Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dharma Quotes: Practicing Compassion, Emptiness


Dharma Quote of the week from Snow Lion Publications.

Practicing compassion will bring about the recognition of emptiness as the true nature of the mind. When you practice virtuous actions of love and compassion on the relative level, you spontaneously realize the profound nature of emptiness, which is the absolute level. In turn, if you focus your meditation practice on emptiness, then your loving-kindness and compassion will spontaneously grow.

These two natures, the absolute and the relative, are not opposites; they always arise together. They have the same nature; they are inseparable like a fire and its heat or the sun and its light. Compassion and emptiness are not like two sides of a coin. Emptiness and compassion are not two separate elements joined together; they are always coexistent.

In Buddhism, emptiness does not mean the absence of apparent existence. Emptiness is not like a black hole or darkness, or like an empty house or an empty bottle. Emptiness is fullness and openness and flexibility. Because of emptiness it is possible for phenomena to function, for beings to see and hear, and for things to move and change. It is called emptiness because when we examine things we cannot find anything that substantially and solidly exists. There is nothing that has a truly existent nature. Everything we perceive appears through ever-changing causes and conditions, without an independent, solid basis. Although from a relative perspective things appear, they arise from emptiness and they dissolve into emptiness. All appearances are like water bubbles or the reflection of the moon in water.

~ From Opening to our Primordial Nature by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, published by Snow Lion Publications.

The Dalai Lama Quote this week amplifies the Dharma Quote, explaining the meaning of emptiness.

Although there are as many categories of emptiness as there are types of phenomena, when you realize the emptiness of one specific phenomenon, you also realize the emptiness of all phenomena. The ultimate nature, or emptiness, of all phenomena is of equal taste and of the same undifferentiable nature. Even though the nature of emptiness of all phenomena is the same, and all the different aspects of phenomena, such as whether they are good or bad, or the way they change, arise from the sphere of emptiness, you should understand that emptiness cannot be found apart from the subject or the object.

Emptiness refers to an object's being free of intrinsic existence. Things depend on causes and conditions. This very dependence on causes and conditions signifies that phenomena lack independent, or intrinsic, existence. It also demonstrates how all the diverse aspects of things that we experience arise because they are by nature empty. When we talk about emptiness, we are not dealing with those different aspects, we are dealing with phenomena's ultimate reality.

~ From Stages of Meditation by the H.H. the Dalai Lama, trans. by Ven. Geshe Lobsang Jordhen, Losang Choephel Ganchenpa, and Jeremy Russell, published by Snow Lion Publications.

Roger Kimball: Norman Mailer, a Dissenting View

The list of articles noting Norman Mailer's death that I posted earlier today were almost universally positive. While they acknowledged some his more obnoxious -- and nearly murderous -- moments, most them praised Mailer.

Well, Roger Kimball would beg to disagree.

The news that the novelist Norman Mailer died earlier today at the age of 84 has already elicited little hagiographical murmurs. That hushed choir will doubtless turn into a deafening chorus of praise in the coming days and weeks—how much space do you suppose The New York Times will devote to its (I predict) front-page obituary? What grand superlatives will be dusted off and rolled out to commemorate the polyphiloprogentive wife-stabber and booster of homicidal misfits? “Genius” will be paraded early and often, I’ll wager, as will the extended family of adjectives emanating from the word “provocative.” One early notice described Mailer as “the country’s literary conscience and provocateur” and characterized The Armies of the Night as one of his (presumably many) “masterworks.” Perhaps, before the celebratory paeans entirely drown out critical judgment, there is room for a few dissenting observations.

From later in the article:

In 1955, Mailer helped to found The Village Voice, which, though always riven by internal dissension, quickly became a megaphone barking New Left thought, such as it was, into the mainstream culture. By the mid-1960s, he had emerged as an established antiestablishment guru. The spectacular success of works like The Armies of the Night (1968)—Mailer’s bloated, “non-fiction novel” about the 1967 march on the Pentagon and his own role in the demonstration—bore witness to his gifts for literary demagoguery. Subtitled History as a Novel, the Novel as History, the book followed Truman Capote’s example in In Cold Blood (1966), deliberately blurring fact and fiction, a procedure gratefully seized upon by a public eager to sacrifice truth to the demands of ideological zeal. Indeed, it was a procedure that characterized the intellectual—or, more accurately, the anti-intellectual—temper of a generation battened on mind-altering drugs and taught to regard any appeal to facts as an unacceptably “authoritarian” threat. Among anti-Vietnam War radicals—which is to say, among nine out of ten establishment intellectuals—Mailer’s exercise in narcissistic psychohistory was greeted with ecstatic hosannas, and duly picked up both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Sample adulation from the critic Richard Gilman: “Mailer has opened up new possibilities for the literary imagination and new room for us to breathe in the crush of actuality.” From the writer Nat Hentoff: “Mailer has won clear claim to being the best writer in America.”

In fact, like almost all of Mailer’s books, The Armies of the Night is badly written—almost preposterously so. It has often been observed that Mailer’s early literary heroes were Hemingway and John Dos Passos. But his own writing totally lacks Hemingway’s lapidary craftsmanship and Dos Passos’s cinematic control. When The Armies of the Night was serialized in Harper’s, to the great excitement of the editor, Willie Morris, a young copy editor complained about Mailer’s prose and, as one witness recollects, asked, “I wonder what he writes like when he’s sober?” The unfortunate copy editor was promptly fired. But she was right: The Armies of the Night is a hyperbolic, self-indulgent mess that looks sillier and more naive with every year that passes. Its famous third-person narrative strikes one now as a facile gimmick: “Mailer discovered he was jealous. Not of the talent. [Robert] Lowell’s talent was very large, but then Mailer was a bulldog about the value of his own talent… . Nonetheless, to Mailer it was now mano a mano.” That “mano a mano” is about as close to Hemingway as Mailer got.

The adulation that greeted The Armies of the Night underscores an important fact about Mailer’s success. It is part of Mailer’s genius to have been able to calibrate his appetites and deficiencies precisely to the appetites and deficiencies of the moment. His obsessions have been celebrated as brave insights because they have mirrored the defining obsessions of the time. For a moment—but only for a moment—they appear to be revelatory insights. Well into the 1970s, anyway, Mailer instinctively knew exactly what register of rhetorical excess would galvanize the left-wing intellectual establishment. This talent made him an important figure in the long march of America’s cultural revolution. It proved to be immensely profitable, financially and in terms of prestige. By the time Mailer came to write The Prisoner of Sex (1971), he was widely rumored to be up for a Nobel Prize, a rumor that absorbed his full attention for the first thirty pages of that execrable book.

This is not to say that Mailer escaped criticism. His second and third novels, The Deer Park (1955) and Barbary Shore (1961), were widely attacked, as indeed was An American Dream (1965). An American Dream was the infamous novel in which the hero, Stephen Rojack, a savvy, tough-guy intellectual—just like Norman Mailer, you see—starts out by strangling his wife. He then walks downstairs and buggers his wife’s accommodating German maid, a former Nazi who declares, “I do not know why you have trouble with your wife. You are an absolute genius, Mr. Rojack.” (Buggery—another “B” to put alongside booze, boxing, bullfighting, and broads—was to become an obsession with Mailer.) There are numerous Mailerian fingerprints in the novel. President Kennedy (“Jack”) calls to convey his condolences; Rojack’s wife is rumored to have had affairs with men high up in the British, American, and Soviet spy agencies; even Marilyn Monroe—who was to become another of Mailer’s notorious obsessions—makes a posthumous cameo appearance: when Rojack fantasizes about having a telephone conversation with a dead character, he reports that “the girls are swell. Marilyn says to say hello.” But the chief point of the book is that Rojack gets away with the murder. Such, Mailer wants us to believe, is the real if unacknowledged “American dream.”


Read the whole, scathing essay.


Satire: Checkmate, Atheists!

The sad thing is that many Christians use some of these arguments.


via videosift.com


Writer Norman Mailer Dead at 84


Mailer was one of the most prolific authors and artists, both loved and hated. He passed away this morning from acute renal failure at the age of 84.

Here are some of the many articles devoted to the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

MSNBC/AP: Writer Norman Mailer dead at 84 -- "Mailer built and nurtured an image over the years as pugnacious, streetwise and high-living. He drank, fought, smoked pot, married six times and stabbed his second wife, almost fatally, during a drunken party."

Reuters: Author Norman Mailer dies aged 84 -- "Mailer's works were often filled with violence, sexual obsession and views that angered feminists. He later reconsidered many of his old positions but never surrendered his right to speak his mind. Detractors considered him an intellectual bully and he feuded with fellow authors like Truman Capote, William Styron, Tom Wolfe and Norman Podhoretz."

CNN: Prolific, outspoken author Norman Mailer dies -- "Author of "The Naked and the Dead," "The Armies of the Night" and "The Executioner's Song," Mailer was probably the most famous of the generation of writers who came of age after World War II -- he was certainly the most colorful, and most pugnaciously so."

Critical Mass: Norman Mailer, 1923-2007 -- "There was a time when Norman Mailer used to talk about the Big Book. It prowled the interviews he gave in the 1950s like a white whale, blasting into view and then plunging back into the darkness, where it would lurk until the next publication date. With each decade, and each new book, from The American Dream to The Executioner's Song, until his novel about Jesus Christ, The Gospel According to the Son, it seemed like Mailer might yet drag his promised catch to shore. And at 84, America's most pugilistic novelist has done something unusual. He's beginning to say he may not get it."

The Nation: Norman Mailer Brawled With Bush to the Bitter End -- "There is much, much to be said of Norman Mailer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and world-class rabble-rouser who died Saturday at age 84. But the pugilistic pensman would perhaps be most pleased to have it known that he went down swinging. The chronicler of our politics and protests in the 1960s with two of the era's definitional books--1968's Armies of the Night and Miami and the Siege of Chicago, did not rest on the laurels--and they were legion--earned for exposing the dark undersides of the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

Time: Why Norman Mailer Mattered -- "He was, of course, a great conundrum. It was even there in his voice, which hovered in some undisclosed location between the Brooklyn of his youth and the Harvard of his student years. That the arc of his own career was one of his perennial subjects was not just a measure of his egotism — which was boundless — but also of his certainty that the judgment upon him of public opinion was, itself, an important sign of the times. He could never stop measuring his reputation against every other writer's; he spent years waving his Brooklyn matador's cape at Hemingway, boxing with Tolstoy (and anybody else who got in his way) and always licking his own wounds. Mailer's forte was intricate readings of his own inner conditions. His mistake was to believe in them too much as a guide to the wider world. But as Mailer would have asked: What else do we have to go on?"

New York Times: Norman Mailer, Outspoken Novelist, Dies at 84 -- "Mr. Mailer belonged to the old literary school that regarded novel writing as a heroic enterprise undertaken by heroic characters with egos to match. He was the most transparently ambitious writer of his era, seeing himself in competition not just with his contemporaries but with the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky."


Friday, November 09, 2007

New Poem: Musician



Musician

the door is ajar, an entrance offered
while darkness creeps across mirrors
whose names have been misplaced

all the shadows gather as one, united
in their forgetting; nag champa drifts
in the room where one man kneels

surely there are prayers, ripened fruits
eaten as sacrifice, juice dripping down
his chin, soft voices whispering in corners

an oil lamp gives light that cannot
be grasped, flickers and trembles, light
is never what it seems, and more

the man picks up a violin, cold strings
groan beneath the bow; solitude is somber
in the best nights, and yet, and yet

he chases the ghosts from the room, closes
the door; he finds the music so long lost
and opens his heart to the night


Daily Om: Everything Is In Divine Order


Today's Daily Om.

As we get caught up in the subjective reality of our everyday lives, sometimes it's hard to remember and accept that everything is exactly as it should be -- right here, right now, we are each always already fully enlightened. The trick we all must learn is to access the divine spark within us.

Unlimited Vision
Everything Is In Divine Order

We can only see so much from where we sit in our particular bodies, in the midst of our particular lives, rooted as we are in the continuum of space and time. The divine, on the other hand, is not limited to the constructs of either space or time, and its wisdom and workings often elude us as we try to make sense of what is happening in our lives. This is why things are not always what they seem to be and even the best-laid plans are sometimes overturned. Even when we feel we have been guided by our intuition every step of the way, we may find ourselves facing unexpected loss and disappointment. At times like these, we can find some solace in trusting that no matter how bad or just plain inexplicable things look from our perspective, they are, in fact, in divine order.

Even as we take our places in this earthly realm, a part of us remains completely free of the confines we face here. Regardless of what is happening in our lives, this part of us remains infused with joy and gratitude, connected to the unbroken source from which we come. Our small self, on the other hand, who is caught up in our false identity as a being limited in space and time, regards happiness as the result of things going the way it wants them to go. It is this part of us that suffers the greatest confusion and upset when the logic of events does not compute. And it is to this self that we must extend unconditional love, forgiveness, and compassion. In order to do this, we tap into our inner divinity, holding the space of a tender authority, extending love and light to our ego as a mother extends her love to a troubled child.

There are many ways to access our inner divinity—meditation, prayer, chanting, channeling, and conscious breathing, to name a few. It is helpful to develop a regular practice that provides us access to this all-powerful, healing presence, as it can be difficult to reach once we are in a stressful position, if we have not already established a connection. The more connected we are with this part of ourselves, the more we share its unlimited vision and the secure, knowing that all the things of our life, no matter how they appear, are in a state of divine and perfect order.


Flashback Video: Cranberries "Linger"

I hadn't thought of this song in ages. Brought back some memories.


via videosift.com


Speedlinking 11/9/07

Quote of the day:

"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."
~ Al Franken

Image of the day:

BODY
~ Chronic pain: where does it come from and why? -- "Often, injuries carry an aggravating side effect: pain. More and more frequently, pain is not just a temporary result that will go away, but becomes a permanent factor that affects people’s lives. Jane E. Brody of the New York Times reports that chronic pain often changes a person for the worst and can lead to anxiety, fear, anger, and depression."
~ Dieters Who Eat In Response To Emotions Versus Social Situations, Lose Less And Regain More -- "Just in time for the start of the holiday eating season -- a new study finds that dieters who have the tendency to eat in response to external factors, such as at festive celebrations, have fewer problems with their weight loss than those who eat in response to emotions (internal factors)."
~ Boosting Vitamin D May Have Long-Term Benefits For Inflammation, Aging, New Study Suggests -- "There is a new reason for the 76 million baby boomers to grab a glass of milk. Vitamin D, a key nutrient in milk, could have aging benefits linked to reduced inflammation, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."
~ Taking Care Of Your Skin Starts From Within -- "The old adage "you are what you eat" not only applies to our overall health and nutrition, but how our skin looks and feels as well. As the largest organ in the body, our skin can benefit from the same nutrition we get from foods that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs. In fact, new research suggests that eating foods rich in protein and certain vitamins and minerals might provide valuable anti-aging effects."
~ Strategies to curb your hunger while you lose -- "Everything from stress to hormones to people, places, and situations can kick your appetite into overdrive. The good news: Whatever the cause, you can beat your hunger pangs. Health.com offers up the latest stay-full strategies from the experts."
~ Do you know how many calories your workout burns? -- "Find out if you're working as hard as you think you are with the Calories Burned Calculator."
~ Sunshine 'helps to keep you young' -- "A healthy dose of sunshine may be the secret to staying young, British scientists have revealed. Vitamin D is produced naturally by the skin in response to sunlight and may help to slow the ageing process and protect against disease, according to the study."
~ The nature and nurture of muscles -- "Some of the truly fascinating insights into talent and greatness emerge from the realm of human musculature -- how our skeletal muscles are initially formed, the attributes of different muscle fibers, and the different ways muscles can be transformed by activity and training."


PSYCHE/SELF
~ Is IQ actually AQ? (Mistaking Achievement for "Intelligence") -- "I've just gotten my hands on a copy of Andrew Elliott and Carol Dweck's mammoth Handbook of Competence and Motivation. Following the lead chapter from the editors is an utterly fascinating contribution from Yale psychologist Robert Sternberg, who, in just a few pages, seems to completely shatter the popular myth of I.Q. and intelligence testing."
~ The Art of Visualization: How to Mentally Learn New Skills, Develop Awesome Habits, and Improve Your Health -- "Although primarily used in athletics, visualization is a tool that has powerful applications in personal development. In this post, I’ll be describing what visualization is, how it works, and how you can essentially re-architect your life using it."
~ I Can't Believe My Eyes: Conforming to the Norm -- "Solomon Asch's classic top 10 social psychology experiment shows that many of us will deny our own senses just to conform with others."
~ Marriage Is Not the Key to Happiness -- "Husbands and wives are no more happier than singles."
~ 10 Reasons You Aren’t Achieving Success -- "A couple of months ago, I asked you not to fear failure, saying that embracing failure — or at least the possibility of failure — was essential to success. But, of course, in the end the goal is to succeed, and fear of failing isn’t the only thing that keeps us from succeeding."
~ Dr Mindfulness: Science and the meditation boom -- "This weekend's edition of All in the Mind looks at the explosion of mindfulness-based research and interventions in health. How do we establish a solid scientific evidence base for what is such an introspective endeavour?"
~ Feeling Stressed? -- "Pending job cuts at the office. Back-to-back final exams. A messy divorce. An unexpected surgery. What do they all have in common? In a word -- stress. While everyone knows that stress can take a toll on a person physically and psychologically, it also can lead to dermatologic problems, such as acne, brittle nails or even hair loss."
~ 8 Ways to Spark Your Creativity -- "Creativity is a strange, elusive creature. Sometimes is flowing like a river. Sometimes it’s all dried up and nowhere to be found. Here are some thoughts and ideas that I like and have found useful to spark or improve my own creativity."


CULTURE/POLITICS
~ Review - Changing Conceptions of the Child from the Renaissance to Post-Modernity -- "At a glance, childhood seems to fall into the background of philosophical inquiry, but Kennedy proceeds in this fascinating study to demonstrate the centrality of definitions of childhood in determining the self-understandings, daily behaviors, institutional practices, and punishment rituals practiced across the West."
~ Bush's Lap Dogs -- "The CIA's new target? John Helgerson, the man appointed by President Bush to expose wrongdoing at the CIA. As inspector general of the agency, Helgerson came under attack from his superiors simply for trying to do his job: He was aggressively investigating torture at the CIA's secret prisons."
~ In the Middle -- "The working class and intellectuals speak different languages, and working class activists are caught between the two. It's time for theory to reconnect with practice, says Brian Ashton."
~ The Obligations of Academic Freedom -- "Many academics, including myself, rise to defend "academic freedom" in response to claims that professoriate is too "liberal". The concept of "academic freedom," however, seems to mean many things to many people, and there is often a lack of appreciation about why it is necessary and what it ought to entail."
~ Judge: Druggists may withhold "morning-after" pill -- "A federal judge has suspended controversial state rules requiring pharmacies to dispense so-called "Plan B" emergency contraceptives, saying the rules appear to unconstitutionally violate pharmacists' freedom of religion." That's a load of crap.
~ Are We All Lockeans Now? -- "Intentionally or not, the president's words evoke the thinking of John Locke (1632-1704), the quintessential philosopher of the Enlightenment era and a key influence on the American founding fathers. It is a mistake, then, for secularists to dismiss the president's position as necessarily an unsophisticated throwback to pre-modern times."
~ Suu Kyi 'Optimistic' on Burma Talks -- "Detained Burma opposition head Aung San Suu Kyi is "very optimistic" about prospects of the UN-promoted process for reconciliation between the military government and pro-democracy forces."
~ Mukasey Sworn In as Attorney General -- "Michael B. Mukasey took the oath at the Justice Department less than a day after winning confirmation."


HABITATS/TECHNOLOGY
~ How to Plan a Green Thanksgiving -- "These 10 green Thanksgiving ideas will save money and time while protecting the environment. Green holidays can be creative, fun, and easy - and easy on your conscience."
~ Bay Area Spill Fouls Coastline -- "An oil spill fouled miles of coastline Thursday, sending environmentalists scrambling to save tarred marine life."
~ Oil Find Could Transform Brazil -- "Brazil's state oil company said Thursday that it has discovered as much as 8 billion barrels of light crude in an ultra-deep field off the coast of Rio de Janeiro."
~ Some humpback whale calls deciphered -- "Australian scientists studying the sounds of humpback whales say they have begun to decode their mysterious communication system, identifying male pickup lines and motherly warnings."
~ Atomic-level Microscopy At Least 100 Times Faster With New Technique -- "Using an existing technique in a novel way, physicists have made the scanning tunneling microscope -- which can image individual atoms on a surface -- at least 100 times faster. The simple adaptation, based on a method of measurement currently used in nano-electronics, could also give STMs significant new capabilities -- including the ability to sense temperatures in spots as small as a single atom."
~ Green is the new blah -- "Last night I watched the TNSFKAMST (Thursday Night Shows Formerly Known as Must-See TV). To be honest I'd forgotten it was Green Is Universal week; I was just indulging in a little sitcom sitdown. But there was no escaping the green message, and it was ... what's the word? ... artificial and painful and forced."
~ Waterways downstream from oil sands are full o' toxins, says study -- "Fish, water, and sediment downstream from the gigantic oil sands projects in Alberta are chock-full of carcinogens and other toxins, says a new study."


INTEGRAL/BUDDHIST
~ The Beginning and the End -- "'Right View' is said to be both the beginning and the end of the path of liberation in Buddhism. From Right View, the first step of the Eightfold Path, we can realize the Four Noble Truths, which is the beginning of wisdom."
~ T-Shirt of the Week: Got AQAL? -- "This weeks T-Shirt is all about "Change Your Mind, Change Your World," and asks if you're applying AQAL in your life....and if you've got this T-Shirt?"
~ A CAT-Scan of the Global Brain (Part 4) -- "If it's true that every individual brain is like a single neuron in the global brain, we are all connected at an invisible level. In itself this isn't a radical statement: scholars of art and myth have discovered countless similarities between cultures that were historically isolated from one another."
~ Participatory Spirituality, an update on John Heron’s book -- "One year ago, John Heron wrote an important, but self-published book, on Participatory Spirituality, which was subtitled, a Farewell to Authoritarian Religion. This important book is now also available through Amazon and I would therefore like to bring it once more under your attention. Below is the short review that I added to it."
~ Andrew Cohen on Women, Men, and the Evolution of Culture -- "So what is it that I notice arises from my being when Cohen speaks or writes? I think it's that ego. I think it's the Guru syndrome that he steps so willingly and so easily into. I think it's that he takes so much credit for things that are already emerging , with him, without him, around him, away from him, and in spite of him."
~ Will Solving the 'Hard Problem' of Consciousness Unweave the Rainbow? -- "Some say in fifty years or so we'll have enough neuro-scientific evidence to completely describe the functioning of the brain. The question is, will this mountain of evidence be enough to explain the emergence of human consciousness?" I doubt it.
~ Postformal dialectics 3 -- "I’m starting another thread continuing the re-posting of the Integral Review discussion because we’ve been having technical problems. It seems comments, including my own, have been ending up in the spam bin. We’re working on correcting this so please bear with us, thanks."
~ Revision3 - They’re Hip, Young, & Geeky. But Are They Conscious? -- "urchinTracker ('/outbound/article/www.fallingfruit.tv');">Falling Fruit is one among several of the first netcasting media companies. urchinTracker ('/outbound/article/www.revision3.com');">Revision3, based out of San Francisco, is another such company who are paving the way and doing it quite well. They focus primarily on technology and offer all of their content in a video format. What’s so interesting about Revision3, and why I wanted to dedicate a post to them is that their project is similar to ours in many ways, but also diverges in some unique ways."


Finlandia by Jean Sibelius

Some classical music for your Friday.

Sibelius: Finlandia
Yle Radion Sinfoniaorkesteri (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Conducted by Sakari Oramo
October 22, 2005
NHK Hall, Tokyo





Daily Dharma: The Enlightenment of the Buddha


Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle comes from Robert Thurman, describing his understanding of the enlightenment of the Buddha.

The Enlightenment of the Buddha

The enlightenment of the Buddha was not primarily a religious discovery. It was not a mystical encounter with “God” or a god. It was not the reception of a divine mission to spread the “Truth” of “God” in the world. The Buddha's enlightenment was rather a human being's direct, exact, and comprehensive experience of the final nature and total structure of reality. It was the culmination for all time of the manifest ideals of any tradition of philosophical exploration or scientific investigation. “Buddha” is not a personal name; it is a title, meaning “awakened,” “enlightened,” and “evolved.” A Buddha's enlightenment is a perfect omniscience. A Buddha's mind is what theists have thought the mind of God would have to be like, totally knowing of every single detail of everything in an infinite universe, totally aware of everything--hence by definition inconceivable, incomprehensible to finite, ignorant, egocentric consciousness.

~Robert A.F. Thurman, Essential Tibetan Buddhism; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.


Certainly, I am not the scholar that Thurman is, and I never will be. But my understanding of the Buddha's enlightenment does not involve "perfect omniscience" or God-like qualities of mind.

I can get behind the Buddha's enlightenment, otherwise I wouldn't be a Buddhist. But for me there is no equation with God in his insight into the nature of suffering and how to end suffering. The Buddha was most certainly released from the wheel of samsara, achieved non-dual consciousness, and maybe even developed some ability to see into others, but to ascribe perfect omniscience is to say that he became a God.

I understand that Thurman is coming from the Tibetan tradition, which is much more open to those types of declarations than is the Theravada tradition, but I'm not buying it.


In The Beginning

This short film comes from the Vancouver Film School, a student animation of a rather twisted creation myth. Kind of cool though.


via videosift.com


Satire: Pat Robertson Says Giuliani Presidency Appears in Book of Revelation


From Andy Borowitz at Huffington Post:

Pat Robertson Says Giuliani Presidency Appears in Book of Revelation

Posted November 8, 2007 | 11:29 AM (EST)

One day after endorsing former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for president, televangelist Pat Robertson explained his decision, saying that a Giuliani presidency features prominently in the Book of Revelation.

In his endorsement announcement the day before, Rev. Robertson had made reference to Mr. Giuliani's tenure as "America's Mayor," but did not indicate that the Republican frontrunner was a key player in the Bible's most apocalyptic book.

In his statement today, however, the televangelist made it clear that "in order for the Second Coming to occur, the world needs to end, and Rudy Giuliani is just the man for that job."

Rev. Robertson said that he was "confident" that within weeks of his inauguration, Mr. Giuliani would usher in the "end days" that are a staple of Bible prophecy.

In praising Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Robertson had critical words for the current resident of the White House, President George W. Bush: "President Bush got us on the road to Armageddon, but it's taking too darn long -- Rudy Giuliani will put us in the express lane."

While the Giuliani camp initially welcomed the endorsement of the influential evangelist, the former New York mayor seemed less enthusiastic today about being identified as one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

When asked by a reporter in Iowa about Mr. Robertson's comments today, Mr. Giuliani replied, "9/11."

Elsewhere, former Beatle Paul McCartney confirmed that he is dating a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member, explaining, "Since my divorce from Heather, I've had to start taking the subway."


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Holotropic Breathing for Shamanic Journeying

I found this video at Psychology, Transformation & Freedom Papers, a cool site for psychology information.

In this video, Stan Grof talks about how shamans have used breath control to create non-ordinary states of reality. Grof developed holotropic breathwork when LSD became illegal, as a way to generate the same or similar states of consciousness.



I've used holotropic breathing in my own shamanic work, combined with Michael Harner's shamanic drumming CD. I've found this to be an incredibly useful way of entering inner space, specifically the unconscious mind. Having also used all the standard hallucinogens, I can say it bears no resemblance to any of them (although a very small dose of LSD is most similar in that consciousness shifts more easily -- without the hallucinations of higher doses).

The process I have used involves holotropic breathwork until I sense my consciousness opening up (the drumming CD is playing already during this process). I then visualize an opening into the earth, for me it's small cave in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon that I explored on a couple of occasions.

When I enter the opening, the scene quickly shifts to some sort of cosmic spiral tunnel through which I move very quickly. When I come out the end I am almost always in the same landscape (going through a different opening takes me to a different landscape -- I find the consistency in this aspect of the work very interesting).

I generally go in with some sort of question, which dictates the experience that follows. When the CD signals time to emerge, I make my way back to the opening through which I entered and move back up the spiral tunnel.

Only once has this pattern varied. The last time I journeyed, I ascended into the heavens during the experience -- more precisely, I was summoned by some kind of archetypal female energy. I didn't return from that experience in the same way, but I did emerge from the originating cave when the journey was over.

* * * * *

Anyway, I promised someone I would blog about this work a while back and hadn't done so until now. I've hesitated because shamanic work has so many negative New Age connotations to a lot of people.

Shamanic work can be integrally informed, however, and need not be some New Age load of regressive pre-trans fallacies. If one understands the process in terms of psychological processes more than as some literal journey to the underworld or whatever, we can avoid the pitfalls in the way shamanism has been co-opted by the New Agers.

Still, it helps to suspend disbelief while engaging in the process of the work. If we are in our rational minds, we will not be able to surrender to the experience. I find it best to just be open, in as much of an observing space as possible, much like in meditation.


Speedlinking 11/8/07

Quote of the day:

"To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is not to believe."
~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Image of the day:


BODY
~ A Beautiful Snatch -- "Whether you're a bodybuilder, strength athlete, or football player, learning the snatch can take you to a whole new plane of development. This article is chock-full of helpful videos that will have you snatching in no time."
~ Personal Best: Pregnant Exercisers Test Limits -- "Advice on when, how long and how much to train is all over the map." I've trained two women through eight months, and each was back to their pre-pregnancy weight within a couple of weeks of giving birth.
~ High Fat Diet Changes The Body Clock -- "US researchers have discovered that a high fat diet can change a mammal's body clock and thereby disrupt a range of behavioural and physiological processes, including those controlled by genes that switch on and off at certain times to keep the body's metabolism, storage and use of energy in balance."
~ Ostrich, and the 7 other foods you should be eating -- "We've heard it all before — eat your spinach, your broccoli, your whole-grain pastas. But there are a whole host of other good-for-you foods that most of us aren't eating."
~ Caveman diet found to be the best choice to control diabetes -- "Now, in the first controlled study of a Paleolithic (stone age) diet in humans, Lund University, Sweden, heralds the simple diet of the caveman as the “best choice to control diabetes 2”."
~ Exercise Away Heart Failure -- "Exercise can spur the growth of new cells to mend weakened muscles and spur the growth of blood vessels in people with heart failure, according to two new studies."
~ Experts play the heavy on news of chubby perks -- "Being overweight may not kill you, but it could lead to obesity, U.S. health experts cautioned on Wednesday in response to research suggesting that being a bit heavy does not raise the risk of death."


PSYCHE/SELF
~ Addicted to love? -- "Experts continually debate whether sexual addiction is a real problem. Some argue that there is no such thing, and that terms like "sexual addiction" and "porn addiction" are unhelpful at best, dangerous at worst."
~ Do You Have a Deeply Fulfilling Career? -- "If you’re already on a stable or semi-stable career path, this article will help you determine whether your current career is really the right one for you, using a very simple assessment process."
~ Amygdala Abnormalities Linked to Violent Aggression -- "Patients struggling with uncontrolled aggressive urges often appear irrational and frightening to the victims of their impulsive rages as well as anyone who happens to witness them in action. Such behaviors are most commonly seen among teenagers and young adults, and experts have long suspected abnormal brain functions to be at least partly responsible for their seeming inability to restrain themselves."
~ The Borderline Parent -- "Moving beyond a bad parent."
~ Domestic Drama: Prickly Pere -- "What are your obligations to a bad parent?"
~ Sounds Like Music Therapy -- "Check out these emotional, spiritual and physical effects of music therapy. Music helps with the grieving process and can teach stroke victims to walk again."
~ Researchers Examine Social Interactions in Anorexia Nervosa -- "Dr. Zucker noticed that individuals with anorexia notoriously failed to comply with treatment, and often this failure was coupled with a failure to establish a healthy relationship with a treating therapist."
~ Susan Smalley: Meditation: The Seat Belt Of Mental Health -- "We all know that the road of life is bumpy with unexpected drop-offs, accidents, and only the occasional smooth-sailing highway. I believe that meditation -- a practice for increasing awareness -- is truly a seat belt of mental health, a protection for us on the hazardous road of life."


CULTURE/POLITICS
~ Secular Fundamentalists -- "Ninety percent of Americans claim to believe in God, church attendance is higher than in any other Western nation, and political leaders still invoke divine blessing at the end of major addresses. But in the past three years, six books touting atheism have reached the New York Times’s bestseller list. Features in Newsweek, a fawning Nation cover, and endless TV appearances followed."
~ Holy communion -- "It's not been a good year for God. Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’s God is Not Great have been riding high in the international bestseller lists, while in the US Sam Harris has addressed his Letter to a Christian Nation and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell has explored the question of how to explain the irrationality of religious belief. Michel Onfray’s In Defence of Atheism has added a distinctively French tone to the assault, and AC Grayling’s latest collection of elegant English essays is Against All Gods. It’s not surprising that cultural commentators have identified a cultural wave, and given it a label: “The New Atheism”."
~ Asia's Hottest Modern Painters -- "Five of Asia's hottest artists talk to TIME about their lives, influences and art."
~ Musharraf's Emergency -- "Pervez Musharraf claims he imposed martial law because of a rising tide of Islamic extremism and a politicized judiciary. He lied. Graham Usher reports from Islamabad on the forces behind Pakistan's slide into chaos."
~ Was Radiohead's download experiment a failure? (Crazed by the Music) -- "Radiohead’s radical “pay what you like” experiment for their In Rainbows album shook up the industry and is already one of the biggest music biz stories of the year. But after some number crunching, reports are coming back (see this Comscore article) that the vast majority of people who downloaded the record didn’t pay squat for it."
~ Welcome to the 700 Club, Rudy -- "Pat Robertson's endorsement could be both a blessing and a curse for Rudy Giuliani."
~ Kerouac exhibit sheds new light on Beat writer -- "The name "Kerouac" typically evokes a sense of hip, cool, rebellion, exploration and of course "Beat," as in voice of the Beat Generation."


HABITATS/TECHNOLOGY
~ How The Physiological Effects Of Poverty On Young Children Takes Its Toll On Health -- "Scientists have known for years that people living in poverty have poorer health and shorter life spans than the more affluent. Now, Cornell University researchers have identified several key mechanisms in 13-year-olds that may help explain how low socio-economic status takes its toll on health."
~ Biofuels Are No Cure for Climate Change -- "Sigh. Another day, another inane strategy to fight global warming. The bee in my bonnet this time is biofuels. They're nothing new, but governments and corporations are pushing biofuels with a renewed ferocity as the panacea for our ailing planet."
~ Primates in Peril -- "A gallery of the World Conservation Union's list of the most endangered primates."
~ Genetically Modified Foods Unsafe? Evidence that Links GM Foods to Allergic Responses Mounts -- "Genetically modified (GM) foods are inherently unsafe"
~ Yellowstone Is Rising on Swollen "Supervolcano" -- "Yellowstone National Park is rising. Its central region, called the Yellowstone caldera, has been moving upward since mid-2004 at a rate of up to three inches (seven centimeters) a year—more than three times faster than has ever been measured."
~ Scientists link mysterious highest-energy cosmic rays with violent black holes -- "Scientists of the Pierre Auger Collaboration announced today (Nov. 8) that active galactic nuclei are the most likely candidate for the source of the highest-energy cosmic rays that hit Earth. Using the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina, the largest cosmic-ray observatory in the world, a team of scientists from 17 countries found that the sources of the highest-energy particles are not distributed uniformly across the sky. Instead, the Auger results link the origins of these mysterious particles to the locations of nearby galaxies that have active nuclei in their centers."
~ Locals lose out to sexy aliens -- "Globalisation has led to an increase in invasions by new species around the world and this is costing agriculture and the environment dearly."


INTEGRAL/BUDDHIST
~ More on “Paideia In America” -- "America is certainly famous for its pragmatism — of needing to understand some sense of possible effects of undertaking an action or project. We are a young country, with no native tradition of fine art or “high culture”, as Camille Paglia rightly reminds us. We are known for rugged entrepreneurship. We are known for the American Dream, and its material rewards. These all lead one towards a conclusion that Americans, in a general sense, are not particularly suited to the temperament required for a classical education. But is that a truly earned conclusion? I don’t think so."
~ Can Buddhism become American? -- "By this, I’m not asking about whether Buddhism can mesh with American values or whether American culture can or will grow to accept Buddhism. These are worthy questions but not for today, at least for me. What I am asking about is whether Buddhism can become American in the sense of its organizations, teachers, and adherents."
~ Announcing: The Second Global Integral International Development Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey -- "The focus for this second global Integral International Development meeting is on "The Integral Practitioner" - with a particular emphasis on what Integral governance includes in today's complex world. Practitioners, consultants, coaches, social change agents, activists, scholars, and all those involved in 'Integral Praxis' are invited to discuss many important global issues...."
~ Death and what continues -- "A quick look at death and what continues.... First the obvious one: Our human self, with its personality and quirks, dies. It is gone forever. At most, some of its influences on others and society continues for a while, but then that is gone too."
~ Ngawang Tenzin Rinpoche Visits Portland to Teach the Mystery of Vajra and Dorje -- "According to Wagner University, Holiness Ngawang Tenzin is a high reincarnation of the Drukpa Kagyu Lineage of Buddhism in Bhutan. He is regarded as one of the most revered teachers of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage in Bhutan. He is the reincarnation of Drubthop Chenpo Jinpa Gyeltshen Rinpoche who was alive in the 18th century."


Daily Dharma: The Sweetest Strawberry


Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle poses an interesting parable from the Buddha:

The Sweetest Strawberry

Buddha told a parable in a sutra:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

~ Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones; from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.


People Are Human-Bacteria Hybrid

[DNA]

I remember hearing about this idea a year or two ago. I can't remember who the scientist was, but he was arguing that a great deal of our evolution as a species was the result of bacteria, viruses, and other foreign DNA changing our own genetic make-up. Without this "intervention" from outside sources, we would not have survived as a species. Kind of humbling when you think about it.

This article is from Wired:

Most of the cells in your body are not your own, nor are they even human. They are bacterial. From the invisible strands of fungi waiting to sprout between our toes, to the kilogram of bacterial matter in our guts, we are best viewed as walking "superorganisms," highly complex conglomerations of human cells, bacteria, fungi and viruses.

That's the view of scientists at Imperial College London who published a paper in Nature Biotechnology Oct. 6 describing how these microbes interact with the body. Understanding the workings of the superorganism, they say, is crucial to the development of personalized medicine and health care in the future because individuals can have very different responses to drugs, depending on their microbial fauna.

The scientists concentrated on bacteria. More than 500 different species of bacteria exist in our bodies, making up more than 100 trillion cells. Because our bodies are made of only some several trillion human cells, we are somewhat outnumbered by the aliens. It follows that most of the genes in our bodies are from bacteria, too.

Luckily for us, the bacteria are on the whole commensal, sharing our food but doing no real harm. (The word derives from the Latin meaning to share a table for dinner.) In fact, they are often beneficial: Our commensal bacteria protect us from potentially dangerous infections. They do this through close interaction with our immune systems.

"We have known for some time that many diseases are influenced by a variety of factors, including both genetics and environment, but the concept of this superorganism could have a huge impact on our understanding of disease processes," said Jeremy Nicholson, a professor of biological chemistry at Imperial College and leader of the study. He believes the approach could apply to research on insulin-resistance, heart disease, some cancers and perhaps even some neurological diseases.

Following the sequencing of the human genome, scientists quickly saw that the next step would be to show how human genes interact with environmental factors to influence the risk of developing disease, the aging process and drug action. But because environmental factors include the gene products of trillions of bacteria in the gut, they get very complex indeed. The information in the human genome itself, 3 billion base pairs long, does not help reduce the complexity.

"The human genome provides only scant information. The discovery of how microbes in the gut can influence the body's responses to disease means that we now need more research into this area," said Nicholson. "Understanding these interactions will extend human biology and medicine well beyond the human genome and help elucidate novel types of gene-environment interactions, with this knowledge ultimately leading to new approaches to the treatment of disease."

Nicholson's colleague, professor Ian Wilson from Astra Zeneca, believes the "human super-organism" concept "could have a huge impact on how we develop drugs, as individuals can have very different responses to drug metabolism and toxicity."

"The microbes can influence things such as the pH levels in the gut and the immune response, all of which can have effects on the effectiveness of drugs," Wilson said.

The Imperial College research demonstrates what many -- from X Files stalwarts to UFO fanatics -- have long claimed: We are not alone. Specifically, the human genome does not carry enough information on its own to determine key elements of our own biology.