Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Divine Twins

The Asvins

The Divine Twins have incarnated together,
again and again, throughout the ages,
to advance the evolution of mankind
and to demonstrate that all religions
were intended to be expressions of one Self.
Sometimes they are born into the one family,
otherwise they are born as contemporaries or near contemporaries.
Their Incarnations are complementary;
one manifesting the qualities of the Pingala Nadi (Solar Channel),
the other manifesting the qualities of the Ida Nadi (Lunar Channel).
In Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India, the left and
right energy channels are ruled partly by the twin gods known as the Asvins. Sons of Lord Surya, they are said to personify the light of the rising and setting sun, and to be masters of medical knowledge.
They are also associated with horses.
Incarnations of the Divine Twins (who may be the Asvins?) include:

Lava and Kusha
(Pronounced 'Luv' and 'Koosh')
the twin sons of Lord Rama.

Buddha and Mahavira

Hassan and Hussein
the sons of Lord Ali and Lady Fatima
(grandsons of Lord Muhammad)

Shankaracharya and Jnaneshwara

Other possible Incarnations of the twins:

Sahadeva and Nakula in the Mahabharata
(they were born after their mothers prayed to the Asvins)

Shri Ramdas (Shri HanumanaAvatara and preceptor of Shivaji)
and William Blake, (Shri BhairavaAvatara)

J.S.Bach and G.F.Handel (born roughly a month apart)

"You Asvins
who gave a shout from heaven
and made light for mankind,
bring us strength.
May those who wake at dawn
bring here to drink the Soma,
the two gods who work wonders
and give joy,
moving on paths of gold."
-Rg Veda

"Great men have a curious way of appearing in complementary pairs. This has happened so often in history that I don't think it can have been invented by symmetrically-minded historians, but must represent some need to keep human faculties in balance."
-Kenneth Clark, Civilisation

Friday, April 27, 2007

I am not the Intellect

"Intellect is a go-between. It is instrumental in nature and perceptual in function. It is not itself the seat of identity. Yet Descartes' famous "I think therefore I am" makes intellect identical with self. This is absurd. We do not exist because we think. This formula elevates the ego and intellect to a despotic role in the economy of the human personality. The word "intellect" itself points, however, to its coordinative or mediating function between the inner and outer spaces of life. Already William Blake in his time saw the error of this confusion in his denunciation of "single vision". We are led to believe a lie, he insisted, when we see with, and not through the eye. Seeing with or seeing through draws the distinction between "me" and "I", or between ego and self. "Perception is reality" lay already implicit in this confusion of existence with intellect that Blake denounced early as "single vision". The absurdity of "perception is reality", which makes the egoic and acquistive "me" aspect of identity appear as all of identity and reality, follows logically from the very premises of the Enlightenment. The seeds of our narcissistic self-destruction were already sown with "cogito ergo sum", which equated existence with intellect. But intellect is only the middle-man, a coordinator, a faciliator, an instrument, and a medium. It delimits a "mentality" rather than Mind, and is confined to rationality rather than Reason. Intellect, which in other ages and amongst other peoples had possessed only a subordinate role in human life, came with the Age of Reason to have the central, and even exclusive, role in the personality. When all of consciousness and identity comes to be confused with intellect alone, is it any wonder that narcissism is often accompanied, as well, by a sense of mechanical being, or feelings of being like a computer or an automaton?"

-from www. darkage. ca

The Oceanic Self

Individual selves appear as waves in an ocean
but in reality there is only water.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Virtual Ego

The Virtual Ego and the Illusory Aspect of its Control Power

One real part of the ego system is the ego as representation, and another real part of the ego system is the ego as a referent (including one's actual body, thoughts, and history). Asking whether the ego exists is too simplistic. The real issue is "In what sense does the ego exist?" or "What is the real nature of the ego?"
The mind is designed to accept the mentally projected self-representation as literally identical to oneself. But the imagined, distorted concept of self arising from this conflation is not the whole of the ego, so it's not true that "the ego is only an illusion". The ego system includes an illusion, but is more than that.
The ego exists, but in a way that is more limited and complex than is usually felt. The Enlightenment conceived of the ego as an autonomous self-steering entity, rather than as a slave or puppet of gods or Fate. The cognitive structures of the semi-illusory ego must be preserved even while discovering that its thoughts and actions originate from the underlying plane, rather than originating from the ego. The ego exists virtually, or in certain limited aspects, the naive concept of ego is distorted, accepting the projected ego image as being as real as the egoic cognitive structures.
The ego-entity exists as a real set of patterns and dynamics, but the ego is not as solid, continuous, or powerful as it seems. The ego is both a set of real patterns, but also a projected, constructed image. In a way, the perceived ego exists, and in a way, it does not. The mind usually projects and constructs a fairly solid and simple image of oneself. Seeing the illusory aspects of this mental representation and feeling the absence of the accustomed sense of personal solidity can be experienced as death, as literal cessation of personal existence, because the naive mind strongly identifies with the projected image and the sense. Mental processing is structured with the conscious ego-representation as the center of control and experiencing. This representation of the ego is a dynamic set of mental constructs. This deceivingly tangible representation of the self or ego is only a part of the ego.
In a dissociative cognitive state, the usual cognitive structures constituting the ego cease, and the projection of the ego image also ceases. Oneself still exists in many ways, such as a body, a brain, a mind, possessions, and a personal past. One genuine aspect of oneself has temporarily ceased to firmly exist: the egoic cognitive processing, which is largely but not entirely suspended. The projection of the self-image is also partly suspended. Insofar as the mind confuses the projected self-image with that part of the self which is genuine, that projected self never existed, other than a perceptual illusion, and so could not cease to exist. If the ego is defined strictly as the natural assumption that the mentally projected self-representation is literally oneself, then it can be said that "the ego is only an illusion". But such a narrowed definition of "ego" raises the question of what to call the real cognitive structures that reliably project that illusion. The ego is more than just an illusion. It's a large, complex, and dynamic set of mental processes, of which the deceivingly tangible mental representation is only one part.
The will exerts control power, but this power is virtual rather than literal. There is some control-power, but the normal perception of this power is distorted. The sense of having control power is taken too literally and too simply. Ego structures are refined after enlightenment, not eliminated. Physics cannot provide a legitimate dwelling place for the ego entity, because the ego is largely illusory. Delusion or enlightenment are collective: first there is a uniform interegoic control field, deluded about control agency, then the rational, cybernetics explanation of enlightenment is discovered and communicated. There is a shocking feeling of helplessness upon realizing the insubstantiality of the cross-time ego.

-Michael Hoffman

Monday, April 23, 2007


“If I read a book and it makes my whole body
so cold no fire ever can warm me
I know that is poetry.
If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off
I know that is poetry.
These are the only ways I know of.”

-Emily Dickinson

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Existence and Non-existence

Oil painting by Duane Keiser

If there is a pot, a pot is perceived,
And if the pot is broken, its brokenness is perceived;
if there is no pot at all,
is not its absence perceived as well?

It can be seen, therefore,
that he who perceives that there is nothing
does not himself become nothing.

The Self has this same unique kind of existence,
beyond both existence and non-existence.

The ultimate Reality
is neither an object to Itself
nor is It an object to anyone else.
Should it then be regarded as non-existent?

In a tank the water may be so clear
that it appears non-existent;
though one who looks into the tank may not see it,
still it is there.

Similarly,The ultimate Reality exists in Itself,
and is beyond the conceptions
of existence or non-existence.

When a jar is placed on the ground,
we have the ground with a jar;
when the jar is taken away,
we have the ground without a jar;
but when neither of these conditions exists,
the ground exists in its unqualified state.

It is in this same way
that the ultimate Reality exists.

-Sri Dnyāneshwar / Sant Jñāneshwar (1275-1296)
(ज्ञानेश्वर in Marathi) (also known as Jñanadeva - ज्ञानदेव )

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Supreme Subject

In ignorance we think of ourselves as subjects,
although in reality the Self is the subject and we are it's objects.
We think of ourselves as proprietors although we are it's property.
The Self is not an object. It is the seer, the doer, and the knower
- the supreme subject -
but we foolishly think of ourselves as such.
Those under the spell of cosmic illusion take the subject as an object.
It is ignorance to confuse the eye with the seer
or the brain with the knower.
Consciousness is not a product of the world;
the world is a product of consciousness.
-Vaishnava philosophy

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Maria Mirador

Mirador at the Alhambra, Granada

Mary the Mother of Jesus is venerated by Muslims. It is reported that when the Prophet Muhammad cleared the idols out of the Kaaba in Mecca, he allowed only a fresco of the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus to remain. In every Muslim mosque, the "mihrab" or prayer niche in the wall is dedicated to Mary. In the Qur'an, she is described as having been sent as "a mercy for the worlds."
The painting of the Virgin and Child in the Kaaba was destroyed in a fire, so it cannot be seen today.

The Prophets of the Divine, such as Lord Moses and Lord Muhammad, warned humanity against worshipping idols because the vast majority have no auspiciousness about them, having been made by ritualistic people without a real devotional connection to the Divine, usually to fulfil selfish desires through propitiatory rituals. The Prophets were not against the veneration of images and sacred places, like the Kaaba at Mecca, or the Arc of the Covenant, or images of Aspects of God made by self-less saints, which are works of the Divine.

The Miraj

The Mi'raj,
The Night Journey of the Prophet Muhammad.
Riding on Al Buraq (the Kundalini) a horse-like creature
with the face of a woman.
He ascended through
the Seven Heavens (the Seven Chakras).

From the Talmud

"We do not see things as they are.
We see them as we are."-

-The Talmud

There is a similar idea in Vedanta -
the mind creates it's own false world.
The Self-realised mind sees reality.

Painting by Rob Gonzales

The Lives of 'Others'

More on Einstein, from New Scientist Magazine:

The day after Einstein spoke out on national TV, in 1950, about the dangers of US militarism, the director of the FBI "sent a top-secret memo to every FBI office in the country requesting any and all 'derogatory information' they had on Einstein...
When the FBI file was closed after his death in 1955, it contained more than 1800 pages of public statements by him and unsubstantiated allegations against him. The investigation remained secret until the 1990s. Even now, after the publication of Fred Jerome's eye-opening The Einstein File in 2002, this aspect of Einstein's extraordinary life often provokes surprise and discomfort."

Recently saw the excellent German film "The Lives of Others" (Das Leben der Anderen) about the destruction of creative lives by the corrupt and morally bankrupt Stasi in East Germany of the early eighties. The 1950's FBI didn't arrest Einstein, but their moral bankruptcy was obviously on a par with the Stasi.


"For some people, miracles serve as evidence of God's existence. For Einstein it was the absence of miracles that reflected divine providence. The fact that the world is comprehensible, that it follows laws, is worthy of awe."
-Walter Isaacson, 'Einstein, His Life and Universe'.


Just as the individual, discrete selves are false mentally constructed divisions of the continuum of Selfhood, individual nation states are mentally constructed false divisions of the continuous surface of the globe. Though rivers and mountain ranges appear to define natural divisions between people, they could just as easily unite them - rivers can be used as a means of transport, commerce and communication between peoples. Mountain tops can offer us a broader perspective, an overview that makes human constructed borders seem arbitrary. The ego and the individual nation state are similar in that they do not have an existence other than in human minds. And the mind is not real, therefore they are not real. States do not rule us; egotists rule us.

"Just as [Einstein] sought a unified theory in science that could govern the cosmos, so he sought one in politics that could govern the planet, one that would overcome the anarchy of unfettered nationalism through a world federalism based on universal principles."

- Walter Isaacson, 'Einstein, His Life and Universe'.

Einstein was aware of the dangers of totalitarianism. A world government that became a totalitarian government would be total totalitarianism:

"Do I fear the tyranny of a world government? Of course I do. But I fear still more the coming of another war."
The Himalaya, the Sahasrara Chakra, the Roof of the World,
at the meeting point of the two most populous regions of the world
- China and India - and the former Soviet Union.
The centre of the central and largest continent - Asia.
A place where sages retired to overcome the divisiveness of the mind.
A fitting place for the seat of a world government.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I went to see the movie '300', the Warner Brothers’ blockbuster produced by Zack Snyder and based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller about the epic battle of Thermopylae between the Greeks and Persians. I had heard that the Iranian government considered it insulting to their people, but I vaguely suspected they were being a bit oversensitive... until I actually saw the movie. It is insulting and racist. I felt insulted, and I'm not even Iranian. It's an insult to anyone who has studied ancient history.

Here's what one historian, Gary Leupp, said about it:

"Herodotus, the 'Father of History' and perhaps the world’s first professional historian, paints a picture of a 'free' Greece united against an oppressive 'Asia'. But that is a chauvinistic simplification. The fact is, Persia and the Greek city-states were all slave-based societies whose notions of “freedom” had little in common with our modern conception."
Leupp points out, the film's jingoism is "just in time to help subliminally shape the movie-going public’s perception of Persians prior to the attack planned on today’s evil empire by Vice President Cheney and his neocon staffers. Persia is Iran. (I want to say, 'Persia, of course, is Iran'. But I can’t assume that all or even most Americans make the connection.) The word comes from 'Fars', a region of modern Iran, while 'Iran' is related to the word 'Aryan' and connotes 'land of the Aryans'. In 1935 the Persian shah opted to use the name 'Iran' but the two terms are basically interchangeable. 'Persia' just doesn’t have the emotional baggage of 'Iran'. During the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979-81, many dealers in Iranian rugs decided to call them “rugs from Persia.” Persia on occasion has thus served as the good Iran, the historical cultural Iran, as opposed to the modern evil enemy. But 300 makes Persia evil too.
Slate’s Dana Stevens calls it “a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war.”
On the other hand, film critic Dale McFeatters calls the Iranians “picky, picky,” alleging (quite falsely), “Well, your leader did threaten to wipe Israel off the map.” And Stanford history professor Victor Davis Hanson, reportedly admired by Cheney and his (professional historian) wife, posts his opinion on the right-wing 'RealClearPolitics' website: 'We rightly consider the ancient Greeks the founders of our present western civilisation and, as millions of movie-goers seem to sense, far more like us than the [Iranian] enemy who ultimately failed to conquer them'.
Even if Zack Snyder and Frank Miller had no intention of making an anti-Iranian film, or promoting any sort of 'psychological warfare', they’ve made a film in which Iranians are indeed generically depicted in the worst possible light. A Warner Bros. spokesman says, 'The film 300 is a work of fiction inspired by the Frank Miller graphic novel and loosely based on a historical event. The studio developed this film purely as a fictional work with the sole purpose of entertaining audiences; it is not meant to disparage an ethnicity or culture or make any sort of political statement'. But it does disparage.
Herodotus depicted the Persian ruler positively enough: 'Among all this multitude of [Persian] men', he wrote, 'there was not one who, for beauty and stature, deserved more than Xerxes himself to wield so vast a power' (Persian Wars, Book VII, 187). But the Miller-Snyder Xerxes is not even an Iranian-looking man but (like some other Persians in the film) a distinctly African figure, who happens to be effeminate and wholly vicious. Leonidas in contrast is white and manly and wholly heroic in his fight for 'freedom'.
Color is kept to a minimum in the film; the warriors appear in shades of black and white, with the Greeks’ red cloaks standing out provocatively around the uniformly chiseled abs of the heroes. The Persians in contrast are ugly or deformed.
'The Greeks will know that free men stood against tyrants', says the cartoonish Leonides (Gerard Butler) preparing for his suicidal defense against the evil Persians. Greece is the 'world’s one hope for reason and justice' versus the 'dark will of the Persian kings'. 'We rescue the world from mysticism and tyranny', he declares. 'No retreat, no surrender. That is Spartan law. A new age has dawned, an age of freedom, and all will know that Spartans gave their last breath to defend it'.
The message is indeed clear. Sparta = Greece = the Western World = freedom. Persia = slavery and oppression. This was perhaps the gist of Herodotus’ message; he did write that while the Greeks knew that men were free, the 'Asiatics' knew only that one (the ruler) was free. But that was a skewed notion in his time and can only dangerously circulate in our own, while Iran is in the neocons’ crosshairs. Again, I think the Iranians might be over-concerned, since much of the film-viewing crowd won’t even associate the ancient Persians with the modern Iranians, but the 'clash of civilizations' theme is definitely there.
I would propose that those exposed to it imagine a different Xerxes than the nose-pierced caricature in the film. Imagine a Xerxes who addresses the American audience, including the Christian fundamentalist audience, as follows:
'I am Xerxes, Emperor of Persia, son of Darius, grandson of Cyrus. My grandfather Cyrus liberated the Jews from their Babylonian exile and let them return to Judea and rebuild their temple. My father Darius urged our people to revere the ‘God of Daniel.’ I myself married Esther, a Jew.
'I come from a long line of believers in the One God preached by Zarathustra, our Persian prophet whose teachings have influenced the Jews during their exile among us. I refer specifically to their concepts of Satan, Heaven and the future Messiah which weren’t part of their pre-exile belief system and are clearly borrowings from our Persian religion.
I am now embarking on the conquest of Greece, a backward region populated by primitive polytheists who worship capricious amoral deities and practise absurd religious rites. But my ancestors and I, having already conquered many Ionian Greeks, respect Greek philosophers and indeed have many of them in our employ. We have established a multi-ethnic empire. In that empire, Greeks fill important roles from the Mediterranean to India.
These Spartans confronting us at Thermopylae are cruel men who annually—for sport!- make war on the defenseless helots that live around them. They have nothing to tell us Persians—or the world in general—-about ‘freedom.’!'
The writer of such a script could claim Biblical authority. In Isaiah 44:28, the God of Israel declares through his prophet that Cyrus 'is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose'. Throughout Chapter 45 of Isaiah he speaks directly to Cyrus— 'his anointed'—-calling him 'righteous' and informing him that 'the wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia' will 'come over to you, and be yours'. The Book of Ezra opens with King Cyrus issuing an edict declaring, 'The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah'. In Daniel 6:26 a King Darius issues a decree that 'in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel'. Esther 2:15-18 describes Xerxes’ marriage to the Jewish maiden Esther. None of this is historically reliable; Daniel and Esther are indeed novelettes rather than history. The point is, these texts revered as Holy Writ by many if not most Americans depict Persia positively.
The Greeks, on the other hand, cause 'many evils on the earth'. They build a gymnasium in Jerusalem, for example (1 Maccabees 1:8). The Jews don’t approve of that sort of Greek thing, so Judah rises up in rebellion against Seleucid rule in the second century BCE. Their rebellion against the 'free', 'rational' Greeks is depicted as heroic.
The Greco-Roman world continued to make war on Persia off and on up to the end of the Roman Empire. But Alexander the Great, having defeated the Persian King Darius a century and a half after the battle of Thermopylae and acquired his vast empire, admired Persian ways and actively promoted the cultural synthesis we call Hellenism. Roman troops brought the worship of the Persian god Mithras back to Rome from their Persian campaigns; the cult of this god born on December 25 was a formidable rival of Christianity to the fourth century. The greatest of the late Roman philosophers, the second century Neoplatonist Plotinus, admired and sought to learn from the Persians. Manicheanism, founded by the Persian prophet Mani, was another religious rival to Christianity from its inception in the third century. The knowledge of the Persian Magi (Zoroastrian priest-astrologers) was respected in Rome and Magi of course appear in the New Testament (Matthew 2:1-12).

In short: 300’s depiction of the battle of Thermopylae is not merely inaccurate, as any film adaptation of a graphic novel has the perfect right to be. It’s what the Iranians say it is: racist and insulting. It pits the glorious Greeks with whom the audience must sympathize against a 'mystical' and 'tyrannical' culture posing an imminent existential threat. It is, de facto, an anti-Persian/anti-Iranian propaganda film, and should be rated appropriately: not just R (for racist) but X—-for extremely stupid and vicious and dangerously ill-timed."

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University

Poster by the Greek Neo-fascist group Molon Labe

Monday, April 09, 2007

Not this, not this. This, this.

"In Hinduism, and in particular Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta, neti neti is a chant or mantra, meaning "not this, not this", or "neither this, nor that".
Adi Shankara was one of the foremost Advaita philosophers who advocated the neti-neti approach.
The Upanishads talk of a supreme existence, an impersonal oversoul, called Brahman, which goes beyond western-definitions of a personal God. Brahman by definition, encompasses all reality, and is therefore not completely describable. Neti-neti is therefore held as the approach to understand the concept of Brahman without using affirmative (and thereby inadequate) definitions or descriptions of Brahman.
The purpose of the exercise is to negate conscious rationalizations, and other distractions from the purpose of a meditation. It is also a sage view on the nature of the Divine, and especially on the attempts to capture and describe the essence of God. In this respect, the phrase succinctly expresses the standpoint of negative theology."

-From Wikipedia

The yoga practice of neti neti, purifies the awareness which has become polluted by worldly distractions. It is a gradual process of realising the Self by considering what it is not: 'I am not this body, this mind, these emotions or sensations'. But when the Self is realised, everything one sees, all that one had denied, is suddenly recognised as the Self. The trees are the Self, the sky is the Self, this body is the Self, even thoughts are the Self. So the process is reversed. It becomes a case of 'this, this'; but rather than the Self-awareness being polluted and weakened by the world, everything flows naturally from the pure source of Self and is purified (or rather it is recognised in it's real nature, which was always pure, was never polluted); senses, emotions, thoughts, the body the milieu, all become saturated with, and compliant to, the pure desire of the Self. This is the paradox of yoga - by excluding the world one becomes it.
Ascending the mountain, distractions gradually disappear. First, human habitation becomes sparser, then vegetation thins towards the treeline. Eventually even rocks disappear, covered by a featureless blanket of snow near the peak.
But in the colourless, featureless world of the summit the climber discovers a spring fed by that same pure, featureless snow - The spring is the source of many rivers that give rise to life further down the slopes, and further still, on to the plains where bustling cities develop around them.
The ascent to Selfhood is similar. First one excludes all that appears to be the non-Self but ultimately realises that the Self is all-inclusive.
"He who sees not the Self in all,
sees not the Self at all."
-After Sikh wisdom

Sunday, April 08, 2007


In the English language, the word 'self' can mean 'ego', 'soul', or even 'the soul of the universe' (God). Similarly, 'spirit' can mean 'the individual soul', or it can mean 'God'. Sometimes the words 'self' and 'spirit' are given a capital 's' to suggest a transcendent Self, differentiated from the limited ego.

In contrast, the Sanskrit language contains a range of terms to clarify different states of consciousness/personhood:

'ahamkara' (ego)
'jivatma' (individual soul)
'paramatma'or 'Brahman' (universal Self)

When European missionaries went to India and encountered the Advaita philosophy of Sri Shankaracharya for the first time, they confused it with solipsism - the idea that everything is an illusion and only "I" (the ego) exist. This was a complete misinterpretation due to a lack of terminology with which to translate the Sanskrit. Advaita (literally: 'non-dual') - is the idea that only the universal Self exists, both as the world and as the unmanifest; while the ego, and the false world it creates, is a delusion.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Accelerating Possession is a groundbreaking collection of essays that examines how recent economic movements have revolutionized the relationship between property and personhood. These prominent scholars argue that in our present age, globalization, rampant privatization, and biotechnology have irrevocably changed traditional ideas of property and the self. Definitions of property no longer correspond to the configurations of the person who owns or is subjected to property. Self and ownership have a whole new arithmetic. In these essays, privatization is understood as an array of interconnected processes and relationships through which the capitalist marketplace controls, among other things, the political rights, social membership, and knowledge production that constitute personhood. The contributors believe such processes are accelerating profoundly, and they examine the effects via a range of topics, including the invention of property rights in U.S.-occupied Iraq, the work of John Locke, the art of Jenny Holzer, and the writing of Octavia Butler and Stanislaw Lem. They explore the synergy and dissonance between conceptions of the private as marketable and the private as inalienable, and consider how the contemporary transformations and futures of property and personhood relate to concepts of citizenship, state, culture, and education. These essays were all written with the guiding belief that the evolving relationship between ownership and the self has a fundamental effect on debates in critical theory. The essays are methodologically linked through their emphasis on the linguistic and rhetorical, as well as the philosophical and epistemological. Their focus on reflections of property and personhood in literary, textual, or artistic objects makes this collection a vital cross-disciplinary tool.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Listening to Silence

"When thoughts become silent
The soul finds peace in its own source.
This is the mystery of Eternity."
-from the Maitri Upanishad

"Silence is a friend who will never betray"

"Give me Silence and I will outdare the night."
-Kahlil Gibran

"The effect of this practice is extraordinary and surprises me every time, for, although I experience it each day, it exceeds my expectation at each repetition. At times the very first words tear my thoughts from my body and transport it to a place outside space where there is neither perspective nor point of view. The infinity of the ordinary expanses of perception is replaced by an infinity to the second or sometimes the third degree. At the same time, filling every part of this infinity of infinity, there is silence, a silence which is not an absence of sound but which is the object of a positive sensation, more positive than that of sound. Noises, if there are any, only reach me after crossing this silence."
- Simone Weil, Waiting on God.

Listen to the Primordial Sound -
The thundering silence behind all things
Like the bellowing of a placid bull -
The voice and vehicle of the Self.
In the stillness of nocturnal forests,
In the midst of chatter and thought,
Attend! Attend! Attend!


“It is the notion of ‘otherness’ that results in fear."
-Brihanyaka Upanishad i.4.2

Governments and the media peddle fear as a means of staying in power and selling news. While it is true that there really are some genuinely dangerous fanatics at large in the world, it is a well recognised habit of 'individual' and collective psyches to project their own unacknowledged aggression and hatred onto an 'other'. At present, Islam has been selected as the chosen 'other' despite the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving people, and violent fanaticism is to be found in virtually all religions (or at least in groups claiming to represent those religions). Al Quaeda has about as much to do with Islam as the Aum Supreme Truth sarin cult has to do with Buddhism, or the Ku Klux Klan has to do with Christianity.
Europeans have been terrorising the rest of the world for centuries. The term terrorist originally referred to exponents of The Terror, another name for the French Revolution. But somehow the atrocities of other peoples seem to outshine, in the European eye, their own (Auschwitz, Dresden, Srebrenica, Omagh, etc) and are grasped upon as evidence of the barbarity of the non-European.


The Buddhist concept of Non-grasping
is difficult.
Especially if you have hundreds of hands.

Non-ownership of Mind in Buddhism

"Though ordinarily thought of as a self, as belonging to self, a little reflection will prove how far from being 'owned' this mind and body are. The heedless man never thinks whether 'my body', 'my mind', 'myself' could really be true. But neither body nor mind obey a self, they just work governed by certain laws and conditions. There is no possibility of a (ego) self, who is the owner of mind and body.
Such ideas are born of craving for security. And where there is craving, there is bound to be suffering. So this root of suffering spreads its battening rootlets both deep and wide."
Angkor Wat statue overgrown with tree roots
Photo by Werner Bischof


"The third Noble Truth, which is Nibbána (Nirvana), being at present beyond our experience, is never greatly discussed in Buddhist texts, for it is to be experienced for oneself and not only to be discussed. The ancient texts describe it in largely negative terms: 'It is the complete fading-away and extinction of this very craving, its forsaking and giving up, the liberation and detachment from it.' All the grasping at 'I' and at 'mine', all the defilements of mind which lead one to grasp, such as greed, aversion and delusion, all must be given up. When the wise person relaxes his hold upon what is not really his own, that is, he does not grasp at ownership of either mind or body, then that is the attainment of Nibbána. With the relaxation of the grasp upon things not really possessed there comes the attainment of both wisdom and compassion."