A blog about nothing.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

STAY GOLD

In Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, which I'm currently (re)reading, the wise woman Sophia (philosophy), dressed in a beautiful dress woven by her own hands, consoles the author who has been falsely accused of treason and sentenced to death - and, understandably, is overwhelmed by grief. Eventually her pep talk is enough to lift him of his black mood and he is able to meet has fate with equanimity. This was written in the 6th century AD.

In the course of the dialogue, Sophia tells of old times, before Aristotle, before even Plato, when she "fought many a great battle against the reckless forces of folly." In other words charlatans who went about speaking the truth in order to extract money from followers. In these dark times Socrates was put to death by skeptics, and with that the unified school of philosophy was torn apart. After that mobs of Epicureans and Stoics and other philosophical schools did all they could to seize for themselves the inheritance of wisdom that the great philosophers left.

The wise women tells of how they tried to carry her off as part of their plunder, and she fought and struggled, and in the fight her beautiful dress, woven with her own hands, was rent to shreds. Each school tore off little pieces from her dress and went away in the fond belief that they had obtained the whole of philosophy. "The sight of traces of my clothing on them gained them the reputation among the ignorant of being my familiars," she says, "and as a result many of them became corrupted by the ignorance of the uninitiated mob."

Isn't that what we still face in the present. Fragmented philosophies, factions and disparate religions, each claiming to hold the whole truth while in truth all they do is grasp at shadows or finger threds?

It is time to piece the dress of philosophy back together - with a unified thought that best approximates truth. Any concept is only an approximation or representation of truth, which is reality and so can't be learned but must be lived. In this day of globalization, worldwide Internet access, public domain versions of sacred scriptures from around the world, shouldn't we go back to the unity that underlies divinity? If as many religions posit God is omnipresent (existing everywhere all at once), then there can be nothing that is not God, and even between separate entities (like you and I) the very thing separating us (our bodies or our "views") being an aspect of God is really not a separation but an extension of divinity which is ourselves. There is no separating you and me from the Oneness that is, but to see this we must go beyond the mind which seeks to reduce and dissect. Just like gold exists in all golden ornaments (despite differences of shape or name), Oneness exists in all that is golden, and as God is all that is, all is golden.

Of course the mind likes to preserve individuality and separateness, which is why the sages say we are born with a voluntary ignorance, or amnesia, forgetting our true state, for if we all came into this world with knowledge of the totality of divinity that we are, there would be no perceived separateness, and therefore no strife, warfare, love affairs, athletic events, and all else that arises from the "us versus them" or the "me on top of you" or "you on top of me" point of view. In short, without separation, no drama of life, and the mind is so addicted to drama!

But you must see that you are writer of the script, producer, director, and actor, not just in your own life, but in each and every heart. Of course once you realize this, the drama of life is over. But until then, try to remember you are gold (God):

Stay gold, Pony, stay gold.

Friday, August 29, 2014

TELL HER (OR HIM) ABOUT IT

We all have things we're not saying to the ones we love. But taking the plunge to disclose can be emotionally safer and more productive than you may imagine, is the gist of a feature article in this month's (October) Psychology Today.

This is not to say that every little thing needs to be discussed with your partner, and topic avoidance can be a form of compromise which features in the healthiest of relationships. Although the reason an issue is avoided may be more important than the issue itself, so what you choose to say and not to say reveals a lot about you and your significant other. Elements of the so-called power chat include clarifying internally why you're disclosing something before opening your mouth. Speaking for the good of the relationship can be preferable to just venting for yourself. And be aware that you always have the right to speak up. If you don't, you may not be as close as you think. And approaching topics with mild humor can bring a sense of balance and perspective to a situation and allow for easier venting of emotions, so always see the bright side. Conversations are a tangled knot of messages, spoken and unspoken, but disclosing and avoiding need not be all or nothing. If you come from love, and from the security that you are deeply deeply loved, it gives you the freedom to speak your mind and treating your lover as you'd like to be treated ensures you'll both get what you came for, which is a chance to play the game of love together.

Remember, always be explicit and say exactly what you mean. I've heard it said that you should speak to your loved ones as though they were 6-year-old children and you needed to explain everything clearly, in no uncertain terms. I think it's better to speak as though you were a 6-year-old. Listen to a child communicate and you will notice that she says exactly what is on her mind, without irony, hyperbole, or prevarication. It is wise to do the same. Children are adults in little bodies, and many grown-ups are emotional infants. Of course kids can be cruel in their honesty, so a little finessing the situation, or polishing your remarks can be useful when addressing a friend who is particularly sensitive, though you both will get more from speaking the clear and true. Don't assume that your special someone always knows how you feel. Like the song says, "Tell her (or him) about it!"

Thursday, August 28, 2014

ONE HEART


St. Augustine was an Algerian-born Christian theologian living in the 4th and 5th centuries, AD, whose works including City of God and Confessions influenced scores of thinkers and seekers. I have not read a word of his original writings but I did study him in 8th grade religion class when we read about the lives of the saints and learned enough to pass. I remember little. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

The fact that a Christian, and such an influential one at that, could arise from a country whose total population is now dominated by Islam is a reflection on how much times have changed. As I see it, it shows that religious diversity is not humanity's destiny. Indeed many thinkers have likened different religions to rivers, all of which lead to the same ocean of God (call God what you will - Awareness, Reality, Consciousness, Self, etc.). To the extent that religion helps one along the path to enlightenment or liberation, its purpose is served, but too often religion is divisive and differences beget hate mongering, warfare and strife. Not too holy these cruel signs of our times.

The Old Testament (which I also made to memorize in grade school) is sure chock-full of accounts of battles and bloodshed. Although there are authors like Erich von Däniken who say that many scriptural accounts of God are really narratives of alien exploration of the planet and genetic modifications of humans, and that if everywhere you read God in the OT you substitute ET as in extraterrestrial, or spaceship, the mayhem that is much of the Old Testament makes an awful lot more sense. I won't go into it more, since that's not the point of this post. But I did recently read Daniken's book Gods from Outer Space, a sequel to his Chariots of the Gods. It was quite entertaining.

My point in bringing up this Christian saint born in a country that is now 100% Muslim is to touch on the unity that underlies all duality, in this case the self striving for Self, whether the person in question is Christian, Muslim, or other. In the time of Augustine there was a universal conviction among philosophers that there was a single true rational account of man and the universe and of an omnipotent and provident God. This is different from the one true God various religions posit as their own. What these great thinkers of the past were striving for was the reality of God, beyond name and form. Beyond conceptualizing. Beyond religion. And if we look closely, we see that even in seemingly different religions (and there are many parallels in the Koran and the Bible), between very disparate philosophies, striking dissimilarities can actually point to an underlying sameness, the One.


For example. Ask most people and they will say, "I exist." This posits the existence of a soul, or a consciousness, an identity, something that calls itself I. This I is really the only thing you can be sure of, since you carry it with you wherever you go, it has been around as long as you have, and through this I-ness you enjoy things like friends, family, good food, etc. - objects that would have no value if not for the enjoyer, the subject. Notions of this I's nature and purpose vary, and from this arises the question of the soul's journey.

Let's consider the soul's journey. There are those who see the individual soul as evolving on Earth through trial and experience to achieve perfection, ascending as it were to the divine.

And then there is the view that the soul, being itself divine, is already perfect. That nothing can be added to it, nothing learned which was not already known (though perhaps not remembered). And what we take for the soul's journey is really only a turning in on the Self - in other words that the soul is its own destination and by gradually shedding the illusion of imperfection, and ceasing to identify with the one who strives, learns and grows (the individual personality) the soul's perfection is revealed in its true splendor.

So as you can see these two philosophies are really two ways of saying the same thing. Our nature is perfection.

I think you're perfect.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ONE LOVE


Advaita Vedanta is the school of thought propounded by the 8th century spiritual leader Adi Shankara and furthered by such recent spiritualists as Krishnamurti, Eckhart Tolle, and Adyashanti. Advaita means "not-two" in Sanskrit, referring to the identity of the true Self, Atman, which is pure consciousness and beyond duality, the oneness that pervades everything and is the essence of all forms. Advaita Vedanta draws upon the Vedas, ancient texts in some cases dating back 5000 years to the time of Krishna which predate most scriptures from around the world.

Today modern science is supporting the truth of this notion of unity, that despite apparent differences of body, place, degree, time, etc., all is one. New research has come out which shows that giving to others boosts the donor's mood as well as the receiver's.

A study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who pursued a specific altruistic goal - making a someone smile, for instance - felt better than those assigned, vaguely, to make someone happy.

And spending time with others helps one to avoid the stress that comes from the harried feeling of not having enough time, and who doesn't feel rush in this day and age? A study in Psychological Science found that those who were instructed to write a note to a sick child felt as if they had more time on their hands than those told to complete a mindless task, even though both activities took the same amount of time (5 minutes) to complete.

Spending time on others enhances one's confidence in the ability to get things done. Finally, a report in Current Directions in Psychological Science reveals that college students who received money to spend on someone else reported being in a better mood throughout the day than those who spent it on themselves. And in South Africa, where more than 1 in 5 lack enough money for food, those who bought bags of treats for hospitalized children reported being happier than those who indulged their own sweet tooth.

So give a little today. By helping others, you help yourself. And remember, it starts at home.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

HAPPY BELLY

Much is made of the importance of probiotics found in fermented foods such as yogurt and certain specialty drinks. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that help to synthesize nutrients and break down fibers, offering an array of health benefits. But eating dairy foods, despite probiotic content, brings health hazards due to exposures to hormones, growth factors, and chemical residues. Prebiotics get less attention, and being the food of probiotics, they are arguably more important.

This from the National Institutes of Health.

A prebiotic is "a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well being and health.". . . They are dietary fibers with a well-established positive impact on the intestinal microflora. Other health effects of prebiotics include prevention of diarrhoea or obstipation, modulation of the metabolism of the intestinal flora, cancer prevention, positive effects on lipid metabolism, stimulation of mineral adsorption and immunomodulatory properties, which are mediated by the intestinal microflora.

In other words, the fibers present in plants serve as food for beneficial bacteria, and by eating these foods you increase the population of these important organisms. Remember that you have 10 times as many bacteria in your body as you do cells. By feeding the gut flora, and altering specific populations, you are literally becoming a different person, whose major difference is a happier belly.
 
One more reason to choose plants.

JUST BE IT

Once upon a time the great sage Ramana Maharshi was asked the following question: "Dear Master, on the spiritual path, is a householder hindered by such things as spouse, children, domestic life, and other worldly concerns, which occupy so much time and energy? Are these mundane affairs hinderances to realization of the divine?"

Ramana Maharshi replied: "Not so much as the learned man's books."

In other words, the aim of spirituality is to go beyond the mind. And while reading spiritual books can help to catalyze that process and turn the attention inwards, too much erudition only serves to develop the mind that you are trying to transcend; too much philosophy can lead to arrogance so characteristic of the scholar/academician, who after a time becomes merely a parrot repeating supposed truths. But the nature of truth is that it cannot be known by the mind, which is itself a concept, and since words are a product of the mind, words cannot convey truth.

Besides, we must remind ourselves that the great sages and mystics like Buddha and Christ lived before the written word, and had no recourse to book knowledge, nowhere really to turn but inwards, to the true authority that we all are. Indeed the very words of Krishna, spoken to Arjuna over 5,000 years ago, form the substance of one of the oldest sacred texts, the Bhagavad Gita. Better than read it, listen to the Krishna that resides as the chariot of your own heart.

So it comes a time to put down all the scriptures, sages' sayings, textbooks and tomes, and forgetting everything that you know, go beyond the mind to realize the blissful awareness that is your very nature. You can't learn it, develop it, hone it, or even know it. Just be it.

Anything you can attain in this dream called waking life, fame, money, prestige, vanishes once you wake up (in death). Once you realize a mirage for what it is, you no longer seek it to slake your thirst. Kill the mind while alive and reside in pure Awareness, truly free. Every night you go to sleep and dream up a body that interacts with other bodies in a dream world figment entirely of your imagination, then you awaken to the real you, viz. the one who dreams. Focus your attention on the dreamer on whose consciousness the manifest world (whether in night dream or in day dream) appears. That's what's truly real. The seeker (you) is what you seek.

The Srimad Bhagavatam tells us: "The Supreme Self (God) created the universe and then entered it in His own essence, like the sleeper creating a new world, that of dreams, with his own mind and then imagining that he lives and moves and has his being in it."

Realize your connection with the cosmic dreamer (God) whose dream is the manifest universe. That grand dreamer is you.