Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Could the biblical story of Adam and Eve be a metaphor for Buddhist teachings?


Today, I had a nice conversation with a good friend of mine, who happens to be a fairly conservative 'born again' Christian. He is a good man, kind, intelligent and loves to talk philosophy and religion with me at lunch some days. Today, the topic was literalism, to which his view point was the Christian bible needs to taken literal if the true word of God is to be known. I argued that many of the biblical stories, much like many Buddhist stories are metaphors for deeper meanings and messages. Metaphors, sometimes, are an easier way to convey a point rather than speaking in a direct manner.

We got into the the discussion of the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. While he held a very literal view of original sin and man's betrayal of God, I retorted it was a metaphorical story about man's transition or evolution of mind and thought, to see the world in a dualistic nature, driven by desire and aversion. Being a very devout Christian, he had a Bible in his car which he went out and got it and we took a look through the passages.

Funny enough, as we went through it, I came to a startling thought that, in many ways, this is a great metaphor to describe the core teachings of Buddhism.

Genesis 2:
16: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

This, I asserted, was the affirmation of the oneness of all things, the living in an accord and unity with nature or the universe. Maybe it could be understood as living in nirvana or utopia or what Christians call the Garden of Eden. The tree, obviously represents the pitfall of dualistic thought, seeing the world and its things as good or bad, right or wrong, like and dislike.

Genesis 3:
1: Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2: And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

The serpent, I said, is the representation of mind or our thoughts, and through evolution, man's thoughts became more organized and more conceptual. These thoughts, represented by the serpent, begin to consider an object of our desire, the beginning of conceptualizing. The conversation between Eve and the serpent is a metaphor our internal monologue, the endless effort to reason or justify our actions to ourselves.

Genesis 3:
3: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4: And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7: And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

The fruit is desire, and to pursue desire or objects of what we want requires us to like and dislike things or "knowing good and evil." The danger is dualistic thought is the endless cycle of good and bad, or Karma and Samsara. To be as Gods is to see permanence in objects that have no real permanence. And "to die" represents Dukkha, the unsatisfactoriness or suffering in life because we mistake our ideas as reality and have attachment to that which is impermanent. I argued this is our human condition, this experiencing of loss and unfulfilled expectations, confusion and frustration, sorrow and misery.

Genesis 3:
13: And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
14: And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

Perhaps, I argued to him, our separation with God is really separation with the oneness of all things. We are separated by our formations of mind in pursuit of desire and aversion, forgetting the impermanence in all things, misinterpreting our beliefs for absolute certainty. We share our likes and dislikes, our opinions of good and bad with others, as Eve shared the fruit with Adam.

I said I've heard others making similar conclusions as this and he respectfully disagreed and we parted to go back to work. Sure, I realized I may have stretched the story of Adam and Eve to fit my views, but isn't that what our minds do?

Dhammapada

Thoughts thrash and quiver,
For how can they shake off desire?
They tremble, they are unsteady,
They wander at their own will.
It is good to control them,
And to master them brings happiness.
But how subtle they are,
How elusive!
The task is to quieten them,
And by ruling them to find happiness.
With single-mindedness
The master quells his thoughts.
He ends their wandering.
Seated in the cave of the heart,
He finds freedom.
How can a troubled mind
Understand the way?
If a man is disturbed
He will never be filled with knowledge.
An untroubled mind,
No longer seeking to consider
What is right and what is wrong,
A mind beyond judgements,
Watches and understands.
Know that the body is a fragile jar,
And make a castle of your mind.
In every trial
Let understanding fight for you
To defend what you have won.

~Buddha

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Idealism of War


I just finished watching an incredible and thought provoking documentary on the Spanish Civil War of 1936 - 1939. After the fall of Spain's Monarchy and abdication of King Alfonso XIII in 1931, the different factions of Spain's diverse population struggled for power and dominance in the newly formed Republican Government. The Government was fragile from the beginning, formed from factions of Fascists, Communists, Socialists, Liberal Democrats, Monarchists, Catholic Conservatives and some Anarchists. The winds of war and spilling of blood was inevitable, as it was only a matter of when not if.

In 1936, the military, who remained under the sway of the fascists, monarchists and Catholics revolted against the Republican Government in Madrid. Soon Gen. Fransisco Franco came to the fore as the leader of the Fascists and lead a bloody and relentless campaign against the government. A loose confederation of Communists, Anarchists, liberal democrats, socialists, and foreign volunteers put up a staunch defense of the Republic and in the beginning of the conflict seemed to be able to withstand the fascists forces. But as the conflict progressed, internal fighting between the different factions of the Republicans along with military aid from Hitlers Germany and Mussolini's Italy turned the tide of the war, and the Republicans crumbled.

After the war, Franco carried out a viscous and cruel purge of any remaining opposition in many little known Spanish concentration camps. In some cases, Francos men resorted to outright public executions. This story is not somehow special or different and has been told thousands of times in thousands of conflicts over the course of human history. Before the war, they were just Spaniards, then the war caused by nothing more than ideology and a sense of righteousness turned Spaniard against Spaniard.

No one ever stopped to ask how ideas, only different ideas and beliefs were more important than the lives of their fellow countrymen. Most wars have this fog that settles over the populations, dividing humans into ideas, splitting our species into violent sides based on the illusion of infallibility.

Abraham Lincoln in his first inauguration address, in an attempt to stem the tide of Southern revolt in 1861, said:
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Unfortunately for that Civil war and many like it, our better angels remained as silent as the dead that littered the battlefields of so called glory.
It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it. ~Robert E. Lee

I am not naive enough to think violence and war will not continue. With regret, I can not even say I see some war, some violence as unavoidable. Such is our ability to produce a few humans of unimaginable ignorant hate and unbridled insanity, who will not cease nor reason until forced to. I merely echo the words of John Lennon, "All we are saying is give peace a chance."

I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one's own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace. ~Dalai Lama

Whoever said idea's don't kill?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Control


In physics, entropy is a mathematical theory that measures the rate of breakdown from highly ordered systems to more disorderly states. The more variables that exist within a system, the more uncertainties in action are present and the greater probability for a larger amount of entropy, or rate of organizational decay. The principle is based on the equilibrium concept that states over time all things flatten out and return to par. This is due to thermodynamic equilibrium which is the eventual heat/energy loss or displacement from a system which maintains its current state of order and mode of action. For a system to maintain its current order the theory states a greater amount of energy is needed to be put back into the system than is lost.

What does this mean? The most common example of entropy given is the action of a glass of ice cubes in a warm room. The ice cubes are well formed at first but eventually melt to become on par with the temperature of the room. One could not simply place the glass back in the freezer to re-animate the well formed cubes of ice but would need to reform them again inside the mold from which they were made. Perhaps, picture if you like a new vehicle, shiny, well oiled and clean. Over time, despite our best efforts to maintain the car it eventually becomes more hassle than its worth and we trade it in for a new one.

I realize you are asking what this has to do with Buddhism or anything else for that matter. It all has to do with our attempt at control of the world around us. We all go to some effort to control the objects, events or people in our lives in order to feel more in charge of our situations and feel less confusion and turmoil. Many of us spend a good amount of time trying to alter the course of events or the feelings of others to maintain a sense of control or normality. We think if we can control the circumstances of our lives or the people we interact within it, we can produce some modicum of calm and comfort. Why do we do this? We do it because confusion and turmoil are painful and are understandably undesirable.

What we fail to realize is the impossibility of controlling all the aspects and circumstances of our lives. We could not even begin to fathom the innumerable possibilities that can and do occur on a moment by moment basis. Our life’s progression is incalculable and the events that occur in the span of our existence happen seemingly by chance or randomness. Because all things change and nothing can exist independently from anything else, the thought of trying to control what happens around us is absurd. Yet we try anyway, and by doing so create more turmoil, more pain and more bedlam in our lives.

Simply put, we need to put more and more energy or effort into that which we desire to control to maintain the same level of order and organization. As the number of these things in our lives we wish to control grows, the more energy is needed to keep them in balance, and the more pandemonium ensues in such efforts. “I need to get a better job. I want her to pay closer attention to me. I need to keep my place cleaner. I want them to like me. I don’t want it to rain today. Why can’t they make these roads have fewer potholes?” When does It end?

We do, however, have control over something far more important and significant when it comes to our peace of mind and happiness; our actions. We may not be able to control the circumstances of life, the curve balls of hard times or wonderful opportunities that present themselves out of the blue to us, but we can control how we act towards them. A vital key to our happiness in life is learning to accept that which life deals us without feeling the need to control every aspect of it. This does not mean we should not bury our heads in the sand and let the world fly by us or not plan for the future. Nor does it mean we should let people walk on us or not push a child out of the way of a speeding bus. It means we can learn to become unattached to the outcomes that happen in life and allow those things that are out of our hands go. Each moment, each circumstances and each person we cross paths with we should attempt to greet with an open mind and an honest candor.

From order comes disorder then back to order. From chaos comes calm and from harmony comes disarray. Such is the wonder and mystery of life.

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Western Buddhist Movement - Part 2 - Individual Awakening


I find generalizations, even in a relative sense, to be counter productive and usually end up doing more harm that good. In Buddhism, this problem of Dukkha, confusion, pain and suffering is not an American or British problem nor a Western problem, it is a human problem, carried by all races and peoples, all cultures and societies. However, I must make an exception here, to talk about the general characteristics of the Western culture and its relation to Buddhist principles. We all know very well that what works for one culture can not be translated so easily into another.

"It is impossible to say just what I mean!"
~TS Eliot

Some anthropologists would argue one of Western Civilizations most defining modern characteristics is this notion of individualism. "Don't try to pull the wool over my eyes, I want to see for myself!" Certainly on the surface this trait, which is bound closely to ego and pride, would seem to be a great detriment or obstacle to awaking. It stands seemingly in opposition of anatta or the teaching of no-self, which is one of the three basic pillars of Buddhist teachings. Perhaps though, if we reflected upon this for a moment, we could see our individualism, our distinct brand of Western self identification presents unexplored benefits to those in search of the true essence of these Buddhist teachings.

"Jesus knew — knew — that we're carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we're all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look..."
~J.D. Salinger

This path we choose, our seeking of understanding and wisdom, is a most solitary and individual task. After all the lectures are over, after all the books have been read, blogs surfed and knowledge of the teachings conceptualized, the real understand and acceptance can only be done by individual practice and seeing these things for what they are. At the end of the road, it is only you, with single minded effort, that will experience the true nature of our existence. No one can tell you what it is, they can merely point the way. It is you who must realize this understanding.

I liken it to ones experience of being born from a mothers womb. Just for arguments sake, lets say, inside the womb you could get all the literature and essays describing the process of growing from a zygote to birth. Maybe you are able to have access several renowned scholars and are able to read the most beautifully composed prose from the finest literary masters describing what you will find on the other side of that great tunnel into that other place. Perhaps a nice poem or lovely sonnet can almost capture that first moment of contact between mother and baby, and touch your emotional mind with that instant bond and unconditional love. Truth is, the journey, while perhaps greatly aided by all these explanations, can only be fully known and understood as experienced. No amount of lessons, or reading or memorizations could possibly prepare you for what is to come.

Our stubbornness and opinionated individualistic tendencies, which most certainly has its exceptions, can be looked upon as strength of our Western culture. Many of us are beings not satisfied with what someone else tells us is truth, we want to see for ourselves. We strive to dig deeper, explore further and not take a half-assed answer in exchange for the real thing. Westerners have made science almost a new religion, constantly challenging conventional wisdom, seeking out new ways of doing things, taking different perspectives on old problems. It is this drive, this determination which can enhance our practice to test and see for ourselves this understanding.

"The art of our necessities is strange,
And can make vile things precious. "
~William Shakespeare, King Lear

Not to be outdone, but perhaps out of necessity, our cultures have seemingly embraced the best fitting parts of other cultures and integrated them into our own. We have shown we are able see when something works better or is more effective than what we currently have and build it into this quilt-work fiber of society. Once reason and good judgement are found, which sometimes takes a long time, the xenophobic leanings seem to be quickly forgotten. In Buddhist teachings, we have already shown that we can take a certain practice from one Buddhist culture and integrating with another from a totally different culture.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
~Plato

Hurdles remain and probably will for a long time to come. Closed mindedness, lack of compassion for other cultures and customs and those in the West that cling to belief in truth as told to them and not experienced will remain a difficult obstacle. The ego which sees itself as infallible and righteous is and will always remain the peril of individualism and it is up to our good judgment and conviction of sensibility to over come it.

"Doubt is not an agreeable condition, but certainty is an absurd one."
~Voltaire

This does not mean our journeys should be embarked on alone. Guidance, teaching, encouragement and friendship from a community of those knowledgeable and other fellow travelers can greatly help us on our way. Our Sangha or whatever label you place upon it, however unconventional has shown itself to be selfless, compassionate and full of wisdom. Will we lose this sense of community, this flowering revolution of spirit and allow it to pass into history?

"In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals."
~Mohandas Gandhi

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Western Buddhist Movement - Part 1 – Rites of Passage

Thanks in large part to enormous advancements in communication technology and the incredible popularity of the internet and its ability to allow for rapid and open sharing of information and ideas, a fast growing and diverse community of Western/Progressive Buddhists has emerged. The sites, blogs, message boards, readers and contributors grow almost daily as more and more people are introduced to the true essence of Buddhism, free from the ancient dogma of many of the established sects already in existence. Of all our defining characteristics, it has been our individualism and open mindedness that has driven the new community of curious folks to delve beyond the traditions of other cultures into the bare bones teachings, to see something incredible and wonderful at the core of what the Buddha taught. It has been of great interest to me, this idea of a unified Western Buddhist tradition that brings the best of all traditions and teachings together both online and in real life.

Such are generalizations; however, I see the members of our vast and diverse online community share many similar traits and mannerisms that have shaped a lot of what has morphed into this idea of Western Buddhism. Most of us live in Western Europe, North America or Australia/New Zealand,(obviously with exceptions) which due to many recent events since the end of WW2, has drawn us closer by language, culture and customs. The internet has only served to bond this community of Westerners closer together. Borders and boundaries no longer impede the spread of ideas and information as once it had. Many of us in this community are highly skeptical of accepting a truth told to them without first testing and seeing for themselves. Our community of Western Buddhists tends to be full of people who are artistic, opinionated, individualistic, intelligent, open minded, thoughtful, political and most importantly driven to seek truth beyond the doubts and uncertainties of the unknown.

Back in March, Justin Whitaker wrote a very interesting and thought provoking post, entitled “What, if anything, is Buddhism?” In the post, he talks about the differences between the new convert Buddhists of the West and the immigrant Buddhists. Justin says about an article on the issue,
“This model divides Buddhists in the West into two groups: immigrant Buddhists and convert Buddhists. The immigrant Buddhists generally try to maintain the type of Buddhism they practiced before, preserving ritual, language, and other elements from their home country. Converts pick and choose aspects they find most helpful, often searching for the "true Buddhism" to be found when "cultural accretions" are stripped away. What you end up with is two quite remarkably different kinds of Buddhism. The immigrant laypeople rarely, if ever, meditate, they donate regularly to temples and monastic’s, believe in ghosts and take part in (to Western eyes) strange rituals. Western converts meditate a lot, spend more on books about Buddhism than at their local meditation center, and avoid anything looking "superstitious."

He goes on to say
,“On the one hand, this model looks good and may make good intuitive sense. But for those who have studied Buddhism in the West, and for many simply experiencing it, these categories fall apart pretty fast. We find plenty of converts chanting dutifully in languages they don't understand, immigrants meditating assiduously, and so on. Those who cling fast to the model say that this is simply the "Westernization" of immigrants and the "cultural appropriation" of some converts, thus showing the model's continued usefulness, albeit growingly muddled.”
This is rather interesting to me, and makes some valid points about the unease of which one in the West is able to fit into the traditions and customs of other cultures, for which we share little with. Our choices as Buddhists or those that are just curious are pretty limited outside the confines of the internet. Definitely, many great Western teachers of varying traditions exist, who do an excellent job transferring the concepts of Buddhism to those in the West while leaving behind some of the cultural trappings of the ancient religions. But many of them are limited, not only by the tradition they have taken on but by sheer lack of numbers and accessibility.

Without a doubt, an organization could not be more decentralized, more personalized than our web of links and blogs than this thing we call Western Buddhism. Hell, I doubt one could even define what we all talk about and do and are as any type of organization whatsoever. Perhaps, common ground is not possible, given the different viewpoints and ideas we all have. Maybe, our loosely connected maze like group is the strength and not something that could be improved upon. However, I for one, see threads of commonality, layers of mannerisms, individualism and a pursuit of truth that ties all of us closer together. I think many of us see something special in all of you, something that goes beyond just culture and ideas, something that binds us as fellow travelers on our separate journeys of discovery.

I think there is enough common ground, open mindedness and plenty of drive and yearning to form something great, something that goes beyond the bounds of what established religions could even consider possible by a band of loosely formed seekers of truth in spirituality. A group that rises from the people, almost seemly at chance, unhindered by either borders or dogma, trapped by neither blind faith nor conformity, whose aim is truth and who’s only unshakable faith lies within belief in their own ability to seek and find understanding.

Perhaps this is all no more than a silly pipe dream. But the question remains, is a unification of all the different splinters of our Western Buddhist community able to grow and morph into a new type of living and shared tradition?

(Part 2 will focus on what makes Western Buddhism different than established Buddhist traditions.)

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Encouragement


Unlike most of my posts, which for the most part ramble on more than my drunken 3AM calls to my ex-wife(yes, its a joke), I wanted to take a moment to talk about the tremendous effort each and everyone of you are making. Weather you think of yourself as a Buddhist or just someone who is curious, you all have chosen to take a most difficult path to find out for yourself the way to peace, happiness, and understanding the true nature of our existence. And while we need to be careful about taking pride in ourselves or our motives, I believe it is safe to say, I bow humbly to your determination and relentless resolve.

Blind faith is easy. Enjoying the comforts of our modern lives without ever asking the much deeper and profound questions is easy. Taking someone elses answer for truth, without first examining all the evidence for yourself is easy. Many people do it and find temporary satisfaction in seeing the world in black and white and judging others from the untouchable prison of belief and ignorance. You are one of the rare beings that reject this tired path. You have refused to buy into the idea of material bliss, renouncing the notion that perhaps owning a house with a two car garage, having a steady job in a cubicle and sporting a 50' plasma TV are somehow the ingredients for an unending happiness. You have forsaken this worn human condition in pursuit of that which is seemingly unattainable; what the Buddha would have called, a true seeker.

That moment you first questioned this life and found courage to take that first step to self examination and discovery, you choose a path, which at first is both difficult and challenging. Over time, we learn to balance our lives, living in this relative world and all its daily activities and at the same time still pursue a genuine perspective and a more perfect understanding of all things. There is something that stirs within everyone of us, which we can not define nor explain, but that resonates a defiance of conventional conformity and the ill-conceived logic of past dogma. We can enjoy the comforts which our daily work provides for yet know these are only temporary and are not the answer we are seeking.

I don't think we should take pride in our practice or place ourselves above others in some righteous cause, but perhaps for a brief moment we can take stock and see how far we've come and perhaps find some encouragement to redouble our efforts and carry onward.

For all of you suffering or finding difficulties someway in your life or your practice now, perhaps this quote may help a bit.

"View all problems as challenges.
Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow.
Don't run from them, condemn yourself, or bury your burden in saintly silence.
You have a problem? Great.
More grist for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate."
~Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, "Mindfulness in Plain English"

All of which brings me to one of my favorite poems.

The Road Not Taken - by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Mettā

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Intention of Motive


I have found the practice of questioning motivations and intentions in the daily tasks of life to be both beneficial and profound. Even questioning the small, seemingly meaningless choices and actions we take is a helpful exercise for those who wish to see what really drives us, creates karma and excretes suffering.

The second step of the Buddha's eight fold path is known as right intention or right motive. When he used the word right, he did not mean it in a sense of being correct, but rather meaning to be favorable to awakening. How can we see the truth of this world as it really is, when our minds are clouded in a thick fog of intentions, motivations, desires and ego? Perhaps we can begin to lift this fog, little by little by studying our intentions and watching our motives of mind.

It has become very difficult in our modern lives to find time for formal meditation or even mindful reflection. The piles of information we need to survive in this relative material world grows larger year after year, until our thoughts are consumed by the day to day activities of life. However, it is possible to form a practice of watching our intentions and asking ourselves, "why am I doing this" or "why am I saying this” on a daily basis, moment after moment. The point is not to try and change or intentions, the point is to watch. Our minds, as my Zen Master would say, will straighten themselves out a small step at a time.

In time, what you find in the actions we take or the words we speak probably will surprise you. For me, I could start to see how selfish I was being. I could see how things like boredom or fear steered my actions and choices. I started to understand how all this suffering and pain I felt was not other dependant, but with a solitary mind arose within me. I found out as well the absolute necessity to be truthful and honest with myself. We all tend to lie to ourselves, to justify why do or don't do certain things. We lie, even though deep down, we know the truth and we choose to ignore it in favor of fulfillment of some motive or desire.

I am no professional teacher, so use caution and good judgment when starting or trying anything new. This is a good rule to follow before taking anyone's word as gospel, even from trained teachers. You are the final authority on all matters and no one else is responsible for your thoughts and actions. Your mind is your domain and only you can make the effort to begin to see the world as it really is rather than how we want it to be.

Maybe we can see that right intention or pure motive is really no motive at all. Is it possible to free our minds completely in this modern age with all its complexities and detail? Perhaps not, but wouldn't it be worth it to look and see for yourself?

Understanding is not learned, but only realized.

“To study Buddhism is to study ourselves. To study ourselves is to forget ourselves.”
~Dogen Zenji

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

A Few Buddhist Parables

These are a few old Buddhists parables handed down from generation to generation. Please excuse me if these are re-posts to you all. I think the essence of these stories perhaps captures a good feeling of what Buddhist teachings are pointing to.

Who knows whats good or bad?

The situation we always live in is like that of the wise Chinese farmer whose horse ran off. When his neighbor came to console him the farmer said “Who knows what’s good or bad?” When his horse returned the next day with a herd of horses following her, the foolish neighbor came to congratulate him on his good fortune. “Who knows what’s good or bad?” said the farmer. Then, when the farmer’s son broke his leg trying to ride one of the new horses, the foolish neighbor came to console him again. “Who knows what’s good or bad?” said the wise farmer. When the army passed through, conscripting men for war, they passed over the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. When the foolish man came to congratulate the farmer that his son would be spared, again the wise farmer said “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

The 84th Problem

A man once came to see the Buddha to get help with his problems. After the man had told the Buddha one of his problems and asked for help, the Buddha replied: "I cannot help you get rid of that problem."

The man was surprised that the Buddha could not help him in this regard, but he told the Buddha about another problem; he thought to himself that the Buddha should at least be able to help him with that problem. But the Buddha told him "I cannot help you with that problem either."

The man started to get impatient. He said: "How can it be that you are the perfectly Enlightened Buddha, when you can’t even help people get rid of their problems?" The Buddha answered: "You will always have 83 problems in your life. Sometimes a problem will go, but then another problem will come. I cannot help you with that."

The baffled man asked the Buddha: "But, what can you help me with, then?" The Buddha replied: "I can help you get rid of your 84th problem." The man asked: "But what is my 84th problem?" The Buddha replied: "That you want to get rid of your 83 problems."


The Search for Enlightenment

There once was a poor man who lead a donkey every day across the border from one kingdom to another. The border guards suspected that he was smuggling something, so each day as the man passed the border they carefully searched the man and the donkey’s saddlebags, but they never did find anything.

After a while the man starts to wear more expensive clothing and buys a large house. The border guards redouble their efforts to inspect the man and his donkey closely because they now are certain the man is smuggling something. But in their daily searches of the man and the saddlebags they never come up with anything but straw.

After 30 years of this daily routine, one of the border guards retires. One day when the retired border guard is walking across the street, he runs into the man and says "Listen, I am no longer a border guard and I can no longer hurt you. I promise I will never tell anyone, but just for my peace of mind, please tell me what you have been smuggling all those years." The man replies "Because I know that you can no longer arrest me, I will tell you. I was smuggling donkeys."

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Multiplicity


How do we really view the world as individuals? We have our common spoken languages which we use to label the items of the world and share with others. We have our individual emotions that color our actions and reactions to objects, people and events. We have our desire which drives us toward or away from situations or objects that create pleasure or induce pain. Even though we all think we speak the same languages and understand how everyone else conceives the world, in all its different objects and facets, we don’t. Each person breaks the world into their own version of the truth, split into a countless array of ideas and thoughts. We may all perceive the same, but never, ever do we conceive the same.

Truth is we all speak the language of multiplicity, each person defining the world around them, different in infinite ways from everyone else. Multiplicity is the language of confusion and is the cause of most all our problems and suffering in this world. It is a language with no dictionary, no standard references, no translations and no enduring commonality. It’s a language we each create separately, that is constantly changing and rearranging the world. It is the language of the small mind, created for only 1 user.

As our world has modernized over the last 3 millennium, the vastness of the separation of objects has grown at breakneck speed. This labeling is no doubt necessary to exist in our everyday modern lives, but I see our pitfall is that most of us forget what we think is not truth, but only the shadow of truth. We forget the world isn’t seen, heard or felt the same by everyone else and yet we are so quick to judge others by how they see and act to the world around them. Perhaps, it not that we need to stop this language, but just understand it is a merely a representation of the world around us?

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