Archive for Buddhism

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.

Everybody wants their cake

Posted in Buddhism, Christianity, Exercise, Happiness, health, New Age Baloney, Reality Bites, Religion, tai chi, taijiquan, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Been reading a lot about Jodo Shu/Pure Land Buddhism lately. It sounds a lot like Christianity to me: everybody goes to paradise as long as they can faithfully recite Amida Buddha’s name out. Even the negative actions of a sinner cannot stop a true believer in Amida’s Pure Land from going there. Amida’s Pure Land is also locate in the west. Why the west? I couldn’t tell ya. Well, I do have my own speculations on the matter, but they’re worthless even to me, much less to you, lolz!

I gotta say, though, this whole deal of thinking heaven and paradise are somewhere else and you get to go there miraculously for being a good little lamb — I don’t believe it. Not because I don’t believe in paradise, but because I don’t think you’ll have to wait around to go there once you see it. When it happens, it happens, kapicz?

In fact, the whole problem of getting to paradise is a lot like the whole problem of learning to relax and issue power in Taijiquan. The only way we can issue power is by focusing on relaxation, so the only way we can go to paradise is to focus on… …. ….

Okay, I don’t really have much of a point here, but think about this! For some reason, everybody (and I’m not just generalizing) builds up chronic muscle tension in their back, hips and shoulders over time. This eventually leads to back problems and serious back pain, joint pain, etc. which further builds up depression, listlessness, and so on. But instead of getting up every morning and going through some half-hour routine to deal with this inevitable physical pain that accompanies existence, most people complain about it or want some easy solution later in life when it builds up and finally hits them. Which, again has some kind of analogy to yearning for paradise, though again I am slow and not quite getting to the …

Oh well. Paradise actually doesn’t exist, because if we conceptualize it in advance, it’s not paradise.

Firmly grounded in the…

Posted in Buddhism, death, God(s), Happiness, health, History, Mysticism, New Age Baloney, Philosophy, Religion, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2009 by wizardsmoke

As other more astute and accomplished individuals have pointed out on their blogs, it seems that religious scenes and groups are more frequently populated by middle-aged and elderly folks. Sure — why not, right?

In angsty youth (and in angsty adulthood too, sometimes), many deride the religious for being fearful of the afterlife. But I think what is equally true is that people become fearful of the past as they age, athiests or not. If, supposing there is nothing after death, our life is all we did, why wouldn’t we want to reflect on living the best life possible? Errors are inevitable, but not necessary. If this life is all there is, well then what is the point of living a miserable nihilistic one? (Not to mention, only young people have the consistent energy to resist and deny feelings of remorse, regret, or guilt: denial leads to mental illness in older folks!)

The interesting thing is that this kind of thinking, where one questions the point of cruelty or despair when it has no purpose or punishment, actually leads toward a sense of compassionate martyrdom — later Greek philosophy and eventually Christianity.

However, basic ignorance does pervade all of this, for all concerned. The power of denial is undeniably strong with too many of us. And it’s a very fine line to cross at certain times in our lives between becoming total subconsciously self-loathing scumbags and people of integrity. Often it’s because we’re afraid of what we might lose: our family, our friends or social acceptance, our money or property, our rights, our anonymity, and so forth.

Compassionate acts are interesting, because in the wrong hands they easily become catalysts to vain behavior. I’ve had friends who did not believe in selfless charity (nor have I, at times in my life). In the early 20th century, after both World War I and World War II had ended, there were serious debates in the United States media and art communities over how best to honor fallen servicemen in the war effort. The big stand-off was between “Traditional Memorials” and “Living Memorials”. Traditional ones are like plaques and art pieces; living ones are like parks and dedicated buildings or facilities. The big debate commonly came down to which one better left a stoic message that all would respect and remember.

But who cares about that? A person who is proud of their legacy shouldn’t care about their personal data. Who cares if you are worshiped forever? None of this leads to anyone’s happiness or satisfaction. It is far better to leave something that improves the world (how exactly, I have no idea whatsoever). This is the preachy message Kurosawa’s film Ikiru is hammering into the viewer’s brain over it’s insanely long runtime.

Since everything fades from memory, and memory is such a transient and unreliable device (history is forgotten or unknown by most of the public, anyway), what does a concrete, identifiable legacy matter? That’s why I like the idea of gods of compassion, or virtuous people, or totally enlightened Buddhas and their badass retinues — everything such an individual would do would be selfless compassion. Not giving oneself up to others, but giving up the notion of one-self, individualism altogether — compassionate activity with no regard as to individuals whatsoever. A total generator of compassion.

Such generators do exist, but I suspect they are beyond identification and not worth discussing much more. And there are similar generators for every possible cosmic experience. So I don’t know if any particular experience “wins” or whatever, but if it’s a matter of looking back on one’s life in the future and being satisfied with how you lived it, it’s worth considering.

Warner Smoke

Posted in Buddhism, Fighting, health, martial arts, meditation, Religion with tags , , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Looks like I’m going to go see Brad Warner on his book/talk tour thingy. I don’t really know what kind of turnout he’s going to get, but the booking joint near my town is very random and out-of-place, so there’s a chance no one will show up. At the same time, I’m sure the most random spots can get tons of visitors. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a total cattle herd or maybe no one will show at all (we’re truly godless and savage where I live) and I can freak him out with some chit-chat. Hahaha!

I actually don’t want to hear more talks on zazen and Vippasana/Shamatha meditation though. So sick of that! And not just from him. Yet I’d rather hear Brad ramble about it than the New Age hippie Buddhist teacher that leads a bunch of yuppies in meditation every week at the church across the street from my house. Of course, what do I know? I’m just some punk.

Anyhow, I got injured sparring the other day. A nice facet of martial arts training is the ability to deal with injuries, and in turn, avoid them. In other words, you get injured and learn how to deal with it. This skill comes the same reason any skill is developed: practice and experience. But other bonus points: I never roll my ankle over anymore (haven’t twisted my ankle in ages), I never get jostled in crowds, I never fall on ice or in the rain, etc.

But from the way the MA stuff is presented in pop culture (or shall we say, marketing), you wouldn’t know that almost every serious martial artist has experienced serious injuries. The only time you hear about it is in weepy stories about how a person couldn’t practice anymore, or in cases like Bruce Lee, where they hype up his injuries to make it seem like only one such Herculean man-god could still practice after being wounded. These are most of the stories people regurgitate to one another, like dopey myths. And my question is similar, myth or otherwise — why not just do that stuff yourself? It’s only magical because you haven’t put forth the effort to do it. Most people float around like driftwood, giving little thought to the direction of their lives — like me and this blog post.

But hopefully there’s an end to this physical means. Hopefully one day there will no longer be any sort of fear with relation to any thing — be it future inhibitions, physical pain, mental and emotional anguish, fear of damnation and so forth. Really all you need to train into yourself is a firm disposition to keep going. I know a lot of guys who are super tough badasses that can plow through all sorts of insults and threats and violent scuffles, but as soon as they get really depressed because their girlfriend left them — they’re cooked! What the hell kind of willpower is that? Perseverance and willpower get shifted around to be useful in every possible medium of expression and experience. Even if you have to start from scratch again and again in everything you do, if you master that ability then you won’t be afraid to let go of things when the time comes. Or something.

Anyway — Brad Warner! We’ll let you know how it goes.

Godspeed, Jizo-sama

Posted in Buddhism, death, love, Mysticism, Religion, Storytelling, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by wizardsmoke

Sorry if my blogging rhythm is totally screwy. I have had some other projects going on. It’s also not like I haven’t been writing for this blog: I’ve got over a hundred drafts for this site, many of which are almost finished, but I just can’t get around to finishing them when I’m at home.

Anyway, is there really an Amida Buddha, Kannon, Jizo Bosatsu, or Mary? That archetype, does it really exist? Sure it does. Just watch almost any movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki and you’ll be exposed to some of the deepest love that exists. And I don’t just mean like, he puts a deep love into the direction of these films — I mean, they actually exude incredibly deep cosmic love. Very powerful stuff — sorcery perhaps, on the level of only a handful of artists and visionaries in existence at any one time.

Who else exudes such high levels of love? There are many, but here is just a small handful:

  • Jason Becker
  • Susumu Hirasawa
  • Akira Kurosawa
  • ABBA

The irony here is that guys like Miyazaki and Kurosawa supposedly either work their staff like dogs, or picked mercilessly on certain members of their crew. So what’s the deal with that? Furthermore, Miyazaki is pretty rough on his son, as far as I know. But at the same time, I sort of understand… I’ve definitely had teachers who were great to me and the other students, but were neurotic and crazy on their own, or known really good people who are awful to their own families, and vice versa. Isn’t that so strange?

One of Miyazaki’s masterpieces, My Neighbor Totoro, subtly incorporates the theme of Jizo Bosatsu into the storyline. The patron of unborn children, stillborn children, dead children and orphans — the Jizo is a protectorate of the helpless who drown in the samsaric sea before they even get a chance to swim in it. I like that idea. Miyazaki’s films are primarily aimed at young children, particularly girls, hoping to inspire them with a sense of compassion and self-worth while they are still young, providing them with positive role models. Although the protagonists are not orphans, they encounter the carefully placed Jizo shrines in the story, at pivotal plot points. It does not seem so apparent at first, but upon a second viewing I felt pretty sure that this was significant to Miyazaki’s message.

Many children are orphans, and at the very least many children do not have good role models. Even if there is no tangible, concrete protector deity floating around saving them, I like the idea quite a bit. It’s one worth drinking to. And Miyazaki’s body of work comes pretty close to embodying those ideals. It’s too bad that his recent film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, is to be his last. But really, in this foaming sea of chaos, where we swim around looking for purpose, it’s very nice to know that someone like Miyazaki made his vision become reality.

No kool-aid for me, thanks

Posted in Christianity, Cults, Happiness, love, Reality Bites, Religion, society, Ultimate Reality, World of Emotions with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by wizardsmoke

For some strange (albeit predictable) reason, religious nutballs are never content to keep to themselves. I mean, they do sometimes; but then they do crazy stuff that goes against national laws, like polygamy, or they infiltrate the government from their affluent, influential-yet-isolated temples. All the rest of us non-religious people supposedly envy their blind faith, which makes everything easy and happy for them. Except if that were the case (them being happy), why are they so dead-set on converting every last one of us non-believers?

It’s not like I could give two smokes about Atheism/Brights/materialists/empiricists and whosits either. I think those guys are possibly just as nuts. But the religious people — their logic just doesn’t add up (ha, big surprise!). They rarely come off as happy, just as pleasantly stoned or something. Which seems to be the marketing trend in convincing people you’re enlightened — act blissed out and stoned and smile with big groups of the kool-aid drinkers.

Crazy thing is how slick some of the religious evangelical-conversion types are at what they do. Some guy in a tie comes up and asks if he can help you move the table out of your apartment complex and the next thing you know you’re sitting in a Mormon Death Star, wondering whether you can get the magic underpants without paying the joiner’s fee (you can’t, and the Mormons are amusingly the closest to happy people I have had try to convert me).

The truth is, religious nutballs are just conspiracy theorists. And conspiracy theorists generally operate under the same set of principles, which are that they have the goods and nobody else does, especially not other conspiracy theorists. But here’s where it gets interesting: rather than shut up about this fact, or reside quietly and self-satisfied, they can’t shut up about it. They have to talk you and everyone else’s ear off about how they figured out this amazing truth that is so incredible, and they want to share it with you. They’re absolutely terrible at keeping a secret.

Aren’t they all like that? The Yogis/Yoginis, religious people, Illuminati conspiracy nuts, New Agers and 2012 people, Alcoholics Anonymous, political nerds, metaphysicists, Athiests, philosophers, psychedelic drug users, teenagers, people-who-read-the-news, and so forth. They cannot shut up. It is amazing, really.

It’s a lot like desperate romantic love. It’s this exciting thing that is cooked up in the mind and becomes this meaning for existence because it has been cooked up in the mind for so long, but in reality it (the person being fantasized about, or in this case, the religious delusion) is just another boring human being or boring fantasy.

The other thing is, religious/conspiracy people will absolutely not be satisfied by everyone chiming in with their story or tune. That’s not the romance of the whole shebang; the romance is found in the valiant, tragic, martyrdom of the lone wingnut preaching to a world that won’t hear of it. But they wouldn’t admit that for a second. Because they’re addicted to the chaos.

If you’re thinking I hate religions from all of this, you’re wrong. I think religious are just fine (or bad) like anything else. But one thing that interests me is what Thanissaro Bhikkhu said: when he went to teach English in Thailand after college and met his future Theravada Buddhist teacher (Ajahn Fuang?), unlike everyone else he had met in life, this guy seemed genuinely happy.

And that’s the clincher, the results of the adopted practice should genuinely be happiness. Not sudden explosive, placebo, faith-healing happiness, but genuine happiness that accumulates momentum over time. If the practice or religion does not produce this, if it is not reflected in the students of the practice/religion, why should I take any interest in it? Even if you smile or laugh or post pictures of yourself smiling and hugging everyone on your website, if you’re desperate to convert people to your way of thinking, you are not happy. And ironically (but not remotely surprisingly), the happiest people I have met were not peddling anything spiritual, nor were they trying to show everyone how happy they were.