Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

For the sake of ornament and illumination.

Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:34 am

DIARY OF A SENSE OFFENDER -- A REVIEW OF KURT WIMMER'S "EQUILIBRIUM", by Charles Carreon

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Everyday begins this way. Waking on a sterile single-wide sleeping cushion. Just like the one your spouse, your children, and your neighbors have been sleeping on. Uniformity is the rule. Then, before all else, or perhaps after you shave if you are a bit indulgent, you take your Prozium. The swift injection to the neck, inoculating you against feeling, killing for the duration of its effect, the temptation to feel. For feeling is the enemy of humanity, the seed of evil hidden in the human heart.

Onward marches humanity, in continuous victory over the senses. And continuous war against sense offenders. The most zealous among us are children, zealots with eyes of steel that spot the quivering emotionality in the shoulders, the uncertain tip of the head, the lagging tread, that betray the sense offender. Those who are dumping their Prozium into the toilet, crushing it underfoot, stowing it in a hollow in the bathroom wall, anything but injecting it into their neck.

Under the influence of Prozium, freed of the disturbing emotions, an extraordinary level of discipline emerges in the mind of the most ordinary person. Emotions, far from helping us to achieve our most cherished goals, throw the human animal into a tizzy of unproductive, confused action. Ultimately, emotions lead to war, to the angry release of frustrations built up within the prison of the emotions. So humanity was left with no choice but to take up war against the emotions.

Prozium is the weapon that put the foe to flight, dealing a hammer blow to the demonic emotions within the heart of every human. Lost, of course, was the fleeting delight that intoxicates the sense offender, but gone too was the impulse that leads to war, the inflamed mob mind that seeks vengeance on itself. The social contract finally was enforced to the ultimate level, requiring the fortress of selfhood to be razed in order to protect all humanity from the evil motives of individuals.

Sense offenders refuse to make the sacrifice demanded of them by the righteous needs of all. Their swift elimination is the desire of all of the citizens of Libria, and the duty of the Grammaton Clerics, specially trained in the science of death.

The road to sense offenderhood is a short one. It begins with a single stumble, so one must be ever vigilant. Perhaps, through accident, one breaks a vial of Prozium, and through misfortune, fails to replace it and skips a dose. Perhaps no harm will come of it. Perhaps no powerful emotions will rise up to claim your soul, but by forsaking Prozium even for a moment, you run the risk of being thrown off track, into the dangerous byways of sense offense.

For the sense offender at first everything seems brighter. A delusive ecstasy grips the mind, prompting untoward expansive behavior, which should be the first warning sign for friends and relatives. The sense offender may express pleasure inappropriately, or protective impulses toward non-human life forms that they call "pets." The sense offender will seek to feed his or her habit by all means necessary. It quickly goes beyond stretching out the intervals between Prozium administration, while grasping furtive pleasure in the brushing of one's hair for an inappropriately long period of time, humming in the shower, or entertaining notions. Soon entire days are spent in sense affairs, conjuring excuses for absence, drifting ever farther from the margin of true Libria, taking refuge in the Nethers, with hardened sense offenders. In time, the evil strikes. Sense offenders take up arms to satisfy the hate breeding in their hearts. Claiming to be protecting themselves from the Librian state, they engage in gun battles in defense of clandestine lairs stuffed with contraband sense objects.

Finally, the dialectic of the sense offender emerges, a self-justifying rant that seeks to overthrow the very rationale that has redeemed humanity after millennia of war. Sense offenders teach a heresy -- that Libria has institutionalized the war of each against all under the ideological cover of benefit to all humanity. That Father has enslaved his children in chemical bonds, that Prozium is poison. Such a slander cannot be allowed to stand. Nor can the perpetrators of the heresy be tolerated. Having taken up arms against Libria, at the hands of a duly consecrated Grammaton Cleric, they pay an immediate price for their crimes.

Skilled in the art of the Gun Kata, and intuitively tuned to know what sense offenders are feeling, Grammaton Clerics are lethal weapons capable of delivering fire in a 360-degree radius under conditions of total darkness, killing every sense offender within a reasonable circumference of their center. A Cleric performing the Gun Kata maintains continuous movement. He is always other than where his opponents believe him to be. He cannot be touched, and strikes at will. His enemies are, invariably, defeated. He is the hero of all true Librians.

To be a Grammaton Cleric, and a sense offender. The thing is not unheard of, and swiftly dealt with. When a Grammaton Cleric cracks, what kind of bones are exposed?

I can only say that it begins like this. A restless night after a hard day's work. A broken Prozium vial, and a lie to conceal it. Ripping the protecting sense-masking material from the transparent windowpane, tasting the light of the sun glinting over the shining towers of Libria. Seeing the liquid rays glinting through the hazy morning air. I spy a greying woman, like myself, being born along in a herd of drab-clothed workers, stroking her hand on the smooth metal of the banister rail. I imitate her, and quickly feel what she is feeling. It is a small stimulus, a bit of pleasure slyly snagged. A sense offender on the loose. And I do nothing to apprehend her.

Sucked in by the flow of sensual experience, I tried to surf the wave, but was quickly overwhelmed. It began as an ordinary day on the job with my new partner, knocking down the doors of sense offense lairs, torching menageries of memorabilia, burning up the dangerous fuel of emotion stored in yet another hidden vault. For years I've sent sense offenders to Processing, but on that unguarded day the eyes of a sense offender stopped me with a gaze. And what a gaze. Two green eyes too large for their sockets in a pale face of outrage unashamed of its sensuality. Framed with a mane of red hair, slashed with an angry mouth of accusation. And later in another sense lair, indulging for a moment in playing with the evidence, I was overwhelmed by something called Beethoven, that I played on an ancient victrola.

Now it seems I must confront my teachers, who are infallible in the ways of death. Having learned their ways, having mastered the emotions and the Gun Kata, I am compelled to reject their authority. Father's declarations poison the mind with fear, and by fear we are prevented from questioning him. I have no fear, so I am free to question Father, and his answers do not satisfy me.

From now on, I will make only instantaneous decisions from among compelling choices. This Grammaton Cleric seeks neither vengeance nor reward. Simply truth.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:35 am

DISILLUSIONED BY AUTHORITARIAN DOCTRINES, by Charles Carreon

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Many of the students who started class early are finishing early. Take Stephen Batchelor, who started out way ahead of the crowd, translating Buddhist texts, chumming around with lamas in Dharamsala, learning the Vajrayana equivalent of the merit badge system. Not only did he understand it, but he could relate it in writing. If anyone seemed destined for the title of "lotsawa" it would certainly have been him.

But somewhere along the way, his sincerity became an obstacle to his growth within the Tibetan Buddhist system. Failing to sufficiently value his opportunities within the hierarchy, he allowed his personal desire for understanding to take precedence. He could have been a khenpo, now people respect him less than a bonpo. What went wrong? He's so low even people who haven't started their ngondro can afford to dislike him without fear of reproach. His books are no longer endorsed by important lamas, his stock is about to be de-listed, and there is certainly nothing in his 401K.

How does this happen? Surely it is Stephen's fault. A deep personality flaw that took its time in manifesting. Previously undetected strata of stony pride and repelling the drill bit of vajra wisdom. A heart unsoftened by devotion, refusing entry to the guru's grace. All things that any Pema-come-lately knows to avoid, and will avoid, as the protectors give them strength. And don't forget to use deodorant, prostrations make you stink like a pig.

While apparently quality people like Batchelor consign themselves to the trash heap of modern Buddhist road-kill, low-lifes continue to move up the ladder. The hereditary low-lifes accept their entitlements with all the aplomb of pampered royalty, knowing better than to question a system that bestows such blessings. Aspiring purchasers of titles have found that generosity is indeed the first perfection to which they must aspire. All other blessings then follow.

Dr. Rick Strassman, the bold and dedicated psychedelic researcher had his license to practice Buddhism summarily revoked when an aging Zen master got wind of his plans to let people explore their minds with chemicals under the rubric of a spiritual quest. Meanwhile, Joan Halifax, ex-wife of Stan Grof and long-time promoter of altered states, tacks "Roshi" onto the end of her name, apparently having found a more accommodating doctrinal perch. Or perhaps it turned out, under questioning, that she didn't inhale.

The search for doctrinal legitimacy is doomed. Buddhists are as sectarian as Baptists, just as convinced that their sect is right and that others, while tentatively entitled to acceptance as sister-sects, would fundamentally be better off changing their beliefs to accord with the Real Truth. The real strengths of the Eastern sects are their incorporation of mass methods of subjugation by the use of powerful symbols. Uniformly patriarchal, skilled in using authoritarian props like thrones, robes, staffs and scepters, the Easterners can control a crowd more reliably than Mick Jagger. And accomplish the same thing -- subjugate all the men, and excite all the women. In this way, both sexes work for free, attempting to work their way up to the pyramid of recognized loyalty and desirableness.

What many aspirants have found is that it's a long way to the top, and there isn't much of a view. When you have collected all of your merit badges and apply for your certificate, it turns out there's not much there. If you want a title, a position where you can work like an indentured servant indefinitely to accomplish things that someone else decided must be done, you may retire in this position. But most people would find a job at the post office more rewarding. The apex of a religious venture is always as detestably twisted as any other human power focus. But it is twice as galling to find yourself there at the end of a quest for self-fulfillment That is where the exiles are coming from, and no one wants to hear what they have to say. They are going down the upstaircase, and are seen as just being old and in the way, poisoned by the wine of sour grapes. But suppose they are like the people heading out of the Two Towers on 9-11? Suppose they are telling everyone to turn around, go back, and return home for their own safety. It will give them no satisfaction to see those who do not listen consumed in the disaster.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:36 am

DON'T BLAME RAMANA, by Charles Carreon

I'm a connoisseur of silly little buttons that say things like, "You must be from the shallow end of the gene pool." One of my favorites is "Never judge a client by his lawyer." It might also be said, "Don't judge a guru by his cultists."

Ramana Maharshi is a classic example. All of the bootstrap self-enlightened bozos like Bubba Fuck Job and Andrew Cohen, who need an authority to hang their hat on, try to say, "We're self-enlightened like Ramana Maharshi." And they'll hasten to add, "We're actually even better than Ramana, because blah blah blah."

Well hate to tell ya guys, but Ramana didn't cite any authority for his Realization. He didn't induct his Mama into the cult (she showed up willingly after she got old), or marinate in quality drugs and top-shelf booty. (Well, says Fuck Job, it may not be enlightenment, but it's a better ride than you got. Which, minus the insanity, is probably right.)

But Ramana has attracted parasites like any huge being. Remoras and lampreys clinging to his enormous spiritual bulk, then dispersing themselves through the spiritual seas, where they feed rapaciously. Instead of spreading the immense serenity of Ramana, who was a mountain of spiritual stillness, these fools spread irritation and anxiety. Ramana made one trip in his entire life -- from his home town to Tiruvannamalai, to abide at Arunachala, the mountain sacred to Shiva. He discovered a being, himself, who really needed nothing. So he sought nothing. Not disciples, or recognition, or an offering. His self-abandonment was complete, and would have ended in death had his new friend, Palani Swami, not intervened with food and shelter, pulling him out from under the Shiva temple where the young God-struck sadhu had taken up residence to avoid the rocks thrown by the naughty little Indian boys.

The modern day emulators of Ramana are quite different. They travel the world like Spiritual CEOs, administering a sacred fiefdom that adopts the legal firepower of an international business behemoth, operating under a code of secrecy and a freedom to abuse adherents that even Wal Mart managers would envy. Bubba Fuck Job has flown around the world at least eighty times, visiting his victims, and encouraging them to blow their minds and wallets on a God Jones. No wonder he called himself Jones.

I'll tell you who Jones is, if you don't already know. There's a book called "The Lotus Crew," about Harlem heroin dealers moving Triad heroin. It's beautiful if you want to taste the thoughtstream of addiction. In drug dialect, Jones is the addicted being himself. There is only one Jones. Jones is who you see in your friend's eyes when you know he's doing the product. You know when you're talking to Jones, not your friend. Because Jones lies. Lies like a mother fucker.

Ramana emulators are really some of the worst, most dangerous cult leaders. But you can't blame Ramana. He discovered the knife. They cut themselves.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:38 am

DR. RAY BROWN BIOGRAPHY, by Charles Carreon

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Dr. Ray Brown, who was familiar with the Berry Islands of the Bahamas, where he had previously searched for Spanish treasure galleons, returned there in 1970. He detailed his experience in an interview with the author Charles Berlitz.

When we returned to where we had been before, looking for the sunken galleons, a violent squall came up. We had to hang on to mangroves on the island, it was so violent. Six to eight foot waves broke over us and we lost most of our equipment. In the morning we saw that our compasses were spinning and our magnometers were not giving readings. We took off north- east from the island. It was murky but suddenly we could see outlines of buildings under the water. It seemed to be a large exposed area of an underwater city. We were five divers and we all jumped in and dove down, looking for anything we could find. As we swam on, the water became clear. I was close to the bottom at 135 feet and was trying to keep up with the diver ahead of me. I turned to look toward the sun through the murky water and saw a pyramid shape shinning like a mirror. Thirty-five to forty feet from the top was an opening. I was reluctant to go inside... but I swam anyway. The opening was like a shaft debouching into an inner room. I saw something shinning. It was a crystal, held by two metallic hands. I had on my gloves and I tried to loosen it. It became loose. As soon as I grabbed it I felt this was the time to get out and not come back.

I'm not the only person who has seen the ruins -- others have seen them from the air and say they are five miles wide and more than that in length.


Reports from the other divers who were with Dr. Brown at the time are unavailable since three of them have died or disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle while diving. Dr. Brown still has the crystal, which he sometimes shows to lecture audiences. Inside the round crystal can be seen a series of pyramidal forms. When one holds the crystal, a throbbing sensation is felt in the hand of the holder, whether by autosuggestion or some quality inherent in the object.

Dr. Brown did not express an opinion as to the identity of the place that he visited except to say that it was an underwater pyramid surrounded by ruined buildings. He believes that the pyramid and the other buildings extend farther down under the sea floor, with only the upper portions visible. Brown does not reveal the coordinates of the pyramid, which, if located near the Berry Islands, is definitely not one searched for by the Ari Marshal expedition.

During the mid-70's Dr. Brown practiced naturopathic medicine in a thriving office in Mesa, Arizona. His waiting room was full of people eager to receive his diagnosis and prescriptions for homeopathic medicines. Everyone had a miracle to tell. There were a couple in our family -- saving a newborn from death's door when hospital doctors had turned their hands up, and a remarkable permanent recovery from disabling pleurisy. Some of our friends had a little baby afflicted with seizures so serious he was medicated with phenobarbital around the clock. He was like a slug from the downers -- couldn't roll himself over. Dr. Brown got him off the phenobarbital, and put him on 1Million -X Homeopathic Belladonna. A few months later we got a photo in the mail from the happy parents -- the little guy was sitting up on the beach, looking at the camera and smiling. Dr. Brown's medicines were ones he personally made using special machines with ultrasound capabilities that he had designed himself. The result was, he explained, the creation of super-strength homeopathic compounds that had the vibrational imprint of the minerals and even the DNA of medicinal plants. He had an ebullient enthusiasm about his ability to cure disease, almost as if he thrived on seeing sick people, to see how many he could help as quickly as possible. And he charged next to nothing. Even the poor could pay for his medicines, and for some reason, there were a lot of us. But you can't do your job too well in the medicine business. We heard the AMA busted him and shortly thereafter he became very difficult to find. Now nobody can find him. If you're out there, Ray, drop us an email.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:39 am

DR. RICK STRASSMAN'S "DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE", by Charles Carreon

I just finished reading "DMT: The Spirit Molecule," by Rick Strassman, M.D. who practices psychiatry in Taos, New Mexico and is a Clinical Associate Professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Dr. Strassman managed to finagle permits to administer DMT, "an extremely short-acting and powerful psychedelic," at the UNM School of Medicine. Beginning in 1990, and continuing for five years, he administered 400 doses of DMT to 60 human volunteers.

Dr. Strassman has great intellectual credentials, including degrees from Stanford and Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. He interned in general psychiatry at U.C. Davis Medical Center where he received the Sandoz Award for outstanding graduate resident in 1981. He has also been a Zen Buddhist for over 20 years and is deeply interested in the liberating spiritual potential of psychedelic drugs. Dr. Strassman's avowed purpose for his DMT work was to find ways to do good things for people with psychedelic drugs, but he was compelled to follow strict bio-medical protocols that ultimately hamstrung his research efforts and made him question whether there was any point in continuing. He left the project after his wife contracted cancer, and the promised additional support for his psychedelic research from other medical professionals failed to materialize. Dr. Strassman makes it clear that a great way to screw up a promising scientific career is to become interested in psychedelic research. He recounts a telling conversation with an anonymous "Dr. K," at the San Diego V.A. Hospital. Dr. Strassman was on his fellowship, and was having a "rambling and wide-ranging" conversation with Dr. K., when he ventured one of his pet theories:

"Do you think," I offered, "that the pineal [gland] might produce psychedelic compounds? It seems to have the right ingredients. Maybe it somehow mediates spontaneous psychedelic types of states -- psychosis for example." Dr. K. stopped in his tracks and turned on his heels. His brow furrowed and he peered at me intently through his glasses. A palpable menace glinted from his eyes. "Ooops," I thought. "Let me tell you this, Rick," he said slowly and firmly. "The pineal has nothing to do with psychedelic drugs."

Dr. Strassman learned his lesson, and did not speak the words "pineal and psychedelic in the same breath to anyone" for the remainder of the year.

Of course, we expect scientists to be uptight, because they have grants to protect, wives to support, kids to feed, and politicians to please. However, Strassman never expected to discover that his fellow Zen Buddhists were even more uptight than Dr. K., who just didn't want anyone screwing up his reputation in the pineal gland business.

Strassman's experiments utilized intravenous injections of DMT at dosage levels calculated at .05 mg./kg. of body weight for a low dose, and .4 mg./kg. for a high dose. The onset of psychedelic effect after injection is immediate with doses of .2 mg./kg. and above. What Strassman discovered in his experiments upended his hypothetical applecart. He expected people to have mystical and near-death type experiences. He did not expect for many of his experimental subjects to declare with certainty that they had met other beings during their experience, whom they described as "clowns" or "elves," who took an intensive interest and delight in the experimental subject's appearance in their dimension. These beings reside behind the brilliantly colored curtains of psychedelic light that immediately invade the visual sense field within seconds after administration of the drug. Ultimately, Dr. Strassman seemed to give up on his efforts to interpret these beings as projections of psychological features, as one subject after another refused to accept that characterization, insisting that the beings were real, the place where they met the beings was real, and they did not reflect mere inner experiences in a Freudian or Jungian sense.

Dr. Strassman was also surprised when one person after another recounted experiences strangely reminiscent of alien abduction stories when receiving a high dose of DMT. Admittedly, Dr. Strassman was administering the DMT in a large hospital, where medical hardware was everywhere present, and bio-medical protocols required that he take blood draws, blood pressure readings, and even EEGs and MRIs of people tripping their brains out. Nevertheless, lots of people recorded experiences that involved detailed visualizations of large numbers of intelligent beings, often reptilian or automaton-like, tending huge machines in vast illuminated complexes, and performing examinations of the experimental subject. They often bonded with one of the strange beings and were regarded indifferently by the rest.

This reminded me of my friend Ernesto's DMT experience that he recently recounted. Depositing the DMT powder on a bed of dried pscyhotria viridis, which has a small amount of naturally occurring DMT in it, and putting another layer of psychotria viridis on top of the dust (to prevent it from bursting into flame) he applied a butane lighter flame and consumed the entire bowl in one breath. The effects were as fast as promised, and as he exhaled the white smoke, complex colored patterns appeared in the smoke-swirls. His entire psychosomatic system began to vibrate, from the inside out and from the outside in, and the only thing he could hear was a mantra, a single word repeated endlessly. This mantra seemed to protect him from disorganizing energy, keeping him collected around his center. He felt a bit of anxiety that the experience might get out of control, but it did not. With eyes open or closed, he saw colored patterns of an extremely complex geometric structure that gradually began to resemble reptilian structures such as scales and bones. After around five minutes, Ernesto got up from his seat and laid down under a blanket. There, for around the next 1-1/2 hours, he continued to experience a reptilian presence. This reptilian presence was somewhat disturbing to Ernesto, because of the conditioning we have against reptiles, but the reptile presence spoke to him gently, encouraging him to appreciate the reptilian history in his body, and its great strength and resilience. The reptilian spirit told him that it was a source of his strength, that he needed in order to succeed as a living being. Ernesto accepted this understanding, and gradually dealt with the tension between conditioned repulsion and wholesome self-acceptance. He saw images of primitive spears, the extensions of reptilian talons and claws. In days following, Ernesto's strength and resolve in the course of ordinary life seemed strengthened and smoothly directed. A few nights later, he advised, he had brief DMT-like colored visions in his dreams. He stated that the experience had not been anywhere near as frightening as common stories had caused him to expect, and if given the opportunity, he would try another DMT voyage.

According to his grant proposal, Dr. Strassman was not supposed to be giving therapy, but leading people through the inner world always requires the intuitive skills of a healer. He never knew when one of his experimental subjects would experience a terrifying upheaval. One poor fellow, a happy raver-type with charming looks and a light-hearted attitude, who had consumed lots of MDMA (ecstasy) in recreational settings, suffered a nightmare ordeal on a high-dose trip. The drug kicked in, his feet convulsed in a kicking motion, and he remained rigid for ten minutes. Then he opened his eyes, sat up, and declared that he had just been raped anally by two crocodiles who sat on his chest and immobilized him so completely that he was unable to sit up or reach out for a comforting hand. As he put it, when the experience began he thought it was a dream but "then realized it was really happening." Of course, with the time distortion effect added in, this was a monolithic exercise in agony. Interestingly, this subject considered the experience fundamentally beneficial, in that it increased his appreciation for ordinary life. He cut down on his ecstasy-taking in trivial social interactions, moved in with his girlfriend, and assumed a quiet lifestyle.

Whether covered with contrived nonchalance, or with a veneer of spiritual sophistication, the soft underbelly of the human psyche is quickly exposed by this substance. A woman who prepared for her session by flipping through the New Yorker had an extremely miserable trip on a very low dose and accepted no further injections. A modern-day shaman named Carlos kept trying to explain away his high anxiety before each administration of the drug, which induced violent shaking notwithstanding his profession that his first dose was nothing much. Eventually he had a full death experience that he considered fully valid spiritually, but wished he had been with friends out in the mountains when it took place. But some of the most enthusiastic were unable to continue. In certain cases, DMT high-doses induce huge spikes in blood pressure, in one case so severe Dr. Strassman was ready to call the cardiac team, and diagnosed the slight headache that the subject felt after the trip as the result of extreme vaso-dilation in the large blood vessels that enter the base of the skull. But the experimenter was pleased with the experience, and notwithstanding his disability, wished to take further trips. Though he was not permitted by Strassman, the subject remained grateful and considered it a very important experience that confirmed the rightness of his spiritual direction.

Under the guise of trying to determine whether DMT administration develops a tolerance in the user, Dr. Strassman developed a protocol of four high-dose injections approximately one hour apart. These doses were .3 mg./kg., not the highest dose but plenty psychedelic. Dr. Strassman said that everyone who was given the opportunity persevered through all four doses, a moderately exhausting experience.

First, the answer to the tolerance question -- DMT does not build up a tolerance, and each successive dose was just as powerful as the first. What changed was the character of the experience, which seems to profit from familiarity. The first high dose trip is the shocker, when people don't know what they are going to see and aren't sure they like seeing it. The second and third trips grow increasingly familiar. And by the fourth trip, many people felt cleaned out, healed and freed of persistent anxiety. One young woman in her early twenties who professed a lesbian orientation and was highly attractive to people of both sexes, had a persistent pain in her belly. She had been raped repeatedly by her step-father at sixteen. During her four sessions, she met the beings on the other side, whom she called the elves, and discharged the pain in her midsection, which she connected with the rapes. She valued the experience very highly and felt that she would now enjoy her life a great deal more.

In addition to the powerful psychedelic effects, which caused people to blurt out things like, "Here we go!" and "They were on me quick," DMT releases large amounts of vasopressin, prolactin, growth hormone, and corticotropin, all of which may have psychological effects. During the drug effect, pupil diameter doubled within two minutes, and body temperature would rise. Dr. Strassman's theory that the pineal gland may produce DMT seems unsupported by the information in the book, but it is an intriguing theory, an explanation for why this organ, centrally located in the brain, contains so many of the precursor substances that create DMT.

Reasons for joining the experiment were the expected -- people wanted new experiences, wanted to understand the nature of their own existence and God, and wanted to deepen their understanding of life. Interestingly, many of them found a bit of what they were looking for, or at least thought they had. Dr. Strassman himself became increasingly uncertain as he looked for concrete changes in behavior, beyond expostulations of enthusiasm. From my point of view, Dr. Strassman may have been looking too hard in the wrong places. When it comes to judging how we are doing, it's hard to say that anyone knows better than we ourselves.

After years of doing the work, Dr. Strassman indeed was getting tired. One can imagine the stress of responding to the heightened mental states and emotional reactions of sensitive people questing for self knowledge. Then his wife got cancer and they moved to Canada to be closer to her relatives. Dr. Strassman started commuting to Albuquerque from Canada every couple of months, jamming in as many psychedelic sessions as possible. The fatigue took a further toll.

As I mentioned, Dr. Strassman is a long-time practicing Zen Buddhist, and like many Buddhists, had talked with other Buddhists about how LSD had led them into the search for enlightenment. He had a number of friends, long-time students in an unnamed Zen Buddhist organization that we could possibly identify by connecting the dots: the group is based in the midwest, the teacher died recently, the head of the organization is now a woman, and the organization chooses its leaders by election. It is a large group. Also, they are a bunch of assholes.

How do we know they are assholes? Because they dumped shit all over poor Dr. Strassman when he needed it the least. He had shared his thoughts about his work, and his hopes and aspirations to connect the spiritual path with psychedelic methods, disclosing deep thoughts to a person he thought was his spiritual counselor. Within the DMT sessions themselves, he incorporated attitudes of modeling equanimity and projecting compassion, Buddhist attitudes that helped subjects to benefit from the experience. Additionally, he selected for the experiment numbers of persons who had experience with psychedelic drugs and meditation, believing that they were best adapted to deal with the jarring effects of the experience. For all this respect and the place of honor that Dr. Strassman accorded Buddhism in his life and work, he was rewarded with the most arrogant, presumptuous declaration of insult that I have heard delivered from a Buddhist source in recent years. His former Buddhist pals derided his work with DMT as "not right livelihood," and denounced his plan to administer psychedelics to the terminally ill as an "appallingly dangerous" effort to "play God." With the full confidence of having reached enlightenment themselves, they decreed: "An attempt to induce enlightenment experiences by chemical means can never, will never, succeed. What it will do is badly confuse people and result in serious consequences for you."

This pronouncement certainly confused Dr. Strassman, who until then had been receiving encouragement from his old stoner pals who had put on Buddhist robes. He realized that there was a succession struggle going on within the Zen group, because the old abbot was dying, and "senior monks were lobbying for elected posts," each vying for the position of "most zealous defender of the teaching."

Then Dr. Strassman really stuck his foot in it. He published an article in Tricycle, Fall 1996, calling for "a discussion of integrating psychedelics into Buddhist practice." As Dr. Strassman put it, the "article sealed my fate ... my lifelong affiliation with the order would implicate it as contributing to these new ideas." In order to distance the Zen group from Dr. Strassman's vile heresy, his erstwhile friend, a nun who had been elected new chief poobah, "sent copies of the Tricycle article to members of my new meditation group as well as to other groups and the monastery [including] scribbled comments" Dr. Strassman had made during their private conversations. She also "wrote to the local congregation telling them not to enter my house because there might be psychedelic drugs kept in it." (This reminds me of James Thurber's mother-in-law's fear that electricity might leak out of the sockets and electrocute you. It also reminds me of Timothy Leary's statement that LSD is a substance well-known to cause insanity in those who have not taken it.) This betrayal by his old spiritual comrades was apparently the last nail in the DMT experiment's coffin. Says Dr. Strassman, "Although I could see beyond the hypocrisy that motivated much of the monastery's repudiation of my work, it took its toll." Shortly thereafter, he wrote closing summaries on all of his projects, packed up his drugs and mailed them to a secure facility near Washington, D.C., where "the supplies of DMT, psilocybin, and LSD remain ... to this day." Probably right next to the Ark of the Covenant, left there by Indiana Jones.

To read Dr. Strassman's account of the screwing he got at the hands of the robed bitches, check out Chapter 20 of his book, entitled "Stepping on Holy Toes."

STEPPING ON HOLY TOES

by Rick Strassman, M.D.

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Chapter 20 from "DMT: THE SPIRIT MOLECULE"

There generally is little support for the incorporation of spirituality, with its nonmaterial and therefore non-measurable factors, into clinical research's fold. We will see in this chapter that neither is organized religion, no matter how mystically inclined, open-minded and secure enough to seriously consider the spiritual potential of clinical research with psychedelics.

There are several places in this book where I refer to my interest in Buddhist theory and practice. In addition to theoretical and practical contributions to the research, I also received much personal support and guidance from decades of involvement with an American Zen Buddhist monastery. From the initial inspiration for the psychedelic research to the development of the rating scale and our methods of supervising sessions, my understanding of Buddhism pervaded nearly every aspect of working with the spirit molecule.

Being raised a Jew in southern California in the 1950s and 1960s, my religious training emphasized learning the Hebrew language and Jewish festivals, history, and culture. We also remembered the Holocaust and supported the newly formed Jewish state of Israel. We learned little about how to directly encounter God. This was something for the ancient patriarchs alone: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.

There were moments of joy in my Jewish education. Singing Hebrew folk songs and prayers in large groups was ecstatic, although I didn't use that word at the time. So were the complex swirling and whirling Israeli folk dances we learned. In addition, one of my religious school teachers did try teaching us to meditate. We closed our eyes when she did, and then looked around the room through half-shut lids to see who was peeking. Our teacher had a beatific expression on her face, sitting at her desk, fingers interlaced in front of her lap. Once or twice during this classroom meditation I glimpsed something inside that felt good, calm, and right, but I also was startled and a little uncomfortable contacting it.

I later found Eastern religious teachings and practices provided the most accessible methods to begin satisfying the desires for deeper truths that emerged during my college years. In this way I'm similar to many of my generation. These "new religions" included Zen and other forms of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufism. Their emphasis on mystical union with the source of all being resonated deeply with that need for ultimate truth. The personal certainty embodied in recently arrived Japanese, Indian, and Tibetan teachers, and the spiritual exercises that promised results confirmed by generations of practitioners, combined to make an irresistible package.

My introduction to the mysteries of the East came in the form of Transcendental Meditation in the early 1970s. I enjoyed the quiet and peacefulness of this practice, but the intellectual underpinnings did not appeal to me. Soon thereafter, I discovered in Buddhism both the practical and intellectual inspiration I was seeking.

Buddhism is a meditation-based religion, 2,500 years old, that in impartial, psychological, and relatively easily accessible terms describes and considers all the states of mind one could possibly imagine, whether horrific, beatific, neutral, helpful, or harmful. In addition, Buddhism offers practical, cause-and-effect moral codes that apply the insights of meditation to daily life.

It took a few tries to find a suitable Buddhist community. Once more, Jim Fadiman at Stanford pointed me in the right direction, this time to a midwestern United States Zen monastery run by a rather reclusive, but startlingly solid, Asian teacher. I attended two weekend meditation retreats there in 1974 and felt as if I had arrived home. The monks were serene but down to earth, and we enjoyed being with each other. Most interesting was that most of them had gained their first view of the spiritual path while on psychedelic drugs.

They did not volunteer this information, of course. But in the free-wheeling early days of the temple, such informal self-disclosure was common. It was as simple as asking, "Did you take psychedelics before becoming a monk? How important were they in your decision?" The overwhelming majority had taken them and had experienced their first glimpse of the enlightened state of mind with their assistance.

A five-week retreat at the monastery during a break from medical school helped me develop a portable and efficient Buddhist practice. The meditation was straightforward: sit comfortably, back straight, and just sit. "Just sit" as in "just walk," "just wash the dishes," "just breathe." In other words, focus all your attention on the task at hand. When sitting, therefore, you just sat. No thinking, daydreaming, fidgeting, emotional reactions, talking, or whatever else complicated the sitting process. The regular in-and-out movement of the breath functioned as an excellent anchor, a point upon which the wandering mind could ground and focus its attention whenever distracting thoughts or feelings interrupted uncluttered awareness.

Upon returning to medical school, I reserved a room for lunchtime meditation and there were always one or two people joining me for a half-hour "sit." I stayed in close touch with several monks, visited the monastery regularly, and hosted a retreat led by priests traveling to New York.

Buddhism and meditation also seemed a rich field of academic study. I arranged to take a medical school summer elective for mental health professionals at the Nyingma Institute, which had been established by a Tibetan Buddhist lama in the hills of Berkeley, California. During this course we learned the basic principles and practices of Buddhist psychology. It was here that I first learned about the Abhidharma, the Buddhist system of psychology.

Abhidharma roughly translates into "catalog of mental states." There are hundreds of Abhidharma texts, but the Nyingma lama was interested in sharing with us only the most basic principles.

One fundamental tenet was that the normal flow of personal experience actually was a smooth synthesis of several component parts. These facts are called the skandhas, or "heaps," the five "things" that make up our conscious state: form, feeling, perception, consciousness, and habitual tendencies. We spent days discussing each of these until we developed a consensus definition with which we felt comfortable and could express in familiar Western terms.

Another important point was the possibility of, and methods for, dissolving the glue that held these skandhas together. By deconstructing, as it were, the facade of our sense of self, Buddhists believe we can access deeper layers of reality, compassion, love, and wisdom. There was a sequence of stages in that process, and a knowledgeable teacher could help the meditator recognize and progress through those steps. Buddhism had refined these techniques over millennia, and millions of practitioners had verified and validated these methods and their results.

While these meditations were more elaborate and complicated than "just sitting," they were fascinating, and they produced the promised results. I needed to write a scientific article on my summer experience, and I used that opportunity to publish a description of the Abhidharma system and some of my own meditative experiences. Learning about Abhidharma also got me thinking about its usefulness in measuring psychedelic states.

Upon graduating from medical school, I returned to California for psychiatric training. There, in Sacramento, I helped establish and administer a monastery-affiliated meditation group that met weekly and sponsored retreats led by monks. For years the group met in my house, and I had many opportunities to discuss my interests, psychedelic and otherwise, with members of the monastic community. At the monastery, I underwent a layperson's ordination into the Buddhist sect whose teachings the abbot followed, and I maintained close ties with my original monk friends, who now were becoming senior members of the priestly hierarchy.

Career and training opportunities drew me away from Sacramento after my four-year psychiatric residency at the University of California in Davis, but I returned two and a half years later to join their faculty. The local meditation group I helped establish still met, but the parent organization's structure had changed substantially. Many monks had left the fold as the teachings became increasingly focused on the teacher himself and his spiritual experiences. At the same time the abbot was becoming more reclusive, surrounding himself with trusted assistants. In addition, there now existed a hierarchy within the lay community. The atmosphere had taken a turn toward "who is in, and who is out." The informal and relaxed give-and-take no longer existed.

When I later moved to New Mexico, I considered myself loosely affiliated with the monastery's extended Buddhist community. I was not inclined to deal with the political structure now necessary to start a local meditation group, but I did seek out other local members and I meditated with them regularly in an informal setting. In addition, I remained in regular contact with several monks at the head temple, many of whom were now twenty-year acquaintances. While the monastic community as a whole had lost some of its luster, I considered it my spiritual home and was married there in 1990.

There are many ways my Buddhist training and practice affected the DMT research. One of these was in how we supervised volunteers' encounters with DMT.

Supervising psychedelic sessions usually is called "sitting." Many believe this comes from the idea of "babysitting" people who are in a highly dependent, at times confused and vulnerable state. Even more importantly, though, is "sitting" in the meditational sense. The research nurse, either Cindy or Laura, and I did our best to practice "just sitting" while being with our volunteers: watching the breath, being alert, eyes gazing straight ahead, ready to respond, keeping a positive and aware attitude, letting the research subject's experience unfold without unnecessary interference.

My understanding of meditation also helped me guide people through the stages of the DMT experience. For example, I applied the Abhidharma's model of mind when coaching volunteers not to get swept away by the onslaught of colors, or to investigate the space within the grains of wood in the door if they kept their eyes open. Suggesting volunteers let go, focus on the breath and body sensations, keep an open but fluid mind to whatever came their way--all of these were tools I had acquired during decades of meditation practice and study.

Another example of how psychedelics and Buddhist meditation met was in the development of our rating scale.

Previous paper-and-pencil psychological questionnaires that measured psychedelic drug effects had serious shortcomings. They assumed that psychedelics were "psychotomimetic" or "schizotoxic," and therefore they emphasized unpleasant experiences. Many of these scales were developed using volunteers, sometimes ex-narcotic-addict prisoners, who were not told what drugs they were given, or what the effects might be.

To offer an alternative to these tools for measuring the psychedelic experience, I used an Abhidharma and skandha-based method of characterizing mental states. This purely descriptive model meshed well with what's known as the "mental-status" approach to interviewing psychiatric patients: You talk with someone and gently investigate the quality of their basic mental functions, such as mood, thinking, and perceptions.

The familiar Abhidharma terms "form," "feeling," "perception," "consciousness," and "habitual tendencies" became the framework or structure within which the rating scale's questions emerged, and how we classified replies to those questions. However, instead of calling them skandhas, "clinical clusters" seemed more appropriate and palatable for a Western scientific audience.

We gave and analyzed this new questionnaire, the Hallucinogen Rating Scale, or HRS, at the end of every DMT session for the entire project. The results were remarkable.

It is well-known in clinical psychopharmacology that a good questionnaire is more sensitive than any biological factor in assessing drug effects. In other words, a well-designed rating scale is better than measurements of blood pressure, heart rate, or hormone levels in distinguishing doses of a drug, or different types of drugs, from each other. I hoped that the HRS would follow in that tradition, and this it did without difficulty. We were better able to separate responses to various doses of DMT, or the effects of combining DMT with other drugs, using HRS scores than by measuring changes in any biological variable, including all the cardiovascular and blood hormone data. However, it also validated the wisdom and strength of the Buddhist approach to mental states.

Clifford Qualls, Ph.D., the Research Center biostatistician, and I grouped together HRS questions using the "clinical cluster" or skandha method and compared this method of analysis to a large number of alternative purely statistical models. The Abhidharma's technique was as good as, if not superior to, ones developed solely upon mathematical considerations. Since the computer-derived classification of results was no better than the clinical cluster one, and since using the skandhas made more sense intuitively, the Buddhist classification system won out. Other groups have since used the HRS and confirmed its usefulness in measuring other altered states of consciousness, drug-induced and otherwise.

Buddhism also helped me make sense of people's DMT sessions. Its far-reaching perspective includes all experiences: spiritual, near-death, and even nonmaterial or invisible realms. However, I did come up against two serious limitations in my lack of Buddhist education.

How was I to respond to a volunteer who spoke as if she or he just had undergone a drug-induced spiritual experience? Was it "real" enlightenment or not? As detailed in Chapter 16, "Mystical States," these sessions certainly left me feeling as if something deeply profound had happened. And there was no question on the volunteers' part that they had undergone the deepest and most profound experience of their lives. However, it was beyond my training and expertise to determine the validity or "certifiability" of a volunteer's understanding with anything other than psychiatric models of interpretation.

Another problem was how to relate what I knew about Buddhist approaches to nonmaterial beings with what our volunteers were reporting. For example, Tibetan and Japanese versions of Buddhism possess a full roster of demons, gods and angels. I understood these encounters to symbolically represent certain qualities of ourselves, not autonomous noncorporeal life forms.

When volunteers began reporting contact, my first reactions was, "Oh, this is something they talk about in Buddhism. They are just aspects of our own minds."

These encounters got stranger, however, and the beings started testing, probing, inserting things into, eating, and raping our volunteers. A Buddhist framework seemed less capable of explaining these types of experiences. Generically I could apply the inherent skepticism of Buddhism in taking anything as "real" or "special" about these stories. That is, it was "just meeting beings." These apparent life forms were not necessarily any wiser or more trustworthy than anything else we might meet in our lives or minds.

Nevertheless, I needed some guidance, both for the spiritual experience and the "contact" aspects of our work. I began sharing our findings, and my questions, with trusted monk friends. The one to whom I turned most often was Venerable Margaret, a Buddhist priest I met in 1974 during my first stay at the monastery.

A clinical psychologist in training, Margaret became a Buddhist monk after realizing, "I didn't want to be let loose on the world the way I was." She wanted to experience her own mental and spiritual health before trying to help others. She loved monastic life, however, and stayed on. Margaret and I spoke the same language, shared the same concerns, and viewed the human condition through similarly trained clinical eyes.

Before beginning the actual DMT studies, I happened to spend a few days at the monastery. My two-year journey through the regulatory labyrinth, seeking permission and funding to begin giving DMT, was drawing to a close. Margaret had risen to chief assistant to the abbot, and her time was heavily scheduled. However, we found an opportunity to meet and I updated her on my personal and professional life. The conversation moved into my interest in giving DMT to human research subjects. Sharing with her my belief that the pineal gland might make DMT at mystical moments in our lives, I speculated about its possible role in death and near-death states.

The lanky and shaven-headed woman monk touched the tips of her fingers together in front of her mouth, tenting them in and out. Her intensely blue eyes narrowed, and she looked over my shoulder, meeting the white wall with her gaze.

She said quietly, "What you are suggesting is something that only one out of a million people could do."

I took this intentionally unclear remark as encouragement to go deeper with the topic. Wondering about the role of psychedelics in spiritual development, I commented on how many of the now-senior monks had gotten their first sighting of the spiritual path from LSD and other drugs.

Margaret laughed, saying, "You know, I honestly can't say if my LSD trips helped or hurt y spiritual practice!"

"Hard to tell, isn't it?" I replied.

"Indeed."

She looked at her watch, picked up her tea cup, and graciously excused herself.

The next year, 1990, I was married at the monastery. At separate meetings before the ceremony, I chatted with two other monk friends, now some of the highest ranking officers in the order. Both of them had taken psychedelic drugs in college with a fellow who later became a close friend of mine in New Mexico. This mutual acquaintance was well-known for using MDMA in a psychotherapeutic setting. They both asked about their friend and his MDMA research and were in kind fascinated by my plans to study DMT.

After wrapping up the dose-response study in 1992, I wrote a long letter to Margaret describing the full range of the stories volunteers shared with us, including near-death, enlightenment, and being contact. I also shared with her my feelings that the setting was too neutral, and our volunteers too familiar with psychedelics, for any real beneficial effects to result. I raised the issue of helping people more directly, along the lines of a psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy project with the terminally ill.

I was drawn to a terminal illness study because of the promising work in this area performed during the first wave of psychedelic clinical research in the 1960s. In addition, its emphasis on the positive effects of spiritual and near-death experiences possible with psychedelics appealed to my deeper interest in these drugs.

Margaret replied, "Most interesting! But to what purpose? Maybe future 'helping' work will shed some light on that." She also wondered about the risk-to-benefit ratio and advised performing such a study only if I was sure there were extremely few risks and an equally high likelihood of success. Insightfully, she also asked me to consider the lack of time available to undo any harm incurred from a painful or disturbing psilocybin session.

The years passed quickly, and by the end of 1994 my questions grew regarding the utility of my psychedelic research. Adverse effects accumulated, and long-term benefit was difficult to assess. In addition, the constant exposure to psychedelicized volunteers was beginning to exhaust me. I shared these developments with Margaret.

As always, she supported whatever seemed most useful for my own spiritual growth. If it involved giving up the research, she understood. However, she encouraged me to look for someone to whom I might transfer the project so the work I had begun would not end in my absence.

The additional circumstances described in the last chapter led to my moving to Canada, but I commuted to Albuquerque in order to continue running studies. After relocating, I met the members of the local monastery-affiliated meditation group and started sitting with them. There existed a major branch of the order in a nearby U.S. state across the border, and their priest scheduled a retreat in our community. Venerable Gwendolyn arrived, and the weekend workshop began.

Gwendolyn had entered the head temple directly from her parents' home. She had had a series of extraordinarily profound spiritual experiences at the monastery and was a highly ranked teacher. Nevertheless, she was not especially wise in the ways of the world, and running an urban meditation center was a significant challenge to her social skills.

During a pastoral counseling session with Gwendolyn, I let her know of the New Mexico research and some of my growing ambivalence toward it. I appreciated the opportunity to air my story to a monk who knew nothing about me, and to listen to her fresh perspective.

I was surprised to hear Gwendolyn's voice on the phone a week later.

"I was sick for three days after talking with you, it upset me so. I called the abbot, who as you know is near death. This is the first issue he's taken a personal interest in for over a year. He and I talked, as I did with other senior monks. We have decided you must stop your research immediately. I'll write you this week a more formal letter."

I replied, "Let me think about it."

Two weeks later, a letter came, not from Gwendolyn, but from Margaret. It began with, "I hope what I heard third-hand isn't true. But if it is, let me say this." With that introduction, she began an indictment of my research: past, present, and planned:

"Your psychedelic research is ultimately futile, devoid of real benefit to humanity, and dangerous;

"The idea of administering psychedelics to the terminally ill is to me appallingly dangerous. It comes about as close to 'playing God' as anything I've seen in the mental health professions;

"An attempt to induce enlightenment experiences by chemical means can never, will never, succeed. What it will do is badly confuse people and result in serious consequences for you."

Gwendolyn's letter arrived next.

"[Your research] constitutes wrong livelihood according to the Buddha's teachings.

"That DMT might elicit enlightenment experiences is delusional and contrary to the teachings of the Buddha;

"Hallucinogens disorder and confuse the mind, impede religious training, and can be a cause of rebirth into realms of confusion and suffering;

"This is the teaching and viewpoint of myself, [the abbot], [the order], and the whole of Buddhism.

"We urge you to cease all such experiments."

I reminded these monks of the years of dialogue I'd had with them regarding my interest in and performance of psychedelic research. I also pointed out the continuous interest in my work by members of the community, and the absence of any prior recommendations to avoid or stop it. If anything, there was enthusiasm and encouragement to use these interests as grist for going deeply into my own spiritual relationship to the outside world. I recalled the many conversations I'd had with monks who'd validated the importance of their psychedelic experiences as leading to their first inklings of enlightenment.

Additionally, I was eager to discuss some of their concerns. These included the obvious problems associated with thinking that certain knowledge was accessible only with an outside agent; that is, a drug. I also accepted the theoretical possibility raised by Gwendolyn that someone might mistake a real enlightenment experience for a psychedelic "flashback."

However, none of these attempts at enlarging the dialogue met with any success.

What was going on?

The abbot was dying, and he was making sure the teachings he left behind were as unsullied by controversy as possible. In addition, senior monks were lobbying for elected posts that would determine the future of the community. Who was the most zealous defender of the teaching? Those whose positive psychedelic experiences had led them to Buddhism in the first place had to remain silent, and close rank behind those without such backgrounds. Psychedelics could not become a divisive issue at this crucial moment in the monastery's existence.

And then the Fall 1996 issue of Tricycle, The Buddhist Review came out with my article calling for a discussion of integrating psychedelics into Buddhist practice.

In that article I presented Elena's first high-dose session, which we've read in Chapter 16, "Mystical States." Her experience served as an example of the type of spiritual breakthrough possible with DMT in someone open to them--that is, a person with a serious meditation practice, solid psychological mindedness, and a deep reverence and respect for drugs like DMT. I also raised the concern that isolated experiences, occurring without any sort of spiritual or therapeutic context, were not especially effective in producing long-term serious change in our volunteers. I therefore concluded with the following:

"I believe there are ways in which Buddhism and the psychedelic community might benefit from an open, frank exchange of ideas, practices, and ethics. For the psychedelic community, the ethical, disciplined structuring of life, experience, and relationship provided by thousands of years of Buddhist communal tradition have much to offer. This well-developed tradition could infuse meaning and consistency into isolated, disjointed, and poorly integrated psychedelic experiences. The wisdom of the psychedelic experience, without the accompanying and necessary love and compassion cultivated in a daily practice, may otherwise be frittered away in an excess of narcissism and self-indulgence. While this is also possible within a Buddhist meditative tradition, it is less likely with the checks and balances in place within a dynamic community of practitioners.

"On the other hand, dedicated Buddhist practitioners with little success in their meditation, but well along in moral and intellectual development, might benefit from a carefully timed, prepared, supervised, and followed-up psychedelic session to accelerate their practice. Psychedelics, if anything, provide a view. And a view, to one so inclined, can inspire the long hard work required to make that view a living reality."

This article sealed my fate within the monastic community. My lifelong affiliation with the order would implicate it as contributing to these ideas. Gwendolyn sent copies of the Tricycle article to members of my new meditation group as well as to other groups and the monastery. In it she scribbled comments she remembered I made during what I believed was our confidential pastoral counseling session. She wrote to the local congregation, telling them not to enter my house because there might be psychedelic drugs kept in it.

Her behavior brought these issues to the boiling point. I lodged a formal complaint against this breach of confidence. As much as calling Gwendolyn's behavior into question, I wanted a definitive statement from the order regarding their attitude about my research. They complied on both counts.

The monastic review agreed she had indeed broken confidence, but it was for a "greater good." That is, it was done to "prevent mistakes from being made in the name of Buddhism." One could not be a proper Buddhist and consider psychedelics to play any part in it.

There was little I could do. Holiness had won out over truth. This particular brand of Buddhism was no different from any other organization whose survival depended upon a uniformly accepted platform of ideas. Only they could determine what were permissible questions, and what were not.

Later I learned that the monastic community had elected Margaret head of the order. The two monks who had taken psychedelics years before with my New Mexico friend also did well in the elections. One was elected abbot of the monastery, the other his chief assistant. So political ambitions also took on greater importance than a truthful dialogue. It was unlikely that the organization could admit and openly discuss that their three leading teachers were former LSD users, or that they had decided to enter a monastic life after drug-induced inspiration.

Although I could see beyond the hypocrisy that motivated much of the monastery's repudiation of my work, it took its toll. Combined with the events and circumstances I described in the last chapter, my energy to continue with the research flagged considerably. After completing two long-distance research trips to Albuquerque, the extra pressure exerted by my spiritual community broke down the last remnant of my desire to continue. It was time to stop.

I resigned from the university and returned the drugs and the last year's worth of grant money to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. I wrote closing summaries on all the projects and sent copies to the boards and committees who had been working with me for the past seven years. The pharmacy weighed all our drugs, packed them up, and mailed them to a secure facility near Washington, D.C. The supplies of DMT, psilocybin, and LSD remain there to this day.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:52 am

EULOGY FOR JOSHUA CARREON, by Charles Carreon

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Joshua Carreon
Artist
Poet
Lover of Nature and People
July 8, 1976 - February 16, 2007

Celebrating A Life

"Forever. After all time there will be love."

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Reincarnation With Delias

by Joshua Carreon

Delias, are you a genius? I think you seem to be. From the way you act. The way you shake the branches of an oak tree. So you get your stick unstuck. You use some kind of logic, D. It used to surprise me, but now it just strikes me as being somewhat strange. Your curious doggy ways. If you were a monkey, you would be Curious George. And I’d be the guy in the red hat. You’d drive me crazy, D. You would literally be driving cars up the walls of my apartment, while I was at work. Lucky for me I have no job. Delias, you are a joy. With you, I am happy. Why is the world so fucked up, D? Why did your master go away? Why did my friend have to die? I mean, I kind of know why ...

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but still it doesn’t quite make sense. What, if anything good, can come from death? The death of someone you love.

I hope you die before me, D. Humans need to live longer than dogs. And I need to live longer than your average human. I’ve got to live for our cause. To build a new house for the spirits of all my dead friends. They need some place to be where they can relax. Houses of the holy -- Led Zeppelin, D. They were a little before your time. A little before mine, too. They were wild though, D. Just like me an’ you. We shall honor thy contributions, D. So that others may one day honor ours, amen, Delias.

Delias I want to see you when you die. I hope I am there with you, because you probably need a good friend around that time. I know I do. We’ll stick it out though. I’m sure we’ll die fighting. Either fighting or from old age, and that’s just glorious, we both know that for sure, D. For that is the way kings die, in modern as well as ancient times. The crown never touches ...

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the ground. Someone will take it up, to faithfully uphold the throne as the rightful heir of all the territories which we have conquered, Our endless wealth as far as the eye can see. From where the sun sets to where it will rise again.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joshua was our first-born child. Though Tara and I are both from Arizona, Josh was a local boy from the start -- conceived in a peach orchard on Wagner Creek. He was born in County Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. After a week of watching Josh struggle for every breath, the doctors declared he was going to die. We signed Josh out against medical advisement, and after being duly threatened with prosecution in the event of Josh's death, took Josh to Dr. Ray Brown, a legendary homeopathic genius. Thanks to Dr. Brown, Josh lived, and also on his ...

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advice to seek a cooler climate, we moved to Ashland. From 1980 to 1983, we lived in Colestine Valley, where Josh spent the days playing with his sister Maria on the floor of a yurt lit with kerosene lamps and warmed with wood. Eventually, by the light of a kerosene lamp, I filled out an application for law school, which led us to move to Los Angeles. The first night we glided down the L.A. freeways in our old Econoline church van, seeing the endless streams of white and red electric fire crawling over the hills, Josh leaned forward from the back seat and asked me, "Are we really going to live here?" We did, for ten years.

In L.A., Josh suffered an enormous health setback when he was poisoned by Dursban ...

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a pesticide applied to our student housing apartment. Paralyzed up to the neck for a week, over the course of a year, he reacquired the use of his limbs. As soon as his strength allowed, he became a fearless skateboarder, earnestly punishing his body against the West L.A. concrete. When we moved to Santa Monica, near Venice Beach, Josh discovered street art. We didn't watch TV, but he figured that being in L.A., we were TV, and played his role with elan. While still in middle school, he had customized a set of spray-paint tips to control his line, feather and shade pigments. He rode the buses and became streetwise. He was fiercely loyal to his two sisters, Maria and Ana, and loved our summer trips to Ashland and Colestine. When we moved back in 1993, Josh connected with his Oregon roots, snowboarding, roaming the woods ...

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and railyards as he'd roamed L.A.'s streets. Formal schooling never really took with him, but a look at his work shows a lifetime of learning. Old barns and abandoned walls were his canvases in a studio open to the sky. His poems, both worldly-wise and innocent, are those of an adventurous mind.

Josh created photo-resist silkscreens with photography and computer graphics, printing on everything from sheet steel to t-shirts and paper bags, often highlighting with brilliant paint. As the Ashland Free Press illustrator, he developed a mature voice, serving the community he loved with enlightening images. His legacy has begun.

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"Some pile and stack their whims. I heap my obsessions."

Joshua Carreon, Self Portrait
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:54 am

FEAR OF A FEELING PLANET -- A REVIEW OF KURT WIMMER'S "EQUILIBRIUM", by Charles Carreon

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Kurt Wimmer, who wrote the screenplay and directed Equilibrium, explained in a December 2003 interview that he underwent a psychic renaissance some years back, after years of emotional shutdown. Wimmer explains that he shut down emotionally after he suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous art-school assholes, and decided all art was shit. Eventually, he went back into some European museums and realized he'd made a mistake. Art is great, and he wanted to feel again. So Equilibrium, for him, is about fighting back against emotional repression.

In an interview before the movie's release, Wimmer noted that in Libria, the fictional world of the movie, sense materials are banned with the "EC10" rating, that "EC" stands for "Emotional Content," and that he explicitly relates this to the Motion Picture Association of America's content rating system, with its PG13 and NC17 ratings. As a screenwriter, I presume he's felt plenty of pressure to write within these demarcations, which is undoubtedly difficult and frustrating. But for me, the movie was good for a great deal more than voicing a complaint about modern censorship. I heard and saw the movie from the perspective of one who sees Americans daily gobbling up Eastern philosophies that urge the annihilation of feelings. Some critics decried the movie's premise as absurd, but I do not find it so. Buddhism, especially as understood by many Americans, takes it as an article of faith that feelings cause problems and people are better off without them. Most people imagine this as a favorable condition, in which they are not bothered by intrusive or unpleasant feelings, but that's not how it works in actual practice, which often becomes a war against all emotion arising in the meditator's mind.

For example, the four "noble truths" of Buddhism are:

1. Life is suffering
2. Desire is the cause of suffering
3. Desire can be ended
4. Desire can be ended by following the Buddhist path

Whether the Buddha really laid out his philosophy in this fashion, we'll never know, and different people believe different things. For example, Tibetan Buddhists give lip service to the four noble truths, but in practice, find desire too attractive to abandon.

Suffice it to say that the Buddhist four noble truths somewhat resemble the precepts that guide the Librians:

1. Humans engaged in wars for centuries
2. Wars were caused by an inner defect
3. That defect is the capacity for feelings
4. Feelings can be overcome by taking Prozium
5. Everyone must take Prozium

Wimmer didn't mention Buddhism at all in the interview, which surprised me at first. He had plenty to say about the mechanics of casting the film (it wasn't easy), finding the monolithic architecture (Albert Speer's Germany), and working with Christian Bale (splendid). He seemed almost to disclaim the idea that there was an overarching social theme binding his work to 1984 and the other dystopian epics. He distanced himself from the idea that the work was a form of social commentary. He relished discussing filming the Gun Kata sequences, which he himself designed as the apotheosis of the gunslinger's art. He just never seems to have much to say about the authoritarian ethos as an objective phenomenon, suggesting it merely provides a social frame for the mental atmosphere of emotional suppression.

If Wimmer is being candid about his perception of the film, he has produced more than he realizes. Equilibrium shows us how Western technocratic efficiency could be blended with Eastern didactic methods to mold society into a pliable whole whose citizens accept complete domination as the price of peace. In Libria, the citizens are under the vigilant eyes of heavily armed men at all times. Each person is relegated to their space. Solitude and uniformity are the two attributes of the Librians. At every turn, the Librians are reminded of their good fortune to be in this condition. Each one keeps watch on every other, helping them to guard against the evils of sense offense.

Ironically, the defenders of the system, the Grammaton Clerics, are finely developed sensors, who mask their ability to feel under the title of Intuition. This Intuition they place at the service of ferreting out sense offenders. The GCs are thus able to enjoy exercising their feelings as emotional dowsers, while keeping the blame pointed at the sense offenders for having feelings in the first place. GCs are the government point-men and designated hitters in the frequent shootouts with armed sense offenders, who are loath to surrender themselves for Processing, and persist in hopelessly defending their hoarded copies of old paintings, brickabrack, and cool junk stashed in little hidden rooms. Hopelessly because Preston and other GCs, when pressed, perform the Gun Kata with great accuracy, killing the hell out of every damn sense offender in sight and out of sight, in a whirling blaze of bullets that is highly Asian in its derivation.

A Grammaton Cleric channels sensing into Intuition, and aggression into lawful killing, which is a moral imperative, because of the great risk that feelings pose to society at large. Librians compete to demonstrate loyalty to Father, by rejecting their impulse to feel with eager certainty. Libria rewards those citizens who pursue their practice of self-repression zealously. In Libria, all public gatherings are supervised by men dressed in body armor and motorcycle helmets, patrolling with assault rifles at the ready. All public gatherings appear to be for the purpose of imbibing Father's wisdom, which flows freely from giant telescreens, all day, every day.

The Clerics are just footsoldiers, of course. When they get old and start to show signs of feeling, they are pushed aside and ground underfoot. Only ignorant youth can abide the claustrophobic restraint. The Clerics, true believers, are the front line in the battle against common sense. The Clerics are subject to pressure from above, however, and when Preston gets called on the carpet, it's a very nice carpet, in a room with beautiful marble pillars, and sumptuous Renaissance paintings adorning the walls. The members of Father's inner circle are apparently free to acquire and enjoy sense objects.

Hypocrisy is the true tent pole of authoritarian doctrines that prescribe the right course of conduct for every individual. In Tibetan Buddhism, it has been routinely revealed, the authorities are completely unable to walk their talk. Celibacy has apparently been honored only in the breach by many teachers, both the prominent and the obscure. Similarly, while preaching patience and serenity, many lamas use anger and blackmail to influence the behavior of their students. On this one-way street, the lamas are always free to manifest emotions, and students never are. Loyalty is the first and last rule in Libria, and in Tibetan Buddhism. As Preston discovers that the Librian system is fundamentally anti-life, he argues to Father's top man that, if sense offenders are simply to be killed upon discovery, without any process whatsoever, it is simply mayhem. In response, he is told that process does not matter. What matters is our obedience to the will of Father. For anyone who has been involved in a cult, this exchange is familiar. That is when we know that the cult is telling us to kiss our conscience goodbye, and learn to follow orders. The increasing popularity of a philosophy that leads in that direction is a cause for concern. Equilibrium, intentionally or unintentionally, shines a bright light on the problem.

Many critics have derided the movie, chanting Orwell, as if they were not the very purveyors of dishonest speech that Orwell exposed in "Politics and The English Language." Ty Burr of the Boston Globe committed a primary Orwell sin against the English language when he spouted this criticism of Equilibrium: "what once was conviction is now affectation." This statement is very bad English, not grammatically, or stylistically, but rather in the way Orwell primarily identified -- it says nothing. Consider these questions: (1) Who was it that once had this "conviction?" (2) What "conviction" was it that they held? (3) What relation did this "conviction" have to the "real Orwell"? (4) When did this presumably meritorious "conviction" attain the status of a hoary social dogma, so that nowadays, dystopian visions are mere "affectations?" and (5) Since when did it become the vogue to pay homage to Orwell with Orwellian proclamations?

Indeed, the critics seem to have been dispatched on their own clerical missions as enforcers for the media chieftains. Adopting the favored Big Lie strategy of painting themselves as precisely what they are not, these critics venerate the name of Orwell to attack the living spirit of dissent that Orwell championed. I would wager real money that most of these critics last read Orwell in high school or college, and are comparing Equilibrium with their vague recollection of that work. Somehow they have missed the fact that Christian Bale delivers a tremendous depiction of emotional repression as Preston, the exemplary Cleric, and that the character of Preston's son is masterfully presented by a young actor whose taut reserve and well-contained spite surprisingly transform in a scene that is as tender as a dystopian movie can possibly manage without breaking the illusion. Particularly slavish in their knee-jerk condemnation of this movie were Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post, and Manohla Dargis of the LA Times. Dargis appears actually not to have seen the movie, but had to make deadline and dinner, too, so it was just as easy to trash a movie all the other critics were trashing. The review leaves you with nothing but an aftertaste of fussy impatience.

Josh Bell, writing for the literary powerhouse, Las Vegas Weekly, committed ludicrous offense to the English language with what Orwell called a "dead metaphor": "Wimmer delivers the already labored story with the subtlety of a sledgehammer." This phrase was born to be delivered directly to the "huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves." Please note how vividly Orwell's "dump" appears before your eyes, unlike Bell's sledgehammer, which collapses of its own weight, and fails to injure the target. After reading all the serious critical assessments of Equilibrium, it would be fun to read what these same critics said about "Millionaire," "Survivor," or are saying about the latest TV "reality" epic, which I think is called "Trump Jerks Off!" Undoubtedly we will find the serious brows of these lofty critics creased with worry about these cheesy distractions. Not! These critics, in the interest of "giving good copy" to their media overlords, try to make everyone feel good about how ordinary folks love the current reality-fare, which is truly Orwellian. The concerted effort to massacre a film that warns of media consolidation and mind control was planned and executed by people who are desperately afraid of its message.

A culture of emotional suppression may seem like the farthest thing from those of us suffering from sensory overload, advertising poisoning, and information glut. However, in precisely this environment, lots of people are beginning to think that feelings really are our problem. There is widespread acceptance of meditation jargon that declares the "ego" or "self" to be an enemy, an illusory enemy that steals happiness. It seems like I meet someone everyday who blandly declares that our selves are illusory. I almost feel too polite to object to my own disappearance.

Perhaps people aren't ready to start shooting Prozium into their neck like chickens getting a hormone injection, but they sure gulp all the Prozac they can get their hands on. Chemical regulation of human behavior is on the agenda of both government and the international drug companies. We are always on the search for painkillers and stimulants that do not have the "drawback" of causing euphoria like morphine and amphetamines. Taking Viagra, a dangerous drug that is killing large numbers of young men, is seen as the equivalent of buying a nice truck that will make you look like a stud. Blowfish toxin is being explored as a non-addictive painkiller. Modafinil is supposed to keep you awake for two or three days, without making you feel excessively glad to be alive.

There's tremendous lost productivity due to emotionality. People take sick days, stress leave, and murder their coworkers when they get too emotional. They talk back to management, ask questions about their job benefits, and get their hackles up about work conditions. Wouldn't it be great if we had a drug that made people not want to ever join a union? Of course, people wouldn't take it if you called it Disperse! But if you called it something else, like Attune, then people would be more interested.

American citizens are uncertain whether our government really is "of the people, for the people, and by the people." Awed by our government's restless exercise of military power, bowled over by the government's intrusion into our privacy, hamstrung by the new fetish for "security," people increasingly feel irrelevant. We have our own Father, a white dominator who is never too busy to punish the evildoer, never straying far from the rules of a hundred years ago. Our Father took power without permission, and has kept the populace cowed for three years. We may not be herded into stadiums to listen to harangues yet, but personally, I don't want to live anywhere near one.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

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PART 1 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, by Charles Carreon

© 2000

Q: What is American Buddhism?

A. Some people are afraid of the "A"-word. America is a country named after an Italian mapmaker by a Spanish freebooter who enslaved natives, and worse yet, mistreated them without generating profit, and thus was harshly chastised by the Spanish nobility who funded his expeditions. The country grew in a rough and ready fashion, becoming a hothouse for cultish innovations like Quakerism and Puritanism, which found out how pleasant religious intolerance can be when the whip is in your hand. The most successful businesspeople were smugglers, who were put out with the British Crown for extracting taxes on pricey wares like tea, fabric and other basic luxuries. They were also handy with their firearms, which emboldened them to the point of rebellion.

Seeking to dress up their "revolution," these so-called "Founding Fathers" engaged in vandalism (the Boston Tea Party and other outrages involving destruction of property including the homes of British-appointed tax-collectors). Not above planting evidence, these "freedom fighters" dressed up like "Indians" before looting the British tea-packets.

In a further effort to put a moralistic spin on their outrageous refusal to tender taxes due for the defense of the colonies, the smugglers got together, called themselves a Congress, and put together a fine little piece of excuse-making that they had the audacity to call a Declaration of Independence. For sheer arrogance and presumptuousness, this document has not been exceeded in history. It begins:

"When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitled them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to Separation."

In short, these smugglers said, "We're outta here, we're on our own trip now, and here's why ..."

What reasons would motivate smugglers to revolt? Oh, the usual -- unwillingness to pay debts lawfully owed to the government. Preference to risk prison rather than loss of profit. But what justification did they assert? All manner of moralistic tripe, I assure you, against a government that the citizens of the British mainland had found more than adequate for their needs. Not good enough for these belly-aching smugglers, though, who cast stones at the monarchy like this:

"[W]hen a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

While we can only look back at the intemperance, the hyperbole, characterizing this document, and shake our heads at the folly of our ancestors, we are still their descendants. We cannot avoid the shame of realizing now that, had we remained British subjects, we would have such an illustrious monarch as Elizabeth, so fine a PM as Tony Blair, so noble a royal as Charles, so marvelous a knighted minstrel as Sir Paul McCartney. Instead, we have Hollywood. Just punch yourself in the face.

But we must face the fact that we are Americans, and that throwing off imagined oppression is our path to glory. Would we be worse off if we were Canadians? Of course not. We would still speak the same language, although I daresay we would've sorted that thing with the Frenchies rather differently. You know, one Union, one Language, no Mason-Dixon line, "Fourscore and seven years ago ..." And of course, Rhett, the quintessential northern guy's final goodbye to the Southern Belle: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

As they say in New Age empowerment seminars, we've got to "Go with our strengths!" And when it comes to blowing through new fads, trying on another culture for size, and giving it back to them with the butt all stretched out, no one can do it like Americans.

It's only been a few years since rice crackers were introduced to this country, and now soccer moms are thinking of new ways to combine them with tofu. Yoga used to be something that swamis did to read minds, but now you do it to get your health premiums down, just like you reduce your auto premiums by buying a car alarm for your car. Acupuncture used to be that scary thing that Chinese people did with needles, likely unsanitary and useless, and now some health plans actually pay for it! But remember, this is also the country where smoking tobacco was once considered a healthful habit that even women could safely indulge in, the same country where marijuana is still illegal. We are exceptionally adaptable, not necessarily extraordinarily smart.

When it comes to beliefs, you might say we're promiscuous. A drive down the full length of a major metropolitan avenue in many an American city will take you past ashrams, dojos, mosques, Buddhist centers of many types, not to mention as many new age babas as a dog has fleas. Thanks to those old smugglers who wrote that crazy Constitution, they all live in relative peace in the same city.

Meanwhile, back in the bosom of "spiritual enlightenment," India, interfaith warfare is a given, and if a mushroom cloud appears over Karachi, it will undoubtedly bear Lord Shiva's face. In many Asian countries, Buddhism is the state religion, as in Burma, with attendant social benefits, such as large temples and a thriving mining economy in which you can conveniently collect your wages in heroin.

Arrogantly put, American Buddhism might be just that basic spirit of good humor and toleration that lets all the coreligionists engage in their doctrinal competitions, neither backing nor inhibiting any of them in their debates.

But we can also look at what an Asian Buddhist said about American Buddhism. Trungpa Rinpoche said that it's the only Buddhism Americans will ever practice. And now, the floor is his:

TRUNGPA RINPOCHE: The conventional moral law purely has to do with relating with your conscience rather than dealing with situations. If you relate with a situation in terms of your conscience or your perceptions, it means you don't actually relate with the situation at all. For example, if you had to investigate a murder case, you might want to dissociate yourself from the case altogether, thinking, "I don't want to be involved with murder at all." Then you have no way at all of understanding how and why one person murdered the other. You could let yourself become involved with that murder case and try to understand the rightness and wrongness of what was done as scientifically as possible. You could look into the situation in terms of cause and effect and gain some understanding of it. But on the other hand, if you think, "Becoming involved with murder will just get me in contact with bad vibrations, so I'll have nothing to do with that," then you seal yourself off completely.

This is exactly the same thing that seems to be happening in present day society. Particularly the young generation doesn't want to have anything to do with society--let alone understand it--because it's something ugly, something terrible. This creates tremendous confusion and conflict. Whereas if people were to get into society and try to understand what is wrong, there might be some intelligence coming out of that. Complete rejection without discrimination seems to be the problem.

STUDENT: Don't you think there have been some things we've all learned from that rejection you were just talking about?

TRUNGPA RINPOCHE: Yes and no--both. A lot of people have rejected Christianity and gone to Hinduism or Buddhism. They feel that they no longer have any associations with Christianity at all. Then later--from the point of view of aliens--they begin to realize that Christianity speaks some kind of profound truth. They only see that from the point of view of aliens, having gone away. They begin to appreciate the culture they were brought up in. Finally they become the best Christians, people with much more understanding of Christianity than ordinary Christians.

You can't reject your history. You can't say that your hair is black if it is blond. You have to accept your history. Those wanting to imitate Oriental culture might go so far as to become 100% Hindu or 100% Japanese, even to the point of undergoing plastic surgery. But somehow denying your existence--your body, your makeup, your psychological approach--does not help. In fact, it brings more problems. You have to be what you are. You have to relate with your country, the state of your country, its politics, its culture. That is extremely important, since you cannot become someone else. And it is such a blessing.

If we could become someone else, or halfway someone else, that would provide us with a tremendous number of sidetracks and possibilities for escape. We should be thankful that we have a body, a culture, a race, and a country that is honestly ours, and we should relate with those. We can't reject all that. That represents our relationship to the earth as a whole, our national karma, and all the rest of it. That seems to be the starting point for attaining enlightenment, becoming a buddha, an American buddha.

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Q. In Buddhism, one is supposed to look to see if there is a real "Self" only to discover that it's unfindable as a solid object, and therefore non-existent. But actually, the Self does exist as a "Concept." And it is because we have this concept of Self, that we are able to manifest and project the experience of that Self as a being and a personality in the world. So even tho' the experience is not a real, solid object, it's the only reality that we can ever know.

A. The Sutra of the Cup

Polonius: What think you, Verbonious, is a cup a cup?

Verbonius: Like that one you hold, made of clay?

P: Yes, like this one.

V: No, it is not.

P: Why is that, Verbonious.

V: Lend it me.

P: You have it.

V: (Placing cup inside a cloth, he breaks it, then opens the cloth to show his friend.) Where is your cup?

P: You've broken it.

V: So it's not a cup.

P: Yes, it is, it's just that you've broken it.

V: (Shaking the cloth holding the shards.) There now, it's merely shards of clay.

P: Shards of the cup. (Turning to a friend, Neutronious) What think you, N?

N: I think Polonious makes the shards real to prove the cup unreal.

V: There, well spoken, you make one thing real to make another unreal.

N: Further, he makes the shards equal to the cup, but the cup and the shards have never been in the same place together. How then can they be equal?

V: Well, I'm vexed.

P: Makes two of us.

V: Things can only be themselves, for once they become something else, they cannot be equal to another thing. These seeming "transformations" of things are apropos of nothing, for a thing can only be equal to itself, and what it becomes when broken tells us only the nature of new thing, which has always been broken, never otherwise.

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Q. In the saying, "form is emptiness; emptiness is form," doesn't appearance depend upon emptiness, rather than emptiness depending upon appearance.?

Answer 1:

From Suzuki Roshi (more or less)

When we sit
We have something
(right hand rests in left palm)
We have our body
And we have our mind.

Sometimes when we sit,
We forget we are there.

Then we resume our ordinary life
and everything appears .

This is the first creation.

Building on this first creation,
we can create things,
like pots or poems or political machines,
But all of them depend on this first creation.

Answer 2:

From Lao Tze (more or less)

When we say do the practice
Wave Hands Like Clouds,
we do not really mean that "you"
"wave" your "hands."

The description is to remind you
to look into the sky
where the vast circulation of the clouds
provides the pattern for your own
natural pattern of breath

Let your hands float like clouds
on the gentle wind of continuous awareness -- a unity

Answer 3:

From Trungpa Rinpoche (more or less)

Trungpa Rinpoche used the term "touch and go" to describe how to use awareness meditatively.

A questioner asked him how to know when to "touch" and when to "go."

Trungpa Rinpoche answered: You've missed the point completely -- the point is touch and go happen at the same time."

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Q. It is necessary to receive dharma from a pure source that is unmixed with other traditions.

A. The stinginess of the Indians in trying to "prevent the dharma from leaving India" was as inane as people thinking that being photographed would result in the theft of their souls. The obsession with "keeping Dharma pure" in Tibet became a cover for de-legitimizing various valid schools of practice. It is preferable to listen with an open mind especially toward your own thoughts.

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Q. Teachers, lamas, gurus and authority figures are necessary to teach you the path of dharma.

Many people hope to find someone who embodies their ideals of spiritual attainment. It's not easy trying to find a person who can do that, and you're always likely to suffer disappointment, because our hopes are rather high. If you need a godlike guru, your demands are going to be hard to meet. If you want to be sure your teacher has experienced "higher levels of spiritual awareness," you may well have been born during that particular moment allotted for the birth of a sucker. If you're satisfied with someone who has achieved less than something substantial, then why bother finding a teacher at all?

Increasingly, I look at my fellows, thirsting for spiritual realization, and conclude that they are actually distracting themselves from less exciting concerns that, however, genuinely affect their happiness.

Many people seem very concerned simply to be on a spiritual path -- I can understand feeling that need. I felt it most acutely for years. Why? The answer generally does not become evident until one has been on the path for a while, the hidden, less spiritual reasons begin to appear.

When the less spiritual reasons for being a practitioner appear, it is something like getting a hay fever attack when you go out to see the pretty blossoms. You don't welcome the discovery. You consider the arising conflicts to be "obstacles to practice." You identify with the "good practitioner" and dis-identify with the distractions and obstacles. However, the obstacles are really the truer you. The "practitioner" is a total johnny-come-lately from a psychological point of view. You may tell yourself that your spiritual yearnings are actually the deepest aspect of your nature, but that's not likely true.

Get to know your bad boy or naughty girl. They have so much to tell you about why you're on the spiritual path. They're into it -- you just don't know why ....

As soon as anyone wants to be Chief, the relationship becomes questionable. People can get into that if they want, but the risks are so high, I can't imagine why they would. The source of the tradition may be scriptural, but its current condition is so uninspiring as to justify its total abandonment. What is it that cannot be taught in a simple, dignified, eye-to-eye relationship? Special things, of course, magical things, Koresh things, Jim Jones things, Osel Tenzin things. I can do without these things.

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Q. How can you choose a spiritual path?

A. The problem with trying "methods" and evaluating their effectiveness is that all you can do to see if they are working is to look in the mirror. Then you don't know if you've tried hard enough, or long enough. And you can't tell if the benefits you feel today are lasting, transient, or even the precursors of new problems.

But almost certainly, miracle cures will elude you. You will probably never feel a huge root of guilt suddenly pulled out of your heart whereafter guilt, shame and embarrassment will never bother you again. The loneliness that ties you to the earth will probably never dissipate, allowing you to float into the zero gravity of limitless space. Probably nothing really permanent or amazing will ever happen.

What will happen? You will get older, your skin will sag, your hair will turn gray, and your memory will get poorer. You will discover the transiency of relationships, the evanescence of situations. You will see days turn into months and years, and you will see your term on the earth growing shorter and shorter.

In the midst of this, you will have the opportunity to live. It's like that story about the fellow who got chased off the cliff and hung onto a strawberry vine. While the tiger roared above, another appeared below. A black mouse and a white mouse began to chew on the vine. He spots a strawberry and pops it into his mouth. It was delicious.

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Q. Should I renounce worldly existence?

A. Ramana Maharshi said, if you remain as you are, you will think you are a layperson. If you renounce the world, you will think you are a renunciate. Better than changing your label is knowing yourself.

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Q. How can we develop goals for the future while at the same time living in the present moment?

A. If you take that approach, you will treat "spiritual life" and "worldly life" as fundamentally antagonistic. Worldly life requires planning. Spiritual life "requires " spontaneity. An interesting alternative to this approach is proposed in the works by Takuan Soho, in which he shows how the meditative state of awareness is the most effective survival/competitive condition. In a series of letters to a feudal Japanese lord, he used a didactic technique of established effectiveness, linking something the lord knew about (swordsmanship), with what he wanted to instruct him about (meditation). Thus, he explained that to be a faultless swordsman, one must utilize the mind that abides no place, the same mind of nonattachment that one practices in zazen. The lesson of the book? Samadhi is to the mind what edge is to a sword. And best of all, a sword wielded with the power of samadhi will not betray either the holder of the sword, or even the foes s/he faces.

The elegance of this solution is obvious. We solve all of our problems one way -- through right action (which incorporates right view). We develop our natural endowments because it feels right. Trusting your inherent sense of what feels right suggests that we might want to try this road, which is neither offensive nor defensive with relation to "samsara" and leads right to the target -- happy living.

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Q. All worldly appearances arise from conditioning, so there is nothing special about our experience. Why make a big deal about the "wonders of "nature" and such? Isn't that just glorifying the sensual world?

A. A Sufi once said "miracles are not to impress the credulous or encourage the faithful -- they are a means of transmitting understanding."

We behold a miracle that transmits understanding when we look up through our protective blanket of air, at the sun's blazing disk, from a vantage point on a rock spinning about a thousand miles an hour, using an optical device about the same as that used by an octopus, processing photon stimuli into neural impulses that are organized by a bio-supercomputer into a display of color, depth and form that appears as a relatively accurate 3-D holographic representation of the physical world to an awareness that is still uncertain of its own origins or identity.

If you can get this type of transmission just from contemplating a basic sensory activity -- seeing light -- how can you call it "glorifying the sensual world?" It is a question of how you approach the experience, isn't it? We can put on analytical, sensual, aesthetic, or possessory "lenses" and then we'll see the world and ourselves in that light. Those are all choices, human choices. If we think that Buddhists must decline to see the world because it will trap them into sensuality, that seems cowardly. The brave choice would be to keep seeing, and to learn more about how to successively use all of these "lenses" and also how to take the glasses off altogether. That "lense-free" seeing might be an analogy for a meditative view. But we never stop seeing.

JOKE:

Q: Why don't Buddhists ever make any progress in their practice?
A: They're always in retreat.

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Q. Aren't gurus "life experts" who provide the most important life guidance?

It is probably a mistake to assume that spiritual teachers know more about what is important for human life than all of our other advisors. Most gurus are useless to advise us about how to find a job, fix the bugs in our computer, or locate a good, cheap rent-controlled apartment. And yet, getting each one of those taken care of is a building block of modern happiness. In fact, gurus are forever asking for assistance to get just these elements of their life in place. Many Buddhist meditation centers end up being primarily focused on satisfying the housing needs of the teacher and his entourage.

What precisely is so precious that we have to process one entire guru in order to extract it? Simply this: a dose of self-confidence. That's it. It's what almost everyone gets from their guru that keeps them coming back.

It's like "before and after" advertising: Before I had a guru, I was totally lost. I had headaches, and drank too much, never got a date and felt bad about it. After getting a guru, I still have the headaches, I drink only when I fall off the wagon, and I don't feel bad about not getting a date, because I can always go meditate. What's the big difference? I'm willing to give myself a good pull out of bed in the morning and face the grind again. I have hope.

Why do I have hope? Because without it, I would be lost. Is this guru anything other than a placebo? Is there any milk coming out of that nipple? I don't know, but there's a sucker born every minute. Just don't pay for the milk until you see it.

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Q. Is it reasonable to try to hold teachers accountable for their actions?

Answer 1:

It depends on how we view the teacher. If we deify the teacher, believing that he must be infallible or we wouldn't bother receiving his teachings, then to judge his actions seems absurd, like Adam talking back to God about the apple dispute.

My view is that infallibility and omniscience are themselves absolutely untenable notions. God-kings and godling-nobles are nonsense.

Up here in Oregon we say, "Keep 'em honest." Guess that means, "Don't trust 'em."

Lying is very human. Lying is what we do rather than comply with social constraints. We fabricate a little image that blocks people's view of a part of our life. An embezzler creates an image of honesty, behind which she mines out the accounts. A cheating spouse creates an image of faithfulness behind which to engage in extramarital liaisons.

Therefore, whenever we see that someone has an appearance that is quite perfect, quite in conformity with our expectations, we should give it the 360 walk-around.

It is easiest to deceive people who don't ask questions. Deception is made easier for the deceiver who is free to define their own version of good conduct.

One of the bummer things about being deceived is that somehow the message of the truth still keeps leaking through the deception. The dissonance is disturbing. The deceiver keeps denying what the deceived person is feeling, claiming it's groundless, but conflicting messages keep coming through. If it's not about anything too important, it's tolerable, but if it's about the pristine honesty of the teacher, it can be very disturbing.

Students who suspect they're being deceived, but can't cope with the realization, will go even farther to help maintain the deception. Then the deceiver has achieved the ultimate triumph -- the victim's aid in maintaining deception.

Answer 2:

By withdrawing support from those who abuse trust. By sharing the bad news as well as the good news. The good news is that life is a doable situation, with room for failure, discovery, learning and development. The bad news is the institution of religion has often been the vehicle for many a scoundrel to dupe their prey. We're familiar with Jimmy Swaggart, but vulnerable to Sogyal Rinpoche, because it's a new style. We just have to out the stinkers, and those who remain might just have some worth.

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Q. Isn't keeping one's mind in the present a necessary exercise in concentration, for taming the wayward mind?

A. Before we decide, let's consider what's been said.

Keeping -- Stopping
mind -- me
the present -- where I don't want to be
necessary -- but have to ...
exercise -- it's not the real thing
concentration -- but have to stay focused
taming -- back, beast!
the wayward -- never could teach her anything!
mind -- "Bad, bad brain!"

Yes, with sufficient moral resources we can tame the wayward minds, get them off the streets of our awareness, and return this consciousness to the control of decent people everywhere!

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Q. Can Alan Watts be considered a Buddhist authority? Remember, Alan Watts had a fraction of the resources we have now. He had D.T. Suzuki, Rhys Davids, and relatively few others writing in English who had any direct contact with Buddhism. Watts did quite brilliantly with what he had access to, but since Alan's death (1973), we've had dozens of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's books to read, we've had Naropa Institute, we've had all of Nyanaponika Thera's writings published by Western publishers, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Stephen Batchelor (who was taught in the traditional Tibetan, Korean and Theravedan systems), Lama Surya Das (who was the disciple of "Hindu" Holy man Neem Karoli Baba --Baba Ram Das' guru-- and studied under at least five of the giants of 20th century Tibetan Buddhism: HHDudjom Rinpoche, HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, HH the XVI Karmapa, HE Kalu Rinpoche and Dzogchen master Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche), the irrepressible Pema Chodron, Richard P. Hayes (schooled in Korean Zen and Theravadin systems and a true Pali scholar), Tsultrim Allione, Thich Naht Hanh's amazing books and lectures and retreats, Sogyal Rinpoche, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Robert Thurman, Susan Salzberg, Shinzen Young and many, many other Westerners and non-Westerners who have earnestly studied and practiced buddhadharma and have shared their experiences with us in the English language.

A. I remember reading Alan Watts in many places on the road throughout the US and Europe and the East all the way to India, wandering around looking for the crazy shit these people all talk about.

In Goa I once made a find on the beach: Michener's "The Source," his magnum opus, stuffed with a now-debunked version of Hebrew history. Somebody left it out on the beach to weather. It had about 1,200 pages, so it became an Asian traveler's luxury item -- toilet paper.

Now if that had been "The Way of Zen," I would not have wiped my ass with it. In fact, I had my copy of TWOZ in my little hut, where I enjoyed reading about Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Han Shan , Ta Fan, Ryokan, Basho, and many other Japanese and Chinese Zen authors. Isn't it true that Watts could actually read some of the Chinese and Japanese stuff? Didn't he like go guesting around in monasteries all over the world? Didn't he sit, and talk, and do tai chi and get laid by models, and everything else that gurus are s'pozed to do? But he's a white boy, and everybody knows white boys can't get guru status unless they cut their hair, shave their scrota, wrap themselves up in a monk's robe so they look like a bald tamale, and go hole up in a cave for an extended period of time. Then they got credibility. But they still fulla shit.

Alan Watts, that guy had style you should envy. When he talked, people listened, and that wasn't because they was stupid. It's because he had writing ability, speaking ability, a love of humanity, and was enough of an Englishman to take everything with a grain of salt.

Alan Watts was one of the Pied Pipers of that time period. Leary, Alpert, Shunryu Suzuki, Kesey, those guys lit fire to history, backed up by throngs of Dylans, Donovans, Country Joes, Grace Slicks, etcetera. Yeah, they all got old and their hair went gray and their guts got flabby and their teeth fell out and their wives died and they got cancer, whatever. That's a given. Happens to everyone. But they were alive in the life of the day, and gave us all reasons to look a little deeper, even if it was just the LSD 25 making the sky look bluer, and maybe the Grateful Dead weren't even a very good band, whatever!

So the question really isn't whether Alan Watts was an authority of Buddhism. He wasn't. He didn't want to be. He wanted to share the beauty of humanity's treasures of philosophy, art, aesthetics, and expression. Probably all of the Westerners since then are better at playing the authority game.

But even if you buy into their authority games, it's still good to read and listen to Alan Watts and his type. It's the territory. It's the fertilizer. It's the graveyard, the archives, the records. Take it and build with it as ye will. Maybe you care not about it, but I hear the voices of Ginsburg and Kerouac and Morrison and all o' them secret voices in the graveyard. They were bad. And they wish the same for you.

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A. What do you think about making wishes such as "May all beings be happy" and all of that other well-wishing on a cosmic scale?

Q. May-be I missed the point of all this May-saying, but this seems a lot like praying, except that instead of assuming that God can grant the prayers, Buddhists assume that God is out of the picture, so we address our prayers to ourselves. But the basic psychology of prayer, which is to express our wishes and try to hope them into existence, seems to still be operative in the Buddhist version.

Let's take a classic Buddhist prayer -- "May all beings be happy ..." How likely is it that 's going to come true, either now or in the future? Well, the possibility is nil, as noted by the Buddha when he said "All life is suffering."

So, unless you somehow eliminate this nagging doubt about the viability of what you're wishing for, this is going to be a sort of rickety prayer.

The first, and possibly correct way, to eliminate the doubt, is to discover that you don't really expect the wish to come true -- you just want to be able to wish it. Indeed, when you think about it, the fact that something is unattainable doesn't negate the value of wishing for it. Indeed it is how we push the envelope of the possible. By hoping for universal happiness, justice or peace, or for ecological preservation of the planet as a vital living habitat, for that matter, we align our wills with positive forces.

You might ask, then, why do we have to wish for such big things? Why not wish for something arguably achievable: "May the global population of humpback whales increase by 20% each year for the next ten years."

Well, one of the famous big wish-mongers, the Siddha Busuku, laka Shantideva, in his classic Bodhisattvacharyavatara, advises us to wish for the greatest good for the greatest number of beings because the karmic effect on one's own mind is thus the greatest. He claims that if you wish for total enlightenment for all beings, that the benefit of this wish is incalculable. Smaller wishes, such as to gain enlightenment for oneself only, have accordingly much smaller benefits.

Do you believe in Shantideva's calculus? Well, whether you do or not, if you attempt to put it into action by encouraging yourself to really make his "biggest, bestest wish," you will discover a substantial resistance to the idea. I personally discovered a nagging doubt about the practicality of the whole idea. How, I kept thinking, could we even get hunger, homicide, and disease under control, much less provide religious instruction to lead all beings to enlightenment? And suddenly I realized that the same degree of effort that is required to make our world a hell would be sufficient to turn it into heaven, if only we all applied ourselves correctly. That last "if" is huge, of course. Like a gigantic key bigger than any hand that could ever lift it. And yet, if we could just change our minds.

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Q. Don't you think rules are necessary for all realms of human conduct?

A. Allow me to simply refine this question. What do you think does more for the common person -- rules or understanding the reasons for the rules?

Do you think people obey rules because they are rules or because they make sense?

Does the persistence of a rule eventually reduce appreciation of the reason for the rule?

Does anything foster understanding of the reasons for rules better than open discussion?

Can people usually devise their own codes of conduct when presented with circumstances requiring controlled behavior?

If people fail to regulate their conduct in accordance with the wishes of others, at what point is it appropriate to regulate it for them?

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Q. We have a right to be happy.

A. Let's concede this. Nevertheless, people are unable to assert this right very effectively. Our efforts to pursue happiness and overcome suffering are at best qualified success. We need to be more strategic in our pursuit of happiness. The Way is taught to help us take note of the factors that increase happiness and diminish suffering. The steps to take are commonsense, but they still run counter to impulse. Trying to escape from the net with too much fervor causes it to grow tighter. Thus, skill in applying ourselves to the work is required. As Suzuki Roshi said, "we make effort to get rid of effort."

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Q. How much autonomy should we expect to give up when learning and practicing Buddhism?

I was never into religion. I was into mysticism. When I first started getting teachings from my lama, it was Buddhist mysticism. Fifteen years went by, and it began to be more and more about Buddhist religion. In the early days, there was no authority except for the lama's mental clarity, serenity, and joy. Twenty years later, we've got Steven Segal sitting in the temple with Catherine Burroughs. We went from inherent authority, that inspired immediate respect, to purported authority that earned automatic contempt.

When structures, rites and personages become more important than what is being heard and practiced, then the sacred company seems a bit less sacred. When money, corporate structure and mandates from on high become part of the routine, it's time for an early exit. Loss of autonomy is only part of it -- loss of dignity as you become a pawn in a numbers game is also part of the package. Ya gotta pick your sangha carefully -- which, depending where you live, might land you without any sangha at all, given nothing but undesirable choices.

There shouldn't be any need to surrender spiritual freedom to realize Buddhist mystical insights, at least if the Diamond Sutra is any authority.

Here's a couple of quotes:

Chapter 14 -- Perfect Peace Lies In Freedom from Characteristic Distinctions

Therefore, Subhuti, bodhisattvas should leave behind all phenomenal distinctions and awaken the thought of incomparable enlightenment by not allowing the mind to depend upon notions evoked by the sensible world -- by not allowing the mind to depend upon notions evoked by sounds, odors, flavors, touch contacts or any qualities. The mind should be kept independent of any thoughts that arise within it. If the mind depends upon anything, it has no sure haven.

Chapter 10 -- Setting Forth Pure Lands

Therefore, Subhuti, all bodhisattvas, lesser and great, should develop a pure, lucid mind, not depending upon sound, flavor, touch, odor, or any quality. A bodhisattva should develop a mind that alights upon nothing whatsoever; and so should he establish it.

As far as the interdependence of everything, try:

Chapter 20 -- The Unreality of Phenomenal Distinctions

Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be perceived by his perfectly formed body?

No, World-Honored One, the Tathagata cannot be perceived by his perfectly formed body, because the Tathagata teaches that a perfectly formed body is not really such; it is merely called a perfectly formed body.

Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Tathagata be perceived by any phenomenal characteristic?

No, World-honored One, the Tathagata may not be perceived by any phenomenal characteristic, because the Tathagata teaches that phenomenal characteristics are not really such; they are merely called phenomenal characteristics.

For a good closer, let's try an excerpt from this chapter, the apex of humility without pretense:

Real Designation Is Undesignate

Subhuti, what do you think? Does a holy one say within himself, "I have obtained perfective enlightenment?"

Subhuti said, "No, World-Honored One. Wherefore? Because there is no such condition as that called "perfective enlightenment." World-Honored One, if a holy one of perfective enlightenment said to himself, "Such am I," he would necessarily partake of the idea of an ego entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality. World-Honored One, when the Buddha declares that I excel among holy men in the yoga of perfect quiescence, I do not say within myself, "I am a holy one of perfective enlightenment, free from passions." World-Honored One, if I said within myself, "Such am I," you would not declare, "Subhuti finds happiness abiding in peace, in seclusion in the midst of the forest." This is because Subhuti abides nowhere: therefore he is called "Subhuti, Joyful Abider in Peace, Dweller in Seclusion in the Forest."

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Q. Where can we learn about compassion?

A. When I was fourteen I was taken out to a ranch by Pete Noli, my Nanny's son. She had lots of kids, but mostly girls. Navajo/Mexican stock, and plenty big Pete was. A real cowboy, quiet, good natured, playful. Sometimes a little too playful, like when he'd shoot out a lariat from his hand and it would snag my little four-year-old foot and yank me to the ground like a calf. Pete would laugh. His sister Patsy was beautiful. A beautician, actually. She chewed gum and saved her dimes in large thin decanters and eventually married a German jet pilot.

Pete didn't exactly lift up a flower, but he did show me a lesson of total everyday compassion once, when we were out at his uncle Elias' ranch riding the range in four-wheel drive pickup. He'd heard there was a cow stuck in the mud and was going to go get it out. He grabbed a shovel and we took off.

Driving through the savage waita-minute bushes and the baking sun out to the big sandy river, I believe he called it. I don't know exactly -- it was sure big and sandy.

He found the cow and man was it stuck. It had been there a couple of days maybe, and it was stuck up to its armpits sittin' in a lake of shit. So Pete just pulls on some waders and grabs the shovel and steps in next to the cow and starts shoveling shit. I sort of commented that that was a lot of gross shit, and he just said like it was nothin', "It's just a little hay." Kept right on digging, and I noticed it really did look like hay, a bit stinky, but still hay.

Well Pete's labor there was not short. He dug like a half-acre of shit, and then hooked up a harness under the cow, hooked that to a block and tackle, hooked that to the winch on the truck, and pulled that cow out of the river and over onto dry land where it could get its legs back, which was several hours. I couldn't believe how much work it was.

Never in all that time did Pete blame the cow. Cows will do that sort of thing. It's a cowboy's job to get them out of it. Apparently without making a big whiny fuss. I wish I had learned that lesson, but now that I remembered it, I think I'll give it a try.

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Q. Which works better in practice: positive or negative reinforcement?

A. Put crudely:
Encouragement works on pride.
Correction works on shame.
Both pride and shame balance on the single fulcrum of self-love.
Like every other teeter-totter, it works from both ends.

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Q. Would it be helpful for Buddhists of various sects to look for areas of commonality in their practice?

A. A fair number of people seem to looking for practice encouragement. Given what we all face each day -- weird political news in a retrograde era, job stress, relationship stress and all that -- we could sure use some encouragement to build our individual practice.

There is a lot for dharma practitioners of all types to agree on, like:

That it is beneficial to sit with yourself and remember the sources of your positive motivation.

That we possess a calm center of our being that wordlessly expresses something meaningful, and which we all experience continuously and moment-to-moment.

That while the plight of sentient being seems hopeless, the miracle of existence is a challenge we cherish and an opportunity that we should develop to the fullest.

That every day and every moment provide a new opportunity to plant the seeds of what we wish to harvest for ourselves, and for others.

That whatever we are presented with, we wish to meet it with nobility of spirit, even unto our last instant and beyond.

That we can always express what Trungpa Rinpoche called "basic warmth" -- fundamental human kindness.

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Q. What makes "American Buddhism" distinctively Buddhist in nature?

A. To think of the source of positive motivation is refuge.

Continuous awareness of wordless meaningfulness is meditation.

To never abandon sentient beings or faith in our ultimate enlightenment is the bodhicitta.

To assert one's power to create reality is discipline.

To aspire to nobility is to be a child of the Noble One.

To be just plain decent is the most basic Buddhist virtue.

Is this too generic? Possibly not restrictive enough? You wish to find that which is "uniquely" Buddhist? This might be like trying to find a good, thirst-quenching drink that is unique. None are unique. All contain water. So many spiritual disciplines have a similar character ... because they all arose from efforts to satisfy the same basic human need.

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Q. What is the relationship between physics and dharma? Shouldn't the saying "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" actually be rendered "matter is empty, emptiness is matter?"

Answer 1:

I don't think that Avalokiteshvara was talking physics but rather psychology, when he said:

"Here, O Sariputra, bodily-form is voidness; verily, voidness is bodily-form. Apart from bodily-form there is no voidness; so apart from voidness there is no bodily-form. That which is voidness is bodily-form; that which is bodily-form is voidness. Likewise (the four aggregates) feeling, perception, mental imaging, and consciousness (are devoid of substance)."

This seems clear, since the sutra leads off with "bodily form" as the first of the "aggregates," i.e., one of the skhandas, the five psychological constituents of fictitious identity.

Thus, the empty "form" is our experience of concrete selfhood. This form experience is very concrete, but purely psychological. I think meditation helps us both to emphasize our experience of the skandha of form and simultaneously perceive its transparency (emptiness). When we practice simple awareness of physical sensations, while taking a walk, or engaged in sitting practice, or in the practice of mindful sexual experience, to name my three favorites, we experience the ephemerality of our concreteness.

Thus, we feel that form is concrete, particularly if someone parks a truck on our foot, but the actual experience of pain is transparent, empty, transitory awareness. Only a fool would hesitate to say "Get that truck off my foot!" Only a Bodhisattva will simultaneously experience no attachment to the injury or anger toward its cause. That is because the Bodhisattva, like the Buddha (in a prior incarnation) when the Raja of Kalinga cut off his limbs, was free from attachment to the skandha of form.

It is understandable that Gary Zukhov and other people whose first love is science may misunderstand the Heart Sutra's teaching that "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" as a statement of scientific fact.

It is for people like ourselves, whose first love is dharma, to gently emphasize that the Buddha was the Great Physician, not the Great Physicist.

Buddha's insights were into the human mind, not into the arcana of physics -- which has the marvelous task of describing a world where the speed of light is finite, but space is limitless, and curved as well!

You will recall that, when Jesus was asked whether Jews should pay taxes to Caesar, he asked to see a coin, and indicating that the coin itself was impressed with Caesar's image, he responded, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Looking within our soul, we see that it is the very image of the divine. We give our coins to the economy, and dedicate our spirit to its pure source.

Similarly, the Buddha had his sphere of activity -- the realm of the human mind. Einstein, Fermi, Bohr, etcetera, have their own realm. As fair-minded Buddhists, we should have no trouble allowing scientists to explain what matter is, while leaving it to Buddha to clarify what our perception of matter is.

Buddha is Lord of the Mind, which is the only realm he explored or endeavored to explain. To make him the Lord of Form will lead to an unfair loss of credibility for the Lord of Mind.

Answer 2:

Physics should not be confused with Dharma. I object to the misuse of the concept of emptiness to discuss the nature of purported "objective phenomena."

Dharma is applied psychology for uncovering the dynamics of the mind, which siddhas surf with unerring exactitude and complete abandon.

The emptiness we are lacking is emptiness of preconceptions, which leaves us posing rigid like chesspieces on eternity's gameboard, or attempting to take leave of ourselves, but always leaving our hat behind. Eventually the hats disappear, but still they leave a ghostly afterimage.

To expound the emptiness of things is to presume their existence. How can such refutation succeed?

Once you posit the existence of anything beyond yourself, the "hair's breadth difference" of which the Third Patriarch spoke has been established, and "Heaven and Earth are set immeasurably apart."

If you accept yourself and do not attempt to refute your own existence out of fear of yourself, and accept all appearances and do not attempt to refute their existence out of fear of them, you are an ordinary man. How fortunate.

Answer 3:

Certainly "both ends" of the sensory experience -- "perceptive organ" and "perceived object" are part of the skhanda of form. But as Professor Guenther noted, when you see red, there is no patch of red stuck to your eye. The Buddha's effort was to show us the transparency of the whole process of perception by making the image and the image-perception part of a single flow. Realizing the unitive nature of the mental process of perception, from which neither subject nor object can be abstracted, we move towards dissolving the imputed separateness of perceiver and perceived.

Buddha's effort was not to explain how the eye functions with a lens made of water, focusing light on a retina infused with rods and cones, connected to an optic nerve that feeds impulses to the visual cortex.

That's for the neurobiologists.

Without particle accelerators, microscopes, gas chromatographs, and radio telescopes, Buddha could only be the Great Hypothesizer of physical reality.

Without deep meditative insight, Einstein could not teach the Heart Sutra.

Render unto Einstein what is Einstein's; render unto Darwin what is Darwin's; render unto Leary what is Leary's, and unto Buckminster Fuller what is his; also and always render unto Budhha what is Buddha's. This does not reduce the Enlightener of all Humanity to a lesser status, if indeed you see Shakyamuni that way. But you do not want to make the same error the Pope made when he forced Galileo to retract his description of a heliocentric universe.

Absolutism, omnisciency-mongering, arrogation of all-knowledge to the exalted ones -- these are the products of dogma.

Humble acceptance of the limits of inquiry, and acknowledgment that one cannot know what one has not inquired into -- these are the marks of honest intellectual labor.

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Q. The Buddha's teaching is not rocket science.

A. But every bit as ambitious. If Buddha was correct, and Nirvana exists, with perhaps additional Mahayana and Siddhayana plugins, then it's big news in my little patch of dirt, where death still reigns supreme. If indeed there is a path beyond sorrow, let's find out what it is, and implement it.

But it is possible that what Buddha discovered has been lost. We really don't know . Maybe we are consuming substitutes developed over the years. They are all so interesting that it doesn't really matter.

Perhaps Buddha discovered something personal, and all of his followers also discovered something personal, as Buddhism has continued to be understood by everyone in their own way. Perhaps Sangha is good for supporting each other in their personal quest, as distinct from trying to conform to a shared external vision.

Perhaps removing impediments to thinking altogether is a good first step toward allowing all the elements in our minds to circulate to that new arrangement that is more satisfying and less anxious. I think it helps if we intuit and affirm the existence of a better way to be, and then go there, right away.

Maybe there is a mental corollary of physical gravity that gives your mind inherent stability.

As Chuang Tzu said, "If a drunk man falls out of a cart, he will not be hurt, or if he is hurt he will not be killed. This is because his spirit is in a state of security. If such security can be gotten from wine, how much more so from the Tao?"

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Q. What is gravity in a spiritual sense?

A. "To him that hath, more shall be given, and to him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath."

This sounds like "an hard saying," a lot like the "eat my flesh, drink my blood" speech, "after which, many more walked not with them." One of Jesus' more punk days.

Yet true in the case of gravity's effect upon small objects, which "lose themselves" to the larger gravity of the planet. The planets themselves are in bondage, unable for all their velocity to escape the grip of the sun. The sun is unable to alter its place in an outer arm of the galaxy. The galaxy is unable to change its place in the meta-galaxy. Thus all is in order, and all are subjects of the larger order.

"Just remember that you're standing
on a planet that is spinning
approximately 1,000 miles an hour,
which is orbiting a star..."

Yet gravity is called "the weak force."
This is to distinguish it from "the strong force."
The strong force is that existing in electron bonds.
Boom! Gunpowder -- nitrates. Sodium explodes on contact with water.
Gravity is weak by comparison.
But it has a characteristic that the strong force does not.
It aggregates.

Because gravity aggregates, it is actually the first stage of the process of stoking the solar furnaces, the cradles of all creation.

The hydrogen of space gets pulled together. The big clumps have more gravity. They overpower comparatively smaller clumps. Aggregation proceeds at faster rates. Gravity continues to aggregate, and overwhelms the atomic structure of the hydrogen atoms, causing them to release their internal fire. The subatomic volcano inside the star will ultimately be the laboratory in which all of the atoms in the Periodic Table are constructed.

Gravity is just the "in door" for cosmic sex.

Gravity and space are inseparable.

Anything that exists within space is subject to gravity.

All things that are subject to gravity will aggregate.

As the aggregation process proceeds, the structure of those things, atoms, subject to aggregation, is destroyed.

In the cosmic smelters of the stars, atoms are melted and the resulting stew radiates energy.

Energy, as we know, is not subject to gravity.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

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PART 2 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

Q. Indians are superior to Whites.

A. Racial superiority
Defined by
Cranial size
Or
Penis size
Take your prick!

Not to leave the women out
What's the value of a pout?
Or the meaning of a smile?
Big hips or small tits
Frizzy hair
or silky locks
You couldn't choose
or you would lose.

Genetic adulation
primordial undulation

As Iggy sez
"We're mixin' the colors"

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Q. There's no question that the Buddhist scriptures accurately relate the Buddha's teachings.

A. History is a farce,
the weaving of generations
of con-men,
deluding their fellows.

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Q. The Dalai Lama is Buddhism's living symbol of non-violence. Yet even he has indicated that if it had been practical for the Tibetan army to stop the Chinese, he would have ordered it to do so to prevent the resulting suffering.

A. I think if we examine this statement, it says, "If I thought I could have won, I would have ordered my soldiers to fight."

Pretty simple philosophy, and one most people would agree with.

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Q. Does Buddhism have soul?

A. The soul rap is that the Buddha's somewhere, hummin' not bummin', crusin' not bluesin', diggin' not dissin', and so he's still got a heart. The soul rap is that you still gotta be good 'cause UR Somebody. Well maybe I ain't done the math good, but every time I look in the mirror I see one face gettin' older everyday. No more, no less. Not two, not zero, just me, the unsung hero.

So I'm stuck with one, that's 1 for those who count, and it's an infinite amount. Loosen up, I say, and I can play 2-for-1, 4-for-1, or 32 or 64-for-1 (beats per bar, I mean). My mind can split time like a cesium clock, land on the moment like a seagull on a floating raft, when I let go and say yes.

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Q. How should we relate to our "special" experiences?

A. The door through which I've most often passed to reach an end of striving is humongous striving. Taking all-day law exams or trying lawsuits. When you're done, you're done, and you know you did your all, and you just let go. Everything's okay then.

As far as great epiphanies go, I've utterly ceased to look for them. Chasing insights gives me a pain. Be straight, be simple, be surprised.

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Q. How did lefties became Buddha-bots before righties?

Answer 1:

Poets read haiku.
Poets smoked pot.
Poets wore berets.
Poets played bongos.
Once they did all of these things, they became beatniks.

Beatniks listened to jazz.
Jazz was cool.
Musicians smoked pot.
Beatniks smoked pot.
Musicians and beatniks sat around in a stoned reverie listening to cool jazz.

While they were sitting around stoned, they began to discuss some heavy shit.
They had already lost their moral allegiance to anything associated with White Anglo Saxon Protestantism by practicing (or aspiring to practice) interracial sex.
Thus, they didn't consult Gerard Manley Hopkins when trying to unravel the mysteries of life.

There had recently been a war with Japan, which facilitated cultural interfusion.
Also, many servicemen brought home mementos of Japanese culture, bought at fire sale prices from war-ravaged civilians.
DT Suzuki wrote a book about Zen that was very popular with pot smoking beatnik jazz hipsters, but barely made a dent in the farm-belt reading market.

Then there were the Beatles, and their Maharishi and their Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds code.
Then there were the Leary and Alpert duo, who were so far left they got run out of Harvard in disgrace, and that's way fuck'n left, I'm sure you'll agree.
That's where we got Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out. In that order.

Next there was the Summer of Love, 1967, when LSD dropped like a bomb on the brains of thousands of young people, and suddenly a guy who set his guitar on fire was front page news. Not in Peoria, however.
Then there was nudity, free sex, Students for a Democratic Society, and airline stewardesses on holiday with Mick Jagger at the Playboy mansion with Gloria Steinem. All roundly frowned on by the moral majority.

Now we have all the post-acid heads fanning out across the land, thinking they can grow shit, like they are Amish or something. That sort of impracticality doesn't afflict your average redneck.

Confused, poor groups of drug-addled, sex-crazed, hot-tub-hopping, peyote-munching question-asking, dome-inhabiting, spiritual questing fools! Gathering together like clumps of moss on fallen trees in the damp areas of the Pacific Northwest, these communities of people, often indistinguishable from Dead Heads, played host to the foreign spores of bald-headed, robe-wearing, Nibbana-talking groovy guys. Plenty more stupid hippies where they came from, like an infinite supply of mulch. Meanwhile, the decent people in the trailer parks kept their distance from all of this.

Then after some time, the foreign spores multiplied, completely overwhelming the peace and love Ph level in the original nutrient mass. The hippies were required to turn in the keys to their heads by their gurus, senseis, sifus, etceteratum. Bathing in the new flow of "nothing matters" consciousness, they lost all meaningful attributes of leftiness, becoming some of the most tight-assed neo-Calvinists on the planet, focused on ruling their own little flocks with the whip of Doctrinal Correctness.

Still, in matters political, due to long Pavlovian conditioning, these psychological geldings still make their way to the trough of common liberalism and whiney good will. Buy a Volvo and all will be well.

Thus, you need fear nothing from these Buddhists except social rejection, for that is the entirety of their range of influence. They snub like pros.

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Q. Why does it matter if self is "empty" or not?

A. To say that it doesn't matter whether self is empty or not is like saying, "I don't care whether an airplane has wings or has wheels, because I'm going in the airplane, whatever it is!"

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Q. If compassion, wisdom and clarity were inherent to emptiness, everything empty would already be enlightened, even rocks.

A. Gyatrul Rinpoche once told me, around 20 years ago, as we were standing together in the place where he later built the Tashi Choling temple: "The Chinese are really good at understanding emptiness, but they go too far. They think that emptiness is just empty, without any qualities. No compassion, no luminosity!" He seemed to think that such a notion was preposterous. He advised me further not to make that same mistake. This explanation helped me a lot, because until then, I had been confused about the subject of emptiness "versus" compassion. Fortunately, the emptiness that I had thought was "absolute" really is not, as his explanation made clear.

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Q. Isn't compassion really just renunciation of our own selfish perspective?

A. Would that it always were.

Joke:

A kid discovers his kitten lying on the floor stiff and cold. He begins to cry. His dad tries to comfort the boy. "Look," says the father, "we'll give your kitten a big funeral. I've got a fancy wooden cigar box, and we'll put him in there on some velvet scraps from your mother's sewing box. Then we'll dig a hole in the backyard and we'll write a special burial service and say it over the casket. And then we'll make a cross down in my workshop and put the kitten's name on it in gold paint."

Just then, the kitten begins to stir and wiggle and come back to life. The kid sees this, and says, "Dad, can we kill it?"

From PJ O'Rourke's Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut 1995. (Coincidentally, I bought this copy in a used bookstore in Ocean Beach, San Diego while Bush was stealing the 2000 election. It comes complete with the following inscription: "Dad -- As long as you continue to be on this conservative kick you may as well read someone with a sense of humor. Happy birthday, Love, Tony."

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Q. What's the best way to get enlightened as soon as possible?

A. When I got into this quest for enlightenment thing I was about fourteen years old. It got worse all through my late teens, early twenties, and finally cooled off when I had my third child and went to law school to pay the bills.

Man, when I was nineteen I was sure I would be enlightened soon. Went to India that year, and went to Bodhgaya, and thought I would get there for sure.

In my early twenties I started getting antsy.

By my mid twenties the anxiety got extreme, with very disturbing physical sensations -- anxiety about not meditating at least two hours a day, compulsive ideation about spiritual topics, obsession with reading spiritual books, physical tension surrounding breath and posture.

I'm not here to give a life story, so I'll spare you the rest of it. I still suffer from the hope that I'll get enlightened, or at least that I won't suffer endless torment. But I'm not driven by it very much.

Believe me, there's no front of the line in this enlightenment thing. No point in pushing to the front of anything. Might as well be nice and tell newbies a nice, self-deprecating joke, for all the good your tight-assed piety will do 'em.

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Q. Isn't the essence of Buddhism to let go of everything, to cease clinging desperately to transient, woeful, empty phenomena?

A. My own experience with the exhilarating feeling of jettisoning every attachment has turned out to be something like that of a little boy who puts on a towel, calls it a cape, and jumps over his bed, proclaiming it is a tall building that he is leaping at a single bound. "I'm SUPERMAN!"

If you love this little boy, it's beautiful, and you don't say, "No you're not, there is no Superman." In fact, you don't even worry about it, since you know he knows he's not Superman, and there's no risk he'll try the same trick with a ten-story drop.

Except in the case of the Buddhist who wants to abandon everything, the big test is to try the leap off the Empire State Building. I just got a call last night from a nun who can't deal with her needs for a place to live. The kind people of our old Buddhist Center in Southern Oregon decided to evict her from her trailer where she'd lived for years (just not cool enough, I guess), and now she's just trying to make it on the outside. She wanted some legal advice about tenants rights. I referred her to the right people, but let's face it, this is not dignified for her. She's in her fifties, and she's cut every string that binds her to the survival and support systems of the 21st century.

Don't let it happen to you.

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Q. Buddhism is about letting go of all of the misconceptions, ideologies, and egotistical attachments that Americans hold so dear.

A. True also of Tibetans, Italians, Nova Scotians, etcetera. No use setting sail for far lands if what you really need to do is go someplace entirely other. No sense adopting foreign customs if customs altogether are the problem.

But actually, I disagree completely. I don't think Buddhism is "about letting go." It's about letting go of letting go.

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Q. What about the four sublime states: love, compassion, joy and equanimity?

A. Once, walking on Venice Beach and back up toward Santa Monica, I thought perhaps maybe the four minds are ways of seeing the four types of people we see: the ones we like, the ones we don't like, the ones we don't care about, and the ones we care about extremely much.

And by mixing up the mind-states you have for these different types of people, you can loosen your fixed ways of relating to people.

So for example, you don't care about someone, so try feeling love for them ... or you hate someone, try not caring about them ... or you love someone intensely -- try not caring about them.

Maybe this is just applied insanity of course.

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Q. What is engaged Buddhism?

A. If engagement implies dualistic effort, then engaged Buddhism is not Buddhism at all. If engaged Buddhism is a preparatory form of Buddhism that leads to higher Buddhism, then the higher Buddhism is making a distinction that makes it not the highest Buddhism.

Dana prajna paramita per Suzuki Roshi is just having no self-concerned attitude. Then all is given without thought of giving.

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Q. Traditional Buddhist scriptures are meant to be repetitive in order to facilitate meditation.

A. The issue is one of rhetoric. The argument can well be made that the instructions for a practice should be as brief as possible so you will have the most time left for practice. "Just sit."

The ponderous style of repetitively presenting one new concept every fourteen lines, sandwiched between rotating drums of repetitive terms, has always annoyed the holy excreta right out of me.

After years of reading and writing law, I've come to appreciate it deeply when someone can just spit it out. Then we can get on to testing and practicing.

On the other hand, just because I don't like a rhetorical style doesn't mean it has to change. If other people like it, I can find something else to read, eh?

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Q. Is it typical for a newbie visiting a Tibetan-style dharma center to be advised to take refuge in the three jewels before they will be allowed to practice certain sadhanas? I attended a refuge ceremony, which took place in a foreign language, and after the ceremony was over I found that in addition to having taken refuge in the 3 jewels, I also took refuge in the lamas, yidams and protectors. I didn't receive any further instructions, but was told to simply show up for practice, and that is when my feelings of disorientation and abandonment began. The other students emphasized devotion to the guru, and practice, but there was no graduated or beginning level teachings, just mainly tantric. I begin to hear about the dangers of breaking my vows, including insanity and vajra hell, but I didn't know who to turn to with my questions, because the lama was away, and the students weren't capable of answering them.

Answer 1:

Advice to Newbie: Surely you merely imagine that something is amiss at this center where you took refuge in the Three Jewels and it turned out you were taking refuge also in the Lama and the Protectors.

Surely you have incurred no samaya with the Protectors, as we know they are very forgiving about their relations with newbies.

Surely any suspicions you feel about your fellow-students' inability to answer your questions are the result of your own confused mind.

The answer, and the problem, is always with the student. Wherever this Dharma center is, whoever the teacher is, whatever the approach, the organization need never be questioned.

There are those who speak with authority concerning vows. As everyone knows, the Buddha's pre-enlightenment Sangha (the ascetics) said he had broken his vows by eating food, and refused to associate with him. In response to this, the authorities will argue that the Buddha's vow to not eat food was not a very important vow, and that whatever vows you took were much more important. Also, the authorities will note that you can always break a vow to save your health, and Buddha was starving to death. Unfortunately, many Tibetan prayers say "even at the cost of my life, I will keep this commitment," and the protector prayers specifically wish bloody death on "vow breakers."

Short answer to your question, Newbie -- take vows SERIOUSLY. Don't ever let anyone say "You took a vow" if you didn't know you were taking it, or you "took it" in a foreign language.

Common sense here. A vow is a promise to yourself. If you don't know what you've promised to do or not do, then you haven't made a promise. Don't let anyone tell you "your commitments." You wouldn't marry someone if they said you promised to marry them, but couldn't remember it, even if they showed you a videotape of you making the promise. You'd say, "That's not voluntary. You drugged me or something. I'm not marrying you."

So Just Say No to Promiscuous Vow-Making!

Answer 2:

Many Buddhists push their minds and bodies too hard. To hang on to commitments beyond the point of utility, particularly out of the fear of supernatural consequences, is foolish, the same kind of foolishness the Buddha abandoned when he broke his ascetic vows and had some lunch.

Q. As far as Vajrayana goes, unless you receive empowerment from someone, that person is not your guru, so you are under no obligation to hold them in any kind of regard; however, once you've received the empowerment, you are constrained by the first vow from criticizing that person if in fact that person has given you a valid transmission; but if that person is not authorized to give empowerments, or does not have the blessings, one has simply made a mistake and is under no obligation to regard that person as a valid Guru.

A. Problem is when a person doesn't know whether all of the ifs and buts add up to yes or no then they just wanna jump offa cliff.

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Q. Is it possible to excommunicate someone out of compassion, or will it always be due to prejudice and hatred?

A. Probably 90% of all lynchings, etcetera were committed with the best of intentions. Some of the perpetrators may have even experienced sincere regret about the necessity of burning a neighbor to save her soul. But what faith demands, believers will provide, even making ordinary decent people into monsters. The power to "excommunicate" is repellent in its very conception. It is a gross arrogation of power that should never be conscioned by anyone who thinks to practice Bodhicitta.

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Q. I think a student needs the teacher, but at what point does the teacher say adios to the student?

A. If you feel you need to meet a carnal representation of pure wisdom, you might be disappointed. You might meet some people worth spending time with, but, since you'll be working through one of these sticky-wicket sangha political setups, it'll be hard to really get "face time" with your guru, which most of the Tilopa/Naropa type relationships are grounded on. You'll read their books and venerate their insights and photographs.

More important, you'll adopt a religious routine because it gives you a sense of psychological "traction." By knowing what road to walk on, you can direct yourself in that way. Your teacher will inspire you because he/she is following the path, too. When you see that they still put their pants on one leg at a time, eventually you realize that being inspired by a teacher and overtly venerating them are perhaps contradictory. A teacher's ability to inspire is valuable. Whether they teach geometry or meditation, they're good if they communicate enthusiasm for the subject and equip their students with the tools to explore on their own and develop a personal wealth of experience. While there may be more exalted levels of teaching, I haven't experienced them.

Given that viewpoint, I no longer place much stock in the idea that I will be protected and borne along to enlightenment by my association with a particular individual. I operated under that belief for a long time, because that is what I was taught, and as a theoretical matter it might be possible; however, my experience has been like one awaking from a delusion that was in part self-imposed. I was adapted to it for twenty years, of course, so there must have been some compensations, but not enough to warrant continuing the charade.

But the good news is, your mind works just fine without a large statue of the Buddha posted in the middle of it. And you have a clearer view.

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Q. Some teachers say it takes millenniums for a person to reach enlightenment.

A. Yes, but they also thought the universe was flat, with a large mountain at the center. If their spatial speculations were so erroneous, why should their temporal ones be better? The karmic cranking out of enlightened beings always seems a little horrific to me, as an image. And really, on a practical level, if something doesn't happen in my present lifetime, it's apparently going to be someone else's job to experience it.

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Q. Does enlightenment resonate?

A. Trungpa Rinpoche said the Buddhist gives up God by giving up oneself -- the existence of God, being based on the existence of self, disappears along with the self.

More important than God or Enlightenment is the self, and closer, too.

In another, more poetic vein, I might wish to tune my spirit to the harmonics of perfection along with the mad Sufis. And often attempt it.

Chuang Tzu and other tao masters reminded us to look at the maps of energy and patterns of matter appearing in the swirls of clouds and water, the cracks in ice and stone, the curves of wood and fingerprints. Is there resonance? What is it we hear?

Somehow I think the sun is singing. And without the sun's song, no voices anywhere else on this big planet. The sun, winding up the chemical motors of insects and allosaurs and moving the ages of time along as if turning the earth with the gentle wind of passing days. Certainly it is singing our song.

Bring the sky right down to me so we can kiss and ...

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Q. Dzogchen and Mahamudra could not exist without receiving the pointing out instructions, so I guess you let a guru slip in the back door.

A. Yes, through the back door.

Dudjom Lingpa got his teachings from visions he had of Avalokiteshvara, Orgyan Tsokyey Dorje, Rigdzin Duddul Dorje, Longchenpa Drimed Odzer, Saraha, Vajrapani, Dorje Drolod, Vajradhara, Hungcchenkarma, Manjushri Vadisimha, Orgyan Tsokyey Dorje, Ekazati, Srhr Simha, and Zurchhung Sheyrab Dragpa.

None of them were alive.

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Q. Why are Vajrayana Buddhists so angry?

A. Perhaps because they believe more nonsense, try harder to conform to the doctrine, and give away more cash to buy empowerments and teachings than do other Buddhists, and it annoys them that they're not getting free of suffering any faster than the average Hinayanist.

Then again, maybe it's just all the reciting prayers in a foreign language that makes them wonder if they're perhaps looking silly.

Of course, it could be a lot of other things, too.

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Q. Shouldn't you be meditating or something?

A. We thought we'd start with something easy, and as soon as we're done, we'll get to that. But one problem is, people aren't really sure how to do it. The description of what the pre-enlightenment Buddha did under the Bodhi tree in order to greet the dawn in a different condition is very vague. Studying Zen koans doesn't make it any easier. Rajneesh, Dudjom Rinpoche and Iggy Pop all endorse staring into space, however, and that sounds like a ringing endorsement to me. What say we all take a break and look at the sky?

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Q. What about marketing the dharma and all the glitzy bullshit that is designed to make Buddhism fashionable?

A. You don't have to worry about this too much, unless you deliberately begrudge others the right to purchase the Dharma that suits their taste. There will always be lamas offering "true Dharma in the original wrapper," "country style Khampa Dharma," and the other brands you find most palatable. The soccer moms have just as much right to appropriate Vajrayana chic as anyone else. If you feel that simply preserving the particular format of old-school Vajrayana guarantees the efficacy of the tradition, you are putting more faith in the wrapper than the contents. Forms will change, and some changes are necessary, even though traditionalists fight all change as a matter of policy.

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Q. If dharma is free, people will treat it like junk mail.

A. This is exactly what motivates people to fund raise, charge money at the door, and interfere with simple efforts to make tapes and copy transcripts. The story says that Buddha almost didn't bother to teach, the likelihood of real interest seemed so remote. Since he chose to teach, he assumed the risk that when repeated, his teachings might be treated like junk mail. If you try to fix that by putting price tags on it, you will only make Dharma for people who want to spend money on it. That will be even less valuable than junk mail, because the rich have everything already, and once they acquire the attention of the lamas, the poor little folks lose heart. And heart is all poor folks have.

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Q. Traditionalists are mainly concerned with those who change the inside of Dharma not those who change the outside of dharma.

A. That assumes that traditionalists can see inside the place where no one sees, the home of Dharma, the practitioner's heart. They can't see there, so they judge clothes, names, prayers, posts, websites, etcetera.

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Q. What is important is whether the teachings and teachers are efficacious. This is best judged by observing whether the sanghas practicing these teachings become kinder, saner, happier, deeper people.

A. Of course, kindness, sanity, happiness, and depth are quite desirable. I like to be around such people; however, I've found it has little to do with their doctrinal views, and a great deal more to do with temperament and inclination.

Unhappy people tend to stay that way. Happy people the same.

Religion sometimes makes unhappy people claim to be happy, but that makes them even stiffer, and they lose the charm of being a genuine grump. Some happy people get religion and try to appear dour and serious; unfortunately, this effort sometimes results in the practitioner becoming genuinely depressed.

Some people act "sane" and "calm" when they have solid beliefs. Solid beliefs give these people a point of reference. While their thoughts orbit chaotically, they feel discontent; when they return to their solid beliefs, they feel comforted.

Then there are some who experience calmness when considering that they do not know anything for certain. It is a matter of going backwards.

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Q. What are Prayer Flags good for?

A. Prayer flags are pretty, and if you get enough of them up in a windy area, they make a lot of noise. I am unaware of any specific miracles attributable to their use, but generally they seem to be used for a sort of feng-shui purpose to ward off obstacles, etc. I noticed them used extensively in the movie, "The Tao of Steve."

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Q. Is HHDL a legitimate front man for the entire Tibetan organization?

A. Yes, it appears to be so. HHDL brokers agreements among the lamas so they can present a consistent story for Americans, who really get confused if you tell them that the whole setup is a free-for-all of titles, lineages, and competing family retainers that goes back to old arguments over lost yaks and missing barrels of chang. When the top Nyingma spot was left in doubt, HHDL blessed the appointment of Pednor Rinpoche to that position, which had previously been held by HH Dudjom Rinpoche. He did this by ratifying an election of other top Nyingma lamas, even though he is not a Nyingma lama himself. It seems unlikely that the question of who has the supreme level of spiritual insight is even addressed in these elections -- most Nyingma lamas will privately expatiate on which lama is the most enlightened, and their picks are never the big names, unless they're in front of the big crowds.

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Q. Why is it that Tibetan Eminences are always dying under mysterious circumstances and squabbling over lineage and financial inheritance? Is this enlightened activity, or petty squabbling?

A. Reminds me of an old Sufi story. There was a blind man who had a kind companion, a child, who had described the whole world for him in a beautiful way. Suddenly, he regained his sight, and saw it all for the tawdry thing it was. The child felt like a betrayer, but he consoled her, saying it was all right, because now they could work to make the world as beautiful as she had imagined it for him.

Perhaps our hopes exceed the world's ability to fulfill them, but in the words of Robert Browning, "If a man's reach does not exceed his grasp, then what's a heaven for?"

Let's keep aspiring, notwithstanding the defects of our idols.

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Q. What is Dream Yoga?

A. The first stage of the practice is to "catch a dream," i.e., notice that you are dreaming. The lamas emphasize that the techniques are secondary -- the point is to think "Duh, I'm dreaming right now." The book "Lucid Dreaming," by Stephen LaBerge, has excellent, simple techniques that stimulated some of the only lucid dreams I ever had within a week or two of using those simple methods. I never achieved the same success on nights when I tried the more traditional methods.

The goal as taught to me is incremental: 1. catch a dream, 2. remain in the dream, 3. explore the dream awareness, 4. utilize the dream to explode the dream.

The first part is accomplished by noting the difference between dreams and waking life. You will often catch a dream right about when you realize that something you are dreaming is "impossible." Eg., you notice something totally anomalous that would not occur in physical reality. At that point you go, "Wow, a dream!"

And what's even better is that one of the best ways to stimulate that reaction during dreaming is to go around all day asking yourself: "Am I dreaming right now?" Then look around at your world, and scrutinize it for weird details. Like check to make sure the table legs reach the floor. See if there are images behind the glass, look at clouds closely to make sure they aren't turning into cotton candy, etcetera. That habit of scrutinizing appearances will transfer somewhat into the dream state. Then, when the habit of asking "Am I dreaming now?" pops up, you will say, "Duh, I sure am!" And there you have it.

The second part is much subtler. As soon as you think, "Wow, this is a dream!" you are also apt to awaken or drift back into non-lucid dreaming.

The third and fourth parts I understand as being a journey, during which one is free to experiment with the radiant, pliable mind that experiences spontaneously-arising, non-physical appearances. It is liberating to experience, for even one brief moment in a lucid dream, the knowledge that what you are seeing is not "real."

I hypothesize, without any actual experience, that when the lamas instruct one who has maintained stability in lucid dreaming, to explore their circumstances and locate a river of light, big enough to jump into, then to contemplate the river and jump in, that this is going to be some dissolution into light, formless awareness. That's what I call "exploding the dream." Entirely hypothetical, of course, based upon some wonderful teachings from Gyatrul Rinpoche.

The techniques of Western lucid dreaming do work. In my opinion, they open the door that you have to walk through to practice dream yoga. Once in the door, you might want to utilize the traditional practices.

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Q. The orthodoxy behaves according to the rules, whereas the upstart opponents break the rules. The fact is, new methods must be shown to be valid, and that takes time.

A. John Stuart Mill observed that the orthodoxy will always use their superior position to berate the beliefs of their upstart opponents. The orthodox will accuse the upstarts of intemperance, while using dirty tricks of fallacious logic and accusations of heresy to score low blows.

It does take time for methods to be shown to be valid, and even after the time passes, the devotees of one sect will not acknowledge the siddhis of the guru of another sect. All the mutual back-scratching that goes on among the "Four Lineages" of Vajrayana is pretty skin deep, and has more to do with presenting a united front while dealing with the Westerners than of real mutual respect. Teachers compete for students, and while doctrines may mix, terma traditions and specific sadhanas integrate poorly.

There will never be any solid basis for agreement as to who has siddhi until someone comes up and stabs a phurba into a rock, or flies away on a fiery cloud while engaged in karma-mudra with a low-cast consort.

Let's take this back to first principles, and then we can all admit we're just wankers in the first degree!

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Q. The battles we see between various Buddhist sects are the same kind of religious fanaticism that start and maintain wars in northern Ireland, Israel, etc. Could we simply seek the truth using our hearts? The muck of attachment to lamas gets in the way of awareness and compassion.

A. Different strokes for different folks. Churchgoers are not generally mystics. Generally they can agree to burn the mystics, and will take a break from killing each other to accomplish that mutually agreeable goal. Just check the unified response from the left and right whenever AmBu pops up!

Additionally, one student's muck is another's happy nook! To feel revulsion is natural, with respect to others' follies; with respect to our own, it is atypical. Even so, looking eye to eye, seeing humans everywhere, we can still feel good about ourselves and our nutty family of heretics and true believers.

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Q. We should believe in past lives based on the asserted testimony of the Buddha.

A. Evidence is that which makes an assertion more likely to be true. A person comes to a conclusion about what is true by considering evidence. Evidence must have "convincing force."

If the jury is not convinced by the evidence presented to support a position, then the evidence has not been sufficient to compel a conclusion. That is life. It won't help to beat on the jury to accept the conclusiveness of your evidence by urging that the testimony was provided by a really great person like the Buddha.

Some people have a lower standard of proof, that is all. People who have lower standards of proof often think they know things that other people are uncertain about. Everyone in medieval 14th Century Europe and 20th Century Tibet, for example, "knew" the universe to be flat. That was good enough for them. But for people who really cared what shape the earth was, it wasn't good enough. Why? Because for Columbus it was more important to be right than to be sure. His contemporaries were sure -- so sure they thought they could sail off the edge of the world.

But Columbus had a good reason for wanting to know the true shape of things. He wanted to do things that would be impossible if the world was in fact flat. In fact, he apparently preferred to be dead than to live in a flat world.

But at least the flat-earthists had some evidence for their belief. Everybody can see that the earth is flat. Reincarnationists have a tougher row to hoe. The only evidence of reincarnation is testimonial, and that evidence cannot be corroborated.

Also, reincarnationists suffer from an image problem, in that many unsavory charlatans and spiritual trivializers have espoused the doctrine of rebirth. The Ascended Master jokers provide an excellent example.

Additionally, some people seem to have no need to believe in reincarnation in order to have a healthy interest in meditation. Some worthies, like Trungpa and basically the entire Ch'an lineage, simply appear to not address the issue.

The now is the focus of all higher level, i.e., Ati-level practices. The gaining achievement that is spawned by attention to successive lifetimes is not the achievement of Ati.

To those who fear that abandonment of the doctrine of rebirth will dispose people to lawless, inconsidered hedonism, I would again ask, "where's the evidence?"

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Q. Deity practice is more psychologically complex and deep than it appears. Some people take to it right away, others gradually start to relate, and others never do.

A. Deity practice is performed for the purpose of cleansing misperceptions about reality and eliminating grasping to appearances.

Deities can also be part of the folk-religion that provides comfort to the illiterate and gives them a moral grounding.

Deity contemplation can give the mind a rest from endless discursive thoughts by providing an aesthetic and experiential focus.

The most important parts of deity practice are the practices of de-concretizing by: 1) Reflecting upon the emptiness of all appearance before the deity arises, 2) Remembering the emptiness of all appearance while maintaining the visualization, and 3) Dissolving all attachment to the visualization when concluding. In other words, always strip your idols naked after use.

As a practical matter, can you gain enough experience with these methods to get where you want to go? I would hesitate to answer with certainty, because you could be luckier than I, and even I have been in some degree lucky.

One thing I can say, however. If you feel that your projections about the deities are constricting your awareness, causing you anxiety or fear, or otherwise working you into a lather, then it is entirely okay to say, "Not for me, at least not now." Like many other activities that may be beneficial, like river rafting, rock climbing, or reading poetry, these teachings are options, not requirements.

What are the requirements for basic Buddhism? Even this question is probably too constricting, since the question we really want answered is: "What are the requirements for basic humanity?" And, "What is truly best for me?"

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Q. The search for what is best for Me is the primary tenet of the dualistic delusion.

A. If you are assuming that this Me whose welfare I am seeking is the self-concept, of course you are correct. This is not the Me I'm referring to, however. The Me is more like what Trungpa Rinpoche calls the "soft spot" in us that is indefinite and vulnerable. Just very pragmatic, direct, honest presenting of the question to oneself: "What is best for me?" Probably good food, good work, good friends, a mental challenge, and hope for the future. First things first, and let's be honest about our vulnerabilities and our needs.

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Q. Isn't the practice of "vajra pride" where you integrate the experience of yidam practice into the rest of your life ?

A. This description of "post-meditation practice" should be applied very gently. Vajra Pride does not result from self-inflation. Rather think as Trungpa Rinpoche suggested: "You are the emperor of the universe because you are a grain of sand."

Whenever you engage in visualization, simultaneously train in emptiness. Otherwise, say the teachings, you fall into eternalism, i.e., the mistaken belief that something really exists, like a deity or a mandala.

Vajra Pride does not grow from spinning self-impressed fantasies based on self-visualization, e.g., "Wow, I really kick butt with six arms while engaging in mystic embrace with my leopard-skin wearing, sky-blue colored consort. I am seriously hot with these snakes draped all over me, and my skull crown is the envy of the entire Dharmadhatu. Samsara is handily crushed under my four world-flattening feet, and I think I will have time for a break shortly after I liberate the last sentient being slightly ahead of schedule. The other deities will know who's boss!"

Now how could I tell you how that feels like? Candid admission or what. Avoid that type of "vajra pride" and you will truly save yourself some effort. Like the cloud dissolves in the sky, like the grain of sugar dissolves in tea, allow that sense of self to melt away at the close of your visualization. Then, when you regenerate yourself before the dedication of merit, experience that as a spotless appearance for that initial instant. Then just back off. Don't expect too much from yourself, and don't try and be too chummy with God. Just disappear and reappear and disappear and reappear, not stuck existing or not existing ... Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha ...

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Q. Whatever the buddha teaches is always for the benefit of sentient beings; otherwise the buddha would not have taught it.

A. The power of a good tautalogical statement cannot be refuted; however, it does not derive its force from logic, but rather from appeal to authority.

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Q. "American Buddha" is a complete reversal of the Buddha's teachings.

A. Perhaps the Buddha's teaching is palindromic, i.e., it works in both directions. They say time runs in both directions.

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Q. The First Noble Truth is that Life is Suffering.

A. Surely we agree that it is merely our view of life that causes suffering. The Buddha continued to live on earth. Was he then not free of suffering until death? Of course not. His freedom from suffering began at enlightenment, so mere existence on earth is not the same as existence "in samsara." Nor does "leaving samsara" require rejection of appearances.

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Q. The Third Noble Truth is that there is a transcendental state beyond suffering.

A. Do we not agree that this "state beyond suffering" is here in nowness? Does anyone contend that something "really changes" besides our attachment to selfhood?

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Q. The Buddha's original message was about finding the way out, not learning to live with samsara.

A. Do we not agree that this "way out" is also a "way in" to non-attached, ego-purified existence? Surely you don't think some actual change in outer appearances is required to realize freedom from samsara.

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Q. To the Buddha, your "endless opportunities in abundance" are all hollow, marked by the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and emptiness.

A. Surely we agree that the Buddha used his own mind to gain realization -- and access to our own mind is of course one of the opportunities I refer to. Clearly the Buddha did not reject his own intelligence, but rather used it to his benefit.

So you must think it is "mere sense pleasures" that need to be discarded. Perhaps you think the Buddha held roses in contempt because they fade? Consider however, the limiting and ungracious character of the thought, "These stupid flowers are of no use to me because they wilt and die." Or, "this food is useless, because even after I eat it, I will be hungry again."

One who thinks in this fashion is just having a snit. This is amateur inspiration for people who are attached to what they can't have. As soon as the Buddhist excitement calms down, they'll be back picking flowers and eating beans.

No, what really needs fixing are not the flowers and the food, it is the goddamned customers, who have unrealistic expectations. Of course food has to be eaten repeatedly to continue living, just as breath must be drawn incessantly. Do you resent your breath because it is impermanent? You just want to take one breath and that's it?

To take these things just as they are, and yet to apply oneself to finding the mind that depends not upon these things, but merely upon its own nature, that is the Middle Way.

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Q. If you insist on seeing humans as "bio-computers," the idea of transcendence makes no sense and the goal is reduced to one of consolation and reconciliation with the mundane.

A. As to biocomputers -- I said we use biocomputers, not that we are biocomputers. These biocomputers give us access to the universal mind-medium, which we all use according to our dispositions. (Lao Tzu called it Tao -- the mother of duality and all things.) Of course, our biocomputer limits how we can use mind. If you doubt it, go have three shots of vodka and tell me how you're feeling. Or give a tulku or a zen master brain damage, and see how enlightened he is.

Nevertheless, when the biocomputer is in proper order, I believe that we biocomputer-users can understand the truth of our existence with complete clarity and accuracy. That means knowing one's identity with mind, and being free from all imputations such as "selfhood" and "otherness."

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Q. There is a project underway to install a statue of Maitreya Buddha in Bodhgaya. When it is complete, it will be the largest statue in the world. The wonderful thing about holy objects is that venerating them creates positive karma in proportion to the size of the holy object.

Answer 1:

Well, this will help replace the hole in the Dharmakaya left by the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. What is it with Big Buddhas? Consciousness scaling?

Hmmmm. Does "Easter Island" ring a bell? Obsession with creating large statues resulted in the complete demise of the culture and probably a reversion to cannibalism, because as they exhausted the supply of large trees, they became unable to create sturdy rafts, and their island became a prison.

The deforestation and air pollution that have made the Kathmandu Valley were caused by people congregating in what they believe is an oasis of spirituality.

So it seems the search for heaven can turn earth into hell.

In making decisions about how to use the earth, we should apply earthly standards, the same type of standards we apply when choosing whether to board a plane. We want to fly on a safe, well-maintained airplane piloted by a trained person in good health. Magic will not keep the plane in the sky, nor will it cause a large pile of concrete and steel heaped into the shape of a Buddha to emanate vibrations that will cure poverty.

In order to be able to think about the world in a reasoned way, we make one, very reasonable assumption: That the world now works according to the same rules that applied in the past, that those rules will apply in the future, and that they apply everywhere, wherever we may go.

If we begin to think that somewhere, in some time or place, or under certain special circumstances, the world operates according to different rules, then any true reliance upon reasoning is impossible. Once true reliance upon reasoning is impossible, we have lost, almost, our true common language.

But there are good reasons to jettison reasoning if one wishes to pursue the religious path. Reason does in fact constrict the universe of possible answers to certain obvious questions. People who agree to rely upon reason lose the freedom to re-declare the rules of life whenever it serves their purposes. They cannot claim that Bigger Buddhas are better than smaller buddhas. Which would make it harder to raise money to build The Biggest Buddha. So, "Where 'tis folly to be wise ...."

Answer 2:

This statue business seems to be all about making money selling Dharma. Gyatrul Rinpoche used to tell a story about how he explained to the Dalai Lama that the Americans had taught him to sell the Dharma using marketing methods that priced higher lamas at higher prices. The Dalai Lama laughed, but it wasn't really a joke -- it was a conundrum that Gyatrul Rinpoche never transcended. The lesson seemed to be that, whatever it takes to get the Dharma out there, that's what we'll have to do. But there was this other aspect to it -- this concern that maybe selling the Dharma wouldn't work out so well.

My experience seeing America gobble up dreams and crap out bubble gum causes me to fear that Buddhism may lose going and coming. It may lose itself in a headlong rush toward acceptance and commercial survival. It may also lose the opportunity to adapt developmentally to this new environment.

What Buddhism should take from America is precisely what it avoids: a collision with hard-headed empiricism. Buddhism should reject from America precisely what it accepts: gullible acceptance of a new fix for anxiety.

The world is always in need of physical upkeep and spiritual replenishment. The construction of schools for human development and monuments to spiritual leaders is a reasonable way to provide both. But notions about magical effects deriving from religious monuments deserve to meet the empirical locomotive head on. Kaboom! Then we'll be left with an ordinary world and the Bodhisattva railway.

"Even if the sun were to rise in the West, the Bodhisattva still has only one way." Shunryu Suzuki.

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Q. Only Mantra has the special method for achieving the form body by cultivating paths that are similar in aspect to a Buddha's Form Body.

A. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.

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Q. Since Tantra is not based on sutra, it has nothing to do with Buddhism proper.

A. Yah, so yer all heretics with yer mantras and yer tantras. Meet ya' at the canteen. We'll plan a breakout.

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Q. I've heard that some Teachers steal other Teachers' students.

A. Funny story about headhunters. When I was in LA, as a young associate lawyer in the late-eighties, I had lots of invitations to change jobs. I retained a couple of headhunters. My kids said years later that sometimes they heard that "the headhunter called for Dad." This actually caused them to think that there was somebody looking to cut my head off. Now if you can imagine how they were able to reconcile this with day-to-day reality in downtown Santa Monica, you will understand something about the flexibility of a child's mind.

But on the chosen topic -- teachers poaching for students -- it's a breath of fresh air to have it discussed openly. I saw Gyatrul Rinpoche lose his influence over one young Swiss woman with $$$ who had made a few extravagant promises. She went off to see Chakdud Tulku, seduced by Chakdud's magical way with clay and paint, etcetera. Whoa, you coulda ironed your pants on Rinpoche's forehead, he was so steamed! Never introduce her to your best friend until after things are snug!

Truth is, Gyatrul Rinpoche had whole centers whisked out from under him time and again, and his graciousness in every one of those circumstances endeared him to us more and more. He lost a center in Berkeley to a student-led coup, and in LA we repulsed two takeover attempts. Finally, the craziness of the mid 1990's eviscerated even the Tashi Choling sangha, leaving a skeleton crew to practice chod together.

As my dear old dad said, "It's dog eat dog, and hell if you're a puppy."

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Q. Instead of focusing on conflicts, it would be better if we put our best foot forward so the newbies won't be turned off.

A. Good point! Put your best foot forward, make a good first impression, etc. Makes sense, but not for the Siddhas who hung out in the equivalent of junkyards lit by trash can fires prowled by crazy, mangy dogs. Anti-marketing. But what do we do when our neurosis appears? Straight to the closet with it. Lest it be seen by the newcomers.

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Q. It is written that one should not drink from the same well as a vow breaker.

A. In the movie Labyrinth, there are some large talking stones with ponderous voices that try to discourage the heroine on her way through the maze to (compassionately) rescue her little brother from the Castle of the Goblin King (David Bowie), who has been snatched away because she selfishly wished that the goblins would take him.

These large talking stones say things like, "Go Back!" and "This is Not the Way!!!" As well as my favorite "The path you follow will lead to Certain Destruction!!!"

They really are quite scary until one of the denizens of the Labyrinth silences them with a simple "Oh, shut up!"

Whereupon one of the stones looks sheepish and responds, "Oh please, it's been such a long time since we said it."

And the denizen replies, "All right, but don't expect a big reaction."

I loved this scene, because it shows how words, uttered with convincing force, can undermine our confidence and will when we most need it. To see frightful appearances turn into harmless illusions is so skillful. Didn't the Buddha teach something about that?

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Q. What is the point behind the divisions we see in Buddhism? Why the rift between Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana? Is this a real internal distinction, or simply an artificial division to roughly group Buddhists?

A. Darwin might have something to tell us about the origin of sects, in his theory of "adaptive radiation." Adaptive-radiation explained the diversity of finch-species in the Galapagos islands.

Here's an apposite quote:

"Adaptive radiation is a biological term that describes the way organisms evolve to
take advantage of new environments. The most famous example is Darwin's finches. A
single species of finch blew off of the west coast of South America and landed on the
Galapagos Islands, and as these birds took advantage of the new ecological niches
offered by the islands, they evolved into several separate but closely related species.

Adaptive radiation requires new environments not already crowded with competitors and
organisms adaptable enough to take advantage of those environments."

Interestingly, the author who wrote the above is explaining how Linux, a software language, will conquer the software universe through adaptive radiation: " So it is with Linux–after a decade of computers acting as either clients or servers, new classes of devices are now being invented almost weekly–phones, consoles, PDAs–and only Linux is adaptable enough to work on most of them."

Similarly, Dharma is a form of software for the human mind. It too radially adapts to different cultural environments. It cannot adapt by keeping doctrinal elements which, however useful in the former environment, are now dysfunctional for the new software users. On the other hand, it has to keep its core features, or it can't be said to have adapted successfully.

So what are the core features of Buddhism? And to what extent can we be sure that the core features were designed by Buddha Software-Muni himself, and not actually engineered by generations of hackers? The obvious fact is that this Buddha-ware project is an open source project. Only code that is opened up and exposed to use and improvement will survive and replicate. The system administrators can opt for priestcraft, and try to keep secrets, or they can open up their systems to analysis.

Meanwhile, anyone with a nervous system is free to begin working with the vast corpus of published code on the operation of the human mind. What they will be amazed by is how many words there are, and how few answers. A thousand sales pitches, and so few refrigerators delivered to the Eskimos.

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Q. The three-fold presentation of hinayana, mahayana, vajrayana is just a way of saying that the Vajrayana is superior to other forms of Dharma.

A. My response, back in 1978, was that it was the most blatant, ridiculous, self-serving and unlikely-to-be-true piece of own-horn-blowing that I had ever heard. At least fundamentalist Christians had the good grace to look dorky while they claimed their capital-G God was the only way to everlasting happiness. The lamas did it with a straight face.

Eventually, I fit it all into my Mexican-Catholic-Tibetan-Buddhist conception of the universe with Tara of Guadalupe as my central deity, her brown feet nestled in an abundant heap of mescalito buttons, surrounded by a halo of night-blooming, lemon-scented datura flowers with the white pallor of the moon itself. Truly Vajrayana is the best of all religions.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:59 am

PART 3 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

Q. You seem to view things from a decidedly material angle. In my view, the material world doesn't provide its own basic foundation. It's seems derivative of a spirit world in which reside both physical, natural law as well as what we call moral law. The latter can be known when we delve into our inner soul-being, just as we access the former through our relation with the world without.

A. Our perceptions, thoughts and feelings create the substance of our experience. We don't have to add any mystery, just look at the equation. Which may be more than the sum of its parts -- after all, the equation may not be an addition problem.

But still an equation. Nothing coming out that didn't go in.

When we feel short of understanding, that's natural. Still, if we supply the lack from imagination, that's questionable.

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Q. Isn't it true that all we need is love?

A. Well, if the tantric icon for enlightenment is sexual union, then sex is the tantric microcosm of enlightenment.

If Darwin is consulted, it seems like the pleasure generated by sex is a mechanism that enforces desired behavior.

In society, favorable mating is a status marker.

Growing children is the ultimate self-fulfillment project.

By giving birth to successive generations, we create a field of potential rebirth for ourselves (if we think we're coming back).

Continuity of the species is a good in itself, because it perpetuates the existence of beings like ourselves.

The perpetuation of ourselves is a self-evident good, since few willingly commit suicide.

Life sustains life.

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Q. I trust that the future of Buddhism will transcend intellectuals arguing about how many dakinis can dance on the tip of a vajra.

A. I sometimes think it takes a while to realize that spoken doctrine is like a lagoon, and truth is like the sea beyond. It is easy to speak of the attributes of water in the lagoon, while omitting much that is true of the sea, with its huge waves and unfathomable depths.

Since some believe human minds cannot fathom "the truth," they design conditional doctrines to protect their believers. These conditional doctrines are like lagoons.

Still, the sea is out there, and can be traversed, studied and known. It does not even take great bravery to go there, since the waves of that unknown realm are just the waves of our mind, and cannot destroy us.

And yet, people are afraid to leave the lagoon.

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Q. People are always going to be fascinated by the mysteries of Tibet.

A. Once there was an author named Lobsang Rampa who became infamous among Tibetan Buddhists as a rank pretender. He wrote books that seem, in retrospect, to be obviously fictional, but at the time, Rampa claimed they recorded historical facts about a brotherhood of which he had once been an initiate.

Similarly, Madame Blavatsky safely dreamed up tales about Koot Hoomi and the Ascended Masters, complete with iconographic images of these imagined saints from the Himalayas (cloaked in violet haze). Her pal Leadbetter kidnapped poor Krishnamurti and tried to turn him into a Messiah with a Tibetanoid lineage. Yogananda posited Babaji, the timeless sage of the Himalayas, as the founder of his lineage.

Yes, off in those mountains, mysteries abide. People can dream about those mountains, huge fastnesses where the mind is free to roam the frozen wastes.

Some say Traktung Rinpoche walked out of this mythical realm, cloaked in the mysteries of an oral tradition, hitched to dreams and visions.

Tibet will always be a tremendous resource for spiritual teachers.

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Q. Aren't you suffering from privation due to having no guru, no sangha, and no practice?

Early Psychedelic Practice

I've been "practicing" since I was around twelve years old, if self-consciously attempting to delve into the depths of my own mind is practice. In 1968 I ran away from home and started doing blotter and windowpane with my pals. By sixteen my mind was hammered thin as gold foil, and I began trying to reassemble my understanding of the world. After about six months in the Children of God fundamentalist Christian cult that I hooked up with in Denmark and Sweden, I actually believed that the world was created in six days! But after my parents pulled me out of the COG, I turned to 3HO Yoga and a wholesome peyote lifestyle back in Arizona. AmBu met me shortly after I returned to my denim and cactus roots.

Neo-Hindu

Eventually we ran into Ram Dass and I decided to lotus-ize my life. I studied chakras and asanas very earnestly, doing yoga about half the day and reading sacred books the rest of the time, and feeling terribly earnest all the time.

Emptying the Cup

After about five years of this, living in the hippie mecca of Ashland, Oregon, AmBu and I met Gyatrul Rinpoche. At that point, I began to stop practicing. Slowly I realized that, like the man in the famous zen story, I too needed to empty my cup. I learned that I was getting zero credit for all of my past meditative achievements. I didn't know Tibetan, I didn't know Kye Rim, I didn't know anything.

After that, my quest for spiritual states of mind sort of tailed off. If my ego wasn't going to get anything out of it, I wasn't really that interested. I was more interested in organizing my family and economic life, and creating domestic harmony, which Rinpoche always encouraged as my first priority.

Conversion II

Starting law school, I experienced a meltdown. I experienced true nihilism after a couple of years, and by the time I got done with law school, I didn't think about Dharma at all. Then Arya Tara (yeah, the female Buddha, not my wife) came into my life. I began the Mexican-Catholic phase of my Vajrayana journey. I realized that I had a huge obstacle to venerating male deities. Vajrasattva and Guru Rinpoche gave me the willies. One day I remembered a peyote vision I had once had, of a chrome-helmeted face with eyes like the sun, called the Censor, and I realized that I was just too afraid of my father, and male authority figures, to expect any kindness to come from them.

I was raised Mexican Catholic, and found that I actually could, and needed, to set up a devotional focus in my life. Each day I faced challenges that scared me shitless. I was terrified by the enormity of being a lawyer, manipulating lives, truth and money, but I had to do it. Lawyers will get right in your face, they’ll tell you what you don’t want to hear, and leave you to finish the job. So I found myself, 17 floors above the smoggy basin, behind a desk piled high with the scrum of paper warfare, surrounded by Barbie-like secretaries, looking for the unity of Samsara and Nirvana.

But the “woe is me, I’m stuck in samsara and need to renounce” doctrine was useless. Start whining that stuff to yourself and you’ll cultivate a psychology of “retreat,” i.e., surrender, that will not hold you in good stead as the father of three trying to pay off $70K in educational debt. And “confession” as a practice was just a roller-coaster of good intentions and quick reversions.

One day it hit me, as I was driving down the 10 Freeway to work, reciting a Tara mantra, that She, and all Bodhisattvas, are truly like a huge tree that gives shelter and nourishment to all beings. However unfortunate sentient beings were, I realized, they were fortunate to have this source of refuge and benefit. I inhaled a fresh lungful of devotion, and began to actually have a practice.

Relying on Arya Tara was not so difficult, and helped tremendously in staying away from the deep ravines of ruinous desire, and avoiding being consumed by the blazing gas-jets of anger that fuel the legal profession. When I tried cases, I recited Tara mantra while the jury was out (a time period that is an excruciating agony for client and lawyer alike), and in reliance on her kind features, I was able to accomplish many things I would have feared to try.

The wonderful thing about practicing Tara, is that you know that she is not judging you (you are not judging yourself). If you make a mistake today, no need to agonize for long. My motto became “Do something right!” Day after day I recited the 21 Taras from memory. When I took the California bar exam, her power came to me in a dream. When I told Rinpoche about it, he laughed, telling stories of miracles done by Tara that were more incredible than passing a paper test.

Like my mother before me, I credited the Deity with every power. My mother never said, “We will do such and so tomorrow,” but rather “If God wills it.” So too, I prefaced every statement, at least mentally, with the reminder that, “If Tara will be so kind.”

Eventually, though, I must say, my conversion became so entrenched that my devotions were rather perfunctory. I began to take my spiritual sincerity for granted, I suppose. And while this was happening, our daughter Ana was developing by leaps and bounds, while AmBu became more and more disenchanted. In the fall of 1998 all of this came to a head.

Out of the Frying Pan

After about six years in Colestine Valley, I had no desire to get out of the frying pan. It happened because AmBu’s faith cratered. She had never stopped trying, and had always maintained the hardline: “Renounce Samsara, Remember Death, All Glory to the Lamas and the Lineage!” style of practice. When I dumped the patriarchal imagery, I think it made it a lot easier for me. But AmBu’s a bit of a literalist. She tried to claw her way through, and when she failed, she was psychologically bereft.

Into The Fire

When we blew out of Colestine Valley with our reputation on fire, I was put to the test. I had to find my red shoes, remember the trick, and click my heels together pretty quick to make sure the family landed on its feet. Having made few friends in “the world,” and now having no friends in the Dharma, I felt like Saraha’s bird, flying between sea and sky until, having nowhere to alight, it inevitably returns to its place on the ship’s mast.

Amazingly, by working ceaselessly for many months, and following my own best intuitions, I managed to put together a new economic life, built around the Sex.com lawsuit. I focused on taking care of the business. Meanwhile, AmBu and Ana took off for Nepal, to try and see how it really gets done at ground zero.

While they were gone, I read a book called Heaven’s Harlots, by Miriam Williams. Subtitled, “My Fifteen Years as A Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult,” the book captivated me for three days. I realized that I’d been in the COG, and barely got out before the sex cult stuff began. I knew the language, the places, and the people in the book. I realized that my parents had pulled me out of one cult, but my own inclinations had drawn me into another, where I had remained for over 20 years. What a shock!

I was both exhilarated and devastated. For the first time, I realized that I had become self-indoctrinated into a system that severely limited my view of myself. I grew very tired of the numerous wrathful thangkas that decorated my bedroom, but I was afraid to take them down, for fear of the consequences. To the extent I still prayed, I realized, I did so from a sense of obligation and paranoia. I wasn’t really healthy, I realized. Thanks to Miriam Williams, who had the courage and talent to put her story into a book, I was able to look at my mixed-up, self-restricted condition.

When AmBu returned from Nepal, she had for the first time begun to authorize herself to interpret Dharma for herself. She was thoroughly disappointed with the Lamaism she’d seen in Kathmandu, but still wanted to make Buddhism her focus. But her emotions betrayed the serenity she hoped to adopt, as we discovered that, due to some legal machinations by our former Sangha friends, we could not sell our land in the Valley. (I believe these legal problems are in the process of resolution, but are far from over and still cause us great detriment.)

One day I got up early in the morning and hacked out a website for Tara using some cheap online program. (I’m still trying to learn real web-authoring.) That became American-Buddha.com. Tara began to articulate her ideas. They were outrageous. From her rage and sense of (self-)betrayal emerged a weapon of clear sight that targeted and destroyed idiotic doctrines with deadly accuracy. I trimmed the extreme ferocity out of her arguments and gave them a lawyer’s sense of logical cohesion. We ended up with the “Another View” article – a comprehensive critique of our former cultic obsession.

We made all these new friends on the Trike Boards. Meanwhile, our former Sangha-mates reeled in astonishment. Great Samaya-breakage! (Delicious gossip shared among the faithful to flavor the dry bread of their renunciation, and a mythic-sounding cautionary tale for newcomers: “Charles and Tara” becoming the very epitome of the depths to which pride will cause one to fall.)

The Trike Boards were such a boon because, and hats off to the webmaster there – they have allowed the marketplace of ideas to open up shop in the Buddhist world. By trading logical salvoes with the neo-traditionalists, exchanging careful replies with the tentatively approving, and even receiving the occasional compliment from those who “never went there,” or are “over it,” AmBu and I have come to realize that all belief systems are mired in relativism. That all constructed doctrines that lay claim to divine origin are equally suspect.

The fire has been more cleansing than the frying pan ever was ripening.

Not Nihilism

Now my mala gathers dust and I rarely recite. Why? I think, and excuse if it sounds like pride, that this old horse doesn't need a bridle any more. Rulebooks aren't relevant now.

It isn't that I see Mahamudra everywhere, or that every moment is marked with the nature of the unconditioned. I can still say these things, but the diction seems tired and doesn't compare with the fresh impact of each day's experiences.

I have no desire to enter a temple. I really never even liked Rinpoche's temple. I often sat on the porch and looked at the hills and clouds that had brought me to the Valley in the first place, while listening to his words over the loudspeakers.

I have no desire to bow to anyone.

I do not desire the company of people whose idea of discourse is to commiserate about how dreadful "samsara" is, alternating with ecstatic references to the sainted lamas.

Post-Buddhist

As to what I really want to do? My friend Michael Weir, a true Colestine Valley hermit, once was waxing eloquent about the power of being totally disciplined, like a faultless horse under the control of a skilled rider. I responded to him, "I do not want to be under any control at all. I want to be the wild horse for whom the endless horizon is the limit of his world, running free, without any restraint whatsoever."

Oh people will say that our world could never be populated by free people. The rule makers of Dharma will laugh at my notion, and the chorus of laughter will swell, as the rule makers from every religion and political creed join in to jeer at my stupid idea. Freedom. How asinine.

But recently I read a story that relates. Apparently there was an English lord who had quite an army, and he went about in the name of the king, demanding of other lords that they show the written title, the "warrant" by which they held their lands. When they couldn't produce the warrant, he'd claim their lands for "the King." One lord, thus summoned and presented with the demand to show his warrant, produced an old sword from the family armory by which his father had held his land, and announced that it was still as good a warrant as ever, should anyone wish to challenge its authority. He kept his land.

The first territory to keep free is the domain of our own mind. I believe it comes to us free, and it is our right and duty to keep it that way. While I love Gyatrul Rinpoche and will respect him the length of my entire life, I place no trust in gods, demons, rituals or prayers. It is action that matters. The action of seeking clarity, honesty, goodness, deep inside the mind. With that sword of action held firm in our hands, we hold ourselves free, and need ask leave of no man.

Shall I argue against the suffering that is the fate of humans and all species? Of course not. I argue that the existence of suffering is not a sufficient reason to lose all faith in life, and that we are not compelled to raise up effigies on thrones to mitigate the fear of death. I argue that the good old sword of reason and self-reliance still will serve to help us make order out of life, to divine right from wrong, and to make our peace with the Universe.

Do you still fear that in the dark places in your mind your psychic teeth will still chatter, that your moral pee will run down your leg, that you will be crushed between mountains and sawed in half by demons? Exactly why you need that sword. Check the ancestral armory. You’ll find it there.

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Q. Rajneesh is my favorite teacher.

A. I now view Rajneesh's ouevre as the largest assortment of meditative bubblegum in the known universe, rivaling Sri Chinmoy's output and blowing his doors off with regard to real pseudo-depth.

My favorite Rajneesh story is the one about the zen nun, who had an old bucket for carrying water. It was a really old bucket, but she had just kept mending it over the years. One night, while carrying water and watching the reflection of the moon in the full bucket, the bottom fell out of the bucket. Water and moon disappeared at once, and she achieved an enlightenment that she summarized:

"For years now,
trying to keep the old bucket together,
Tonight, the bottom fell out ...
No water, no moon,
Emptiness in my hand."

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Q. Where is the way?

A. I once asked a dharma friend, "what is the best vehicle?" He answered, "The one that is easiest to discard."

It's terribly important to know that the way is around here somewhere. In saying that, I think I should be safe from the charge of nihilism.

But we cannot believe in too much. As Suzuki Roshi said, "we must believe in nothing," by which he meant, something that has no form, no shape, no color. We must have "strong faith in our original nature."

In saying "must," do I refer to a categorical, external imperative? No. I refer to what Suzuki Roshi calls our inmost desire. That is an obscure inner calling to experience life as meaningful of itself.

If our deepest inmost desire can only be satisfied by practice, we must practice. Like raindrops, we cannot resist falling. But in practice, we accept our raindrop-nature, and fall without flailing.

There is no joy in locking oneself into a fortress of serenity. Allow yourself to fall, and look about and see us all falling together. The display is uplifting, even for ones who have no idea where the fall will end, or even if it will. The dynamics of falling are our present moment, ever and ever.

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Q. What can a beginner expect to experience?

A. Takuan Soho likens the beginning meditator to a tied-up cat. The cat's four paws have been tied together to keep it from attacking birds, but when it is trained, the string is removed and the cat no longer attempts to attack the birds.

Jumping at the birds is analogous to attaching to concepts. Tying up the cat is analogous to exercising some restraint to interrupt the mental habit of attaching to concepts. When the cat is trained and the string is removed, this is analogous to when we trust our mind to do what it wills, because it happily releases its attachment to concepts as they arise. The training has been effective when one no longer proceeds automatically from stimulus (seeing the bird) to response (jumping), and experiences a space between the two.

Obviously, meditators are going to vary in their ability to see that space, and so being a tied up cat may seem like the safe thing to do. But Takuan Soho points out that this is a very beginner beginner thing. Just as in fencing, you absolutely have to release the mind, or, as Takuan notes, you can parry the first strike, but not the second, or you can fight one opponent, but not two. What is fatal in fencing is deadening in meditation. To become a flexible, happy practitioner, it's essential to let go and trust yourself. I bet a lot of people are ready for an unhobbled trot around the track.

So all you tied-up cats, here's what I suggest,
just take a pair of scissors and snip!

Don't know how to do it? Just try this. Imagine you're at attention, in uniform, and you can't move. Then your sergeant calls out, "At Ease!" and you are totally free to do any damn thing you feel like.

Whew! What a blast to take that first loping stride. And there's a bird! Now here's the hard part...

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Q. My understanding is that there is nothing but a set of causes that continues from moment to moment, in other words no self. I remember a toy that consisted of a line of suspended metal balls and when you pulled one back and let it swing it would hit the line and the ball on the other end would fly out. The energy flowed between the balls. In the same way, a bundle of energies and causes inhabit different bodies and that is rebirth, with no entity passing between the two. Isn't this the standard buddhist view?

A. Okay, so we've got bodies being more real than the energy, is that correct? The energy, on the other hand, has "nowhere to live" and just gets "passed along" helplessly from one ball to the next, fighting a losing war with gravity and inertia and finally expiring with one final click and a final settling into stillness.

No, this doesn't sound at all like a human being. In your model, the energy is gradually diffused through all the balls. Each succeeding ball receives and releases less energy. At the end, a finite number of movements will have occurred, and the energy will be all diffused. Selfhood would proceed by fragmentation, through diminution, to expiration. Some people would have very big souls (close to the "first click"), and others very small ones (far-removed from the prime clicker). Too literalistic for you? Well, you asked.

In Buddhist reincarnation, each karmic vector (that's you, partner) generates a sequence of lives in different bodies, strung together like the bands on a coral snake. It's kinda like, "Gotta die now, time to be a grasshopper!" Or, "time to go to hell," more like it. Big public secret -- many Buddhists are more fire and brimstone than Jerry Falwell.

According to the doctrine, you earn your way to nirvana, sometimes with actual donations to large construction projects. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.) But not to worry, or hurry, because according to the Mahayana doctrine, you are about to let everyone cut in line in front of you! And I mean everyone, including Dee Dee Ramone, and he's not hurryin!

Fortunately, there is a short cut through all of this. Push the large button right in front of your face. Your ball will fall through the hole and you will realize the most profound secret of all, the "secret unformulated principle of all the sages." All of the past, present and future will disappear. All of the sentient beings will turn into Buddhas, and you will realize that they have been so all along. You will have to move neither left nor right, up or down, to see everything you desire to see. Your view will be completely unobstructed. And that's what they call direct understanding of the nature of mind. Then you don't have to worry about swinging balls.

Thanks for asking. I always hated those goddamn executive toys.

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Q. According to the theory of the Kali Yuga, this is the darkest hour of the dark ages, in which disease, famine, and warfare are raging like the fierce north wind. A large section of the human population is going to be wiped out. Mother Earth is not going to take it anymore.

Answer 1:

Does the fossil record support the assertion that there was ever a golden age, a silver age, a brass age, or now, an iron age?

What were the signal scientific, literary, architectural, philosophical, or other achievements of the golden age?

When was the human life span longer than today?

If lifespans are reduced during the Kali Yuga, how is it that people in western society now live longer than at any past time?

If no physical evidence exists on earth for the existence of a prior, golden age, then did this golden age take place: (a) so long ago that the record disappeared, (b) on another plane where evidentiary traces cannot be discovered, or (c) in a realm of pure analogy and metaphor, similar to that occupied by the Tibetans' Sambhogakaya Buddhas.

The whole theory of degenerating ages is the equivalent of archeology for people who accepted the geography that places Mt. Meru at the center of a flat universe with square, semicircular, trapezoidal and triangular continents. Very ordered and logical in its own way, but wholly without evidentiary basis.

Our planet's ability to survive, and the tenacity of life will astound everyone, not that we cannot extinguish life; however, the Apocalypse is NOT coming to save you. Life is already over for all those who died today. For those of us who remain, the question is how to not turn into chickenshit.

If cuddling up to silly notions is your idea of how to comfort yourself psychologically, load up on this stuff!!!

Answer 2:

Yep, it seems we have managed to roil the waves of the ocean at last. Humanity has gotten its own boat to rockin' at last. We have the potential to turn the planet into a cinder long before the sun would do it by going supernova before turning into a white dwarf on its way to becoming a neutron star. We can probably also colonize space, breed mutants on corporate archipelagoes, and use the Internet to race dune buggies on Mars.

Arguably none of these things will help us in the least to get enlightened, but it is now very difficult to find a good space under a fig tree where you can engage in a staring match with the Universe until the Universe blinks. As presumably Shakyamuni did.

Maybe we will just have to float weightless in outer space, peering out the quartz windows into the infinite night filled with far brighter stars than we see here. Maybe we will need meditation teachers when we are out there. And I'm sure the spaceships will have libraries.

Answer 3:

My own romance with an Apocalyptic world-view began when I was a member of the Children of God fundamentalist sect. I studied the Book of Revelations (still have a copy that's all marked up) very carefully, learning the symbolism of the Whore of Babylon, and the Four Beasts, the Seven Trumpets (heavy), and the Seven Seals (badass stuff). An impending apocalypse takes the pressure off. It is a big relief when you're sixteen years old and don't want to have to get a job working for some jerk for nothing instead of hanging out having fun with pretty girls. Which there were plenty of such among the Christians. So where's the problem? Jesus is coming back to blow up all the bad people. Cool. And we'll be princes and princesses in heaven, because Jesus said "I go to prepare a place for you. In my father's house there are many mansions." Better than sleeping in the pool cabana.

Then I got over that apocalyptic view because I came back to my former drug-addled senses, realizing the whole Christian myth was just stupid and it was silly to believe it.

But the economic problems remained. Hard times in the early seventies. High inflation and no jobs. I was a young parent now, and looking for a place to build a house in the woods. Apocalypse would suit me just fine, probably. Raise some goats and such.

After living in Ashland around a year, a town in Oregon that was such a hippie mecca that grocery shopping took two hours and was mostly spent moving slowly through the aisles hugging, playing with kids, and eating from the bins, I noticed everyone was in this apocalyptic state. We were sure the "big cities were going to seize up," and industrial collapse would follow. Audiotapes circulated through our circle, predicting the end with various twists and turns, many involving rescue of the elect with the aid of Space Brothers, usually Venusian in origin. Of course, wanting to pick up as many spiritual people in one spot as they could, we figured the Space Brothers would come straight to Ashland, and probably land on the roof of the Coop food store. Everybody saw spaceships, and people would act like you were an idiot if you claimed they didn't exist. Sheesh!

I had one friend named Steven who went on the ultimate Apoco-bender. A brilliant guy who could squeeze all of the goodness out of hit of acid, he developed strange mannerisms. He started stealing people's "ritual implements," the peyote rattles and such paraphernalia of hippie life, the aids in "making it up as we go along." Crystals, little pieces of fur, porcupine needles, brightly dyed with boiled lemon peel.

Then the truth came out. The space bros were coming out to the Colestine Valley to pick Steven up at the house where he was crashing -- a pyramid-shaped house, as it happened. He developed the conviction that the space bros would take him to the Great Pyramid at Cheops, where he was going to wire up the galaxy for the new millenium. After he installed the new wiring, it was going to be all systems go for a new age of transcendent bliss for all mankind. Because he was, get this, the Great White Brother. (He was Jewish.)

Everyone wondered what would happen when the Space Bros failed to show up. It was like a ticking time bomb. Well, the day came and went, and the next time I saw Steven he looked bad. He was wearing a purple blanket, his fingers were shaking, he looked like he had been given forty lashes. I asked him what was up.

He told me: "I screwed it up. I messed up the wiring of the entire galaxy, and now we're all going to have to go through another entire aeon before we can try it again." Not a twist I'd expected, but then again I've never really been crazy. He was really depressed.

Two months later we met again. He looked much better. His arms were covered with intricate drawings done in ballpoint pen. I asked what was up. He gestured toward his new girlfriend, saying she had healed the whole problem by reversing his polarity, and eyeing his washable tatoos with real fondness. They didn't stay together long, and after that Steven always had a nervous tic and seemed to smoke his cigarettes in a very aware, focused fashion.

Q. Just as everything is about to go down the toilet, Rigden Rundra Chakrin of Shambhala is going to jump out with his armies, and save all good Buddhist boys & girls. When I see people fret about the future of this planet, I can't help but wonder if they really believe these things.

A. Nobody really believes in miracles, because no one would take this bet: If magical things do not in fact occur, then all of your earthly wealth will disappear and you will be sitting naked in Africa.

Nobody will take that bet if the consequence could actually be effectuated. (Of course this is in itself a magical scenario I have conjured up to make a point.) And the point is that people should put their mouth where their money is.

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Q. You are simply engaged in samsaric politics, regardless of whether you think you are trying to do something good for Dharma or not. My advice to you is to "leave it and go." Real practitioners don't waste time on politics.

A. You are trying to sift the political sand out of the religious sand. Tibetan Buddhism is a political religion -- a theocracy just like the Vatican. The doctrines vitalize and inform the politics. Religion is the best instrument of social control -- and all religions exist to control human minds.

Religious beliefs satisfy powerful needs. The needs of Tibetan medievals are vastly different from the needs of modern apartment dwellers and cubicle slaves. Vast chunks of irrelevance dilute the spiritual essence of the teachings.

Whether I believe in those teachings or not is irrelevant. The question is whether, looking from the viewpoint of an objective person unblinded by the hope of salvation, it even looks likely that a modern American could hope to achieve much at all on the Vajrayana path. To hear the lamas, nobody is getting anywhere. We're all a joke. The siddhas don't even look in our direction. I suggest you accept this negative prognosis. This is not going to work. You are going to become very well informed about something that is slightly more useful than Etruscan grammar.

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Q. To attack and blame everything on others is the way some people hide their problems.

A. However, when people complain about the smell of garbage, only fools say "oh, that's just your karma." It really does stink.

Dharma is not intended to help you remake the stink of garbage into the smell of lotus flowers, but that is how most people seem to use it.

Then, people who complain of the stink are called samaya breakers. Actually, they are just like the little boy who cried, "The emperor has no clothes!"

Someday people will understand this. (Superior sigh...)

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Q. Perhaps Buddhism in America will be able to help guarantee the viability of the democratic government our forefathers created.

A. Perhaps just as Zen brought aesthetics into play, American Buddhists can introduce the radical concept of equality between teacher and student into Buddhism. Just introducing the ability for a student to talk back and question the teacher's assertions would be a big step in some circles.

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Q. The desire to be equal with one's Guru stems from egotism or a misplaced sense of egalitarianism, nothing more.

A. So what spiritual defect feeds the desire to appear superior to other students? An innate talent for toadying up to the authorities? Or a misplaced love of aristocracy?

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Q. In the movie "Himalaya," the monk made a profound statement when he said: "when the path becomes divided, always choose the harder path."

A. Actually, when I see two paths, I wonder which one is going to be harder. Then, I try and pick the easier one. But it always seems to turn out to be harder, actually. But then I meet people who took the other road, and they tell me I made the easy choice. Of course, then I figure maybe "the grass is always greener on the other side." So maybe each road is just as easy, or difficult, but you will always perceive the road you chose as the most difficult. And maybe, just maybe, they are actually the same road, which because I don't have a map, they may very well be. So then it doesn't matter what you choose.

Which reminds me of the song by Procol Harum, "Shine on Brightly," in which the lead singer actually asks the Dalai Lama what is the "meaning of life." To which HHDL replies, "Well, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"

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Q. From a western nihilistic perspective . . .

A. If the west were all nihilistic, then people would worship at the First Church of Christ Nihilist, but they don't. Westerners are usually eternalistic if they're "spiritual" at all.

If you're a nurse, you rely on concrete things -- so many cc's, so many degrees fahrenheit, so many sutures, etc. That's empirical knowledge. When you want to rely on information, you want it to be empirical, verifiable by resort to commonly-understood experiences.

I suggest everyone put their faith where their professional reliance is -- on the verifiable.

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Q. All of our experiences as practitioners are just ordinary psychological states.

A. Of course they are. The Buddha was also an ordinary person, who achieved his original potential of clear understanding. Because he achieved it, we can, too. This is why we can benefit from emulating him, correct? Enlightenment is ordinary, but rare. Why? Because the right conditions are not present. Thus, snow is ordinary, but rare in San Francisco. In Alaska, it is also ordinary, but common. Thus, among meditators, enlightenment may occur more commonly than among non-meditators. But who knows? We need to test and verify.

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Q. Are you going to save me?

A. Not in the salvation business, just giving away alarm clocks as a hobby, to provide a warning cry that the implements of mind manipulation are being deployed by sanghas and lamas. This seems beyond dispute. See the case of Catharine Burroughs and Sogyal "Rinpoche."

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Q. Does that mean I have to go back to being the anxious and depressed person I was before I took refuge in the Triple Gems?

A. Hey, whatever floats yer boat! What's different now? Would you lose it if you lost your Dhammapada or your Kunzang Lamay Shalung, or your Jewel Ornament of Liberation?

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Q. Do I have to give up all the boundless joy I find in my practice and my vajra community?

A. Hey, if it's boundless you better get a big container to fit it in! And if you've got boundless joy in your vajra community, you must be part of the inner circle already. You're one of the winners in this game! Up your stake!

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Q. Do I have to go to some motel and be deprogrammed?

A. You can deprogram right at home with simple items found in your own kitchen or bathroom.

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Q. Am I forbidden from loving my lamas who are as close to my heart as my own mother and father?

A. I suggest you give your loving lamas a little test before you get them that close. Remember, they've got relatives in India and Tibet who are far more important to them than you will ever be. Your parents will pay your rent, give you food, and tend you till you breathe your last breath. Get a lama to hang around a sick person for more than 30 minutes and I'll send you a secret decoder ring.

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Q. Why are you Lama-bashing? Are you a racist?

A. No, not racist. Just realistic. It's OK to realize that blood ties make a difference. Back to the dictionary for a second:

Main Entry: kind

Etymology: Middle English kinde, from Old English cynd; akin to Old English cynn kin
Date: before 12th century

1 NATURE : FAMILY, LINEAGE

4 a : a group united by common traits or interests

The word kind thus stems from the word for family. Mahayana teaches that we should try to feel towards strangers as we naturally do towards our own family members. Marpa totally fell apart when his son's head was busted open like a melon, but had shown no pity to Milarepa's great suffering. That's just life. Everyone loves their mother.

It is not blasphemy to suggest that modern day representatives of Buddhism in the West have familial impulses to be more kind to their own people than to rich Americans who are also johnny-come-lately's to the faith. Just as it is not blasphemy to suggest that Roman cardinals have sexual impulses, which they might (oh shudder) even give in to on occasion. Even by molesting people.

Well, maybe that is blasphemy, but if so, quite necessary blasphemy. Shoot me.

(Written before big scandal came out.)

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Q. Your attempts to "reform" Buddhism are deluded. Buddhism doesn't need reformation.

A. Yes, after 2,500 years and god knows how many permutations that have split the original family tree into thousands of dogmas, doctrines and disciplines, Buddhism is now in full flower, like a cherry tree on fire with spring. But the American Buddha heresy must never flower!!! A strategic blow against the incipient bud, guided by a traditionalist's all-seeing eye, will prevent the blossoming of what would otherwise deface the elegant uniformity of Buddhist belief. Bravo! Apocalypse avoided.

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Q. Those who understand Buddhism understand the unity of all Buddhist schools. Those who do not understand Buddhism see differences.

A. Nutritious dog food, but not a sophisticated meal. A rule this absolute and simplistic is guaranteed to be wrong. But it sounded so good when you said it. That's what's important about getting your opposite number into play. You were talking nonsense, and you didn't even know it. Now it's much clearer.

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Q. When I first joined the Pentecostal church, I started slow but was finally baptized thinking I was on to something. But those teachings didn't hold a candle to Buddha's wisdom (although there were plenty of candles at times). In the end, when it was time to leave, we just left. Culture is functional. When it doesn't function for you anymore, then you drop it.

A. When it grows into you, then you have to extract yourself. Sometimes you need help to do that. And watching the stiff, rigid minds of people doing the conceptual mummy-walk, or watching the frenzied epicycle-weaving of a person trying to keep the earth flat and the stars in their places, is a real tonic.

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Q. Why should Tibetan Buddhists have to defend Buddhism from failed ex-Buddhist wannabe reformers? Is it any wonder why some Lamas in India don't want to come here to teach? America - ain't it great?

A. No, most lamas want to come to learn English, get a wife, get a car, a house, and meet Steven Segal. There's plenty of Dharma teachers already.

America - ain't it great? Not as great as it's gonna be. George W and John Ashcroft will soon get Christianity so unified with the State and the media and commerce, and freedom of religion will become a thing of the past. As our country cozies up to China, our newly empowered secret police will put the finger on all the Tibetan terrorists, freeze the monastery assets, and chuck your clerical behind in jail. The INS will revoke all those "teacher" visas -- gotta keep peace with our "trading partners!"

Yeah, you'll love it. Or leave it! But there's always dear old mother India to go back to. If you need work, you can do tech support there for several dollars a day if you speak English. Or you can just check into one of the monasteries and do mantras for cash when the American students need help magically removing obstacles. Either way, you'll do great! Post something to us when you get there.

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Q. Why are some mantras ok for anyone to use, while others need an empowerment from a lama?

A. Regular, rhythmic reply of the heart to its own song. Call it mantra, call it song of the blood, call it breath, as you will, we cannot do without this precious sustenance.

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Q. Talking about god is futile.

A. Tell that to Jimmy Swaggart. Talking about god can be very satisfying. I've seen lots of people enjoy it tremendously. Talking to god is said to be better; however, the silence talking back to you has turned some people into agnostics.

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Q. Some mantras have been chanted since before Vedic (light or knowledge) times.

A. How does the accumulation of force over the course of the ages comport with the statement that "One lamp dispels the darkness of a hundred years?" Answer #1: the light derives from the stored energy in the lamp oil. Answer #2: You still have to light the lamp.

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Q. Some mantras have been used by sages to attain divine union (yoga) and receive a personal experience with the source of Supreme Consciousness (God). Other mantras get people enlightened.

A. How does this comport with the idea that all sounds are merely arbitrary and have meanings assigned to them by the language-shaping capacity of the mind? Do sounds have "inherent" meanings?

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Q. When you chant mantras you do not stand alone, but on the shoulders of all those who have gone before you. In the chanting you realize how every moment since the beginning of time has led up to your being where you are and chanting that chant. You realize intense gratitude, compassion and wonder.

A. This sense of solidarity with past spiritual practitioners is interesting. A little bit of team spirit? Go, Gurus? 2B1Ask1?

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Q. Traditionally, the posture is very important when you chant. The chant comes through your navel and rises upwards.

A. The quest for samadhi, for cessation of thought, for a total mirroring of the mind's own activity in stillness, can be a form of narcissism. I speak of my own experience. Perhaps to lose oneself utterly is the hardest practice.

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Q. Ngawang Chotok, ex-monk , and student of Lama Yeshe , now sober and a counselor, writes : Addiction in general is a perfect metaphor for samsara.

A. Yes, and old mechanics probably think samsara is just like a broke down old machine that just needs some attention. Using analogies and metaphors can make everything familiar and graspable. Addiction is something different for everyone, but once we metaphorize it to samsara, then we can conclude: I should just "twelve-step" my way out of samsara; alternatively, I could just sit my way out of addiction. The only thing this accomplishes is a broader field of employment for counselors and monks. But since some monks still like to drink, and not all counselors can stop drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, it might get kinda smoky in the gonpa, kinda uptight in the encounter session. But what the heck, let's go there!

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Q. The reason Trungpa disrobed it because it was the best way to reach the people during the 60's. His son (who now runs the show) chooses to remain in his robes for the same reason.

A. What do you really know about the Sawang, his son? Is it not possible that he does things, like do something different from his father because he is a different person and might have different thoughts, plans and intentions than his father. Or have you found the Book of Tulku Motivations and there discerned that they are all motivated by the exact same impulses even when they're doing totally different things? Or perhaps you're just very sure of your very facile concepts and they're really not very well thought out at all.

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Q. How ought those who are mocked behave towards those that mock at them?

A. Well, the first thing is, never yield an inch.*** Let them sneer. If they can sneer you out of your religion, you have not got any worth having. *** Why be ashamed? "They called me a saint." I remember once a person calling me a saint in the street. All I thought was, "I wish he could prove it."

*** "Oh! but they will point at you." Cannot you bear to be pointed at? "But they will chaff you." Chaff—let them chaff you. Can that hurt a man that is a man? If you are a molluscous creature that has no backbone, you may be afraid of jokes, and jeers, and jests; but if God has made you upright, stand upright and be a man.

Moreover, there is one thing you should always do when you are ashamed—pray. *** The best refuge for a believer in times of persecution is his secret resort to God. Let him fall on his knee and say, "My Lord, I have been counted worthy to be spoken ill of for thy name's sake. Help me to bear it. Now is my time of trial. Strengthen me to bear this reproach. Grant that it may be no heavy burden to me, but may I rather rejoice in it for thy name's sake." God will help you, beloved.

Then next to that, pray always, most for those who treat you worst. Make them the constant subjects of your prayer."

From an old Christian sermon, "Are You Mocked?" about how to deal with difficult people, I mean, the people we pray for unceasingly.

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Q. You are asking for lessons to come to you with this kind of disrespect. No joking. I hope you're ready. Kali Ma also laughs as she's destroying and creating. Ha ha ha haaaa. I don't wish Kali to show up for anyone when they are not prepared.

A. Go sell this crap to someone who thinks you know something. And yeah, go identify with some homicidal goddess whose name justified more than a million murders. Drink blood, smile like an intoxicated sadhu. Imagine yourself meaningful.

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Q. You should try doing a real prostration before you really need to do one.

A. Bow, slave, or feel the lash! Get a XXX-ing life!

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Q. Don't you find negativity boring and annoying? It's like putting your hand into boiling water and not pulling it out.

A. Mental pain's different. Your hand will be scarred if you burn it, but mind is much more resilient.

We're much more tolerant of conflict than we like to admit. Under the pathology theory of awareness, unpleasantness might damage your mind. I don't think unpleasantness damages the mind. That's one of the things I like about it, the way it comes up bright and clean after the unpleasantness.

So, no, nothing boring about conflict and cross-talk. Indeed, if people aren't fighting about something, they probably don't care about it. Ever fight over someone you were in love with?

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Q. If hierarchy did not exist, I could never get my car repaired, because I know nothing about automechanics and my repariman does. If hierarchy did not exist, I would never be able to have the pleasure of a gourmet meal, because I can barely make toast. If hierarchy did not exist, I would never have the opportunity to view a beautiful garden, because I do not have a green thumb. If hierarchy did not exist, there would be no music, no math, no architecture, no Dharma. Three cheers for hierarchy.

A. Make that Four Cheers! According to the Tibetan system, you will need a Fourth Cheer to be the synthesis of the other three cheers. Of course we clarify this by emphasizing that the three cheers are all really One Cheer, and that One Cheer is what is meant by the Fourth Cheer. Notice how the three cheers get slighted here?

No, but seriously friend, why do you see heirarchy where I see only diversity of species and specialization of effort?

There doesn't have to be a heirarchy to be good food. I cook it all the time, and my kids help me, and they learn how to cook it to, and there's no boss. We're just cooking.

Specialization of labor sounds dull, but it produces miracles. And it might sound heirarchical to some egalitarians. For example, ask a knee-jerk egalitarian this question:

Agree or disagree: If there are two jobs to do, making cheese and making bricks, and making cheese is more difficult than making bricks, all members of the labor pool should split their time 50/50 doing bricks and cheese.

Most knee jerk egalitarians agree.

Adam Smith disagrees. He says the people who are best at making cheese should make cheese, and those who make bricks best should stick to that. Then we'll have more cheese and bricks. More houses, and more grilled cheese sandwiches.

Will the brick makers economically dominate the cheesemakers, or vice versa? No one knows, but it doesn't have anything to do with heirarchy. Nor will the production process improve if we try to make relations "equal." The biggest boon simply comes from letting people do what they do best. It's called the exploitation of relative advantage.

Okay, apply it to the religious situation. Old man sits on a hill, gazes into space, has great insights into the nature of mind. He has no tea. Students come visit, bring him tea. We can see where the relative advantages are shaking out here. The students can learn great insights. The old man can have tea. No need for any special veneration. Just good tea, eh?

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Q. People in Tibet offer everything they own to the Lama and are so thankful they cry when they meet him.

A. We are totally blocked up inside with material possessions here in America. As if it were tatooed on the inside of our eyelids, dollars and cents march up and down inside our brains.

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Q. What does it take to accept the dharma when it's being delivered to your doorstep? This never happened in Tibet!!!!!!

A. Nor did they have Pizza Delivery! Or public libraries! Or newspapers! Same reason -- NO INFRASTRUCTURE!

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Q. You seem utterly lost, full of bitterness and resentment, and blaming it all on dhamma and sangha. Even if you continue for another 100 or 1000 years it won't do you any good. It's good that you realize that dhamma is not for you. There are many cases where the buddha encouraged monks and nuns to give back their robes and stay home.

A. Thank you very much for your respectful consideration of our cry for help. Truly we have been disappointed by what passes for Dhamma in this dark aeon. You must be fortunate to have genuine spiritual masters to teach you in your enlightened country. Here we are buried in dollars and consumer items, unable to perceive the light of Dhamma in our benighted state. Please pray for us and regard us with your kindest demeanor. Thanks to receive your communication.
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