Archive for karma

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.

Vows

Posted in karma, Monasticism, Occult, society, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , on May 2, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Religious ordinations often contain precepts and vows. What is the significance of a vow? When one makes a vow or resolute promise — when one decides to live by a code — the results or effects of that code immediately project themselves throughout society and the world. Even without devoting a conscious effort to vows, they influence one’s mind and actions. So, if one promises to abstain from killing absolutely anything in the world, the world rests a little easier, being absent of one more potential killer.

What’s so bad about breaking vows, is that they render the initial vow to be meaningless. Vows are only powerful as long as they are kept, but they gain potency and strength as the duration of their vow is increasingly fulfilled. In breaking a vow, the falling rhythm of karma and causality begins to turn and further vows of the same sort are less sincere or powerful as a result. And on a more mundane level, this explains people who repeatedly take up a practice and quit, or are constantly trying new things but stick with none of them. These are all weak vows which dilapidate with their inconsistency.

It’s strange how, in the beginning of a person’s desire for wisdom or knowledge or whatever, they look all over the place for it. They throw themselves into all sorts of esoteric crap and profound philosophies and practices in order to discover some kind of truth. But then, after all avenues have been exhausted, one does what comes naturally to their person. On a more mundane level, this is how many politicians begin careers: the ambition and enthusiasm to change the corruption inherent to systems of law. And of course they all end up following the path of least resistance.

Okay, so maybe it’s a little different than the ambitions of a politician. But… looking for enlightenment in the wrong place can end up the same way, except one ends up completely at the bottom of desire and chaos. The eye of the tempest! Kinda weird how those who seek to maintain positions of order end up maintaining chaos. That’s what they’re protecting you against in religions when they say you must kill yourself (metaphorically, of course).

What to do…

Karma Without Tears

Posted in Buddhism, Philosophy, Religion, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Let’s see, where was I? Oh, right… karma. I’ll give a run-down on the concept seeing as <sarcasm> no one else has ever done that before. </sarcasm>

So existence, conditioned phenomena, a.k.a. the world of samsara (the realm of being in which there is suffering) is subject to the law of karma. Karma is not the will of some magical divinity, nor it is swift justice, or based inherently in ethical morality. Karma is simply the rhythm of existence, the result of dualities, the waxing and waning property. Karma is a law, but it is not really dogma, because dogma implies some sort of decree, command or tenet. And don’t get confused: the karma of things is not exactly the same as the Dao or way of things, because karma is a little more specific. Karma literally means intention, and translates to “volitional action”. It understood to refer to the law of cause and effect; that all actions lead to appropriate results.

Karma is strange because it is both very simple and yet very broad and all-encompassing upon its dissection. This is why, in order to maintain a certain ethical volitional quality, philosophical discussions of karma are not always technically in-depth. They can become complicated very quickly.

With regards to free will — karmic law asserts that although an individual’s mindstream will experience the fruition of past karmic seeds (good and bad), the present moment is always ripe with opportunities to make choices of one’s own free will. That is to say, regardless of what transpires around an individual, the individual does almost always have opportunity to say yes or no to their actions — to either get further involved in a situation or walk away from it. Hence, those events which manipulate us beyond our own control or choice are not necessarily divine law or pre-determined events, but the current of the karmic stream we are close to. And karmic streams are not pre-set, for they are in constant flux.

Serious karma from the past eventually manifests in our lives, and sometimes manifests over a long span of time (many rebirths in the mindstream — each of which is not the same person over again, but the karmic inheritor). However, negative karma in this life very often does show up in this life. The more unbalanced a person is, the less aware they are of their own part in influencing the mind stream, the stronger the karmic effects they will reap.

There is much said in religion, and indeed in Buddhism, of the hells a person will fall into upon committing grave sins. This is not inaccurate — the further births in one’s mindstream will be subject to the weight of these volitional actions. Typically, killing one’s parents (or almost any innocent being, particularly another person) accrues karmic weight, heavy gravity in one’s karmic stream. Although a person can repress the negative mental effects of their actions during life, in one’s sleep, meditation or death, the frightening layers of one’s subconscious reveal themselves.

At the moment of death, one’s past actions project one into future births. This is why those who eradicate karmic seeds in their minds can cease to take rebirth, as not only are they aware of the deathless states and the layers of the psyche, but upon passing away they are no longer projected by the karmic fuel of their mindstream. Thanissaro Bhikkhu likes the metaphor of fuel and flame — when one attains nirvana/nibbana, the flame of the mind has finally gone out. There is no longer any fuel to keep the mind burning upon dissolution of karmic seeds.

Deshimaru has some good things to say on the subject in his book, The Ring of the Way. When one initially awakens (which isn’t the same as enlightenment), one understands with their whole being (not just intellectually) that all things are happening at once, all things are in continual flux — a circle. Time is circular, not linear. All beings are interconnected and the same and yet somehow individually unique. The more wisdom and insight one accrues (or is given?) from life practice, the less one is bound by karmic conditions.

To quote from the book:

There is something deterministic, irrevocable, and mysterious about fate or destiny, but not so with karma, in which the rigorous necessity of causality, the necessity that we understand as a characteristic of destiny, is attenuated because our lives are a composite whole and cannot be ruled by the principle of causality alone. There are many antecedents, many prior causes, and they do not systematically produce a single, inevitable result. The activity of the psyche is partly conditioned by these antecedents, beyond any doubt, but it is not totally determined by them.

The human consciousness has developed the concept of voluntary choice, a lucidly weighed option, a possibility that is not inevitable. In the lower orders of nature, the realm of minerals, plants, and animals, phenomena are governed by strict necessity alone, the physical law of determinism. If the required conditions are present, the phenomenon appears. But the determinism of the principle of causality can have no absolute power over the human psyche. The more a person wakes up to reality and understands it, the less influence determinism will have upon that person and the greater will be his or her freedom of action, autonomy, unpredictability.

Of course, many people suffer for reasons that, whether or not there is some karmic law to explain it, are not the results of actions they have committed in their present life or form. Therefore, it is unreasonable to simply declare a person’s state of being to be something they deserve as a result of karmic balance. And after all, without people to help one another, there is little opportunity for positive karma and the accumulation of merit. But the goal is not just the accumulation of positive karma. A good explanation of this interplay of good and bad karma is: bad karma is harmful (especially to the doer) but creates opportunities for good karma. Good karma is beneficial (especially for the doer) but creates opportunities for bad karma. In other words, another person can very easily act on the results of your volitional actions.

Another elucidation of karma is that it is a rhythm. That is to say, each time a person does something, it will become easier to do again. Eventually one has ingrained impulses into one’s mindstream, which often manifest in the body either as compulsive physical habits, neuroses/psychoses or illnesses.

Karma as a rhythm of waves, has the same dimensional properties as water. Each movement of the water creates more waves, which in turn builds momentum for more waves. Eventually we become unknowingly subject to our own habits, ensnared by desires and emotions built up by messy impulses and reactions we do not watch closely. Thus, in practicing a mindful practice (which can really be almost anything that is pure and devoid of desire for profit, sex, status, etc.) one can calm the mind and be aware of impulses. This is what Deshimaru means when he says people can change their karma through zazen.

A final, physical metaphor I would use for karma is that it can be explained by looking at an audio wave in a music-editing program on the computer. Initially a sound file looks like a bunch of blurry waves, which go up and down, back and forth across the 0 decibel line. But zoom in on any wave and it seems there are even smaller waves inside of that one. This continues endlessly, like a fractal generation. These are like waves of karma in the mind. In some sense, all beings share an interconnected karma; a connection which becomes more immediate with social groups, families, friends and so on. A person is a very small karmic wave, part of a larger karmic wave, but there are ever smaller karmic waves of action, speech and thought.

I think many people do not want to believe in karma because it strikes them as dogmatic, or wishy-washy, or they misinterpret as some kind of moral judgment. And secretly we all wish to discover things for ourselves, to feel that our own perception is unique or accurate. And really, isn’t life less romantic or exhilarating if the answer to all our questions and existence is right here in front of us? Romance and fear, they always result from events in which we cannot see the entire picture.

There are a bunch of good resources out there which explain karmic law:

Since karma is primarily a Buddhist concept, the discussions tend to have a Buddhist context, thus they tend to be imbued with the Buddhist moral sense. I don’t necessarily think Buddhism is the one true religion, but I do think the Buddhist canon contains some of the clearest elaboration upon the cause and result of all existence.

(Inter)dependence

Posted in Buddhism, karma, martial arts, Philosophy, Reality Bites, society with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Kind of like kids and teenagers, old folks tend to really cherish their independence. Of course it’s a different kind of independence,

But this has me thinking about depending upon other people. I hate depending upon other people, because it means having less control over one’s actions and takes on a subtle form of humiliation, of submission. I don’t like having power over others, or making others depend on me too much either, so go figure — I’m complicated. Ah, but there are moments when interdependence is awesome right? Like when you need to find a job or living space or life partner? Sure, it makes life easier, but then again it’s also another constraint on your “freedom”.

Are constraints on freedom unavoidable? Is this bad? In his famous work, ‘Beyond Good and Evil,’ Nietzsche proclaims the qualities of independence and self-exertion to be “good” values. “Bad” values are those of self-sacrifice and submission to the state, the group or party, as well as the notions of equality or democracy that accompany such a submission. He sets up a paradigm of human existence that echoes a lot of the trappings of karma (Nietzsche was an academic fan of Buddhism, as he mentions in his later anti-Christian work, ‘The Anti-Christ’).

To summarize (or is that paraphrasing?) his ideas, he thinks that the past (made up of previous causes) gives rise to our drives and desires, which in turn cause us to create our values and judgments. Simple enough stuff, basically stating that there is no isolated original cause of our worldly decisions nor is there any unbiased, pristine value judgment that we can make.

A ha! but that’s nothing new, Mr. Nietzsche! The Buddhist organization beat you to getting that on paper about 2000 years prior! ‘Course, it seems so impressive when someone writes it all down on their own, right? Gives some semblance of personal willpower or whosits.

One of the reasons I really wanted to pursue martial arts and other stuff as a kid is because I always loathed the way older people, or more helpless people, have to depend on others and yet feel miserable for it. Ah, not like I’m some cold, heartless machine. I’m a real team player (there is no I in EGO, HAHAHA!) But, for some reason, sometimes people just don’t want to help you out. Nobody knows what’s best for somebody else now, do they?

I think that everyone wants to be independent at the bottom of their heart, at the most subtle layers of their being. Of course we all want democracy and charity and peace and friendship too. But the workings of society and the world, they encourage people to be overly dependent on one-another in a way that’s malicious. But, in our society it’s seen as some kind of cool, smart, business ability to make buyers or stockholders dependent on your market decisions, or trade secrets, or connections.

In the famous Broadway musical play, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, the main town is a poor Jewish shtetl in Poland. When one of the main characters is asked how the townspeople make a living, he responds with, “we keep busy doing each other’s laundry”. In other words, fake, charitable jobs. A lot of human existence is like that, particularly in times of overpopulation or resource scarcity: work becomes like charity. We become dependent upon others, but in a way where we’re putting our livelihood and faith in them.

That’s the clincher. That’s where you suffocate. Working for other people: there’s no freedom in that! But neither is there in turning the tables, in making others rely that way upon you!

Kids? An Accomplishment?!

Posted in karma, Mysticism, Occult, Relationships, sex, sex and violence, The Arts, Ultimate Reality with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Life is so weird. When people are perfectly content there’s nothing to talk about. Nothing to do. That’s stillness and enlightenment for ya. Like I’ve said here before, life seems fundamentally based on distractions. But what are we being distracted from? There’s nothing to do in the first place! Actually, when you stay in tranquility long enough, you start to forget that you’re living perfectly peacefully. It becomes boring, so you reach out and eat some junk food or read dirty magazines. And pretty quickly, those things become the focus of the day. They’re the driving factors. That’s how people end up with kids.

There’s something crazy. Kids! People have kids. That is nuts. Nowadays most wealthy people want a career set up first, but I don’t know if you’re supposed to have both. Of course, we don’t want old-money families to be the only rich people with kids. Then it would be like feudal times all over again! Aye carumba! So everybody juggles kids and a career and doesn’t really raise their kids. Blah blah, we all know this by now…

So everybody wants kids. I have a little theory I’ll share, just to be interesting. It might offend those of you emotionally clinging to your bodies. Of course, I feel for ya, ’cause we’re all there aren’t we? Anyway — I think a lot of people have kids because they haven’t any sincerely pursued creative/artistic achievements or accomplishments in their life. They haven’t created anything admirable that they can look back upon. That’s what Ikiru was about. Having a kid didn’t salvage the creative remorse.

Isn’t procreation a creative impulse? Haven’t all the philosophers talked about this, about the expansive sex drive of the artist? Even a monk or hermit is pushing a stronger desire than your typical socially-inclined bi-pedal human, except they’re just pushing it past their sexual desires.

People desire kids out of an attachment to the incompleteness that every single person feels because they’re human, because they have a fleshy form that appears physically separate from the bio-sphere. Not that I’m like, bashing procreation, that would be silly. But it is simply the fundamental artistic/creative impulse. A wild effort for purpose and meaning! That desperate and real shot in the dark!

Think about it – children come into being out of (creative) desire. People have desires, things that pull them away from stillness or “wu-wei”. Hishiryo (non-thinking) is disturbed by desires, whether they’re spontaneous or pre-meditated ones. That desire which creates a newborn child, it is not purely the parents’ desires. It comes into being as an agreement – a karmic act that the parents and future being share. In other words, it is karmic retribution in the lineage of a previous being, one which manifests via the desire of the parents in question. I say lineage of a previous being because rebirth is like that: it’s referring to a karmic lineage, more than it is to any consistent personified manifestation.

People do too many things in life which have serious karmic repercussions (reverberations) and so they echo beyond one lifetime. Most of us don’t have the insight or realization to see or stop those reverberations. So they manifest in the desires of other beings, who then share karmic relationships. Beings associated in rebirth are often connected by karma, not specific personalities or tangible space-time materials. Karma isn’t necessarily good or bad. It’s simply the rhythm of reality. Ha! I act like I’m the expert…

When beings can control rebirth, I think it’s generally because they perceive the various realms of energy and ideas that manifest in the mindstream. Thus, through shaped intention, beings take future births in according realms of the stream. So, more than there’s any one perfect heavenly existence, it’s more like there’s streams of reality that people begin to manifest through their long-term efforts.

The problem with attaching hope to this incompleteness of existence and interchanging procreative energy thru it, is that the beings that will spring out of ourselves are the results of our most subtle desires. In other words, the strength and quality of the desire at the time of procreation will determine the karmic agreement that brings the child into existence! And it isn’t that easy to make a conscious decision. I can’t be some sickly nerd with a drug problem who projects, “I desire an NBA star!” when I’m sleeping with my one-and-only! There’s more subtle stuff going on. If I’m lying to myself, it’s still going to count in the procreation. And the energy and genetic world I’ve reached toward with all my actions is going to manifest in my offspring.

Everybody idealizes their kids, though. Most people expect their kids to grow into certain traits and personalities that they never will. That’s why the best parents don’t set boundaries and limits on their kids. The best parents don’t necessarily have kids out of emotional insecurities or a weak sexual coil. You know? That whole quote from Zos, “weak sexual desire yields a sickly offspring”-type thing.

Real accomplishments are so weird. Just doing the smallest things that make a person feel good about themselves… it remains with them throughout the day, like it was a significant accomplishment. One can wake up early and do a bunch of errands or practice something they love to do, and the rest of the day feels so eventful. And nothing happened! You just woke up and did stuff. Crazy!

O! What a world!

Posted in Buddhism, martial arts, Reality Bites, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , on January 23, 2008 by wizardsmoke

The world isn’t perfect. It’s samsara, baby. A one-way ticket past every station on the line and then some. If you want to get off, you have to really earn that freedom. I’ve heard someone wise say that the gods respect a quiet mind…

People are always out to get you, it’s true. You can’t trust ’em. But if you see everyone else as a threat or try to prey on them, you’re making the world worse. You’re a part of the problem.

You can trust some things: good, well-chosen friends and close family, plants and animals, upstanding courageous people. Oh, and karmic law. This isn’t grim either — it’s nice to have some things to depend on! Plants give without asking for any compensation, whereas animals live by basic instincts and have predictable emotions and loyalties. It’s humans who (in their current formation) have the ability to differentiate between virtuous and non-virtuous deeds, and whom often choose ignorance. This is why a wasted human life is such a miserable mistake.

Society seems like a vicious beast, out to crush you. Like a mob, it operates without compassion and has only eyes for a certain kind of result: society just pursues opportunities. But what are opportunities?

Society works this way because everyone is a part of it, and everyone needs to survive. If your subjugation is an opportunity for someone else in society to get ahead, an attempt will certainly be made to compromise your position. This is why careers in politics/organized crime are lunacy. You have to be a real sociopath to pursue those avenues, because they consist of stepping on everybody else whenever the opportunity arises, and constantly mingling with people who are in no way close to you. Everyone else in that business has the same strange dreams of commanding others. And while everyone needs to survive, a person doesn’t need much power or wealth to do so.

But I digress: society is out to get you because everyone in society is looking for opportunities to get ahead in society. This includes you, presumably. Remember that any time you present an opportunity for someone else to get ahead, they’ll take you up on it.

This is alluded to in the finer martial arts: a real martial artist doesn’t look for openings or opportunities in combat, but creates them by presenting illusory openings for the opponent/uke/duifeng to enter, thus temporarily (and naturally!) creating an opportunistic space to move into.