Bamboo In The Wind

I think that most people who pick up spiritual practice are looking for more peace and stillness; we want our movements, thinking, and speaking to be easeful, unforced, non-compulsive, and perhaps even almost effortless. A common image in Zen poetry is of bamboo swaying in the wind. One explanation for this is that bamboo swaying in the wind moves – but it moves in an unforced and easy way.

Karma and No-Self

A friend emailed me yesterday, and asked “If the Buddhist doctrine of anatta (which holds that the self is an illusion) is true, who is it that is accumulating karma? I’m genuinely puzzled by this, especially as it pertains to the concept of re-incarnation and the Atman (two seemingly incongruent concepts to anatta).”

My friend was asking about karma, which is the idea that we are the inheritors of the results of our actions – in other words, the idea that what we sow, we reap. A common example of karma: if we eat healthily, exercise, and get enough sleep, we will probably be relatively physically healthy, and, if we don’t, we won’t. Simple enough.]

The Dream

Heading back to the city after three months of simple stillness in the monastery, I was staring out the car window at the passing gas stations and shopping malls, at all the billboards and the neon. I turned to the Zen priest driving me, and said, “It all seems like a dream.” He shot back, “What makes you think that it isn’t”?

Not Two, Not One

The molecules on the outer edge of “you”, say the ones on the edge of the cell membranes of the cells that are on the outer edge of your eye, are just as enmeshed, electron-swapping-wise, with the molecules in the air around you as they are with the molecules further back in the cell wall. In other words, it is scientifically impossible to say where “you” end and “your environment” begins – from this perspective, it all seems to be one interconnected whole.

Book Review: “I Am That”, by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

If you want to understand “enlightenment” not just as a concept, but actually learn how it feels to disidentify with yourself as a finite human being, and to instead experience yourself as an expressive action of the entire universe, then this may be the perfect book for you. Nisargadatta’s teachings are relentlessly confrontational and cosmically mind-blowing. If you are ready for them, the words in this book can take every belief (and perceptual) system that you have, and blow them out of the water, stretching you wider than you could have conceived possible. Some times in reading it, I have felt that this book is IT, the end point of the whole journey.

A Different Drummer: Friedrich Nietzsche and Morality

Sigmund Freud evidently believed that Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche had a more “penetrating self-knowledge” than any other human being has ever had. If Freud’s analysis is accurate, perhaps it explains why Nietzsche’s written output so closely reflects aspect of the human psyche; like our minds, his philosophy is powerful but occasionally difficult to untangle, given apparent contradictions and complications. From among the strands of his thought, however, emerge coherent patterns. For example, although the ideas involved are convoluted, Nietzsche repeatedly asserted that a morality rooted in notions of good and evil originated in weakness, is destructive, and is arbitrary. Instead of morality, Nietzsche affirmed a value system that was based on embracing the worldly, the paradoxical, and the “evil” of noble strength and joyous independence.

The Human Body as Objectification of Will in the Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer

In the cosmology of the ninetieth century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, the pure Will-in-itself, like the Christian God, the Hindu Brahman, or the Buddhist Nirvana, exists outside of space and time, beyond the realm of human comprehension or perception. It does, however, phenomenologically manifest itself, almost pantheistically, in our realm as both the unified totality of all of the objects of the physical universe, and as the will to exist and to act that propels these objects along their respective courses.