Archive for May, 2008

Dogma: a dead tradition

Posted in Buddhism, Cults, martial arts, Mysticism, Qi, Reality Bites, Religion, society, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2008 by wizardsmoke

What’s the deal with rigid fundamentalism in “spiritual” lineages? You know, hard-line dogma sort of stuff; keeping people’s nose to the grindstone without ever letting up or letting their opinions of the doctrine sway. I think there are two ways of interpreting it. One is literal, in which the professeur actually believes the words of their own agenda or party line. The other is that it is strictly an educational policy, albeit a hard-line one (almost propagandistic), where the person projecting the agenda is doing so merely to keep the students’ minds in line or on task.

For instance, in the Yi Quan lineage and with some newer Chinese martial art teachers they might say not to pay attention to qi. I think it is because that’ll distract you from the practices that actually develop qi. But they would not hear of such an explanation and probably would say it doesn’t exist at all. Not that I know these people personally, I’m just speculating. And getting rid of qi in this martial context is probably more of a progressive thing given the mystical Chinese religious implications of the subject.

In much Zen Buddhism they might say not to pay attention to rebirth, or that it doesn’t exist. I figure that’s because it’ll just distract your zen practice, and it really isn’t that important when it comes to practicing. But guys like Brad Warner and his teacher don’t believe in rebirth at all. I realize that’s a tiny faction of just Soto Zen, but my point is they don’t believe in it, they don’t teach it or talk about it. Not that it literally exists like reincarnation, but they could point that out. But they don’t.

In Tibetan Buddhism (and occasionally in Theravada during talks to laypeople) we see examples of teachers warning students of how they had better pay attention to their practice, because if they don’t they’ll be reborn in one of the lower realms or the hells. This sounds especially dogmatic and reeks of Catholicism or some such western practice. So are the fundamentalist guys, like Namdrol over at E-Sangha, just dishing this stuff out to push us to practice until we can be self-sufficient, or do they really believe it?

The conclusion I always am afraid is a two-fold one. (A) these guys really believe their fundamentalism or at the very least will never let it go in public and (B) the masses are not entitled or “healthy enough” to understand or comprehend the totality of being because it would leave them nihilistic. In the beginning I thought that a lot of religious folks just emphasized the fundamentalism to keep the student’s minds on track. Now I don’t think it matters what the teacher believes considering what they teach people.

I suppose, if the teacher reveals everything at the beginning, a lot of people might not stick it out. That’s like a basic business strategy, isn’t it? The tempting existence of mystery and “secrets” in a lineage of martial arts or religious teachings is what probably attracts a lot of people in the first place. Today we expect way too much right up front, way too much information. But even if you desire information, having it all too early can be overwhelming. If you see through everything without the acquired determinism to keep going, or the renewable energy to have continuous faith in yourself, everything becomes empty and without purpose.

This is why I’ve never been much of an academic. I only want experience, I don’t care about facts and information. Academia is only worthwhile to me if I’m going to implement it into some kind of active practice. A lot of academia, like dogma, is dead. Being static and unchanging, it has no place among the living. It belongs in a museum. Sometimes I feel that way about fundamentalism. Don’t you have to change your methods to fit with the times? But how do you avoid changing your tradition to suit modern needs? And if a tradition is no longer applicable in modern times, doesn’t that belong in a museum?

Burn yourself out

Posted in Buddhism, Film, martial arts, Mysticism, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , on May 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

I was watching this crucial documentary the other night, called Le Chant Du Dragon about one of Taisen Deshimaru’s French dharma heirs, Stefane Kosen. It’s really good (and free for download); you should watch it. It made me recall and laugh at how I was once so eager to have crazy esoteric experiences. As one martial arts teacher said, “you are so eager to jump into so much esoteric bullshit!” What can I say? I’ve always been something of a chump.

It’s true, that a lot of people want mysterious or magical or mind-blowing spiritual experiences. Whether they want them in some sort of crazed bliss-ninny, yoga context or some deviant, sinister magickal context, the desire for the mind-blowing mystery is all the same (albeit with different “flavors” of energy). But isn’t it true that, once you hit the big kahuna and break down all the walls of illusion or whatever, nothing is mysterious for you? Isn’t that what happens when we use desire to get to the end of desire? There’s nothing left that is curious or weird or unexplainable. It’s all perfectly normal stuff.

So I think that’s why historically in Soto Zen it’s always said not to search after anything, how we just want to come to the normal human condition, how zazen itself is enlightenment, etc. It makes sense in the ultimate context. We only pursue the things that still retain an element of mystery to us. Once we’ve fully understood something we move on to other things. That’s (again) why the most interesting romantic mates for humans are always the ones we don’t know anything about. Often the more you know about something or someone, the less you care.

That strikes me as something of a difference between Soto Zen and say, Nyingma or whatever branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Soto Zen seems like it’s imploring its practitioners to look at the world from this ultimate sense, or it’s at least passing it down in that way. It’s written as if it is conveying a conventional sense of things, but the conventional sense as perceived by one with the “ultimate perspective”. This strikes me as different from most religious teachings, which are inherently condescending and write of ultimate reality in the most romantic and other-worldly ways possible.

Eternity’s Tune

Posted in Beauty, God(s), Happiness, love, Mysticism, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Eternity is in love with the productions of time. —Willie B.

Romance is a product of impermanence. Romance is the simultaneous pleasure of something you enjoy mixed with the sadness of knowing its impermanence — spun together with a sentimental, very human reflection. In this way, humanity is different from the gods in how we reflect upon our lot. Gods are very one-pointed in desire, whereas humans are capable of being multi-faceted.

For some reason, melancholic or sad music resonates much more deeply than upbeat or casual music. It’s not that the music is necessarily better, but sadness and melancholy are such potent emotional nerves. Sad music is so strong, like these feelings are closer to the “source of emotions” or the “emotional generator” or some such nonsense. Not a good place to be astrally obsessed with, hee hee!

(It’s interesting, that emotional states correspond to different parts of the body. When something gets you “right in the gut” it’s prolly ‘coz the second chakra pertains to the gut or lower abdomen, water, the color blue, and feelings of sadness and vulnerability…)

Every musician has melancholic moments. If they don’t, they’ve got nothing to say artistically. The problem is that most artists, musicians, people in general, don’t have very profound melancholy. True melancholy does not necessarily have to do with giving up, being miserable or in pain, but with the fact that despite one’s efforts, impermanence sweeps all things away. It reminds one of the great god Brahma, a being whose existence is far beyond our feeble mortal receptors. Our entire cosmos is merely a single one of his/her dreams. And yet, even Brahma must pass away in time.

When we think of the “music of the spheres” or the “laughter of the immortals” (or anything else mentioned by Hermann Hesse in Steppenwolf) on the surface it describes some kind of spiritual triumph. But beauty, and eternity, and that laughter, is all of the revelation of cosmic romance, the dual wings of happiness and melancholy, in the most condensed experience possible. It’s like, the pure experience of the fabric of reality is the finest, most concentrated bliss and sadness, so entwined that they no longer can be discerned from one another.

Carl Sagan and the Demon(s) of Pseudo-science

Posted in Doom and Evil, Future World, Religion, society, Technology with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Science is a pretty big thing for folks these days. It’s the new religion, right? I guess between educated empiricists and uneducated creationists, I know who I’m going to side with — although any kind of fundamentalist/evangelism is just spiritually filthy. The problem is just that, most people aren’t smart. And most people aren’t predisposed to study science. And science doesn’t necessarily solve people’s varying emotional or existential problems. People need something to attach to, a fantasy. That’s how they keep it together. Give us a fantasy, scientists!

People with an ethnocentric or “racial” agenda often claim logical means to stage their arguments, much like satanists/black magicians, businessmen or politicians: They pitch their argument as being the result of an empirical investigation of reason or logic when of course, the real underlying message is their emotional disposition and unbalanced attachment to negative views. It’s what Carl Sagan would call, “pseudo-science”. In other words, presenting only certain facts under a pretext of science in order to obscure the bigger picture from casual observers.

From the man hisself, in The Demon-Haunted World (via Wiki):

“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces… I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

Carl Sagan was cool, but his technological idealism reflects the liberal urban attitude of his generation. The belief that science is this great illuminating torch that will save us savages from our ignorant beliefs. Whatevas. More like, divine providence will save us, Carl! Presuming we get saved or even need saving…

I presume what Carl Sagan is predicting here is not necessarily (or not only?) a ethnicially driven war or terrorism, but maybe the technological lockdown of the lower classes by the uber-elite. You know, the stasis of society and freedoms of a civilization dependent upon technology which only an elite number of operatives have the experience to control.

A precarious balance

Posted in Happiness, Reality Bites, society, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , on May 19, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Just whose dream is it to make everything equal? People who suffer!

Seriously, despite everyone wishing for equality (it’s the PC thing to do!) I wager that most smart people would not sacrifice their intellect for this change, nor would rich people sacrifice money, nor would the artistically inclined sacrifice their artistic ability, the beautiful their beauty and on and on. And rightly so perhaps, because then life would just be like the underworld or Niflheim, like the river Styx or the yellow springs. It would be colorless, without variety, just gray and boring. I mean, the world is already a drab place with listless shades. Now just think of what it’d be like if we closed Pandora’s Box! Holy moly! No more drama! And no more me!

So, if you’ve been following this blog, eagerly anticipating every crumb of a post that falls from my jazzy fingertips, you probably caught a connection between the Nietzsche Slave-Master relationship and this inequality everyone secretly desires. Think about it, people want equality but only when things are going badly for them. Nobody wants to give up the good things they have. And I don’t just mean possessions, I mean the seriously good stuff. The precious gems of the human experience. Because what’s the point of that? Equality? And ultimately, won’t we even have to give up the divine or wholesome things to get to some “higher existence” (presuming that is a goal)?

Sure you might find examples of people who gave everything up, or gave up a good life to find the truth but that’s different. I do not doubt that giving up one’s role in society, sex (speaking as a boy), roles of power and authority, or wealth leads to a deeper happiness. I do not doubt that one bit. What I’m just wondering about is equality. I don’t think there’s a way human society can create this equilibrium. But that’s not so pessimistic, if you’ll hear me out.

I think that, realistically, unless people can get outside of their bodies and spacewalk the cosmos or see what it’s all about (and yes, I’m aware that the jhanas are not the end in themselves, I’ve already nailed that one, thank you very much), they’re inclined to just get bored once their lives are running smooth or peaceful. In fact, most cases of people becoming nasty dictators, overbearing parents or murderous madmen, they develop from people with idealism to improve the world. Isn’t that like, every supervillain ever? Don’t they always want to change the world, usher in some new generation or era? Stereotypical bad guys tend to want some kind of megalomaniacal control over stuff.

Of course, someone always stops them. Somebody…dumb. Haha! Well okay, that’s a little harsh, but I don’t know who these people are who sacrifice themselves for the pure good of society. Not that I wouldn’t do it myself, but it’s usually for worldly reasons that they do it, right? Who else would be aggressive or an ass-kickingly violent go-getter? Not monks. My guess is the typical hero either has something invested in society (wife/girlfriend, family, kids, power, money, etc.) or has completely obliterated the self and cares little for the self as an individual but sympathetically realizes that other people have not yet reached this point. Or, they’re just bored, which also means they’re nihilists. After all, what are nihilists if not bored out of their skulls?*

And, if nihilists are always bored and the equality of all people is boring, does equality create nihilistic notions? I’d say the most cynical people in the world are citizens from industrialized upper-crust societies. Existence is pointless when everything is equal, right? Or it just can’t exist in the first place.

So maybe equality on earth is some mythical goal. I’ve heard salvation is the construction of those who suffer, or something. What a painful idea! Seriously, doesn’t that one just get you in the gut? Salvation: just a construction! *chokes back tears*

I’d say, it’s not that it doesn’t exist, but that it doesn’t exist purely as salvation or what-have-you. It’s more like, you mature spiritually and gain a taste for the finer things in the fabric of the infinite. As Edgar Cayce said, “you don’t go to heaven, you grow into it.”

Enough! Or too much…


*stealing this conclusion ’bout nihilists from Ubiquitous Che

Energy Vamps Attack

Posted in Doom and Evil, Reality Bites, Relationships, Religion, World of Emotions with tags , , , on May 17, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Modern gurus aren’t going to turn anybody away. That is, so long as the person in question isn’t really messing up his/her lineage (a la Michael Roach in the case of Tibetan Buddhism) or doing something really terrible (surprisingly not Aum Shinrikyo in the case of Tibetan Buddhism). The deal here is that, whether or not the guru has huge, explosive compassion for everyone, they’re not going to turn someone down simply for being a manipulative person, so long as the “energy vampire” plays by the rules in the guru’s presence.

Trust me, I’ve seen high-quality supervillains who get the blessing to teach from some top-dog gurus. The scariest manipulative people are the ones that are just soulless. You know, they got nothing in their eyes, no empathy whatsoever, no pause for personal gain. People for whom compromises are not compromises, but merely opportunities to get ahead or get more power. And yet… I’ve seen these guys get transmissions!

What is a manipulative person? For obvious cases, I’d say pretty much anyone who revels in personal propaganda. I.e. they can’t stop telling you how much awesome stuff they do, how accomplished they are, how happy or content they are, how many great wonderful spiritual experiences they’ve had, how many spiritual gurus and cool people they’ve met or chilled with. The list of annoying things they do goes on and you get the idea. There’s also the negative versions of this, but I’d say all manipulative people need or desire attention — or some other person to dance to their tune.

(I know what you’re thinking: “Wizard Smog, that just describes a resume!”. Well you’re on to something there, gumshoe! Peruse that line of thought a bit further…)

Newsflashery: having a picture with a guru doesn’t mean anything. Just because you meet a guru for a photo doesn’t mean they like you. And it doesn’t mean anything at all, really. It’s like meeting any celebrity, albeit one who is spiritually rockin’. Which is cool, but how much time can you spend with a busy famous person and get their magic to rub off on you? Not much. That’s what I always think now when I see videos of Hatsumi teaching at his dojo; like what the elite Bujinkan teacher Kacem Zoughari said: there’s a difference between showing techniques and teaching them.

When people brag about how they met some holy person, I can’t help but roll my eyes…uh metaphorically that is! That’s right, I’ve got no sarcasm or ill will here, no siree… *WS desperately washes his hands in an effort to clean away the guilt*

Another song by ‘Smoke

Posted in love, Mysticism, Poetry, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , on May 14, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The amateur poetics continue here at WS central! If I keep this up I’ll alienate the three readers I have…

From the moon to the cosmos
here is my little poem:

Once I was down
but now I flow like water–
into every stream that gives life,
the endless gushing of dreams
and loves for the seamless presence

At the end of our days
there is nothing more pleasant
but the splendour of being found
in all things

The sound of conclusion
and the end of the day
it’s such a powerful colour
whether bright, dark, faded or sharp

The greatest art one knows
gives sentiments of finality
which are naturally cloaked
in the beauty of eternity