Friday, June 25, 2010

Now I really am off to Germany

I leave you with this link to a story on the Dalai Lama by Michael Parenti.

If you haven't read it you owe yourself to do so.  One might think after reading it  that if Robert Thurman entered a room in which Michael Parenti was present that Thurman would disintegrate. On history and politics, Parenti's at least as educationally pedigreed as Thurman...

OK, here's a snippet:

What happened to Tibet after the Chinese Communists moved into the country in 1951? The treaty of that year provided for ostensible self-governance under the Dalai Lama’s rule but gave China military control and exclusive right to conduct foreign relations. The Chinese were also granted a direct role in internal administration “to promote social reforms.” Among the earliest changes they wrought was to reduce usurious interest rates, and build a few hospitals and roads. At first, they moved slowly, relying mostly on persuasion in an attempt to effect reconstruction. No aristocratic or monastic property was confiscated, and feudal lords continued to reign over their hereditarily bound peasants. “Contrary to popular belief in the West,” claims one observer, the Chinese “took care to show respect for Tibetan culture and religion.”25
Over the centuries the Tibetan lords and lamas had seen Chinese come and go, and had enjoyed good relations with Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek and his reactionary Kuomintang rule in China.26 The approval of the Kuomintang government was needed to validate the choice of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. When the current 14th Dalai Lama was first installed in Lhasa, it was with an armed escort of Chinese troops and an attending Chinese minister, in accordance with centuries-old tradition. What upset the Tibetan lords and lamas in the early 1950s was that these latest Chinese were Communists. It would be only a matter of time, they feared, before the Communists started imposing their collectivist egalitarian schemes upon Tibet.
The issue was joined in 1956-57, when armed Tibetan bands ambushed convoys of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army. The uprising received extensive assistance from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including military training, support camps in Nepal, and numerous airlifts.27 Meanwhile in the United States, the American Society for a Free Asia, a CIA-financed front, energetically publicized the cause of Tibetan resistance, with the Dalai Lama’s eldest brother, Thubtan Norbu, playing an active role in that organization. The Dalai Lama's second-eldest brother, Gyalo Thondup, established an intelligence operation with the CIA as early as 1951. He later upgraded it into a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet.28
Many Tibetan commandos and agents whom the CIA dropped into the country were chiefs of aristocratic clans or the sons of chiefs. Ninety percent of them were never heard from again, according to a report from the CIA itself, meaning they were most likely captured and killed.29 “Many lamas and lay members of the elite and much of the Tibetan army joined the uprising, but in the main the populace did not, assuring its failure,” writes Hugh Deane.30 In their book on Tibet, Ginsburg and Mathos reach a similar conclusion: “As far as can be ascertained, the great bulk of the common people of Lhasa and of the adjoining countryside failed to join in the fighting against the Chinese both when it first began and as it progressed.”31 Eventually the resistance crumbled.

Whatever wrongs and new oppressions introduced by the Chinese after 1959, they did abolish slavery and the Tibetan serfdom system of unpaid labor. They eliminated the many crushing taxes, started work projects, and greatly reduced unemployment and beggary. They established secular schools, thereby breaking the educational monopoly of the monasteries. And they constructed running water and electrical systems in Lhasa.32 

Read the article; Parenti is no apologist for China by any means (and neither am I).  But given just this history, (and Parenti really doesn't go into the geographical, military, or other issues of China and Tibet here) it becomes quite easy to see why the average Chinese or even Tibetan might be a bit suspicious of claims that many people in Tibet want the Dalai Lama back as political head there.

They remember all the nasty stuff, I'd suspect.

Somebody on another blog had mentioned there are people that hold the Dalai Lama to a different standard than other people. Look, I think anyone involved with perpetrating institutions that produce effects even remotely like those produced by Roberto d'Aubuisson or Efrain Rios-Montt shouldn't be allowed near the governmental levers of power, OK?

Doesn't matter if they have impish smiles and say nice things to Buddhists.

(Sigh) That's not what is in the body of knowledge of quantum physics...

James Ure talks a bit about quantum physics and Buddhism.  I'd opined on this issue before.  To summarize: I do wish people had a better understanding of what science is. But here's a nice starting point:

Science only talks about what science talks about.

It doesn't go further. So when James Ure writes...

Work within quantum physics has shown what Buddhists have known for centuries upon centuries--That an observing mind is necessary before countless variables within the field of potentialities become tangible to the deluded mind, which does so by compartmentalizing them into a "form." which it promptly labels and categorizes. In other words, an orange is only an orange when our mind labels it as such but in reality it is nothing more than a collection of interactions between various particles and perceptions converging together in that moment of observation as an, "orange." When dissected through meditation it is found that the orange is made up of the sun, the minerals in the Earth, clouds that provide the water to grow, vitamins, chemicals interacting with the spectrum of light to give off what the limited human eye and mind perceive to be orange. And many innumerable things, which themselves can be broken down even further.

 I cringe slightly.  Here's why...

That an observing mind is necessary before countless variables within the field of potentialities become tangible to the deluded mind, which does so by compartmentalizing them into a "form" which it promptly labels and categorizes.

 This seems  to say - I'm not sure, but it seems to say that a detection or estimation device is necessary to detect or estimate, provided that this device is labeled as "mind," and the output of the detection/estimation device does so by putting the observables into equivalence classes (i.e., the space of observables is partitioned into disjoint subsets via some common property uniquely assigning each point in the space to a particular subset of the space in the equivalence class).

Now that language is slightly better suited for detectors (that which does hypothesis tests on a finite or countable space of alternatives) versus estimators (which do so on uncountably infinite spaces of alternatives).

But to be honest, in the language of detection and estimation theory, this is kinda sorta of a tautology.  Let's continue...

In other words, an orange is only an orange when our mind labels it as such but in reality it is nothing more than a collection of interactions between various particles and perceptions converging together in that moment of observation as an, "orange."
Our mind labels an orange an orange because our mind is in part a sub-optimally evolved meat-based classifier, and by convention, some people label some fruits oranges. But the "reality" of an orange is no more or less the fruit itself or no more or less the collection of particles in time and their relationships in time, space, and energy.

The orange is that collection of particles, and vice versa,  and in part because of this collection of particles and their relationships it is perceived as an orange.  The other parts of this situation have to do with the observer of the orange and the medium in which the orange is observed.

This has nothing at all to do with quantum physics, I'm afraid to say..

 When dissected through meditation it is found that...

 Better to say, "when dissected through observation and experiment  it is found that..." if you want to be spot on as to what any science teaches.  Observation and experiment are only meditation insofar as they are performed with a practice of mindfulness of that task as meditation; without some direction towards that end, it is just another task performed with a monkey-mind.  Yeah, at some level they are the same and different, etc., but to transcend monkey-mindedness, skill must be employed, and that's what separates mindful observation and experimentation that a Buddhist scientist or engineer might perform and the garden variety of observation and experimentation.  But perhaps I digress.

Buddhism can teach you many, many, many valuable things - things that will save your life for a more opportune time to die.

But to adhere to the idea that by studying and practicing Buddhism you'll "understand" quantum physics or detection and estimation theory is indicative to that Buddhism must be studied and practiced more.

Science and engineering do not do metaphysics. The question of whether or not a detector is "good," beyond whether it is optimal in the Neyman Pearson sense or some other criteria is only true insofar as the modeled space of observables is worth observing, and science and engineering are silent on these issues.  Yes, the emptiness of existence is completely consistent with science because science can't tell you the meta-criteria for which you should do things; that is in the province of philosophy from which science has not split off; i.e., metaphysics, ethics, morals, and so forth.  Buddhism as practice and philosophy actually straddles all of those realms and more, and completely permeates each of those realms.

But please dear readers, that is not even metaphorically like quantum physics, OK?  Pretty please?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Gift of Old Television

I'll have but light blogging for the next couple of days...I'll be leaving for Germany for business tomorrow.  I've a ridiculous number of loose ends to tie up.

Anyway, because it's never covered on Danny Fisher's blog, here's a gift of old television...Zen flavored, IMHO...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Possessions, accumulaton and capitalism: it's not just about not craving stuff

I saw the article on the Tricycle Blog, "Buddhism, Money, and the Recession:  Where to Invest?" and thought it was another column, perhaps, on moral investments that one can make.  I was incorrect...

Nevertheless, as I began working with the experience in my practice I realized that if I can’t let go of some pictures, music, and writings, then how can I possibly prepare for death?! Contemplating this I saw something much more important than anything I’d ever seen on my computer screen. (As for the computer itself, it only took about a month of hard work and thrifty living to replace it.)

When looking back at all this, I feel tremendously grateful to be a Buddhist, and to have been instructed on the dangers of attachment, material and otherwise. I have never invested in stock or property, but instead, in study and practice. For happiness, joy, comfort, and entertainment I look to loved ones and friends—or just the interesting and odd happenings of my neighborhood in Brooklyn, and not to ownership, consumption, or accumulation.

Now before I begin please don't think I'm criticizing the Tricycle blogger or the Tibetan Buddhist nun personally...but rather this is my response to the "stuff" post there, from a guy with my background.

Everyone in society has a form and function.  I make, statistically speaking, a pretty good salary; I'm in my peak earning years. My salary is not stratospheric, but it's not poverty level by any means.   I'm saving both for my "retirement" and my son's education.  There are algorithms for saving and investment; there are procedures, projections.  Given a certain amount of money at a certain amount of time, given spending rates, etc. there will be a result that gives how much will be available.   The algorithm is relatively fixed; at my age it's not something I think about all that much; the algorithm is in play.   I read the Big Picture blog and other economic news.

At work,   I have to act on behalf of all beings, and in the capacity of my particular job, that includes those on my project, my managers, my corporate patrons, my company's customers, and all people in the world. (Yes, we really do think that way.)   That cannot include abjuring all salary increases because it might!   That is because all the beings above have economic interests too, and if that doesn't look exactly like a zero sum game (i.e., let's put all the competitors out of business so  they starve!) it certainly does not mean that all the folks I work with should be poor either.  The famine relief workers need to be fed first. Of course, once fed, they better damn well relieve the famine!  But, unfortunately, a starving famine relief worker is as useless to relieving famine as one who is morbidly obese to the point of immobility.

I heard this Lama that is linked to in this blog post, and it's giving me the impression, of a person saying, "See how much I've got because I don't have anything compared to those other people?"

Understand what I'm saying?   If you've got responsibilities, it behooves you not to live as an ascetic. It would be irresponsible and egoistic to pretend to such things, and would be destructive to those around you.  The Buddhists, to their credit, leave this aspect of Siddhartha's life relatively intact.  Unless you have an existential trauma that compels you to leave family, friends and responsibilities, dammit, live up to  your family, friends, and responsibilities!

And if you are a monastic, don't think that in some way you've got something that other people don't.  

And if, by age, demographic, and economic circumstances, you make or don't make a certain amount of money,  it's not a virtue; its your age, demographic and economic circumstances!  If you are making what's appropriate to those circumstances, and they are effecting all beings well, very good.   But don't assume that a guy in a trailer or a mansion is fundamentally different.  Or even that he has more or less attachments.

Right livelihood is something else.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is violence part of natural selection?

I can see that a whole lot of folks might have issues with this, from creationists to "the earth is a being" people and "biocentrists." From the NY Times:

...Most days the male chimps [in Ngogo Ngogo, in Uganda’s Kibale National Park]  behave a lot like frat boys, making a lot of noise or beating each other up. But once every 10 to 14 days, they do something more adult and cooperative: they wage war....

When the enemy is encountered, the patrol’s reaction depends on its assessment of the opposing force. If they seem to be outnumbered, members of the patrol will break file and bolt back to home territory. But if a single chimp has wandered into their path, they will attack. Enemy males will be held down, then bitten and battered to death. Females are usually let go, but their babies will be eaten. 

These killings have a purpose, but one that did not emerge until after Ngogo chimps’ patrols had been tracked and cataloged for 10 years. The Ngogo group has about 150 chimps and is particularly large, about three times the usual size. And its size makes it unusually aggressive. Its males directed most of their patrols against a chimp group that lived in a region to the northeast of their territory...

 The objective of the 10-year campaign was clearly to capture territory, the researchers concluded. The Ngogo males could control more fruit trees, their females would have more to eat and so would reproduce faster, and the group would grow larger, stronger and more likely to survive. The chimps’ waging of war is thus “adaptive,” Dr. Mitani and his colleagues concluded, meaning that natural selection has wired the behavior into the chimps’ neural circuitry because it promotes their survival.

 This quite likely is true; natural selection is dumb,  and only maximizes simple objectives, i.e., propagation of genetic sequences.  In this way it is also amoral.  I  know there are all kinds of folks who want all kinds of woo superimposed on the algorithmic structure in which we came to be. I would include in this certain evolutionary biologists  who would want to deny the the stochastic - yes, random - reset buttons that occasionally it species, e.g. meteors crashing into  the earth and what -not, because it messes up their narrative with creationists.  (I never seem to get a response from them when I bring up this issue on their blogs...oh well.)

We do need to go against our evolutionary machinery  in order to survive, evidently.  That is our lot.

Since when did we become close relatives of mushrooms????

But we are.  We are...

(Click image for larger view.)

I had been taught, I distinctly remember, that amoebas and other protozoa were animals because they could move. But evidently mushrooms are closer to us on the tree of life. And mushrooms were plants. But evidently the multicellular nature of mushrooms and their chitin cell-walls makes them closer relatives, as well as their rRNA.

It's kind of cool I'm getting to the age when "all the stuff they taught us in school is wrong!"

But let's get back to Buddhism for a minute.

Here's a "Tree of Life," with groupings partitioned as per closeness of rRNA; other metrics could likely be employed as well (I'm thinking of a variation of Hamming Distance on DNA, e.g.).

Have I lost anyone yet? ☺

OK, well forget about the Hamming Distance, except to think of it as  a distance between life forms.

Doesn't given this tree make it seem a bit arbitrary to say it's OK to eat these things but not these?

As I say a bit often on this blog, when it comes to vegetarianism, one should look at the larger context of health and maximize all of life in this regard.

One thing I will never criticize the Dalai Lama or others for is whether they eat meat or not.

Acknowledgment: PZ Myers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nobody ever told me the cultural referants of my generation would be so abysmal

On the other hand, how can the news that law schools are adding a δ to every grade just because of the job market not remind me this bit from  This is Spinal Tap?

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven. 

The Dalai Lama on Violence and Dog Whistling

I think the man is out of touch when he starts to opine about what Japanese youth should do in light of Japan's economic stagnation, although more English skills being learned by Japanese can never hurt.

But in today's Guardian there's another article about the Dalai Lama, and a message from him in support of the UK's Armed Forces Day.

I have always admired those who are prepared to act in the defense of others for their courage and determination. In fact, it may surprise you to know that I think that monks and soldiers, sailors and airmen have more in common than at first meets the eye. Strict discipline is important to us all, we all wear a uniform and we rely on the companionship and support of our comrades.

Although the public may think that physical strength is what is most important, I believe that what makes a good soldier, sailor or airman, just as what makes a good monk, is inner strength. And inner strength depends on having a firm positive motivation. The difference lies in whether ultimately you want to ensure others’ well being or whether you want only wish to do them harm.

Naturally, there are some times when we need to take what on the surface appears to be harsh or tough action, but if our motivation is good our action is actually non-violent in nature. On the other hand if we use sweet words and gestures to deceive, exploit and take advantage of others, our conduct may appear agreeable, while we are actually engaged in quite unacceptable violence.  

 Mark Vernon in the Guardian writes:

The Dalai Lama has sent a message of support for Armed Forces Day, which is next Saturday. In it, he writes of his admiration for the military. That is perhaps not so surprising. As he explains, there are many parallels between being a monk and being a soldier – the need for discipline, companionship, and inner strength.
But his support will take some of his western admirers by surprise, not least when it comes to his thoughts on non-violence...

What the present Dalai Lama argues, in his message of support, is that violence and non-violence are not always what they seem. "Sweet words" can be violent, he explains, when they intend harm. Conversely, "harsh and tough action" can be non-violent when it aims at the wellbeing of others. In short, violence – "harsh and tough action" – can be attitudinally non-violent. So what should we make of that?

"What would not be a traditional Buddhist way of talking is to imply that violence is in fact non-violence, given the right motivation", explains Paul Williams, professor of Indian and Tibetan philosophy, University of Bristol. "This is certainly an interesting but perhaps extremely dangerous sentiment."...
But before rushing to too fast a conclusion, another factor must be borne in mind. The Dalai Lama quite routinely says different things to different audiences, an approach that is valued in Buddhism and is known as "skilful means". It is not a kind of duplicity. Rather, it aims to have the right word for the right time and context. The difficulty is that when his words ripple out across the internet, as they do, they are also ripped out of their original context. Skilfully interpreting the Dalai Lama then becomes very hard.

For example, when speaking in the west, he has drawn much from Gandhi's broadly Jain understanding of non-violence, "ahimsa". "Man lives freely by his readiness to die, if need be, at the hands of his brother, never by killing him", Gandhi wrote in All Men Are Brothers – effectively precluding killing. But such an approach would be odd amongst Tibetans, and the Dalai Lama would hardly be likely to advocate it amongst his fellows.

In fact, it is possible to get some sense of this greater sophistication by considering his life story. This is man who has lived with the reality of state violence from his youth, and who receives reports of it almost daily, now that he is old. He has previously argued that violence in Tibet is wrong, not on principled but pragmatic grounds, as it would have no chance of succeeding.

 When Mark Vernon writes about the Dalai Lama that "when speaking in the west, he has drawn much from Gandhi's broadly Jain understanding of non-violence,"  that's something we in America call dog whistling.  He's speaking to a select group of people, telling them what they want to hear.  Yet he's still the guy who, with a change of clothes and a change of culture would be in a mold somewhat like  a significantly less virulent form of Jefferson Davis, with differences of serfdom compared to  slavery, and with Han Chinese as the marginalized ethnic group. And yes, the Chinese Communist Party stands in for the Radical Republicans.   Once again, I have to say sorry folks, I'm an American and I don't like racism in any guise.

It's a recurring point on my blog that Americans who are "fans" of Tibetan Buddhism have heavily idealized beliefs about the Dalai Lama.  (I would not include all practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism as "fans" by any means - I think they're more sophisticated than that.)

Now I agree with the Dalai Lama's sentiments about the military;  but I also have to give a wag of the finger to him as he, himself, is one of the biggest culprits for presenting "teachings" as bromides that are "truisms trite enough to appear on a T-shirt."  But let's face it folks: the guy with the Twitter aphorisms who dog-whistles non-violence to the West is also not willing to take steps that would be real measures for reconciliation with China.   Don't believe me? He acts as  the titular head of a government in exile.   And here's one aspect Chinese positionAnd here's the most recent Chinese position.   Remember, China has for hundreds of years been recognized as the supreme governmental authority in Tibet, and Chinese heads of state have given authorization to various Tibetan Buddhist leaders, with authorizations as intermingled religious and political roles.  While I know many in the West wish to analogize this to India, or Vietnam, the reality is different.

Now truth be known, given where he is, he probably has to deal with the inherent conflicts between his role as Buddhist leader and his role as political leader, but I think he is really not being skillful in his execution of his political role as Buddhist.  And I wish he were.

Let's not place anyone on pedestals, and let's not place on pedestals our attachments to idealizations of people that don't exist and never did exist.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Also, please keep clicking on the woo-advertisers!

In that category I'd put Silva Life systems, "equisync" and "holosync" stuff when it happens, and any other woozy advertising you find.

I do contribute most of the money to a worthy cause...even though I haven't been paid yet by Google!

Let's talk about death! And Father's Day!

This week I attended the memorial service for someone in my company (I'll call him "J") who had died after a long illness; he had toughed it out for severl years, but finally, he went rather quickly.

Yesterday, my son - who espouses strong atheism, albeit at the age of  8 - asked me what happens to the mind after death.  My first answer was it really does not matter; nobody really knows, but we should live our lives as if every day were our last.  As I was speaking to him, my son -wisely for his age- pointed out that to be born meant one will indeed die, but still he had the question what happened to the mind?  I was reminded of some words written a while back by Jean Paul Sartre...

We were never more free than during the German occupation. We had lost all our rights, beginning with the right to talk. Every day we were insulted to our faces and had to take it in silence. Under one pretext or another, as workers, Jews, or political prisoners, we were deported en masse. Everywhere, on billboards, in the newspapers, on the screen, we encountered the revolting and insipid picture of ourselves that our oppressors wanted us to accept. And, because of all this, we were free. Because the Nazi venom seeped even into our thoughts, every accurate thought was a conquest. Because an all-powerful police tried to force us to hold our tongues, every word took on the value of a declaration of principles. Because we were hunted down, every one of our gestures had the weight of a solemn commitment. The circumstances, atrocious as they often were, finally made it possible for us to live, without pretense or false shame, the hectic and impossible
existence that is known as the lot of man. Exile, captivity, and especially death (which we usually shrink from facing at all in happier times) became for us the habitual objects of our concern. We learned that they were neither inevitable accidents, nor even constant and exterior dangers, but that they must be considered as our lot itself, our destiny, the profound source of our reality as men. At every instant we lived up to the full sense of this commonplace little phrase: “Man is mortal!” And the choice that each of us made of his life and of his being was an authentic choice because it was made face to face with death, because it could always have been expressed in these terms: “Rather death than…”
And here I am not speaking of the elite among us who were real Resistants, but of all Frenchmen who, at every hour of the night and day throughout four years, answered NO. But the very cruelty of the enemy drove us to the extremities of this condition by forcing us to ask ourselves questions that one never considers in time of peace. All those among us – and what Frenchman was not at one time or another in this situation who knew any details concerning the Resistance asked themselves anxiously, “If they torture me, shall I be able to keep silent?” Thus the basic question of liberty itself was posed, and we were brought to the verge of the deepest knowledge that man can have of himself. For the secret of a man is not his Oedipus complex or his inferiority complex: it is the limit of his
own liberty, his capacity for resisting torture and death.
To those who were engaged in underground activities, the conditions of their struggle afforded a new kind of experience. They did not fight openly like soldiers. In all circumstances they were alone. They were hunted down in solitude, arrested in solitude. It was completely forlorn and unbefriended that they held out against torture, alone and naked in the presence of torturers, clean-shaven, well-fed, and well-clothed, who laughed at their cringing flesh, and to whom an untroubled conscience and a boundless sense of social strength gave every appearance of being in the right. Alone. Without a friendly hand or a word of encouragement. Yet, in the depth of their solitude, it was the others that they were protecting, all the others, all their comrades in the Resistance. Total responsibility in total solitude – is this not the very definition of our liberty?

I don't think I quite answered his question, despite these a few of these  beautiful words appearing in my head.  (I quoted more than is relevant here, simply because it's generally hard to find the extension of this famous quote of his elsewhere.) 

Of course death is like this torturer, and also to a certain extent Sartre, like many of his comrades experienced a certain psychological effect as a result of these experiences.  
Mumon in his commentary on Joshu's Mu ( 無) relates that on penetrating 無 one will be "free in his way of birth and death" according to the translation by Paul Reps.

Hakuin, in writing to a Nichiren nun spoke of his relatively shallow first experiences of what he thought was his  awakening:

In a loud voice I called: "Wonderful, wonderful. There is no cycle of birth and death through which one must pass. There is no enlightenment one must seek. The seventeen hundred koans handed down from the past have not the slightest value whatsoever." My pride soared up like a majestic mountain, my arrogance surged forward like the tide. Smugly I thought to myself: "In the past two or three hundred years no one could have accomplished such a marvelous breakthrough as this."
Shouldering my glorious enlightenment, I set out at once for Shinano. Calling on Master Shoju, I told of my experience and presented him with a verse. The Master, holding my verse up in his left hand, said to me: "This verse is what you have learned from study. Now show me what your intuition has to say," and he held out his right hand.
I replied: "If there were something intuitive that I could show you, I'd vomit it out," and I made a gagging sound.
The Master said: "How do you understand Chao-chou's Mu?"
I replied: "What sort of place does Mu have that one can attach arms and legs to it?"
The Master twisted my nose with his fingers and said: "Here's someplace to attach arms and legs." I was nonplussed and the Master gave a hearty laugh. "You poor hole-dwelling devil!" he cried. I paid him no attention and he continued: "Do you think somehow that you have sufficient understanding?"
I answered: "What do you think is missing?"
Then the Master began to discuss the koan that tells of Nan-ch'uan's death. I clapped my hands over my ears and started out of the room. The Master called after me, "Hey, monk!" and when I turned to him he added: "You poor hole-dwelling devil!" From then on, almost every time he saw me, the Master called me a "poor hole-dwelling devil."
One evening the Master lay cooling himself on the veranda. Again I brought him a verse I had written. "Delusions and fancies," the Master said. I shouted his words back at him in a loud voice, whereupon the Master seized me and rained twenty or thrity blows with his fists on me, and then pushed me off the veranda.
This was on the fourth day of the fifth month after a long spell of rain. I lay stretched out in the mud as though dead, scarcely breathing and almost unconscious. I could not move; meanwhile the Master sat on the veranda roaring with laughter. After a short while I regained consciousness, got up, and bowed to the Master. My body was bathed in perspiration. The Master called out to me in a loud voice: "You poor hole-dwelling devil!"
After I devoted myself to an intense study of the koan on the death of Nan-ch'uan, not pausing to sleep or eat. One day I had an awakening and went to the Master's room to test my understanding, but he would not approve it. All he did was call me a "poor hole-dwelling devil."
Later on in that same writing, if my memory and the website I've quoted are correct, Hakuin says about the death of Nan-ch'uan:

If you wish to test the validity of your own powers, you must first study the koan on the death of Nan-ch'uan.
A long time ago San-sheng had the head monk Hsiu go to the Zen Master Tsen of Ch'ang-sha and ask him: "What happened to Nan-ch'uan after he passes away?"
Ch'ang-sha replied: "When Shih-t'ou became a novice monk he was seen by the Sixth Patriarch."
Hsiu replied: "I didn't ask you about when Shih-t'ou became a novice monk; I asked you what happened to Nan-ch'uan after he passed away."
Ch'ang-sha replied: "If I were you I would let Nan-ch'uan worry about it himself."
Hsiu replied: "Even though you had a thousand-foot winter pine, there is no bamboo shoot to rise above its branches."
Ch'ang had nothing to say. Hsiu returned and told the story of his conversation to San-sheng. San-sheng unconsciously stuck out his tongue [in surprise] and said: "He has surpassed Lin-chi by seven paces."
If you are able to understand and make clear these words, then I will acknowledge that you have a certain degree of responsiveness to the teachings. Why is this so? If you speak to yourself while no one is around, you behave as meanly as a rat. What can anyone possibly prove [about your understanding]?

I remember at the age of nine how shocked I was at my grandmother's death; and the way in which my parents had handled it didn't exactly soften the blow for me, although they (obviously in retrospect) had bigger fish to fry mentally at the time.

My father died in 2001; he did get a chance to see my son before he died; today is Father's Day. 

I feel very much at peace with all that; and in the service for the man from my company who died, I was amazed at how the narrative still revolves around, "Death's no problem for us because of Jesus."  I was sad because so many many many alternate possibilities for peaceful, harmonious reconciliation with the notion of death were excluded, as was, in my view, an inability even to conceive of such alternates.

One alternate might be seen in the myriad of possibilities of the answers to questions from my son.   Perhaps my answer - a bit from Sartre, a bit from Suzuki Shosan -  was also in the direction of the koan on the death of Nan-ch'uan. (Perhaps not.)

In something Douglas R. Hofstadter wrote he pointed out the issues arising from consciousness  - I think that was the area of intent of my son's question.  If a computer were sentient, could we know it? (Probably not - we can't even tell if anybody else besides us is sentient. Yes we take that "on faith" and yes, the subjective and objective spheres retain their character of subjectivity and objectivity despite their interdependent origination. )  So even if a smarty pants computer comes along, it wouldn't matter to us.

I did tell my son, "nobody really knows" what happens after you die, but I also did mention  that the idea that consciousness or awareness is irretrievably lost in death does not seem to be the case either.  It is manifestly obvious to me that the effects of those I have known and have died still hurtle forward in this world; where do these effects end and "their" consciousness begin?  Yeah, OK, if we're talking only about the meat computer between the ears, and its electrochemical phenomena,  it does the way of all meat.  But I don't think awareness actually is subsumed by that totality; it simply does not appear to be the case when I think about that spinning wheel.

I remember my father.  I remember J. Neither of them talked much about death, especially in the last months of their lives, and to the extent that such issues did come up, it was realistically expressed, at least in my father's case.  

I'd like to say I miss my father, but I feel  he's still here, regardless of whatever  happened to his consciousness.  I'm sure he's dealing with it fine.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 3, Section LXXV

I'm using the usual translation....and as usual, I'm not authorized to say a word by a teacher;  my words and comments  are mine.

One thing strikes me in reading this;  the Buddhist doctrines of non-duality are clearly in no way  nihilism - that too is a form of discrimination, and falls far short of the fact that t myriad ways in which non-duality presents itself and can be expressed  is asserted  by the Buddha.

To the text...the Fully Enlightened One is neither made nor unmade, neither an effect nor a cause, because if any of these were the cases, the error of dualism would here be committed. 

That which is neither an effect nor a cause, Mahamati, is neither a being nor a non-being; and that which is neither a being nor a non-being is outside the four propositions. The four propositions, Mahamati, belong to worldly usage. That which is outside the four propositions is no more than a word, like a barren woman's child. Mahamati, a barren woman's child is a mere word and is beyond the four propositions [oneness and otherness, bothness and not-bothness, being and non-being, eternity and non-eternity]. As it is beyond them, the wise know it to be not subject to measurement. So is the meaning of all the terms concerning the Tathagata to be understood by the wise.
This text here is folding back on itself; in a sense, but I think in the "standard" or straightforward sense it is simply saying the Tathagata is not comparable via terms like being,  non-being, or effect and cause or neither.

It is folding back on itself because "beyond" is a  term of comparison.

The next points that are made concern the idea of "self-nature" and the relationship of the Tathagata to the five aggregates.  As these points are often discussed in highly abbreviated form (and in my reading some folks pronouncements of the notions of self/non-self in Buddhism diverge from my reading of the intent here) I will quote this in full:
It is told by me that all things are egoless; by this is meant, Mahamati, that they are devoid of selfhood; hence this egolessness. What I mean is that all things have each its own individuality which does not belong to another, as in the case of a cow and a horse. For example, Mahamati, the being of a cow is not of horse-nature, nor is the being of a horse of cow-nature. This [exemplifies] the case of neither being nor non-being. Each of them is not without its own individuality, each is such as it is by its own nature. In the same way, Mahamati, things are not each without its own individuality, they are such as they are, and thus the ignorant and simple-minded fail to understand the signification of egolessness by reason of their discrimination; indeed, they are not free from discrimination. The same is to be known exactly about all things being empty, unborn, and without self-nature.
In the same way the Tathagata and the Skandhas are neither not-different nor different. If he is not different from the Skandhas, he is impermanent as  the Skandhas are something made. If they are different, they are two separate entities; the case is like a cow's horns. As they look alike, they are not different; as the one is short and the other long, they are different. [This can be said] of all things. Mahamati, the right horn of a cow is thus different from her left horn; so is the left from the right; the one is longer or shorter than the other. The same can be said of varieties of colours. Thus the Tathagata and the Skandhas are neither different nor not-different the one from the other.

So the idea of anatman does not exclude the obvious differences found in various existences, and although no doubt cynics might say that the logical constructions here are done to provide the only consistent way out of a paradox where you don't have either a  spirit world apart from the everyday world or a completely "known" universe (I won't use the term "naturalistic," as I think that the idea that "all that is worth existing is what we  can observe" doesn't stand up to history; that is, there's been myriads of stuff we didn't know existed because we didn't observe it, and there are  rationally admissible ways of talking about the non-observable.)

But I don't like the cynical view that this is merely an escape clause out of a messy paradox; rather, to me it apprehends the way we experience the world.  Or at least the way I experience the world.  Perhaps your mileage varies.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A "better way to believe in God?"

As a Buddhist, there is some overlap with what Jay Michaelson says on this post, and some Mahayana Buddhist notions.  But, - I'm reminded of a comment I made on Barbara's blog about religion and New atheists - I would say strongly that this god is not the god of monotheistic religions by any stretch of the imagination, and as somewhere in one of Kapleau's books said, it does a  nearly sacrilegious disservice to refer to Michaelson's idea of a deity as the same thing as the gods of these religions.
That's why, out of respect to them, and out of clarity I would say that this god is in no way the god of Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

I do have to teach...

Someday it would be nice for me to actually lead some kind of group doing Buddhism, but naturally I have no authority nor do I have the requisite experience at this time.

However, I have found increasingly I do have to teach somewhat - teaching non-teaching, you know - in the course of my work.

Getting people to "listen with their dāntián" is about the only way I can get my folks to actually, truly listen to each other rather than listen to their opinions about each other.

So I think I will be teaching as I am forced into that role; there is simply no other way sometimes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Buddhist blogs, Blogisattva awards, and What Makes You Think I Can Tell You Anything Abut Buddhism?!?

As everyone in the eclectically self-selected world in the Western Buddhist blogsosphere knows, the Blogisattva awards have been resuscitated.  The award categories are:

Blog of the year, Svaha!

Best Post of the Year

Best Achievement in Skilled Writing

Best Achievement Blogging on Buddhist Practice or Dharma

Best Buddhist Practice Blog

Best "Life" Blog 

Best Blogging on Matters Philosophical, Psychological or Scientific

Best Achievement in Kind and Compassionate Blogging

Best Achievement Blogging Opinion Pieces or about Political Issues

Best Engage-the-World Blog 

Best Achievement in Design

Best Achievement in Wide Range of Topic Interests Blogging 

Best Achievement with Humor in a Blog Post
And in thinking about who I would nominate for these posts, I am thinking about the history of this blog, about blogging in general, Buddhist blogging (whatever that is - I still am not quite sure what that is), blogging as Buddhist practice, etc.
What is a good Buddhist blog or blog post?  If I were to post a bit about PowerPoint Edward Tufte,  would you realize that was a Buddhist blog post? I think it would be, but you might not think so.   I had first blogged on this blog July 26th 2004, and at that time this blog was largely a political blog that happened to be written by a Buddhist.  I was very concerned  -and still am today - about the situation in our country, where there is a great over-weighting of conservative ideation, including such ideation in religious matters.   (Google "Institute for Religion and Democracy" as an example.)  Almost all the posts from 2004 are political in nature (at one time the original Firedoglake blog linked to this blog), but as I had more time and blogging experience I realized that there are others that care more and do more on this than I could, and besides, there's a lot to blog about where I am.

But it was always a Buddhist blogging.  Or so I think.   Even back in 2006  I was a Buddhist criticizing PowerPoint.   Round about 2007 this blog started getting more "Buddhist" in the sense that this blog had more posts specifically about Buddhism,  Buddhist blogs, etc.

I was still a Buddhist blogging.  Or so I think.  

I like the way this blog has evolved.  But... were any of these posts good Buddhist blog posts? 

How should I know?

And what of other bloggers?

Some of them - some quite better at writing blog posts that capture thinking -than this  racket here -  have been practicing Buddhism for a shorter period of time than I've been blogging.  Good for them.

I've been thankful to have seen many of these bloggers' works, even if sometimes their take on Buddhism is provincial enough to make me bury my head in my hands *.  From others, I've learned a great deal, even if their work sometimes comes across as synthetic versions of Shunryu Suzuki,  D.T. Suzuki or Taizan Maezumi.  

And yes, I've been shocked to find that there are folks that take Ken Wilber seriously.

Is it all good Buddhist blogging? Is any of it good Buddhist blogging? Is any of it in particular good Buddhist blogging?

I suppose if it furthers the objectives of Buddhism one could call it that.   But just as in the early days of this blog I think  in terms of tthose objectives my blog fell terribly short of those goals, I think everyone in the Buddhist blogosphere falls short too. (And I continue to do so myself.)  None of us are authorized by anyone to have the "definitive" versions of Buddhism, whether it's Norman Fischer, Brad Warner, or any of the other guys with seals of approval.

None of us are anointed by anyone to opine on Buddhist-Political issues any more than any other.

None of us are authorized to tell you, dear reader, wherever you are, how you should practice Buddhism, or whether you should even practice Buddhism at all!

I read some of the bloggers of whom I find a great deal of lack of exposure of the world of Buddhism to which I've been exposed, and wonder from time to time, what makes you think they can tell you anything about Buddhism? 

What makes you think could tell you anything about Buddhism?  
What makes you think that anything I, or anyone else says is Buddhism?

In a world with Dennis Genpo Merzel, what makes you think I'm giving you a counterpoint to that?

The world is vast and wide, why do you put on your robe at the sound of the bell?

Yeah, yeah, they're Yun-Men's words, why should you listen to that dead guy?
* Of course my own work is just as provincial; I've only been to where I've been physically mentally, and practice-wise.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rinzai Tradition Zazen is a Physical Practice

In my previous post, I mentioned that there is a deep tradition of physical practice in zazen in the Rinzai tradition.  Here I justify the point I made.

In Philip Yampolsky's translation of Hakuin's Orategama Ihe writes (bottom of page 41 at the link, click to enlarge - it's the only way I could figure out to excerpt this!):

In effect what Hakuin describes here, and in following pages, is a breath practice to be used in accordance with one's meditation practice (which in Hakuin's case invariably means koan  practice).  The koan is kept and stoked  in the dāntiánThis is quite distinct to Hakuin, and I haven't found correlates in the Soto writings, whether it's Dogen or Suzuki or Loori or even that Brad Warner guy.  There are other variations of this as well in the books linked here.  In Wild Ivy there is a reproduction of a 書道 that Hakuin did that practically screams his endorsement of the efficacy of this method.

The use of this type of practice continues today.  Yamada Mumon Zenji has been translated as saying:

In his autobiography, Kodo Sawaki Roshi relates a humorous experience which happened in his youth at his master's temple. One day all the disciples left the temple except the young monk, Kodo. Having nothing to do he entered a small closet and practiced zazen. At that time the elderly maid of the temple came to the closet, opened the door and was so surprised to see him there, meditating, that she began to bow deeply again and again. Kodo thus realized how noble the zazen posture must appear. Zazen posture, having dignity, is Buddha himself.
(To practice zazen) we must sit in a cross-legged posture (lotus posture). The Chinese word, kekka fuza, literally means folding the legs showing the soles of the feet. First of all, put the right foot on the left groin (the root of the thigh), then the left foot on the right groin so that both legs are crossed tightly. This is called kekka fuza which is a perfectly immovable posture. This position, however, is rather hard to maintain for the beginner because it may cause cramps. In such cases, hanka fuza is allowed. This is only a half-crossed legged posture. Either leg can be put on the other. The posture in which left foot is placed on the right thigh is called kissho-za and the opposite is called goma-za.
After the legs have been fixed, put the right hand on the crossed legs and the left hand on the right palm, making a small round circle with the thumbs barely touching each other. Next, raise the body quietly and move it forward and backward, to left and right several times to fix the central axis of the body. Then sit upright, extending the backbone as much as possible. Our teachers compare this to the bamboo that is so straight that a stone dropped from the top of it reaches the bottom without any interruption.
The perfect posture of zazen creates an isosceles triangle with legs and backbone forming a ninety degree angle. We have to be very careful not to bend too far forward nor too far backward. In this way the zazen posture should resemble a stupa by piling up hip bone, backbone and skull, one on top of the other.
In India after the Buddha's death, eight stu-pa (or pagoda) were built in eight districts to be worshipped as symbols of the Buddha.... In Burma and Thailand the pagoda is considered to be most holy. In China and Japan there are many outstanding pagodas made of wood, stone and marble of three or five stories. When we investigate the framework of the five-story pagoda, we are surprised to discover its layered structure balances by hanging from a central axis from the top of the pagoda instead of being built up from a stone base. For this reason these pagodas have stood a thousand years in countries of frequent typhoons and earthquakes. Our human life should be like that. If we are free from all disturbance from the outer world and the inner world, we might remain apart from all attachments, progress to the world of Nirvana, and grasp eternal life. This is zazen.
Zazen requires a correct and orderly posture, yet it should not be too strained. It is not recommended to throw the head so far back that others feel uncomfortable. Since it is said "Zazen is the dharma teaching of comfort", it should be done in a totally relaxed and comfortable position. However one must make the body erect by straightening the backbone directly upward. Ears and shoulders should be parallel, nose and navel also. But it would be almost impossible to keep nose and navel in one line unless one's abdomen is extended outward as much as possible. "The tongue should touch the upper jaw." The author of the text is very careful even about small parts of the body. It is true that every part of the body should be correctly positioned, otherwise correct zazen cannot be done. Lips and teeth should be closed. Eyes should remain slightly open so that an area only three feet ahead can be seen. People might suppose that with the eyes closed, one could reach calmness more easily ; however, that is mistaken. Closing our eyes, our mind fills with illusions, and we might easily fall asleep. The patriarch, taught us to open our eyes as much as possible in zazen just as the picture of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, shows us. We have never seen a picture of Bodhidharma with his eyes closed. Even though visual distractions occur, you should always be free from them, letting them go as they arise. If you become accustomed to zazen with your eyes closed, zazen will be ineffective when your eyes are opened, especially in busy places. On the contrary, if you train your samadhi power throug11 open-eyed zazen, wherever you are, you will not lose your power of meditation.
The author of the text warns not to think that practicing zazen in a dark place where nothing is seen or heard is relaxing. This dark place is not the area of the awakened at all. It is in the midst of the ignorant. You cannot achieve real kensho (seeing the Buddha nature) unless you break through this dark place. "Deep significance lies here. Only a man of attainment would know it."

Concerning the breath, there are four ways of meditation explained in the Tendai texts. They are fu, zen, ki, soku. Fu implies snorting breath. This is not good. Zen means purring breath which is also not good. Ki means disordered breath, sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow. Lastly, soku means the most perfect breath which is continuous and quiet as if it were faint breath. We have to shape our breathing into such long deep breaths. The ancients made a strenuous effort to practice such breathing. Some of them even placed feathers on their noses while meditating. For correct breathing : exhaling, pull in your abdomen; when you've exhaled all your air completely, you will naturally inhale; air will flow in and your abdomen will expand. While exhaling, include the counting of your breaths. Continue this ring of consciousness, repeating the counting without any pause at all. If a pause occurs at this time, illusions and mirages will come into your zazen at once. If even one illusion is raised, cut it immediately with your concentrated breathing.
With the physical posture and breath controlled, start zazen in a relaxed way by naturally concentrating your strength in your abdomen. We must now control the mind or, as the text states it, "Think not of good and evil." It is, however, unimaginably difficult to control the mind. The Buddha said, "The mind is like a venomous serpent, a wild animal, or a sworn enemy." You might think that while sitting in such quiet circumstances nothing arises to disturb the mind, but it is not so. The quieter the circumstances become, the more disordered the mind may grow. Many things may appear, one after the other. Even the great Hakuin Zenji confessed that while he was doing zazen, he remembered such a small event as the lending of a few bowls of rice and beans many years before to the next door neighbor. It is strange that we remember the things we do not usually even consider. In the meditation hall only the sound of the bell and wooden clappers enter through our senses, but many things arise in the mind to be considered. We come to realize how much man thinks about the unnecessary ; how corrupted man's mind is. Our mind is polluted like a muddy ditch from which marsh gas constantly springs. We cannot imagine what will appear or spring up. Buddhism calls this dirt encrusted mind alaya, which means an accumulation of subconscious images. To cut away this mass of delusion with the sword of prajna-wisdom, so that we may discover the bright mind of the real self, is called the controlling of mind.
As the text says, we should not think good or evil, advantage or disadvantage, love or hate. This no mind state where nothing exists is the correct posture of the mind. Dogen Zenji says, "Don't think anything." He recommends controlling the mind, pointing to the real self which is the mind of nonthinking. Since illusion and delusion, like mist, have no substance, they will disappear if we do not focus on them. In Zen Buddhism we also throw away all illusions by concentrating our mind on the problem the koan suggests. Therefore, the text says, "Be aware of illusions, then they will disappear." Cut all illusions. Concentrate your whole mind on the koan, day and night, without any dualistic consciousness. Then, naturally, the inward and outer worlds, self and universe, subject and object, become one. In due time, the event we have sought is realized, yet it cannot be explained. At that moment we experience the inexpressible comfort of spiritual freedom, and the unique flavor of zazen springs up from the deep.
This experience is not yet satori-awakening ; it is not yet "seeing one's true nature" or "becoming Buddha." In the Mumonkan an old Zen text called the "Gateless Gate," it is said,
Once breaking through [the mass of great doubt] as if with the sword of General Kwan, one gains the great freedom at the juncture of life and death to kill the Buddha when he meets him, to kill the Patriarch when he meets the Patriarch and so receives the freedom of enjoying the situation wherever he may stand.
> We must have such a breakthrough experience where we realize real subjectivity and real freedom. There man becomes the master of the world and there evolves his life of negating and creating freely.

 Clearly there is a lot going on here, not the least of which has to do with careful regulation of the breath; if breathing is done this way the ki ( 気) will naturally be kept as Hakuin mentioned.  There's a lot more going on here than was mentioned, as I said, in the Soto literature I've read.

I'd love to hear some feedback from Soto folks on this; in my experience, this method really does focus the mind and energy and (along with understanding of how and where thoughts arise and descend) puts the mind-body into samadhi like nothing else I've practiced.

Zazen as a Physical Practice in the Rinzai Tradition

I figured that rather go into the "gentle dissuasion" that I was met with on my first visits to Rinzai Zendos (both in NY and in the Pacific Northwest) and its relative benefits, I think a more important point that needs a response here is this:

So much of Zen is practicing with the body. Zazen, shikantaza especially, is body practice, not brain practice.

The response I would have is that in my experience, in the White Plum Asanga tradition there really isn't the same kind of physical practice that there is in the Rinzai tradition; it seems to be  one of those things that got lost in the mix when the Yasutani folks mixed Soto and Rinzai.  To say that there is "especially" physical practice in the Soto tradition is basically I would submit  might possibly be due to an unfamiliarity of the tradition in the Rinzai school.

I don't have time to go into it now, but there is actually a very different kind of physical practice in the Rinzai tradition relative to the Soto tradition; it's not empahsized less relative to the Soto school at all, in my experience.  Part of it involves how to work with the hua t’ou; and the fact that koan practice is the furthest thing there is from intellection. Another  major part of this physical practice is using the breath in a way that simply isn't taught in the Soto school; it comes in large measure from Hakuin himself.  

I'll go into this more in an upcoming post.

Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 3, Section LXXIV

I'm using the usual translation....and as usual, I'm not authorized to say a word by a teacher;  my words and comments  are purely mine.

This chapter can pretty much be summarized as:

All ... views of Nirvana severally advanced by the philosophers with their reasonings are not in accord with logic, nor are they acceptable to the wise. Mahamati, they all conceive Nirvana dualistically and in a causal connection. By these discriminations, Mahamati, all philosophers imagine Nirvana, but there is nothing rising, nothing disappearing here, -[and there is no room for discrimination.] Mahamati, each philosopher relying on his own text-book from which he draws his understanding and intelligence, examines [the subject] and sins against [the truth], because [the truth] is not such as is imagined by him; [his reasoning] ends in setting the mind to wandering about and becoming confused, as Nirvana is not to be found anywhere.

... Mahamati, there are others who, roaring with their all-knowledge as a lion roars, explain Nirvana in the following wise: that is, Nirvana is where it is recognised that there is nothing but what is seen of the Mind itself; where there is no attachment to external objects, existent or nonexistent; where, getting rid of the four propositions [oneness and otherness, bothness and not-bothness, being and non-being, eternity and non-eternity], there is an insight into the abode of reality as it is; where, recognising the nature of the Self-mind, one does not cherish the dualism of discrimination; where grasped and grasping are no more obtainable; where all logical measures are not seized upon as it is realised that they never assert themselves; where the idea of truth is not adhered to but treated with indifference because of its causing a bewilderment; where, by the attainment of the exalted Dharma which lies within the inmost recesses of one's being, the two forms of egolessness are recognised, the two forms of passions subsided, and the two kinds of hindrance cleared away; where the stages of Bodhisattvahood are passed one after another until the stage of Tathagatahood is attained, in which all the Samadhis beginning with the Mayopama (Maya-like) are realised, and the Citta, Manas, and Manovijnana are put away...

So Nirvana, in the Lankavatara, is intimately bound up in the awareness of non-discrimination

Monday, June 14, 2010

May I be so impudent as to ask whether or not this rosy future of transcendance of our biolgy might also apply to child laborers making bricks in the developing world?

At that point, the Singularity holds, human beings and machines will so effortlessly and elegantly merge that poor health, the ravages of old age and even death itself will all be things of the past.

Some of Silicon Valley’s smartest and wealthiest people have embraced the Singularity. They believe that technology may be the only way to solve the world’s ills, while also allowing people to seize control of the evolutionary process. For those who haven’t noticed, the Valley’s most-celebrated company — Google — works daily on building a giant brain that harnesses the thinking power of humans in order to surpass the thinking power of humans.

Larry Page, Google’s other co-founder, helped set up Singularity University in 2008, and the company has supported it with more than $250,000 in donations. Some of Google’s earliest employees are, thanks to personal donations of $100,000 each, among the university’s “founding circle.” (Mr. Page did not respond to interview requests.)...

On a more millennialist and provocative note, the Singularity also offers a modern-day, quasi-religious answer to the Fountain of Youth by affirming the notion that, yes indeed, humans — or at least something derived from them — can have it all.

“We will transcend all of the limitations of our biology,” says Raymond Kurzweil, the inventor and businessman who is the Singularity’s most ubiquitous spokesman and boasts that he intends to live for hundreds of years and resurrect the dead, including his own father. “That is what it means to be human — to extend who we are.” 

Good for the Times, I think they get my point:
“The Singularity is not the great vision for society that Lenin had or Milton Friedman might have,” says Andrew Orlowski, a British journalist who has written extensively on techno-utopianism. “It is rich people building a lifeboat and getting off the ship.”