him: "Svetaketu, my boy, since you are now conceited and obdurate, and pride yourself on your learning, did you also ask about that teaching by which had [hitherto] not been heard, is heard; what had [hitherto] not been known, is known?"
"Now, sir, what manner of teaching is that?"
"My dear boy, just as all that is made up of clay can be known by one lump of clay- its modifications are verbilizations, [mere] names- the reality is just 'clay-ness.'
"And dear boy, just as all that is made of copper can be known by one copper ornament-its modifications are veribilizations, [mere] names-the reality is just copper.......- so dear boy, is that teaching."
"Now, I am sure those venerable gentleman did not know this; for it they had known it why should they not have told me? Do you, sir, then, tell me."
"My dear boy, I will", said he.....

"As bees, dear boy, make honey by collecting the juices of many trees and reduce the juice to a unity, yet [those juices] cannot percieve any distinction there [so that any of them might know;] 'I am the juice of this tree', or "I am the juice of that tree', [so too], my dearest boy all these creatures [here], once they have merged into Being do not know that they have merged into Being.
"Whatever they are in this world, whether tiger or lion, wolf or boar, worm or moth, gnat or fly, that they become again.
"This finest essence- the whole universe has it as its Self: That is the Real: That is the Self: That you are, Svetaketu!"
"Good, sir, will you kindly instruct me further?"
"I will, my dear child" said he.

"[Look at] this great tree, my dear. If you were to strike at its root, it would bleed but live on; if you were to strike it in the middle, it would bleed but live on; if you were to strike it at the top, it would bleed but live on. Strengthened by the living Self, it still stands, drinking in the moisture and exulting.
"If life leaves one of its branches, it dries up; if it leaves a second, that too dries up; if it leaves a third, that too dries up. If it leaves the whole [tree], the whole [tree] dries up. This, my dear boy, is how you ought to understand it," said he.
"When the life has gone out of it, this [body] dies; [but] the life does not die.
"The finest essence - the whole universe has it as its Self: That is the Real: That is the Self: That you are, Svetaketu!"
"Good sir, will you kindly instruct me further?"
"I will, my dear child," said he.

"Just as a bird, tied to a string, will fly around in all directions and finding no resting-place anywhere else, will resort to the very [string] that keeps it captive, so too, my dear, the mind will fly around in all directions and, finding no resting-place anywhere else, will come to rest in the breath of life; for, my child, the mind is the captive of the breath of life."

"Bring me a fig from other there."
"Here you are, sir."
"Cut it open."
"[There it is,] cut open, sir."
"What do you see there?"
"These rather small seeds, sir."
"Would you, please, cut one of them up?"
"[Here is one,] cut up, sir."
"What do you see there?"
"Nothing at all, sir."
Then he said to him: "My dear boy, it is true that you cannot perceive this finest essence, but it is equally true that this huge fig tree grows up from this same finest essence.
"My dear child, have faith.
"This finest essence- the whole universe has it as its Self: That is the Real: That is the Self: That you are Svetaketu!"
"Good sir, will you kindly instruct me further?"
"I will, my dear child," said he.
Upanisad taken from:
Heehs, Peter Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual Expression and Experience New York: New York University Press, 2002



Organic Opera

One Saturday a month I drive out to the organic grocery store to purchase a few hard-to-find vegetarian items. I had always imagined the organic grocery store as a peaceful sanctuary full of yoga practitioners, new-agers, Western Buddhists, massage therapists, and other spiritual followers, gathering together to buy wholesome foods and other items with a peaceful mind outside of the normal rush and chaos of the outside world. Surprise! The normal rush and chaos of the outside world would be scared of the frantic rush, agitated shoppers, menacing shopping baskets, assaulting shopping carts, angry glares, rude comments, impatient prances, and other similar behavior. The organic grocery store of Aventura, Florida could double as a zoo, where shoppers revert to primal behavior, wanting only to feed at all costs.
Today I was struck with at least two carts as I waited patiently for people to rush by and push me out of the way or reach around me or open the freezer door that stood directly in front of me. I was reminded that one should never have expectations, for the expectations will surely be broken, opening the door for suffering. Knowing this lesson well, this sort of behavior brings out no anger or impatience in me anymore, though that was not always the case. Careful to avoid as many bruises as possible, I gathered my groceries and asked, "What went wrong?"
In India, one will witness a very high level of devotion. One can imagine the millions of people who have chanted the same mantra and devoted themselves to the same images and worshipped at the same shrines. There is an insignificant nature to the individual aspect of religious pursuit when compared to the grand history. The wheel will turn when we leave.
In my opinion, the fundamental problem is the selfish nature in which the West approaches the spiritual path. While the mind thinks it is engaged in the true practice of a path, the seeds of that mind think, "how can I digest this religion or philosophy?" "When do I get to meet the Guru?"
At a recent mandala event, a woman arrived at the end of the four day event after the ceremonies had ended, glanced quickly at the surroundings, then asked the person at the desk, "how can I be blessed by the Rinpoche?"
This practice is much like the practice of hunting. While one man only sees the full majesty and beauty of the elephant while it walks, sleeps, and feeds in nature, the other man, the Western man, must impress himself upon the elephant. He shoots the elephant and puts the head upon his wall. He then feels that he has impressed himself upon this beauty. We know this is not true because before long he will feel empty and must find a new head for his wall, and no amount of heads will ever suffice.
Thus it is the same in the spiritual world. No amount of I will ever suffice. Collect all of the blessings, signatures of holy men, beads, books, pictures, relics, philosophies, rings, and theories, but all you will be left with is a room of lifeless heads. You will need new things to keep I satisfied. In Buddhist thought, there is the concept of the hungry ghost, constantly hungry but with a throat too small for food and water. Fill up the mouth with food, but the belly is always empty. I have great compassion for the hungry ghosts of Aventura, who strike out in anger and delusion only because of their hunger. Knowing this I take the bruises with a smile and hope that in kindness their throats might widen, their eyes might open, and wisdom might illuminate their souls.



Yoga In Our Age: Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

The word Yoga now invites images of soccer moms rushing to the local fitness center to catch a class in 'Power Yoga' in designer yoga clothes, on a designer yoga mat, with a celebrity yoga teacher. Every year, the number of Americans celebrating the power and effect of yoga grows (15 million accoring to Yoga Journal in 1994). Alas, poor Patanjali, writer of the Yoga sutras in the 3rd century CE would not recognize his yoga nor would he credit these active stretchers as yogis.

' This is teaching of Yoga.
Yoga is the cessation of the turning of thought.
When thought ceases, the spirit stands in its true identity as observer to the world.
Otherwise, the observer identifies with the turnings of thought...
Cessation of the turning of thought comes through practice and dispassion.
Practice is the effort to maintain the cessation of thought.'
-Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Based within the philosophical system of Samkhya, the Yoga of Patanjali (to which little is known) emphasizes separating the connection from the phenomenon world, bringing an end to cittavrttis (turning of thought). Suffering (duhkha) is brought about by the connection between observer (purusa) with the observed (prakrti). Isolation from this connection, or kaivalya, leads to moksa, which is the yogic term for liberation.
The Astanga Yoga, or "Eight-limbed" Yoga of Patanjali leads the practitioners through eight successive stages, ending in liberation. The pervading conscious self must be separated from unconscious matter.

The Eighfold Path
1) Yama - Moral Principles



abjuration of stealing


absence of greed
We see in the very first limb that our fitness center yoga has not prepared us for the Yoga us Patanjali. How many of use practice nonviolent speech, thought and action? How many of us speak the truth at all times? Many studies suggest that most Americans lie to 1 in 3 people in a day. 1 in 3! Stealing does not mean breaking into a bank and stealing the money. Stealing is taking something that does not belong to us. If we go to work and our boss is not there, we might like to sit around and enjoy the time, speaking with our friends and surfing the internet (hopefully not this site!) . When we receive our paycheck, we have stolen money. We made a promise to work and we did not. As soon as our boss turned his back, we took the time to rest and play. This is taking something that does not belong to us. Celibacy is usually redefined as the avoidance of sexual misconduct in most modern religious practices. Greed is to fulfil our desire; to complete our attachment. Many go to a yoga studio to "tone" their bodies or "lose a few pounds." Life is an endless sinking and rising of our sea life to be a showcase for the world, as we begin starvation diets, swallow green tea in pills instead of taking the time to brew it, hate ourselves for failing to measure up to a social standard that is an illusion and that is meant to keep the mind engaged. There can be no appeasement to the god of greed. His fire always burns.

2) Niyama- Observances

Most of these are outside of the experience of the West. They include: Bodily purification, contentment [no more listening to, "Oh Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz"], ascetic practice, study of sacred lore, and dedication to Lord of Yoga (not Baron Baptiste)

3) Asana- Postures

Asana are not mindless stretching exercises. We can say that we are adapting "Yoga to the West" but when we take the mind out of the practice, we take the yoga out as well. A local Miami paper printed an ad for a stitching/sewing company with a line: "It's yoga for the mind." There is little wonder that most will gravitate towards their bodies in the practice of yoga, especially in the west, where the colorful media convince us that self-oriented attachment, making ourselves a showcase for others desire, is the highest virtue. We must always remember the goal of yoga is to separate the conscious self from the unconscious matter, not engage ourselves in the mirror and admire our contours or admonish our faults. We should choose not to play this foolish game.

4) Pranayama- breath control

Pranayama and asana go hand in hand and the above apply here.

5) Pratyahara- Withdrawal of the senses

When our senses come in contact with an object, there is a response. If we desire further contact with that object, the internal neural and chemical process grows stronger. In time, this process is like the well worn tracks of the donkey cart that have etched into the mud for miles and this track must be used with little choice. The only real hope is to withdrawal the senses and stop this neural and chemical response from occurring, rebuild the system, and when the system is ready, it can return to the world without as much risk of harm or attachment.

6) Dharana - Concentration

Thought is narrowed to a single-point.

7) Dyhana - Meditation

Here the idea is the focus the mind onto one wave of thought, unifying mind and body, and preventing all outside and other inside influences from providing distraction.

8) Samadhi - Pure Contemplation

At the highest level we realize that we cannot use thought to realize thought, for another thought is needed. Pure awareness must be used at this stage. When pure awareness is realized, moksa can be gained.

"Since thought is an object of perception, it cannot illuminate itself.
Nor can both thought and its objects be comprehended simultaneously.
If a thought is the object of another thought, there is an infinite regression from intelligence to intelligence, and a confusion of memory.
Awareness of its own intelligence occurs when thought assumes the form of the spirit through consciousness that leaves no trace...
One who sees the distinction between the lucid quality of nature and the observer ceases the cultivate a personal reality."

In the end, the world will be what it is of our own choosing. It can be discouraging to see how far off the path Western Yoga has fallen. However, we may learn the asana in our local yoga class, all the while adhering to all eight limbs of Patanjali's yoga. When we press our hands onto the mat there must be an attempt to unify breath and body. At the later stages we seek to separate the observer from the observed. There will not be a time when the true or false nature of another path will enter our minds, and if it does, we will let it go. The path is inward until there is no path to be found.

In the Miami area, I am aware of a studio in which all of the instructors must study the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a Sanskrit scholar is on staff, and the classes are said to be of the highest quality. I have never been to one of these classes nor do I have any affiliation with the studio but will provide a link due to the relevance to the above post.
Heeds, Peter Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual Expression and Experience New York: New York University Press, 2002



One Finger from the Fishbowl

'O Thou Divine Sankara,
Thou art the Subject,
That has Knowledge
Of Subject and object.
Let the subject in me be destroyed
as subject and object.
For thus in my mind arises
The Light as the Single Siva.'
-Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi

How strange that many people spend an entire lifetime contemplating which t.v. actor is dating which movie star and which phone has Bluetooth (whatever that is), or which pair of jeans make them look fat, but spend not a second on questions such as, "What happens between material cause and material effect" or "Where is my mind?" I asked a bilingual co-worker, half-joking, if she sneezed in Spanish or English. Realizing that a thing as simple as a sneeze lies outside of the Subject-Object mind of language, it can actually be the first taste of what lies beyond the curtains we have put over our true minds, a taste of the ineffable. From where do thoughts arise? An easy way to see how the mind fools us is with the movement of the finger. We all know that the impulse to move the finger comes from the mind.
Being that simple, use your mind to bend your finger.... Sounds simple enough. I don't ask you to simply bend your finger. That impulse appears to occur within the finger itself. I ask you to use a thought and make your finger move. It is, after all, YOUR finger. When you are thinking words and thoughts to yourself, you will find that the thinking seems to come from the inside the skull, and that is where the thought to move the finger should originate. It is your mind, and noone else's. If you can't control your finger, what can you control?
There is a very good reason why the thought to move the finger does not originate with a conscious thought such as "Hey, finger... get moving!" Imagine that we rest our hand on a red-hot stovetop burner. If the hand must wait for the conscious thought- "This burner is quite hot. I must remove my hand now," -to move, we would all walk around with toasted hands. Nature has decided that it is best for us not to control everything consciously, but let some things run from the more primitive, mammalian, instinctive brain- a brain that might just save your life with quick instinct and reaction.
The problem is that this "routing" that takes place for the finger and that simplifies things is that it also has a large effect on our cognitive mind, therefore on how we see the world and frame our reality. [I hope to gradually introduce more cognitive science as a way to understand the difficulties of the spiritual path from the Western perspective]
We all have formed a very silly view of the world, with a "reality" far from anything close to true logic. We always run the chance that the cognitive brain will "misfire" when we trust in it. Logic can be seen as the fish in the fishbowl, declaring that the earth is round and only holds about 2 gallons of water. When the mind is defiled, any sight or sound, cognized thought or theory, will also be defiled. Our skull is a fishbowl.
The method of cognition is what we must restructure to break this fishbowl, one neural network at a time. Do not be concerned with the mechanism or processes too greatly for this only serves to further bind the mind to the illusions of form, feeling, and mental volitions that have been secured. The path out of this maze was found long ago.
What is truly amazing is that the ascetics of many of the world's traditions understood the illusory nature of conventional reality and found a way to awaken the mind to the ultimate nature without understanding the quantum world or neuroscience. Even today, where science remains in the field of the observer, the ascetic stands alone. As an observer, duality is always present and theory can never unify with being. The scientist himself can be the great new discovery as man learns how to explore newfound knowledge within the power of the mind. While I enjoy reading papers by Einstein, Schrodinger, and Heisenberg, there was another man who spoke of the relativity of time that I prefer to spend more time with, who can not only speak of theory, but help to "crack the bowl." His name: Nagarjuna (no Nobel Prize)


Making of the Mahatma

The 1982 film Gandhi told the lifetime story of Mohandas Gandhi, spending only a short period in South Africa where Gandhi changed from lawyer to spiritual activist. Though he spent 21 years there, the film gave only a glimpse of how this land changed him.
In 'Making of the Mahatma', based on the biography of Gandhi's time in South Africa by Fatima Meer, we get the chance to see Gandhi confronted by the cruelties of colonialism and the brutality that man can muster based on ignorance. Mohandas is given a copy of the Qu'ran, attends a church, gives lectures on the Gita, and begins to formulate a spiritual worldview that embraces the beliefs of others. Satyagraha, a term coined by Gandhi, is a far better discovery than decoding the human genome or uncovering the mysteries of blackbody radiation, but the West likes to have its treasures in test tubes, not in little white robes and a walking stick. Though the film is not of the greatest quality, the message comes through, and that is all that really matters. If you know nothing of satyagraha, watch the film.



Vicissitudes of Life

When the uninstructed worldling comes upon gain, he does not take the time to think, to analyze past experience and those of others, and comprehend that the gain is impermanent, that it is bound up in suffering, and that it is subject to change, like all things.

The mind of the uninstructed worldling dances to the to-and-fro, give-and-take of this cyclic existence, trapped in the tapping of the vicissitudes of life.

The mind of the uninstructed worlding is transfixed to the world of change like a child with a new toy. The change keeps the dance alive.

'With Gain, He is Elated.

With Loss, He is Dejected.


With Fame, He is Elated.

With Disrepute, He is Dejected.

With Praise, He is Elated.

With Blame, He is Dejected.

With Please, He is Elated.

With Pain, He is Dejected.'

(Anguttara Nikaya 8:6;IV 157-59)


All the while, the uninstructed worldling never stops the dance. When he slows, his mind slows. When slow, he may discern. When discerning, he will gain insight. With insight, freedom can be gained. The Eight Wordly Conditions are not permanent. Samatha, or calm abiding, is where we take our first steps to freedom.


works cited:
Work in quotes adapted from the Anguttara Nikaya as translated in:
1. Bodhi, Bhikkhu In The Buddha's Words Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2005


Tactile Junkies

Public domain moochu a.k.a miho

At the moment of birth, we begin to define the difference between "I" and the outside world through our senses. We touch objects and put them in our mouths and decide between "me" and "not me." The concept of a self must be reestablished within every moment through constant interaction with thought or feeling. "I .. am feeling the ... ball (which is not a part of me)."

We smell, taste, touch, sense, and hear at every moment. As tactile junkies, we seek out greater interactions, which makes us feel even more alive by creating a greater illusion of self. We zoom at breakneck speed in roller-coasters, slam our ears with deafening sound at concerts, scream at the top of our lungs while sipping beer, getting dizzy, and dancing about to the beat of a song.

Our greatest interaction occurs when two people connect and begin to speak. There is almost like a momentary link-up, much like when two computers interface. You can sense a connection beyond normal sense, creating an interaction so much greater than common experience, there is no wonder that we are such social animals.

And so it becomes clear why fear is experienced during meditation. To stop interacting is almost like asking the heart to stop beating. It must beat for us to live. We must interact to maintain our sense of self, or feeling that "WE" are alive. It is very hard to believe an enlightened mind when he tells us that true happiness lies beyond this sense, when every moment of happiness we have experienced has come from this idea of a self. Upon reflection we see that every moment of interaction, every moment of self-identity, brings with it, a moment of hidden sorrow. We don't know anyone in our daily lives who is truly happy, only people who say they are with empty words. Alas, this is one part of the journey that requires a great leap of faith: abandon all that you are and all that you define yourself by.