The word “esoteric” I met long ago with the theosophists, I came across esoteric Catholicism. What this meant to me was that beyond the catholic dogma there was a deeper spiritual meaning. At that time I had only recently started on the Path, had grown from rejecting the church of Catholicism, so it was a bit of a jump for me to accept Catholicism of any form. However with theosophy I had started on a spiritual path and because they accepted esoteric Catholicism it was something I could consider.
Over the years I dabbled with spirituality until eventually I came to Buddhism when I was 50. Whilst the spiritual search was continuous in my life, it had not been studious nor had I taken retreats but it was central. When I reached Buddhism it was a spiritual search. I read a few books but had a “conversion” at Wat Phra Kaew, and then I met British monks in a British monastery based on the Thai tradition of Forest Sangha and they appeared to be trying to get underneath Buddhism.
I found that this Buddhism began answering my questions. The books they were interested in, what they taught me, all seemed to fit in with the spiritual journey I had been on. I have begun to question this now, and the issue revolves ar5ound the word esoteric.
If one is in the UK and has reached a level of spiritual awakening – whatever sort, then you don’t look to the church and its congregation. Maybe there are Christians who are on a journey, when I met my niece she was one, and they look at soul and grace and a more “esoteric” interpretation of the scriptures, bible etc. I never got that myself but in discussion with people like my niece I have no problem with there being an esoteric core.
With westerners and Buddhism I never saw the need to differentiate because westerners usually had been on a spiritual journey before reaching Buddhism. There was a kind of unwritten assumption of an “esoteric” nature in their journey. There is another factor to this. Western education is deeply intellectual, and at the same time as I rejected that conditioning I started spirituality – my Path, finding my soul. There was also an assumption that the journey was anti-intellectual, seeking to find the esoteric beyond the intellect. There is a difficulty with being anti-intellectual, it is one’s own intellect that expresses that anti-intellectualism. So when I have been in discussions about such matters my own intellect engages with other intellects to determine what is the esoteric – non-intellect.
A key word for me in this is insight, in this situation I could almost say the esoteric and insight were synonymous. And Buddhism discusses insight much. I was lulled into a feeling that discussing Buddhism was discussing the esoteric – insight.
This was reinforced by living in Thailand. This is a Buddhist country, it is more Buddhist that the UK is Christian. Observing a little what Buddhism meant to the Thais I could see an institution that had grown around the wats (cf churches). These wats are community centres involving institutional practices connected with life such as births, deaths, marriage and others specifically Buddhist. However these temples are not places where people are searching for the esoteric – searching for insight.
Throughout Thailand however there are Buddhist intellectuals studying even having a word for this intellectualism – buddhasasana. I do not understand this because of my limited language so I cannot know whether this intellectualism ever moves beyond dogma to the esoteric. However insight is discussed much, and I cannot evaluate that (because of language).
There is another confusion with regards to Buddhism and the esoteric, Buddhism appears to discuss the esoteric far more than Christianity. This is a personal judgement, and I have no way of assessing how true it is. As a child I was “sort of” immersed in Catholicism but I rejected this. Catholicism was church, morality – 10 commandments, and the anecdotes of the bible. I have since seen the esoteric discussions about esoteric Catholicism where the hidden spirituality of the anecdotes were explained but because I never met this in the mainstream it was not the religion I grew up with. By comparison Buddhism appeared to go deeper.
With this background I can clarify my questioning. Are the Buddhists I have contact with any more than intellectuals? Is the Buddhism they discuss just an intellectual construct albeit a sophisticated intellectual structure of mind? (to be ctnd.)
This zazen is taking its toll on my body.
OK I’m 64 in 2 days, and I’ve not always looked after myself. But for 9 years now I have been on a cheewajit diet – vegan and fish. I have not always been healthy in that time. I went through periods of healing, and thought things would be good only to find at the end of the healing that I had a chronic lung problem, a problem I still have when there is wind. But I am active and mostly OK.
I mentioned in a recent blog what I considered was balancing matching the therapeutic treatment for my knee and resulting problems. But what’s going on is far more than that. I remember when doing Tai Chi, and the instructor, Brian, talking about 10 points of alignment and lungs dropping. The zazen is working mind and body dropping so maybe that is what it is. But there is all kinds of stuff happening including a certain amount of gasping at breath – my lung issue.
Over the years I have used “letting-go” techniques, especially when I let go of Nancy when I was in Nyanga. I have used these since letting go of any small amount of stress that arose during retirement. I am surprised to feel that there is much that is not “aligned” – except for the knee and its consequences.
Yet there is still more than this going on as there is weirdness at night. In the middle of the night I woke up it wasn’t a nightmare, and then I thought about being trapped in an enclosed coffin – a bit like George Clooney in . A huge localised fear came over me, and then I thought about not being attached and free from fear – and it went. The previous night I had woken as if there was a shell all around me – as if separating, and then I said “there is no me” and it went. I put all of this down to the zazen; good stuff.
I suppose this is all dropping mind and body – maybe I just want that. I hope I keep it up, it is hard but what good must it be doing.
|Lost in my website is a personal homepage that really has no access, it was just there because it was an original homepage. There was a bit on Buddhism I have just updated with the following:-|
In some ways the issues are the same now (February 2016), where is the genuine Buddhism? Back then I thought Theravada was genuine. Following retirement in 2006 I continued with that theme focussing my study on Theravada. By that concentrating I have come to see Buddhism so differently. Where is “what the Buddha taught?”, and my answer now is “who knows?” Theravada has the high ground in the sense that the mostly claim to source their teachings in the suttapitaka, but this is not something I now feel confident about.
The Theravada sources are themselves are shrouded. I do not know the full history but what is written in the Theravada sources (which can be downloaded here) were committed to paper many years after the death of the Buddha. Theravadans claim that these people had perfect memories and it was common for things to be recounted that way. I am sceptical. In this original piece I had completely bought into the belief that Theravada following the original teachings of the Buddha, now I see there are important areas of disagreement amongst Theravadans especially the issue of anatta and reincarnation amongst the Forest Sangha.
But Buddhadasa has taught me much, and that is to question views held as original Buddha teachings via Theravada. The questioning is mainly concerned with interpretation. The suttas are seen by many (especially intellectuals) as literal, and by studying Buddhadasa to some extent I have started to see this literal perception as a misunderstanding. Intellectuals discuss dogma, argue minutiae of dogma, argue authenticity of dogma, argue discussions about dogma, and miss the boat concerning what the purpose of the teachings are. In Buddhadasa’s interpretation he argues context, typically:-
The Buddha needed to use words that implied acceptance of reincarnation because at the time all in India needed scripture that accepted reincarnation.
People generally say that the Buddha avoided discussion of reincarnation but did emphasise anatta as in paticcasamuppada.
The longer I discuss in this way the more I too get bogged down in intellectualism, authenticity and so on because language and society is about these things – not truth. I interpret what the Buddha taught as not about any of these, to me Buddhadasa is about the underlying meaning of the Buddha’s teachings as he attempts to get at what the Buddha taught.
Buddhadasa lived in Thailand where Buddhism is the mainstream religion, and there is much discussion and much written about it. Buddhadasa also discusses, gets into authentication, and did a prolific amount of work. Whilst Buddhadasa’s work focusses on idapaccayata-paticcasamuppada (inc anatta and ariya sacca) in my view his work is not meant as an intellectual study, in other words it cannot be understood by intellect alone. [Note this indicator – those teaching westerners at Suan Mokh offer as download Idapaccayata – scroll down to idapaccayata.zip] (or download from mysite or from mega).
To a certain extent I understand Buddhadasa’s focus through a quote from Shobogenzo:-
“those who sit in meditation will, beyond doubt, drop off body and mind, and cut themselves free from their previous confused and defiling thoughts and opinions in order to personally realize what the innate Dharma of the Buddha is” [p35 Shobogenzo book]
Buddhadasa talked about “removing attachment form the 5 khandas” in Ariya Sacca. Is this “drop off body and mind”? What is left? “the innate Dharma of the Buddha”.
When I think of my experiences when writing, the writing occurred when I reached the “muse”, a state of mind that was free and just creative – writing. This muse or state of mind I have just come to realise is jhana, when in jhana there is no attachment to khandas – unless I try to cling to it. Am I just seeing “the innate dhamma”? Of course not because that innate Dhamma would be Voidness, but it is getting towards that in some way, in a way that is not intellectual, cannot be described by language.
In the end I do however hold to the Unity that Buddhadasa describes here:-
“For those of you sitting here who are interested in going to study Buddhism, please take notice that there is no such thing as Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and all that stuff. There is just one real Buddhism and this is just pulling that I and mine out from the 5 khandas so that there is just the khandas – removing this I and mine out from the khandas. This is Buddhism. Everything else has just been added to make things showy, to make it interesting, to make it impressive, to entertain the children and all these things, so it makes the real teaching seem very profound so that nobody can understand it – all this extra stuff . Please find out what the real thing is, and save yourself the trouble of the other stuff.”
Zazen meditation is so different and that much harder – when I say harder the time seems so much longer. Previously my meditation was just about clearing the mind, and then I would get the mind to do something like Brahma-Viharas. The mind was always active, calm the concoctions of sankhara – intellect, and then focus on something beneficial. It was letting-go of chatting intellect but then positive intellect.
Zazen is just sitting, and it is slowwwww …. What do I do? Not thinking. If I do think I think letting go of mind and body but I try not to think of that. My eyes are open – rule, I don’t like that. Every so often they want to close. Today I dozed in my study chair before meditation, yet during meditation my eyes wanted to close and it felt like sleep coming. It wasn’t a sleep need, between 12 and 12 (I started zazen at 12.30pm) I probably had 10 hours sleep. The other thing is balance. Balance is a big problem for me at present because of the balance problems caused by locked knee (see below). Balance keeps coming up.
I am writing this straight after zazen and I feel like dozing now.
For completeness I should talk about methodology. I have my usual posture issues because of my knee so ignore those requirements (see below). In Brad’s book “Sex Sin and Zen” there is a short appendix on zazen, saying zazen is just sitting and not thinking. The methodology is covered in Fukan ZazenGi so I have put it on the Shobogenzo page. I started yesterday in which I forced two sessions – so that is a good improvement. Because the methodology requires the discipline it is better, I don’t know why I didn’t force myself twice before. Previously my mind was too active to do an evening session, and I just put that down to daily life and accepted it. Now there is the discipline so I am doing it …. so far.
“Below:- I locked my knee playing football when I was 15; this might have been as a result of running down Edale and twisting my knee on a clump. After the knee locked it was in a huge bandage, and there was physio but I didn’t try properly and never straightened it. It took me until 3 years ago to realise that.
Basically I didn’t understand my knee was still locked. Every so often I would lock my knee by jerking, this is what I thought. In reality what the jerking was doing was further locking the knee – only more drastic and with pain. When I was 18 I was physically a complete wreck – drunk and unfit. I would sit up and jerk the knee. I visited a specialist, and he told me there was nothing that could be done other than removing the cartilage – and get rheumatism. Young me said get rid, but fortunately 45 years ago doctors and parents could still make decisions for kids (18-year-old kids).
A few years ago a massage Grannie said she could fix it. I went to her and she improved it – I found movement I had never had for 40 years, but she didn’t fix it completely. Then I found Boonyeun, a physiologist, and he worked on it improving it even more. Now a physiologist sees the body as an integrated muscle system, and he tinkers all over the left side of my body. Because I had favoured my left knee, I had closed up the hip joint and maybe more. Boonyeun is opening this up and so I am feeling uncomfortable walking as my body tries to adjust. This is the balance I am feeling in zazen.
This was the insight page that I have collated as a single blogentry – started 5 years ago.
One of the main triggers for the development of this blog was an online discussion here (or backup) in which the other person advocated Tony Blair’s book. With discernment I claimed that I would never read Tony Blair’s book because he has access to huge echelons of people capable of creating disinfirmation and that he spent years trying to justify an invasion of Iraq. I was then suprised to discover that this person is entrenched in the “being rational” con, and with a certain amount of vitriol on his part he concluded there was no point in continuing the discussion. In my view he was completely correct – there was no point, but for different reasons – the other person was not trying to apply insight. It is not possible to understand what is going on in this world by rational debate, it is necessary to develop insight to pierce through the echelons of disinformation to perceive what John Stockwell calls the Third World War. To understand it takes insight into the corporatocracy and what the corporatocracy does. What is different (I think) about this blog is its intention to encourage people to develop insight meditation in order to come to terms for themselves as to whether the world is indeed a corporatocracy as I have described in About.
What is insight? It is hard to describe because it is a human mental faculty that could be described as “beyond language – beyond description”. Here is what is not insight, this is the rational approach. Listen to both (all) sides of the discussion and evaluate through reason which is the best option. Consider how this would work with regards to the Gulf Wars. The media in general presented vast amounts of information in favour of a war, establishment figures including politicians leading academics were pro-war, a few left-wing journals described the war as a war for oil, and John Stockwell described it as part of the Third World War. Based on this level of information a “rational” person might come down in favour of the war – just, becasue Saddam was an aggressor and a tyrant – and we need to protect some people. Completely rational. But completely lacking in insight. This war scenario was being fought out initially in the media, not to present a balanced viewpoint to the watcher , but to convince people in NATO countries that a war was necessary – in this BBC article about European polls on 11/02/2003, “only 25% thought enough evidence had been found to justify a war” – five weeks before the start of the war.
But not only do you need insight, you need to trust your insight. Here reason and analysis might give you help, but fundamentally you need to rely and trust your own insight. In the case of the rational approach you use your insight to value the veracity and importance of the different positions taken and offered. As such it is legitimate to give great credence to John Stockwell whose interest is exposing the actions of the CIA employers he worked for for years, as compared to Tony Blair who was a warmonger and made great personal wealth as a result of his political standpoint. Within the corporatocracy insight tells you the silver tongues of Obama and Blair are forked.
How do you develop this insight? For most people who have devloped insight it develops through a heuristic process where they gain experience and their minds, often unconsciously, analyse data and come up with a conclusion that appears as a “Eureka” moment – I can see the truth. But it can be easier than that. The Buddha recommended Vipassana – Insight meditation, and here is a typed copy (not formally ratified) of an Insight Meditation pamphlet I first learned Insight Meditation from. Insight on experience begins to develop a clarity of mind that can see through to the truth, avoiding all the pitfalls that have been created for a purely rational approach. To understand what is happening in the world, people have to learn to recognise the truth for what it is. This is so hard to do, and insight is the only way. But we have to learn to rely on and develop our insight, and that is not easy.
Typically on the left we accept a sheep mentality. Something or someone persuades us that such-and-such a line holds the truth, and that becomes enough. The line is then dictated by knowledgeable and often genuine leaders (through publications or otherwise), but the sheep follow. Without fully knowing what they are talking about, these sheep alienate others because they do not have the understanding. They have not attempted to develop an insight. It is the democratic responsibilty of all members of organisations to try to understand and apply insight within the democratic process of that organisation.
There is also a lifestyle associated with meditation and insight, one such is Zandtao. This Zandtao lifestyle tries to promote a general well-being through a combined practice that supports a healthy body, vitalising chi as well as a clear mind. If these are balanced then we are better adjusted to deal with the tribulations that come with trying to promote the truth:-
such as isolation from the community, vitriolic attacks from the establishment, etc.
as well as giving us the mental strength and determination necessary when surrounded by the establishment pressures of conformity and disinformation.
Mindful Consumer Network – MCN
Through Insight we have established that the prevailing corporatocracy is damaging to society. Of course we would like to do something about the way these people behave but this is impossible to do. their greed and the measures to ensure that their wealth increases have worsened and continue to worse depite the efforts of many people seeking beneficial change. This is a reality insight demands we accept.
Let us examine one of the phases in which this greed brought a crisis – the Cold War. This was a supposed war I grew up with in which I was afraid of “Reds under the bed”. For years communists were vilified, and it was only when I began to study communism for myself that I discovered what they were frightened of. Nothing. It was the corporatocracy who was excluded from markets in the Soviet bloc who were fuelling the Cold War. Following the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall the chimera of the communist threat disappeared as gradually the corporatocracy accumulated those markets.
And here is the clue to what we can do. As the movie Ethos says, the consumer can decide. Consider a supermarket, do we have a choice? Far from it, we have a vast choice of similarly-produced processed foods. For most people this choice is sufficient, but what about the choices for those who value their health? They cannot buy authentic organic produce (guaranteed), but where can you buy such produce? Locally. By this I mean establishing local markets where you can buy produce that you know is genuinely organic – here is an example. For all the people who buy organic produce and prepare foods for themselves, this is less capital that can be accumulated by the corporatocracy. This of course is small potatoes initially. maybe it would grow to have an impact but significantly you are healthier. What if all the activists ate all their food in health food cooperatives whose locally-produced organic credentials had been verified. Even if this did not have an impact they would at leats know that the money they were spending was not being accumulated by the corporations and their government stooges.
What if we purchased our clothes through Fair Trade networks? Of course this starts to become more expensive but for many activists such expenditure is not beyond their means. Of course such Fair Trade networks need to have credentials guaranteed but there are mechanisms in place to do this, it is just necessary to become aware of them.
But the biggest problem we have is that we contribute money to state investment schemes, in the UK through our NI contributions. Where are our pensions invested? Do we know? Can we know? It is this investment we need to reclaim. To do this we will lose money as compared with leaving these investments where they are. But this is a mindful act, not a financial decision. There are certain investments that are sustainable such as wind power companies. There are funds that are available which are ethical – although funds termed ethical by some of the established fund companies are dubious. If a Mindful Consumer Network were to become organised, maybe an MCN could employ or have access to financial advice that optimised ethical investment. I suspect that if there were sufficient investment money available such advice would soon appear.
What about savings – our money in the bank? Can we do anything about this? Yes, there is an ethical bank, a bank whose investments are totally sustainable – Triodos Bank. Comparatively the interest is weak, but the money is invested sustainably and ethically.
We cannot do anything about giving the money for purchasing a car – that has to go to the car transationals, but mindfully we can begin to look at the impacvt of the fuel we use on the environment. Perhaps we lose something in terms of speed and acceleration with an electric car – or hybrid, but in today’s modern cities when can we use such power. There are fuel alternatives that will financially hit our pockets but not damage the environment. Such purchases cannot allow us to withdraw from the accumulated pool that is the corporatocracy, but we can at least reduce the impact on the environment.
We have limited control of the purchase of our houses, but we can begin to think environmentally of how can best use this necessary expenditure. This needs to be investigated.
Such steps are piecemeal, they might cause additional expense, but over a period of time the cumulative affect might be beneficial. Even if that were hard to measure the truth is we could know that we are not contributing to the accumulated capital of the corporatocracy – our money is not contributing to war, famine, poverty and death.
Then finally we consider the money itself that we use, what if we using community currency such as Ithaca Hours. People connected with the heritage of E F Schumacher have long been proposing such currencies, and there are pockets in which these currencies function viably. Are there ways in whch such currency schemes can be developed? Can we use our MCN to work with such currencies. Can such networks establish connections between like-minded people where skills are traded with such nominal currencies? Teachers teach the children of plumbers and have their toilets fixed – no money changes hand but the job is done. Such barter can exist for the benefit of people without contributing to the accumulatinbg coffers of the transnational capital of the corporatocracy.
The mindful acts of such an MCN are not earth-shattering, nor are they going to inflict noticeable damage on the existing mechanisms of accumulation. But there is peace of mind. Such peace of mind can bring clarity, a perception that will allow a calm appraisal of daily life. If you wish to continue with political activism, if you wish to demonstrate, collectivise, or any
Insight into War – 5/8/11
Fundamental to our western economies is war. War is the engine that drives the economy. The profits from war provides steady income for the banks – borrowing money to finance the war effort, and this steady finance fuels the economy of the corporations. So when Americians go to war to defend “the American Way of Life”, this is the truth but not the wway they understand it. The rhetoric of war talks about democracy, freedom and other such values, but the truth is that it is the very economy of war which reinforces the western way of of life. Watch this movie Why we Fight.
Lessons in understanding come from history. The European colonial countries, starting with Spain, established their prominence on the global stage by invasion, colonisation and exploitation. Our financial histories are coated in blood. Do we in Europe accept this heritage? Do we accept that our economies thrived because of the slave trade? No. Or we say it is in the past. The North of England has mostly changed now, but I grew up there (near there), below a landscape dominated by mills. And the mills were the European end of exploitation out East. Now I didn’t grow up amongst exceptionally nasty people, some people might say northerners are the salt of the earth. But what I did grow up amongst is people whose families had historically benefitted from fleets invading far-off lands, and when people from those lands follow their own money the North is very quick to call for immigration controls.
The two wars in the last century whilst decimating the workforce also fed the UK war machines, but the US strategy in the second world war (intentionally coming in late) left Europe trailing behind the Americans in the hegemony. American wealth continued to grow throught the war-like strategy that John Stockwell called the Third World War. Now western foreign policies are lining up as Thatcher and then Blair have promoted war-like policies that have stimulated the economy financially. The French were almost indecent in their haste to go into Libya, not there the decade of justification of war that Blair laid for Iraq.
This is the insight, this is the basic fundamental depth that we need to perceive to understand how our societies function. We go to war. This is how we survive, we go to war. This how we maintain our standard of living, we go to war. Do we want to believe this? No. How can we? How can we believe that all the people we grew up with survive as they do because we go to war. War is so destructive, the second world war
This is insight. Why? Because it is so hard for us to believe. British people are educated, rational and caring. It just doesn’t make sense. does it? Such caring and sensible people would never allow their governments to be war-like for profit. This is where personal conflict in the workplace comes in. In the workplace how many people are able to stand up for what is right? When we talk about right livelihood what kind of problems do we give ourselves to do what is right? And for most people this has nothing to do with the Military Industrial Complex. Try standing up for what is right there. In all avenues of life we are forced to compromise but we don’t draw the connections to the fundamental compromise that our western lifestyles are based on profits from war, yet that is the fundamental insight. Nothing that happens in the world cannot follow from this fundamental insight, how many of us fight for better conditions in the world but fail because of the fundamental economic driving engine of war.
If I was a monk and had never worked I would never believe it. That’s why monks belong with Dhamma. How can cloisters possibly accept such insight?
Discernment – 05/08/11
Discernment – this mental tool is essential if we are going to be able to use our insight. I have recently had a flu. Kind friends have visited me and they always say “have I been to the doctor?” And I haven’t. Some will push the matter, and I say the doctor will give me antibiotics – which I consider poison. I would rather let my body heal itself – good food, vitamin C etc. How can an unqualified person tell the doctor he is giving antibiotics which damage the liver? So I don’t go. This insight is to understand the relationship between the medical profession and BigPharma, and the discernment is not to visit the doctor. When I am ill it is not easy making those arguments.
I was never fooled by Obama. To begin with I never believed a black man could get into the White House – I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong there. But Obama is not Jesse Jackson, he never wanted to go to the White House to make changes, he wanted to use change as a way of getting into the White House – and then business as usual. To reach the top of the Democratic Party he must have sold out already, and his actions in charge have shown his nature. He’s good at it. Even now after 3 years of piling damage onto pre-existing problems there are still people who believe in him – or who want to believe in him. There is a phrase that describes him, he is a Wall Street politician. This description means that all his actual policies benefit Wall Street. Don’t bother listening to him, waste of time. In fact trying to make sense of him would only bring heartache – be discerning.
Tony is of the same ilk, a silver tongue with no moral backbone. Tony is a politician for the Square Mile. It is sad to see that power corrupts so much but insight tells us it does. These politicians employ people (spin doctors) whose sole objective is to confuse people and persuade them that their argument is right. Blair spent 10 years creating information promoting the invasion of Iraq. After such a length of time such a clever man must have produced disinformation and arguments that would be difficult to dispute. It would be hard to dispute them rationally but it would not be very discerning to do so. After all the man is a Square Mile politician and his interest is promoting the economy by war involvement. Use Insight to see Tony for what he is, and then use discernment as to how to address what he has to say.
Use Insight, and be discerning.
4 Noble Truths & Political Insight
Some argue that the most important thing the Buddha brought to the world was the understanding of the 4 Noble Truths; here they are:-
The core of the Buddhist teaching is the Four Noble Truths: There is suffering. There is a cause to suffering. There is an end to suffering. The is a path out of suffering (the Noble 8-fold path).
Pasted from <http://dharma.ncf.ca/introduction/4-Noble-Truths.html>
Whether it is the most important it is still very important in the understanding of the world. Most Buddhists take these truths, and apply them on the basis that there is suffering, this suffering is caused by desire and that we become attached to this desire. To overcome this desire we have to work on detachment when it arises, and the 4th NT offers an 8-fold Path as a way to live that will help with this detachment.
The political insight from these truths is boundless. Imagine a world without greed (desire), would we have our problems? Of course not, but unfortunately when the world is viewed politically the world accepts this greed. Imagine trying to setup Socialist Workers’ Anti-Greed Party, and we start writing slogans and chanting “No More Greed”, we would be laughed out of Trafalgar Square. Yet on a personal level if we can overcome greed through sustainable living, this is a sound beginning for a Mindful Consumer Network.
But in the first Noble Truth the Buddha also points to a political reality, there is suffering. My earlier kind of Buddhist response to this was, yeah right move on to the meat – the detachment and the 8-Fold Path. But there is so much that can be thought through when you examine this Noble Truth. 2500 years ago there was suffering, and now there is suffering, is it immutable? Absolutely not, can it be changed? Maybe but how? And the Buddhist answer is compassion – the world being free from suffering.
On a Buddhist forum I pointed briefly to the notion that the world leaders are leading the world in suffering, and who are the world leaders but the western hegemony. Someone replied that this is not the usual way the 4 Noble Truths are discussed, and I asked why can’t they be? Now for me the reality is that they should be. Discuss the nature of suffering with calm insight and be active (as permanent revolution) in working to overcome this suffering. Applying meditation and mindfulness to the world of suffering we live in is what I am asking for, take inisght and mindfulness off the stool and apply these mental abilities to daily life – to the suffering we see around us. Is it enough to say that this suffering is caused by greed? For me the struggle now says that is not enough. What shape does this greed take? How does this greed shape our society? When a few take all the money in their greed, they are causing suffering to the many. Is this not a political reality? Do we accept this? Or do we seek to understand what this greed does, and follow it through to its conclusion? Follow it through to action? Is this not simply mindfulness?
And what do we use to follow this to a conclusion? The same skill we use to understand the dhamma – insight, the same technique of calm mind that comes in meditation – insight. Do we look at the dhamma and use intellect to understand? No because we know that intellect cannot see through the tricks that mind plays. In the same way when examining political reality we use insight to avoid all the pitfalls that are used to confuse us by the various powers that try to manipulate our understanding. And the 4 NT direct us by recognising that the world is suffering, and as we have leaders it is they who are causing the suffering – along woth personal greed. This is simple, this is insight.
Once we accept this insight, then we can begin to understand the way politics unfolds. Greed exists throughout our society but it has polarised in the corporations where excessive greed is extremely damaging. Then we see that our governments work in the interest of these corporations. We must use insight to see this, and not listen to what these leaders say. In times of crisis do our leaders control the corporations? No. They say they do, the corporations pay lip-service to the governments, but what about actions? In the US debt crisis recently (July 2011), taxing the rich was off the table – why? Taxes on the rich had been reduced in the last 30 years (since Reagan), and yet taxing the rich was off the table. Why? Insight tells us that the corporations are in control. Now what happens when you listen to these leaders and try to apply reason? Then you become confused because they have so much money at their control they can pay for so many intellectuals to research and come up with the conclusion that the Superclass wants. At the root of what they say will be inconsistency and contradiction, but these intelligent people misusing their abilities supporting self-interest and the establishment have the ability to confuse even the most knowledgeable. Don’t play their intellectual games. Apply your insight, and then once that insight is clear use reason to clarify your answers. When you look at the dhamma you use insight to determine the truth, and then you use reason and analysis to explain – the process is the same.
The 4NT – the world is suffering. Shouldn’t we use our compassion to work for people? A blueprint? We recognise the world is controlled by desire – in the case of our leaders (as others) greed. We apply detachment to ourselves to live sustainably, and then we try to help others to overcome their suffering by living sustainably as well. This requires some form of action to work against the interest of the corporatocracy, and even though we will have little impact individually it is an ongoing process that will bring happiness.
Is the struggle a struggle?
As a Buddhist I react against the word “struggle”, life should not be about struggling. If your mind is under control through meditation and you develop your insight then you can be happy. But when you look at the suffering in the world then your compassion has to make you angry. In terms of unity this is your Oneness suffering, you are suffering. It is not other people suffering, it is not Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans who are suffering. We are suffering, I am suffering. This must begin to make you sad, and if you think about it more you can become sadder and even depressed.
And what is the solution? As an individual there is no solution. Maybe as a political animal you might look at Marxism, and say this is the way it is – this blog is my way of saying what I describe is the way it is for me, but then what? The forces that are opposed to changing it for the better are so powerful that if you do start to make an impact they will quickly find a way of shutting you down – and for some people that shutting down means death. This is the reality.
So what do you do? And the useless answer I am going to give you is that you must decide. However if you decide with 100% awareness – mindfulness, then you can live happily with yourself and that is the point of this blog-entry. Make a decision to do something, and you will be happy. And the converse is also true, ignore the suffering that is around you, run away from it and you will not be happy. Always in the back of your mind will be the recognition that there is suffering. Basically the struggle is not a struggle unless you try to ignore the suffering, then you will always be struggling with what is termed “your conscience”. In reality what is happening is your compassion for Oneness is saying “what are you doing for these people – your Self?” This question would be showing an instability in yourself.
This instability means you become vulnerable. If you ignore the reality of this suffering then when you meet people who are attempting to do something about the suffering you feel threatened. Usually what happens when this threat occurs, you attack the people who expose your vulnerability. More often that not this attack is not recognised by the attacker – yourself, but it is recognised by the person being attacked. This situation is very difficult. The person being attacked is likely to be used to perpetually being attacked, on occasions quite vehemently, but this vehemence whilst being uncomfortable on the receiving end is an expression of the attacker’s vulnerability as succinctly described by the 2nd Agreement:-
Don’t take anything personally.
Receiving this vehemence continually is emotionally draining, receiving a barrage continually is not fun obviously. So what do you do? Run away. If you run away then you too will become vulnerable. You will feel emotionally uunstable, and eventually you will find yourself attacking others. So what do you do? You choose your battles – your struggle. It never ceases to surprise me how entrenched some people can become. My most recent example was with a Theravadan Buddhist monk. Monks are trained to have insight – vipassana meditation. They learn dhamma, understanding the truth in life, and still there was an attack. Of course with monks you can understand that their isolation in a monastery can excuse a lack of insight into political reality, but then insight and mindfulness are tools their meditation develop hopefully.
Whilst it is hard to continue through such unexpected attacks it is necessary to do so, and often there are lessons to be learnt. Following the attack from the monk I learnt that I had noit committed myself enough to the struggle, and thankfully I now recognise that life is about meditation, insight and mindfulness, and struggle. But struggle in part means dealing with attacks, and that is not easy. Fortunately the 2nd Agreement and meditation help you through. If you are angry you are no use to the struggle. That anger makes you vulnerable and you alienate people with your anger. Calmness is an essential requirement in the struggle. Under attack remain calm.
But choose your struggles. I did not take on the monk, I could see he was too entrenched. At the same time the attack occurred in a forum of a Buddhist organisation that he had built. Attacking the monk would have been an egoic response because the forum would not have listened as he was their monk. I walked away, chose another struggle, and started this blog. And for the moment I am more comfortable, except there is some instability because I realise that for some time I had not been participating in the struggle – for me a requirement of happiness. Some instability – and some anger.
There was another recent incident involving a contact who had used Buddhism to overcome drink addiction. It is important that people know that Buddhism can help with this problem so this man promoting his recovery method helps oters – spreads compassion. We met over the internet a few years ago – before he published his book, and he said at the time he hoped to produce a website like mine. I liked and remember this compliment but I mention that as significant only as a comparison with what happened recently. On his blog he wrote about a writer, Sam Harris, so I read and listened to this writer. I tended to agree with what my friend said about him – can’t remember what it was, but as an aside I suggested his work might suit the political climate, and that maybe he was a Jewish intellectual? His immediate response was that he avoided politics. I said everything is political, but there has been no contact since. I suspect he considers I am anti-semitic or a political radical, for myself I see that he has not extended his mindfulness beyond the way he used it to control his addiction. Perhaps in time, but his lack of contact shows an inherent internal conflist that comes from not extending his awareness in daily life.
The struggle is a constant, that is what I have learnt. For me it is not possible to escape the struggle as the struggle is continuous. I remember Krishnamurti talking about permanent revolution – much like the Trots talk of the same. This is the struggle fighting a permanent revolution in your daily life . This is struggle, but is it truly fighting? Internally not so, because being in a state of permanent revolution is not a struggle, it is Oneness. In fact the converse is the struggle, if you are not in a state of permanent revolution, you are not Oneness.
This sounds a bit like religious claptrap, and if it has no practical meaning then it is such mumbo jumbo. How do we apply it? There is a phrase you hear on crime shows – follow the money. In this context I would like to change this to “being mindful of how you spend your money”. When your money ends up in the hands of the corporations, then it is part of the problem, if as much of your money can be used sustainably then it is part of the solution. It is not easy to spend sustainably but we can always do more. Consider our vegetables. If we buy (genuinely) organic then the money does not go into the coffers of BigFood, it goes to the fcarmers who produce it – farmers’ markets etc. How many activists attend demos, write books, and eat unhealthy food – processed food that is bad for your health and whose profits are completely controlled by the corporatocracy. Now food is the easiest choice we can make about taking our money out of the pockets of the corporatocracy. However we can do more. What about our bank accounts? Look at Triodos bank. They do not offer much in the way of interest but you know your money is invested sustainably. What about your investments? Most of that is beyond our control but we can think about investing ethically. Triodos has renewable shares which offer some interest – far less interest than you would obtain if you invested in the MIC, but peace of mind?
What about Fair Trade schemes? These are particulalrly useful for presents – not always practical presents, but why not?
The real issue of developing this type of consumption is demand. If a significant proportion of the money earned by all activists were spent mindfully, then there would be a much bigger market. The more we spend mindfully, the greater the MCN – Mindful Consumer Network, and the less the corporations have. The less they have, the less they can use to indebt people and the less we have recession. For a sustainable economy we need to return to a system closer to barter – rather than one based on unsubstantiated credit. This approach would be resisted strongly by the corporatocracy, but initially it benefits all those who join in such networking – and it brings with it happiness and peace of mind.
Now to the activist part of the struggle, this is the most frustrating. As an activist you are continually subjected to attack, emotionally it is a barrage, and the tangible results are minimal. But such activism is essential to resist the encroaches of the corporatocracy. Working within trade unions is extremely frustrating but it is part of the struggle. It is the absence of mindful people within trade unions that enables them to be hijacked both by the government and opportunists within them – such as the exploiting leaders as well as manipulations of some extreme factions. It’s a job, it’s a struggle – ongoing, working for us the mass movement. But with meditation and insight we can do this with a calmness, detachment and strength that will maybe guide the trade unions to more fruitful activity. At least resisting the corporatocracy is positive. And perhaps we can begin to use the power of trade union investment ethically?
Lobbying groups such as Oxfam have their activities restricted by charity laws, but within these constraints they can do some good work. Throughout daily life there are activities that can help resist the impositions of the corporatocracy, if you think of your daily contacts I am sure you will be aware of these. But we have to be careful not to be intellectual about these activities. It is not the results but the ongoing activity and struggle that is the real power and happiness – working for what is right is an internal balance that brings happiness and peace of mind. Demanding results is an intellectual pursuit that just brings dissatisfaction. Be comfortable with your activity as part of the struggle that is everyone’s permanent revolution.
So the struggle is not a struggle if it keeps the calm of the activism of permanent revolution. In fact it helps avoid internal disharmony that comes from the failure to apply insight to daily life.
Is this blog showing anger because it is political?
A friend asked me yesterday why my blog has gone political, why have I become angry and is that right for a Buddhist? This question contains many good points to answer.
In my retirement I have chosen to live in a smallish community far from the rat-race where people live modestly amidst some signs of gross opulence. Life is pleasant here. The cost of living is low – £400 a month usually, £6000 a year with major items. The school I mentioned at the end of this blog is in this community. For myself my consumption is mindful in that I choose healthy eating and minimise other expenditure except for the computers. In general my life is sufficient and comfortable. The person asking me was born in this community. The politics of this blog passes her by, she cares for her family and for her that is sufficient, and the community as you can judge by the costs I have noted is not part of NATO.
I am British and have chosen for a long time to live outside of the UK, so I have abrogated my responsibilities as a British citizen. Yet Britain is part of NATO so I have more responsibility than my friend for the deaths in Iraq and elsewhere. This responsibility is weighing on me a little at the moment as for 20 years it was not to the forefront of my thinking. When I left the UK there was a great relief, a burden was lifted in part to escape the repressive society that is now far worse – see the affects of Tony Blair in Taking Liberties, and also to escape the burden of community responsibility for the actions of my government – there were personal reasons as well. I know that at present I am redressing a balance.
But am I angry? I am angry at myself for going to sleep for nearly 20 years – allowing my awareness not to include political reality and so not accepting my responsibility, but because I am now writing about politics does not mean that I am angry. It means that I am showing my compassion. But at the same time it means more in terms of Buddhism.
For this I need to consider Buddhism and how I learnt about it. The main source of Buddhism is in monasteries, the preservers of the tradition. Let us consider this source. These monks have chosen to take orders, to withdraw from the world, to study the dharma and meditate – and also to teach the dhamma. Whilst some have done this after almost a lifetime in the world of political reality, many more have spent their lives there. So I as a lay person learnt Buddhism from people who in general have not been active in the world of work nor in the world of political reality. Significant to Buddhists are the notions of insight and mindfulness, and it is important to understand how this insight and mindfulness might work for cloistered monks. Through Vipassana meditation directly or through other forms of meditation monks gain insight, but this insight tends to focus on insights into the dhamma – in a sense how the mind works. From this insight mindfulness and awareness follow, how is an individual matter. In the cloisters this is unlikely to develop into political awareness, and very unlikely to develop into the level of awareness that is gained through insight into the corporatocracy, one main reason for this is that monks tend not to believe that there are people who can behave as inhumanely as these corporatocrats. Lay people learn their Buddhism from these monks, and lay Buddhists are expected to, and do have, reverence for these monks. Whilst the key factor in living is to understand the mind, in a lesser sense in Buddhism there is a situation of the blind leading the blind, monks who are by intention politically unaware (because they choose cloisters) are teaching the world of Buddhists, and Buddhist writing and activity reflects this teaching.
At the same time we must understand the institutional restrictions that are placed on Buddhist monasteries. They require money, and these donations are provided by their lay community. Amongst the lay Buddhists are the rich and powerful, and if such monasteries were to begin to discuss the influence and implications of the corporatocracy such poweful people might withdraw donations. There becomes a tacit acceptance that mindfulness stays within the necessary understanding of mind, and that insight does not move into the world of politics. Whilst the Buddhist institution as a totality does not see this this tacit acceptance becomes a tacit acceptance of war; yet surely our humane compassion needs to address the issue of war. One of the Noble Truths says that suffering exists, war does. The Noble Truths suggest that we must not become attached to emotions connected with compassion and war, this detachment is important for peace of mind, but the Noble Truths do not say that we should ignore our compassion for those dying in war.
All Buddhists abhor war, peace being a key platform of Buddhism and compassion. Some Buddhists will then become activists fighting for peace, but how many of these Buddhists see war as a consequence of the financial imperative of the corporatocracy? How many draw the conclusion that the more than a million deaths in Iraq:-
bring the profits back to the home communities, and these profits pay for the salaries directly and indirectly within the communities that good western people live in. It is not by intention that good western people do this, such people will often voice opposition to the war, but by practice their democratic rights are misused by the government and media wing of the corporatocracy to facilitate these wars. Insight, mindfulness and awareness makes this obvious. When lay Buddhists seek advice from their monks, are they told of the corporatocracy? The soldeir asks their monk “should I sign up?”, and the monk says that if you believe in democracy to that extent then the logical conclusion is that you defend it. This is sound advice if these wars were defending democracy, but if the monk asks “Do you believe that you should fight in order to increase the profits of the corporatocracy?” this advice is clearly not acceptable to any Buddhist or religious doctrine. As a Buddhist I am asking that people extend their insight into the reality of daily life, our meditation is there to help us in daily life. For some this help is needed simply to cope with daily life, and for them I do not wish to add such a burdensome realisation as to the relationship between war, corporatocracy, and the foundations of western daily life. But for others including renunciates I am asking that they take their insight beyond the confines of their monasteries and make a decision for themselves as to the importance of insight into the corporatocracy and struggle.
There is an interesting consideration of the observation by my friend that I was angry. Yes, my compassion produces anger but is that anger controlling me? Am I attached to that anger? At the moment I know that I am to a certain extent, because for a long time this political awareness was not in the forefront of my mind. This does not invalidate what I am saying. Examine this blog with the same insight that you might examine any Buddhist blog. Does insight tell you that what is written is wrong? Do NOT use intellect but examine this with insight. At the same time do not examine it with emotion. Throughout our lives we have to come to terms with our emotions about war, for many their compassion dictates that they turn off their minds to the horrors of war. For most people war cannot be part of their awareness. But what happens when someone writes about the corporatocracy, and explains that profits from war are paying their salaries. This brings war home to them and they respond emotionally. But these people still need to keep these emotions at a distance so rather than examining such political analyses with insight they use their intellect to reject them by saying that these analyses are emotional. I have previously said that the struggle for me is now a recognition that in my limited activism there is a state of calm, the calm that comes from being aware more completely and accepting that awareness. I feel less held by the dogma and more by my compassion, is that not Buddhism?
|Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.
Brad has just written a blog about Hitler that started my mind going. Before I had read the blog my mind went to what I write below, and I felt a commitment to that. When it comes down to it my blog has little to do with what Brad wrote, why should that stop me?
I wandered to my past where I had met a fascinating man called Ernie Trory, I had been warned against him as being addictive and a bit dangerous (see comment). When I was a Trade Unionist I became attracted to communism, and I joined the “original” Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary party – at the time called the New Communist Party NCP. Where I lived the lynchpin was Ernie, and he became a mentor for a while. It was somewhat strange that this communist revolutionary lived in “Hove actually”, a seriously middle-class enclave in London’s commuter sprawl. This was back in the 80’s and Ernie was in his 70’s when I knew him – so of course he is now long gone. But I had moved on long before he passed away. Now Ernie was committed. He had been one of those wonderful people who had given up their lives and gone to fight in the Spanish Civil War. I don’t agree with them but such a wonderful commitment to the mass movement. I even tried to understand Orwell in Homage to Catalonia because of these people but never got there. It just seemed to me that even as deeply committed communists they were still just cannon-fodder going nowhere.
Brad’s Hitler immediately sparked something Ernie said. There is only one war – the revolutionary class war, and all the rest are capitalists fighting amongst themselves for more profits. I was in my 30s, British, and scoffed at this. My father had joined up just after the second world war, became part of the debacle that was the start of Israel, and in my mind even though I knew about WW1 being about the African cake, I couldn’t see all wars except revolutionary class war as capitalist. But I was wrong. …. Now I must ask “where has there been a successful revolution?” Russia is now criminocracy. Cuba clings to communism by a thread whilst Fidel lives, Sandinistas come and go whilst Ortega changes spots. And Franco stayed in Spain. And the 1% control gets cemented deeper and deeper.
Much of what Brad writes about Hitler concerns the Jewish question, I know little about Hitler’s view on Jews. But when I look at the politics of Zionism now I see only evil. How can a religion be about accumulating land? There are some good Israelis but because of the continued war these people have such little impact. And the money their 1% have, the control of the media that 1% has, the power they exert in the US, all working against world peace.
But back to Hitler. One thing being in a Marxist-Leninist party – for maybe only two years – was never look at the power and individuals. Individuals rise and fall depending on forces that exist at the time. Forces in Germany wanted Hitler at the time. WW1 had never terminated German expansionism, and German businesses were on the rise again. Money from finance institutions across the western world began to build up the German economy – George Bush senior and his family are often associated with this. This money drove Hitler and his war effort. There was wealth in Germany and people became attracted to it, and Nazism arose.
I have no answer to the Jewish question and how the holocaust developed, but the western finance institutions are now allied with the 1% including the Jewish 1%. Those people are their own country now, how the holocaust happened with their power I don’t know.
WW2 significantly shaped today’s world as planned at Bretton Woods consummated with the Marshall Plan. I haven’t studied the full details of this planning but the US entered the war in Europe late intentionally. By the time they did, the European forces were depleted and what had been “troops-on-the-ground” control in Africa by Europeans had become the US neo-colonial hegemony that now devastates the world particularly in the Middle East. Since WW2 the US has maintained control through what John Stockwell calls US’s Third World War. When you detach yourself from what is learnt in schools or put across by the media and just examine what is what, then Hitler is the figurehead that was appropriated by forces that now control the hegemony – the 1%.
Examine US and NATO relations with Saddam Hussein from being the US shining light in the war against Iran to the excuse and ultimate execution in 2 oil wars; it is the forces that control. My history of Iraq.
What-is-what, step back from what is presented in the media and see what happens, not the theory that they pretend happens. What are the sources of your opinion? Does one read Theravada to know the truth about Zen? Does one look at US mainstream media to learn about US hegemony? Do we ask the military how many people have been accidentally killed by drones? Or does one listen to a whistleblower to know the truth? Enquire, examine, investigate what-is-what.
When looking at what-is-what it appears to be contradictory, are we educated by educators?, do we know politics from politicians, but these contradictions are not the contradictions discussed by Brad – his are more fundamental. Personally I am not good with Zen contradictions and should study Dogen more. My mind is too intellectual, too prone to the intellectual challenge, and equally prone to challenging intellectuals; it is a necessary way forward for me.
“Science works the same way. You need everybody to be on the same page if a number of people have to communicate their findings to each other. We all have to know precisely what we’re talking about.” [Brad’s blogpost]. How can people be on the same page? How can I precisely know what is being talked about? By the time I begin to know what someone else is talking about, they’ve moved on …. Or I have …. anicca. And what is science? I must look at Shobogenzo.
I look at Brad’s dharma quote, and I am confused. But Buddhadasa said “We don’t deny there are differences. For example Theravada Buddhism is very straightforward, and is kept within certain fairly strict limits. People who don’t have enough intelligence and wisdom are unable to understand the Theravada teachings properly. Mahayana has tried to open everything up and simplify things so that even foolish people (old grandmothers in the street the ordinary man in the road) can have access to Buddhism with the idea that Mahayana, being the great vehicle, can take even the foolish people along. And then in Zen. Zen knows it’s never going to work, and narrowed it down and made it an exclusive refined teaching for only the most intelligent people. If one isn’t very sharp and clever, one can never figure out Zen Buddhism.” My ego likes to think I am sharp and clever but zen …. I must try.
I have now found again a way to read Brad Warner as part of my routine. Socio-politically I feel he has not seen through enough of the delusions but his down-to-earth Zen is very interesting. He blogged about people inviting him to speak needing to see the actual costs of so doing, and then being willing to pay those costs; he described a recent example where he had been considered overcharging asking for what was reasonable. Following a number of comments complaining about Brad’s so-called complaining he countered with this blogpost.
Brad gets a lot of comments, many of which fit into the proliferation category so I didn’t read them all. But my mind started considering “what is a job?” Brad refers to his own way of life as a job, and that sparked my question. I also read a teacher’s post that could have been written by me when I was teaching – of which I now have a different perspective.
What a job is needs to be placed into a community context. As human beings we must work for each other using different skills to help build a better society. What Brad does certainly fits into that category. Therefore a society ought to then provide him with the wherewithal to live sufficiently. It seems that Brad has that. Living sufficiently in the US is a problem because of the prohibitive cost of living, and this is where the problem starts as Brad was saying that if he gives a talk people should recognise this cost of living and pay accordingly.
Theravada is different as everything is donation. If a monk were to give a talk I presume the monastery would pay the costs if the donations did not make it up. I did however pick up something interesting one time when staying at a Theravada monastery in that it seemed possible that the abbot was inhibited by responsibilities to Thailand Central – the monastery was part of the Forest Sangha. Theravada also offers free dhamma books (by donation only), and Brad has to make a living through the sale of his books. It appears those royalties are not sufficient.
Now my discussion so far has not really addressed the main issues but has described some of the factors that have arisen in the discussion. The real issue is why is someone who has so much to offer society and works hard to give help, why is that someone struggling to make a living?
That is because the nature of jobs has become so skewed by society. The jobs that people do are not for the benefit of the community but are for the benefit of the profits of the 1%. If you want to be paid well you create their profits, and in so doing can usually end up contributing to some destructive process – destruction of the environment by BigOil, destruction of environment and health by BigFood and BigPharma etc. Brad’s contribution to society is beneficial, most people’s jobs sadly are not. Even caring jobs such as the teacher become hamstrung by rules and regulations that prevent genuine caring from happening.
Yet teaching as a caring job, even accepting being hamstrung, is one of the better jobs because most work is wage-slavery. And the money needed to survive in US society is part of that enslavement. The cost of living and then taxation are kept high in order to ensure that people like Brad find it difficult to live outside the wage-enslavement. Most of the people commenting on Brad’s blog are not so fortunate as Brad in that although they maybe have more money their daily life is enslaved. Brad has gained some element of freedom from that slavery, and there must be some envy. I could imagine that a wage-slave factory worker reading Brad’s blog would look at what he has to do in the factory and then see Brad as a whinger. Of course the commenters would not be in such a job but they would be wage-slaves, but a different sort of wage-slave – a deluded wage-slave in that they might well feel they have chosen their job. But deep down all people know their jobs are wage-slavery, and it is a question of how much people see the enslaved component of their work. And the simple question to ask to be clear about this is:-
“Would you do the job for free?”
or perhaps it might be better to ask:-
“Would you do the job for a subsistence living?”
Perhaps if all jobs only paid a subsistence wage, the 1% would not be able to manipulate society into the exploitative mess they now have created.
I envy my own situation now having enough money to live comfortably in retirement. But when I look back at all the stress I went through I have earned it. I would still have been a teacher but would have looked harder to be outside the system as a teacher so that I could be a genuine caring teacher. But I suspect that is not available – maybe in a commune.
“All things except the noumenon, the unconditioned, arise from a cause, and exist according to that cause. When we say, in Buddhism, that all things come from causes, we are pointing to the basic scientific character of Buddhism – the understanding that all things come from causes is the basic principle of science. Buddhism isn’t any kind of a philosophy that relies on assumptions, on speculation – on basically guesswork. Buddhism deals only with causes and effects of causes, and tries to understand this. This is scientific. We should never confuse Buddhism with philosophy, and all other kinds of speculation based on various assumptions.” [Ariya Sacca talk Origin4a search for “noumenon, the” pdf p58]
This is Buddhadasa’s description of science but is this a scientific reality? I need to examine my relationship with science, Bacon and all that again.
I have no wish to put words in the mouth of a teacher such as Buddhadasa, but in order to consider what he has said I need to make assumptions about science. Effectively he talks about science as cause and effect ie reason and logical thinking, this of course is part of scientific thinking and there can be no controversy in making such comparisons.
But to describe science as not having assumptions is not appropriate. If we consider maths, the supposed language of science, then part of maths is clearly a science of cause and effect. But every branch of maths, or every maths problem, starts with an axiom or basic laws that are generally accepted within the scientific community, if not wider. When making comparisons with science, rather than Buddhism not being based on assumptions, it would be better to establish what axioms Buddhism is based on. And then consider that Buddhism is based on the science of cause and effect based on these axioms. Consistent with Buddhadasa’s teaching I would suggest such axioms might be Idapaccayata-paticcasammupada, anatta, anicca, dukkha, 5 khandas and 6 senses. If there are not such axioms what is the cause, what are the effects?
But we also cannot ignore that science is part of society, and suffers from socio-political influences as do all things that belong to our society. So the science that Buddhadasa might be comparing with is not necessarily the science that is current in society. The science that Buddhadasa might well be referring to is a science that is a genuine search for knowledge based on a methodology of experiment, research, observation, cause and effect; one might also include in this genuine search for knowledge a moral clause such as “for the benefit of humanity”. In practice science is little more than business-funded, profit-making, technologically-orientated, and often destructive to humanity. Science that could be used for the benefit of humanity often remains unfunded and sometimes actively suppressed such as the science concerning GM products because that science destroys the profits of BigFood. The model of scientific methodology that I surmise Buddhadasa refers to is far from the science that is practised.
Buddhadasa has spoken about life as being “learning what-is-what”; in theory this is what science is. In practice however science has changed. This change began long before Buddhadasa. From the time of the Buddha and before up until the time of the reformation, science might well have been practised as “learning what-is-what”. In the observation of “what-is-what” there became two distinct approaches that which could be observed only and that which could be observed and recreated. It is my understanding that Francis Bacon was the first to make such a delineation, and equally as far as my understanding goes he did this as a recognition of what is what; categorisation of knowledge is a part of science.
But what has happened since Bacon is the real problem, science has become that which can be observed and recreated – now usually in a “laboratory”. And this second category of observed and recreated has also become known as “rational”. No-one, I assume, would want to dispute that this rational knowledge is not science, not part of “what-is-what”, but much that is now subsumed under the body of academia reject as not science that which cannot be observed and recreated in a laboratory. So learning science is now not the same as learning “what-is-what”. What is the difference? Bacon’s delineation is associated in my mind, and wider I believe, as science and religion, and this has become that knowledge of “what-is-what” that cannot be observed and recreated is in the category of religious knowledge which is now not accepted as knowledge or science.
Consider this quote from Buddhadasa “Now intuitive insight, or what we call ‘seeing Dhamma’, is not by any means the same thing as rational thinking. One will never come to see Dhamma by means of rational thinking. Intuitive insight can be gained only by means of a true inner realization” [from Handbookof Mankind quoted here]. He is saying that seeing Dhamma (including knowing “what-is-what”) requires more than is rational thinking. I fully accept that but the model that is now science (developed from Bacon’s split) would, I surmise, suggest that Buddhadasa is not being “scientific”. Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Buddhadasa’s approach, both in terms of cause and effect and that of insight, science as it is now practised would not.
Let me examine further from my limited Buddhist perspective what is on the “religious side of Bacon’s delineation”. I would suggest that the jhanas and the 4 Brahma-Viharas (sublime states) would fall on this religious side – as well as insight. How would one recreate such in a laboratory?
“Empirical Research can be defined as “research based on experimentation or observation (evidence)”. Such research is conducted to test a hypothesis. The word empirical means information gained by experience, observation, or experiment. The central theme in scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical which means it is based on evidence. In scientific method the word “empirical” refers to the use of working hypothesis that can be tested using observation and experiment.”
There are two points concerning this:-
1) Is there empirical evidence gained by experience and observation that cannot be verified by scientific method. And can this empirical evidence be termed “science”?
In light of 1) I would suggest that much of what Buddhadasa is describing as science, “what-is-what”, falls into this category – experience and observation that cannot be verified by scientific method (as defined in the quote). Much that Buddhism observes as “what-is-what” concerns the mind and mental states, typically the jhanas and the 4 Brahma-Viharas, and despite efforts of HHDL’s Mind and Life Institute it is difficult to see scientific establishment accepting these states as “knowledge” or “science”. Yet I would see them as cause and effect although I am not exactly sure how as yet.
Considering 2), let me first describe how I perceive qualitative research arose. Quantitative research is very limited. It is based on the above scientific method, and its conclusions are often numerical. But life is not numerical, it is descriptive and a numerical evaluation greatly limits what can be observed about life. Research, especially research in the social sciences, has moved towards qualitative research where peoples’ descriptions of their life as case studies are now accepted as research. Such research whilst being observable because they can be recorded do not at all fit into the definition of creatable scientific method as described in the above quote. Yet academia readily accepts qualitative research as science (personally, the bulk of my M Ed came from case study research). When academia chooses, case study, recounting of personal observations, is scientific method.
But does science choose to accept jhanas and Brahma-Viharas as observation? Science as “what-is-what” would.
Another point that HHDL made somewhere is that what happens in meditation can be “recreated”. The empirical observations that people make during meditation can be repeated by different people following the same meditation methods. I would also contend that peoples’ recounting of jhanas and brahma-viharas would also be similar. Such observations would not however fit in with quantitative research but in my view could readily be assessed in a qualitative approach.
In conclusion when Buddhadasa describes Buddhism as science through cause and effect I agree. However the science that is practiced in society is far from this. I would personally like to see Buddhadasa establish Buddhist axioms from which cause and effect could be established, this for me would then complete Buddhism as a science. Buddhadasa is not likely to do that now, and Buddhism is now so diffuse it is unlikely that such axioms would ever readily be agreed. I would like one day to be able to know Buddhism sufficiently to establish such axioms. When I proposed idapaccayata-paticcasammupada, the 3 characteristics – anatta, anicca and dukkha, 5 khandas and 6 senses, I feel I am somewhere near such axioms. I would like to define the axioms as idapaccayata, the laws of Nature, but I am unsure how the characteristics khandas and sense are effected by that cause – idapaccayata, maybe I will know one day.
|Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.