Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Bardo Reading

Anthem to Primordial Consciousness: Bardo Version
through Tenabah, copyright 2009

I have written several versions of this anthem. It is my doha, my spontaneous song of enlightenment. It was inspired by an event that happened over 27 years ago and never stopped. Even though an omniscient knowing flashed across my silent mind and illuminated the landscape of everywhere, allowing me to see what is, was, and will be, and to become absolutely free, it took many years to fully understand this moment and for the words to cook inside me and take this form. These words, this version, this offering, is meant to be read for someone who is dying and who is leaving the manifest world, and for those who have recently left this world. When a sentient being dies, they spend three days in the clear radiant light of reality, the vast luminous singularity that encompasses all worlds although usually unseen, the dark star that all bright stars shine in. There is joy in meeting this vast energy field, like the rejoining of a mother and a lost child. If you recognize this space as your true identity, then you are free. If you merely enjoy coming home, then you will subtly try to grasp it and become afraid that you might lose it, and then you will eventually wander all the worlds again until you find your true identity. You will resume your journey in a bardo body or dreamtime body, which has more power and abilities than your usual physical body. Because of the powers of the bardo body, your ability to hear what those on Earth say to you and about you is more acute than ever before. Your capacity to understand these words and feel the enlightenment behind them will be greater than the duller ears of your usual physical body and the duller sense of purpose of your usual mind, immersed in cravings, attachments, resistances, obscurations, and emotional dramas. In the bardo body, you will feel your emotions more intensely, fear becoming terror, sadness becoming grief, anger becoming rage, joy becoming thunderous laughter, wisdom becoming substantial grounded inner peace, and love becoming a bliss that explodes into light and merges with everything. Your mind will not be able to repress the contents of your subconscious mind and your ability to hear the thoughts of others may overwhelm you with grief at what others think of you and how they have seen you. A wish will arise, to shrink away from all this, to take on the limitations of a usual physical body again and its more manageable experiences. You will want to drink from the well of amnesia, to forget everything you have learned and to forget all your ancient memories of all your previous lifetimes, especially the traumas of losing, again and again, those you have loved, and the traumas of harming others and being harmed by others. You will only start remembering other lifetimes again, when you are able to bear them again, starting with meditation and learning to be okay with just breathing without controlling your breath and with just seeing your experience without judgment. Tibetan Buddhist enlightened teachers saw that the bardo body's ability to hear deeply what is said, feeling the emotional nuances of each word, and knowing the core of intent of what is said, could be used as an advantage, a call to remembrance of an ancient truth and a call to liberate the wandering being from merely enduring karma, repetition, and sorrow. At the same time, the reader of those words, who undertakes the recitation to help the bardowa move through his or her journey through the chambers of amenti, can also participate through the psychic link formed between the reader and the voyager, and become enlightened at the same time as the voyager. Merely speaking to the person as if he or she was really there, intending the words to reach them, trusting that the words do reach them, feeling how each word is a universe rich in meaning and offering it to the bardowa is how reader is present for the voyager. The words are meant to be repeated 12 times a day for the 49 days after the 3 clear light days. There are 49 chambers in amenti and then rebirth happens. Seven rainbow lights interpenetrating itself, squaring itself, to form the 49 refractions of energy that eventually condense into the concentrations of matter that form the manifest world. This cross rippling of creative energy, however, is not always so linear and there are infinite variations in the bardo process, just as there are infinite kinds of lives in physical bodies. The Dakini Sohra said that during dying and exiting the body, you only go into bliss, and the rest is what you bring with you. If you let go, let go, and let go, really letting go, and totally letting go, then you can awaken to joy where you are. Death can be a deep letting go if you ride it to the very end. Life can be a deep letting go if you fully live it. If you read for another who is undergoing the marvelous and vast journey of death, bardo, and rebirth, you can join and support this journey and help the bardowa to reach what truly matters. Try to feel what these words could mean for both of you. Try to feel that state that inspired these words to be spoken to describe itself. Unlike other experiences, this state already exists inside you, because it is inside me and we are one. It only needs to be uncovered and recognized. In the stripping away of the physical body, one veil is removed and the light grows very strong. Just like a lightening bolt striking the Earth on a moonless night, the whole forest can be seen, and our true nature is revealed. When the mind drops its almost endless thinking, ceasing to guess, not pretending to know anymore, and opening to see, willing to see anything without putting conditions or projections on what is seen, and truly wanting to really see, then it is merely there, as it always has been. It is the thing which makes all things possible, because I cannot have any experience unless I AM AWARE of it.

I am not my thoughts,
thoughts come and go,
but I remain.

I am not my emotions,
emotions come and go,
but I remain.

I am not my sensations,
emotions come and go,
but I remain.

I am not my bodies,
bodies come and go,
but I remain.

I am a radiant awareness,
thoughts and emotions,
sensations and bodies,
arise, abide, change,
and pass away.

Here and now,
I choose to abide in awareness
as awareness itself.

I no longer identify
with this transitory personality
composed of endlessly changing
thoughts, emotions, sensations,
and reactions.

I let this transitory personality
dissolve into emptiness,
and into the sensation of dying,
knowing that nothing can die
and that I am eternal.

noticing the three poisons
of craving, negativity, and delusion
play out in my life,
and I let them end.

noticing how craving
seeks objects,
wraps around objects,
jealously fights for them,
angrily defends them,
and fears losing them,
and yet can never
truly possess them.

noticing the anxious
clinging to self
behind them,
trying to build up
the self through them,
attracting achievements,
conquests, compliments,
possessions and pleasures
to fill itself up.

noticing the paranoid radar
scanning for threats
to its domain,
fearful of demons,
ghosts, vampires, rapists,
alien abductions,
white supremists,
political conspiracies,
organ harvesters,
liberal sinners destroying
the country,
corporate feudal lords
playing hardball with
human lives,
government spies
hacking into phones
or flying in black copters,
or militant conservatives
greedily draining the economy
through wars,
elections rigged,
democracy subverted,
jihadist moslems blowing up
the known world
to serve an angry god,
plagues threatening
to wipe out all life,
fallen angels enslaving humans,
and reptile aliens using humans
for food,
comets crashing on Earth,
natural disasters,
tidal waves,
hurricanes and floods

when fear opens wide,
and feels a sense
of impending doom,
it is hard to tell what is real
or unreal, when everything
is a reflection of a deeper fear
of losing a self
that we never were

in the bardo
everything is both illusory
and vividly real
transparent, vibrant, and crystalline
radiant colors and intense emotions
with the ordinary physical world
merely an island
in its vast sea
of endless experiences
and worlds penetrating each other
spilling over into each other
where the boundaries tear,
spill over, and leak

the transitory self
is always falling apart,
dying every time it changes,
and always changing,
everything hurts this self,
everything kills it,
only the intensity
of the wound changes,
sometimes smothered
by superficial joy
and pleasant sensations,
sometimes becoming
migraine level
physical torture

entering fully into the pain
become one with the pain
pouring energy into the pain
the pain collapses in on itself
transforming into peace
having secretly been fed
by resistance

endless dramas
of struggle and warfare
of loss and grief
all friends dying everywhere
lovers dying either literally
or when they turn sour

seeing and letting go
of clinging to self
fear becomes wisdom
and ends

seeing and letting go
of defending self
anger becomes creativity
and ends

seeing and letting go
of separateness
from lovers lost
sadness becomes compassion
and ends

opening up to worlds
beyond sorrow
where bardo body
and physical body fuse
into a light body
beyond birth and death
beyond sorrow, disease, and decay
with pristine forests, clear lakes,
organic dwellings woven
into harmonious landscapes
with thornless plants, colorful flowers
and peaceful inhabitants
that draw energy from the suns
and do not need to eat

dwelling in radiant awareness
as radiant awareness,
staying in the endless unfoldment
of an eternal now,
whether in a body or not,
there is only experiencing
an event horizon
between infinite past
and infinite future.

radiant awareness
is unconditional love,
accepting all things
as they are.

radiant awareness
is perfect wisdom,
seeing all things
as they are.

radiant awareness
is infinite creativity,
manifesting all things
as they are.

like a wave in an ocean,
I am united with all that is.

like a mirror,
I do not cling to anything,
or resist anything,
or identify with any thing as me,
but impartially and choicelessly
reflect what arises in me,
and impartially and choicelessly
reflect what abides in me,
and impartially and choicelessly
reflect what dissolves in me.

like the infinite sky,
I let experiences float in me,
like wandering clouds,
without dwelling on anything,
on not concentrating
on anything.

like the sun,
I radiate light in all directions equally,
blessing saint and sinner equally,
instantly forgiving all evil,
and nourishing all good.

I entered this world
through concentrating
my infinite presence
into a radiant point of light
and entered
through the soft spot
in the skull,
descending down the spine,
and resting in the place
where the physical
heart beats.

I will leave this world
through concentrating
and becoming one
with this radiant point of light,
ascending the spine,
and exiting through
the soft spot
in the skull,
expanding into infinity
and to once again
roam the stars.

I am an agent of peace
in whatever world
I habit.

I am a servant of love.

I am awake, alive,
and liberated.

I freely wander
this wonderful universe
at home everywhere.

now is the time
to release
this fragile physical body.

feeling earth dissolve into water,
muscles relaxing,
moving beyond the social dramas
of this everchanging world.

feeling water dissolve into fire,
waves of electric sensations
and intensities of joy,
feeling love and gratitude
for life itself.

feeling fire dissolve into air,
explosions of letting go,
body groans in joy,
and throbs in ecstatic tears,
no more doer,
no more self.

feeling air dissolve into space,
expanding into infinity,
feeling galaxies spinning inside me,
stars being born,
and life evolving everywhere
from endless crystalline silence.

brothers and sisters,
ancient buddhas and dakinis,
welcome me home,
their infinite mercy calling me deeper
into the depths of love,
walking on the same path with them,
ever beholding the mystery,
chanting the same song with them,
creative vibration mixing together,
luminous rainbow clouds
condensing into points of light,
birthing stars, planets, and sentient beings,
and creating ever new worlds
to dance in and laugh in

trustfully my bardo body
flows like a river
into a vast ocean of light,
merging with this ancient presence,
a vast singularity,
recognizing this place
as the true identity
of you and me.

I know that I will emerge again
from this singularity
to rejoin the created worlds,
entering a womb,
and taking on a baby body,
rebelling as a teen, and
once more growing into adulthood,
learning to love and be loved,
awakening and teaching others
to do the same.

here and now,
I rest in this luminous singularity,
primordial presence,
pure consciousness

beyond all thoughts,
and beyond what the mind
can intellectually grasp,
beyond the sense of separation
created by
the mind structuring experience
in terms of
experiencing subject and experienced object.

beyond all conceptual opposites,
like coming and going,
birth and death,
poverty and wealth,
being in love and being abandoned,
health and disease,
pain and pleasure,
praise and condemnation.

directly feeling mystery,
one with all that is,
becoming every tree, sunrise, city, and leaf,
becoming every saint and thief,
every lover, child, and warrior,
every mountain, glacier, rainbow, and lake,
the giver, the giving, and gift.

if you are able to,
do not mourn for me
when I seem to leave,
for I literally dwell
in the hearts of all beings,
and am never far away.

you who seem to wander homeless
know that I joyfully take my home in you
when you look at a sunrise
you see me
when you dive into water
you feel me
when you contemplate
the vast empty space
that births the stars
that light up your sky
you join me

death is
like a snake shedding an old skin
like a river flowing back to the ocean
like a setting sun sinking into the Earth
and like a cloud dissolving
in the night sky

like the sun rising
after a dark moonless night
I will return once again
in a body
and meet you
in form that
you can relate to
and understand,
meeting in joy,
recognition, and love

until then,
know my journey continues,
and that I carry
all of you
in my heart,
and experience enlightenment
for the sake of all.

it is known.
it is complete.
it is finished.
blessings to all.
it is sealed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Lord's Prayer

I shared earlier that I would give more detail about what the Lord's Prayer teaches about breathing prayer. I did find a good website that indirectly supports what I wanted to share:

The site has a translation directly from the Aramaic and includes some alternate translations. One challenge with translating from the Aramaic is that a passage can several simultaneous meanings that are different from each other and are not only equally valid, but all are meant to be understood helping each other give a larger sense of meaning. English usually has only one meaning at a time. Thus, when Jesus says, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you, among you, and in your midst." All these meanings are meant at the same time. In this sense, all the different translations complement each other and help each other to bring out the deeper meaning of the prayer.

What I find interesting is that this translator also sees Abwoon as connected with both divinity and breathing ("O Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,").

When a person connects "Ah" with the inhale and "bwoon" on the exhale, feeling divine energy coming in (prana) and allowing the energy to move inside us on the exhale (letting go, surrendering), then a person will eventually feel "light energy" or sacred energy (d'bwachmaja).

Later on, it will be felt in unity with our being (Nethkadasch schmach). It will not feel outside us.

Then we step in trust of this energy supporting us as we move through our day (Te te malkuthach).

We then feel the energy that surrounds us and fills us as the cosmos infusing the manifest world of our daily lives (Nehwe tzevjanach aikana d'bwaschmaja af b'arha).

We learn to trust this energy to take care of all our needs, spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical (Hawvlan lachma d'sunkanan jaomana).

We take all meetings with others, whether they take place in prayer or in the manifest world, as sacred meetings, where we learn to forgive everyone so that we may be forgiven (Waschboklan chauben wachtahen aikna daf chnan schcwoken l'chaijaben). We take everything that happens to us as a manifestation of karma coming to an end and completing itself. Seeing that what we sowed in the past and even past lifetimes has come up to be released, that how I treated others has been visited upon me in the form of someone now taking the role that I once had. This is the key karma burning process, the place where we need to "turn the other cheek", "bless those who curse us", "pray for those who persecute us", "resist not evil" and "love our enemies".

When this part of the process arises, we are tempted to forget and get angry with the other person, to feel like a victim of injustice, rather than see that karma is balancing out and completing itself. When we fall into this interpretation, then we replant the karma seed and require another event to manifest to release it. So Jesus asks us to pray to keep on track, to see that this is what is going on, and to see that our purpose is to forgive everyone in order to end karma and release the fullness of love into our world (Wela tachlan l'nesjuna ela patzan min bischa). In other words to take in the right timing of this present moment being perfect for our ascension process (Metol dilachie malkutha wahaila wateschbuchta l'ahlam almin). This is based on seeing the whole universe is unfolding perfectly (the kingdom, power, and glory). This prayer is then sealed with our intent, commitment, faith, and trust (almin).

The key thing is that we will be tempted to react to someone, rather than take them as part of our process of forgiving and releasing him or her with us. We need to stay in this purpose and see that this is the way that the world is healed and reclaimed into the divine domain or kingdom of heaven.

Understood this way, Jesus demonstrates this prayer on the cross and through his resurrection. He forgives everyone who tortures him and falsely accuses him even before they finish sinning. He stays in trust of the Divine orchestrating this event and stays in the sacred breath (Saint Paul, "The same breath that raised Christ from the dead"). If we retaliate, then we are not yet worthy of divine power. Only an unconditionally loving mind and heart, which does not give in to temptation (random negative thoughts) can handle the power level that can raise the dead. Imagine if every negative thought we had was so powerful that we can harm people just by thinking ill of them and that our inner conscience is dampening our inner power in order to protect us from unleashing this intensity of karma into our lives. When events arise to tempt us into being negative, we can give into them or rise above them.

Understood in this way, this prayer solves all our problems and even heals our past by seeing all events as karma completions and then retrusting the energy to give us what we need now, and then to evolve us into the next stage in our growth as sentient beings. It fits in with what the Buddha taught, though with a focus on forgiveness and karma burning.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gnostic Christianity

Several people have wanted me to share some thoughts about Bodhisattva Jesus who has been the primary inspiration for the development of many Christian sects. During a previous phase of my spiritual journey, I spent a lot of time studying the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible. I spent eight concentrated years trying to study these texts in their original languages and even took three semesters of Greek to help this. I realized very quickly, though, that in order to really understand the New Testament in its original language and cultural context that I would need more than just eight years. I would need to do doctoral work in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Archeology, and History, and probably pick up other supportive subjects as well. It was at the point where I discovered this that an inner voice gently spoke to me and said, "Now that you know what you need to really study this, why not find scholars who have these qualifications and see what they have found?" I did find a number of remarkable scholars that were in some sense geniuses in their fields and who illuminated a lot for me. I did find that there was a sense of being guided in this journey with an inner feeling leading me to make certain discoveries as well as information coming from many people and being placed in my lap. It is still a little hard for me to summarize what this journey revealed to me. I hope at some point in the future that I can not only write about what I found more extensively and even include a large number of footnotes and references to document what I found. There seems to be a few scholars that are emerging who are summarizing similar information, though all their views are somewhat different from each other too. There is a kind of common ground in these scholars, a consensus emerging, that I feel will converge to a more well rounded view of who Jesus was and what his teachings were.

My favorite Gospel is the one allegedly written by Saint John. My personal view is that it was written by Saint John and Mary Magdalene as a collaboration. Assuming it is an eyewitness account, there is one scene in the story where Jesus and Mary Magdalene are alone, after the resurrection, and therefore if it was an eyewitness account, one of the contributors to the story would have to be Mary. There is a certain amount of controversy about Mary Magdalene that has been stirred up by the book THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown. This author took some scholarship from an excellent book called HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL and other sources and presented the data within a fictional detective story. Even though some parts of the book HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL were later on considered debunked, the majority of the scholarship seems to stand its ground. There are several scholars who feel that there was a bloodline (san graal = holy grail = bloodline) where Jesus had descendants through Mary Magdalene. Traditional Christianity has associated Mary Magdalene with a prostitute who appears in one of the gospel stories, but there is no scriptural reference to support this association. It seems one of the later popes made this association and it stuck.

The best proof that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married is threefold. In the Gospel according to Saint John, there is a record of the wedding feast at Cana. Jesus is often called a Rabbi and Rabbis are usually married. It was considered just as important in Judaism that Rabbis be married as it is that Catholic Priests not be married. The main way that a Rabbi would not be married is if his wife died. The next item is that in Judaism, it is custom for the bridegroom to supply wine at his wedding. Jesus's mother turns to him and says, "They have no wine," reminding Jesus the bridegroom of his responsibility, and then Jesus turns water into wine to fulfill this responsibility. The third item is that the pronoun endings in the Greek link Jesus and the bridegroom together.

There is a fourth item which is not as conclusive, but would be an expectation if he were married to Mary Magdalene. When Jesus and Mary meet after the resurrection, Mary embraces him and Jesus gently withdraws, asking her not to "touch" him, because he had not yet completed his ascension process. This touch is most likely sexual, loving, and intimate. Sexual intimacy would have strongly shifted the energies of Jesus and he wanted to keep his process moving in a certain direction. Saint Thomas is allowed to touch him, to feel his wounds, and this touch does not upset his energy process, because it was not sexual and was not as intimate. In the same passage, Jesus is not saying, "No," to her touch, but "not yet" which suggests that they could "touch" later on. This whole interaction would make sense if Mary Magdalene was the lover and wife of Jesus. So there are four items that at least suggest that Jesus was married and zero passages that suggest that Jesus was celibate. Inspite of this, Jesus is considered to have been celibate by traditional Christianity.

There is a version of Christianity that was deemed heretical by traditional Christianity called "Gnosticism". The Gospel according to Saint John is a Gnostic Gospel. In chapter 17, verse 1, Jesus says, "This is eternal life. To know God and him who he has sent." The word "know" used in this passage is the verb form of the word "Gnostic". The word refers to a specific way of knowing. Its primary application is the kind of knowing that happens in sexual communion with a lover. The way two lovers know each other in the depths of sexual intimacy is used as a metaphor for how we are meant to know God. The word is clearly chosen to show that the kind of knowledge that brings us into eternal life is not intellectual or belief system oriented, but comes from a direct and living experience. Chapter 17 is a prayer where Jesus prays that his disciples may be one with God, "just as we are one" (referring to his own unity with God). This petition for unity is repeated often in the prayer, enough to indicate that it is the central theme. In choosing the word "gnostic" and linking it with eternal life, Jesus also links the mystical union with God with the commandment to "love one another". This unity is a loving unity which is reflected in the ability of his disciples to love one another in the same manner as Jesus had loved them. When this love is understood, then the moral commandments are seen as pale reflections of what love naturally does with everyone. Love, in this sense, is beyond right and wrong, and yet fulfills what morality tries to do.

There are a few passages like this where there is a pointer to go "beyond beliefs" into a knowing based on direct experience. This is what Gnostic Christianity was asserting and presenting. The word for "truth" as in "God is truth, those who worship God must worship him/her in truth and breath." [I translate "pneuma" as breath, rather than the traditional use which is "spirit". The reason why is that there are passages that can be translated either as "breath" or as "spirit", but there is one passage in particular where it must be translated as "breath" rather than "spirit", namely the second to the last chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John where Jesus breathes (not spirits) on his disciples and gives them the power to forgive (heal) sin. This passage also shows that Jesus was familiar with Sufi energy breath training.] The word for truth used in this passage is "alethea" which means "that which is beyond words (concepts)".

These passages are relevant because the traditional criticism of Gnostic Christianity was that it was "anti-body" in its focus. While it was possible that some versions of Gnostic Christianity were anti-body in their theologies, the main theme of Gnosticism was not about theology at all, but about moving into a direct mystical unity with God through love, prayer, and breath. [In the letter to the Thessalonians, there is a verse that says, "Pray continuously in the breath".] The Aramaic word that Jesus uses for God is Abwoon which means both father and mother conjoined as creative birthing energy. It is also a breath mantra (Ah on the inhale and Bwoon on the exhale, both aspired rather than verbalized). The point of Gnosticism is that Jesus was not trying to create a belief system for people to memorize. All his sermons are in parables, metaphors, and potent one liners. They are designed to convey an understanding, but do not add up to a systematic theology. The key theme is a death ("pick up your cross") and rebirth ("you must be born again"). In other words, a mutation into a new kind of being ("the son of man"). It was meant to be a cellular transformation (I Corinthians 15 talks about "not all flesh in the same, but differ in glory (energy)" and links this theme with death and resurrection).

The chapter where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead is another interesting passage in the Gospel according to Saint John. In most of this gospel, Jesus speaks metaphorically, but in this chapter he speaks "plainly" and actually dismisses several interpretations that are metaphorical. It indicates that Jesus is really going to raise Lazarus from the dead and that those who "keep his word" shall "never die". If you read this passage carefully, it shows that Jesus believed that physical immortality is possible and intends to demonstrate "conquest of death" during his crucifixion and resurrection.

In the 10th chapter of this gospel, we see the only time that Jesus defends his divinity. He does this by quoting the Psalms and saying, "You are gods." The next line in the Psalm is "all of you are sons (and daughters) of the Most High". He then says, "I am a son of God," not "the son of God". The word "the" does not appear in the Greek. Some more honest translations insert the word "the" and put it in italics to show it is their own interpretation. But given the context of a plural verse defending his claim to be divine, the word "the" is not appropriate. It is clear that he does not believe that he is the only son of God, but that there are many, and that, in fact, all of us are the same in this regard, only he has realized it.

Buddhism does not like to talk about God very much. It does not believe in a Creator God who makes the universe. There is a passage in the Madhyamika Sutras that actually give a kind of refutation for a Prime Cause God who stands apart from the universe and creates it. Buddhists do not believe in an anthropomorphic supreme personality type of divinity, but in an impersonal Dharmakaya which is infused into the universe and regulates all events within itself. When the illusion of a separate ego self is transcended in nirvana, we feel our oneness with the Dharmakaya and realize we are part of this, as deeply united as a wave and the ocean are, and because the Dharmakaya expresses itself as all the manifest universe, we feel one with life and at home in life. This Dharmakaya is like an energy field that has wisdom, creativity, and love infused within itself and which permeates everything. There is a sense of being loved by this field of energy. When Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, he hears a voice which says, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." Whenever anyone gets enlightened, there is this same feeling welcoming us home. Jesus has only had a glimpse at this stage, but he has not yet completed his enlightenment and resurrection process. But this experience is one of the markers in his journey.

There is one more passage that I find interesting and worth sharing here, but it is in the other gospels. This is where Jesus says, "There are some of you who are standing here who will not taste death until they the son of man enter his kingdom." This verse has baffled both fundamentalist and liberal scholars. Fundamentalists have seen it as a prophecy of the second coming of Jesus, but the problem is that everyone who was "standing there" has tasted death long ago. Liberals consider that Jesus prophesied his second coming and thought it was going to come very soon, within the lifetimes of some of the people standing there, but had made a mistake. But I feel that neither of these interpretations are correct. The key is that only some of the people are going to see something and Jesus only takes some of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, up to a mountain to pray (in the very next paragraph, whoever put the chapter breaks in the gospels did not see that this paragraph should be in the same chapter and is a continuation of the same story, rather put in the next chapter as another story). Jesus then "prays" and his body turns into light. This is called the "transfiguration" in traditional Christianity. This is the "son of man" coming into his kingdom. It is a kingdom of light. It is clear that Jesus was not doing conventional prayer, but a special form of breathing and invoking energy. His disciples, even though they prayed as devout Jews all their lives, ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, because they see something special in his method. The "Lord's Prayer" is a kind of coded lesson in how to pray differently and has several parts, the most important being using a breath mantra name of God (Abwoon), feeling the sacred energy, feeling this energy permeate all of life, trusting this energy to support our every step and take care of all our needs, forgiving everyone for all wounds inflicted on us so that we can be cleansed, and staying in right timing in all our actions (bisha, the word for "evil" used in this prayer is also a word for unripe fruit or premature action), and then seeing that the Dharma also includes the entire physical plane of existence ("malkuth").

Moses and Elijah appear visibly to the disciples. This shows that they are part of this same kingdom of light and arrived earlier than Jesus. Moses uses the energies of the Arc of the Covanant to transform himself and Elijah uses the Merkabah ("chariot of fire (aka energy)) to transform himself. This shows two other methods that were used to attain the same goal. Jesus is showing a third method involving a kind of breathing prayer and emotional healing.

When Jesus talks about the "kingdom of God" it is always in the present tense, not in the future, with the exception of the passage just quoted which points to an event only future enough to be in the very next paragraph or next event. The very first thing that Jesus teaches is, "Go above your ordinary mind (metanoia), because the kingdom of God is within your reach ("at hand")." As in traditional spiritual teaching, you sound the theme in the very beginning of your preaching that you will develop throughout all your teachings. Jesus does not talk about heaven, but about a mutation into a light being ("son of man") who enters a kingdom of light energy. Everything he does is about this. He shows that this transformation "forgives sin" (burns karma) and "conquers death" (the root karma is released and its main effect released). He ends all sense of separation on the Cross through the breath. He "releases his breath" and tears the veil of separation in the temple, between humanity and the "holy of holies". The word "nirvana" means "exhale" (nir=out, vana=wind). Jesus exhales and releases the sense of separate self, the core of all karma, and then says, "It is finished."

This understanding is echoed when John the Baptist announces Jesus by saying, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The word "sin" in the original is singular, not plural (not "sins"). What this means is the feeling of separation from the Divine which makes all the other sins be effects. When Jesus is on the Cross, he says, "Abwoon, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." Both Buddha and Jesus see the root of karma in "unconscious ignorance". It is interesting, because this is the only passage that gives the reason to forgive everyone. People are lost in unconscious ignorance, walking as if already "dead" ("let the dead bury the dead"). There is a passage that Saint Paul quotes in one of his letters of an early Christian liturgy that has an alchemical formula, "Awake, O Sleeper, and rise from the dead, and the light of Christ will shine on you." This verse is older than the New Testament. Jesus feels that separation emotionally when he says, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?" on the Cross. It is the key point in the alchemical process, he is awake from "sleep" but has not yet risen from the dead, but eventually enters into the "light of Christ" and eventually ascends as a light being.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Soruba Samadhi

I wanted to share a few things about the process of attaining physical immortality from several angles. One is that there is a difference between a "metaphysical philosophy" and a "scientific approach". Metaphysical philosophies start with the question "What is reality?" and formulate some vision about the nature of reality. They define a lot of terms, usually very precisely, define a series of principles or laws which govern events and objects in the universe, and sometimes define some potential that we have that is related to how reality is. Even though later Buddhism also developed a number of metaphysical views, the Buddha himself did not have one. When Hindu philosophers asked a lot of detailed metaphysical questions, the Buddha would often say, "You have come to the wrong person to have your questions answered. I merely show you sorrow and the ending of sorrow." The Buddha was very agnostic about the nature of reality and often very silent about those kinds of questions. He was clear that thought by itself could not come to the nature of reality and both questions and answers are thoughts. So Buddha was already doing what Zen masters call "using thought to go beyond thought". Metaphysics is about building up a whole system of thought in order to understand reality better. But the Buddha tended to see all metaphysics are "speculative views" which can lead to "a tangle of views, a thicket of views, and views clashing with views". He also had ten metaphysical questions that he did not want his monks and nuns wasting too much time contemplating, like "Did the universe have a beginning or did it always exist?" (to which he said the answer to this question was "lost in the night of time"). He did not want his students to waste their mental energy trying to answer questions like that. In thousands of years, these questions still seem somewhat unresolved in the minds of many people. There are usually several views that seem to recur, like the big bang theory, the cyclical death and rebirth of the universe theory, the endlessly expanding theory, and the steady state theory. Sometimes it is interesting to contemplate those theories, but not when we are in sorrow. I do find that most people, whether they have a fully developed metaphysics or not, still suffer and merely having the right philosophy seems to not help this. Even Christians who believe that they are "born again" and "saved" still suffer.

So what the Buddha did was put all metaphysics aside and look into his experience. He shifted to thinking about reality to looking at reality. He focused on the psychological movement of sorrow within himself and by looking at this movement of sorrow for 40 straight days, meditating day and night, the movement of sorrow came completely to an end. According to Buddhist tradition, when he became enlightened he attained "omniscience," he knew everything. This kind of omniscience, though, does not mean that Buddha can win every game of Trivial Pursuit and answer every single question that a person has about any subject whatsoever. When we are enlightened, there is a feeling of knowing everything. When Buddha elaborated about this state of omniscience, he said he could get answers by "putting attention on something," "tuning in," and letting the object of his attention "reveal itself". When we are in enlightenment, we are in radiant awareness. This energy is no longer filtered, constrained, obscured, or channeled by thought. It freely radiates in all directions instantaneously and encompasses the whole universe. You feel the universe reveal itself. The word that the Buddha used to describe what he saw was "tathata" which is sometimes translated as "suchness". When applied to the nature of the universe, it roughly translates as, "It is what it is." It is seeing and feeling what it is, free from all the speculations of thought, even if those speculations are true.

To get some flavor of tathata, let us take two views about the nature of reality. The first one is that the universe is a godless realm of material processes. The second one is that the universe is an illusion or dream of the mind. When you feel the unfoldment of the universe beyond the speculations of thought, you realize that the labels "material" and "illusion" are just labels. They do not really say anything about what you are in contact with when you are merely aware. What does it mean that something is an "illusion"? What does it mean that something is "real"? When we say that something is an illusion, we usually mean that it is not what we think it is. But if we are not thinking about what something is, one way or another, then we cannot be deceived and therefore it cannot be an illusion for us. If a magician creates the illusion that a rabbit is coming out of a hat, it is only an illusion if we believe something about the hat and later on find out it is not true. If a rope appears as a snake and then we notice it is only a rope, then we say that the snake is an illusion. But what if we do not assume that it is "snake" or a "rope" and look at whatever reality is without any label whatsoever? There is a "something" going on that appears as a rope and appears as snake to people who have those labels in their minds. But what if labeling something is not that important and "just looking" is more important. Can we put aside all those labels and just be with our experience? This is what the Buddha did with every single philosophy that he studied in India for his seven years of searching. He realized that he DID NOT KNOW and put aside all the speculations of thought and all the attempts to capture the truth through thought, and he looked at sorrow. He looked at sorrow with the feeling that he might not find the answer to how sorrow could end. Looked at his experience to simply feel what sorrow was. He even removed the label "sorrow" and looked at what was being labeled without this label. He entered into a silent, sensitive, alert, and curious mind about the movement of sorrow and followed this inquiry for 40 days until he found the end of sorrow and the presence of peace. When we are there, we do feel that we know the meaning of life and the meaning of life is life itself.

Regular science believes in questioning everything, but they still use thought. They form a hypothesis, figure out some way to test this hypothesis through experimenting, perform the experiment, get their data, see if it is verifies or falsifies the hypothesis, and then they submit their findings to other scientists to see if they can duplicate the reasons and also to see if their experimental design has flaws. When there is some assertion about the nature of reality, a scientist tries to form some expectation about how reality would function if this assertion is true and then tries to test this expectation. If the expectation is confirmed, then the assertion is verified. If the expectation does not happen, then the assertion is considered false. This process even works with something as simple as, "There is a chair in the middle of the room." If this is true, if I walk across the middle of the room, then I will bump into this chair. If I walk across the room and I do not bump into the chair, then the chair does not exist. Perhaps the chair is a special chair, like a ghost chair, that you can walk through. Then there is a new hypothesis, "There is a ghost chair in the middle of the room." Then I would expect to at least be able to see it and put my hand through it. Then there is a new hypothesis, "There is an invisible ghost chair that you cannot see, taste, smell, touch, or taste." But when it is modified this much, then a scientist would ask the person, "What is the difference between this ghost chair and no chair at all?" If there is no difference, then the chair does not exist. If there is a difference, then some test must be able to be made to show this difference is real. This is roughly how science works versus speculative metaphysical thinking. Science and Buddhism move outside of thought to make contact with what is. Science uses testing expectations with some experiment. Buddhism and phenomenology use awareness. Scientists also use a kind of awareness, since every test involves some kind of sensing instrument to pick up what is going on reality. You could say that awareness is a low budget portable laboratory instrument that is highly underrated and which can be calibrated to pick up on almost any phenomena that arises in this universe.

Once awareness is liberated from the constraints of thought, we can still use thought without being trapped by thought. Thinking is a something very powerful. Ideas created by thought and embraced by thought have reshaped our human world. Thought is a power. Because it is a power, it can also trap us and limit us unless we are very careful. Many wars are fought simply because two different sides have different thoughts in their heads. Wars of believers against nonbelievers are made on the basis of thoughts being important enough to kill another human about. When we break free from thought, then we can use thought to communicate understanding rather than hypnotize people into believing us.

I had mentioned in a previous blog about the "dogma of aging and death". This is a deeply embedded thought inside our collective human consciousness. What this means is that there are tons of other thoughts that are interconnected with this core thought. Like a seed planted in the ground, the seed gathers energy from the sun, nutrients from the ground, water from the ground, and air from the sky and then synthesizes all these elements to create more of itself. The initial seed grows into a plant and sometimes even a forest. In a similar way, over time, this "meme" or core thought, builds up a whole system of thoughts around it until you have whole philosophies justifying it and proving it right in human minds. What I have found interesting about this dogma is that it is already implanted in everyone. You can find it embedded in movies, books, sermons, and discussions that humans see and/or hear. When I have brought up the idea for discussion, within seconds the dogma speaks. People do not even pause to reflect on the idea for a single second but instantly reject it. Or they move into psychoanalysis, saying that if you believe you can live forever that you must be afraid of death (which makes about as much sense as saying that people who believe they can fly must be afraid of gravity). In other words, the possible truth of the idea is automatically rejected. This is how deep this dogma is in the collective human mind. I remember one time a person said to me, "I will believe the idea when you live long enough to prove it." But according her belief, she will be dead before she can see me live long enough to prove it and thus will not be able to verify it. Maybe she might reincarnate and look me up, but then she will have had to attain the ability to take her present lifetime memories through the "amnesia gate" which she evidently did not do last lifetime (otherwise she would remember her previous past lifetime intentions). It takes a certain energy of inquiry to "think outside this box" (perhaps "coffin") and to give this idea a chance.

I was presented with this idea of physical immortality through my second spiritual teacher who was a Sufi and Christian Mystic. There was something about what he shared that struck a chord in me, even though my mind was immediately rejecting it too. Dogen Zenji, a Zen master, one time said, "Unless a teaching feels like it is forcing something on you it is probably not useful." In other words, a new alive idea will challenge our mental conditioning and offer us a new possibility. This idea of physical immortality challenges a pretty vast network of thought. It took me several years to contemplate this idea, question this idea, and ponder what it could mean if it were true. It was during this time that I found, much to my surprise, that there was no a single scientific shred of evidence that aging and death was NECESSARY. That aging and death HAPPEN is not in question by either mortalist or immortalists philosophies. So merely pointing to dead bodies is not the issue. For the mortalists to prove that aging and death do not merely happen, but MUST happen means that some mechanism must drive it that can be observed and shown to be uncompromising. There has been no such mechanism. The closest mechanism was the loss of telemeres each time our cells replicate, but telemerase apparently repairs the tears. Trying to find a cellular mechanism, though, is a bit of a contradiction, since our cells are intact enough to join in sex with another human being and produce a single cell that can become a whole young human body. If our aging cells can do this, then they can renew themselves too. Single celled creatures do not age and die, but split into two healthy cells to reproduce themselves. This means that the original Amoeba is still around as all its descendants. If we evolved from single celled creatures, then we evolved from essentially immortal cells.

If you release this idea that there is some mechanism which causes aging and death, then death is due to conditions that we can take responsibility for and do something about. My next inquiry is whether or not physical immortality was hard to attain or not. To me this is unproven either way, because something can only be considered hard if lots of people try, work hard, and fail. But because of the dogma of aging and death, very few people are trying. If you take simple common sense, that at the very minimum you would need to "embrace what is healthy and abandon what is not healthy," then who is doing this consistently? When I looked at people, I found that many people were indulging in all kinds of toxic habits, knowing that these habits were killing them, sometimes even knowing that they were being killed by these habits and even saying, "What does it matter, WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE ANYWAY!" (Freud defended smoking cigars with this thought). So in my scientific sociological study, merely looking around at people I knew, I found that not only were people not trying, people were knowingly keeping unwholesome habits of all kinds that would eventually kill themselves. They were all addictions of one kind or another like cigarette smoking, other kinds of smoking, overeating, drinking too much alcohol, coffee, etc. When I eliminated these as candidates for physical immortality, then I asked, "Who is doing some kind of health program?" I found that few were doing it consistently, every day or every week and also proactively eating the right foods (not merely not eating bad food). In short, there was no one, including myself. So I could not scientifically conclude that physical immortality was hard to do or easy to do.

I also saw that the feeling of being old was variable. It was not like every year I felt older and older. Feeling old and feeling young was a matter of energy. Some days I felt very old and tired, and the next day I did not. I found that the feeling of being alive and energized or old and aged was something that I could do something about. I found that if I meditated every day that it would regenerate me and that if I periodically did deep retreats I would super-regenerate for a short period of time. This meant that I needed precise knowledge to use my time very wisely. Fortunately there are yogic texts which do outline useful knowledge in this regard. The main thing that is emphasized is mastering pranayama, ending all toxic habits, becoming vegetarian, eating fresh clean food, doing periodic cleansings (one per a season at least), getting deep regenerative sleep, energy circulation, hatha yoga, and meditation. There are other things, like avoiding toxic company, thinking positive wholesome thoughts, being creative and purposeful in your work, and surrounding yourself with wholesome loving supportive friends. There are also special medicines which are alchemically powerful to help heal people, but these medicines work best when people are living a regenerative lifestyle.

But my contemplation did not stop here. I was understanding something about how we were actually aging ourselves with stress and killing ourselves with bad habits. But I came to understand a thought Leonard Orr had shared, "You are immortal until you prove otherwise." I was still seeing physical immortality as a goal to be attained, rather than as a natural state that I already had and just needed to take care of. There was one recent comment that still saw physical immortality as a goal. This is a natural thing for the mind to do, but it still has the belief that there is some mechanism to overcome. Yet there is no mechanism that needs to be overcome that has been found. It is the dogma of aging and death that makes us believe that there is some "thing" called "death" that we must fight, when death is only an effect of a lot of processes that we can potentially redirect. When I removed this "last doubt" about aging and death, then I felt this shift inside me. I felt an energy move across every cell in my body that felt like a shimmering. I felt both birth and death drop away from me and leave me in a simple physical here and now. I realized that the "thought of death" had released from inside me and with it the whole structure of thought that was built around it. I realized that this thought system was very heavy and oppressive to consciousness and body. I realized that I was free from it and my cells liked this new state.

In the year 800 CD, a Kriya Yoga master named Babaji (mentioned in the book AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI by Yogananda) attained, "Soruba Samadhi". The description of what happened to Babaji seems similar to what happened to me when the last doubt had released. I gather that his own process was most likely deeper and more thorough going than what happened to me, because it was supported by doing Kriya Yoga for at least 3.5 years at 8.5 hours per a day and with a regenerative lifestyle build around the practice. I could still feel some causes and conditions inside of me that needed to be released. I think when Soruba Samadhi is attained it is like an integration, crystallization, or stabilization of a regenerative physical body, heart, and mind. Whereas what I had was more like a "Soruba Satori" (flash of physical enlightenment moving across the mind, heart, and body about the nature of death and immortality which has a permanent result). This parallels the difference in Zen between satori and complete enlightenment. The two have the same taste and the same realization, but satori still needs about 20 years to fully mature into a deep enlightenment and still may not be fully complete. When you cannot totally renounce your life in the world, but must practice inside the world, it takes about 25 years of daily practice of one hour a day to do what it takes 3.5 years for a sannyasin to do. It is still important to be relatively karma free, not lying, stealing, killing, intoxicating, misusing sexual energy, or eating animal flesh, during those years of practice. Until then there is "relative immortality" where the balance between the degenerative forces in our bodies and regenerative forces in our bodies is tipped in favor of regeneration.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Practical Physical Immortality

It seems from the feedback I have gotten already is that a number of people want some practical idea about how to attain "physical immortality". It seems that there is less of an inquiry about whether or not physical immortality is a valid theory and more of a focus on the practical aspects. It seems that people are believing that physical immortality is at least "theoretically possible", but wonder how difficult it is to attain.

I would like to mention a two points about physical immortality to further refine the theory:

(1) Physical immortality is a "relative truth". The main point is that there is no fixed end point to the human lifespan. There are still conditions that could end up killing all of us, like accidents, plague level super viruses, and powerful military weapons. While it may be possible to evolve to a point where bullets can bounce off our chests, physical immortality means that our regeneration system can reach a point where aging and death are transcended. It is a lesser attainment than becoming a superhuman indestructible god or goddess. What physical immortality means is that it is not necessary or inevitable that we must age and die. When this happens our lifespan is indefinite with no preprogramed termination point and we are able to extend a healthy and youthful lifespan beyond at least 150 years.

(2) Physical immortality may not be difficult to attain, because it is in some sense natural to not age and die. Much depends how easy or difficult it is to create the supportive causes and conditions around us. In any case, there is very little to lose by trying to cultivate physical immortality. Even a partial success means greater health, increased youthful energy, and more years of purposeful living. Even if I should eventually age and die, it will have been worthwhile to shift my lifestyle towards physical immortality, because it has already produced good results in my life. All that physical immortality as a life style needs is to simply be open to the possibility, not assume that you have to age and die, and making more skillful choices in our lives. There is merely an increase in awareness about the consequences of certain choices and the avoidance of the unwholesome ones. There is also the building up of an regenerative lifestyle which does add a few important things to the usual way of living. These few things I will share some in what follows.

There three levels of immortalist practice:

The first level is to get philosophically clear about physical immortality. It means adopting a "life in this body" positive spirituality. A body positive spirituality fully honors our precious our human life is or can be. A body negative spirituality is one which feels that Earth is not a good place to live and we can do better after we die, that our real life is in heaven or some other world. Such philosophies have problems, one being that it is hard for them to not justify a person committing suicide. Usually they only give the reason that it is wrong or sometimes wrong. One philosophy assumes that we are born on Earth because of bad karma and that when we paid off our karmaic debt then we go to a better place, and that if we do not paid it off then we will die and be reborn back to Earth or worse. It is like being held back a grade in school if we get too many "F" marks on our cosmic report card. Catholicism assumes that Earth is a place of temptation and that if we give in to too many temptations and commit "mortal sins" then when we die we burn in hell forever (permanent detention)and if we do enough good works, then we either get reborn in purgatory where we finish atoning for our remaining sins (remedial school) or get reborn in heaven because we have atoned for enough sin (a passing grade). In these views, the real life is in heaven and life on Earth is much like purgatory. Part of physical immortality is the Earth can be a form of heaven and we are meant to create this on Earth. It is does not merely have to be a place where we pay our karmaic dues and get out. In a sense, the beauty and wonder of nature shows us that it can be more than this.

Getting philosophically clear means also questioning enough to remove the "dogma of aging and death" from our minds. As mentioned in a previous blog, there is no evidence that we have to age and die. While it is true that aging and death do happen to a lot of people and may be even the vast majority of people, there is nothing that says that this MUST happen. There is not a single observation, scientific experiment, or philosophical argument that has proven that we MUST age and die. There is even less argument that says that our lifespan must be about 80 years and then we MUST die. In other time periods, the expected human lifespan was less than it is now and is why a biblical generation was considered 40 years. In other time periods, which may or may not be fables, the lifespans may have been longer. It seems that some of the Egyptian Pharaohs were reported to have lived 40,000 years. Padmasambhava was reported to have lived about 1300 years before he translated into life. Babaji attained "soruba samadhi" (conquest of aging and death) in the year 800 CE and is rumored to still live near Badrinath, India. All these suggest that a variable human lifespan without no rigid termination point, rather than a fixed human lifespan that inevitably kills everyone no matter what they do. In nature, too, amoebas and most single celled creatures are really beyond aging and death, becoming their own descendants by mitosis. The same original amoeba has been around since the dawn of its life on Earth as every single amoeba that is. In terms of other species, the Redwood Tree does not age and die unless a drought, fire, or other causes and conditions kill it. The same is true of the Creosote plant. These three examples are enough to show that not all of life is doomed to birth, rigid lifespan, and death. We may be another exception.

The reason why the dogma of aging and death needs to be questioned and released is because if we have a powerful dogmatic belief that we MUST age and die, then we will. The mind is very powerful and has the power to make our thoughts into self fulfilling prophecies. We can kill ourselves by very strong concentration on unwholesome thoughts that we believe without any doubts whatsoever. It is a wonderful thing for the mind to release the burden of such an unnatural belief. I felt this within myself, the moment when this dogma released from my brain, and felt a surge of energy recharging all my cells to a new level of functioning. It is okay to be agnostic about aging and death, to not know if you will age or die, and to believe you only MIGHT live forever. If you doubt aging and death this much, then the dogma of aging and death has been released from your brain and you are freer. Even this much doubt has more of a change that one might imagine before the mental, emotional, and energetic shift, provided that it is deep enough to enter our subconscious mind and dislodge the aging and death samskara which is there. I consider this kind of philosophical and spiritual penetration to our subconscious belief systems to be the most practical thing that a person can do to start the immortality ball rolling in their lives. It has to be powerful enough and deep enough to dislodge the dogma from the brain. Otherwise it lingers as a kind of emotional heaviness and gives power to any thought about life on Earth that makes it feel not worth living.

The second level is emotional. This is clearing out all the emotions we have repressed and pushed into the muscle tissues of our physical body. Rebirthing breathing, psychologically based body work, kundalini yoga, Chi Kung, Rolfing, Reichian bioenergetic work, Cranial Sacral work on emotional cysts, and Rajneesh's Chaotic Meditation practice are all good methods of going deep into our bodies to refeel and release the stored emotions which are there. If this is not done, the amount of energy which it takes to hold all those emotions in resistance to them surfacing and releasing jams our healing energy flows too much and will cause us to age and die. Forgiving everyone who has ever harmed us, reducing the three poisons of the mind (craving, negativity, and delusion) on both the conscious and subconscious levels are also necessary emotional work for us to embrace and move through completely (and then working through emotional issues in present time for that point on).

The third level is adopting a regenerative lifestyle. This means eating a vegan diet, having a daily physical routine like Tai Chi or Hatha Yoga, having loving supportive relationships, good friends and good lover(s), not being in any toxic long term relationship, learning how to love and be loved within our core friendships and partnerships, having good hygiene, a healthy, neat, and clean home, no monetary debts (or at least a positive cash flow), no toxic health habits, creative work that pays our bills and which is enjoyable to do, a good sense of humor, a spiritual sense of purpose to our lives (meaning an evolutionary and growth orientation), periodic cleansing of our body with skillful use of herbs, teas, tinctures, and liquids, learning to enter into deep regenerative sleep cycles, and freedom from any unwholesome addictions. When our feeling sense is awake, we can directly feel what is unwholesome for us, because we will feel like we are aging and dying if we indulge in those things.

Part of the regenerative lifestyle is, for me, to keep up with scientific research in life extension nutrients, to eat organic food as much as possible, and to devote some time to growing our own food (there is something to be learned about life from this that merely buying food all our lives does not connect with). For this reason, it is good to have an immortalist community around of us of people who similarly aspire to at least health and long life, if not physical immortality itself.

Another part of the regenerative lifestyle is to free the breath of its holding patterns and inhibition patterns. Whenever we do not want to feel an emotion, then we hold our breath. We are meant to do "natural pranayama" (getting life force energy from proper breathing all the time, not merely when we meditate for one hour or so everyday) and rise to "full lung breathing". Most of us breathe and barely even use about 10 percent of our lung capacity. This is not enough breathing to kick in a deep enough regeneration mode to help us live forever. Think of the reverse of full lung breathing. If we held our breath long enough, we would could die in less than an hour (though we would go unconscious and start unconsciously breathing before then, in other words, the body wants to live more than we do and will not knock us out and take over breathing on a bottom line level if we do not cooperate). There is a kind of breath mastery that we do need to rise to. I consider Rebirthing breathing is the most efficient training that I see for this, especially in its Vivation form.

The above is a rough outline of the practical side of this work.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is Buddhism a Science, Religion, or a Philosophy?

I ran across a few other blog sites which have asked one of the three questions summarized above. I feel many of the arguments pro and con each of these items was partly based on semantics and partly on something else that I thought would be worth sharing about. If you define religion as a kind of social club with membership requirements, obligations, and rules to follow, a belief system about the meaning of life, whether or not a supreme god or goddess exists, and how reality functions, ethical norms that one must abide by, and some kind of priesthood and/or priestesshood, then there are forms of Buddhism that have all of this and that are definitely religions. Given this understanding of a religion, atheism is not a religion, because atheists generally do not meet as an organized club, have membership fees, and leaders, unless you count meeting with other atheist friends and chatting with each other, or maybe groups like "Heretics Anonymous" where atheists who have been burned out on religon can meet together to detox and their previous addiction to a cultish religious trip.

I mention this, because atheism is a kind of opposite pole to traditional religion. Some might argue that it is still a kind of religion in that an atheist usually has some kind of life philosophy that he or she lives by. This is usually true, because human beings think and will eventually have some thoughts about how reality works and how to live in reality. This life philosophy is usually something that is personally created by the individual over time, as they encounter experiences, read books, watch movies, listen to music, work at his or her job, and talk with others. People vary in how much they reflect on their lives and may seen as living a life philosophy by default. In other words, if you do not reflect on what life means, seek pleasurable experiences, avoid painful ones, believe that when your body dies that your core identity also dies, do not believe in reincarnation or the law of karma, believe that many chance and physical causation runs the universe, rather than any intelligent order, think that evolution mainly happened by accidental forces converging for no deep reason, and that we are lucky that we even have one lifetime (unless it is painful), then a person is an atheist and is living a certain kind of personal life philosophy. Because it is created by an individual for his or her own sake, it is likely that atheists would have differences of opinion with each other, and even the individual would have differences of opinion with previous version of his or her own beliefs as he or she learns about life over time. This particular view might be labeled "scientific materialism", "hedonism", and/or "humanism". The latter dependent on whether or not an atheist finds a reason to be a good person according to some ethical idealism or inner conscience (most do). It actually takes a lot of work to become a truly evil person. Like the philosopher Mencius once said (I am paraphrasing), "Doing evil is like swimming upstream". Basic goodness and social harmony tend to go together. Humans are very social creatures. The longer dependency of human children on their parents both makes them vulnerable to emotional wounds and also requires them to be more social than other animals who more quickly learn to fend for themselves. Other animals seem to have a stronger tie in to their instinctive intelligence and therefore are more hard wired biologically to act within the pattern of their species. Humans need to learn more and therefore can break away from the patterns of their species more easily. Perhaps dogmatic religions have their pull on humans because they give something that replaces the instinctive certainty that other animals species have.

I mention atheism because sometimes Buddhism has been labeled a version of atheism. It does have a lot in common with atheism. One of the stated missions of the Buddha was to "end all speculative views" and to ground in what our experience can teach us. In this sense, he laid down the foundations for science. I would consider Buddhism to be a scientific religion. This understanding of Buddhism is different from the claim by a Biblical Creationist that this or her religion is scientific. This is because Buddhism is scientific in principle and in its method. You learn from your experience and do not believe what you do not learn from your experience. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are prophetic religions. They all believe in a supreme god, who has a personality, who can talk to humans, and who is like a ruler who gives beliefs and rules that humans must follow, who rewards those who believe and follow these rules, and punishes those who do not believe and do not follow these rules. The main difference between these religions is which book represents the "will" of this supreme being, what beliefs should be believed, and what rules should be followed. All the arguments are essentially exegetical. You go to the authoritative book that represents the will of this god or goddess and find out what he or she said. The arguments are authoritarian in nature, because the supreme god or goddess is considered the ultimate authority that should be obeyed and believed. When a Biblical Creationist says that his or her religion is scientific, what he or she is saying is that he or she believes that his or her prophetic book has scientific confirmation, that geological records and the like can be interpreted in a manner that fits what the Bible says. But the belief system that is actually held by a Biblical Creationist cannot be built up by merely scientific means. It needs an authoritative revelation from an allegedly supreme being in order to validate itself. For instance, there is no scientific experiment that proves that this being created the world in exactly "six 24 hour solar days" (a few of the days not even having a sun and these days are "morning to morning" without having a sun, try to picture how you would even know it is morning without a sunrise!). Imagine a scientist saying to another scientist, "Look at this data, it shows that the supreme being made the universe in six days, rather than seven days, eight days, or one year. See this reading on this carbon dating method. We finally calibrated our instruments to know exactly when each thing was created to the day and, by golly, it happens to perfectly match the book of Genesis as interpreted by my minister who never studied any geological layers at all!". At best, a Biblical Creationist can perhaps scientifically prove that scientific research does not contradict his or her allegedly revealed belief system (I personally do not think that the six literal day creation theory is even biblical, because it cannot be taken literally and make sense).

The Buddha was not a prophet revealing the will of a personal supreme god, but a seer who saw the nature of reality, shared what he saw, and shared a method by which we could verify what he saw. Because of this approach, Buddhism is self correcting. It can change its opinions about how reality functions over time and still remain consistent with how the views of the Buddha emerged. When someone asked the Dalai Lama a hypothetical question, if science contradicted some Buddhist belief, what would he do. The Dalai Lama replied that he would let go of the belief and went on to mention that Buddhism has revised its beliefs many times. There are many Buddhist philosophical schools and some of them have emerged as better descriptions of reality than other ones over time. This roughly parallels how science went from Aristotle to Newton to Einstein.

The other difference is that in Buddhism there is very little that you have to believe. In a prophetic religion, believing and behaving a certain way is part of how you obey the supreme being. In Buddhism, you are expected to not believe something until you have learned about it in your own experience. Until then, you are meant to believe it, at best, as a working hypothesis. So you are meant to be a kind of agnostic atheist until you learn in meditation what is real and what is not. In terms of the categories of philosophy, Buddhism uses a phenomenological approach. The main instrument that you use to investigate reality is awareness. It is a more informal and personal approach than the rituals of modern science where there is observation, hypothesis, experiment, and verification or falsification. Assumptions are tested in reality by designing an experiment that can confirm or disprove what we would expect to find if something were true.

There is social side to science in that a scientific community has emerged where the results of certain experiments can meant to be repeated to see if initial experiments were accurate. Regular science places a lot of emphasis on repeatability and looking to see if alternative explanations can account for the results. Scientists are meant to be skeptical and try to disprove a hypothesis in order to see if it stands up to questioning. This has created a kind of scientific priesthood and priestesshood over time which makes judgments about other scientific investigators or smaller scientific clubs. Humans can be delusional and dogmatic about their theories about how reality functions. The scientific community, too, may have its own unexamined prejudices that may filter results. There are challenges, too, in that not everyone can afford to do certain kinds of research and testing, and therefore could not afford to prove their theories in this environment. This makes scientific research serve the interests of corporations which are profit focused and which can fund experiments that promise to create and sell new products. Perhaps universities are less swayed by this corporate bias to the direction of research, but I think that it still looms in the background as "issues of funding".

Because Buddhism does function as a religion in many ways, it can supply an alternative set of motivations for research and a distinctive direction for research. It is mainly psychological in its focus, since its aim is to end human sorrow by a way of living and by a shift in consciousness called "enlightenment". At the heart of everything that Buddhism does is this shift in consciousness that was achieved by the Buddha. The aim is not merely to believe certain beliefs or to follow a certain set of rules, but to duplicate this shift in consciousness inside of us so that we can achieve a state of consciousness that is a potential for us, natural to us and free from sorrow. In other words, the goal is not to produce believers, but to help birth enlightened beings and merely memorizing beliefs does not achieve this.

This is also where Buddhism is different from merely being a life philosophy. There is a life philosophy implied in Buddhism. It is about living in freedom as an individual and in social harmony with others. Its philosophy is evolutionary in a sense and dovetails well with the scientific theory of evolution. The Buddha, in this perspective, was one of the forerunners of a mutational shift that we will all eventually undergo. In terms of who has undergone this evolutionary shift, the Buddha said, "I am not the first and I am not the last". He expected that others would also undergo this process and vowed not to leave the Earth until he had created a living community with enough beings who had also shifted, enough "critical mass," so that future generations could rely on enlightened guides to midwife and complete their own mutational process.

Many life philosophies are merely about being a good person, finding supportive friends and lovers to share your life with, possibly creating a family, finding creative work that can pay the bills, and taking time to enjoy art and nature. Sometimes a life philosophy needs to develop to handle certain kinds of ethical and practical issues, like whether abortions are okay to do, whether women have equal rights to men, whether it is okay to mercy kill someone who is dying in extreme pain and who is not expected to live very long anyway, and whether it is okay to use lethal force to defend yourself against an enemy. While these issues are good to get mental clarity about and do profoundly affect how we choose to live, many life philosophies do not aim beyond a certain level of human life. Paradoxically, because of this aim to go beyond human life which is within Buddhism, it can affirm the value of human life and be more clear about what it offers us. We can live and enjoy our human life while evolving beyond what we what we already are.

Because of this perspective, I can look at Christianity and see Jesus in a certain way. When he talks about the "son of man" and reveals what it means when he turns his body into light, I see that he is showing the same mutational shift that had happened to the Buddha. When Saint Paul talks about Jesus being, "The first fruits of those raised from the dead," I can see that he is implying that others would follow Jesus in this same willed evolutionary journey. When Saint Paul says, "Not all flesh is the same, but differ in glory (energy)," I can understand that this mutational shift alters our very DNA. When Buddha says, "I am no longer a human." I can understand that this shift is not merely spiritual but biological. I can see that when you strip the anthropomorphic metaphors like "god" and use scientifically more precise terms like "Dharmakaya" or "all pervading impersonal wisdom energy" that Jesus is speaking about something scientific but within the context and limitations of the religion and culture of his time. He is doing the best he can with the language and belief systems of who he is communicating with.

When Buddha was asked about the validity of other religions, he said, "If they have the eightfold path within them, then they are valid. If they do not have the eightfold path within them, they are not." What he did not mean is that only Buddhism is valid. He was speaking as a kind of evolutionary scientist and saying that if a religion has all the critical elements to support the mutational shift then it will serve those who follow it. The eightfold path is like a stripped down version, like a basic car that can go down the road with no unnecessary bells and whistles. When a religion gets too much accumulation, then it can block the transformation process or bury the critical elements, just like certain features in car and make us lose gas mileage or short circuit our electrical system and prevent it from running at all. Like a scientist and like a social reformer, the Buddha makes sure that the critical elements are kept in focus. The Buddha's answer is also a cautionary note for future versions of Buddhism to keep to the essential process and not added too many unnecessary beliefs and rituals. Even beliefs which happen to be true could be unnecessary trivia that wastes a little time and when there are enough of them people can get lost in them and forget the original purpose of the teachings. I would say that Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Eight limbs of Yoga are another version of the dharma that can serve the same mutational process and has very little excess baggage too. I would also include the Tao Te Ching and Tai Chi as another valid path as well as the methodology of the Sufis and some Christian mystics like Meister Eckhart and the Hesychasts.