Monday, April 30, 2018

the still small voice

As an upshot of the English civil war, Quakerism was created. The regular person sought inwardly for the still small voice that would lead them. I'm taking a course on Quakers on Future Learn, another chapter in the fascinating history of spirituality on the planet earth.

I live in Flushing and there is a famous Quaker Meeting House, built in 1694. I've walked by it several times and read the plaques.

My uncle, the architect Charles Thanhauser, went to Friends high school in Philadelphia and had a fondness for the Quakers even though he was a secular Jew. His memorial service was held in the Friends meeting house off Gramercy Park. 

Friday, April 27, 2018


I was thinking that people who don't do metta meditation might not have a practice where they work to imagine themselves into stranger's lives, beyond assessing from a distance whether some is a threat or not.

Related but different is the benefit of the wisdom of equality. In the final stage you can work to equalize metta towards everyone. It's an antidote for the overwhelming wild cathexis of relationships. Equanimity comes from having a little distance towards your own drama.

Ratnasambhava is the bodhisattva that personifies this quality. In the icon, he reaches down toward the earth, but unlike Shakyamuni who is touching it to show who is witness to his claim to be enlightened, Ratnasambhava has his hand up in the giving mudra.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Beauty Standard Denialism

There's an interesting article in the NY Times about the movie I Feel Pretty. It's an interesting rumination on beauty standards. It admits that women shouldn't be punished for choosing to play the game and trying to make it fun. But there are qualms.

That got me thinking standards in general. There are standards and then their are ideals. Standards are something everyone can do and then ideals are often pretty hard to achieve but point in the kind of direction. Any ideal can be turned against someone and used wrong. You can take the spiritual ideal of becoming enlightened, and then beat yourself up for falling short. I'm sure you can do the same for standards. When I think of standards, it's probably someone else using it to point out to someone how they are falling short. If you apply that voice to yourself, it's not going to be great. Then again, living up to the usual standards in society would probably help society move smoother, and not being a difficult person can be a noble goal. When I try to think of a person, though, it feels like I'm trying to sheep dog someone back into the herd. I have qualms about doing that. Be who you are and let the chips fall where they may. I don't so much blame Trump for being who he is, I'm more just embarassed about what that means about America. I'm performing my own denialism about America.

So it's a useful game to reflect on standards and where and how do they apply. Is the standard of womanhood in Catholicism to get pregnant without sex, or is that taking an ideal too far? Marianismo is a real thing, just as I suppose Buddhismo is a real thing. Macho Buddhist posturing that goes past the fake it till you make it push. Again, I feel like it's taking an ideal and just using it wrong, unrealistically and out of proportion, to use it to ill effect.

Can a terrible person still be a Buddhist? I suppose they can up to the point in which what they are doing is against the ideals and vision of Buddhism, and then it becomes dishonest. Is anyone a full Buddhist who is not enlightened. I judge Myanmar for their obvious atrocities against their own people. I must also judge myself as falling short as a Buddhist. As I judge others as cultural Catholics who pay lip service to the ideals, Buddhism would suggest to point the finger at yourself. And yet I'm so far from the ideal. My unexamined trauma confusions have led me astray.

Causes and conditions have created a trajectory and it's hard not to follow that out. I can't imagine that I haven't gained just a little more ownership of that trajectory though that might just be a useful fiction to get me more motivated. The goal of enlightenment is to move through the uncaused and unconditioned, though it becomes a by mystical when you talk about the transcendental because you can't accurately talk about it. Spirituality isn't something rationality can tame, but you can tame your rationality with spirituality.

Authenticity is the antidote for taking standards and ideals wrong. Be honest with what is going on and the limits of fake it till you make it. Be honest about where you are pushing yourself outside the limits of what you really inhabit. Inhabiting where you are seems to one of the drums many teachers beat on. Finding out where you really are is the goal of the inward journey. We are also our ideals and vision that guide us, even when we fall short. I hope that Amanda Hess can accept it that she fall short of the beauty ideal, and blokes like me find her physical appearance fine (thank you for asking), find her intellectual chops as more rounding out the whole person. Relate to your ideals in a healthy way and it's great your conscious of them. Are spiritual ideals the most important ones to reflect on? I'm pretty sure she doesn't need my musings, just like Amy Schumer--well, I bet she likes the review because it's good journalism.

Please write what movies helped you to reflect on spiritual ideals in the comments, and how.

The French movie The Innocents, about the Polish nuns who turn up pregnant after being raped by retreating troops during WW2. It exposes my judgementalism about nuns, and then thoughts about spiritual institutions--they should not care how things look and just take care of people. I have ideals about a spiritual tradition that is not even my own. I cast them in terms of my own ideas about the great spirituality that all religions participate in.

Another movie is Into Great Silence. I never got around to finishing the movie when it was available to me, but I hope some day that I can.

Another movie is Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall... Spring. I still cringe at people setting fire to themselves, what a horrible way to go--their point is that they are beyond that. I thought the climbing the mountain with a stone dragging along was a bit contrived, but to be honest, thinking about it, it makes sense. I can't help but see him doing his karate on the ice and slipping and falling, which he hides by quickly getting up.

I love Milarepa as a person and the movie that highlights his anger at relatives doesn't focus on the part of his spiritual life that I want to. Perhaps that is my own prejudice. Maybe I want to see the striving not the grist for the mill.

I'm sure more movies will come to me and I can write about them. Thank you Amanda Hess. My reaction to your reaction is a profitable line of thought.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

what I'm reading

Sorry, I keep accidentally posting here for other blogs. Ugh.

I'm reading a biography of Yogananda at the moment. I'm both repelled and fascinated by Hindu gurus. I haven't read much on the subject, so why not read this. I see converting to Buddhism from Hinduism as a political act. Hinduism has the idea of caste, which includes the untouchables, a classification of a human being that should not be. So I'm repulsed. But it seems Hindu gurus are part of the history of spirituality, so I want to know more. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

vegetarian subtext

In The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams, she talks about how Charlotte's Web and Frankenstein have a vegetarian subtext. The stories are about how you should have empathy for animals and not eat them.

In w/ Bob & Dave on Netflix (in the US), among the first skits is one about men playing poker who have unrealistic dreams. One guy is Jewish and wants to become the first pope. Another guy wants to move to Hollywood and become a big movie director. Another wants to become a judge. They make fun of the guy who wants to stop eating meat.

The world is inverted, absurd goals are realistic and realistic things are absurd. They make fun of him for saying he will quit meat. They order a pizza with pepperoni and he he can't hold onto his resolution. And the others go on to do what they said they would do.

They are mocking how hard it is to quit meat, though with the American mindset it's more realistic to dream big, the idea of the American dream, you can do what ever you set your mind to. But not eating meat is crazy, undoable. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Demolishing Wrong View

In Sangharakshita's latest essay "A Passage to America" he says:

Though there is a great deal of suffering in the world, much of it is due not to natural evil but to the morally evil behaviour of other people, especially as supported by this or that ideology. It is not enough, therefore, that we should seek to popularize mindfulness and metta, desirable as this may be. We have also to demolish the wrong views that undergird morally evil behaviour, and I suspect that work of demolishing them will be one of Triratna’s main tasks for a long time to come.

I guess you live the question as to how to best demolish wrong views that lead to suffering.