A State of Wonder!

21/08/2015

In this post, I would like to explore yet another excellent example of buddhist movie making in the format of a major screen adventure. With a budget of over US $ 100 million, Cloud Atlas is one of the most expensive independent films of all time. And it should come as no surprise, that this movie adventure advancing core buddhist notions was produced and directed by Andy Wachowski. The Wachowski Brothers previously gave us The Matrix, which I still consider the best adaptation of core buddhist insights into a popular movie format to date. It is also good to see Halle Berry and Tom Hanks in a movie that goes well beyond the expected ‘common perception’ of our so called ‘reality’.

Cloud Atlas ventures into the buddhist notion of how our Karma perpetuates the infinite cycles of transformations from life, death to rebirth – the Buddha described these cycles as the Twelve Links of Dependant Origination – which define our appearance in this world in one form or another.

Cloud Atlas 01

The movie correctly asserts that our own existence can only be defined by others, or our perceptions of others. Consequently, nothing can possibly be identified as existing independently in time and space, by itself or in its own right. All that we perceive in this world can only be defined through dualistic and conceptual discriminations. That simple understanding should conclusively tell us something about the ‘real’ part in our interpretation of ‘reality’!

We live, we die, we resurrect ourselves, primarily because we couldn’t let go just yet, and are therafter driven through consecutive existences by unimpeded greed and desire. And all the while we are bound to follow our Karma – our past actions leading to motivational tendencies, habits, attachments, total self conditioning, repetitive patterns of behaviour and appropriate positive and negative retribution.

The problem with our current scientific / religious / philosophical / psychological interpretations of our Ego Self in the context of this reality is that we are unable to define anything we perceive without also defining its opposite at the same time: man-woman, me-you, this-that, green-blue, hate-love… which takes us to the core message of the movie Cloud Atlas:

To be is to be perceived
And so to know thyself is only possible
Through the eye of the other
The nature of our immortal lives
Is in the consequences of our words and deeds
That go on apportioning themselves
Throughout all time
Our lives are not our own
From womb to tomb
We are bound to others
Past and present
And by each crime and every kindness
We birth our future
 
Somni 451
 
Cloud Atlas 02

And the next best quote from this movie also explains a very basic mechanism of how we may eventually attempt to escape our own Karma, although I must admit I would have used a different set of terms to explain the ‘conventions’ we will have to defeat in the process. I would describe these as our purely mind generated conceptual, intellectual, discriminative and dualistic perceptions of reality. And those mind generated concepts driven by nothing but imagination, lead to our apprehension of Maya, this mind powered Dream World we tend to call ‘Planet Earth’.

Does anybody ever wonder where we go when we sleep and dream? What happens if we can’t wake up form our dream? How would we know the difference between the ‘real world’ and the ‘dream world’? What actually happens if we die in a dream? Well, that’s one question to which we already have the answer: we instantly wake up from that dream!

Let’s consider this permissible question based on that understanding: what happens if we die here in this world? Do we wake up to… another dream?

All boundaries are conventions
Waiting to be transcended
One may transcend any convention
If only one can first conceive of doing so
 
Somni 451

From a ZEN perspective, the real secret is to let go of all and any form of mind activity and by doing so defeat our Karma as well as our destiny in the process. It is that destiny which drives us through the never-ending cycles of life, death and consequent rebirth. And these cycles are perpetuated by our Karma, which – from a strictly technical point of view – represents nothing but infinite combinations of cause and effect, action and reaction. The choices we make today and the consequent actions resulting from our choices, define who we will be tomorrow. And in our next life… and the next life thereafter… and the next…

From a ZEN understanding of our existence, not to come back at all, not to be reborn into this or any other world system we have created in our mind only, must be the final objective. However, the purely intellectual understanding of how the Universal Law of Cause and Effect actually works, by applying an intellectual process of abstraction and deduction, based on logic and reason, is just not good enough! We must find the answer to all that we perceive as our Ego Self and reality at large directly in our own mind, by beholding nothing but the vast and tranquil power of mind itself; by not asking a single question at all!

But if we would have to post just one question in this context, let it be this one:

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

And my own final take on all or nothing at all is as usual…

A fish without ears listens to
The cry of a crow with no mouth
Welcome to the real world!
 
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Dream Walker!

25/11/2014

 

I think some of the more famous ZEN masters of hallowed antiquity – Lin Chi, Dogen, Hakuin come to mind – are a bit overrated. Yes, their teachings still represent the established standard for the preservation of original ZEN philosophy even today, but I often find the lesser known masters of those ancient days vastly more insightful.

I guess it all boiled down to the effective use and consequent appeal of ‘expedient means’ at a time when both Koan (Rinzai Zen) and ‘silent contemplation’ meditation (Soto Zen) had lost their bite and required a major shakeup to get the withering Zen gardens back into full bloom. In addition to books on my regular favourites – ancient masters Ikkyu, Huang Po, Ta Hui and Hui Hai – here’s what I am reading right now: The Unborn – The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei (1622-1693), by Arthur Braverman and Mud & Water – The collected Teachings of Zen Master Bassui (1327-1387), by Norman Waddell.

I consider these masters – just like the above listed – the non conformist lot in the history of Zen Buddhism, relentlessly shaking those unborn / undying out of their slumber of ignorance and delusion by utilising expedient means based on no particular formal approach, meditation techniques, moral precepts or monastery discipline. Because any formal approach based on expedient means must be viewed as yet another illusion and serves at best as a psychological can opener, leading those blinded by the play of phenomena in this reality back to the One Mind.

Also, to keep an ’empty mind’ or to even try to stop the never ceasing flow of thoughts in our mind from occurring (as in Soto Zen), is a bit like trying to stop a freight train with your bare hands… why bother with the effort? Just let thoughts come and go as they please – as long as you don’t follow them wherever they are trying to take you – while with a straightforward mind, contemplate all that arises as the Matrix of Reality every moment of every day for the rest of your life. To ‘see within’ really requires no more but to correctly ‘see without’… all of it, all at once and all the time!

Master Bankei and even master Hui Neng – who basically invented this meditation approach – would agree with this all inclusive, intuitive practice. They would also agree that originally, Zen did not promote any formal meditation efforts or techniques, moral precepts or monastery practice to achieve the final insight into the fabric of reality:

Clearing thoughts from the mind as they arise is like washing away blood in blood. […] No matter how long you keep washing, the bloodstains never disappear. Since you don’t know that your mind is originally unborn and undying and free of illusions, you think that your thoughts really exist, so you transmigrate in the wheel of existence. You have to realise that your thoughts are ephemeral and unreal and, without either clutching at them or rejecting them, just let them come and go of themselves. They are like images reflected in a mirror! […] The Buddha-mind is ten thousand times brighter than any mirror and is marvellously illuminative besides. All thoughts vanish tracelessly into its light.

New Quote

A monk: I have great difficulty subduing all the desires and deluded thoughts in my mind. What should I do? Bankei: The idea to subdue deluded thoughts is a deluded thought itself. None of those thoughts exist from the start. You conjure them up out of your own discriminations.

New Quote

In the instruction of students under his charge, the master did not lay down any rules or establish any regulations. Yet, a silent, respectful atmosphere always prevailed in his temples – an example of ‘Not governing, yet having no disorder; doing what is right without being told.’

Book18

And here a few quotes from master Bassui:

Though the Buddha Way is for the purpose of realising the important matter of cause and effect, when I see how a passing fancy can cause one to believe a teacher of false views, I realise how easily one’s karmic inclination can influence one’s beliefs. But the karmic inclination people have towards the Buddha Way is far more intimate than their inclination towards an individual. Can one be without karmic inclination toward one’s own mind? Realising the Buddha Mind with your own mind is like the sky realising the sky.

New Quote

If you try to remove lingering habits that come from attachment to form, not yet having seen into your own nature, you are like one in deep sleep trying to rid himself of a dream. The desire to rid oneself of a dream is itself a dream. The knowledge that it is a dream is also nothing but a dream…

Book11

And more of my Zen verse to complement the above.


Dream Walker

Dream Walker 01
honey bees on a banana leaf
cloud plays with light
the mirror echo of a mirror’s
infinite fractal realised
as ghosts in the machine
in a dream within a dream
sleep walking wide awake
unborn undying unattained
intrinsic awareness remains
Dream Walker 02
 

And last also an update to my motto. This is a shortened re-compilation of two verses taken from the classic A Zen Harvest. The verse with the ‘fish without ears’ really made me laugh…

A fish without ears listens to
The cry of a crow with no mouth
Welcome to the real world!
 

Reflection!

21/09/2014

Thanks all for your likes of my previous post! Here more of my effort at ZEN verse plus a few explanations as to the use of specific terms and definitions. I know this is going to take away a bit of the ‘mystery’ of ZEN practice, but Buddhism in principle has no place for sentimental, self-centred, dualistic and discriminative mind activity. Classic ancient ZEN practice is actually rather terse if not to say brutal in its overall appreciation of our world and universe. Consequently, this further intro to a new format of my Blog is not meant as a justification of the apparent conflict between visual representation and verse. In my experience as a former frontline photographer – combined with my current understanding of ZEN – the self created beauty and horror we all experience in this world requires no justification. It is what it is!

The nature theme often used in ZEN related poetry is here represented by my photography while verse construction shall focus on what I tend to call the Psychology of Human Existence. Similar terminology was widely used by ancient ZEN masters in China and Japan over the last 2.000 years and can also be found in essential Buddhist/ ZEN scriptures such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead (TBD) and the Lankavatara Sutra (The Lanka), where psychological terms and definitions were employed to assess and define the mental processes of a perceived Ego Self and its creation of an apparent external reality, which we further believe exists in contradistinction to our own internal mental continuum. Mhmmm… heavy stuff, right?

However, once we intuitively apprehend that these two realities are one and the same, to perceive and truly appreciate this world in all its glory and misery is like a mirror looking into another mirror – like the projection of an infinite visual fractal.

Life as we know it is a contradiction in terms, everything we perceive is at cross purposes and in perpetual conflict. Apart from ZEN, modern psychology and perhaps quantum physics represent the best we can do to unravel this enigma:


Reflection
Reflection 01
 

mirror mind reflection
fractal of projection
action and reaction
me this you that
right wrong green red
end the reign of reason
reach the light of freedom
touch the sight of sameness
taste the sound of silence
feel awareness rising
from the void within

Reflection 02

Welcome to the Real World!

Last Light!

19/09/2014

I am going to try something entirely new on this Blog. New for me since I have never tried my hand at verse. I just feel I should formulate my understanding of ZEN in a way that is not based on logic and reason, since that doesn’t lead to a higher understanding of the Great Matter anyway. Somewhere along the line, ZEN all boils down to a fundamental intuitive insight into our True Self Nature.

Apart from classics such as Ryokan, Ikkyu and Cold Mountain, I have never actually invested time into the study of ZEN related poetry, which is probably the best way to approach it? And as far as I am concerned, there is no need to get stuck on established classic poetry formats or a formalized approach to verse construction? Nah… anything goes! To be honest, even when it comes to my ZEN studies, I never really subscribe to the heterogeneous concept of Expedient Means! Yes, I understand that it works for most people but the naturally creative and expressive power of Mind does not require any formal setting to go to ‘work’!

To give my verse ‘format’ the visual context usually reserved to the reader’s imagination, I am going to do the following: photo above – verse – photo below. And these, both verse and photography are inspired by my life in Africa over the last 25 years. Mhmmm… ZEN in Africa… I guess I better start praying to St. Jude, the christian saint of Lost Causes:


Last Light

Last Light 01

last light
fire sky above
dark shapes
lions roam the plain below
dark light above beyond
playing with reflections
fragments of perception
flashes of cognition
who is there to see

Last Light 02


Welcome to the Real World!

Darkness Visible!

07/07/2014

I have been studying Mahayana, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism for the past eight years, which on a higher level of intuitive perception and insight qualifies neither as religion nor philosophy but as advanced psychology.

Here at least, we have the opportunity to explore significant insights into the Great Matter of life and death without resorting to artificially constructed, dualistic or discriminative abstraction. Because that form of conceptual mind activity and intellectual reflection is the real obstacle in our efforts of trying to explain our existence in this world or the universe at large:

Because there is nothing!
Because there is!
Because!

The moment we engage in the discriminative analysis of our sense perceptions combined with our minds intrinsic capacity to operate primarily as a difference engine – analysing the endless stream of sensory information as presented to us by a perceived external reality – we are already Lost in Translation. And that is because from a Buddhist perspective, the external expanse of reality as recognised by us as distinctly separate from our internal mental continuum, is nothing but a projection of our own dualistic and discriminative mind activity.

What can we possibly ‘see’ or ‘find’ out there but… Mind itself?

I am currently working my way through classic Chinese literature such as Lao-Tzu’s Taoteching and I can honestly find no real differences between Taoism and Zen Buddhism – other than the semantic use of words and language to describe the exact same thing. Let’s look at some of the more important quotes in this context. First, Verse 1 of the Taoteching plus comments from ancient masters as translated and compiled by Red Pine:

The way that becomes a way
is not that Immortal Way
the name that becomes a name
is not the Immortal Name
the maiden of Heaven and Earth has no name
the mother of all things has a name
thus in innocence we see the beginning
in passion we see the end
two different names
for one and the same
the one we call dark
the dark beyond dark
the door to all beginnings

Comments by ancient masters:

Confucius says ‘The Tao is what we can never leave. If we can leave it, it isn’t the Tao.’

Te-Ch’ing says ‘Lao-tzu’s philosophy is all here. The remaining five thousand words only expand on this first verse.’

Book15

Right, I would agree with the above assessment. If we can’t derive an intuitive – or even just an intellectual – insight from this first verse, the rest of the Taoteching is not going to explain it to us either. Let’s see what Zen has to say by comparison. First a quote from The Lankavatara Sutra as translated by D.T. Suzuki, compiled and edited by Dwight Goddard:

[…] the Lankavatara is to be classed with the intuitional scriptures of the Orient, rather than with the philosophical literature of the Occident. In China it combined easily with the accepted belief of the Chinese in Laotsu’s conception of the Tao and its ethical idealism to make the Buddhism of China and Japan eminently austere and practical, rather than philosophical and emotional.

And this is what the Buddha had to say about religious and philosophical believe systems in general. This quote is also from The Lanka:

As for the teachings: there are priests and popular preachers who are given to ritual and ceremony and who are skilled in various incantations and in the art of eloquence; they should not be honoured nor reverently attended upon, for what one gains from them is emotional excitement and worldly enjoyment […] Such preachers, by their clever manipulations of words and phrases and various reasonings and incantations, being the mere prattle of a child, as far as one can make out and not at all in accordance with truth nor in unison with meaning, only serves to awaken sentiment and emotion, while it stupefies the mind. […]

Then there are the materialistic philosophers. No respect nor service is to be shown to them because their teachings, though they may be explained by using hundreds of thousands of words and phrases, do not go beyond the concerns of this world and this body and in the end they lead to suffering. As the materialists recognise no truth as existing by itself, they are split up unto many schools, each of which clings to its own way of reasoning.

Book05

I have to say the above assessment, written over 2.000 years ago, is by far my favourite abstract analysis of religious and philosophical believe systems. Next a quote from Ch’an Master Hui Hai – Zen teaching of instantaneous awakening as translated by John Blofeld:

Question: Do Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism really amount to one doctrine, or to three?

Hui Hai: Employed by those of great capacity, they are the same. As understood by those of limited intellect, they differ. All of them spring forth from the functioning of the one self-nature. It is views involving differentiation which makes them three. Whether a person remains deluded or gains illumination depends on that person, not upon differences or similarity of doctrine.

Book24

Any form or school of Buddhism I can think of ultimately qualifies as nothing but… a Can Opener? A power tool, a means to an end, an expedient means, whatever terms and definitions we would like to staple to this particular proposition (I tend to have only sledge hammers in my tool kit), Buddhism in principle serves only one objective: to show us the door that leads us back into our own mind! And by ‘going there’, or ‘nowhere at all’ allows us to find all the answers we are looking for right in our own mind!

Because Mind is all there is!

The Matrix6

And since the ‘doctrine’ of Buddhism – if one must call it that – can very often be expressed in one-liners or even just a single word or shout, here my favourite quote from Zen Dawn as compiled and translated by J.C. Cleary. This quote is credited to Zen master Daoxin:

Always contemplate your own bodily existence as being empty and pure as a reflection – it is visible, but it cannot be grasped. Knowledge is born from among the reflections, ultimately without location.

Book12

And my final quote for today is not actually from any sacred scripture but from a song by U2, It’s a Beautiful Day:

What you don’t have you don’t need it now!

What you don’t know you can feel it somehow!

Karamoja, Uganda 09

Welcome to the Real World!

I have not been able to do much writing here over the last few months and that is because I took time off trying to find a new home in the ‘wild’, one as far away from so-called civilisation as I can go considering the limited means at my disposal.

And one of the remotest areas we have here in East Africa, a solid 10 to 12 hours drive from either Nairobi or Kampala, is the Kidepo Valley National Park, situated in the border triangle between Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan. A landscape reminiscent of the Mara and Serengeti, occupied mostly by ancestral tribes and clans such as the Karamajong, Turkana and Toposa.

It is perhaps not as majestic as the grand vistas of the Himalayas – which I would have preferred – but nonetheless impressive with its ‘Big Sky’ views of endless plains, archetypal tribal communities and abundant wildlife. Should do wonders for my photography and if you would like to see more of that, please visit my FB https://www.facebook.com/RazorFishImages for regular photo updates and new releases.

Back to my reading of core Buddhist literature and the contemplation of life and phenomena in realities expanse. And that contemplation should as of now become a little easier considering the landscapes and vistas prevailing in this region:

Karamoja, Uganda 01

Karamoja, Uganda 06

Karamoja, Uganda 04

This first new post contains mostly excellent quotes from some of my favourite books such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead (TBD) and John Blofeld’s translations The Zen Teaching of Huang Po as well as Ch’an Master Hui Hai – Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening. The focus here is on the nature of all appearances and phenomena and with that the question as to the nature of reality at large. From an intellectual position and based on the sense perceptions of an assumed Ego Self, reality as it presents itself to us can only be explained as the fragmentation of the One Mind into a perceived dualistic Subject-Object Dichotomy. This further leads to purely mind generated intellectual and conceptual interpretations of our own existence and with that the misapprehension of reality at large.

In explaining this, the Tibetan Book of the Dead leads the way. The following quotes (from Chapter 4, the Introduction to Awareness and chapter 11, the Great Liberation by Hearing) are here presented out of context as they represent universal wisdom in my opinion:

Now with regard to the diversity of relative appearances: They are all perishable; not one of them is genuinely existent. All phenomenal existence, all things of cyclic existence and nirvana, are the discernible manifestation of the unique essential nature of one’s own mind. This is known because whenever one’s own mental continuum undergoes change, there will arise the discernible manifestation of an external change. Therefore, all things are the discernible manifestation of mind. […]

For as long as this diversity of appearances is being perceived and diversely elucidated, differences as to the nature of appearances are apprehended, and consequently, bewilderment [confusion] comes about through attachment to those respective views. Yet even though all those appearances, of which one is aware in one’s own mind, do arise as discernible manifestations, Buddhahood is present simply when they are not subjectively apprehended or grasped. Bewilderment does not come about on account of these appearances – but it does come about through their subjective apprehension. Thus, if the subjectively apprehending thoughts are known to be of the single nature of mind, they will be liberated of their own accord.

Karamoja, Uganda 05

In whatever form phenomena arise, they are not real. All substantial things are unreal and false, like a mirage. They are not permanent. They are not changeless. So what is the purpose of my attachment to these perceptions? What is the purpose of my awe and terror? That which is non-existent, I am seeing as existent! In reality, all things that I perceive are the perceptions of my own mind. Yet, the essential nature of mind is primordially non-existent, like an illusion. So, how is it possible for things to exist externally, in their own right? Since I have not understood this before, I have always regarded the non-existent as existent. I have regarded the unreal as real. I have regarded illusions as truth. This is why I have roamed in cyclic existence for such a long time. […]

Now I must realise that all these phenomena are completely devoid of substantial existence, even for a single instant. In reality, they are like a dream, like an illusion, like an echo, like a celestial city, like a mirage, like a reflection, like an optical illusion, like the moon reflected in water. It is absolutely certain that these phenomena are not truly real, but that they are false. Through this singular resolve, I will blow apart my apprehension of their true existence.

Book07

Karamoja, Uganda 02

And the next set of quotes are from the book Ch’an Master Hui Hai – Zen Teaching of Instantaneous Awakening as translated and compiled by John Blofeld. This quote is actually from the authors introduction to the main subject matter, since I feel he has been able to describe The Great Matter and The Final Insight into the Fabric of Reality right to the point:

The Ch’an [Zen] masters say in effect: Let us get to the root of things. Once we have heard, studied, or intuitively discovered enough to know what Buddhism is about, let us relinquish everything in a tremendous effort to focus our minds on what is real. So long as our minds are out of focus, the objects of the senses, the sensations to which they give rise, and the stored results of those sensations, will impinge upon them, setting up endless chains of action and reaction. The process of correcting this wrong focus, or false vision can be counted gradual only in the sense that most people require long and careful preparation; but true perception, when we have learnt how to be ready for it, will burst upon us in a flash.

Though our minds remain out of focus by no more than, so to speak, a millionth of an inch, everything will still seem to us very nearly as it seemed before, despite our careful preparation. However, when true focus is attained, reality will flash upon us, the whole universe of phenomena will be seen as it really is, its power to hamper and afflict us will be instantly destroyed, our remaining stores of karma will be burnt up in that flash, and nothing will remain for us except the duty of pointing the way so that others in their turn may achieve the ultimate vision just as we have done.

When that final intuition bursts upon us like a blinding light, we shall discover that nothing exists or ever has existed except in our minds. That, indeed, our minds are not our minds but mind itself; that this Mind is perfectly quiescent, a pure void in that at is utterly without form, characteristics, plurality, subject, object, or anything at all on which to lay hold; and yet that it is certainly not void in that it is the beginningless beginning and endless end of all the phenomena which from moment to moment contribute to the unceasing flux of what we call ‘existence’. This void is at once the container and the contained, the one and the many, the neither-one nor-many, the doomed and the deathless, relativity and ultimate truth, samsara and nirvana, without a hairsbreadth of difference between any of these or other pairs.

Perceiving this, we shall seem to others to have taken a sudden leap, as though from somewhere to nowhere. Indeed, a ‘sudden leap’, though inaccurate, is perhaps the best term with which to describe the process. Yet, in truth, we shall have leapt from nowhere to nowhere, hence, we shall not have leapt at all, nor will there be or has there ever been any ‘we’ to make the leap!

Nothing will have changed except our point of view!

Book24

Karamoja, Uganda 07

Welcome to the Real World!

 

Speaking of empty illusion, it is illusion when created and illusion when experienced too; it is illusion when you are knowing and aware and illusion when your are lost in delusion too! Past, present and future are all illusions. (…) In the daily activities of a student of the Path, to empty objects is easy, but to empty mind is hard. If objects are empty but mind is not empty, mind will be overcome by objects. Just empty the mind and objects will be empty of themselves! Once this mind is empty, then what is there outside of mind that can be emptied?

Think again! The above are quotes from the lectures and letters of ZEN master Ta Hui as compiled in the book Swampland Flowers, translated by J.C. Cleary. Posted here today in support of my review of yet another great movie advancing Buddhist notions. This one has been sitting in my DVD collection for some years, only to be re-discovered the other day: What Dreams May Come directed by Vincent Ward with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Junior.

The understanding that all of reality is mind constructed and even the experience of birth and death or heaven and hell is nothing but a mind powered illusion, is perfectly illustrated in this movie which won acclaim for its visual power. Here some of the more interesting conversations between Cuba Gooding Junior and Robin Williams plus a few visuals from this mind adventure.

What Dreams May Come 01

After dying in a car accident, Chris alias Robin Williams finds himself on a journey that is limited only by his own imagination and personal views of reality…

What Dreams May Come 02

What Dreams May Come 04

What Dreams May Come 03

RW: Oh, am I really here?
CGJ: What do you mean by you anyway?
Are you your arm or your leg?
If you lost all your limbs, wouldn’t it still be you?
RW: Yeah, I’d still be me.
CGJ: So, what is the me?
RW: My brain I suppose.
CGJ: Your brain is a body part, like your fingernail or your heart. Which part is that you think is you?
RW: Because I have that sort of voice in my head, that part of me that thinks and feels. That is aware that I exist at all.
CGJ: So, if you are aware you exist, then you do. That’s why you are still here. Look, your brain is meat, it rots and disappears. Did you really think that’s all there is to you?
RW: But it looks like I rebuilt myself, huh?
CGJ: You see a body because you like seeing one. We are seeing what we choose to see.
This is your world!
Thought is real!
Physical is the illusion!

What Dreams May Come 05

Even the old Greeks already had a term for the notion that mind only sees and accepts as reality what it wants or expects to see. They called it Scotoma (see Wikipedia for details).

CGJ: Here is big enough for everyone to have their own private universe!
RW: And what does that mean Buddha?
I want to see my children (who died previously)!
CGJ: And when you really do, you will.

What Dreams May Come 07

What Dreams May Come 08

The movie also ventures into the Buddhist notion that we do not always re-create ourselves exactly as we appeared in our last life. Sometimes we change gender and race during the rebirth process. And sometimes we are not even lucky enough to be born as a human being to begin with and may appear as a tree or a butterfly or an elephant… Not the best possible choice as the animal kingdom is defined by delusion, with close to no understanding of how any of this really works.

Ultimately, there are neither humans nor Buddhas! The universe is like a bubble in the ocean and all phenomena are like flashes of lightening. And anything else we might perceive as physical reality is created by The One Mind as an illusion, a mirage, as the moon reflected in a pool of water, based strictly on our own State of Mind so that we may feel secure and protected in our little comfort zones. So that we may convince ourselves there is meaning and substance to life as we know it.

But that isn’t even close to what is possible, or real!

What Dreams May Come 09

What Dreams May Come 10

Good people create their very own hell because they are unable to come to terms with their own reality. Because they can’t forgive themselves – or anybody else – for their actions and thoughts. Good people create their own heaven because they are able to live without lying, cheating, flattering and deceiving anybody for any reason. By pursuing a life that contains no discrimination of judgement or judged, good or evil, based on any given superficial man-made perception of right or wrong.

What Dreams May Come 11

What’s true in our mind is true!
What we believe to be real is reality!
Mind is real!
Physical reality is the illusion!

Eclipse

Welcome to the Real World!

Forever War!

29/07/2013

Crow with No Mouth2One of my very favourite movies when it comes to the more general situation in Africa even today is Lord of War with Nicolas Cage, directed by Andrew Niccol. Reminds me of Blood Diamonds as well, with Leonardo DiCaprio. It also reminds me of my own days as a front line journalist and the aimless wars I had the dubious honour to witness in my life so far.

From the incursions of battalions 302 / 303 in northern Namibia to battle SWAPO terrorists on the borders to Angola, the wars for the liberation of Eritrea and Southern Sudan, the refugee crisis of Sudan in 1985 the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the equally meaningless death of half a million people during the refugee disaster in the DRC thereafter.

Then, the other day, I re-read Antony Beevor’s account of the sinlge largest tragedy in human warfare – with a total military and civilian casualty count of anywhere between 3 to 6 million – as represented by the World War II battle over Stalingrad and related front lines. I must admit that this book plus my own exposure to similar events in Africa still baffles me! I often tend to think that I had seen it all – the never-ending misery we inflict upon our fellow human beings out of pure and uninterrupted greed and desire – and I should somehow be able to comprehend it all in the context of human evolution and civilisation.

But I can’t. Or, perhaps to be more precise, I don’t want to! If this is all there is to human societies and our conquest of this planet driven by pure greed – the ransacking of nature and its amazing reservoir of life forms and resources, combined with our inherent misapprehension of the True Nature of Reality – then we deserve what’s coming our way.

More of the same… forever!

Here therefore a few quotes from Lord of War… if only as a historic reminder of what we are now witnessing in Egypt, Syria, Libya and a dozen other countries worldwide:

Lord of War 01

Lord of War 02

Lord of War 03

There are over 550 million firearms in world wide circulation. That’s one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is… how do we arm the other eleven?

Lord of War 04

I have a feeling this wasn’t exactly what comrade Lenin had in mind when he advocated the “redistribution of wealth”.

Lord of War 05

And I promise you I won’t spent a single second in court. Let me tell you what’s gone happen. Soon there will be a knock on the door and you will be called outside. In the hall there will be a man who outranks you. First he will complement you on a fine job you are making the world a safer place. That you are to receive a commendation or promotion. And then he will tell you that I am to be released. And the reason I will be released is the same reason you think I should be convicted. I do rub shoulders with some of the most vile and sadistic men that call themselves leaders today. But some of those men are the enemies of your enemies! And while the biggest arms dealer in the world is your boss, the President of the Unites States, who ships more merchandise in a day, then I ship in a year, sometimes its embarrassing to have his fingerprints on the guns. So, you call me evil… but unfortunately for you, I am a necessary evil.

Lord of War 06

I would tell you to go to hell! But I think you are already there!

Lord of War 07

You know who is going to inherit the earth? Arms dealers! Because everyone else is too busy killing each other! That’s the secret of survival! Never go to war! Especially with yourself!

And that leaves us with just one question:

How do we arm the other eleven? TIA, right? This is Africa…

Welcome to the real World!

Awareness!

02/07/2013

When I read the first public edition of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (TBD, 2006) I marked it out from start to finish according to my understanding of Buddhism at the time. Reading it year after year, I began to move my bookmarks time and again based on the notion that a higher understanding of the teaching began to reveal itself over time. Words really do represent a limited way of expressing Ultimate Wisdom

Today, one of my favourite sections of the TBD is not the more famous chapter 11 – The Great Liberation by Hearing – but chapter 4 – The Introduction to Awareness. Natural Liberation through Naked Perception. I can read this chapter all day long and remind myself that any form of contemplation and meditation is really just an expedient means in the objective to perceive Universal Mind!

Master Hui Neng, the 6th Patriarch of modern ZEN described the ultimate meditation effort in his Platform Sutra as the One Practice Samadhi. As master Red Pine points out in his commentary to The Platform Sutra – The ZEN Teaching of Hui Neng:

As long as we remain straightforward [honest, sincere, direct] in our thoughts, words and deeds, the rest will happen of its own accord. The rest being the realization of our buddha nature. Any practice that involves creating a division between subject and object is (…) doomed to failure. (…) Likewise, any practice that involves eliminating subject and object is also doomed to failure. We cannot eliminate what isn’t there! (…) Some ZEN masters hold up one finger. Hui Neng tells his disciples to practice with a straightforward mind. Elsewhere he says to see your nature. This is one and the same practice, just different words.

Here therefore one of my favourite quotes from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, chapter 4:

Now follows the esoteric instruction which reveals the three times to be one:

Abandon your notions of the past, without attributing a temporal sequence!

Cut off your mental associations regarding the future, without anticipation!

Rest in a spacious modality, without clinging to the thoughts of the present!

Do not meditate at all, since there is nothing upon which to meditate!

Instead, revelation will come through undistracted mindfulness!

Since there is nothing by which you can be distracted.

Nakedly observe all that arises in this modality, which is without meditation and without distraction!

When this experience arises, intrinsically aware, naturally cognisant, naturally radiant and clear, it is called the mind of enlightenment!

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Welcome to the Real World!

Fearless!

20/06/2013

Crow with No Mouth2The one thing that matters more in life than anything else I can think of is that we do not fear… anything! The following quote from the Tibetan Book of the Dead (TBD) comes to my mind several times a day when I contemplate life in this world:

Emptiness can not harm emptiness!

There is nothing to fear but our own man-made fear! There is nothing to contemplate but the universal law of cause and effect. There is nothing to consider but the illusion of this reality! Yet, however illusory it may be, it is still real in our understanding of reality. I must admit that I am proud of the man who just recently started the “Silent Protest” in Turkey! This is the Buddha’s way! This is Gandhi’s way! This is the only way! I am also proud of the people of Brazil who are about to take down another corrupt government in this world, though they have to learn to do it without force or threats of violence.

To quote from one of my favourite books The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

Is not religion all deeds and all reflection, And that which is neither deed nor reflection, but a wonder and a surprise ever springing in the soul, even while the hands hew the stone or tend the loom? Who can separate his faith from his actions, or his belief from his occupations? Who can spread his hours before him, saying, “This for God and this for myself; This for my soul, and this other for my body?” All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self. He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked. The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin. And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage. The freest song comes not through bars and wires. And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn. Your daily life is your temple and your religion.

From Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (on Religion).

But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not sand-towers, But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they would carve it in their own likeness? What of the cripple who hates dancers? What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things? What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless? What shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun? They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws. And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows? And what is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down and trace their shadows upon the earth? But you who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold you? You who travel with the wind, what weathervane shall direct your course? What man’s law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no man’s prison door? What laws shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man’s iron chains? And who is he that shall bring you to judgment if you tear off your garment yet leave it in no man’s path?

From Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (on Laws).

And another favourite quote here form Anthony Minghella’s film The English Patient:

We die rich with lovers and tribes
Tastes we have swallowed
Bodies we have entered and swum up like rivers
Fears we have hidden in like this wretched cave

I want all this marked on my body
We are the real countries
Not the boundaries drawn on maps
With the names of powerful men

I know you will come and carry me out into the palace of winds
That’s what I wanted
To walk in such a place with you
With friends

An earth without maps!

The English Patient 01

We were born together and together we shall be forevermore.

Welcome to the Real World!