Uposatha Day: Buddhism and the Full Moon

Full Moon July


Many traditions celebrate the Full Moon. One that many people don’t know about is Buddhism.

For a buddhist, the day of the Full Moon is one of the days to practice the five (in some traditions it is eight) precepts. Siddhartha Gautama, the “original” Buddha, was born on a full moon day, renunciated worldly pleasures on a full moon day, became enlightened on a full moon day, and delivered his first sermon was on a full moon day. He also left behind his physical human form on a full moon day.

All over the world, Buddhist monastics and laypersons alike take this day to observe the Five Precepts and deepen their practice. You can give it a go, also. The Five Precepts are:

1. Not causing harm to other beings

2. Not taking the ungiven

3. Refraining from sexual misconduct

4. Refraining from incorrect speech

5. Refraining from intoxicants which lead to carelessness

The days to practice this are known as Uposatha days, and of course there is a sutta based on it. You can find audio and transcript of the Uposatha Sutta here.

Practice takes one step at a time. Even if you only practice on Uposatha days, that is a start. One breath a day is still meditation; one observance of the precepts is still observance of the precepts. If the intent is pure, the practices will become easier to implement in day to day life. As I always say, “You have to start somewhere.”

May your practice benefit all beings _/|\_ Many full moon blessings to all of you. Namaste.

Sutra Study: Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 1-23

Since it’s been so long between posts, I’ll start with a short introduction to the Bhagavad Gita. This book is a document of a conversation between Krishna (an avatar of one of the trinity of Hindu gods) and Arjuna. They are standing between Arjuna’s army and his cousins’ army, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. This battle did in fact take place, but these days the Bhagavad Gita is used more as a metaphor for the inner battle we all experience. It is a primary teaching of the yoga lineage, and is referenced in many different schools of Indian thought.

Chapter one introduced the characters and scene. Chapter two was the basic teachings of non attachment and self-realization. Chapter three was about karma, or action. And now Chapter four we will begin, is about wisdom.

Krishna begins off this chapter by reiterating the knowledge shared in chapter three about karma (action) and acting from a selfless place without attachment to results of your actions. In chapter four, verse one, he tells Arjuna: “I taught this path of yoga to the sun-god Vivasvan, and Vivasvan taught it to his son Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu taught his son Ikshvaku, the King of this planet and forefather of the Raghu dynasty.”

If you are familiar with the history and mythology, you may recognize that this shows a true lineage of leaders. Vivasvan, as the sun-god, rules all the planets by providing heat and light. Manu, the father of mankind, is also the father of Ikshvaku. Iksvaku was King of this planet (Earth). So there is a direct line to humanity of this deep teaching. This all occurred in the second yuga (age, era) – the Treta-yuga – of Hindu cosmology, which lasted 1,296,000 years. We currently live in the fourth yuga – the Kali Yuga, which is thought by some to last 432,000 years, though other durations have been suggested. There are only four yugas, and we cycle through them endlessly.

Though, despite his effort to keep this knowledge abundant, Krishna continues in verse 2 with, “I taught it to them in the attempt of keeping it in a strong lineage of eminent sages, but through time the practice of yoga was lost in the world.”

This may be referring to the caste system, as it is the job of sages and kings to maintain this level of knowledge and devotion in their people. Though, it was also thought that they would keep the teachings more pure than someone who was out to benefit themselves rather than the whole.

Krishna finishes the intro with verse three: “I have given you this knowledge today because you are my friend and devotee, so I know you will understand the transcendental nature of this teaching.”

Remember, in this story, Krishna and Arjuna grew up together, so Krishna knows Arjuna’s worthiness and ability to understand.

Arjuna responds in verse four, “Krishna, you were born long after Vivasvat. How can you have taught him this yoga in the beginning?”

So here begins the teachings of this chapter.

“(Verse 5) Each of us have passed through many births, Arjuna. You cannot remember, but I remember them all. (Verse 6) My true being is unborn and changeless. I am the Lord who dwells in every creature. Through my own illusion, I appear in every millennium.”

Well, this verse has been translated so many ways, both dualistic and non dualistic. “Illusion” here was originally “maya,” which can be seen as a veil covering what is true but not separate from it (non duality), or an avatar-like manifestation of the divine in the simple human world as the humans are unable to see the true nature (dualistic). Surely, there are other interpretations and translations, too, but this may help you see how just one word can cause such a divide.

Verse 7: Whenever there is a decline in dharma (duty, path) and the true purpose of life is forgotten, I manifest myself on earth.” Verse 8: “I am born again in every age to protect the good, destroy evil, and to reestablish dharma.” (paraphrased from Eknath Easwaran)

This is where a lot of us might get put off. We are being asked to believe in reincarnation, and the ability of the divine to directly interact with our lives. But, if this is the case for you, I ask you to consider this on a level of personal experience. In every new year, every new time of our lives, we find something inside or outside ourselves that keeps us going. New struggles come up, new obstacles, and yet we persevere. Why? Because there is something we know to be true that guides us in the right direction. Whenever a text gets a little heady or transcendental, I like to think of all the layers it applies to. Especially in Eastern traditions, the macro is mirrored in the micro, and vice versa, so all things that may seem very large can be understood on smaller levels first.

Verse 9 has many different translations as well depending on the school of thought. I will directly quote two different translations that certainly speak differently. Easwaran: “Those who know me as their own divine Self break through the belief that they are the body and are not reborn as separate creatures. Such a one, Arjuna, is united with me.” Prabhupada: “One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

You can see quite clearly how the first translation is more nondual, and the second is very dualistic. So, take what you will of this one, as it will mean many things to many people. Please feel free to share your personal beliefs/interpretations in the comments!

This speaks to the atman/Brahman idea. Atman is the true self, Brahman is the universal consciousness/god/etc. In nonduality the atman and brahman are the same, atman being like a wave in the ocean – not separate, though appearing to be. In dualism, they are in fact separate.

So the first quote is speaking to the fact that though the body and conditions surrounding it may appear separate, one who realizes their sameness will be liberated from the cycle of rebirth. One who realizes that the divine energy/figure/etc is in everything and not ever separate from the whole.

Verse 10: “Removed from selfish attachment, fear and anger, being fully aware of me and being purified by that knowledge, many have reached a state of unity with me.”

Once you achieve all the things that Krishna has taught so far, you will be able to be united with the divine, in whatever form you feel it is. Traditionally, this would be in the form of not being reborn, which, as we have discussed before, was a good thing as being reborn meant redeath, which was suffering. So to stop being reborn is something we all should wish to achieve, as we are then united with the whole (non duality) or with God (duality).

Verse 11 has Krishna saying: “All who approach, will be received. All paths lead to me, Arjuna.” I’m quite sure this is self explanatory.

Verse 12: “Those who desire success in their actions worship the gods; through action in the world of mortals, their desires are quickly fulfilled.” (paraphrase from Easwaran)

This one took me a while to understand. And perhaps I still don’t, so your input would also be fantastic. I think it is saying that those who see the bigger picture and act from that place will find fulfillment. By “bigger picture” I mean, not striving to ‘worship’ those humans who are in power, such as government officials, etc, with the hopes of attaining something more “rewarding” in this life, such as a higher status socially – but to act from a place of worship for that which is bigger than us. What are your thoughts?

Verse 13 is a bit controversial these days, but let’s see if we can take it as a grain of sand, “Because of the material laws of nature (gunas), the four castes exist. These distinctions have come from me, but I am not of them. I am their cause, but I am changeless and beyond action.”

When this text was written, the fifth caste – untouchables – which are so controversial now, was not in place yet. So Krishna is simply saying that the way in which we live, with our actions having consequences on a very human scale, does not affect him. He is beyond all of that as he is everything. The divine is part of everything, and therefore beyond action.

Verse 14 reads, “There is no work that affects me because I am not attached to the results of actions. Those who come to understand this and practice this will be free from karma.” Verse 15 follows with: “Even in ancient times, those who knew this truth engaged in action. You, too, can engage in action – pursuing an active life in the manner of the ancient sages.”

Karma here is “the fruits of actions” – the effects that need to play out from every action we take, and typically play out over many lifetimes, causing us to be reborn.

Krishna continues the chapter with verse 16, “What is action and what is inaction? Even the wisest sages have struggled with this question. Let me teach you the secret of action, which can free you from bondage.” And verse 17, “The true nature of action is hard to understand. It is important to understand what is action, what is inaction, and what kind of action should be avoided.”

Before we get the answer, would anyone like to take a guess about the difference between action and inaction?

Verse 18 begins the answer, “One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is very wise. They have transcended the limits of the mind, and are with complete awareness even in the midst of activity.”

What do you think this means – inaction in action and vice versa?

Every thing we do or do not do is a choice. Choosing to “do nothing” is a form of action. Even though we aren’t acting towards something, we are acting away from it. Every time we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to another, and every time we say no to one thing, we are saying yes to another. There is no escaping action/inaction – as long as we are alive we are acting or inacting in some way. Just as with every breath there is in, there is out, there is a “mini-death” as they say. We are gaining something and that something is immediately falling away. So it is with action.

Verse 19: “A person is wise when all their undertakings are free from anxiety about results, and when ‘all their selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge.'” (quoted from Easwaran)

When we come to a place in our lives when we are comfortable with trusting the way things are and will be, and when we act from a place of great understanding of all the teachings so far, we will not be anxious about results of our actions for this is karma, and it will not be of concern. This does not mean that it is okay to act from a bad place, as when these truths are realized, one will only see the value in acting in good ways.

I use the terms “good” and “bad” here relatively as nothing is either inherently good or bad, and when we reside in awareness of the Self, this duality falls away and we begin to see the bigger picture.

So, what is this quote that I’ve borrowed from Easwaran, “all their selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge?” When we consider the force or applicability of knowledge, or I prefer wisdom in this case (I’ll explain why later), it is quite a powerful force. What we know to be true drives all of our actions even in the most subtle of ways. So, by coming to know these deep-seated truths that Krishna is teaching, all selfish desires will dissolve as the knowledge/wisdom consumes the “need” for them.

A bit of a side note…why do I prefer the term ‘wisdom’ when speaking of these things? Simply because knowledge is something which can be taught, whereas wisdom is something which needs to be experienced. Perhaps wisdom is always there, and it is experience which lifts the veil that covers it. Either way, what Krishna is teaching is not just concepts, but things to be put into practice and experienced for ourselves. No teacher can make you understand it, it is something which must be understood for oneself. A knowledgeable person is not necessarily a wise person, and a wise person might not have much “formal” education.

Verse 20 speaks to karma again – or the results of our actions: “Those who have learned this truth have no attachment to the results of their actions, for ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action although is always engaged in activity.”

This is a very Hindu idea, and is one of the ideas that Buddhism (specifically nondual and Advaita-Vedanta) disputes – that anyone can be independent. What Krishna is saying here is that once you understand that there is a universal truth behind these apparently separate bodies, our actions have less impact on that universal part of us (less, to none at all). That universal part is known as ‘atman’, which is the part of us which is the same as Brahman, or the divine, consciousness, energy, whatever you see it as.

There are a few verses I struggle with, this is one of them because it is so highly disputed and in my own experience this understanding leads to a deeper sense of connection, interdependence, rather than independence. However, if we take Krishna’s teaching as saying we become independent of the gunas, the forces of nature/material elements, then it seems to make more sense. The Self is free from the gunas, though the mind-body is certainly bound by them.

Verse 21 follows from the previous verse which speaks to coming to a place that has no more attatchment to objects because they attained the most true wisdom. “One with such wisdom is free from expectations of reward and acts only with basic necessities in mind. Thus, they do not get affected by sinful reactions.”

So, first of all “sinful reactions” – I’d like to define this. All actions have consequences. Not always can we foresee what those consequences will be. When we act from a place of deep understand and without desire for selfish gain, our actions already are sure to be wholesome and therefore not incur sin, but also we are unattached to the results of the actions so we will be less affected by it.

Verse 22 explains further the traits of wisdom in action: “Those who live in freedom from duality, who are content with both success and failure, are never attached, although are still performing actions.”

I’d like to come back to the concept of duality shortly. This is saying that self and other, matter and spirit/consciousness, etc. are not the same things, that they are two separate things. What Krishna is saying here is perhaps that one needs to go beyond the illusion of duality that the mind and natural world creates and see the unity or similarity in all things. Once that occurs, they are deeply content, and don’t need material things to enhance their contentedness.

Verse 23: “The one who has realized this wisdom, free from duality and the modes of material nature, they have no selfish attachments. All work is performed in the spirit of service, and their karma is dissolved.”

So again we come across the idea of karma. Please keep in mind that this is not the same ‘karma’ that us Westerners have deemed, ie. you say something mean, then bang your elbow, and someone says “ha! karma!” This isn’t the same idea. Karma is translated most directly as “action.” It can be seen as a description of cause and effect, but some will say it’s played out over many lifetimes. Karma is quite simply human action,when spoken of in the Bhagavad Gita, and the results of that action.

When Krishna is speaking here about dissolving the karma, it means that you will no longer have any results to your actions, and all the results that were waiting to occur are complete. In some traditions, this means you will not be reborn – which is the goal as reborn means redeath, and life is suffering. It is only once we can overcome the limitations of the physical, material world that we can no longer suffer.

When you are acting in the “spirit of service” it means that you are performing action with the divine (whatever that means for you – consciousness, true Self, God, energy, etc.) in mind, rather than yourself and the ways you could benefit from the action.

For example, a common desire is to work your way up the economic chain. Say you work for a company. You usually start in a “low” position within the company and most of us desire to move up that chain. But why do we desire it? So we can have more income, a better house, more money for activities, support our family, etc. What would happen when one realizes the wisdom Krishna is speaking of, is that either of the first two desires would dissolve, and you would work to benefit the community, your family, the company, etc. For those who believe in a higher power, God/s, divine etc. then you would act to serve them and their creation.

To put this into action in your daily life, I suggest picking an activity that you do regularly, such as make tea, and begin to do it in service to someone or something. As it becomes easier to do on a small level, you can begin to apply it to bigger things. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section!

Until next time,

Dualism vs. Nondualism Intro Notes

Dualism Photo

Check out the intro notes from this afternoon’s philosophy discussion. If you missed it, feel free to leave a comment here!

Welcome to the Citta Bhavana Ashram everyone! Thank you for joining us today. I’ll give a brief introduction before opening the floor for discussion. Please hold all questions and comments until after the intro.

Please consider leaving a donation if you like what you see and want to see more. All donations go towards the sim tier. The donation jar is the candle just beside the fire.

It is most often thought that dualism is a Western idea and non-dualism is an Eastern idea. But, even within traditions we find opposing ideas. Let’s explore a bit what dualism and non-dualism are.

These are ideas put forth in the philosophy of mind, as well as religion. Very generally, there are two fundamental categories of things. Typically these are the difference between mind and body, and sometimes even mind and brain. In other words, the dualist/nondualist debate is arguing whether or not mind is separate from matter.

Now, since we don’t have an agreed upon definition of mind, I’d like us to explore it from the point of view of whatever it means to you – whether it is consciousness, spirit, soul, awareness, divine, whatever. I don’t want us to get caught up in this, since it could mean any of these things or more, and I feel that it’s meaning is a bit of a personal matter. I’d rather we focus on the difference between this and the material world.

On a personal level, body can be considered to be the physical experience, including, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Mind can be considered to be immaterial experience: thoughts, patters, self, ego, memory, awareness. If you think of it like a venn diagram, what comes in the middle?

It has been debated, too, that body has memory – some may say “muscle memory” but others also speak about fascia as holding physical memory. Hence why sense objects can be a trigger for memories. However, this is not of as much importance in our discussion today.

In Indian philosophy, there are two concepts: purusha (consciousness, spirit) and prakriti (matter, nature). These are considered in nondualist philosophy to be AND – as in, they are inseparable and of the same importance; whereas in dualist philosophy it is purusha versus prakriti – as in, one always struggling for importance. In some dualist traditions they may consider that either purusha or prakriti is more important (depending on the tradition), though most often they say purusha (conscoiusness, spirit) is more important, and in fact more true reality than the material world.

We find this same idea all over religion, spirituality, and philosophy. Many dualists do consider that the material world is real – we can all experience it more or less the same. What is in debate is the non-material world, or mind.

Descartes, in his “Meditations,” argues for the point of view of mind and God as being one and the same. This is echoed in Eastern traditions through the concept of prana and qi (energy or life force), and even Atman and Brahman (individual consciousness and universal consciousness) – in other words, the part of us that is also in everything else. The most true essence of existence.

We know that all material things are subject to change. All things change over time, and this is unavoidable. So many schools of thought would argue that if it changes, it is not real. So that which is unchanging, this purusha (consciousness, divine, etc), is the most true, or the most real.

In nondualism, it is recognized that all things are ultimately the same. That nothing is unique, and even our consciousness is not our own. By that, it is meant that we are all drops of the same ocean – that we are all small parts of one big whole. That we are not existing without everything else, and everything else is not existing without us.

So, do you think that we have something in us, something perhaps divine or extensive in nature, that exists separate from the material world, or do we have an innate connection to that which surrounds us and can be experienced?

Are we unique individuals, or are we really part of one big whole?

Can our minds exist without our bodies?

Does whatever makes up the “I” exist in our minds, our bodies, or neither?

I open the floor. What do you think?

Welcome back from Summer & A Short History of Japanese Philosophy

Well, it has been a beautifully long and busy summer, and in all of it I seem to have neglected posting my discussion notes. So, over the next few days you will get a few updates! This first post was not used for intro notes, but rather a guideline to some of the topics we’re discussing at the 5pmSLT Sunday meetings on Sengoku.


Japanese Philosophy

In the West we typically approach philosophy from finding the space between a set of opposites – for instance mind and matter, or self and other. In the Japanese traditions, rather, they try to find where these philosophies overlap, essentially negating that anything is separate from anything else, but rather everything is a process of apparent opposites.

Before 7th Century CE – Yamato Period
⁃ Shintoism, a native form of animism that addressed an essence within each of us and in every living thing known as “kami,” which governed the world.
⁃ respect for animals, weather, nature, and ancestors.

7th-9th Centuries CE – Asuka and Nara Periods
⁃ Confucianism and Buddhism imported from Korea and China.
⁃ “Confusianism addressed the “social self,” influencing government structure and patterns of formal behaviour.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301242/Japanese-philosophy)
⁃ Buddhism focused on the workings of the inner self. The most common ideas in Buddhism are impermanence, emptiness, dependent co-origination, and the impermanence of the self.
⁃ Shotoku Taishi, the then crown prince, declared in the “Seventeen Article Constitution” (604 CE) that the goal of “philosophy as well as government was harmony, rather than competition or separation, between the traditions.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301242/Japanese-philosophy)
⁃ Buddhism and Confusianism came together to allow the people to view the universe as a constantly fluctuating process, and acquire an understanding of the self as “interdependent with the social and natural worlds.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301242/Japanese-philosophy)

9th-12th Centuries CE – Heian Period
⁃ Kūkai (774-835) and Saichō (767-822) were two primary thinkers of this period. They influenced the Shingon and Tendai Buddhist schools. The main ideas they brought about were of every phenomenon as an expression of the cosmos (macro mirrored in micro) and that enlightenment, a goal of Buddhist practitioners, was not able to be attained as a concept but “was an act of the full complex of mind, body, and spirit as transformed through ritual practice.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301242/Japanese-philosophy)
⁃ It was in this period that the miyabi (elegance) and (okashi) charming aesthetic themes emerged.
⁃ The philosophical ideas of impermanence (mujō) and deep ontological being or mystery (yōgen), poignancy (mono no aware) and sensitivity (ushin) were further developed.

12th-16th Centuries CE – Kamakura Period
⁃ Samurai class takes over the court life seen in the classical period, turning people to search for a religious philosophy which would lead to peaceful everyday life rather than big-picture answers. Buddhist schools such as Pure Land, Zen, and Nichiren were established.
⁃ Thinkers of this time were Hōnen (1133-1212), Shinran (1173-1263), Dōgen (1200–53), and Nichiren (1222–82).
⁃ Hōnen and Shinran each founded a school of Pure Land Buddhism which focuses on faith in Amida Buddha, “the buddha of light who promises rebirth in the Pure Land to the faithful.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301242/Japanese-philosophy) They critiqued the idea of self as an isolated ego.
⁃ Dōgen was a main figure in Zen Buddhism, known for his ideas of the self and consciousness, with a focus on zazen, a particular form of seated meditation. Zazen was developed not as a means to enlightenment but as a form of discipline as an end in itself.
⁃ Nichiren focused on the Lotus Sutra and its ideal of the bodhisattva.
⁃ The native Shintō ideas and practices were absorbed into the Buddhist traditions during this period.

17th-19th Centuries CE – Edo and Tokugawa Periods
⁃ Confucian ideas reemerged to encourage peace and stability, unifying the state to political centrality.
⁃ Bushidō, the Code of the Warrior, emerged. This code expressed ideals of loyalty, stoic self-control, and personal virtue. These are in line with, respectively, “Confucian propriety, Buddhist self-discipline, and Shintō purity of heart.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301242/Japanese-philosophy)
⁃ There are two main groups of Confucian thinkers:
⁃ First are those who emerged from the neo-Confucian philosophies of Zhu Xi (Shushi; 1130-1200), Wang Yangming (Ōyōmei; 1472-1529), Hayashi Razan (1583-1657) and Nakae Tōju (1608-48). This group had some members who thought that the neo-Confucian philosophy was too abstract when detailing ri (metaphysical principle) was the structuring force of the universe – they emphasized that qi (vital force) was the main structuring force of the universe.
⁃ The next group was the school focused on the “traditional” ideas of Confucianism as presented by Confucius, which emphasized a less metaphysical view and was more concerned with the functioning of everyday lives than answering the greater picture. This school is known as the kogaku school.
⁃ During this period, a school of thought known as kokugaku emerged which held the idea of returning to the original “ancient ways” of Shintōism. They wanted to renew the ideas of mono no aware – a sensitivity to or sympathy for the things that constitute the world.

19th-Current Centuries CE – Taisho and Heisei Periods
⁃ A new word was coined during this period that was meant to be a direct translation of the English term “philosophy” – testugaku, comprised of wisdom (tetsu) and learning (gaku).
⁃ Here is when the Western constructs started to influence Japanese philosophers. The first major Japanese philosopher to use the Western style of philosophy was Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945) in his “An Inquiry into the Good” (1911). He introduced a philosophy he called “Nothingness” (mu), which fuzed the ideas of Zen and William James to come to an idea of “pure experience” based on experiential and logical experiences of judgement and action. His ideas inspired the Kyōto school of philosophy which explored the differences and similarities of Western and Eastern philosophical and religious traditions.
⁃ Nishitani Keiji (1900-1990) explored the idea of Nothingness and brought the ideas of Martin Heidegger (who he studied under), which was already arguably similar to Japanese ideas of being and existence.
⁃ Watsuji Tetsurō (1889-1960) disagreed with the ideas of Western individualism as well as Confucian collectivism, and instead posited an ethical idea of “betweenness,” as if each individual exists on a sliding scale of “individual freedom and socially imposed norms.” (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/301242/Japanese-philosophy).
⁃ Tanabe Hajime (1885-1962) also found a sliding scale between the universal and particular ideas, feeling that the schools of either ignore the fact of specific species. For instance, the respective schools would emphasize a person’s universal human nature or atomistic individuality. What Tanabe introduced was the idea of a person as an ethnic, national and cultural being, having an individual role as well as a universal role.
⁃ Some modern philosophers that have stuck to the traditional philosophies are Tamaki Kōshirō (1915-1999) and Nakamura Hajime (1911-1999) who follow a Buddhist tradition. Some others, such as Yuasa Yasuo (1925-2005) and Ueda Shizuteru (1926-current) focus on integrating ideas to establish a universal or global perspective rather than monocultural.

The Book of Virtue

“A state is governed through regular means,
A war is conducted through irregular means,
But it is through doing nothing that one seizes the universe.
How do I know this is so?
The more taboos and prohibitions rule,
The poorer the people become.
The more one relies on good tools,
The more disorder rages.
The more ingenious minds there are,
The more frivolous luxury develops.
The more ordinances multiply,
The more bandits swarm.
That is why the sage says:
‘I do nothing
And the people improve.
I remain silent
And the people govern themselves.
I undertake nothing
And the people grow rich.
I desire to be without desires,
And the people rediscover simplicity.'”

An old lesson for our world from one of the great Ancients, Lao Tzu.

A Bit On Buddhism and Karma and Rebirth.

I posted this on a Google+ community today, and I thought it was worth sharing here. Original post can be found here.

In no way am I learned in Buddhism, but I happen to have a community about karma and creativity. Here is a bit of my beliefs: Many people think of karma as fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen to them, we call it “bad karma.” But this common interpretation of karma is misunderstood. We typically see karma as an uncontrollable factor in our lives, based on past lives. But, the literal translation of karma is “action” – human action. It does not control us. In fact, we control it. When we utilize action (even non-action is a form of action), we are influencing karma. The reason to be compassionate should not be in anticipation of receiving it in return, or being reborn in a better life, but because it’s the right thing to do. Invite into your life what you want to share with others; we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. Everything you create in your life, every intention, thought, and action, will shape the rest of your creations. In every moment there is rebirth, in every moment there is death. We are always changing. But we are in control of that change. We can be whatever it is we want to be. Be creative with the way you live your life. Be aware of every moment, every thought. Be the witness, but also be the creator.

Rebirth, to me, does not only mean rebirth into a new life after death of this body. Rebirth happens in every moment, every breath, every blink of your eye, and every passing thought. I think on this scale, the Buddha was referring to karma as intention and consequences of action in this lifetime, in this moment and the next. Why put off to the next lifetime what you can do in this one? Karma is creative action/intent/thoughts. Karma is effective now, tomorrow, next week, and next lifetime. Perhaps there is no scientific proof for an afterlife, but there is very logical proof that there is death and birth within yourself and all around you in every moment.

Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, or rebirth, the teaching of karma can be utilized here and now. Why would you not want to give and take good things in your life? The consequences of these actions/intentions/thoughts start now, and will continue forever, whether forever is until this body dies or until the soul reaches nirvana, or whatever else may be out there.

Be the witness to your thoughts, and you will see this cycle of birth/death/rebirth. Be the witness to your breath and feel it all arise, and fall away. A great friend and mentor often says, “Give what you don’t need to the Earth, and let her recycle it for you.” Maybe all the answers aren’t clear now, maybe they never will be, but your intentions and thoughts and actions undoubtedly influence your future, so be conscious of them.

A close friend once told me, “Your thoughts are not your own.” and, “The truth is in mirrors.” We are all reflections of the world around us, and every thought has been thought before. Our thoughts, emotions, sensations, are not our own. We are the witness to the events and phenomena that go on in this world, in this body. There is no “I”, simply because nothing is the same. “I” am not the same person “I” was this morning, yesterday, or last year. Physically, your entire body replaces itself every ~7 years. Your cells are constantly dying and regrowing, your liver cells live for around 150 days, your skin replaces itself every 2-4 weeks, hair replaces itself every 2-6 years, etc. All the organs in your body, all the bones and muscles, are constantly replacing the dead cells with new ones. And with that, your personality, your thoughts, all change in moments, not even considering days or years. There is no “I”, no “self”, because nothing is permanent. (For more neat statistics, refer here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1219995/Believe-lungs-weeks-old–taste-buds-just-days-So-old-rest-body.html)

To me, rebirth doesn’t resonate as a new body and a new life necessarily, but a cycle in this body, in this life. Perhaps the same way that karma sticks with all this change in this body (which is only really this body for a few more minutes), works the same with another body, in another lifetime.

Safe journey to you, my friend, and enjoy the path that you’re on, as it is forever changing!

Hemisphere Hopping

This weekend is a yoga workshop I’m attending, but we talked about this video yesterday, so I thought I’d share with you all. The power of the two hemispheres is fantastic.

Here’s a bit of what we talked about:

Left brain – “The files of that which I know.”

When our minds think of the past and future they must fantasize, write a narrative.

The left brain handles the language centres. It’s where all our internal chattering comes from. When meditating, you are (attempting) to turn off the left brain and use only the right.

Systems are developed in the left brain. For instance, we know 1+1=2. That is a system. All judgements and labels come from here.

Right brain – experiential focal point. i.e. the heart in Chinese medicine as the emotional centre is equivalent to the right brain.

The right brain deals only with this moment.

The left brain “hijacks” the moment and turns it into a narrative, tells you what you’re experiencing. Your detailed understanding of the moment comes from the left brain, but the understanding of the eternity of this moment is the right brain.

“We are all one” comes from the right brain.

The level of unconscious of the world is what allows troubles to arise. If we could all learn to utilize each side of our brain at the appropriate moments, or “tap in” to the right brain we would be able to handle situations better, and understand the world better. The left brain forces your experiences to act as if they already know everything. Your right brain tells you that you know nothing. Imagine experiencing everything as if it was the first time you’ve experienced it. Go into the world with the eyes of a child. Innocence, openness, nonjudgemental, forgiving – all qualities of the right brain.

Any intention you set is handled differently by each hemisphere. The left side solidifies, solidifies, solidifies, as though building a brick house and each brick is a different detail. The right brain will leave it to manifestation, let it come to you. For instance, you have an intention to travel to Thailand. Your left brain would calculate how much money you need, when to take time off work, book the flights, etc. whereas your right brain would just let it pan out, let it happen. In a way the right brain is attraction, where what you think and feel and want will be attracted to you. So if you think about going to Thailand, and let your body experience that desire, you may get a phone call saying, “We’re looking for a yoga teacher in Thailand, so we’ve called you. You won’t get paid too much, but we’ll cover your living costs and food.” And suddenly, it’s there. Take the path of least resistance.

This is a beautiful system of thinking, that connects to so much, nadis, Tao, energy work, manifestation, attraction, yoga, and so much more.

What does this all mean? I’m not entirely certain. But, it’s a building block in how we can make ourselves and our world happier, easier, and more comfortable. How we can get along with each other. It all links back to empathy, too.

Anyway, that’s just touching the surface, but comments are always welcome! What do you think?