Posts Tagged ‘4 Noble Truths’


One morning the prince woke up in his palace. He felt mollicoddled and spoilt, and decided that he needed to see the world. Outside his palace he went, and all around he saw sickness and death. In him began to grow the idea of suffering that was the founding of the 4 Noble Truths. Then the prince began to talk to people, and he realised there was another important factor in the suffering. Death was often caused by war, and these wars were fought for profit. Then when he began to ask people about sickness he learnt that much sickness was caused by lifestyle. People were forced to work unreasonably. This exploitation at work often led to stress. When these working people came home they ate foods bought at the supermarkets. These foods contained poisons used to preserve the foods to make their profits, and these foods were not part of nature any more as they had been genetically-modified to increase profits.

Soon the prince realised there was much that was suffering caused by birth, sickness, death and the 1%.

2500 years ago there was a prince who became the Buddha. He came from a wealthy background, and we do not know whether the wealth of his family contributed to the exploitation of the people at his time. But in modern times such a prince cannot avoid the reality that the 1% are contributing to the suffering.

The Buddha of 2500 years ago meditated and came up with the 4 Noble Truths, an excellent guide in how to deal with modern life:-

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. There is a path out of suffering (the Noble 8-fold path).

1. The Reality of Suffering–dukkha
2. The Cause of Suffering–samudaya
3. The Cessation of Suffering–nirodha
4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering–magga

Integral to the modern prince’s understanding of suffering was the reality that the 1% contribute to suffering. The process of life involving birth, sickness and death leads to suffering yet war and disease caused by the 1% greatly adds to this suffering. The cessation of suffering happens when we are not attached to desire. As part of this non-attachment we can recognise that the 1% encourage all these desires, and we can begin to let go of these desires – letting go of some of the hold the 1% have over us by minimising their tool of control, money. And as a means of doing this we have the Noble 8-fold Path to guide us.

I know of some who would find this offensive. However it is with the greatest respect that I offer it.

Has been significantly revised here.

Introduction

I was going through in my mind how I would recommend someone at the beach to live – just as one does. Now the Four Agreements (Appendix D) is excellent on how one responds to what people and society throw at you, but in many ways the 4 Agreements does not guide us on how we deal with ourselves. What stops us from doing good and behaving well is an internal matter, and the good practice of the 4 Agreements requires an internal personal change, but it does not expressly say how to do it. The 4 Noble Truths does so I am writing this – a beach guide to the 4 Noble Truths, to be read in combination with the Four Agreements.

Now before you can do anything on this stuff you need to meditate – this is part of magga (Appendix B) – there might be some people around whose minds are naturally in harmony with Nature but for the rest of us …. To describe what to do in meditation is easy, to do it and learn from it is hard. Here is the description the hard part is up to you:-

1) Meditate twice a day – when you get up and before you eat after you get in from the day – work. Make this a daily routine.
2) Always try to increase the time you meditate. When you begin it might be very hard – but even two minutes at the beginning is good. Sit, allot your time, and stick to it. When 2 minutes is easy, increase to 3, 5, 10, 15 etc. But whatever time you set stick to it – an alarm helps for this.
3) Posture – don’t get hung up about posture but some are better than others. It is definitely important to keep your back straight whether sitting in lotus or sitting on a table chair. Back straight.
4) Breath – All you have to do in meditation is follow your breath. When you breathe in – from the tip of your nose – wherever, down deep into your stomach and then up and out again; just follow your breath. That’s the technique of meditation – that’s all it is.
5) Distractions – ha ha, here’s the problem. It sounds easy and it is not – it is very hard. Sitting for 2 minutes at the beginning and trying to follow your breath can be difficult. What happens – your mind wanders. It starts thinking about something else. If you see that happening, gently stop the mind wandering and bring it back to following the breath. Noise on the street, gently stop wandering and bring it back to the breath.
6) Excuses – I could have included this in 5) because excuses are just more rational forms of distractions. There are no excuses. Meditate and ignore those excuses. They will always be there no matter how long you have meditated, they just become more subtle. The mind tricks you, distracts you and makes up excuses, all to stop you from meditating. You must train the mind, that is what meditation does.

And if you meditate, follow the 4 Noble Truths and carry out the 4 Agreements, you are happy. That’s it. Simple!! No it isn’t, but it is simple to describe.

Getting on with it

Are you meditating? No. Then you are wasting your time reading this, and even though Don Miguel Ruiz doesn’t say this, I would also suggest you are wasting your time with 4 Agreements; you need to be training and controlling your mind. I don’t know whether I will be a reinforcing pedagogue and keep returning to this point but if I don’t, it is a proviso throughout your life – are you meditating?

Now to the 4 Noble Truths. Great people have written about them, I have listed HHDL’s book [B1] and Ajahn Sumedho’s book [B2] in the bibliography to this post. Both good books. But this is a beach guide, and by a beach guide I want one thing for sure – no dogma. In the appendices you can find dogma, and you can follow the dogma to find references along with the books which can all be very helpful. But dogma sucks without understanding, and beach people don’t want to sit and talk about dogma. But if you are a serious truth-seeking beach person then you actually want to do something – OK most beach people are not serious. But do you want dogma? No. Is dogma necessary? Mostly no. Dogma can help on the way to understanding but far too often people get hung up on dogma and don’t make it to the understanding – and this includes some who wear robes. Dogma is an institutional problem and serious beach people have rejected institutions for sand sea and Nature.

OK, desire. The 4NT is about desire, life is about desire. And we don’t deal with it. Men think with their dicks, this is desire. The 1% screw the world and destroy our planet, they are addicted to desire. On a personal level it is all about desire. And what do we do about it? We say, if I want it I must go out and get it. This desire gets hidden in all kinds of nice words like career, ambition, supporting the family, and many mental subterfuges but basically we want something and that leads us – thinking with our dicks. Life would be so much more pleasant if we had few desires, could fulfil them and we were happy with doing that. For me this is the 4NT. And the key to understanding this is that we are happy doing it, not pretending to be happy but actually being happy. And what do beach people desire? To be happy.

As with all of this to describe how to do it is easy – few desires, fulfilling them and being happy doing it. But the practice is far from easy, it is a lifelong struggle. But the thing in that struggle is that if you don’t get hung up about it it is fun. If you don’t force it, it is fun. One problem with some of the beach people is that they get drunk on the beach, and then they tell me I am bored because I don’t get drunk, don’t chase women and the usual stuff. When they start that it my cue to leave, but last week I met a better one of these beach drunks who had got blotto for two days at a leaving party, and then spent the next two days sitting on the beach feeling sorry for himself. For two days he wasn’t there lost in drink, and for two days he was too ill to enjoy being there in Nature’s beauty; I apologised to him when I laughed a bit. For me these were just a normal 4 days of happiness trying to do the best I can (4th Agreement).

If you can accept this – few desires, fulfilling them and being happy doing it, then the real question is how do you do it? Again there is a simple answer – the 4th NT Magga. But I don’t want to go there, because this magga tends to get wrapped up in dogma. Now magga means Path so Path is clearly an answer to “how do you do it?” But what is this Path? In the intro I talked about the most important part of the Path – meditation. Moving on from there I want to consider desire.

All around us there are stimuli that bring up desire. Luckily for me at my beach there are few bikinis. Assuming that a bikini arouses a sexual desire in you, do you immediately go up to the woman and ask for sex? Some of the drunks do!! No, such a request would be gross. But a woman in bikini can still cause arousal in men even if they don’t act on it. The better drunks don’t go up and ask but they do notice and their arousal leads to frustration especially if they talk about it. So the desire causes a problem – unhappiness. The drunks became attached to their desire and this led to frustration and unhappiness.

Now I have no complete answer to the bikini problem. I enjoy the beach, the swimming, the rays, being in Nature, the books I read – whatever, so I am not continually distracted by the bikini. But it is a distraction, it is a desire and if I am not comfortable with it it can cause unhappiness. But basically my suffering ceases when I am not attached to the desire – 3rd Noble Truth. And what is the cause of that suffering? The desire in the first place – 2nd Noble Truth.

Much of the male problems associated with the bikini comes from fantasy – not all but most. I am not sure what the particular fantasies are but they are unreal. Let me go with one such fantasy. You see the bikini, go up and talk to her. After a while you find that she is your cosmic other, you go for a swim, find somewhere secluded, and make passionate love. This love will last for two or three days, and you will both say to each other that this love has been totally wonderful but it is time to move on gracefully. And part happily.

Get real, this is a movie. The bikini is just that – an object, you are not thinking about the fact that it is another person, a woman who has her own needs and desires. It is a fantasy, and when you cannot live life according to that fantasy you become frustrated and dissatisfied – you are not happy. So forget the fantasy, forget the illusion, when the desire naturally happens, notice it, and forget it. Nothing can happen, and let it go. What we attach to the image of a woman in a bikini the attachment is just that – attachment to desire, and creates nothing but unhappiness. I smile, this is now a literal beach guide – how to follow the 4NT on the beach.

There is another fantasy here in Thailand that is laughable if it didn’t have so many sad consequences. Thailand’s government has written laws that make prostitution apparently less perilous for the johns, and as a result many tourists are attracted to the beautiful women in the bars and some beaches of Thailand – luckily not the beach I go to. Older men turn up at these tourist traps, fall for the charms of these prostitutes, and travel round Thailand supposedly as a couple. However the desires of these men turn from the financial transaction of paying for sex into a relationship that they then fantasise as meaning far more. Thailand has a very good property anti-speculation law. Buying land and building a house is comparatively cheaper in Thailand so the government legislates that only Thai people can own land – there are small exceptions. So what do these fantasising men do? They buy the land and build a house putting the deeds in the name of the prostitute. And what happens then? The prostitute leaves with the deeds, and the man ends up on the beach drowning his sorrows blaming Thai women and not his own stupidity. Thai society in general is very conservative, and the activities of those involved around the prostitution are generally frowned upon by majority Thai society – but there is sufficient profits being made from the tourists that the laws are not changed. Now I don’t excuse prostitution but surely attaching to this sort of fantasy is foolish, how can it not lead to unhappiness?

But this beach guide doesn’t end on the beach. What about the desires we create around ourselves in our daily lives? Ambition and career, for example. Is it any different? Yes. Money. How many people would do the job they do if they weren’t paid? Very few. We work for money. Why? For most men and women the answer is to feed the family. We answer this question in a way that describes the work ethic as honourable, and there are not many more honourable things than taking good care of the family. But how honest are we in answering that question? And that honesty is at the very core of our personal and social problems.

Let’s examine the personal issue first. This can be considered in terms of the words – needs and desires. What do families need? And what do families desire? There are many desires that come into play, desires that are not requirements – not needs. House and contents – are these minimal? Should they be minimal? Is our house a measure of status, image, desire? What do we provide our children? Is it what we think they need or is it governed by the latest fashion in which trends become needs? Do we provide for our children sufficiently in terms of love and nurture, or do we give them the latest trend gadget because it keeps them off our backs when we are tired? And when work comes into the home like this, are we teaching our children the best morals when tiredness governs the quality of a child’s life? Do we teach children manipulation to wait for your tiredness? On a personal level our work enters our home affecting the way we live, the way we bring up the children, and yet our rationale for working is “feed the family”.

Our desires interact with our work, as we let our desires associated with the home and family create a greater dependence on money, and the greater our need to earn money develops ambition and careerism that brings with it its own negativity. Instead of controlling our desires it becomes easier to perceive our desires as the need to earn more money, a need which is in general considered socially acceptable.

So what happens to this desire to earn more money in the workplace? It becomes used as a tool for wage slavery. Whey, hold on there. That’s a bit strong – wage slavery. So I ask the question again, would you do the job you are doing if you were not paid? Now I take that question further. Do you do things in your job that you don’t agree with? How many compromises do you make every day? Do you choose these compromises? So when we go to work we might accept that we have to do a job as wage slavery, but then we start to think about it more and we are paid to compromise. Our desires force us into a compromise.

Now where do these compromises take us? Ask whistleblowers. The consciences of these brave people have forced them to stand up and decry the compromises they have had to make. And for each whistleblower denouncing the compromise, how many more people accept these compromises as part of their wage slavery? Because this number is way more than a simple majority we all console each other that the compromises that come with wage slavery are just “business as usual” whereas in reality our desires take us into compromise – and are we sure that we need that compromise? What are these whistleblowers blowing on about? Government breaking their own rules to give huge private contracts in Iraq – Thomas Drake, Annie Machon British Defence policy, Bradley Manning (allegedly) leaking footage of US atrocities, Pharma whistleblowers talking about the drugs industry damaging our health etc. These compromises in wage slavery are what are damaging our planet and the quality of our life. The 1% don’t tell us to get up and shoot Iraqis, sell harmful drugs, give vested big business huge contracts, they create the conditions where the compromises made in wage slavery lead to these actions. The 1% control us through compromise, and why do we compromise? Because we want more money, and why do we want more money? To satisfy increased personal desires. And are those desires necessary to feed the family? We delude ourselves that they are.

Attachment to our desires force us to compromise, and this compromise is a major cause of suffering. What would happen if we did not attach to those unnecessary desires? We go to work to do our job knowing that we haven’t got to earn that extra money. This means that when the inevitable compromise is forced on us we can decline – not always but mostly. And if there are innumerable compromises then we can choose to leave that work. And if we cannot find suitable work we can work for ourselves, produce our own items for sale to feed our family. And when the children come home with their fashionable demands we have the time to say no and explain why. And our children grow up with a better morality.

So by not attaching to desires we introduce greater happiness in our lives by having fewer desires – the needs of our family, devoting ourselves to genuine concern for the family, and bringing our children up in a happier environment. If we control our own earning maybe we can live near a beach where the children can go every day and love Nature. Watching the children playing at the beach is one way of not attaching to desire.

It is not the desire itself that is the issue. Once we become attached there are all kinds of issues that follow on, our desires lead to compromise in the workplace, and that compromise is the basis of 1% control. So sit back, examine your desires and see how necessary they really are, and if they are not don’t attach to them and watch the happiness develop. And here’s a nice little pep-up. Once you see these desires for what they are and say no, life starts to clear up. There are not huge complicated scenarios requiring compromise and manipulation, there are simple decisions to attach to desire or not. And how does that affect our relationships? Here we can consider the 4 Agreements. Through meditation and detachment from desire we can focus on the 4 Agreements, we always do the best we can because we are not always striving for compromises that our desires have brought about.

As a teacher I always tried to do the best I could. At times I felt angry because I could never be Head, I could never earn more money. Towards the end of my career I was always happy in the classroom, but outside made me more and more angry. By the end of my career I had decided that teaching in the classroom was enough, and I was so lucky to be able to teach because when you focus on that the children enjoy your relationship and many more make an effort to learn. But when you get out of the classroom you enter the world of politics, both personal and the 1%. On a personal level there are many teachers who are not satisfied with teaching in the classroom. For some this is because their desires force them to be ambitious to earn more money, and for others they quite simply enjoy the power that can come from being in charge. Either way these desires damage the education quality of the institution.

But much more drastic is the impact of the 1%. Now the 1% screw up society from all angles but here I will just address the issue of education. Now fundamentally the 1% require a continuation of the status quo – wage slavery and acceptance of the existing structure. They achieve this by preventing teachers from genuinely educating. Once the teachers exhibit desire they control their ambition and keep them compliant. Teachers want to educate but they are forced into an exam system that creates failures desperate for a job and successes who tow the 1% line. The 1% system is more powerful than the individual desires to educate. For me this system always caused suffering as I always wanted to do more to educate. In truth I didn’t always cope with this well. I desired to confront and change the system, and this particular desire did not bring me happiness. There is a tightrope balance that I never walked although I recognised it sometimes. Teach, doing that was enjoyable – not always but often enough. Beyond the teaching in the classroom there was the suffering that the 1% created. They required this system of failure, they required compromises from teachers with their own desires, and their system with the compromises created suffering. When I chose not to attach to my desires there was some happiness in teaching.

For me this is what is meant by the first NT. There is suffering around in the system. Now the 1% weren’t around at the time of the Buddha, and he spoke of birth, ageing and death and the suffering inherent in this. But when there is suffering created by the political system you are in, it is still suffering. And the 4NT still apply. When you minimise your desires that system has less control of you. It cannot compromise you. You choose, you have your control, and your happiness. And in the final analysis it is the addiction of the 1% to their money and power which creates the system we are in, it is their desires that are their problem, and their power makes it ours.

So this is the beach guide to three of the 4NT. It is all about desire and how much we give into it. I hope that you can see that minimising these desires yet fulfilling the needs brings happiness. But this doesn’t work if we are into self-flagellation, or what in the Buddha’s time was called asceticism. Even if beach people said they were not going to be hedonistic, very quickly that would change. The drinker remorseful in pain after two days heavy-drinking was back drinking again a couple of weeks later. He didn’t want to change. At the time when I was ribbing up he envied my happiness, but he starts again. He is not in control of his mind and so he cannot use his mind to control his desires. The key to happiness is not attaching to the desires in the first place, and that means discerning between desires as needs and desires as mental constructions that we don’t need. Once we recognise what we need, and fulfil those needs, and we don’t want the other desires we are on the Path to Happiness.

So how do beach people minimise or control desire? Clearly the mind has to be more in control to start controlling desires, and meditation is the key to this. As I said at the beginning, if you’re not willing to meditate don’t read this, you are wasting your time. So once you are learning to control your mind through meditation, the next step is to control your lifestyle. OK beach people, so you go to the beach and on the beach is a nymphomaniac convention of girls in bikinis. OK that is a chauvinist fantasy joke, but don’t put yourself in the way of desire unnecessarily. However that is not enough. Do we still have desires if we are in a monastery? Yes and no. Yes there is still the desire but it becomes less and less because there is not the temptation. No, because you are still a human being with human needs. If we live an immoral life then our lifestyles are immoral and we do immoral acts. And even better, as we live a life in which we are not always chasing after desires then those desires start to disappear – not altogether they effectively and gradually minimise. So we have the 4th NT – magga. By considering these 8 attributes of the Path and what they individually mean for ourselves we effectively change our minds so that mind becomes more amenable to a life in which we are less controlled by desire. The attributes of Right Honesty, Right Speech and Right Livelihood are often grouped together into what is called sila – moral integrity. As you follow the Path this sila becomes stronger, maybe in a similar way that some religions call soul. To be perfectly frank, beach people, if you do not accept sila as a lifestyle then this stuff is pretty much a waste of time for you as well. Morality and desire often complement each other, or at the very least it is desire that sharpens the steel of sila. Giving in to desire often produces an immoral act, but if that doesn’t matter to you then you have lost one of your major benchmarks of control. If you look at the bikini on the beach and see her with a 6 foot 6 bouncer, then Nature has provided a means of control of your desire. If you do not see that sleeping with your neighbour – a married woman with children – while she is wearing that bikini, then controlling your desire is that much harder.

As I said earlier on I don’t want to focus too much on Magga – the 8-fold path, because it can become wrapped up in dogma, so I want to turn to the 4 Agreements. I like these because they describe a non-dogmatic Path (Appendix D). The book by Don Miguel Ruiz opens with a consideration of the meaning of Agreement, and I want to consider that here briefly – he has more detail and does it far better. Basically as soon as we come out of the womb we come under pressure to conform. Through instinctual love we learn to conduct ourselves the way our parents conduct themselves, we agree to follow them. Through school and into adult life we accept what society and our peers tell us to accept, we agree to do what they do. What the 4 Agreements do is to undermine that dogmatic acceptance. By following these 4 we question how we relate so that it is not through pressure but through understanding and genuine internal agreement that we act. From our meditation we learn to control our desires and through our practice on a Path such as the 8-Fold Path or the 4 Agreements, we develop minds that are constantly questioning and are not being pulled one way or the other by desire. Here lies happiness.

Appendix A:-

The three tenets of Zandtao are:-

Improving the mind

Harmonising our energy

Taking care of our bodies

For a more complete understanding of the Zandtao approach to life you can read the Treatise.

Appendix B:-

4 Noble Truths – a translation-

There is suffering – Dukkha
All suffering is caused by desire – Samudaya
We can cease our suffering by releasing our attachment to desire – Nirodha
Magga – 8-Fold Path is a way of life that can end suffering:-
Right View
Right Intention
Right Honesty
Right Speech
Right Livelihood
Right Determination
Right Mindfulness
Right Insight

Appendix C

Here is a Buddhist reference with links:-

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).

1. The Reality of Suffering–dukkha
2. The Cause of Suffering–samudaya
3. The Cessation of Suffering–nirodha
4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering–magga

Appendix D – 4 Agreements

Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do the best you can.

Bibliography:-

[B1] The Four Noble Truths HH Dalai Lama
Harper Collins 1997 ISBN 81-72230551-8

[B2] The Four Noble Truths Venerable Ajah Sumedho
Free distribution from Amaravati Publications,
Amaravati Buddhist Monastery,
Great Gaddesden
Hemel Hampstead
Hertfordshire HP1 3BZ
England

Reason

Posted: 05/02/2012 by zandtao in Insight
Tags: , ,

Reason has reared its ugly head again, I hope there are no adverse reactions to this appearance. What is becoming clearer to me is how important the understanding of the place of reason or intellect as compared to insight, and how if I were able to convince people of that place how much better the world would be. But of course in placing myself in the position of wishing to consider the prime importance of Insight and the secondary importance of reason I am flying against the very Church of Reason that initially drove Pirsig to madness as he sought his way out. When has that stopped me? But of course in placing myself in such an isolated position I have to be careful of arrogance. I know little of the suttas but the Buddha saw meditation as Vipassana – Insight meditation, I am unsure of how he saw reason or intellect in this.

I want to begin with a synopsis of my last skirmish against reason. As usual it started with an academic asking me to discuss insight with him. This academic made me angry first of all when he said that my blogs were very rational. Knowing that the source of my blogs was usually Insights gained in meditation, I was taken aback by this until I learnt a very important lesson. One person’s insight is another’s thought or idea. I have read but am nowhere near knowledgeable to comment on its truth that the major step forward that the Buddha made in understanding was the 4 Noble Truths:-

1. The Reality of Suffering–dukkha
2. The Cause of Suffering–samudaya
3. The Cessation of Suffering–nirodha
4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering–magga

You are not hit by insight when reading them, they are just thoughts. However if you meditate on them, maybe insight comes. I remember reading that at one stage in his life Ajaan Sumedho studied only the 4 Noble Truths and nothing else. Whilst I don’t do that I do know that there is far more for me to gain by meditating on them.

When this academic insulted me by saying my blog was very rational, it gave me a great Insight; Insight is a process that gives rise to an Insight and once expressed becomes a thought – relegated to the same status as any other thought. At the time what this same academic was trying to do was to determine the meaning of transcendence. The way I see transcendence is that it occurs when one crosses over from the world of superficial rational thought into the Insight process of determining Insights. So by his recognising the importance of transcendence he had almost grasped the Insight he sought, but at the very time that he could have grasped that Insight that was transcendence, reason pulled on his ego and he withdrew from the dialogue and personal contact. Sad.

For me significant in his inability to grasp Insight was the way in which he defined reason – it was all inclusive, at the same time he said that my definition was too narrow. I am not going to dispute that my definition of reason is narrow, and that quite simply is because I give such import to Insight. However I do believe there is clarity in how I define it. What was significant in this academic’s definition of reason was that it included synthesis. Now my definition of reason is that it is purely rational thought and logic, and synthesis is definitely not that. Synthesis is a wonderful process where by all and sundry thoughts are encompassed, and out of these thoughts our minds find pattern and a synthesis of commonality. What perceives this pattern? Insight. By my approach attributing such an insightful approach to reason was the confusion, his definition transcended the understanding of Insight and reason so he was unable to see the importance of the Insight process itself. He claimed he had meditated for years, and was never able to grasp this – so near so sad.

The current head that reason has raised concerns discourse or dialogue, a friend values discourse highly calling it Reason. The word discourse arose revolving around an internet conversation, and I claimed discourse unless it was making an effort to determine truth or reach a resolution. When I was meditating I realised a very significant third – learning. I need to consider the nature of discourse. By my approach of rational thinking a discourse is a collection of thoughts, these thoughts are usually but not always connected as the thoughts of one person ought to follow and counter or add to the thoughts of another. Discourse is an essential tool in parts of learning. When reading I often feel I am in discourse with what the author has written. As can be seen from my bookblogs reading takes me a long time, and I am not well read. When I read, do I choose to learn all that the author writes? In some cases, yes. In that case I read, think about and chew over the thoughts that the author has written. Then hopefully a process of awareness encompasses these thoughts, and I have an insight. That for me is when learning occurs. I read the thoughts, insight grabs something and I internalise it. Compare this with a typical academic institution. Material is presented, students study thinking about the material. They then are expected to recall this material in an exam in which they repeat the presented material; years later it is all forgotten. The material was never genuinely internalised or learnt so never became a part of the person.

So let’s turn to discourse. Initially I spoke of truth and resolution of a discourse as being their purpose, in my current adherence to Occupy perhaps a better word than resolution is consensus, resolution being one form of consensus. Whilst academics might not consider these two the purpose of discourse these might well be considered admirable outcomes of a discourse. But I want now to discuss how learning occurs during a discourse. I described discourse in this way earlier:-

“By my approach of rational thinking a discourse is a collection of thoughts, these thoughts are usually but not always connected as the thoughts of one person ought to follow and counter or add to the thoughts of another.”

In a discourse do we learn all that is said? Do we even agree with all that is said? No. Sometimes we might recall something that was said to us that somehow got lodged in our memories but most of discourse goes in one ear and out the others as thoughts do when alone – in, circulate around the mind and disappear. One advantage to discourse is that these thoughts are not ours, so there is greater potential for learning something new. But sometimes in a discourse we pick up on something, grab it and say “I get that”. This is a learning moment, and what does that learning? What does that grabbing? Insight. So one approach to understanding a discourse is to say that it is:-

Learning by Insight
Determining the Truth
Attaining a consensus
A series of rational thoughts that are forgotten.

If discourse is seen in this way then as described evidently only the first three matter. What is discourse other than this?

Now the internet conversation arose from the discussion of politics, and I want to discuss that next. Political discourse is completely different to the discourse that I described above – a discourse that might be described as a genuine discourse because of its three aims of learning, truth and consensus. The objectives of a political discourse usually have none of these aims in common. Let us consider the Republican primaries that are happening now. The politicians are using the discourse to gain power, they wish to be nominated to run for president. Ostensibly they are trying to promote themselves but often they do this by attacking the other candidates. Whilst the points they raise might be valid such as Ron Paul’s call for ending the wars or the attacks on Mitt Romney for his legal corrupt business practices, the debate is not rational, and does not appeal to logic in any way. One can only come to a sense of the proceedings if one understands the process, there is limited inherent rational context.

Across the pond parliament debates at Westminster, Labour attacks Tory and vice versa. They seek to undermine the position of the opposition in the eyes of the voters within certain guidelines. 30 years ago Ireland was a no-go area for politicians, parliament agreed not to discuss Ireland. Whilst in the 70s and 80s polls would say that the UK people did not want the troops there but the matter was not raised in parliament. In the US recently there was debate about the debt ceiling. Because the Republicans were blocking the usual practice of raising the ceiling, they applied strings that insisted public service cuts were the issue and not stopping financing war or increasing tax on the rich. So when considering political discourse it is often what is not said rather than what is said that is more important.

In the 80s I listened to Robert Mugabe during the Zimbabwe independence talks. I was knocked back, here a politician stood up and told the truth about colonialism and the impact of colonialism and neo-colonialism on Africa. His discourse on independence and white minority rule were an eye-opener to me when such an important issue was never even raised by UK politicians. But what is happening with Mugabe now in Zimbabwe – he is virtually a dictator. When I worked in Africa I began to understand. This polemic, as I understand it, was actually common currency on both sides of the political debate in African countries. That doesn’t argue against its truth but nor does it say anything about the integrity of the speaker. Simply put I would expect African politicians to use anti-neo-colonial rhetoric, and to assess them I would seek other statements or positions to determine the better candidates. From my UK background neo-colonialism was the first step in understanding the need for global democracy, but in black Africa it gave no indication as to the genuine position of the candidate because it was required currency. Such political insights are essential in understanding what is happening politically, but are they raised as a process of reasoning? Often not, reason often deludes itself that it can scythe its way through political discourse whereas in fact if reason becomes the measure of argument it is often fooled.

I remember a recent discussion concerning Tony Blair. A recent book was supported by a friend who was angered when I said I would never read it because of the level of obfuscation and lies that I perceived would be contained therein; I said I would be unable to discern all the lies. The friend had read the book and had rationally accepted the inherent logic of the writing. How could this friend support a man who took us into a war for profit? Reason could not see through his lies, but insight into the Blair’s practices could.

Approaching a political discourse from the point of view of it being a genuine discourse does not lead to truth, it is important to understand the context in which the positions of political discourse are presented. And this insight concerning context needs to be considered in wider discourses. Is the discourse genuine seeking truth, consensus or learning? If not what is the purpose of the discourse? What about spokespeople? Is their discourse genuine? No, it is controlled by their employer. I watched “Tapped” and saw all the lies of the Canadian politicians, their jobs depended on the Tarsands irrespective of whether people were dieing. In work the lies spoken are concerned with career, and usually discourse is more concerned with “watching your back”. In this way I am forced to dismiss much that is discourse as fruitless.

What about political debates when it is not concerned with power? How often are they pointless? More often than not they become an exchange of entrenched positions that just lead to frustration as no matter how much good reasoning is presented there will be no change of viewpoint. To understand this entrenched position we can consider a very important Buddhist approach, that of attachment. And it is because of this attachment that I become concerned with reason so much.

Attachment is generally considered in terms of the 4 Noble Truths (again):-

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).
1. The Reality of Suffering–dukkha
2. The Cause of Suffering–samudaya
3. The Cessation of Suffering–nirodha
4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering–magga

and as can be seen is concerned with desire and being attached to desire. These Truths are a very powerful source of understanding as to why there are so many problems in the world today, if we all weren’t so fixated about our desires we could live more harmoniously. But the issues with reason are not connected with desire. When we have an entrenched position we are attached to ideas, and we are not free to understand the other person. Now politics is usually about entrenched positions so because we are attached often political discourse is a waste of time. However if in such a discourse we allow ourselves not to be attached to ideas, and genuinely listen we can perhaps learn.

This position of being attached to ideas also applies in different arenas – not just politics, and this can mean that we are not open to the logic that can refute the ideas that we had become attached to. In some cases people identify themselves with their ideas or conceptual thinking. This is particularly the case in religion where we attach to the dogma of the religion – we consider it a faith. Because it is a faith it becomes irrefutable and yet they are only ideas. Typical might be the Ten Commandments where we believe totally in these Commandments. Whilst as a moral code to guide our lives they are excellent, to take them as rules that have to obeyed irrespectively is a form of attachment. Equally one can say this about the 8-fold Path of the 4 Noble Truths, whilst they are intentionally vague to treat them as laws without questioning is a form of attachment as well.

But there is a different form of attachment that my discussion concerning discourse led me to, that we become attached to a process. Reasoning is a process and as a process of logical thinking to dispute erroneous causality and conclusion it has tremendous value. But when do we need to apply that process? Or perhaps a more appropriate question is – do we apply a process of reasoning when it is not appropriate? It is my assessment that inappropriate use of reasoning is a serious problem. Through science and our education we have been trained into believing that all that should be accepted as truth should be open to logical proof. This is an aspect of what Pirsig called the Church of Reason. Whilst there is much that reason can ratify, asserting that logical proof is the only means of accepting knowledge is limiting. Yet academia and the education process that sets academia as a goal presents knowledge in this way.

But for me there is an important corollary to this academic approach, and that is political manipulation. Above I referred to Blair and his plausible manipulation in his book. Whilst I have not read the book I can accept that his book appeals to reason. When I read what the friend wrote about what was in the book I could see that it had rational plausibility. Let me make that assumption, that his presentation was rationally acceptable. Do we then conclude that it was plausible? I don’t, I claim the wrong tool was used to assess it. This man was a puppet of the 1% war machine, and he spent much of his time in parliament justifying sanctions against, and the invasion of, Iraq. Whilst Saddam was a dictator who hurt the majority of his people, this invasion was never justified and the results of the invasion have proven that. The case for invasion was based on false logic that has subsequently been proved, but prior to the invasion that information was withheld from us. We were never able to make a rational assessment of all that Blair and his backroom staff used, and that was the intention. So to attempt to discern the truth by competing on a rational basis with his assertions was doomed before we started. This was not by accident but it is a tool of government – to feed us with part of the information and assert rationally that the course of action is justified (in this case the result was the cause of the deaths of more than a million Iraqis). Knowing this is what is done, having this insight into the way governments control their democracies, approaching the question of whether we accept their actions cannot just be a question of rationale. In the particular case the war against Iraq was immoral, and should not have happened. Tony Blair was a political liar, ought never to have been believed, and we should not have gone to war.

The key word in the assessment of this political approach is insight, we need to use our insight to determine our assessments politically – as reason is manipulated. Insight is never taught in our education institutions, and is definitely discouraged by many teachers. A student asserting an insight would be refuted unless there were sufficient rational evidence to back it up. Why? If it is a genuine insight the student needs to be rewarded for the process, not have the insight dismissed for lack of evidence. Rationally supporting an insight is a good tool to develop, but dismissing that insight because it lacks evidence is not good education. We need to encourage the use of insight in the education process, a UK insight concerning Blair and his approach might well have saved lives in Iraq.

For me reason is a process of logical development often of insight, and within that context it is valuable. Applying reason without clear insight into the situation (such as in politics) is open to misuse and manipulation by the forces that include our governments, as such avoidance of reason is advised unless we can be sure we have all the information. Can we ever be that sure?

Life

Posted: 03/01/2012 by zandtao in Insight, ONE planet
Tags: , ,

This started with thinking about dying and then living, then it developed into an attempt to see what life gives us and what has been taken away from us. Without understanding the greatness that has been given us, it is hard to come to terms with how much has been taken away.

Recently I have had a revival in political awareness, in reality this was a rejection of processes that had led to a personal political repression. This repression process started when I was a teacher where I had to learn how little truth I could say in the classroom and how little truth I could bring into the workplace. I retired because I wanted to study, and I felt that understanding life was missing because I had been forced to divert my thinking in order to teach in the prevailing corporate system – and also to earn money as that teacher. I turned to Buddhism because that was what I thought I had been missing. I took to that Buddhism as it developed personal awareness, but ultimately Buddhism is institutionalised and so has been compromised in its expression of the truth. What the Buddha taught is not compromised, but what the institutions teach has been.

It is hard to draw this distinction without placing the Buddhist teachers in a life context. These are people that have two teaching approaches, the first is the 4 Noble Truths that recognises that desire as craving is what leads to distress in our lives. The second approach is that we recognise that we are working towards Nirvana. What is missing in these Buddhist approaches is that we are in life and are part of communities. If that Buddhist teaching is to be complete it needs to encompass this understanding of life and engage it.

To complete the teaching there needs to be a life perspective. Let me clarify what I mean. As people we primarily live in communities, and this life was intended to be living in harmony with Nature – Nature and Life is harmony together. This harmony revolves around the harmonious procreation of human life through the learning and giving to our children. Society exists to bring up children well, parents bring up children aided by grandparents and the wider community. Within this aspect of wider community are elders, and I would see monks as significant in these elders. So let us consider what a monk is. Now their backgrounds are diverse, but within monkdom they are people trained in the Buddhist institution, in Elder terms primarily revolved around the two approaches of 4 Noble Truths (or a broad-based sila in a wider context) and Nirvana. But have these Elders gained an understanding of society? One Elder has – Thay, he has setup Plum villages to demonstrate how people can live in communities, Thay wants to teach people how to live by practice. In this talk he says we “need to educate our citizens to see that happiness does not lie in consumption but that you are free enough to enjoy each other and and enjoy the environment. All of us need healing to renew hope”. We need to learn how to live properly. This is an Elder.

However he avoids through this approach an important aspect of Elder work for those who are teaching within society, teaching people in society about what life should be about – he teaches by practice in an alternative society. But for those still in society they still need Elders to teach, where are they? Now I point to monks because teachers in schools and universities have been disenfranchised by the corporate paradigm, they are not able to educate they teach a curriculum that supports the corporatocracy. Do monk Elders then have a life perspective? Do they understand the societies they are teaching in? And the best answer for that is maybe some do. The institution itself does not teach a true perspective of life because the institution is part of society’s paradigm – the corporate paradigm. How can their teaching go against the money that funds them?

So we are a society without Elders, without direction, because of the 1%. Our society is directed by their addiction to profit and power – and maybe drug addictions as well. So we do not know what life is about. And this is what we need to learn, Plum villages would be a place to start.

However I don’t know them so this will have to come from my own analysis. People live in harmony with Nature bringing up children through leaerning and giving, that is life. Elders direct this and for them their reward is Nirvana. No detailed analsysis but it is enough. Sadly monks cannot direct this whilst they are part of the paradigm in the same way that teachers cannot.

Nature has provided us with land and food, around us are the great pleasures that are offered by its Beauty. Beauty, land with materials to build homes and food are given freely by Nature when we are in harmony with that Nature. But what has the 1% done? We have to buy our homes, buy the land Nature gave us, and we have to buy our food. And we buy these with money that we gain from doing jobs that the 1%’s society imposes on us. And what are the purposes of those jobs? Profits for the 1%. In other words the 1% force us to work for money to pay for what Nature originally gave us. Human beings as part of Nature were entitled to land, homes and food, now we pay the 1% for them.

And as for the Beauty. This is slowly disappearing as the 1%’s corporations are destroying the climate and denying responsibility for that destruction – as was evident at COP 17. So if we are detached enough we can see that the 1% have taken all that we have been given by Nature in return for slavery through money to buy what Nature had originally intended for us. This teaching is fundamental to understanding the society we live in, and both teachers and monks are prevented from teaching us this. We have no Elders and no direction.

Monks help us in coping with the ravages of the 1%’s addiction by teaching the 4 Noble Truths. The mindfulness of desire and its implications would cause social change if practised by all. However without the recognition by those same teachers that the 1% will try to prevent us from controlling our own desires such a teaching is not complete. When we want to come to terms with desires in our current society we need to understand that those desires are being imposed on us by the 1%. Even living in this society we are capable of using our mindfulness to control desire, but it is important to understand that in doing so we are going against the powerful direction that the 1% are taking society in. What is so thankful about this is that Nature gives us insight, integrity and ensuing personal strength to cope with this adversity, and once we open our eyes to Nature’s Beauty She has a permanent source of revitalisation and reinforcement.

Buddhist monks bring us to an understanding of desire, does it matter that they don’t make us aware of the adversity – an adversity that many are not themselves aware of? An important aspect of Buddhist teaching is awareness – overcoming ignorance. In this case unaware monks would be teaching with an aspect of ignorance. How important is that? I believe it is very important. For monks the adversity of the 1% is limited. Their monasteries are funded, they have their homes, their land, their food and access to Nature’s Beauty – look at where many monasteries are situated. For the rest of the 99% we have to go to work to earn money to pay for all of these, and then try to overcome the adversity the 1% put in our way. These are lives that are so fundamentally completely different that it is difficult to consider that the monks have knowledge enough of those lives to teach. Yet they do teach, and importantly their teaching is helpful. But it is lacking, it is short in the fundamental – that the suffering of our lives is at this stage and time directed by the 1%.

What is also important is that monks have a responsibility as do we all to recognise this truth and do something about it. For monks a fundamental social duty is that of teaching, and in my view they are failing in this – as are teachers. We need Elders and we don’t have them because of the 1%.

I began this by saying that I was considering the process of life and death. Here I have examined life and seen how currently the 1% have taken Nature’s gifts away from us. I have examined how monks and teachers are being prevented from understanding life by the paradigm they live in. How does Nirvana fit into this? I mentioned that Buddhist teaching is concerned with 4 Noble Truths and Nirvana, but I have not discussed Nirvana. That is something we prepare for by being in Harmony with Nature during life, and as we near dying we prepare for passing and possible Nirvana. And here monks have an important function in putting forward suitable teachings in preparation for death. But this preparation for death is only appropriate at the time of death, and a suitable period leading up to it. But that preparation period does not last the whole of life, and this is where I went wrong in my early retirement. I was not ready to prepare for death as I have much to give back – even if that giving is not readily accepted. Preparing for death comes later when I have done more to complete what I have learnt and need to give back.

Choice and Suffering

Posted: 20/09/2011 by zandtao in Insight, War
Tags: , , , ,

(add to Religion page)


Free from suffering?

Are we free from suffering whilst others die in war?

As Buddhists there is a recognition of fundamental unity, we are all one species, one entity, oneness. One. We are not killing something else, we are killing ourselves. This is a fundamental understanding that has to lead to pain and suffering, we feel the pain at the death of others. How do we deal with this pain? Coming to terms with this pain begins to set us free so it is important to understand how we interact with this pain. In the 4 Noble Truths the first Truth talks about suffering existing. So with this suffering existing how do we become free from it, are we not a part of that suffering? Yes we are, because we suffer. When an Iraqi dies we suffer.

Before I go on, I think of the recent Republican debate in which the audience were cheering when someone spoke of people dieing, it is sad how far these people have strayed from their humanity to lead them to cheering. There is such sickness in their hearts for them to do that, so much suffering in their own hearts.

All of the above are what is included in suffering existing, and why are we here? Compassion, free people from suffering. That is our purpose, free ourselves, the rest of the world, the unity, from suffering. How can we do that? By ourselves not suffering, and by helping others to free themselves from suffering.

In ourselves we need to recognise suffering, and we need to recognise the causes of suffering. For many Buddhists they see this as meaning freeing ourselves from suffering by not attaching to desire personally. But what about compassion – freeing others from suffering? Must we do this? I think so as a measure of compassion – being compassion. For many this leads to good works – understandably, and of course this goes part way to compassion. But does compassion end there? For me it definitely does not.

In the 4 Pillars of War I discussed the 4 components that make up a declaration of war:-

1) Military
2) Corporations
3) Government
4) Democratic legitimacy or accountability.

The military and corporations by their very nature push for war, the government usually complies, and the only control lies with democracy. It is our vote that legitimises war, it is using our voice that the MIC takes on the war for corporate benefit. Yet Britain went to war against Iraq when a popular demonstration clearly showed disagreement. Tony Blair said He did not “seek unpopularity as a badge of honour”, he said, “but sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction”. In a democracy the price paid should have been the cost of his leadership, and not lamenting his lack of popularity, because that is what democracy is – he was an elected representative. The war went ahead and more than a million Iraqis have died:-

Iraq Deaths Estimator

In the UK the public demonstration was not enough, but what more could have been done? The answer to that is individual and lies with our own conscience, but my conscience tells me 1,455,000 + Iraqis died, my sisters and brothers died, and yet in a democracy that I am connected to my leaders and my soldiers killed them. This is suffering, Iraqi suffering and my suffering. I am not free until my conscience frees me. I am only free from siffering when my compassion has been active.

And that is the dilemma that I have been facing just recently. I am not free from the suffering my Iraqi comrades have suffered, my heart is not free. I seek freedom, to be free from suffering my conscience genuinely needs to be satiated, before it was not.

I am seeking freedom from my suffering, and without that freedom any thoughts of enlightenment are deluded falsehoods.

And when we go beyond the suffering we seek explanation. Here we need insight to discern the truth as to the need for war, we need to go beyond the lamentable excuses that are the stock and trade of the politicians as they serve their corporate masters. And when we go beyond their falsehoods a new world of intrigue and rationale open up that eventually leads to proper understanding of war, corporatocracy, influence and compromise. Recognising this understanding begins the freedom from suffering – true compassion.

Now that I am beginning to come out of the legitimate anger that can accompany political understanding the question that really matters is “what is all this blogging and angst for?” Quite clearly a significant aspect of the zandtao-corporatocracy blog has been my own learning process, a process that has involved an updating on political reality, a recognition that the system I am a part of is responsible for the deaths of so many people, and also preparation for the next section of the treatise. In the end the politics must settle down and be integrated into my journey – wherever that takes me next.

As with Buddhism there is an unreasonable part of me that wants to force this down peoples’ throats and make them understand – especially the monk. But that is not right. Awareness has to be personally driven. I think back to my dissertation on black achievement in schools – there was no doubt that imposed black awareness had a deleterious impact on the achievement of black students. We never forced white kids to understand how nasty the white system is, why did liberal teachers black and white think it would help black kids? I suspect the black intellectuals were angry and feel that they should teach all the black kids about the oppression but it hurts trying to cope. And that’s what I feel about the politics, it hurts, it makes you angry – or it should. However the understanding should be made available.

So where should it be made available? In the same place you look for Buddhism, the monks. So in the end this awareness is about monks as they are the teachers of Buddhism, this awareness issue is about the institution that has sold out. Where do monks take their insight? As far as is safe for the institution, but this is not awareness. The real issue comes down to this. For someone to achieve enlightenment there needs to be mindfulness – 100% awareness. What happens in practice at the moment is that it appears that monks shut off their minds to the consideration of the political causes of suffering. Suffering always exists as the Buddha said so it is Nature, why look into the causes now? There is some truth in that. But there is also truth in the fact that people are dieing because of tacit acceptance of humanity – the voters of US, UK and France for example.

For a monk seeking enlightenment should they not be aware that the donations for their upkeep could have come from the spoils of war? And that those spoils of war were the reason for the war in the first place. Can they do anything about it? Very little. But without understanding this can they be considered enlightened? I would suggest that part of enlightenment is understanding the times in which you live as well as the more important dhamma, isn’t that compassion?

But it is not just Buddhism. The churches I visited when young lived off the collections. Where did those collections come from? People mostly working for corporations. And where did the corporations get their money? Initially immoral wars, wars for profit, MIC wars. Surely war for profit is the greatest immorality, and yet did our priests tell us this?

But the real point for me is that political insight is insight, and insight is required for enlightenment. Monks seeking enlightenment seek insight at all levels including the political. How can people be expected to live with the reality of compromise with their society’s participation in war for profit when their spiritual teachers don’t?

And when those people choose that awareness can they get it from their spiritual teachers? NO. Living with the death of a moral war is hard enough but wars are not moral they are driven by power for profit. The reality of living with war for profit is suffering, it is hard. People should not be forced to do this. But if they are seeking complete awareness then that is a suffering they have to go through. How will their teachers be able to help them when they haven’t been through that suffering?

(Added to Insight and Religion page)

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:-

Iraq Deaths Estimator

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?

(Added to Insight & MCN page)

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).
1. The Reality of Suffering–dukkha
2. The Cause of Suffering–samudaya
3. The Cessation of Suffering–nirodha
4. The Path to the Cessation of Suffering–magga

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.