Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Constantly marvel in wonder at the ordinariness of it all!


Constantly marvel in wonder at the ordinariness of it all!

(a reader at posts the following):

So OK, I am one with the Kosmos; what next?

Dear fellow-practitioners,

This is difficult for me to put into words; please have compassion. Perhaps every Zen practitioner has realized that he or she is inseparably part of a cosmic whole in which everything is connected with everything else; and that the words "part of" do not mean very much in this context.

But still, this piece of cosmos known as 'I' has to negotiate its practical existence, and that is as difficult as it ever was. The fruit of fearlessness has not yet come my way.

For all its apparent intellectual detachment, this problem seems real to me and troubles me a great deal; can any of you help? I would be grateful.

A lotus to you all,

(my reply):

Excellent post! Excellent title! Excellent question.

Several useful sayings and anecdotes come to mind.

I am trying to remember one Zen saying which more or less says,

"Before Enlightenment , trees are trees and mountains are mountains.

When Enlightenment comes, trees are not trees and mountains are not mountains.

After Enlightenment, trees are again trees and mountains are again mountains."

Before "enlightenment" or "grace" we live in an ordinary world which is sometimes rather uncomfortable and unpleasant, if not down right humiliating. Every day we are constantly forced to perform repetitive, boring, and even disgusting tasks such as moving our bowels, cleaning our bodies and clothing, cooking our food, washing our dishes, dressing, undressing, going to sleep, waking up, and dealing with sexual urges. Even Jesus had to deal with bowel movements for he says: Matthew 15:17 Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught (sewer)?"

A human form is very noble and inspiring when seated in the lotus meditative posture, like a Buddha or a Mahavaira, or when the human form is hanging on the cross, crucified for the sake of all humanity. But the human form is not very noble or inspiring when it is seated on the toilet, or when it is on its knees scrubbing the kitchen floor.

It is very helpful to realize that THE VERY DESIRE FOR LIBERATION (enlightenment, salvation).... THAT VERY DESIRE ITSELF, is an impediment, an obstacle to Liberation and Moksha and Salvation. Even the Christian scriptures say, Mark 8:35: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it". All desire is a form of bondage, an attachment, and a source of suffering, even seemingly pious and virtuous desires, such as the desire for enlightenment or liberation or salvation or moksha. Even the desire to HAVE NO DESIRE (to be dispassionate) is a form of passion. It is ironic that the Crucifixion of Christ is also called "The Passion".

I realize that you are asking your question in the context of Zen Buddhism and not Christianity, but let us examine your question in the light of some interesting verses in the New Testament, and I hope to make several interesting points.

In John 1:26, "John the Baptist answered them, saying, ..... there standeth one among you, whom ye know not." Of course, John the Baptist was referring to Jesus, who was only one of many in the crowd that day, and not even the sort of person who would stand out in the crowd. Christians are not surprised that this Jesus is so plain, ordinary and unremarkable. We see in Isaiah 53:2 "he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him".

Basically, what all this is saying is that Jesus was no movie star. He was an ordinary person who lived in an ordinary room, ate, slept, and wore ordinary clothes (just like you and me and everyone else). Of course, Andrew and Peter are quite astounded when they suspect that this one ordinary person in the crowd is the one person whom all the Prophets predicted as the "Messiah". In John 1:29, John the Baptist point out Jesus from the crowds by saying, "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."

Naturally, John's two apostles, Andrew and Peter, are curious and intrigued. We read (John 1:37) "And the two disciples (Andrew and Peter) heard him (John the Babtist) speak (calling Jesus the 'Lamb of God'), and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour." Andrew and Peter are astounded and perplexed by the ordinariness which they behold. How can some ordinary person who lives in poor circumstances be "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world"? We might even imagine Andrew and Peter in these verses, standing in Jesus humble home, mouth agape, looking about at the bed, the table, the chair, MARVELING IN WONDER AT THE ORDINARINESS OF IT ALL!

Stop and think for a moment. If YOU could reach that point in YOUR spiritual life where at EVERY WAKING MOMENT, you were CONSTANTLY MARVELLING IN WONDER at the ordinariness of everything, what would you have achieved? What would your spiritual state be called? Would you be happy or sad in such a state?

Another "ordinary figure" in religious scriptures is Krishna. Just like Jesus, Krishna is described as a physical individual with a body, pastimes and enjoyments, friends and relatives, and yet in spite of this "ordinariness", Krishna is simultaneously the ETERNAL GOD, an Avatar, an Incarnation, that INFINITE UNIVERSAL FORM, revealed to Arjuna in a vision, much like Jesus' Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. Krishna's Uncle Uddhava comes to him one day and says, "All of the meditation and yoga that you have taught me seems so difficult for me. I despair of ever making any spiritual progress with such yoga disciplines." Krishna replies, "If you can arrive at the point where you see ME (GOD) in all creatures and all things, even humble and base things, then you will have achieved the highest level of spirituality, an no other discipline or meditation or sacrifice will be necessary." If a person could achieve such a continual state, in which they see God everywhere, in all things, at all moments, does it not seem to you that such a person would be CONSTANTLY MARVELING IN WONDER at the ordinariness of it all.

Aristotle, in the Metaphysics, says "Philosophy begins in wonder." When Moses was tending his flocks, and noticed a flaming bush, he was overcome with wonder, and abandoned his worldly occupations and duties, to take a closer look. Exodus 3:3, "And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt." Is not all of physical reality, though in one sense quite plain and ordinary (because we have grown accustomed to it), yet in another sense a "wondrous burning bush"?

The Apostles do get to see this homely, ordinary Jesus radiant with light on top of Mt. Tabor during the "holy Transfiguration". This radiant "taboric light" is what those eastern orthodox icon paints attempt to depict by the "halo" which surrounds the heads of saints and martyrs. The monks of Mt. Athos practiced the continual repetition of the 'Jesus Prayer', in hopes of achieving continual and unceasing 'prayer of the heart'. Eastern Orthodox "Lives of Saints" sometimes describe a monastic, in such prayer, suddenly shining radiantly with this 'Taboric light'. The supernatural light of this phenomenon came to be called "the uncreated light" and became the serious subject of theological debates around the 14th century in Greece, in a dispute between Gregory Palamas and Barlaam Calabria.

The word hesychaia, in Greek, means PEACEFULNESS. Hesychasm refers to the spirituality which was characteristic of the early Church Fathers in the 4th and 5th centuries. These monks were hermits dwelling in the deserts seeking inner peace and spiritual insight while practicing contemplation and self-discipline as they studied the New Testament and the Psalter. Hesychasm refers to the type of contemplation which developed with the Byzantine spirituality from the 10th to the 14th centuries. Such spirituality employed the method of praying the Jesus Prayer "(Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.)" The saying of the prayer was synchronized with one's breathing. This spiritual practice is characteristic of the spirituality described in the five volume collection called Philokalia. Hesychasm refers to the theological exposition of the contemplation of God as proposed by Gregory Palamas in the 14th century and became the official doctrine of the Orthodox Church. Palamas' aimed for this proposal was to defend the hesychastic spirituality and the way of prayer of the monks of Mt. Athos and the Byzantine Orient against the attacks of the Barlaam Calabria. Palamas distinguished between the unchanging essence of God and His uncreative energies. The Taboric Light (the light that surrounded Christ in the Transfiguration), the goal sought in contemplation by the hesychasts, was a theophany, or manifestation of God, through His uncreated energies.

We would all prefer to be God or Buddha, shining radiantly with a supernatural radiant light, rather than sitting on a toilet producing gas and foul odors. But no matter how much we meditate or pray or worship or fast, we do not experience any supernatural light, except in our hearts and imagination. We do not escape the bathroom or the bedroom or the kitchen or the dentist's chair.

Blaise Pascal said it best in his Pensees (Meditations): "Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him, the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity then, consists in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavour then, to think well; this is the principle of morality."

When the student asks the master about enlightenment or Buddha-nature, the master asks, "Have you had your breakfast?". When the student replies "Yes!", the master says "Then go wash your bowl."

It is by THOUGHT, and EQUANIMITY that we transcend the unpleasant physical realities of our mundane corporeal existence. Mind makes suffering. Mind makes all things, in a way, all things that matter. Eleanor Roosevelt stated this in a different way when she said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent". Even a thief hanging on a cross is able to keep his dignity and elevate his mind. We can never escape the need to sit on a toilet, but we are not forced to keep our MIND on the toilet, or IN the toilet. Our Mind is free to be in the Heaven of Heavens with the Archangels and Cherubim and Seraphim, ceaselessly changing "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts". Are those angelic orders not also CONSTANTLY MARVELING IN WONDER at the ordinariness of it all.

Once, an officer of an invading army entered a Zen Buddhist monastery, and found the Zen Master seated in meditation. The officer drew his sword, but the Zen Master did not move. The officer said angrily, "Do you not realize that I am a man who can run you through with this sword, without blinking an eye?" The Zen Master looked at him and replied, "Do YOU not realize that I AM A man who can BE RUN THROUGH without blinking an eye?" The officer felt greatly humbled, bowed, and left in peace.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Multiculturalism and its Opposite

Last week I spent half the day in the 4 story Barnes & Noble Bookstore at Union Sq. in the coffee shop with an excellent book on the Chinese Communist Party ... I shared a table with a man in his late 20s raised in Tibet, fluent in Mandarin, Tibetan, Hindi, and English, who lived a few years in India.  His name is Tenzin (the first name of Dalai Lama ) - we spoke for four hours about Buddhism and Bon (the precursor to Buddhism in Tibet) as well as Chinese Communism and life in the Tibetan diaspora. We were amazed to realize how much we share in common and see eye-to-eye and how difficult or impossible it is for those who do not share our experiences to even understand the issues or questions much less attempt answers. I see pluralism/multiculturalism/syncretism as a good and the opposite as a disease but perhaps a disease which of necessity afflicts some.

Universal Accord is Not the Touchstone of Truth

I believe that one key survival advantage to our species is a genetic tendency to discord so that each of us sees being/reality in a slightly different way. If we all saw things the same way then we would not spread out to exploit diverse ecological niches. Everyone would choose the seashore or the rain forest or islands or mountain tops or deserts.  There IS no religion that has never developed a sectarian division. Even the Jains are divided into the Svetasambra white-sheet clad and the Digambra sky-naked-clad. They both acknowledge that their founder Mahavira (Great-Man) was naked but the Svetasambra argue that he was walking deep in meditation and his sheet caught on a thorn bush and fell away.  To seek truth through the touchstone of universal consensus of agreement is foolish since all peoples in all times have not agreed upon anything non-trivial.  If all 6+ billion were lined up in a row and I spent 5 seconds before each one saying Hello it would take me 950 years. If I road a motorcycle and waved at them I might do it in a century. So how could I persuade everyone of anything and since I cannot persuade everyone of anything then what do I gain by persuading a few people of any one thing. In group discussions I rarely address individuals. I like to think that I address ideas rather than individuals. And it is like a smorgasbord where some will take something they value and ignore the rest.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Those who revile ALL religion

I suspect those who revile ALL spirituality are people who resent the notion that there is something they should not do and that they should try to control themselves and discipline themselves and so, like Doestoevsky, they say "if there is no God then all is permitted." In reality if there IS no God the WE are God since we are the only self-conscious intelligence and it behooves us to be Godly and assume stewardship of this world and one another.  The Protestants resent Popery but in reality EVERY Protestant is a POPE since each person is entitled to interpret scripture EVEN THOUGH II Peter 3:16 says that there are those who twist and distort scripture to their own harm. Protestants do not like anyone telling them what to do. When their church needs a pastor they INTERVIEW pastors until they find one they like.  People who hate the RC church go on and on as if every priest were some kind of sexual predator. In reality the number of wrong-doers is something like 2% and some of those only have one misdeed so the number of repeat offenders is less than .5% and one may find sexual wrong doing among Rabbis, Imams, Pandits, Zen Masters, etc. and EVEN among married clergy who supposedly have some sanctioned place to stick are therefore  immune from temptation.

Evil Religions

I have always seen Luther's Reformation as a poisonous evil concocted by a man who voluntarily took upon himself life time vows of celibacy and then did not have the courage to "make your vows and keep them." He did not heed that one verse which says "better never to vow at all than to vow and not to pay." And now we have the likes of Joel Osteen with his television feel-good ministry who tells a few jokes and then tricks people into repeating a prayer and after they repeat it (like a magic spell) he informs them that they are "born again" and have the "eternal security of salvation," once saved, ALWAYS saved.  Augustine laid down the foundation for the Reformation but no one scrutinized this until the counter-Reformation. Pelagius made more sense to me saying that each person has within them all that is necessary to abstain from evil if only they exert their will. What do you say of the first seven ecumenical counsels who declared Arians and Monophysites as demonic and soul destroying and worshipping an angel of light (Lucifer) appearing as a false Christ.

Practical Good v. Moral Good

Suppose that only ONE person in the history of the world decided to take lifetime vows of celibacy. They might in theory be on all the host talk shows and write a book.  NEXT imagine that ever human being tomorrow took a vow of lifetime celibacy! The group action would be equivalent to genocide. The very first mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah (Genesis) is "be fruitful and multiply." But we see great prophets like Elijah and Elisha (Elias and Elisaeus) seem to have been celibate and monastic. Now we see the possibility that over-population may be a grave problem threatening human existence. The Neanderthal lived on earth for 400,000 years in a polity of anarchy and they were successful. The people asked prophet Samuel for a king to be like other nations and Samuel cautioned that a king might be a bad idea.  In those times no one had a notion of democracy or corporations.  Practical is whatever WORKS and as times and circumstances change then what works changes. As we grow accustomed to PRACTICAL good we become conditioned to view it as no longer a subjective relative good but as a moral absolute and we will cling to our moral habits even when they cease to be practical and successful. The values of 7th century Mecca and Medina (Yatrib) were an improvement then but they are now an anachronism. Images of people and animals are haram (forbidden) but now everyone watches television and uses cameras.

We cannot know what is good. We only know what is evil.

Actually in Jewish understanding as illustrated by the ancient Rabbis Shammai and Hillel and there SILVER rule "that which you find hateful to yourself do not do that to others" .... humans cannot have a knowledge of what is good but can only know what is evil and hateful. Consider Solomon's words "there are ways which seemeth good unto a man but the end thereof is death" and compare with II Peter 3:16 (thereabouts) "Paul has said some things which are difficult to understand and those with weak minds who lack a foundation TWIST and distort such words unto their own destruction as they twist many other passages of scripture."   The Golden Rule "do unto others" is impossible if we do not have a knowledge of what is good. When Josephs brethern came to him in Egypt to ask his forgiveness Joseph answered "You intended evil in your attempt to kill me and then selling me into slavery but God transformed your evil into good since your actions enabled me to achieve a position of wealth and power so that I may now rescue my kin from famine "  (paraphrased from memory)  Look at the evils that Christians worked with their colonial empires THINKING that they were doing good unto those subjugated.

Harnessing the Inclination Towards Evil

Actually I can think of one serious flaw to the argument that Jesus supports everything that is good and that is where Jesus explains that HAD he chosen to perform miracles in Sidon and Tyre then they would be repenting in sackcloth and ashes (and we assume many of them would be saved) BUT for whatever reason Jesus chose NOT to go there and perform miracles.

Also that curious business about "worry not for the morrow for SUFFICIENT unto the day is the evil thereof" ... also both Moses and Jesus state that "the poor shall always be with you" and the New Testament states that there shall be wars and rumors of wars until the end of the world; therefore it is meaningless to speak of lasting peace or an end to poverty.

Jewish tradition speaks of "the inclination towards evil" (the yetzer harah ... just like haram) as something which God and humans harness into a good force. Each day of creation God sees that it is good, but the VERY GOOD is thought to mean the harnessing of the yetzer harah. If a man is greedy then he can become greedy for Torah knowledge. Solomon in Proverbs speaks of "iron sharpening iron" and saying that if it were NOT for the yetzer harah then no cities would be built and nothing would get done.

Was Jesus a Socialist?

I lived for 13 months in a Greek monastery (near Boston) which is of course the purest form of Communism. I was in a Paltalk Catholic chat filled with southern Republicans and I casually mentioned that I see Jesus as a socialist/communist (because I sincerely do) and one woman got so furious she left the room. From his "render unto Caesar" and "my kingdom is not of this world" I see Jesus as apolitical.  Funny how the Father is described as having a kingdom but Jesus is not often referred to as a prince (although Mary is referred to as Queen.) But then Jesus unity with the Father makes Jesus also a king (of kings. )

Moral Imperatives

If there is such a thing as sin or evil and such a thing as a moral imperative and IF it is within our human ability to redesign future species into a strain which is morally superior to us then IS IT our moral imperative to create that superior being and fall into obsolescence and extinction?

The Future of Human Culture

I want to study this a lot more. Some years ago I read that Earth can only support one billion humans and not have permanent impact on the ecosystem.  It is a fact that we are on the brink of major breakthroughs in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. If the human species is to survive then different models and paradigms must be found.  The entire world must unite under some one government. Warfare must cease and (in my view which many abhor) warfare must cease even if it means using weapons of mass destruction to permanently alter the ethnic and cultural landscape of the world on a grand scale.  We must reduce human population to one billion or less and live in a fashion which makes minimum impact upon the ecosystem and non-renewable resources. If possible a new strain of humans must be genetically engineered in which irrational passions leading to violence are minimized or eliminated. The paradigm of the citizen will not be that of a farmer nor of a factory worker. Robots will perform much of the work. Artificial Intelligence will be a tool to do our thinking and perhaps our governance for us. Look at China's population problem and the one child policy where not enough females are born. As the world changes so freedoms change and are redefined. In the Wild West everyone carried a gun out of necessity. In our modern cities only few carry guns. In primitive societies a person might take several spouses and have as many children as possible.  Live on Earth only has something like 500,000 years before the sun, as a white dwarf, grows in size and becomes too hot. People like Steven Hawking are trying to urge people to think toward that future but the majority are only moved by personal greed and fear and very short term goals. Most people say "what do I care about 500,000 years from now?"  When the Earth becomes uninhabitable then Plato, Shakespeare, Euclid... all human culture and history becomes meaningless.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Old bygone ways of life and possible future ways

People who are not fertile are enabled to reproduce. People with a weak immune system are kept alive by antibiotics, immune-suppressants, etc ..... so all this works against natural selection which if there IS a God must CERTAINLY be part of God's "plan" ...

On the other hand in theory we may possibly created true autonomous artificial intelligence which may one day render us obsolete... and in theory we may one day genetically design a superior human..

I was a weird kid because in all the sci-fi shows when the superior space aliens were fighting the humans ... I was rooting for the space aliens... because superior seems good....

I sincerely believe that Neanderthal and Native Americans and Australian Aborigines had meaningful lives very different from our own but we think in terms of all the technological and medical advancements. Neanderthal survived 400,000 years and I cant believe that those years sucked. A polity of anarchy served Neanderthal for 400,000 years such a polity is not now useful. Perhaps one day Democracy will outlive its usefulness. I dont feel that Americans are angelic Christians that God smiles upon as in "exceptionalism" or "manifest destiny." If China becomes the dominant economic and military power because their political model is more efficient than ours then, what can I say... are they the "axis of evil?" The Chinese say that religion is poison and in many ways one can see the poisonous effects of extremism, fundamentalism, sectarianism.

An alternative solution

I shall repost the Steven Pinker link in FB. I will be dead soon and there is little that makes me nervous. I was conditioned from the age of five to see war as noble because I was the first television generation in 1954 when each morning I awoke at 5 am and watched WWII news reels. I thought I was supposed to grow up to be a soldier. I wondered who I would be fighting in WWIII. No one realized what I was thinking. I see your point of view BUT I also see that America pioneered nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction.  Camus in his Sisyphus essays speaks of "that paltry eternity, posterity."  I wish the best for future generations after my death. I hope some of my species survives for a few thousand years. I do not pretend to know what is moral, immoral, amoral. I am age 62 and much of the media entertainment that I have viewed concerns how to kill in countless ways. Think about that and ask yourself why such themes are constantly appealing.  I do not advocate that anyone do anything. I will be gone and it will not affect me. I merely speculate upon what I see as inevitable. Thank you for tolerating my viewpoint. Perhaps it is good that I openly express what others only think and dare not speak for in your efforts to refute me you may change their minds.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


A Hard Countre - Anatol Lieven
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Intellectual name dropping

The real danger is dilettantism, always playfully skimming the surface and dropping a few Latin phrases here and there. Anyone can be silly but few have the ability to be serious and profound. Let profundity outweigh jocularity. I need amazement not amusement.

I spent several years at a very left wing secular site called progressive Islam (no longer active.)  They featured cartoons depicting Jesus and Mohammad in bed which I thought was in poor taste. Anyway most of the Muslims there knew only a few words in Arabic, so they would say Oh I always GHUSHAL, when they could say "I always bathe/shower" and they knew "haram" "halal" "wudu" and some other words. I thought their "name dropping"a  foolish display of ignorance.  One the other hand someone might say I am guilty of the same, for ahimsa is more specific than non-violence, dharma is more encompassing than "law" and moksha is more specific than liberation/enlightenment. I don't know a good word for bhakti in English but perhaps there is one.  One might say "Ahimsa is the highest form of Dharma" or "non-violence is the highest form of righteouness."

Besides, Ghusl means ritual washing and is not appropriate for when you simply take a shower because you are smelly and sweaty. Ghusl should not be confused with wudu, a partial ablution, that Muslims perform before salat. I knew of one lazy professor convert to Islam who kept a stone in her office to replace wudu with water simply because she was in a rush so she would touch the stone and then race down the hallway mumbling her prayers.  Sand and stone is meant to be used ONLY when no water is handy.

But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful.
—Al-Ma'ida, Sura 5, Ayah 6

Being candid about extremes of lethal force

Lets be realistic about warfare, capital punishment and lethal force. We do it at the drop of a hat. We have police and military who make lethal force a lifetime career. 

I think it is impractical to hope for a world free of lethal force. It is a noble dream but it is only an idealistic dream.

It is criminal to take even ONE life if that death has no lasting benefit to future generations. On the other hand, if we eliminated one rogue nation and it resulted in 1000 years of peace v. conventional warfare and centuries of terrorism and drug trafficking then I cant really see that as monstrous. Why do we shrug at 1000 needless deaths in some drone strike which may not even take out the target but we are horrified in eliminating an entire nation which poses centuries of threat to the rest of the world?

Was the USA a monster to enter the Vietnam war. One of their goals was to halt the progress of Communism in that area. Was the USA a monster to use agent orange or napalm?  Was the USA a monster to have free-fire zones.  Certainly one may see all these things as monstrous but the world shrugs its shoulders and does what it deems necessary.  

Do you believe that there is a top secret Area 51 in Nevada? A book has recently come out about Area 51. Would you be shocked to learn that environmentally friendly weapons of mass destruction are being developed right now.

Each and every nuclear sub has a destructive firepower GREATER than all 5 years of World War II BOTH sides. Who developed and deployed such a fleet of WWII's lurking in the silent depths.  Do you feel such nuclear and biological weapons were developed by people who would never dare use them?

Anyway, I do not mean to troll or flame. These are my thoughts over the past 10 years. One of our congressmen, Tancredo I think actually spoke publicly about nuking a certain sacred place.  I am not saying he was right to make such a statement. I am merely pointing out the 1/6 tip the iceberg principle that if one politician blurts something like that publicly then one may rest assured that far more is discussed and developed in secret.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Quality of Life for the Neanderthal

In the past I have stated my opinion that Neanderthal (for 400,000 years) , aboriginals, and other hunter/gatherer nomadic tribe had fully meaningful lives and felt a sense of purpose and that perhaps "civilization" with its evils and discontents is not to be more admired. Consider the Piranha tribe of the Brazilian rain forest.  People just laughed at me and said "Oh, you mean 'the noble savage' "   ... but those primitive peoples lived in harmony with the ecosystem and our technology will perhaps destroy us.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD

Deep conservatives in the Presbyterian Church (USA) are really hurting over the change in ordination standards.

William: Sikhism basically says "be your own place of pilgramage, prayer mat, rosary" in their scriptures, the Adhi Granth.

Regarding who leaves a church and who remains, perhaps those who remain are the LCD (lowest common denominator) ... who knows... God is "the only knower of hearts"

Jimmy Carter left his denomination of years over equal rights issues (I think)

Wally: I thought we were to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? 

William: Jesus prayed in Gethsemane "Father, may all those you have given to me be ONE even as you and I are ONE." - TELL me please WHERE do you see that unity in the past 2000 years. (I rest my case)

The Russian Archbishop Anthony Khrapovitsky speculated that human salvation was worked at that moment in Gethsemane .. but some feared he had gone too far with that.

John Calvin wrote some interesting things on the importance of unity

I think Calvin was deeply misguided, but the unity stuff is interesting

Various Protestant denominations who reject "limited atonement" as limited to the predestined point out that Moses invited ALL to come and gaze upon the bronze serpent on the pole and be saved... all were invited but some chose not to and perished in the plague ... Sometimes the RC mass says "this blood shed for many " and sometimes "shed for ALL" ... both can be correct... all were invited but not all made the free will choice to avail themselves ... I asked a Marist Brother what he would answer if a Protestant asked "are you saved" and he replied "I would say I am REDEEMED" ... SO I said what's the difference.... He said "Imagine ten prisoners in jail cells and someone pays their bail so the jailor unlocks the doors... 8 leave but 2 remain.

All have been redeemed... but only eight make the free will choice to cooperate and avail themselves of that redemption

My take has always been.... WHY beat yourselves up trying to win the acceptance of those who will never give it.... when you have everything you need to have your own church, IF you have faith... I mean Augustine said "believe and you have ALREADY eaten of the Eucharist" or for that matter why knock yourself out pounding a square peg in a round hole to find the total U.U. message in scriptures when perhaps it is not there.... dont forget that the truths of U.U. were in part the wisdom of people like Thoreau who were loners and outcasts from main stream society.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

We may view the above passage in an interesting fashion. Imagine that EACH of us says "But as for me and my household, we shall serve OUR CONCEPTION of the Lord in the manner which seems to us appropriate."  And is this not what has happened historically for 2000 years?

@William - I, as someone who was raised to be independent, prone to iconoclasm, and never a "fashion plate", I agree in large part to your two comments above. Having said that, it is also quite easy to use that reasoning to create a "separate but equal" system.

William replies: What is to stop you from choosing for yourself.... why do you need the approval of others... Even the uncle of Esther, Mordecai, wrote to her and said "It is in your power if you so choose to help your people. If you choose not to, the help will come from elsewhere but you shall not share in the reward."

What THEY do is THEIR business.... we need not judge... we will only answer for ourselves at the judgment 
i mean, if there is a judgment

Perhaps some of you would like to read Jorge Luis Borges short story "The Heretic" about a man who persecutes and finally slays an heresiarch and then dies himself only to learn that God saw BOTH as an integral part of the plan

@ William - you asked "What is to stop you from choosing for yourself.... "
I'm not sure to whom that question is pointed. If it is directed at me, nothing! I don't need ANY church, thank you. But others are conditioned to need it, even when it hurts them badly. Even so, I'm still not quite sure who you're trying to convince, or why.

William replies: Consider the parable about those two groups at the judgment... the first say "Lord, Lord we worked miracles in your name" ... the first group was convinced they had that "one true faith" and WHY WERE THEY FIRST.... for the simple reason that they were presumptuous and ran ahead of the second group, eager to be praised.... the second group dragged their feet in dread and were SHOCKED when they heard "I was hungry and you fed me; naked and you clothed me" AND THEY ARE SO honest that they question the judge who has just pronounced them INNOCENT and said "WHEN did we do all these things?" --- if you stood before a harsh judge who pronounce you innocent... WOULD YOU ARGUE ABOUT IT... think it over

I talk to myself... those who have ears, let them hear

Dont be such a literal fundamentalist... I may have said YOU but I mean ANYONE, EVERYONE.. FOR WHAT REASON DOES ANYONE AT ANY TIME IN ANY PLACE scrape and grovel for the approval of those who will never approve....

I type 60 wpm... i cant always be Shakespeare or Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.

Look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship" and "Cheap Grace" (grace without discipleship).... did Bonhoeffer worry about who approved of him? I dont think so

If anyone wonder who it is that I address or what my goal is... that is perhaps because they are conditioned to vain disputation... it is none of my business what any of you do, but the thread spoke of suffering so these are my words of consolation to anyone who finds some value in them... I dont know any of you... you are words on a screen...

Eleanor Roosevelt said "No one can demean you without your consent." That sort of fits into this hurt thing.

Any of you.... one does not have to convince others, one needs merely convince oneself

Every attempt at disputation is in some fashion a bid for approval in the sense of consent, agreement, ... If you look at my posting since 1998 I rarely address any individual, I simply react to ideas and address issues... there are over 6 billion people on the planet... if I tried to say "hello" to each one and they were all lined up and I took 5 seconds per person, it would take me 950 years, do the math. So what purpose would it serve for me to argue with anyone here or seek their agreement?

Come to think of it, why in the world would anyone in the world assume that I am addressing them in particular or disputing with them... why would I expect an answer... my questions were rhetorical. If what I say is useless then simply ignore it.

Jesus never said "where ever 2 or 3 million are gathered " nor "2 or 3 thousand" ... simply "two or three in my name..." that might mean that one can only expect to find two or three like minded ... of course if someone insists on engaging and challenging others then there will always be discord... I think that the beliefs of a politician should be deeply personal and should not enter into the politics... Gandhi was once asked by a journalist regarding his beliefs and Gandhi explained that this is "a deeply private matter between myself and God"

If someone rejects me, that is THEIR problem, not my problem. 

I might not agree with Jimmy Carter on everything or even many things but I admire his courage to take Palestines side in "Peace not Apartheid" and to meet with Hamas and to leave his church...

When Lord Acton said "power tends to corrupt" I understand that as human corporate endeavors, which are corrupt and corrupting, whether ecclesiastical, academic, political. That's why you have a loner like Thoreau as the first to use the phrase "human rights" in his essay "On Civil Disobedience."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Optimism,. Pessimism, Risk taking, the Middle Way

Psychologist Alfred Adler said that the most frequent mistake people make in life is NOT taking ENOUGH risks. I would imagine risk taking requires some optimism. Kissinger said something like "nothing clears the mind more quickly than a complete lack of alternatives." On the other hand a more conservative and pessimistic person may be more proactive and avoid serious harm, failure. The extreme optimist borders on a narcissist in the manic phase of manic depression where they can do anything. Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others stressed the importance of the middle way or mean between extremes. If we look at the Iliad and BOOK I, the catalog of ships moored along the beach... we see that Odysseus was MID-MOST with Ajax (the WALL, huge, but slow) being closest to Troy and Achilles (swift footed but less bulwarky) farthest from Troy yet because of his virtue of speed, he was first to meet an oncoming attack. We may assume Ajax was second, and people bounced off his massive chest like some super-hero or incredible Hulk. A virtue in excess may become a vice or impediment.

Jaroslav Pelikan - Vol. I - The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition

Jaroslav Pelikan - Vol. I - The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100 c.e - 600 

from "Some Definitions" - page 5

The relation between believing, teaching, and confessing also implies that both the subject matter and the source material for the history of the development of doctrine will shift, gradually but steadily, as we trace it to say that a doctrine, once formulated, stops developing and becomes fixed; not even the dogma of the Trinity has stood perfectly still since its adoption and clarification. It does mean that having developed from what was believed to what was taught, and perhaps even to what was confessed, a doctrine gradually became part of the authorized deposit of the faith.  To trace it further development we shall have to look, increasingly though by no means exclusively, to the professional expositors, the theologians, as they speculated on it both in their philosophy and i their mystagogy, as they studied it and criticized it, as they used it to interpret the very Scriptures on which it was supposedly based, and as they expanded and revised it.  In later volumes of this history, therefore, the history of doctrine will move into, but will never quite become, the history of theology. 

A GRAPHIC sign of this shift through the centuries is contained in the evolution of the theologian's vocation.  During the years 100 to 600, most theologians were bishops; from 600 to 1500 in the West, they were monks; since 1500, they have been university professors.  Gregory I, who died in 604, was a bishop who had been a monk; Martin Luther, who died in 1546, was a monk who became a university professor.

Each of these life styles has left its mark on the job description of the theologian, but also on the way doctrine has continued to develop back and forth between believing, teaching, and confessing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Law before the laws

Think of this analogy: A tribe of people lives on an isolated island. They have no formal governmental institutions of any kind. In particular they have no legislature. Therefore in that society it would make no sense to say that someone had done something “illegal.” But neither would anything be “legal.” The entire set of legal categories would be inapplicable. In just this way I now view moral categories.

One interesting discovery has been that there are fewer practical differences between moralism and amoralism than might have been expected. It seems to me that what could broadly be called desire has been the moving force of humanity, no matter how we might have window-dressed it with moral talk. By desire I do not mean sexual craving, or even only selfish wanting. I use the term generally to refer to whatever motivates us, which ranges from selfishness to altruism and everything in between and at right angles. Mother Theresa was acting as much from desire as was the Marquis de Sade. But the sort of desire that now concerns me most is what we would want if we were absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as moral right and wrong. I think the most likely answer is: pretty much the same as what we want now.

William: With all due respect, no offense intended, I feel your argument about primordial pre-law life is artificial. I can see you are a serious writer so I respect your efforts.  Consider the behavior of various pack animals with an alpha leader. One clearly sees that there are some kind of rules and a "pecking order." Homer's Iliad and Odyssey do not seem to mention formal laws but obviously there is a notion of right and wrong and there are consequences to ones actions. I am certain one could find the same system of taboos among Australian aborigines or among Eskimos. I would have to study your writing at length but I feel you are setting out on the wrong track with your initial assumptions.  The physical universe obeyed "laws" long before there were humans to observse such laws.  I imagine the regularity of the seasons and the heavenly bodies and tides gave prehistoric humans a sense of order and regularity.  To me it makes more sense to speak in terms of subjective laws or norms which change with time and changing circumstances.  I want to read your post at length and give it some thought. Whenever I see people heading in this direction I have the impression that they are trying to escape from constraints and justify themselves.  If we live on an island alone, there is no law or police, yet if we eat too much then we suffer the punishment of illness and pay a price which is only to say that our actions and inaction have consequences.

Tasteless Gaddafi Jokes

A convert to Islam constantly posts these sorts of things:
BREAKING: Muammar Gaddafi has been spotted in Berkeley, on Telegraph Avenue. He has made a career change and is now a sidewalk vendor of sunglasses, African silk robes, and anti-war bumper stickers. He was also seen chatting up female undergrads.
My response:
So much frequent humor and you will have little credibility
Whenever I begin to take some article seriously and see "the onion" I stop reading. Now when I see your name will think "The Onion"
Habits can be our best friends or our worst enemies
Plus, this sort of humor is not graduate school humor, it is junior high humor.
As a convert to Islam everything you say and do is as a spokesperson for Islam and other will assess Islam in part by how you deport yourself. I was just now notified that Turkey is launching air strikes against Kurdish civilians. I was asked to spread the video link. I saw your mention of Gaddafi and paused with concern to read. The topic of Gaddafi brings to mind the tragic persecution of civilians by government forces. To make light of it with crass jokes and sexual allusions is in poor taste. If I don't take the  time to make you aware of what is wrong with this then who will? But, perhaps I am mistaken. I knew one Rabbi who told me how he became furious with the post office but controlled his words and actions because everyone was seeing him as an example so if he lost his dignity he gives Judaism a bad name.
[He argues: William, satire is an integral part of politics. It's one of the ways we keep ourselves sane. And someone else says I am attempting irony. Another writes: If you see Mr. Gaddafi, please remember to kick him in the testicles.]

My reply:

I am dead serious. I am disappointed. Most of us undergo very long and very expensive educations so should we not endeavor to write informative and dignified posts? America is a sewer comedy. I am guilty of it myself. But the bulk of my posts are dead serious. Also, as a convert to Islam, you represent Islam. Countless people suffered and died under this cruel, insane dictator and all you can find to say are crude and tasteless jokes.  I suspect you are capable of far more. And you know perfectly well that if 10 people a day criticized such posts as I do then you would avoid them like the plague because you naturally seek popularity and acceptance as we all do.  But just because we live in a society which is a sewer of obscene cartoons and reality shows does not mean we should pander to the lowest common denominator.  Think on these things.  When you write these things then what are you doing for the best interests of the Islamic community? Junior high school students talk of kicking people in the testicles.  I am only trying to help you in the long run. Your talents and energies could be put to much better uses.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Protestant dialogue - 3

Simply says: "I confess you as the Son of God and invite you into my life as my enabler" and you will be born again .... and again .... and again ...
They are known as reprobates, or perhaps recidivism, backsliding, and there is even a verse which the Greeks refer to as "divine abandonment" but I would have to Google. I sincerely believe that Satan waited for something like indulgences and someone like Luther to unleash upon the world the soul destroying notion that one is guaranteed salvation by paying lip service to a few sentences of doctrine and I see this as soul-destroying for the simple reason that it makes people complacent and lazy, lulling them into a false sense of security. Surely in that parable about the judgment the people who said "Lord, Lord, we worked miracles"  must have sincerely believed that their salvation was guaranteed. When that man asked Christ "Good Rabbi, what must I do to gain eternal life" Jesus did not say "confess me as the Son of God and invite me into your life as your personal savior" but rather he told him to look to Moses and the commandments. Do you feel Christ was lying in that verse? But when the man is insistent then Christ describes what sounds like monasticism to me, to sell all that you have, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow me. And where in all your Protestant emotionalism and Bible rock-and-roll is there any sign of monastic renunciation or asceticism. 

Truth and Bearing False Witness

Just now it occurs to me that "bearing false witness" is very different from the lie of the midwives.  There seems to be room for righteous deception of sorts.  Also, I find it amusing that courtrooms ask you to place your hand on a Bible and "swear to tell the whole truth" but if you search in a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance on "truth" then you may be surprised and the Ten Commandments only forbids false witness with no mention of truth. An argument may even be made that we do not have access to truth with certainty but we are only conscious of willful perjury.

Advice - 2

I shall try to discipline myself to re-read vol. I along with you. With regard to me and my opinions, criticisms, you must bear in mind my firm conviction that you are in demonic delusion with your soul destroying beliefs and Martin Luther was the beginning of the triumph of Satan in misleading human kind. I see Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, etc. as truly demonic.

Advice to a misguided young Protestant

1st.... to me this [Jaroslave Pelikan's 5 volume History and Development of Christian Doctrine] is light easy reading... to you it is wordy... he wrote these 5 volumes over a period of years and during those years he privately began to lean towards Eastern Orthodoxy.    You like to show photos of athletes. Athletes only become what they are with years of grueling practice. Same with scholarship. Your mind is at the toddler stage. Not trying to be hurtful but just trying to wake you up to the realization of how little progress you have made and yet you mistakenly assume that you have some profound understanding and insight. IF you become more humble and make a sincere effort over a period of years then you may possibly achieve a deeper understanding. When you hoot and holler on Facebook about how cool Jesus is... that is shallow emotionalism... what is significant is not what Jesus is but what you can become IF you put in the time and effort and come to the humble realization that you are in serious error with once saved always saved, and also you have barely scratched the surface. You are at the toddler stage. Learn how to walk and one day to run.

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With whom does the fault lie?

My wife (and many others) are intensely critical of Obama for various reasons. I feel that any sitting president has the counsel of several hundred "experts" (albeit of his own choice but experts none the less. ) Any president realizes what has the potential to "fly" in a highly partisan congress/senate v. that which might be wiser but will have no chance of passing. The problems which face the nation and the world are by no means the fault of any one president but have their dynamics stretching back decades and in some cases a century.

Thoughts on Education

Geetanjali - Thanks you for your words of praise. Over these many years you always hold me in too high esteem and I have tried to disabuse you of excessive admiration. It is very easy to learn certain obscure facts and give others the illusion of a depth of knowledge where there is none.  I could not cite the 12 apostles or the ten commandements from memory or the 77 books of the Protestant Canon of the Bible (or the Orthodox/Catholic with the Deutero-Canonical Apocrypha) ... but then why should I waste brain cells when Google is always at my fingertips.  I grew up in the 1950s and 60s during the "cold war" when the emphasis was on "college prep" courses with science and math in high esteem.  My parents were both very intelligent but because of the Great Depression and World War II they never went to college. They separated when I was 11 and while they were together there was much "mental cruelty" inflicted upon my mother and there was not the intellectual nurture present in other families. Had I lived in a different sort of family and perhaps been raised Roman Catholic I would have had a very different life although the my life as it unfolded was by no means the worst. I did have a rich intellectual experience which I believe was more rich PRECISELY because I was self taught (except for college at St. Johns) and I was never under the constraints of an academic institution which tends to nit pick over writings until it fits the lowest common denominator of what the academic institution would care to put its name to in publication.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jain Anekantavada and the Grace of Maya

Looking at the beginning of this thread and "a quest for certainty" it is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam that "maya" or "illusion" is a part of grace so that each devotee, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Parsi feels with the utmost certainty that his/her faith is "the one true faith" so that they may be free from doubt and pursue their devotion single-mindedly. The Jain principle of anekantavada (multipointedness - no single view) means that any attempt to express the nature of begin is but a partial aspect of being.

Acausality, Nothingness and a place for things to take place

I suspect that acausal events exist, where they exist is irrelevant, so we are in agreement, except I cannot PROVE that acausal events exist nor can anyone else to day. Sartre hints that nothingness must exist otherwise being would be such a plenum that nothing could "happen."  Perhaps acausality is necessary in the similar sense that nothingness is necessary.  Jewish mysticism uses a word for God, "makom" meaning "place" and they say that God is not IN the universe but rather God is the "makom" PLACE of the universe and furthermore this "place" is created by "tsim tsum" , contraction, withdrawal, because God is such a fullness that only by withdrawing is a "place" made where things can "take place" (events.)  I am reminded of that verse in the Epistle of James "in whom is no change or shadow of a variation."

Quantum Acausality

I read somewhere that there are true acausal events on the quantum level , but let me google.   Things happen without specific, initiating, causes. Virtual particles appear from nothing and then return back to nothing. They exist for a fleeting instant, but they do exist and their reality is shown via the Casimir effect.

There is much mysterious about the quantum realm. But in this context, I have used a similar argument with the "infinite regress" religious people. We know and see that objects appear from nothing...virtual particles. Thus, at least in principle, this effect has been demonstrated. Now I do not claim that the science of virtual particles is the root cause of the universe. But it shows that one can break the infinite regress.

This is an example of "proof by example," rather than "real" proof.

Look up Bell's inequality and the Aspect experiments. Then let's talk hidden variables.

The thing about quantum is that the equations underlying it are completely deterministic. But which probability is actually manifested is not.

If you're a genius, quantum probably confuses you even more. Anyone not confused by quantum mechanics, doesn't understand it.

In essence, the world in which our senses are accustomed is governed by large numbers of particles, all simultaneously governed by QM. Our understanding of causality stems from the interplay of these large numbers of particles. In a vague and not very accurate sense, you can consider the behavior of a single water molecule and the Pacific Ocean. When you look at the first, you're not likely to predict a typhoon.

it depends on what you mean with cause, a lot of the problems regarding interpretating QM comes from the fact that QM only talks to us with probabilities.
If one accepts that a roll of a die in which a six turns up has a cause in that someone rolled it, I think one must accept that radioactive decay also has a cause. In both cases a specific outcome cannot be predicted, but rather just the distribution of many outcomes, so they don't really have a cause because nothing forces the die to end on a six any particular time.
And as in the case of the die, there is something that sets things moving in the case of radioactive decay, namely that the nucleus will transition to a lower energy state.

The Bondage of Love

Love can be bondage. Indifference seems more free. One of the names of Krishna is "Damodar" which means "bound at the waste" His adoptive mother, Yashoda, gathered all the rope in the village yet it was always an inch too short to bind the child Krishna to a post. But then Krishna surrendered in love and suddenly there was ample rope and he was bound. This event strangely resembles the crucifixion. One of the properties of God is to be invincible at will, or submit to total bondage.

Freedom and Necessity

Examine any molecule in a sealed chamber of gas and it appears to be totally free and random in its motions BUT the entire volume of gas obeys very precise laws of volume, pressure, temperature. The quantum level seems total chaos with causeless events yet quantum composes galaxies which move with clockwork precision.

reason to hope

Several of my books on Islam state that Islam is more about ORTHOPRAXY (doing what is right ) than about ORTHODOXY (believing what is correct.)  For me the most demonic thing in history was Luther's Reformation which led to the notion of "once saved always saved" because people become lazy regarding how they conduct their day-to-day life.  Somewhere it is stated that even Prophet Mohammad is not guaranteed his salvation until the judgment. I Peter I think says always be ready to answer what reason you have to hope, but dwell in fear as a stranger.. must run to apt

Wisdom Begins in Fear of the Lord

Perhaps one might understand the verse "Wisdom BEGINS in fear of the Lord" as follows: if we FEAR the consequences of our actions, words, thoughts sufficiently to change our ways then we are on the right track EVEN THOUGH we yet lack an understanding of what is harmful and what is helpful. A person who lacks knowledge concerning cancer and yet fears in general for his physical health and is willing to suffer in order to preserve it is closer to wisdom than a person who understands carcinogenic risks but is heedless of personally suffering the consequences. So, wisdom has stages and a beginning and a teleology.

Knowledge is Necessary but not Sufficient

Most of us KNOW intellectually that smoking causes a host of ailments but many of us smoke because intellectual understanding is necessary but not sufficient. Others hold a false and superstitious belief that, say, tomatoes are poisonous, but they abstain from tomato consumption.

If there is no God then WE are God

One of Kant's antinomies is that we can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God.  To me it is obvious that if there IS no God then WE as the highest consciousness are God and it behooves us to be Godly. So I disagree with that character in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov who says "If there is not God then all is permitted."

Levity versus Gravity

Regarding levity v. gravity, Paul said: "When I was a child I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things."

A Noble Agnostic

Psychologist Alfred Adler, during a question period after a lecture in NYC, was asked "Dr. Adler, what about God? What do you have to say concerning God?"  Adler replied "If there is a God then I would hope that He is pleased with the manner in which I have chosen to live my life." That is the true equanimity and detachment of an agnostic.

The Opposite of Love is Indifference

The opposite of love is not hate but rather indifference. In the Ramayan we see that the wicked Ravanna, constant adversary of the avataric Ram, is ultimately sanctified because one may not interact with the divine in any fashion without being sanctified. Note: you are neither hot nor cold so therefore I spew you from my mouth.

Doing Only Our Duty

We may also learn from those New Testament parables which speak of how even thieves give their children bread rather than a stone and of workers who are chastised for doing only what is their obligation and not "going the extra mile." If doing our duty and paying exactly what is owed were the sum total of virtue then our moral/ethical world would be very different.

An Atheist in Peshawar Fasts Ramadan

I will share that one friend in Pakistan related that during the month of Ramadan even atheists in his town fast as a matter of personal honor because it is a cultural thing. Years ago a fellow in India said "You Americans can not easily understand that we would never change our religion because it is part of our cultural identity, our town, our family, our ancestors, our heritage, and therefore goes way beyond mere theology or reasoned arguments."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 --- One Google Plus user (photographer) writes -  bought one 6 months ago. i can't see wasting money on lesser cameras. you'll easily get 2-3+ years use out of this camera. (i put a 32gb card in mine!) this was also WIRED magazines camera-of-the-year choice too.

G.W. Bush and his Christian Bull Horn

G.W. Bush paid a lot of "lip service" to Christian beliefs. Bush stood upon the 9/11 rubble with his bull horn and spoke in Manichean black and white stark good and evil terms about "smoking them out of their caves."  Bush did not give a thought to turning the other cheek. One young man in the crowd was inspired by the bull horn rhetoric to enlist. He only saw one battle and did not fire a shot before he was rendered a paraplegic for life. He said that all he did see were women and children running in terror.  I seriously wonder, would things have been better in the long run if "Christian America" had remembered Jesus' words about "turning the other cheek."  Was it really worth two wars.  Had we recruited some Iranians and Afghanistanis for a Navy Seal program then surely we could have accomplished our ends with drones and assassinations and infiltration.  The reasoning of the late historian Howard Zinn comes to mind who pointed out that Canada achieved independence from Great Britain without a revolutionary war.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Forgiving and Loving Enemies - 2

We are asked to difficult things, not easy things. We are also asked to do impossible things for "what is not possible for man is possible for God." We read that even criminals when their children are hungry give them bread and do not give them a stone and then we are asked "what reward do you expect for doing only that which was your duty."

Jaques Derrida (who was most likely not a Christian) realized that "Forgiveness IF it ever occurs, occurs in the face of the unforgivable."

I feel certain that Dietrich Bonhoeffer forgave and loved his Nazi executioners. Even one of the Popes, when shot by an assassin, made the sign of the cross and also visited that assassin in prison and forgave him.

Sometimes it is necessary for us to kill but it is never necessary for us to gloat, rejoice, take pleasure in that death. God asks "Do you think that I rejoice in the death of a sinner?"

Who is your Enemy and What is Forgiveness

A reply regarding the parable of the Good Samaratan: And his was response was to tell the Good Samaritan story. Which involves a person in need you might might on the road, not a notorious criminal you send Seal Team Six to take out.

William: How wrong you are, and sad you are unable to realize... "I was in prison and you visited me" "judgment is mine" and the one thief on the cross...   no moral statement was made about the wounded man... he might have been a murderer or a thief... but it is so desperately essential for people to distort verse to fit their own agendas.  I imagine you are a fine and able lawyer who is gifted at distorting things to achieve your desired result and that is part of the job.  Even II Peter 3:16 (I think thats the verse) states that many who lack a foundation of understanding twist and distort verses to their own destruction.   Also, "it rains upon the just and the unjust" and "blessed are you when men say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake."  Hazen, you have been weighed and found wanting. Stick to law and forget about religion.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Whom Did Jesus Die For?

Let's hear you weigh in on the following question: When Jesus on the cross said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" was Jesus asking for forgiveness ONLY for some, who were ignorant but not for ALL? Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for bin Laden and Hitler and all humans? Do you believe that Jesus taught that people should love their enemy and repay evil with goodness? 

Desire as the Source of Suffering

You might enjoy reading a book by psychotherapist counselor Sheldon Kopp entitled "If You Meet The Buddha On the Road, Kill Him."  I recounts ten or so clients and their problems. The strange title comes from an old Zen master saying that basically means you should not venerate the idea of Buddha in an idolatrous fashion and become preoccupied with it but rather you should live your daily life (e.g. Have you had your breakfast? Then wash your bowl! - to some novice's question about Buddha-nature.)   The Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhist say that Samsara is that river of 10,001 things (that bug us) and the Buddhist teachings are a vehicle (think canoe) to cross that river of Samsara and reach the other side (Nirvana, Nibbana which is an ancient Pali word meaning to extinguish or snuff out like a candle). Desire is the source of all suffering. We suffer because we desire things we don't have (sports car, cool spouse) and we have things we do not desire (mean boss, cancer.)  And even the DESIRE for moksha/enlightenment/liberation/salvation ; that very desire is itself an IMPEDIMENT to reaching enlightenment. Just as the holier we become, the greater the danger that we become proud because of our achievements. Its like a champion golfer who gets so caught up that he can no longer perform.

There will be a quiz on Tuesday.

Flawed Arguments

Show me an argument without flaws and I will show you something that is either a tautology or dogma.

What I stress is that  no argument is flawless and I base that in part on Godel's Indefiniteness proof, Wittgensteins' observations in Tractatus and Morris Klines' book on the limitations of mathematics (I always forget the name and have to google) but bottom line, if there is not perfection in mathematical proofs then where may we hope to find arguments which are not flawed in some fashion?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trashing Gandhi - 2

I am amused that you feel ok about calling Gandhi a child-molester even in the presence of his descendents and yet when I vaguely suggest that you are not the most noble or admirable of characters you run away in horror.  But is ANYTHING that I said about you as bad as what you have said about Gandhi?   I admire Bill Clinton. I know with great certainty that Clinton disgraced himself with Lewinsky. But if I were to have the honor tomorrow to meet Clinton or any of his relatives I would not bring up scandal and gloat about it. What I see is moral and intellectual cowardice.

Regarding Gandhi's Alleged Sexual Misconduct

OK, to make you happy I just found this link which does have one glaring error. Gandhi and Kasturba were wed when they were AGE SIX. Gandhi speaks of it in his autobiography "Experiments in Truth". Kasturba was his THIRD engagement as the first two died of cholera. Only when they were 11 or 12 did an uncle instruct Gandhi to commence sleeping with Kasturba and explained "what to do." Gandhi wondered all his life who explained things to Kasturba but never asked.​uk/arts-entertainment/book​s/features/thrill-of-the-c​haste-the-truth-about-gand​his-sex-life-1937411.html

Perhaps one motive for debunking virtuous people as either non-existant (mythical) or as sinful is that we prove to ourselves that no one is really very nice and so we should not feel great guilt about our own sordid lives or deeds.

Gandhi had some young relative sleep next to him naked to prove to himself that he had finally conquered his sexual lust... Gandhi was always doing "experiments in truth" (his autobiography)... I notice you are slow to believe anything about Jesus but eager to believe things about Gandhi. Actually one of the early Christian hermits ran to town and jumped in the women's bath to prove to himself that lust was dead. Also there is a story in , I think, the Srimad Bhagavatam about someone who walks by some bathing women and they cover their nakedness but he knows that some holy man walked by and they did not cover... so they explained that the holy man did not notice them because he was beyond sexuality.

A saint can see saintliness in even the worst of sinners but a sinner sees sinfulness in even the holiest of saints. hmmm Kurt... you probably dont care to answer this question but... how are YOU any different from Gandhi if Gandhi is guilty of inappropriate sexual conduct.... I was very amused when I noticed that the BIGGEST slut in my class (so slutty that all the other slutty people were in shock and gossiping) was the harshest critic of Weiner and his sexting. Perhaps Jesus is a fictional character but it is still very clever to say "let that person without sin cast the first stone." I have learned the intimate details of hundreds of men's and women's lives because they choose to tell me... and I know only a handful who have led blameless lives and walked away from the opportunity to indulge themselves. Tru, I do not have any grounds to claim a knowledge of you except by what you write but "one never gets a second chance to make a first impression" and I have my first impression of you.

I notice how often disingenuous people use the ploy "I am not even certain what we are discussing" or "we are going off topic." I notice conservatives resorting to that more often than liberals. I also notice the affliction of many conservatives to dialogue by QUOTING back everything I have said... in double quotes, sentence by sentence, and then addressing it in some fashion, and after a while they seem like robots or automatons. 

Lets say I just like to call a spade a spade even if it was not dealt out to me.

You might have chosen to cite actual persons living or dead who embody virtues that we should aspire to and emulate. Instead, you debunked or mythologized what you could and reviled the others. And you even indicate that you have dwelt upon the Gandhi thing (which is going on a century old I suppose) and you took particular delight in bringing it up in front of one of Gandhi's decedents. 

I admire Martin Luther King, Jr. for the good that he did and the courage that he had. I do not assume that he was lily white and pure as the driven snow.  I actually do know a few men who are pure in that fashion but they are rare.

I suppose the Prophet Mohammad would be a sex offender these days because of his child bride Aiyesha. People saw things differently in the 7th century.

Internet Friendships

Has just realized that this social experiment that is online interaction...has allowed me to, through the variant samples (views,ideas,images,videos,not​es,messages) of the lives of others, determine more quickly and more deeply who is genuine than I could have spending years with the same people in real life. It is an amazing power of this medium for those that are observant.

William: Some years ago I read that Internet relationships are beneficial for women BECAUSE many males find it harder to share feelings, so you might date someone for 10 years and go bowling, movies, dinners, picnics, swimming, but never really KNOW the deepest feelings, convictions, hopes, fears....BUT on-line ALL YOU HAVE ARE WORDS so the male must be expressive (well there are also Youtube Anime Remixs  if you really want to cut to the chase scene.)  If you have a chance visit ... I met Rachel on 4 years ago... she had a broadcast with 50 viewers.  One night she aggressively defended on line friendships as DEEPER than in person.... she said she had on her cell phone the numbers of people she has never met in person BUT they call each other up if there is a break-up, ... now Rachel was an overweight depressed teen with ADHD and a doctor gives here one injection per month and a pill a day, and she lost 30 pounds and became the dynamic happy person you see at that link, and she is in Houston TX and is a talented computer graphic artist/web designer.  So YES I would say that one can better know a person by what they write then by simply spending time with them in person. I mean, all I know about Socrates and Hitler and Jesus is what I have read (and Lincoln and Gandhi).  Uh oh, I mentioned Hitler so that automatically means I have lost this argument because.... Godwins law.... but I wasnt arguing, I was agreeing  YES  ... I do agree with you... but it usually take a page or two for me to agree, and my religion requires that I mention Hitler at least once (oh no, I mentioned TWICE... bad karma)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My First Mandir Katha (Sermon) on Lord Ganapati



All sacrifices and religious ceremonies, all serious compositions in writing, and all worldly affairs of importance are begun with an invocation to Lord Ganesh. Without the Blessing of Lord Ganesh, no one will attain his purposes. A teacher on his pupils' first day in class will have the students recite this sacred Mantra. Only then will he begin teaching the alphabet.

Lord Ganesh is Lord of Categories (from "gan", to reckon or count and "Isa", lord). He is also known as "Lord of Hosts". It is no coincidence that in the Judaeo-Christian Old Testament, God is frequently referred to a "Lord of Hosts". He is Vighneshvara, Lord of Obstacles, who knows the intricacies of each soul's karma and the perfect path of Dharma that makes action successful. He sits on the Muladhara Chakra (which is located at the base of the spine, having the attributes of memory, space and time) and He is very easy to access. Lord Ganesh is also identified in the Rig Veda with Shri Brihaspati ("Lord of Prayer, The Holy Word").

Lord Ganesh is the first scribe and it was to Him that Vyasa dictated the Mahabharat. Lord Ganesha wrote the Mahabharat with His tusk while Vyasa dictated. Lord Ganesh accepted only on the condition that Vyasa dictate without interruption. Vyasa agreed on the condition that Lord Ganesh write nothing down until He fully understood it fully (thus giving Vyasa the pauses which he required).

There are eight miraculous contradictory qualities which God may exhibit at will in any Divine Manifestation. They are described in the Balakanda of Tulsidas and are manifested by Lord Hanuman. They are:

ANIMA - Small

MAHIMA - Great

GARIMA - Heavy


PRAPTI - Obtain anything

PRAKAMYA - Do anything

ISHITVA - Absolute Supremacy or Domination

VASHITVA- Absolute Subjugation or Servitude

We see in the Moorty of Lord Ganesh the simultaneous manifestation of the Greatness and Heaviness of the Elephant and the Smallness and Lightness of the Rat. Lord Ganesh is the Remover of Dualities and the Unifier and Harmonizer of Opposites.

Once a dispute arose as to which form of the Deity was the greatest. Lord Brahma proposed a race around the world. Lord Ganesh, being the Unifier of all Dualities, and having the slowest vehicle, the Rat, was soon left behind. Lord Ganesh, being a scribe, decided to write the Holiest of Names, RAM which includes all of creation, in the dust of the earth. Then placing his parents Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati on either side of the Holy Name, He worshipped Them by circumambulating Them in pradakshina. Lord Brahma at once decreed that Lord Ganesh should be worshipped first before any other form of Bhagavan. For as Tulsidas says "If you would have light within and without, place the luminous Name of Ram on your tongue, like a jeweled lamp on the threshold of the door."

Lord Ganesh is also known by the name Ekadanta, which means "Having the Great, Supreme, Unique Tusk". We must ask ourselves how Lord Ganesh came to have only one tusk. What is the significance of the One Tusk.

Describing the wedding of Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati, on page 75 of our Ramayan, Tulsidas writes "At the Direction of the Sages, Both Shambu and Bhavani worship Lord Ganesh. Let no one be perplexed on hearing this, remembering that Gods have existed from time without beginning."

Now, we know from the various Puranas that one day Lord Ganesh's stomach had become very large from eating all of the sweet cakes and rice balls which His devotees had offered to Him. He mounted his Rat vehicle and began slowly to ride home. The Rat was frightened by a snake which was crossing the road, and Lord Ganesh fell down. His stomach burst and all of the sweet cakes and rice balls spilled out. Lord Ganesh gathered the cakes and put them back in his stomach, and then used the snake as a belt to hold them in. The Moon laughed to see such things. Lord Ganesh became angry and plucked out one of his tusks, throwing it at the Moon. This caused the Moon to disappear. Lord Ganesh at once retrieved His tusk and restored the Moon, but to this day the Moon waxes and wanes between full moon and new moon. On the Feast Day of Lord Ganesh, devotees are cautioned not to look at the Moon.

What can we learn from Lord Ganesh's one Tusk, and his parents Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati worshipping their Son at their Wedding?

We must look at the Chandogya Upanishad and the Holy Mantra to be found there:



There is in India a Sampradaya which takes Lord Ganesh as their Ishtadeva. Sacred to this Sampradaya is the Mudgala Purana which explains a form of Yoga centered around Lord Ganesh as the embodiment of Tat Tvam Asi, That Thou Art. For the Advaitin Monist Vedantin, Tat Tvam Asi expresses the unity of the individual soul with the greatest reality, Brahman. Tat Tvam Asi is a mirror image of Lord Ganesh Himself. The body of a human is associated with word Tvam. The head of the elephant is equated with word Tat. The entire Moorty itself is the Unifier of both these opposites and is associated with the word Asi.

In the Chandogya Upanishad, we see the young Lord Krishna being taught these principles by his Guru, Ghora Angirasa:

"Said the seer Sandilya: At the moment of death a knower of Brahman should meditate on the following truths:

Thou are imperishable,         Thou are the changeless Reality,         Thou art the source of Life.

This highest knowledge, the knowledge of Brahman, having drunk of which one never thirsts, did Ghora Angirasa teach to Lord Krishna, Son of Devaki."

The possibilities for analyzing the world are virtually infinite, and the meanings of the individual words TAT and TVAM and their synthesis ASI, are also infinite. Lord Ganesh, who is the Embodiment of TAT TVAM ASI, is also infinite in his Avatars or Incarnations. But eight primary forms of Lord Ganesh's Avataric manifestations are emphasized in the Mudgala Purana. Each incarnation represents a particular stage of the Absolute as it unfolds into Creation. Lord Ganesh is the Physical Universe. That Absolute is both Svaraka - the world and all its diversity, and Niraka - the imperishable Soul as it abides apart from the movement of Creation and Dissolution of the Universe. The Mudgala Purana contains Hymns in which Lord Ganesh is praised as a variety of entities that represent the various stages of the Absolute as it unfolds in the world. The Absolute, prior to Creation, is devoid of distinction. The first step in the creative process is a twofold change in the absolute that becomes svata utthanaka, a term that means something like "awakening on its own", and parata utthana, which might be loosely translated as "aroused by another".

The Svata Utthana Brahma, the absolute that has awakened to creation of its own accord, is in fact the entity responsible for creation. It begins to wonder about itself, to ponder its own nature, and through the power of its thought (VIKALPA) it becomes twofold. It becomes a cognizer, and it becomes that which is cognized, both, however in an undifferentiated state. In other words, It becomes both the Body (Deha) and the Embodied Soul (Dehin).

The cognizer is considered to be formless, NIRAKARA, while the Absolute as the potential object of cognition, the visible and invisible physical world, has everything as its form, and is SARVAKARA.

The actual creation of the world will proceed from the undifferentiated unity of potential physical objects, which are seen as four different types of bodies. The undifferentiated unity of the four bodies is termed the BINDU. The process of creation will require as well an undifferentiated unity of cognizers, which is the "SO HAM" or awareness of "I AM".

The Bindu is equated with PRAKRITI or Primordial Matter, while the unity of souls is equated with PURUSHA, and together they will create the world of Souls and Bodies. It is Lord Ganesh, as the ASI, of TAT TVAM ASI, who joins the PRAKRITI and PURUSHA, and allows Creation to proceed. Lord Ganesh is the synthesis of the SVATA UTTHANA and PARATA UTHANA, the two Absolutes which arise at the first moment of Creation. From this perspective, Lord Ganesh is responsible for the appearance of the entire Universe, of its physical elements as they proceed from the BINDU, of individual Souls, and of the Puranic Manifestations of the Deities and Sakti Ma, Lord Surya, Lord Visnu, and Lord Shiva.

The sweet cakes in the large belly of Lord Lampodara represent all of physical reality. The two tusks represent the Dualistic nature of Reality, Dukka and Sukka, Hot and Cold, Good, and Evil, Sweet and Bitter (as well as our mind's dualistic true-false Reason). The fear of the snake represents the ignorance of Maya as we mistake a rope for a snake, not recognizing that a rope offers us a means both to bind our adversaries and to ascend to a higher plane. The confusion between the snake and the rope is a frequent metaphor in Sanatan Dharma for the ignorance and delusion of Maya. This fear and delusion leads to a weakening of Faith and we loose our ability to transcend the suffering of the Dualities through Yogic equanimity. But Lord Ganesh makes the snake into a rope and subdues all the "ten thousand and one" sweet cakes of samsara. The moon of course is God in the Dvaita Saguna relationship to the devotee through Bhakti, which we recognize as Ramachandra. When we loose our equanimity and faith by misusing the two tusks of our rational mind, we mistakenly perceive that God is laughing at us as our enemy, as did Ravanna. This causes God to disappear from our view, (even though He is always really there). The two tusks of an elephant represent the Dualistic nature of Human Reason (which is always looking for contradictions) and which causes doubt and weakness of Faith. Lord Ganesh does violence to Himself, to remove one Tusk, so that we will be Single Minded in our faith. So the devotee must do violence through the practice of meditation, japa, Tapyas, and fasting, and constantly bathing the Mind in the Holy Katha of the Lord, singing the Lord's Glories, to achieve single mindedness. But the removed Tusk becomes the pen whereby the Sacred Scriptures of the Lord are forever written in our Hearts. And it is by means of the constant singing of the Leilas of the Lord in His Holy Katha that the Lord continuously Incarnates in Midst of our Sat Sang. We see that it is the snakes immobilizing Lord Ram which cause Lord Garuda to doubt His Divinity. Again, here is one of the eight Miraculous qualities of absolute servitude, (almost to the point of death) in Lord Ram, and of snakes as binding ropes. It is only the Recitation of the Holy Katha of the Ramayan by Kag Bushundi to Lord Garuda which restores Lord Garuda's faith.

Now, if we are confused by all these images and seeming contradictions, we need only look at the Bhagavad Gita in chapters nine and ten and contemplate all that which Lord Krishna explain to Arjuna that He is. In 9:17 Lord Krishna says:

"I am the Father of the Universe, The Mother, the Grandfather, the Sacred Syllable OM, the Rig, Sama, and Yajur Vedas."

9:19 "I am Immortality and Death, Being and Non-Being (SAT and ASAT)"

10:21 "I am Vishnu,... and among the (nightly) heavenly bodies I am the Moon"

10:23 "I am Shankara (Shiva),... I am Fire (Agni)"

10:25 "Of Sacred Words I am OM,... of sacrifices, JAPA (silent repetition of prayer)"

10:27 "I am the most princely of Elephants"

10:30 "I am Prahalad,... I am Garuda"

10:31 "I am Ram,... I am the Ganges"

10:38 "Of Secrets,...I am Holy Silence (Maunam)"

and in 11:31 Arjuna says to Lord Krishna:

"You are the Infinite Lord of Gods, you are the Dwelling Place of the Universe, The Imperishable, the Existent, the Non-Existent, and That which Is beyond both"

We may also notice that, in the Srimad Bhagavatam, when Lord Krishna and BalaRama enters into the arena of Kamsa, each group of persons perceived them differently. Their parents saw Them as mere infants. Kamsa saw Them as Death Incarnate, the Yogis saw Them as Ultimate Truth, and the towns people each perceived Them each differently according to each beholder's wisdom or lack of wisdom.

So Divinity has many Forms and Many Names, and Many are the Paths to the One, and may each one of us continually progress spiritually day after day, birth after birth, towards that Ultimate Liberation through the help of Lord Ganesh.

Ganesha Sharinam, Sharinam Ganesha Jai Shri Ram Om Namaha Shivaya Hari Om Tat Sat Om Namah Bhagavata Vasudevaya

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