I think about the life of the Buddha a lot. I know, I should be thinking about the teachings of the Buddha – and I do , but the life of the Buddha is held up as a sort of moral way to live. Today, I am reflecting on the story of how the Buddha abandoned his wife and child so that he could learn non-attachment and attain enlightenment – it’s sort of a bullshit story.
All the western buddhists I’ve spoken with (and I haven’t spoken with any eastern buddhists about this) talk about how it was a noble act, how he was so attached to his family that he had to do it to let go of his attachments. Yeah, easy for him to do – maybe it would have been harder if he were poor and not a prince, if he were leaving them in an uncertain and dangerous state. You know what I mean? I mean, honestly, what’s so noble about abandoning your family and where is the great sacrifice in leaving them in a palace with servants and protection?
Maybe I’d think about excercising the Buddha privelige if I were a prince and I could leave my family in safety while I wandered the world looking for truth. The Buddha (in some stories) returned to his family and even got to teach the dharma to his son. That’s not leaving, that’s taking a vacation so you can enjoy some time to yourself.
I love the teachings of the Buddha and I live it as best I can – but that story? It’s bullshit. It should be held up as an example of un-enlightenment. Staying with his wife and child and STILL finding nirvana – that would have been the real challenge.
Yeah, I’m bugged by the fact that a rich guy can walk away and leave it with his family – it wasn’t like he gave everything away and then said “Sink or swim wife and child, I got some shit to do” and if he had, he would have been courting bullshit anyway.
I find it a constant challenge to not be angry at the complete bullshit that we are all wrapped up in. Here we are, all wrapped up in our world-views, struggling, fighting, suffering, striving, dying, and all to achieve what we view as ‘the way it is’ – and yet, it’s not really the way it is at all. Not even close. Consumer culture, politics, capitalism, success, failure, (the list goes on) these are all human constructs which in point of fact, have no actual basis in reality. Yes, they are real, yes we are trapped in them for the time being, and yes they affect us – but these things are not actually real.
In the book, The Wizard of Oz (not the movie, the book), Dorothy and her friends and all of the inhabitants of Oz are forced to put on green glasses before entering Oz. The Wizard is not simply hiding beind the curtain and manipulating light and sound – he is fucking with the reality-perception of an entire society! He is using every trick he can to maintain control and keep the society under his control – and he sends Dorothy and her friends on multiple death errands because he feels threatened by their awareness and power. He sends them with the thought that if they succeed, it’s good for his people and if they die, well, it’s good for him.
Our human society and governments are the wizard. In reality, we are not missing the things we seek. We have brains, courage, heart, and even the ability to get ‘home’ – meaning in this context home to our true nature, to what we truly are. We are not made to be politicians or business people or financiers or developers or any of ten thousand other things – we are made to be friends, family, nurturers, builders, craftsmen, explorers, and more – but the wizard has blinded us so that we only see green, so that we only see financial security, monetary success, and so that we become consumed by riches.
It’s difficult to not be angry with the wizard. I’ll admit, I’ve been incredibly incensed for most of my life. I’ve made myself sick with anger at the false nature of our existance for most of my adult life. I was young when I tore the glasses from my head and have spent the better part of my life trying to convince others that what they thought they were seeing was only an illusion – most people seem to already understand that on some level – but most of them prefer to live in the illusion – they understand how to navigate in the wizard’s world and intuitively understand that navigating outside of it is far more dangerous than mastering life within the illusion. The problem of course is like that of a video gamer who is very good at a video game but terrible at life – you may be President in the game but in reality you are suffering from malnutrition and alone in a filthy pile of refuse.
So, those of us who know the truth about the glasses – we are left with a dissatisfying choice of either wearing the glasses and immersing ourselves in the illusion or removing the glasses and suffering the reality that all around us are living the lie. The Buddha offered a third alternative which is – from my experience – the most difficult. The middle path allows us to live in the world of illusion while seeing it for what it is. Finding the true middle path is incredibly hard – I have spent my life bouncing from one side to the other – and when I get close – I am distracted by this anger, the anger at the illusionist, the anger at the illusion itself, the anger at being put in the position where I must don these green glasses and walk amongst the delusional – my anger is self-righteous (as all anger is) – and it is dangerous. I must strive to put my anger away- as far as I know, there are only two ways to do that – acceptance of what is and releasing the anger as love through compassion and empathy.
The world is filled with kind, peaceful, struggling-with-life-just-like-everyone Muslim people. From the bottom of my heart, I wish them Ramadan Mubarak and Ramadan Kareem. The month of Ramadan is much better understood in my country, the United States of America, than it has ever been before but still – the mistrust, misunderstanding, fear, and hatred towards everyday Muslims and Islam continues. The currently appointed Secretary of State has broken with tradition and turned down an offer to host a Eid-al-Fatr breaking of the fast in late June. Here in the state we currently live in – a white supremacist spewed a hate-filled rant at two teenage girls because one of them was wearing a hijab on a Portland Train – and when several bystanders attempted to get him to simmer down and defended the young women – he killed two of them with a knife – this was on Friday, the first day of the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan…an awful thing at any time – and yet, a hopeful thing as strangers stood up to defend the rights of strangers. One can hope that their deaths do not push others to remain quiet while such things happen in the future – which they surely will.
Ramadan – for those who are not certain – is a lunar month in which all adult, healthy Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. No food, no water, no sex, no smoking and during this time the faithful contemplate God, life, the world, and use the hunger and thirst to overcome their baser selves. This is a form of what is known as Greater Jihad. Jihad is holy war – everyone knows that now it seems – but this is Greater Jihad – the war against our own desires and corruptions – the war to make ourselves better than we currently are – to strive for the perfection we were created to attain. The Lessor Jihad – that is the war against the external elements which seek to deceive us and force us away from God. The Greater Jihad is the important battle – the Lessor Jihad would be unimportant if we were focused on the Greater Jihad. This is what the idiot militants do not understand – change comes from within. They are like people who choose to eradicate food in the world so that they can successfully fast…the true challenge is to eliminate the desire for the food – or better yet- to overcome the food. Change comes from within.
I read the news often – I probably shouldn’t, but I do. Certain things jump out at me – things like a part of the President’s budget calls for the largest increase in jails and detention centers in the history of the United States – this is couched in terms that make it look like an immigration issue – and maybe it is – but it is troubling in any way you look at it. Seeing the ongoing silent war between the son-in-law and the neo-nazi news editor is also troubling – because it seems to me the narrative went like this – moderate-Jewish-son-in-law gains influence and neo-nazi-editor fades into the background – which seemed hopeful but now the Jewish son-in-law is at the center of a growing scandal and the neo-nazi-editor is reshaping the inner circle of the president and not being talked about while he does it – he is bringing the hardest right advisers and pushing out the ones who hold the most moderate views. I believe this is reason to be alarmed – but no one is talking about it. The media has been reined in and the libel laws are changed just by the act of talking about changing them. If you doubt this – look at the stabbing murders I mentioned above. These happened Friday and most of the media did not cover the events until late on Saturday – these hate crimes should have been front page within minutes but they were not – it is not subtle if you are paying attention.
I still believe that this country is in very deep trouble. We have become used to it. The constant jokes have made us less alarmed at what is happening but it is still happening. Wealth is shifting at the fastest rate in human history and it is shifting from the bottom to the top – the bottom never disappears, it simply grows to include more. Not long ago the poor earned $20,000 or less – now it is just as difficult to survive if you make $60,000. Inflation is being vastly under-reported. The devaluation of currency while banks produce thousands of trillions of dollars in digital currency is not imaginary. Control mechanisms are being perfected. This is an alarming time-period which seems to largely be invisible.
Change comes from within. Perhaps it is time to have a societal Ramadan fast. A Greater Jihad within the limits of the cancerous capitalist system which is eating us. I have no idea how such a thing would begin – but perhaps it is much more simple than I am thinking about – maybe all it really takes is mastering the self and refusing to participate, refusing to allow food or drink to pass our lips from sunrise to sunset for a month. Ramadan kareem. Ramadan Mubarak.
If man is created in God’s image, as many believers claim, than we all know what God looks like. God looks like a child. It makes sense. Is there anything more beautiful than a smiling happy child? Perhaps, those who worship the baby Jesus are more right than the rest of us know.
We are born in the image of God and then as we age, we move further away from that perfection. Have you noticed though, that some old people, the enlightened ones, they tend to look more like little children as they get older?
Do you want to know what God looks like? Maybe all you have to do is watch the Teletubbies…
It sounds silly, but sometimes we are too sure that we already know everything – we go through life sure that we know why something is being done, or who did it, or how something works. We’ve read that book and now the book is closed. Allow yourself the opportunity to be surprised by something being different from what you thought you already knew.
A thousand metaphors are going through my head that I want to explain this with. The Flintstones – the difference between watching them as a child or from watching them as a man with a wife and child.
I heard this phrase earlier today “Let yourself be surprised” and I dismissed it, I threw it in the same category as a thousand other motivational phrases. And I forgot about it while it bounced around in my head and broke a few things loose. While I wasn’t thinking about it, that phrase was thinking for me. And, lo and behold, here I am, surprised to be writing and sharing that same phrase I dismissed. It’s wisdom and I’m fortunate that my brain held onto it when my ego dismissed it.
Another metaphor, my favorite re-purposed for this moment. Imagine a small lake with an island in the center, on the island is a statue with many faces, each of them representing a different aspect of what it is to be human, our emotions, thoughts, feelings. You could look at one face and then continue on without going all the way around the lake and thus missing all the other faces – if you only saw one face, you could easily tell yourself that you had seen the totality, a statue with a face in a lake – but if you walk the shore and continuously look – the faces are different -and the wind changes the water, and the reflections of the sky change with the clouds, and the seasons change the foilage, and..and…and…you could spend eternity seeing a million different lakes with islands and statues…and the only thing that has really changed is you in both time and space.
It’s a good thing to keep in mind in the world as it is today. If you are staring into the eyes of someone ordered to do their job and looking at them with hatred – that hatred is going to be returned.
Hatred has never put an end to hatred. Only love has or can accomplish that Herculean task.
We may be asked to fight against evil, but if we can find compassion and the ability to love our enemies (even while we fight them) then we just might have a chance at defeating them.
These are not just hollow words. When you are faced with all of the awfulness that the world can muster – you will need to fight, I’m sure of it, but you will only win if you fight with love.
This is the kind of story that totally fascinates me…the intersection of cargo cults, Jews for Jesus, Muslims that drink alcohol and eat pork, and legends of a huge hoard of gold…awesome…and real…not television…plus the Lost Tribe of Israel in the Solomon Islands
Mysterious Israelis are buying copra in the Solomon Islands and as Michael Field reports, the Islanders believe they are the Lost Tribe of Israel.
A couple of men, one wearing a flag of Israel, have shown up in the Solomon Islands, claiming they are ready to buy copra at high prices. They?ve headed off to remote and poor Malaita Island where indigenous Melanesian people believe they are survivors of the lost tribe of Israel.
Despite science and DNA testing, the Lost Tribe myth lives on strongly in the South Pacific. It?s more than a quaint story in the Solomons; north Malaita people have rejected recent Australian aid projects, saying they are too busy growing copra for Israel.
The Lost Tribe story has a long track record here with the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand noting missionary Samuel Marsden suggesting Maori had ?sprung from some dispersed Jews?. Thomas Kendall said Maori originated in Egypt.
Te Ua Haumene who founded the Paimarire Church or Hauhauism claimed that in September 1862 the Angel Gabriel had visited him and revealed that Maori were one of the Lost Tribes.
The Israeli connection is a problem in the Solomon Islands which was the scene of a civil war on its main island of Guadalcanal where locals objected to people from Malaita moving in. The war only ended with the arrival of a regional intervention force, including New Zealand police and soldiers.
One of the combatant units, the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) featured the Israeli flag in their iconography. A governor-general of the Solomons even made an official visit to Israel.
The Solomon Islands has been populated for around 5000 years. The first European ashore was Spaniard Alvaro de Mendana in 1568 who believed it was the site of the Biblical King Solomon Mines.
Dr Jaap Timmer of the Dutch Leiden University describes on an anthropological web discussion list serve how he had experience with the Lost Tribe movement in the Solomons.
He says archaeological and other evidence does not sustain descent from Israel: ?However, I would not deny the parallels of Old Testament and Melanesian tribal cultures, which strike Melanesians very forcefully when they read the Bible.?
Growing numbers of evangelical Christians in North Malaita believe that the Lost Temple of Israel lies hidden at a shrine that was previously used for ancestral worship in the mountainous interior of their island.
Others want to build a full-scale replica of the temple believing it is pre-ordained for a country named the Solomon Islands.
The claim frustrates mainstream churches. “Missionary Christianity is often associated with the British colonial government, European superiority, and Western ways that are believed to have polluted social life and governance in Solomon Islands.”
The Temple claim also evokes traditional land disputes, with fears that the temple would attract Israeli tourists, prompting inter-tribal jealousy.
Two disputed temple sites exist on Malaita and Anglican Bishop Terry Brown on the island says one of them is tied up with a self-proclaimed prophet and failed politician, Michael Maeliau, who leads the “Deep Sea Canoe Movement”.
He has been to Israel a number of times and has links to American neo-Israel fundamentalist groups there. Deep Sea Canoe Movement talks of taking Christianity back to Israel.
Bishop Brown says that they are serious groups.
“They, indeed, often have legitimate grievances against both governments and the more established churches,” he says.
But people could not be totally uncritical, as the groups can be dangerous. Bishop Brown recalled that the Lord’s Resistance Army of Northern Uganda started out as one such neo-Israelite movement.
“The groups and beliefs are in constant mutation and fluctuation, interacting with traditional beliefs and practices,” he says.
Mixed in are various forms of Christianity, cargo cultism and land disputes. Movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rastafarianism even have a play and Bishop Brown noted that a kind of Islam was even involved.
A group from the capital Honiara claiming to be Muslim recently arrived at Malaita?s Auki, saying they had come to burn down churches. They were arrested for making a public disturbance.
“The first generation of Malaita Muslims were conventional; the second generation (many ex-MEF militants) is syncretistic, giving up, for example, neither pork nor alcohol.
“Indeed, there is some question whether they are Muslims at all. One only hopes that the Middle East situation of Jew vs. Muslim does not resurface here as Malaita Israelite vs. Malaita Muslim.”
by Vago Damitio He took his coat off and hung it on the peg,, where it always was, waiting for him to take it wherever he went. He walked into the kitchen, melancholy, and full of wonder as his mind thought back to the days of his youth. Working on yachts and falling in love at every port until the list of loves became like a list of books he’d read. And forgotten.
It was no longer simple to answer how many women he’d slept with or how many times he’d been in love. He had to second guess himself. In recent years he’d answered with
“ You really don’t really want to know that” and if pressed he would say “Four”. It was the magic number. Not too many, but not too few. Only it was such an outrageous lie.
Bizarre world in which you were expected to keep your own score as you went and nearly every other person was keeping their own “score”. It turned it into a giant competition for the good and the bad.
Life was confusing enough without developing this incredibly complex game called Love. It was a constant battle to remain afloat in the overcrowded sea of humanity.
He set his briefcase down and walked into the living room, grabbing a banana as he passed through the kitchen. He sat in his lazy-boy recliner and reached for the remote control after rocking the lever back as far as it would recline.
Kicking off his shoes he wondered to himself, “ Why are my socks so nice. Why do they have designs woven into them.Certainly not because I like them, but as a part of the game. At some point I decided that nice socks would make it simpler to seduce women.”
He kicked off his shoes one at a time. Right foot first, then left foot. They dropped to the floor beneath the footrest of the recliner. He knew they would get in the way when he went to un-recline, but at this point he didn’t care. Later he would be annoyed with his earlier self for creating more work for his later self.
Life is like that. The now you is usually making decisions for the later you, and usually, they are lousy decisions. Maybe you get it right more often as you get older, but you still screw up every time you do anything important.
Hindsight is 20/20, Foresight is often blind.
If we knew the future would we let it happen, or would we change the future, making it unknowable. Knowing too much is worse than knowing nothing most of the time.
What if you knew you’re destiny and hated it? Would you create it by trying to evade it? In which case would you have created it without the knowledge?
Does the universe have clockwork motion which gives us 70 or 80 years before we have to return to our places? What do we want?
Now is the time to communicate with our future selves so that we don’t regret any decisions later, make the best decisions possible.
What should I do? Do what you think is right. Don’t hold back in your beliefs, explore them, trust them, make the most of your hunches and talents. It isn’t really what you think that counts.
Do you get what I’m saying? It makes sense to live your life as if every decision is your last.
When does it end? We don’t know. I t goes on as long as it goes on so make yourself at peace today. Find what it is you need to do.
What you would regret in your last moments. So what if you thought it would go on, you’d have more time.
You don’t that is the nature oft eternity. The world isn’t the friendliest place in the universe. It is made to solve problems.
Think of the world as a laboratory. The picture you had as a child was not entirely wrong. The Universal God is a consciousness, which works in a clockwork fashion to an ultimate goal.
Humanity and life are a way to solve certain theoretical problems. Life is placed within the universe in various situations to which the best solution is found through adaptation.
It is not the word of anything. Each planet not a lab, but a test tube contained within the vast workshop-lab that is the universe.
I have to admit that I am tempted to feel disappointment at the early reception to the little book I recently produced. Feeding the Spirit.
Out of a thousand followers on twitter, four hundred friends on facebook, and the hundreds of readers who come here every day, the reaction consisted of two people telling me that Islam is a bloodthirsty and violent religion, 5 people ‘digging’ my post, a stranger writing to tell me that my combining of capitalism/marketing with religion was offensive, and the three people who have read it so far telling me that they thought what it was saying was important and good.
As to sales, I admit that Mink Hippie is the only one who bought a copy and if she would have asked me first, I would have gladly given it to her instead.
So, yes. I am tempted to be disappointed.
But I am not. I repeat, I am not disappointed.
One thing I have learned in choosing to tread the path of my life is that when you are doing something right, there is usually resistance. I have written about this in Feeding the Spirit. Essentially, the Creator has given us all the opportunity to live a fulfilling and joyous life. We are born perfect beings who, if left alone, would do just as we should. Unfortunately, the world is set up in such a way that we are misled down paths that look easier and promise faster rewards. The sad truth is that those paths often lead us into the sticky situations we have all experienced. Unhappy places to be.
Imagine that you are walking down a road and it splits. One side looks well trod and the other sort of overgrown and abandoned. You decide that you would rather follow the well trod path than clear the detritus from the other. A short way down the path you realize that it is well trod because thieves and robbers have made it their highway. You have thieves ahead of you and robbers behind you. You desperately want to make it back to the other path but there is overgrown thicket between you and it. At this point you have several choices:
1) Pretend to be yet another thief
2) Become a robber
3) Claw your way through the thicket, getting scratched and bruised along the way.
It would have been easier to choose the slightly more difficult path in the first place. But most of us do not. Instead we follow the well trod path until it either changes us or we realize we have made a mistake.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in this life. I’ve followed that well trodden path too many times with the same result. I know where it leads.
So I am not disappointed with this resistance. It means I am doing something right.
Want more like this?
Why not pick up a copy of Feeding the Spirit
And while you are at it, if you could take a second to digg my book, it would be very much appreciated. http://digg.com/d3y9rF
I would love to watch a show like this. It would be interesting to see who would win the most converts. A similar idea would be the religious recruitment challenge where the winner would be the head of the religion that won the most converts…oh wait…I guess that’s a game that’s been going on for a long time…
ISTANBUL (Reuters) What happens when you put a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk in a room with 10 atheists?
Turkish television station Kanal T hopes the answer is a ratings success as it prepares to launch a gameshow where spiritual guides from the four faiths will seek to convert a group of non-believers.
The prize for converts will be a pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen religion — Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, Jerusalem for Jews and Tibet for Buddhists.
But religious authorities in Muslim but secular Turkey are not amused by the twist on the popular reality game show format and the Religious Affairs Directorate is refusing to provide an imam for the show.
“Doing something like this for the sake of ratings is disrespectful to all religions. Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programs,” High Board of Religious Affairs Chairman Hamza Aktan told state news agency Anatolian after news of the planned program emerged.
The makers of “Penitents Compete” are unrepentant and reject claims that the show, scheduled to begin broadcasting in September, will cheapen religion.
“We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God,” Kanal T chief executive Seyhan Soylu told Reuters.
“We don’t approve of anyone being an atheist. God is great and it doesn’t matter which religion you believe in. The important thing is to believe,” Soylu said.
The project focuses attention on the issue of religious identity in European Union-candidate Turkey, where rights groups have raised concerns over freedom of religion for non-Muslim minorities.
Detractors of the ruling AK Party government, which is rooted in political Islam but officially secular, accuse it of having a hidden Islamist agenda, a charge it denies.
Some 200 people have so far applied to take part in the show and the 10 contestants will be chosen next month.
A team of theologians will ensure that the atheists are truly non-believers and are not just seeking fame or a free holiday.