Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Art of Peace

From today's Daily Zen website:

The Art of Peace begins with you.
Work on yourself and your
Appointed task in the Art of Peace.
Everyone has a spirit that
Can be refined, a body that
Can be trained in some manner,
A suitable path to follow.
You are here for no other purpose than
To realize your inner divinity and
Manifest your innate enlightenment.
Foster peace in your own life and
Then apply the Art to all that you encounter.

- Morehei Ueshiba

How Religions Evolve from Spiritual Truth

I wrote this as a comment on Anonymous Julie's blog, but it really doesn't belong there. It is also too good to throw away, so I'm posting it here. Whether you like it or hate it is irrelevant. What matters is whether it is true for you, or at least, whether you can discern any truth in it.

First, you have spiritual truth and quite possibly the mystic as well, but sometimes I believe that what people refer to as mystical is simply that for which all words fall short and it has to be experienced to be understood. Religion as I am using it in this context is simply the incorporation of spiritual truth into a set of canon, tradition and dogma for the purposes of men and society. As my Uncle explained it simply and succinctly, you have a spiritual master who speaks wisdom, then he or she dies. The oral stories and parables are written down which removes some of their intended effect which is to awaken people. Then others come along who don't understand the stories fully, and in their attempts to comprehend and make sense of them, they alter or subvert* their meaning to an extent and turn them into the basis of a religion. All spiritual masters are the same master. They seek to empower people to their fullest potential without generally seeking political or financial power themselves. But the institutions that arise after they are gone are the opposite. Maybe they have to be since they are of this world. However, there were no early churches in Early Christianity. People met in houses, typically the wealthier members since they had more space. There were spiritual leaders, but everyone had a say it seemed and women were held in high regard. Then you start to see Christianity accommodate Roman society as the wealthy Roman women and their families adopted it in their households. Suddenly, slaves were admonished to obey their masters and wives their husbands. Never mind that the emperors saw Christianity differently and sought to stomp it out until Constantine embraced it possibly because of his Mother. You see this give and take as Christianity evolves from a form of Judaism to a Gentile religion in the Book of Acts and some of Paul's epistles.

I don't really care what you label it or how you label it. When I speak of spiritual truth or spirituality, I am referring to the core truths embodied in just about every major religion that each religion was spawned from. They almost all have them in common because they are all based on human experiences. They are separate from the rituals and traditions that for the most part are elaborate trappings, one could say are smoke and mirrors. Jesus and the Buddha gave sermons to people telling them the truth. They spoke simply and to the point, and it was almost intimate in a way (I lack words to describe what I am trying to convey.). How is that different from what people experience now in a church, mosque, or synagogue? I mean sometimes it happens. Sometimes the sermon hits home and you are enlightened, but often, it falls flat.

*more accurate verb for what I wished to convey


The Nameless

Before there was Man, there was something, though there wasn't a name for it yet. It spawned this Universe and it is an intrinsic part of this Universe. It is every atom, molecule, plant, animal and mineral, but it is more than all those things. It is every photon, every unit of dark energy, and we've only seen a fraction of what it is when we look at the smallest or the largest things. It is beyond order and disorder (entropy). It is beyond chaos. It is all those things and more. It is more than Nature, though Nature is one aspect of it. It is beyond words, beyond concepts, beyond thought. It is not beyond experience. The way to it is to experience it. One way is to share an experience with another, such as selfless giving. One could call it Consciousness, but even that word is limiting and inaccurate. One could call it Stillness, but that word is limiting as well. One could call it emergent behavior of evolving humanity, but that description is limiting and maybe flawed. We are it and it is us. It experiences Life through each of us and it is awakening in each one of us in its own way at its own pace. We help or hinder this awakening process by how we identify ourselves and our place in the Universe. Regardless of what we think, however, it exists and lives according to its own ineffable agenda. Some praise it, some curse it, some don't believe in it at all. Nothing I've written here just now matters, for it's about as accurate as the label "honey" is at conveying what the substance honey is like. I do it no justice in the telling. What is important though, is that you awaken to who you really are. What is important is that you question and seek truth passionately, with a thirst looking to be quenched. What is important is that you love another as yourself, because you are one entity with separate bodies and minds and forms.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Game

Have you ever watched a wildlife special or series? You watch a predator stalking its prey. You've seen variations on the theme since childhood probably - lion stalks zebra, lion eats zebra, repeat until death. You play a game on a computer - play, lose, repeat until you win the level, go up a level, play, lose, repeat until victory. How about worship services? One goes to a holy place, prays, sings hymns to God in fellowship with others, hopes prayers are answered or at least a favorable outcome will ensue...rinse, lather, repeat ... every special day designated by some priest way back when. A variation of the same thing happens when we go to school. All of life is a repetitive series of tasks. What's the difference though between an animal and a human being? The human being is attached to what he or she does usually and the animal isn't. So what's the difference between playing a game and work since both are repetitive tasks? There really isn't one. The game is played for a reward (enjoyment) and the job is done for a reward (money). Zen Buddhism recognizes that living is a series of repetitive tasks and that one's perception is the only difference:

Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.

Can you personally make life or daily living a game, make it enjoyable for yourself? Can you be detached from the outcome of your life or your job? This seems to be part of the core wisdom of the sages down through the ages. The insane opposite of this playful detachment to existence is obsessive compulsion. Which is easier? Which is freer? Which is saner?

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Dream

The Buddhists say that we live in a dream. In the wakeful state, we perceive reality as a sort of dream that we are attached to. In sleep, we enter another state of consciousness where we are not attached to those dreams. In death, we enter yet another state of consciousness full of illusions or dreams. So, it's all one big dream. When an individual awakens or becomes enlightened, he doesn't awaken from the dream, the dream is perceived differently, just as our perceptions change when we awaken from sleep. Enlightenment is an alteration of perception, be it from scientific inquiry, meditation, life experience, psychoanalysis, LSD, creativity, or any other form of experiencing whatever reality or life is. I suppose that "Heaven" doesn't exist for a Buddhist unless it is the state where you escape the cycle of reincarnation, or maybe this world is Heaven to a Buddhist. I do know that we create a Heaven or Hell on this planet. Which one depends on each person's perception of their own reality.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Being Abnormal

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Was watching a CNN show about TB and the TB traveler. Didn't know that Eleanor Roosevelt lived with it. Perhaps this incident will wake up people and get our declining public health system fixed. Drug resistant Tuberculosis is a World Health problem. It was one of the diseases reported about in Rx for Survival. XDR TB is treatable, but the treatments are costly. It loves people with HIV and indeed, it's been on the rise in infected HIV populations. The reason we have drug resistant TB is that people stop taking the antibiotics after they feel better, but they haven't cleared the TB infection. The bacteria are given a second chance and the surviving germs are often resistant to the antibiotics that were used to treat the patient. It's a disease of poor people who mostly live in the third world. There's no financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to make a cheap vaccine or treatment. Throw in cheap air travel, a highly communicable, infectious disease and you have a public health nightmare. Now, was Mr. Speaker contagious? Who knows? Only time will tell, but chances are that he wasn't. But you don't want to have extremely drug resistant TB. He'll likely be cured, but for many people who contract the illness he has, it is a death sentence.

The previous paragraph has nothing to do with the quote above. If anything, it makes me seem average or small. But you'd be wrong about me. There are all sorts of ideas happening and being discussed at the moment. Michael Moore's "Sicko" may cause a national health care debate to ensue. Ron Paul is sounding like a someone who actually has read up on terrorism since he's talking about reevaluating American foreign policy and its blowback. Doctors are discovering that when they give oxygen to heart attack victims that they are actually killing them quicker instead of saving them. Chances are that the underlying cellular mechanism at work in oxygen deprived people is the same one that allows hydrogen sulphide induced hibernation to work. Astronomers are peering farther and farther from home. They are peering into the atmospheres of faraway planets and stars, measuring the mass, distance and density of dark matter. Female cheetahs are polygamous, which makes sense since cheetahs went through a genetic bottleneck thousands of years ago and cheetahs are highly genetically homogeneous (inbred). It's in their interest to have multiple cubs from multiple fathers. Stephen O'Brien has suggested that one female cheetah and her cubs survived the cheetah mass extinction and the cheetahs clawed their way back (to steal a phrase from The Register web site). Now they just have to survive us.

So, the take home lesson here is to never be average. Be passionate about something and try to make a difference. Although all life and all things are fleeting, we are all here for a purpose. Everyone and everything is equally sacred and precious. Discover yourself and who you really are.

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