Tuesday, December 6, 2016

the zen teaching of bodhidharma

The Zen teachings of Bodhidharma here.

The Bloodstream sermon is particularly powerful:
Buddhas don't save Buddhas. If you use your mind to look for a Buddha, you won't see the Buddha. As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you'll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. Don't use a Buddha to worship a Buddha. And don't use the mind to invoke a Buddha. Buddhas don't recite sutras. Buddhas don't keep precepts. And Buddhas don't break precepts. Buddhas don't keep or break anything. Buddhas don't do good or evil. To find a Buddha, you have to see your nature.

The essence of Bushido

Tsunetomo Yamamoto (1659-1719) was a samurai of the Saga domain in Hizen Province, under his lord Mitsushige Nabeshima. For thirty years Yamamoto devoted his life to the service of his lord and clan. When Nabeshima died in 1700, Yamamoto did not choose junshi because Nabeshima has expressed a dislike of the practice in his life, so Yamamoto considered it better to follow his lord’s wishes. Yamamoto renounced the world and retired to a hermitage in the mountains. Late in life, he narrated many of his thoughts to a fellow samurai, Tsuramoto Tashiro. These commentaries were later turned into the Hagakure (Hidden behind the Leaves).


I have found the essence of Bushido: To Die!

In other words, when you have a choice between life and death, always choose death. If you die before you hit your target, then it will be the death of a dog. In order to master this essence, you must die anew every morning and every night.

The way of advising others must be carried with utmost care. It’s quite easy to see the evil in othersGet intimate, refer to your own weaknesses and failures, then let him discover your point without mentioning his weakness. How can you reform others if you disgrace them?

On the previous night… make plans for the next day.

Don’t go where you’re not invited.

In order to be called a samurai, you must offer your life to Tao. There is no difference between high and low.

It’s difficult to carry acts of justice.

Onlookers see more than the players. Find your own faults through speculation. Consult others. Read books. Learn from the previous generation. You must throw your own judgment.

There are levels in the course of mastery. At the lowest level, you think of others as poor (needless to say, at this level you’re not useful). At the high level, you pretend to know nothing. You go ahead only with the idea of mastery. You go forward without pride and without humility. Your life you build every day. You’re better than yesterday and but not better than tomorrow.

Think of serious matters in a light manner, but think of trifles in an earnest and thoughtful way.

Those who never make mistakes are in danger.

If your eye is able to see good qualities in others who apparently are (you see as) inferior to you, then they can be your masters, even though they have shortcomings as well.

On your way, you meet a shower. You dislike get wet, so you hurry along the streets under the eaves. Still you get wet the same. As long as you accept that you will get wet, you won’t suffer from being wet.

Normally, most people rely on you when they are in trouble. But they will not think of you once they are out of their trouble.

On a low level, it’s unsatisfactory if you remain unfrightened when you find yourself with disaster and difficulties. On a higher level, you ought to go through troubles with courage and elation. “If the water rises, the ship rises too.”

However gifted you are, people refuse to see it if you are a greenhorn. Build your brightness and give it restrained play; “The slower the better.”

The way to excel above others is to have others talk about and judge you. To consult with others is a spring-board to a higher level.

After a year had passed, everyone said: “He looks a tired and sick man.” A took this as the beginning of my service.

There are many in the world who are eager to give advice. There are few who feel glad for being given advice. And there are still fewer who follow the given advice.

zen techniques

1- Talking silence (Dogen):

"Avoid unnecessary words.
Speak with your mind.
Read people’s minds."

2- Being a fool (Master Ikkyu):

"How to reach out?"
Listen… ask.
"How can I obtain wisdom?"
Be a fool.

"What is Zen?
Nothing special."

A monk asked Ummon: "What is Buddha?" Ummon answered him: "Dried shit."
3- Gentle Face (Shin-Hiu)

"Gentle face means a happy spirit,
Let people know it.
Let people see it.
What if they resent it?
Since they need it, they will come to love it."

4- Compelling mind (Ryokan)

"The compelling mind is peaceful."

"How can I feel my mind?
Look at the mountain…"

"Read minds and look at the mountains.".....

"Beathe with your mind and think with your heart!"

5- Cultivate Poetry (the koan as a device for enlightenment)*

Language is evoked by the present occasion itself; it is not merely a mapping of the present in terms of learned structures. thus, language has more of a poetic than a discursive dimension. poetry proper is never merely a higher mode of everyday language. it's rather the reverse: everyday language is a forgotten and therefore used-up poem, from which there hardly resounds a call any longer.

6- Doing Nothing

"Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water."

"When you seek it, you cannot find it."

"After enlightenment, the laundry."

*Here a long list of Zen koans.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Taoism: five into 5

Dmytro Didora, via Juxtapoz

chinese civilization would have been utterly different if the Tao Te Ching had never been written. even confucianism would not have been the same, for like buddhism, it did not escaped taoist influence. 

one cannot hope to understand chinese philosophy, religion, government, art, medicine –or even cooking- without a real appreciation of the profound philosophy taught in this little book. 

1- Tao (the Way) is the ONE.  

Natural, eternal, spontaneous, nameless and indescribable

ying yang represents the binary structure of the universe

this reflect the YING YANG principle. 

Yang is the cosmic energy of Heaven, male, aggression, firmness and brightness. Ying is the cosmic energy of earth, a female element that is receptive, yielding and dark. Harmony in nature is achieved through these two cosmic energies. They are both equally important. 

2- Being/Non-being, is a duck/ rabbit relationship. Ziran/Wuji meaning the dialectic aspect of the universe. Ziran is the irreducibility of Tao, which cannot be referred back to anything else. Wuji (limitless, infinite) is the ultimate nothingness. 
Know whiteness, maintain blackness, and be a model for all under heaven. By being a model for all under heaven, Eternal integrity will not err. If eternal integrity does not err. You will return to infinity. 

3- Tao moves in cycles Wu Xing. But the life cycle is an unchanging truth. While everything in nature and all sentient beings follow their respective cycles, so do worldly events. The main lesson here is that there is no rule by which one can foresee the future.

4- if one has Tao, then one becomes Te (virtue). The ideal life for the individual and the ideal order for society and government are based on and guided by it. 

Te = harmony with the natural environment.  
One who understand the the dominating character of the male yet keeps to the passive nature of the female, behaves properly. Te "produces but does not possess, cares but does not control; it leads but does not subjugate." 
5- Tao has a 5-point method: 

1- Simplicity"the ultimate good is like water"

& silence:

"Those who are quiet value the words." 
"Behave simply. Hold on to purity." 

2- Spontaneity"blaze the trail not often followed" 

"Even at the verge of erring, err honestly."  

3- Tranquility: "moon illumines the crystal blue water"

"The quiet horizon amidst the noise. Levelheadedness in crisis."  

4- Flexibility: "be a blade of grass" 

"Dare let the weather lead."  

5- Non-action (wu-wei): "when nothing is done, nothing is left undone"

Because of its importance, I intend to explain wu-wei in more detail in my next post.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Analects (excerpts)

Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. "Have no friends not equal to yourself. "When you have faults, do not fear to fix them."

Tsze-kung asked what constituted the chun-tzu (superior man). The Master said, "He acts before he speaks, and speaks according to his actions."

The Master said, "The superior man is universal and not partisan. The mean man is partisan and not universal."
The Master said, "Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is dangerous."

The Master said, "Yu, shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it; -- this is knowledge."

The Master said, "If a man is without the virtues proper to humanity, why would he need rites of propriety? If a man is without the virtues proper to humanity, how would he manage with anything in particular?"

The Master said: "Things that are done, it is needless to speak about; things that have had their course, it is needless to remonstrate about; things that are past, it is needless to blame."

The Master said, "Those who are without virtue cannot abide long either in hardship or enjoyment. On the other hand, the virtuous rest in virtue."

Continue reading here

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

your turn #7 (the dhammapada)

by oneself evil is done; by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone; by oneself one is purified. purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.

didn't want to leave the dhammapada without a proper comment session. please, participate.

just to refresh some themes:

1- the insistence of the causal connection of evil & life. in the twin verses of 1:1."we become what we think."  then, 1:5: "hatred can never put an end to hatred". this is a novel way of looking at ethics. wrong actions carry moral (causal) consequences = you reap what you sow is not a metaphor, it's cause & effect! of course, 9:119: "the evil doers may be happy as long as he does not reap what he has sown, but when he does sorrow overcomes him." yeah, there's no way out of paticca samuppada.

2- the control of the mind: "hard is to train the mind, which goes where it likes..." 3: 35
the importance of self-governance of the mind. ..."those who can direct thoughts are freed from the bond of mara" (3:37).

and this one: "make your mind a fortress to conquer maya with the weapon of wisdom".

i doubt something this deep has been said with this simplicity.

the beautiful chapter 4, "on flowers". this stands out: "do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do, give it to what you do or fail to do" 4:50.

3- a central lesson in the dhammapada is that good is objective,  it can be perceived: "the fragrance of the good spread everywhere..." 4:54.  good is an essence.

4-  the importance of self-governance. the self is a refuge, not a place to waste. so, we must keep our house in order. these three are key:

"do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do." 4:50
"if you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone". 5:61
"a solid rock cannot be moved by the wind, the wise are not shaken by praise or blame." 6:81

(that doesn't mean we don't try to build our own sangha):

"make friends with those who are good and true, not with those that are bad and false." 6:78

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Confucius molded Chinese civilization in general and judging by the Analects, one can see that he exerted great influence on Chinese philosophical development. There is a humanistic tendency in Confucius’ thought. He did not care to talk about spiritual beings or even about life after death. Instead, he believed that we can make the Way (Tao) great.

Confucius concentrated on man. His primary concern is a good society based on good government and harmonious human relations. Confucius believed in the perfectibility of all men and in this connection he radically modified a traditional concept, that of the “superior man” or chün-tzu. How can one be chün-tzu?

One can broadly sum up Confucius system in a handful of principles:

1- T’ien (or heaven) is purposive, the master of all things. Confucius idea of T’ien is that of immanence: “Heaven sees through the eyes of the people, Heavens listens through the ears of the people.” Not necessarily anthropomorphic but anthropogenic. Heaven is embodied in the people and exemplified by the people. Heaven is a principle and that relates to human as that of part/whole relationship.

2- The Mandate of Heaven or T’ien Ming consists of a Supreme Being who institutes a moral principle to operate by itself. That’s the principle of Heaven, T’ien Tao, later on called T’ien-li.

3- Jen (also pronounced as “ren” means indistinctly, altruism, humanity and fairness). “Jen” appears more than 100 times in the Analects. Jen also requires compassion: “Do not impose to others what you don’t want.” This negative form of the golden rule is essential in Confucianism for it tells people what not to do. “If you want to establish yourself, establish others. If you want to promote yourself, promote others.” To be able to apply the golden rule one has to follow a method

4- “Shu” which means to be empathetic, i.e., to be able to understand the circumstances. Shu is the right method to achieve jen. There are certain important virtues that can help in the process. They are:

respectfulness (gong), 
reverence (jing), 
leniency (quan), 
beneficence (hui), 
being quick in action (ming), 
reliability in words (xing) and 
cultivating slowness to speak (yan ren). 

Gong can be best explained as self-respect, self-worth. The Confucian self needs to be cultivated holistically (the mind is as important as the body).

Next there is jing, or reverence, but a better term is estimation. It’s a public virtue. How can one esteem something or someone? When one avoid the short-sightedness of the moment and ponders the far reaching implication of our actions. One becomes socially productive when one leaves pettiness and jealousies behind.

Quan is a principle of charity. It means magnanimity, being able to being thorough with oneself and the others, but suspending judgment until one has all the possible evidence. Quan doesn’t rule out criticism, only that it analyses it more and applies it to oneself. Quan presupposes self-awareness.

Xing relates to the idea of moral coherence between intentions and words, which amounts to honesty: One is reliable if one is trustworthy.

Yan ren is very close to our idea of prudence.

5- Shu needs “Xue” or learning. Not an achievement verb, but rather a stronger sense of affecting oneself whether by improving one’s sensitivity, understanding or ability. With xue one appropriates what’s learned, a process of becoming transforming. Xue is accompanied by,

6- “Si,” that is, reflecting. “Learning without thinking, one will be perplexed, thinking without learning, one will be in peril.” (A, 2:15).

7- An important theme in Confucian ethics is The Doctrine of the Mean or “Zhong-Yong.” It means centrality, non-deviation: not to be “one-sided.” It doesn’t mean staying in the middle no matter what: “Excess is as bad as deficiency.” (A, 20:1). Enduring, undeviating behavior that includes genuineness on one hand and steadfastness and persistence on the other. Implies non-deviation from this way.

8- There is also Rectification of names (Pinyin). This essentially means that for every action, there is a word that describes that action. The belief is that by following the Rectification of Names you would be following the correct/right path. By calling things what they are, we avoid confusion. RON also presupposes the idea of honesty in our speech acts

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

your turn #6 Bhagavad Gita

pick a topic of the many: action in inaction, sacrifice, maya, faith, selfless action, service, ignorance, fighting the battle, moksha, go ahead.

desire according to buddhism

art by sam yong

Buddha based his entire teaching on the fact of human suffering.*

1- Existence is painful.

The conditions that make an individual are precisely those that also give rise to suffering.

Individuality implies limitation; limitation gives rise to desire; and desire (tanha) causes suffering because what is desired is transitory, changing, and perishing.

It is the impermanence of the object of craving that causes disappointment and sorrow (cause/effect: one suffers because one desires). I'd like to spin this idea of desire with the idea of EROS as an embodied striving for well-being that connects us with things, animals and people, which situates us in the world with others.

EROS is the fundamental energy by which we relate to all that is. SIN might be seen as human desire gone astray, a corruption of the basic potency for relation. SIN is a "desire" in the form of a will-to-control that aspires to secure itself by mastering all around it. Ridden with anxiety about its own lack of control, it reduces what is other to the self, placing a stranglehold on all that is not-I in order to guarantee absolutely its own self-perpetuation.

By effectively closing itself off from the other, a genuine relation is negated in a posture of solipsism. Augustine referred to this selfish attachment "cupiditas," a need-based form of desire that seeks its own satisfaction above all else and therein refuses its genuine relation to creation and the Creator. 

2- By following the "path" taught by the Buddha, the individual can dispel the "ignorance" that perpetuates this suffering.

3- Reality, whether of external things or the psycho-physical totality of human individuals, consists in a succession and concatenation of microseconds called dhammas.

4- Moreover, contrary to the theories of the Upanishads, the Buddha did not want to assume the existence of the soul as a metaphysical substance. Life is a stream of becoming, a series of manifestations and extinctions. The individual ego is a delusion; the objects with which people identify themselves -fortune, social position, family, body, and even mind-are not their true selves. Nothing is permanent.
*Suffering in this context is equivalent to disquietude. The mind is in a state of restless anxiety. Tahna (as mental state) is a vicious cycle (if one's desires are fulfilled it will, of itself, lead to one's lasting happiness or well-being). Such beliefs normally result in further craving/desire and the repeated enactment of activities to bring about the desired results.

Buddhism in a few points

First, the four noble truths and the eightfold path and

The Four Noble Truths: 

1- The truth of misery: Buddhism locates the suffering not in the khanavāda ("fleeting moments") of experience (for these are the "really real" elements in experience and the source of our aliveness and joy) but in the compulsiveness with which people attempt to stop the world and insist upon some kind of security and predictability in their lives.

2- Misery originates within us from the craving for pleasure and for being or non-being: As people become free from clinging and manage a degree of disengagement from their own compulsive drives, they can construct elaborate conceptual systems as instruments for widening and vivifying awareness.

3- Human craving can be eliminated: Freedom from the unsatisfactoriness of existence is found by extinguishing desire, which means the cessation of clinging aimed at self-possession.

Here nirvana means the "cooling" or "extinguishing" of the flame of craving that engenders ego-enclosed "I-ness."

Instead of an attachment to being, there is now generated a dis-attachment from being, which accordingly frees the enlightened person from the restless bondage of duhkha --and the wheel of karmic samsara, producing a tranquility untroubled by worldly occurrences.

This is not to say that pain and pleasure are no longer felt; they are simply no longer of ultimate consequence.  

4- The truth that this elimination is the result of a methodical way or path that must be followed

Eightfold Path: How can one escape the continually renewed cycle of birth, suffering, and death (samsara)? Here ethical conduct enters in: 
1- right views (the right perspective of things, not too much, not too little) 
2- right aspirations (one projected into the future) 
3- right speech (words need self-governance, constructive words coming from a constructive mind --- ahimsa)  
4- right conduct (our dharma) 
5- right livelihood (living a life which transpires our purpose) 
6- right effort (action in inaction) 
7- right mindfulness (self-government at the mental level, not allowing destructive thoughts inside, "not in this house") 
8- right meditational attainment (YOGA). 

The term "right" (true or correct) is used to distinguish sharply between the precepts of the Buddha and other teachings.

Nirvana: The aim of religious practice is to be rid of the delusion of ego, thus freeing oneself from the fetters of this mundane world (i.e., the endless round of rebirths). This is the final goal -not a paradise or a heavenly world. Though nirvana is often presented negatively as "release from suffering," it is more accurate to describe it in a more positive fashion: as a goal to be sought and cherished.  

Karma: The belief in rebirth, or samsara, as a potentially endless series of worldly existences in which every being is caught up was already associated with thedoctrine of karma in pre-Buddhist India, and it was generally accepted by both the Theravada and the Mahayana traditions. According to the doctrine of karma, good conduct brings a pleasant and happy result and creates a tendency toward similar good acts. This furnishes the basic context for the moral life of the individual.

Sangha: Sangha refers to the assembly of believers. There are two meanings, the monastic Sangha of ordained Buddhist monks or nuns and the assembly of all beings possessing some degree of realization.

what a midterm "A" test looks like (so you can compare this one with the one you will receive)

an "A" represents the class of --comparatively speaking-- the best-answer tests. here is one example of that class:

p. 1, see that in question 5- "karma," she goes in detail to explain the concept. or in question 7- "ahimsa" how she develops her idea. this student doesn't answer a question just with a one-liner, she actually explains what she knows.

p.2, see for instance in the question 10- "gunas," how the student specifies each one and goes further to explain each one. she doesn't miss one.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

a preamble to the gita

first, the idea of dharma: doing what must be done, its stoic translation is "doing the best we can at all times."

dharma is not passivity. it means pursuing our duty, diligently, intensely. 

which duty? what we have chosen for ourselves; the milieu we've inherited (dna, family, commitments). 

the idea of detaching oneself from the fruits of one's action may seem a bit counterintuitive, particularly in the West. it takes a hierarchical view of things.

krishna admits that one can win or gain, no matter the outcome.

sure, but that's too general. how does it apply to me? the idea of "gain" (profit is a bad synonym) in our post-capitalist times is very entrenched. we're often caught up in a means-to-ends cycle. 

suggestion: how many times one invests and makes money and the general outcome of the investment leaves much to be desired? how many times we've won arguments than in retrospect we wished we had lost? how many actions we choose which we later resent? what cuts through these examples is time. 

we don't have enough time to see the movie because we're in it. only then one can understand krishna's advice.

as we've discussed before, sacrifice (yajna) turns upside-down all received notions of economic exchange: sovereignty. 

yajna is a form of sovereignty. the existentialist metaphor of devenir. in a sense, we're born again every time we choose ourselves. self-rule is a sign of inner development. 

we're born again every time we choose ourselves. self-rule is a great sign of inner development.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

list of terms for the midterm and instructions

find the list of terms for the midterm here.

the test consists of a bunch of fill-in-the-blank questions like this.

atman: _______(your answer here)____________

Try to be as exhaustive as you can.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

yoga: homelessness is authenticity!

sri ramakrishna

yoga starts with the idea of alienation the division of atman/brahman (all dualities for that matter).

atman generally doesn't find itself at home. 

why is atman homeless?

that depends from how you address oneness. is yoga social, even political? according to patanjali, there's no personal emancipation without social emancipation. again, this brings up MLK's motto: "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

WE are all together. is there a better way of grab the "political" monster by the horns?

marx worked out a pretty good idea of alienation (Entfremdung) from the external point of view. the marxist critique of alienation is social: alienation is separation from one's own productivity, which contributes to the perpetuation of social suffering, which validates the acceptance of the status quo as unavoidable.

yoga on the other hand, makes alienation a basic status of existence.

alienation is now existential: suffering is essential to existence. if for marx, entfremdung points to a lack of balance: what belongs together is now separated, but this something is material, i.e., a yogi may counter that someone could be rich and live in suffering, someone could be poor and live a full life.

the effort of yoga can be described as an inward movement leading to enstasis (rather than one leading to ecstasis).

yoga presents this constant existential tension between purusha (self) and pakriti (matter). perhaps now we can understand jiva as a state of purusha bonded to pakriti through the glue of desire

the end of this bondage is the way, the long way of self-discipline moksha.

ontologically speaking, having a body means being bonded by suffering.  this is not that far from leibniz's compact masterpiece (#62 of the monadology)
although each created monad represents the whole universe, it represents more distinctly the body that is exclusively assigned to it and from which it forms, and just as that body expresses the whole universe through the interconnection of all matter in the plenum the soul also represents the entire universe by representing its particular body.  
yoga's metaphysics resembles "string theory."

let's take the gunas, which express vibrations:

each with a specific color. as rightness (or sattvas), passion (or rajas) and darkness (or tamas).

1- the rightness of sattvas is bright and joyful; the upward movement of things, belonging, bliss, etc. 2- rajas address the dynamic force in things, the restlessness within reality, the dialectic movement (from thesis, antithesis and synthesis), longing, dissatisfaction, pain. 3- tamas is the dark force, the anomic, passive, opaque aspect of reality.

doesn't this illumine our  previous discussion of punyas  and papas ?*

"reality" is determined by the dominance of one or the other of these qualities. however nothing is ever fixed, there are always inside/outside dynamics taking place. basically, being alienated means being outside the realm of the ONE (buddhi). 

what's the ONE? a plenitude within oneself, a totality of our emotional and intellectual possibilities, which we feel and obtain, but only in brief, evanescent moments.

if the release from moksha was strictly personal, then yoga wouldn't be political.

but let's problematize politics a bit: the received idea is that politics is too concerned with power (top-to-bottom normativity) instead of bottom-up (emergence). from the POV of the thing, processes starts where they start, i.e., the bottom.

how can we make societies and associations to change the status quo?

buddhi, the ONE, appears empirically in the suffering of the world, in the pain produced by the conflict between the opposites. he/she who identifies with ONE (God) does not seek to escape from the suffering of the world's conflicts, but rather gives up one's ego in a union with the ONE (God). the only way to conquer suffering is surrendering the ego, not the ideal.

what about social injustice? do we surrender to history's own karma? (food for thought).


the path: there are 8 stages of spiritual ascent.
the practice.

in yoga's sūtras, patanjali describes the practice of yoga as abhyāsa, which literally means repetition. rightness is a repetitive activity.

of course repetition becomes a ritual. all ritual is repetition. 

yoga is a ritual of repetitions.

yama (restraint): one is taken to a variety of stimuli, attractions and repulsions. if one abandons inner control, if one cannot resist the stimuli of opposites, one succumbs. yama indicates the charioteer who is in charge. in freudian terms, think of the conquering of the darkest forces of one's unconscious mind.

ahimsa: is the moral principle of yoga.

satya: veracity, which is more than truthfulness. it means a commitment to what is genuine, virtuous and honest. it takes the conscious understanding of reality.

in our alienated condition we are responsible for our egos as we are for any object of consciousness. example. "i feel pain," but what exactly? now i'm one with the pain. there is no distance between me and my pain. neither absent nor unconscious, the pain is part of that distance-less existence of positional consciousness for itself. this is ok, but there is more: what happens when i make my pain conscious? now i put distance between me and my pain, and as a result my pain is now transformed.

asteya (not taking what is not ours) take it as a form of socio-political order. in positive terms it means giving others what is due to them. it's a fight for equality  (not even you is your belonging?). 

aparigraha (non covetousness) not grasping after things, close to the apatheia of the stoics (ataraxia of the epicureans). developing the intuition of "when it's too much."

niyama: spiritual discipline with a second group of five principles:

1. asana: posture, it's the spiritual control over the body or the corporal control over the spiritual. Asana eases tensions and helps the spiritual project.

2. pranayama: controlled breathing.

Pratyahara: abstraction of the senses.

3. dharana: fixation on a single object as a phase of psychic activity aimed at absolute unity.

4. dhyana: sustained attention: In Buddhism jhana (Chinese, ch'an, Japanese, zen). It means the clear mind, absorbed into the object so that it does not advert to its former modifications. How long can one stay in this "concentrated" state?

5. samadhi: the superior state of consciousness. The object appears in its pure radiant form.

*actions that bear positive results and elevate a person are called punya. actions that lead to a negative fruit and degrade a person are called papa. imagine, for example, a person who wins a lottery must have had a lot of punya accumulated due to many past positive actions. a person murdered must be experiencing the accumulated effects of past papa.

MLK's thoughts on ahimsa

1- Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.

2- Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. The only way we can really achieve freedom is to somehow conquer the fear of death.

3- Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another's flesh.

4- We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

5- The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

6- Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence in a descending spiral of destruction....
The chain reaction of evil -hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars- must be broken,
or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

7- Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.

8- In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

9- Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

10- Intelligence plus character -that is the goal of true education.

11- People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.

12- I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

ghandi's paralogic of ahimsa

For Gandhi's ideas on ahimsa, click here.

ahimsa & the R_E_S_P_E_C_T principle

i open with this R&B plea.

i'd like to defend an ecological view of ahimsa. jainism was "ecological" before ecology.

my argument takes this deductive form:

all jiva are sentient
we (jiva) are all ONE
himsa-ing jiva is himsa-ing ONEself, i.e., all. 
THUS, himsa-ing is wrong.

the jaina ecological approach strikes a balance between jiva (human & non-human animals) and a-jiva (plant life, fungi & protista & non cellular life and the rest). how to bring all this together? to address the idea of balance let's take a look at immanuel kant's second formulation:

treat people as ends never as means to an end 

why only (Menschheit)?  universalizability does not obtain exclusively amongst "Mensch." true universalizability must include all Jiva i.e. all sentient beings (including non-human animals of course). would kant agree? not insofar as animals cannot reason. we're all jiva insofar as jiva has vernunft (reason).

non-human animals cannot partake of this moral/political contract. but vernunft is not the best standard in the jiva kingdom, instead, we should go by sentience (here the british utilitarians had an advantage).

jainism finds kantian's ethics too anthropocentric. jainas defend a universal jiva-centered democracy!

how about a-jiva? again, jainism is naturally closer to ajiva than other systems.

a centerpiece of jaina philosophy is that we're all ONE. it's easier to extend ahimsa to ajiva (as far as jiva permits, i.e., jiva has to eat in order to survive), and to extend ahimsa via aparigraha (non-possessiveness), i.e., nature is not ours to possess.   

from ahimsa we get another interesting development: 1- vegetarianism, which according to ayurveda & yoga, lead to clarity and upeksa (equanimity) of mind, while also being beneficial to the body & 2- pacifism in politics (which does not exclude legitimate defense). ahimsa has important politico-economic implications for human interactions. imagine a 3- jaina form of economics.

what would it look like?

1- ahimsa in our business deals, 
2- minimizing jiva suffering instead of increasing human-jiva profits,
3- homo reciprocans over homo economicus (cooperation instead of needless competition, 
still a good but less than capitalism defends), 
3- long term vs. short term profit (observes the future as a stockholder), 
4- conserving instead of wasting (aparigraha),
5- more local less global, (OM), 
6- happiness vs. material gain,    

Sunday, September 11, 2016

your turn #3 (hinduism open forum)

we're finished with the upanishads. what do you want to talk about?

go ahead.

(below is our new post on Jainism)

notes on Jainism

the soul mirrors Brahman's nature 

Jainism was founded in the 6th century BC by Vardhamana, known as Mahavira or “Great Hero” (the 24th of the Tirthankaras) Jainas or “Conquerors” (whence the name Jainism), in protest against the orthodox Vedic ritualistic cult of the period.

Jainism asserts that every soul is divine and capable of attaining perfection. The universe can be divided into
Jiva (soul) and Ajiva (non-soul). The living and the non-living, by coming into contact with each other, forge certain energies which bring about birth, death and various experiences of life.

Yet, the process could be stopped, and the energies already forged destroyed, by a course of discipline leading to

Jaina is based on the practice of (a) the right knowledge, (b) right faith and (c) right conduct. They must be cultivated at once. Right faith leads to calmness and tranquility, but right faith leads to perfection only when followed by right conduct. Knowledge without faith and conduct is futile. Right conduct is spontaneous, not a forced mechanical quality. Attainment of right conduct is a gradual process. 3- This process leads to ahimsa: (skt non-harming) the Jaina doctrine of non-violence.1

The five basic principles

1- Non-violence (Ahimsa) - to cause no harm to living beings.
2- Truth (Satya) - to always speak the truth in a harmless manner.
3- Non-stealing (Asteya) - to not take anything that is not willingly given (CAVEAT: don't mess up with people's autonomy, that's THEFT).
4- Celibacy (Brahmacarya) - to not indulge in sensual pleasures (CAVEAT: here "indulge" means making pleasures the end, remember the reversibility principle [avoiding something only to let it thru the back door] the enjoyment is more appropriate, as "means"). 
5- Non-possession (Aparigraha) - to detach from people, places, and material things (for detachment nothing better than this.

Theological and philosophical Implications of Jainism

*Every living being has a soul: divine, with innate, though typically unrealized, potentially immense knowledge, perception, power, and bliss. 

*Therefore, regard every living being as yourself, harm no one, and manifest benevolence for all living beings.
*Every soul is born as a sort of celestial, human or sub-human or hellish being according to its own karmas
*Every soul is the architect of its own life, here or hereafter. (Yes, freedom exists!)
*When a soul is freed from karmas,2 it becomes free and god-conscious, experiencing infinite knowledge, perception, power, and bliss.
*Right View, Right Knowledge and Right Conduct (triple gems of Jainism) provide the way to this realization. 
*There is no supreme divine creator, owner, preserver or destroyer: The universe is self-regulated and every soul has the potential to achieve the status of god-consciousness (siddha) through one's own efforts.
*Non-violence (Ahimsa) is the foundation of right View, the existence of right Knowledge and the kernel of right Conduct. Non-violence is compassion and forgiveness in thoughts, words and actions toward all living beings. It includes respecting views of others (Non-absolutism). Is Ahimsa not a better face-to-face?
*Limit possessions and lead a pure life that is useful to yourself and others. Owning an object by itself is not possessiveness; however attachment to an object is. Non-possessiveness is the balancing of needs and desires while staying detached from our possessions.

*Enjoy the company of the holy and better qualified, be merciful to those afflicted and tolerate the perversely inclined.
*Four things are difficult for a soul to attain: 1. human birth (the one you own), 2. true knowledge, 3. good faith, and 4. practicing the right path.
*It is important not to waste human life in evil ways. Rather, strive to rise on the ladder of spiritual evolution.
*The goal of Jainism is liberation of the soul from the negative effects of unenlightened thoughts, speech and action. This goal is achieved through clearance of karmic obstructions.
Non-violence of thought is more important than non-violence of action. It is also one of the five virtues in Raja-Yoga. 2 New development: karma that binds our soul is due not only to the actions of our body, mind, and speech but more importantly, to the intentions behind them. Äsrava (Cause of the influx of karma). A person's ignorance or wrong belief, vowlessness, spiritual-laziness, and passions like anger, self-aggrandizement, deceit and greed, are the primary causes of the influx of karma. Collectively, these causes are called Äsrava.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

your turn #2 (we moved to room 8202) update today

rené magritte, 1935

UPDATE: today, tuesday. big portion of the class addressing the upanishads. this thursday we keep at it.

very good points!

we're all learning. we're all students. we're right even if we are wrong.

just as this is the best of all possible worlds (though this world may suck sometimes).

my job in this class is to problematize the issues, to listen and learn. don't worry, we have to get used to a new philosophical jargon. break the resistance.

ideas being fluttered around in class:

damah: "self governance"
the "experience unexperienced"
bhakti: the importance of joy.
"am just the unaffected ground where all consuming is consumed" 
are we god? yes. remember: the hindu way is enstasis (going inside) as opposed to extasis (christian way). they're both valid.

if i forgot something you can address it.

the metaphysics in hinduism builds around dualities: atman/brahman, kharma/dharma, maya/reality, dukkha/bhakti,

many of your comments addressed undeniable tensions.

the problem of free will vs. kharma,

the problem of dukkha,

reincarnation as literal or metaphoric,

which brings me to maya (the veil of illusions) 

1- we're here to fulfill our kharma (our cosmic debt from previous lives). so, our being here is necessary and unavoidable, and yet, we remain unaware. we don't feel as if we deserve this. the idea of cause/effect goes unnoticed. this is a result of our avidya (or ignorance).

(maya plays a part here).

while it's true that we're here to fulfill our kharma, it's no less true that simultaneously we are here to change our future's kharma.

what's the vehicle? our dharma. the reality and the duties thereof that we have to live with. "duty" is our embeddedness, what we come with here. we have to work with what we have. for example: if i have a brother with a disability i have no choice but deal with that. if i've a klineferter DNA predisposition there's nothing i can do about it, etc.

2- samsara is the wheel that keeps this universe going. we're inside it. yet, are we not all brahman? is not my atman yours and yours mine and both ours HIS? since the only thing we have in this phenomenal realm are our actions, it's through actions that we find a path to realization or more suffering. the path is moksha.

what's on your mind? you can address any topic from our last two classes. tuesday we'll read from the Upanishads.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

upanishads, selected fragments

About this (atman) only one can say “not… not” (neti, neti). He is ungraspable, he is undecaying, he has nothing sticking to him, he is not bound."


"Without me here, to know experience, how could this experience be? And how do I continue on? If it’s by speech that words are said, if odours are perceived by smell … if sights are seen by sense of vision, sounds are heard by sense of hearing, feelings felt by sense of touch, and thoughts conceived by changing mind … if thoughts and sense-perceptions are absorbed within by understanding, and appearances are formed by mind’s expressive thoughts and acts… then who, or what, am I?"
"Brahman is OM, the whole world is OM. When one says OM, it indicates compliance."

"With respect to the bodily sphere (atman), one should venerate: ‘Brahman is the mind."

"The Self is a source of abiding joy. Our hearts are filled with joy in seeing him. Enshrined in the depths of consciousness. If he were not there, who would breathe? He fills every heart with joy." (Bhakti)
"I’m here: in every passing season, in the cycling of the seasons risen from their background source, continuing through space and time. I am the seed of consciousness that’s always here in all experience: lighting every passing moment, common to all different moments, changeless through all changing time. I am each being’s real self, the truth of all reality. This truth is immanent in all that is perceived: as that which is, unmixed with mere appearances attributed by sense and mind. This truth also transcends whatever is perceived: as that which knows, as unconditioned consciousness, the common, knowing principle from which all sense and mind arise. Thus seen ‘out there’ and found ‘in here’, truth is complete reality: from known everywhere, in everything"
"I am the sustenance consumed by all the world of changing things. Yet into me all changing things and all the world become consumed. From me, each of them issues forth, with all their ordered functioning. I am their deathless origin: their common, underlying source. Whoever freely gives of me, is only thus accepting me. I, who thus seem to be consumed, am just the unaffected ground where all consuming is consumed. Transcending all the changing world, I’m unconditioned, knowing light."
CHANDOGYA UPANISHAD (The universe is found on two principles, rita (order) and yajna (sacrifice)
"The Universe comes from Brahman, exists in Brahman, and will return to Brahman. Verily, all is Brahman."

"The Self, who can be realized by the pure in heart, who is life, light, truth, space, who gives rise to all works, all desires ... this is the Self dwelling in my heart."
"Our bodies, senses and our minds keep changing in a changing world. And so, whatever they perceive is by its nature changeable. But, as this change keeps going on, how is it known that things have changed? How can something be compared with what it was before it changed? Where variation is perceived, what is it that knows the change of passing states which come and go? It must be there before the change, to know the state that was before. And it must still be there when change has taken place, to know what has become of what was there before. Wherever there is variation, that which knows must carry on through changing states that come and go. Each state gives way to other states, but that which knows the change remains. This knowing principle remains unchanged, unvarying: through all the change and all the variations body, sense and mind perceive. Whatever is perceived must vary; that which knows is never changed."
"Reality is nothing else but consciousness, the real self that each of us calls “I”."
"All misery and want arise from incomplete experience, where self seems somehow incomplete from for want of something it desires. Ego claiming to be body lives in bondage to the world. Ego claiming to be mind lives in bondage to desire. All that mind and body do gets undone in course of time. When an object is desired, ego feels that self is lacking something to be found outside. Consciousness thus seems divided; mind appears, dissatisfied. But where reality and self are realized as only one; there incompleteness can’t arise, nor misery, nor want, nor death."
"With respect to the bodily sphere (atman), one should venerate: ‘Brahman is the mind’, and with respect to the divine sphere: ‘Brahman is the space’.

"You who know this Self here, the one common to all men..."
"Self is the continuity that lives unchanged through change; it is the bridge that joins all differences. And yet, it also is the basis of discrimination, by which different things are told apart."
"As a tethered bird grows tired of flying about in vain to find a place to rest and settles at last on its own perch, so the mind, tired of wandering about hither and tither, settles down at last in the self, dear one, to which is bound."  
KENA UPANISHAD (kena means "by whom", a sort of endless investigation)
"The Self is the ear of the ear, the eye of the eye, the mind of the mind, rising above the senses and the mind... renouncing separate existence, the wise realize the deathless Self."
"What motivates mind’s changing show of seeming objects, thoughts, desires? What makes the mind go out to things that seem to be outside itself? What sends the mind, in soaring flight, to search for freedom, happiness? From what does mind come down again, to earth: where joy seems always bound to pettiness and suffering? What joins together various acts – of body, sense and mind – to make each person’s individual life? From what does meaning come: into the things we do, the words we speak, the gestures that our bodies make? Those who are brave break free from world’s appearances, and realize that self is unmixed consciousness: beyond all seeming change and death."
"There is only one way to know the Self, and that is to realize it yourself."

"That which is the hearing behind the hearing, the thinking behind the thinking, the speech behind the speech, the sight behind the sight, the breathing behind the breathing. Freed completely from these, the wise become immortal, then they depart from this world. Sight does not reach there, neither does thinking or speech."
KATHA UPANISHAD (an encounter of Nachiketa i.e, "that which is unperceived," with death)*
"What one cannot express by speech, by which speech itself is expressed –learn that alone is Brahman."

"The whole created universe is made of living energy that moves and oscillates and shines. This boundless store of restless cosmic energy has terrible destructive power. It’s like an upraised thunderbolt: to petty ego’s fragile life, identified with little body, sense and mind."
"What’s true in here is true out there. What’s there, in truth, is also here. Truth is the same, both here and there. Wherever differences are seen, perceiving ego suffers change and thus goes on from death to death. But when mind turns back to its source, it knows itself as consciousness, unmixed with any other thing. And then it is quite evident that, though appearances differ, reality remains the same. from No difference is really there."
"For knowledge that agrees, I am. For knowing contrary, I am. I am the knowing principle that’s common to all different views and carries on through changing time: as differing perceptions join in unity of single truth; as differences are told apart, from thus knowing truth from falsity."
"When mind and senses cease to act, no seeming object can appear. Then, consciousness shines out alone, unmixed with those appearances that make it seem what it is not. This state of unmixed consciousness is said to be the highest state; and meditation is the art of holding mind and senses back to reach this state by act of will. Thus, turning will towards a state where all distractions are dissolved, attention turns to consciousness: which shines in all appearances, and shines alone when they dissolve. But when this state has passed away, appearances return again; and consciousness then seems obscured just as it seemed to be before. How can pure consciousness be known for what it is, unmoved, unchanged: no matter what distractions rise; no matter what is seen or heard, smelled, tasted, touched or thought or felt; no matter what seems to appear from to changing body, mind and sense?"
"Finer than the finest, larger than the largest is the self (atman) that lies hidden in the heart of the living being. Without desires and sorrows a man perceives by the creator’s grace the grandeur of the self."

"Higher than the sense is the mind. Higher than the mind is the essence. Higher than the essence is the immense self. Higher than the immense self is the unmanifest."
"The Self is ONE, ever still, the Self is swifter that thought..."

"The Self is everywhere. Bright is the Self. Indivisible, untouched by sin, wise, immanent and transcendent. He holds the cosmos together."

"The real self, in each of us, is stainless, undecaying, free from hunger, free from thirst, untroubled in the midst of grief. It has no thought nor wish, but truth. This is the self we cannot help but seek, the truth we seek to understand. Whoever sees and knows this self gains all the world, and finds the goal of all desires." "Where body’s world dissolves in dream and mind is free, the self shines there. It is the deathless, fearless absolute."
"Although not moving, the ONE is swifter than the mind, the gods cannot catch it, as it speeds on in front. Standing, it outpaces others who run. It moves, yet it does not move. It’s far away –yet it’s near at hand! It is within this whole world –yet, it’s also without the whole world."
SVETASVARA UPANISHAD (the Svetasvara is a paean of ecstasy to the self, the reality behind the gunas). What's the entanglement here? maya, i.e, appearance, the universe as neither real nor unreal.
"You are a woman, you are a man, you are a boy; also a girl. As an old man you totter along with a walking stick. As you’re born you turn your face in every direction. You are the dark blue bird, the green one with red eyes, the rain-cloud, the seasons, and the oceans. You live as one without a beginning because of your pervasiveness, you, whom all beings have been born."
 "The mind is harnessed to the senses like a chariot pulled along by untamed horses running wild. And it can only be controlled, held steady on an even course, by one who stands as consciousness: unexcited, undisturbed."
"Just as the energy of fire is latent in a piece of fuel; so too the subtle energies of life and mind are latent in gross forms of body, seen by sense as pieces of an outside world. And just as fuel may be set alight, by focused friction or by concentrated sparks or flame; so too the subtle powers of life and mind may be made manifest by meditative practices: which concentrate intensity within, thus setting flame to latent energies that are not noticed in the ordinary course of outward life in seeming world. These latent powers are called ‘divine’ when they are used to take the mind, beyond its usual limitations, to that principle of light where every limit disappears and all the powers of mind dissolve, in unconditioned consciousness."
"Behind all actions in the world are the perceptions they express. Behind perceptions of the world is the attention of the mind, which turns from one thing to the next. Behind the changing mind is this one living principle of truth: one unconditioned consciousness, which stays the same while mind is changed from one appearance to the next. This changeless principle of truth is always here, in each of us. It is the centre of all life, from which all seeming faculties of body, sense and mind arise. It has no needs, makes no demands; it never suffers want or lack; it does not ask for anything. And yet, spontaneously, unasked, all that is done is done for it."
"What cannot be seen, what cannot be grasped, without color, without sight or hearing, without hands or feet. What is eternal and all-pervading, extremely minute, presently everywhere. This is the immutable, which the wise fully perceive."

"Nor by sense, not by sight, nor by any other sense, nor by austerity or rite, is he grasped. Rather the partless one is seen by a man as he meditates when his being has become pure through the lucidity of knowledge."
*The sound Om! is the syllable of the supreme Brahman The Self, whose symbol is Om is the same as the omnipresent Brahman. Smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest, the Self is formless and all-pervading. The goal of the wise is to know this Self. The Self is like a rider; the horses are the senses, which he guides through the maze of desires. After death, it is the Self that remains; the Self is immortal. Mere reading of the scriptures or intellectual learning cannot realize Self. One must discriminate the self from the body, which is the seat of desire. Inability to realize Brahman results in one being enmeshed in the cycle of rebirths. Understanding the Self leads to moksha.