Letter to K. Siemsen
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2003 16:59:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: stuff
I am digging now into esoteric Buddhism. In the Abhidhamma, there is no reference made to Gods. In The Suttana (sutras) the only appearance by gods is when they bow down to the Buddha, anyway. He doesn't go so far as to say there are no gods; only that they too are illusion, conditioned by suffering, subject to birth and death, etc. The realms that are beyond suffering, birth, and death, are also beyond the realms of the Gods. Its a pretty sophisticated thought especially since it turns on its head damn near every conception of divinity before or since. This is why I'm an "atheist," though to me, to say there are no gods is not correct. The negation of god-hood still partakes of the notion of God, and thus is inseparable from the concepts that I'm trying to distance myself from. It comes down to this: there are two ways in the "Hindu" way of looking at the world that are effectatious for producing spiritual experience. One is through faith, the other is through introspection. Faith-based, or bakti yoga, is the practice of the hare krishnas, and the idea is that through completely submitting oneself to "the other" one looses one's identity, and thus reaches the "no-self" of buddhism by surrender. Islam, specifically sufism, makes a big deal about "surrender to Allah" as well. In the introspective school, jnana yoga, you say "Who am I", and you probe the notion of identity and unravel identity by a process of "I'm not this body, I'm not these thoughts, I'm not these feelings, I'm "something else"" until you come to the realization of the Paramatman, the "highest self." Thus, the buddhist "no-self" is accomplished by deconstruction of identity and absorbtion into the inseperable unity of all existence, the all-pervasive "Self / Atman."
In both cases, the functional experience of "divine revelation" is through the dissociation of one's "self" from this illusory notion of identity that we abide in.
So, my deal, is to do just this. I have no other goal or objective in life but this. It just so happens buddhism has the best map of this landscape of any religion in the world. Thus I am "buddhist" But I'm also "hindu," (a word from the muslim period, 1100's-1500's) because my teacher was "hindu," and his ideas were reabsorbed into that culture, and hence, the map is still applicable to that terrain as well. The process of yoga is identical to whatever you can use the term "buddhism" to refer. In many ways I treat Hatha Yoga as a school of Buddhism, just like Vajrayana, Theravada, and Zen.
The important part is this. The saturn return marks a 29 year cycle in life. At this moment, very deep seeded forces sprout. We are suddenly very concerned with the mark we leave on the world, be that children, or concepts, or inventions, or books. Like you say, its an effort to attain immortality, to cheat death. Those of us who are on the cusp of swearing off children become very concerned with how we're going to leave a legacy otherwise... What I propose and do is a constant, daily reflection on death. Be careful, many monks on this path end up "using the knife" (traditional Pali idiom for commiting suicide. That they have an ancient, well used metaphor for the act should tell you something). Of the 40 traditional objects of meditation, the contemplation of foulness of the body and death occupy 11. These include such things as, contemplation of the composition of the bodily organs and material, of the 36ish fluids of the body (piss, phlegm, etc), and nine stages of decay of the body (a warm corpse, a festering corpse, a gnawed, worm-eaten, scattered corpse, and a skeleton.). Learn to identify with that, learn to see that festering corpse in every woman or man you meet, and you start to develop the requisite distaste for the world that marks buddhism in its traditional, ancient practice. Thus, the desire to leave a mark on the world is moot. Why leave anything behind when all is impermanent? Why procreate and extend the suffering of humanity.
Now, viewed externally, this is a pretty grim picture of the world. The point is that it was never intended for popular consumption, but is for monks and people who are fighting the same urges you and I are facing right now at this point in our lives, but are living in a monestary. Its perscriptive, not descriptive.
uh. that's enough of this for now... Talk with you later...
till the end of time
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