Archive for the Asceticism Category

Baseless

Posted in Asceticism, Buddhism, Fighting, genius, God(s), karma, martial arts, Monasticism, Mysticism, Philosophy, Reality Bites, Religion, society, tai chi, taijiquan, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , on January 21, 2010 by wizardsmoke

So, the big question on everyone’s my mind is whether or not martial arts teachers, yoga instructors, and their religious gurus are “enlightened”. In stuff like Tibetan guru yoga, you are supposed to view your teacher as enlightened — sometimes even if they aren’t. It’s part of the practice. I don’t do it, but it makes sense as a practice, in order to discover your belief is malleable and useful to that end. There is no god(s) if you don’t believe in them, and vice versa.

Although Taijiquan is my big psycho-physical investment at the moment, I am willing to believe it’s not the same spiritual ace-in-the-hole for other people. How could it be so? People need to be unique, independent. But at the same time, the big problem of human existence is social friction. How do we deal with other people? This is a big portion of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy: the existence of another creates a new perception of oneself and one’s surroundings. They are no longer a portion of selfless existence, but exist in contrast to oneself.

Amidst others, we seek to validate our own views, yet for what reason? There is opposition to all views, and human reason and rationale is endless. It is supremely difficult to co-exist with others in peace. And peace is a difficult subject to address, because the moment it is broached and given our conscious attention, it ceases to exist. It is simply the absence of conflict, and the absence of selfish views. But that’s too often misconstrued as being a doormat.

The other strange thing is that, although Taijiquan or dream yoga or Alexander technique or Zen or Sufi or Benedictine chant or whatever else may work for some people, these practices are not guarantors of ability or insight. They are more like rocket boosters that can change one’s mental, physical or spiritual trajectory, but the original trajectory for real insight has to be there in the first place. Those are prior causes, the manifestation of which is natural genius. But then for some reason, hard work seems way more important.

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Forever real

Posted in Asceticism, Buddhism, love, Magick, martial arts, meditation, Mysticism, New Age Baloney, Occult, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by wizardsmoke

What’s the best thing to do with your time? To become real. But what does that even mean?

Well, as my friend pointed out, it’s the process of making the story you tell yourself — the idealized you, a tangible reality, where there is no delay or separation between your perception of self and the objective self that interacts with the world around oneself. This is the real goal of studying and practicing magic, martial arts, or a religion. They all have different means of achieving this, stimulating different paths of awareness through the body or the mind, but they aim to get to this point. A crappy curriculum of path is one that does not actually have this in the syllabus.

But just because the aforementioned methods are ways of reaching this, they are no guarantee. Most folks practicing these things are floating around helplessly just like anyone doing anything in this world. Plus, what is the ultimate point of enlightenment, or total cessation of attachments and cravings? Well, there is no point in the tangible sense, because it is the place where points are dissolved entirely. And I think I heard Ajahn Brahm say, enlightenment is actually very boring.

When people create the causes for enlightenment, as they describe in Buddhism, by laying down good karma — a good rhythm, to attaining nirvana in this life or the next, they are effectively embedding the rhythm toward that experience or dissolution of enlightenment into the intrinsic fabric of their being and mental developments. Thus the desire becomes inherent to the self-clinging being taking birth and the enlightenment is no longer such a blatant desire. If the drive toward enlightenment is buried deeply enough and forgotten (made automatic), one begins to simply manifest it, now and forever. It will sneak up on you, create an innate moral quality, guide you from beyond your intellect.

Desire is blatant and therefore must be sublimated to the subconscious to really become effective in one’s life. If one can burn out the desire for enlightenment by going in the right direction towards that experience, they are creating good causes. They are pushing enlightenment into their mind until they manifest it fully. But it has to happen subtly — big enlightenment experiences are usually the stuff ambitious crackpots or intermediate students. You don’t go to heaven, you grow into heaven, to borrow a phrase from the old-school New-Ager, Edgar Cayce. Enlightenment comes to you throughout your whole life, like the expanding, full-on deafening roar of water crashing toward you through a tunnel. Every kind of understanding happens like this, until we’re floating in the water, which is our experience made reality.

Like a monkfish out of water…

Posted in Asceticism, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Reality Bites, Relationships, Religion, sex and violence, society, Stayin' Alive, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2008 by wizardsmoke

It is interesting how monks, nuns, and those who take religious vows learn to defend themselves from social harms and ills. And those vows to abstain from drugs, sex, violence, harmful speech and behavior are all the more possible because of a secluded monastic environment. But the monastic environment is not meant just to shelter the religious from the world, but to create a safe environment in which they can build a base of profound mental awareness. The ordained may not necessarily ever stop practicing or living in their ordained community, just as any martial artist (let’s say anyone who follows the fabled-to-exist practices of budo, chivalry, gongfu, etc.) does not stop practicing or teaching at their school despite their adept level of ability. Furthermore, religious monastics and martial artists  are both ideally practicing to ward off negative elements in their surroundings.

Wait, are they both? The martial artist parallel stops short because of the outcomes of these different methods of practice. An honest religious disciple is learning to see troublesome elements in the mind before they arise, and easily avoids these things. A martial artist is usually learning to sense violence before it appears in their surroundings. On the one hand, a good monk is exempt from pernicious social atmospheres which may result in lust, greed, crime, violence, etc. and intuitively learns how gauge these things. A martial artist might not learn to perceive these elements, but is better poised to deal with violent confrontation should it happen (which is almost always due to stupid social conflicts, but let’s say we’re talking about horror-story confrontations with occasional, random, mean-spirited groups of thugs, Clockwork Orange-style, or even complete psychopathic nutcases). Here the combat training — in a “do-or-die” scenario with no other choice but to fight — becomes useful.

But what has always bothered me about a number of fighters and martial artists is a subtly angry disposition. I’ve met people in this line of practice who are virulently aggressive people with dysfunctional social problems. They’re not the majority of the people involved (a lot of the angry violent types end up in questionable lines of work anyway), but martial arts rarely has anything to curb a penchant for anger — except to let the person go berserk on another person. And even if a martial arts practice does succeed in warding off negative elements, does it have to be done through the practice of violence (even if in a controlled environment)?

So I admire this about religious vows: even if the ordained do not keep to such precepts or vows, the idea of giving up anger, greed, lust — this is very impressive and admirable to me. Because a number of people who take these vows succeed in keeping them. I know from experience that during the periods one gives up these things, so many formerly conflicting aspects in one’s environment, social sphere and daily life just float on by without causing any mental disturbance.

But talk is cheap, and here I am hanging out with the angry people.

Dogen said there’d be days like this…

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, Cults, death, Monasticism, Mysticism, Religion, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The flowers, although we love them
Fade and die;
The weeds, although we hate them
Grow and thrive

Dogen Zenji

As I said the other day, at the end of the path, religions are actually obscuring reality, or keeping us attached to the world of suffering. They become like fences in front of the final destination, fences which we can see through but are encouraged to climb over in order to reach paradise or whatever. Yet if we know what we’re doing, we can see reality without putting up a fence to climb.*

But really, I don’t think religions are so crazy. Because all cults are just manifestations of the desire for concrete meaning, the basic impulse for tangible deep understanding. This cyclical search for meaning is a fundamental, natural occurrence — which makes it some kind of mysterious truth or idea in of itself.

Anyway, some obvious facts that have to be realized with the body in order to mean a thing:

  • what’s happening now telegraphs what is happening in the future
  • people die, get injured, and get sick every moment; eventually it will be your turn
  • the simplest things that we take for granted are also often the most mysterious things in life

______

*Wizard Smoke assumes no responsibility whatsoever for potential spiritual damages incurred by his advice

Summer Grass

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, death, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Poetry, Reality Bites, Religion, The Arts, Ultimate Reality, Wizard Quotes with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by wizardsmoke

A good Basho poem, one which Hatsumi is prone to quote (or have translated), goes:

The summer’s grass
all that’s left
of the warriors’ dreams

Which I kind of like. ‘Coz so many people are obsessed with violence and combat to the extent that it holds them back from upward social mobility. And then some people are so obsessed with power that they forget about the world around them. Strange that it is so hard to actually live in the world as it is, even though that’s all we can do.

Like the good quote on Whiskey River the other day:

In the tea ceremony, the expression “once in a lifetime, this one encounter” is often used. The usual way this is interpreted is “a one-and-only encounter.” In Zen, though, we interpret this expression in the following way: In the course of our lifetime, there is one person we must meet. No matter through which grasslands we may walk or which mountains we may climb, we must meet this person. This person is in this world. Who is this person? It is the true self. You must meet the true self. As long as you don’t, it will not be possible to be truly satisfied in the depths of your heart. You will never lose the sense that something is lacking. Nor will you be able to clarify the way things are.

This is the objective of life as well as of the teaching of Buddhism – to meet yourself. –Sekkei Harada

But you know… the quote would have really blown my mind had one line been slightly different: “This person is this world.”

Bag o’ bones

Posted in Asceticism, Beauty, Buddhism, Monasticism, Reality Bites, Relationships, Religion, sex, Uncategorized, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Old Man Smoke’s got a nasty sore throat today. I suggest you stand back several feet (or a couple of metres, for you non-Yanks) as you read this post. You don’t want to catch what I’ve got… *gurgle* (insanity) *gurgle*

***

At random moments, like today when I was walking up some steps, I am overwhelmed by direct awareness of the coarse nature of the human body. The human body is so… icky. It’s all slimy with its mucus membranes, full of gelatinous and soggy liquids, smelly organs, dry skin, tepid hair, and so on. It’s raw and globby (not a real word, but the onomatopoeia works, doesn’t it?), lacking any real solid substance. Objectively, the body is so unflattering.

And the body is so ephemeral — in a constant state of decay. If you really listen, you can feel your cells shedding, splitting and regrowing. You can feel that the body actually sprang forth from the earth. It’s totally wild that we look at some creatures, like insects or animals, as being dirty or disgusting.

In fact, aren’t animals just a more pure manifestation of beauty? Not that they’re perfect; animals are funny in that they represent some kind of pinnacle of aesthetic beauty and then possess no reason (for better or for worse). Animals are like the purer manifestation of mimbos/bimbos. That’s why people love animals so much — they want a stupider creature to feel sorry for. That’s what it means to call something cute — to condescend towards it as its “protector.” (Hrmm… I wonder if people have sexual relationships based on these condescending perspectives…)

Viewing the body in this way, I am reminded of a meditation (and chant) from certain Theravada forest traditions of Thai Buddhism (students of Ajahn Chah and so forth). It involves meditating on the “32 parts of the body” — the various individual organs and so forth. It’s sometimes prescribed when a student has trouble overcoming sexual lust and desire for the human body. I’m not sure if there is ever a complete remedy for that, except the arising of wisdom and the developed will to give up sexual desire. As they says, when we identify with defilements, it is just the defilements talking. But all thoughts that sail through the mind can be dropped.

Certainly there are folks who are not remotely bothered by the disgusting objective nature of the body. The body is attractive for all due to inherent, violent, exploding cosmic drives — given a doorway through the alignment of the physical sense and mental worlds. I have a different problem though. I admire certain insect bodies too much. Because some insects have mandibles!

Ah… to be a spry, young, mandible-laiden imago in the springtime of his youth…

Sex and Violins

Posted in Asceticism, Monasticism, Qi, Religion, sex, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , on July 7, 2008 by wizardsmoke

A while back, I grouped pornography in with generalized negative livelihoods. By many people’s standards, martial arts fits into this category. What makes martial artists so different from “sex artists”?

One might say porn stars are simply obsessed with sex and that this is dysfunctional because they relate to the world-at-large through their sexual experience. That they are experts on sex and perceive everything in contrast to this. Maybe they become desensitized to sex or it becomes a very casual event in one’s life. Like every indulgence, sexual activity can eventually become mundane, normal, or boring.

A lot of pacifists, hippies, Buddhists, Politically Correct people, religious folks, etc. might see martial artists in a similar light. To some, it may appear that violence becomes this normal participatory activity for a martial artist. You know, that violence becomes a casual activity or development that one exposes others to without realizing how inhibited or opposed to most people may be in relation to it. That’s an understandable concern, since a lot of martial artists are complete schlemiels and might get a romanticized perspective of violence and then act dangerously stupid.

The goal, I suppose, is a balanced perspective where one has total control over desires. I personally don’t have a penchant for excessive sexual activity or violence because I find it eventually blocks out everything in my peripheral perception. Especially the sexy time!

My guess is that Sexual Tantric Yoga, or whatever those high-level Indian and Tibetan yogis seem to practice, is sexual activity where one is peripherally aware of everything while still having sex, and sexual activity where one does not ejaculate (it strikes me as a misogynistic practice). But! I am still not convinced of this tantric sex stuff as a legitimate or necessary religious goal. A cool trick, sure, and occult weirdness, yes — but that’s because the deviant Satanic stuff is more about accumulating and indulging in desires and making those desires really powerful. Going blind with power, etc.

There are a couple of legitimate reasons it is unhealthy for people to be obsessed with sexual desire. The first is obviously the attachment to the flesh, an excess of which New Agers, metaphysicists, or Buddhists believe pulls a being/soul further down into the treacherous, deep, ghoulish, desire realms. A reasonable fear, but for materialists and naturalists and so forth, that’s a moot point, because everything is a concrete, empirical construction to them. An empiricist is like the kid who closes their eyes and thinks they’re invisible or that the world has disappeared. (Although I actually think “materialists” represent teenage awareness on the plane of human perception…)

The second reason is that, although sexual urges are very powerful, not all people are strong enough to fulfill them. Or not all people can simply give in to their urges, based on their character. For some it would be self-destructive to their personality. By focusing too much (as well as too little) on sex, some people can make themselves neurotic or overly aggressive or unproductive. I guess pop psychology likes to assert the importance of a healthy sex life. But… a healthy (sex) life doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have lots and lots of sex.

The third point, and maybe the most relevant to me, is that it damages one’s vital essence, or jing in Chinese medical terminology (excess ejaculation can also cause strain on certain organs, like the bladder). Since one’s jing determines the quality of one’s qi distribution and accumulation, draining or damaging it leaves one sluggish, forgetful and susceptible to outside forces or persuasions. This is why sexual manipulation has so much potential for power: as a man depletes himself of jing, his control wanes and he becomes obsessed and addicted to lustful urges.

Obviously this is a little dramatic, but it’s where the saying, “masturbate and you’ll go blind” comes from. I can’t imagine it was actually ever meant to mean a person would lose their sensory vision. But it’s pretty relevant today, with the prevalence of pornography and so forth. I’ve actually been warned by martial arts teachers not to view much pornography because it’s damaging to your psychological and emotional health.

No surprises here! Although religious precepts talk about sex, I kinda think that stuff is all folk wisdom from old men. You know? Religious guys weren’t horny teenagers, they were seasoned mystics! I think urges often have to dissipate of their own accord alongside “practice”. Ya can’t just cut off the sex drive or ignore it. After all, isn’t that what I said happened with my penchant for intoxicants?

But then again, all of our arguments and lines of reason are just our defilements arguing for their own existence. :*(