Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Morphy" the corpse flower blooms (sutra)

Associated Press (via mail.com); Ven. Thanissaro (trans.), Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven (editors), Asubha Sutra, "Unattractiveness Discourse" (AN 4.163); Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly
The Huntington has a large Amorphophallus titanum flower that stinks like Morphy.
HANOVER, New Hampshire - A foul flower that got its nickname from its putrid smell is blooming at Dartmouth College for the first time since 2011.

"Morphy," the Titan arum -- or "corpse flower" -- began opening Friday afternoon at the Ivy League college's Life Sciences Greenhouse. The 7½-foot flower is set to collapse Sunday.
Morphy is native to Sumatra's equatorial rainforests and has a long pointy stalk with a skirt-like covering. Dartmouth greenhouse manager Kim DeLong said its odor has been described as a cross between a decaying animal and urine.
DeLong said she plans to pollinate the endangered flower to share seeds and pollen around the world. The greenhouse will be open from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Sunday.
SUTRA: Contemplating the Foul
Translated by Ven. Thanissaro, Asubha Sutra (AN 4.163) edited by Amber Larson and Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
Siddhartha the ascetic meditates on reality and faces Death (Mara) and fear.
We stink and ooze poop, pee, sweat, blood...
"Meditators, there are four modes of practice. What are the four?
  1. Painful practice with slow progress
  2. painful practice with quick progress
  3. pleasant practice with slow progress
  4. pleasant practice with quick progress.
"What is painful practice with slow progress (wisdom, intuition, insight)? In this case a meditator remains focused on unattractiveness with regard to the body, perceiving loathsomeness (unattractiveness, foulness, repulsiveness) with regard to food, perceiving non-delight with regard to the entire world, (and) focused on the radical impermanence of all formations [composites, things, phenomena, particularly the Five Aggregates].
"The perception of death is well established within. One dwells dependent on the Five Strengths of a learner:
  1. strength of confidence (conviction, faith)
  2. strength of energy
  3. strength of mindfulness
  4. strength of concentration
  5. strength of wisdom.
"But these [as the] Five Faculties appear weakly. Because of their weakness, one attains only slowly the immediacy* that leads to the ending [abandoning] of the defilements (taints, outflows/inflows).
  • *According to the Commentary, this means the concentration forming the Path. This is apparently a reference to this passage in Sn 2.1: "What the excellent Enlightened One extolled as pure and called the concentration of unmediated knowing, no equal to that concentration can be found. This, too, is an exquisite treasure in the Dharma. By this truth may there be well-being."
What's that smell?! (huntington.org)
This is called painful practice with slow progress.

"And what is painful practice with quick progress? In this case a meditator remains focused on unattractiveness with regard to the body, perceiving loathsomeness with regard to food, perceiving non-delight with regard to the entire world, (and) focused on impermanence with regard to all formations.

"The perception of death is well established within. One dwells dependent on these Five Strengths of a learner:
  1. strength of confidence
  2. strength of energy
  3. strength of mindfulness
  4. strength of concentration
  5. strength of wisdom.
"And these Five Faculties [which are the same as the previous five but intensified and established] -- the faculty of confidence, the faculty of energy, the faculty of mindfulness, the faculty of concentration, and the faculty of wisdom -- appear intensely.

"Because of their intensity, one attains quickly the immediacy that leads to the ending of the defilements. This is called painful practice with quick progress. More

Winged humanoid found in Mexico (video)

Express.co.uk; Mexican-American newsman Jaime Maussan, paranormal investigators Brien Foerster and L.A. Marzulli (C2C); CC Liu, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

This very odd creature was seen in an office in Mexico City in January 2016. As a trained biologist Brien Foerster has had a hard time thinking is fake. See the full video at: lamarzulli.net

Body of bizarre winged humanoid found in Mexico

That's one of the bad ones.

A group of paranormal researchers are attempting to determine the nature and origins of a strange winged creature [Latin American/Iberian duende, Filipino duwende, or Buddhist kumbhanda?] discovered in Mexico.

The tiny oddity boasts what appears to be a humanoid body along with a set of wings, causing some to suggest that it could be a fairy or an alien [or a goblin or elf judging by the head and vicious teeth].
Brien Foerster says that he spotted the bizarre creature floating in a specimen jar at an office in Mexico back in January.

Creature preserved in a jar in a lab
Since then, it has been subjected to X-ray and DNA analysis, which showed that the organic form contains an inner skeleton [and buckshot indicating that it was shot out of the sky and killed by a human].
In the video, which unveiled the creature, author L.A. Marzulli speaks with a man who appears to be the scientist who conducted the tests.
They conclude that the oddity could not be a hoax because the X-ray scan would have revealed it as such if it were a doll or some other fabrication.

Buddhist "fairy" = Earth devi.
In light of the bone structure found inside the creature, researchers hope to extract and analyze DNA from it to learn more about what it might be. [The first test was inconclusive because it had sat too long in formaldehyde].

Despite the fantastic nature of the creature, it would be best to exercise caution before leaping to a paranormal conclusion, since a number of previous "alien bodies" have been disproved in the past.
Nonetheless, it is hoped that future tests on the mysterious discovery will show whether it has a terrestrial or extraterrestrial origin. More

Monday, September 26, 2016

Grudge match: Hillary vs. Donald! (video)

Seth Auberon, Pat Macpherson, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; WATCH IT LIVE: KPCC (scpr.org); CNN Live ("Clinton News Network," go.cnn.com); PBS.org/newshour; YouTube.com
WATCH IT LIVE: scpr.org/news/2016/09 via PBS Newshour (CLIP)

Hillary has Parkinson's Disease and pneumonia as a side effect, says Dr. Ted Noel.

Open the debates to Jill Stein (Green), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Andrew Basiago!
See the third candidate: Green Party's Jill Stein Tuesday on DemocracyNow.org

Obey, submit, don't protest...watch football

The Associated [Propaganda] Press (via mail.com); Pat Macpherson, Pfc. Sandoval, Seth Auberon, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Further A.M. (video); NFL.com
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police militants ready for war stand guard in front of Bank of America Stadium before an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Increased security is in place for the game after five nights of demonstrations over Tuesday's murder of Keith Lamont Scott by police (AP).
Pres. B.S. Obama: Everyone's comin' over tonight. "Are you ready for some football?"
The Latest: Charlotte mayor lifts curfew
CHARLOTTE, NC (A[P]P) - The Latest on pro civil rights rebellions in Charlotte, North Carolina, over the murder by fearful/hateful police of a black man (all times local):

7:00 pm: The mayor of Charlotte has lifted the curfew on the city after days of peaceful demonstrations over the senseless killing of a black man by police.

I told him to move, he moved, I shot him.
(Sept. 25, 2016) There have been demonstrations every day since Charlotte police shot 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott to death by on Tuesday. In a statement Sunday evening, Mayor Jennifer Roberts says that effective immediately the curfew imposed is terminated. A midnight to 6:00 am curfew has been in effect since Thursday after the protests turned violent, and National Guardsmen have been stationed throughout downtown each night. Demonstrators remained peaceful outside the Carolina Panther's football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon.
(SNL) Beavis & Butthead watch the Bounce Channel to see Chris Farley as Hank Williams. Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears Monday Night Football skit, Season 23, Episode 4, 430th show.

This item has been corrected to show that the NFL team's name is the Carolina Panthers, not the Charlotte Panthers.
4:00 pm: Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence says the American people deserve a full investigation of the shooting death of a black man by a Charlotte police officer.
Robocop androids (AP)
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Pence addressed the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott when he spoke Saturday to a Christian coalition of about 200 members of the House School Legal Defense Association in Black Mountain. More

Creepy clown caught by cops in Kentucky!

Maybe it was just a Juggalos's gathering.
The great creepy clown panic of 2016 may have hit its crescendo as police in Kentucky have managed to arrest a man allegedly in the midst of frightening an apartment complex....
Coming at the end of the fourth week of panic sweeping the South, the arrest should dissuade other aspiring creepy clowns from picking up the hobby and, one hopes, send the haunting harlequins back into the collective unconscious until they return to menace us in the future. More: BBC News

Medical Controversies/Lucid Dreaming Investigative medical reporter Jon Rappoport discusses the latest in the FALSE SCARE Zika virus controversy, a new CDC ruling that allows mandatory detention and inoculation without a healthy person's consent, and the new rule in California... Also lucid dreaming guest David Jay Brown.

The Dharma vs. Non-duality (Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Bhikkhu Bodhi, "Dhamma and Non-duality" [or The Buddha's Teaching vs. a Hindu Teaching] edited by Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha's transcendental message of freedom is profound, subtle, hard to see.
One of the most challenging issues facing Theravada Buddhism in recent years has been the encounter between classic Theravada "insight meditation" (vipassana) and the "non-dualistic" contemplative traditions best represented by Hinduism's Advaita Vedanta and [its philosophical descendant] Mahayana Buddhism.
Responses to this encounter have spanned the extremes, ranging from vehement confrontation to attempts at synthesis and hybridization. While this essay cannot pretend to illuminate all of the intricate and subtle problems involved in this volatile dialogue, it is meant to contribute some light from a canonical Theravada perspective.
A system of meditative practice does not constitute a self-contained discipline. An authentic system is embedded within a conceptual matrix that defines the problems the practice is intended to solve and the goal it moves us toward.

So the merging of techniques grounded in incompatible conceptual frameworks is fraught with risk. 

Although such mergers may be appealing for eclectic experimenters, it seems likely that their long-term effect will be to create cognitive dissonance that will reverberate through the deeper levels of the psyche and stir up even greater confusion.
Second, simply put, non-dualistic spiritual traditions are far from consistent with each other, but comprise, rather, a wide variety of views that are profoundly different. They are inevitably shaped by the broader conceptual contours of the philosophies that encompass them.

Mahayana Buddha statue flanked by dragons (Popolisson as Polo D/flickr.com)
For the Vedanta (the best of the Brahminical Vedas, which was rejected by the Buddha and inherited by modern Hinduism) non-duality (advaita) means the absence of an ultimate distinction between the Atman (innermost self) and Brahman (divine or ultimate reality) the underlying ground of all reality, the godhead.

From the standpoint of the highest realization, only one ultimate reality exists -- which is simultaneously Atman (self, soul) and Brahman (GOD, godhood, the unchanging reality behind the illusion we see all around) -- and the aim of the spiritual quest is to know that one's own true self, the Atman, is the timeless reality which is Being, Awareness, Bliss. [This is the Hindu conception the Buddha rejected as he discovered and made known as an-atman, "not-self," egolessness, the impersonal nature of all phenomena.
    Siddhartha renounces to go on quest
  • This is the teaching at the core of the Heart Sutra, the most famous Mahayana Buddhist discourse, which is the epitome of the "Perfection of Wisdom" (Prajna Paramita) literature everyone reads but nearly no one understands. (This is the core because unless it is realized there is no stream entry/winning, the first stage of enlightenment, the Buddha declared). If there is no "self," then what is there? The answer is the Five Aggregates. How does "self" or at least the "illusion of selfhood" arise? It arises by a causal sequence called Dependent Origination: "When this is, that comes to be; with the ceasing of this, that ceases" is one way of briefly defining a very profound concept. The fact is, every composite thing, while it may seem to be self sufficient, actually depends on elements, causes, conditions because of its composed nature. Not only is this true of matter, it is true of us. What are we? What we call "self" is actually a composite of impersonal phenomena labelled form (the four qualities of matter); feelings, perceptions, formations, and consciousnesses. The first four are the "body," the remaining four are the "mind." There is no "self" to be found among these momentarily arising elements that immediately perish and are replaced with nearly identical substitutes. And it keeps happening. Everything is hurtling toward destruction. Anything we would cling to as "self" cannot be clung to because it is burning away, decaying rapidly, vanishing. The process of its replacement gives the illusion of continuity, but careful examination (mindful awareness while contemplating the 12 causal-links identified by the Buddha as Dependent Origination or paticca samuppada) reveals the trick. The illusion is broken. Enlightenment dawns. One glimpses nirvana (real peace, the deathless, the unsurpassable, the unexcelled), and liberation is realized as "the Truth that sets us free."
Since all schools of Buddhism reject the idea of the Atman, the "self,"  none can accept the non-dualism of Vedanta.

From the perspective of the Theravada Buddhist tradition, any quest for the discovery of selfhood, whether as a permanent individual self or as an absolute universal self, would have to be dismissed as an illusion or delusion, a metaphysical blunder born from a failure to properly comprehend [what is really going on as specified in the dependent origination or arising of "things" that are in fact empty, without essence, selfless, egoless] the nature of concrete experience.

According to the Pali (exclusively Buddhist language) sutras, the individual "being" (when, in fact, what "self" is is constantly becoming) is merely a complex composite of Five Aggregates, which are all stamped with the three marks of existence: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness.
  • One should not misunderstand the Five Aggregates to amount to five things. They are innumerable heaps of five kinds or groupings. Not every feeling or perception is the same, but mental phenomena known as sensation and knowing can be analyzed and sorted into heaps.
Hindu temple in India with sacred symbols
Any postulation of selfhood in regard to this compound of transient, conditioned phenomena (groups of impersonal, impermanent, and unsatisfactory things) is an instance of "personality view" (sakkaya-ditthi), a kind of delusion or "wrong view" (miccha-ditthi), the most basic fetter that binds beings to the round of rebirths known as samsara.

The attainment of liberation [from samsara], for Buddhism, does not about by the realization of a "true self" or absolute "I," but through the dissolution of even the subtlest mistaken sense of selfhood in relation to the Five Aggregates -- which, as has been stated, are impersonal, not ours, not the basis of any real I, me, or mine -- "the abolition of all I-making, mine-making, and underlying tendencies to conceit [the very subtle and hard-to-remove habit or proclivity of regarding or speaking of things as self]."
The many Mahayana Buddhist schools, despite their great differences, concur in upholding a thesis that, from the Theravada point of view, borders on the outrageous.

Nirvana is samsara? Ignorance is wisdom?
This is the claim that there is no ultimate difference between samsara [the Round of Rebirth and Suffering] and Nirvana [liberation from that painful round], defilement and purity, ignorance and enlightenment.

For the Mahayana, the enlightenment the Buddhist path is designed to awaken instead consists precisely in the realization of this non-dualistic perspective, an old Brahminical/Vedic/Hindu notion the Buddha rejected.

The validity of conventional dualities is denied because the ultimate nature of ALL phenomena is emptiness [all things being composites rather than unities, they lack a self or enduring core] the lack of any substantial or intrinsic reality.
  • Nirvana alone -- because it is the only unconditioned element -- does not arise, change, pass away, or depend on any conditions. (The realization of it may depend on conditions, such as meditation and right view, but it does not come into being or grow or go out of being or shrink if people realize it or fail to realize it).
So in their "emptiness" all of the diverse, apparently opposed phenomena posited by mainstream Buddhist doctrine finally coincide: "All dharmas [phenomena, things] have one nature, which is no-nature."
The teaching of the historical Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, Shakyamuni, the "Sage of the Shakya Clan") as found in the Pali language canon does not endorse a philosophy of non-dualism of any variety, nor can a non-dualistic perspective be found lying implicit within the Buddha's discourses. More

Guided Meditations for Difficult Times (audio)

Jack Kornfield (soundstrue.com); Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly
Guided Meditation for Difficult Times: A Lamp in Darkness (AUDIOBOOK)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Beset by birth, illness, death (Ayya Khema)

German Theravada Buddhist nun Sister Ayya Khema, All of Us: Beset by Birth, Decay, and Death (accesstoinsight.org); Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
A celestial scene, as from the space World of the Thirty-Three (Chantip Ditcharoen/flickr)
I. The Dharma of the Blessed One is Perfectly Expounded
The Dharma of the Blessed One
is rightly expounded,
[visible] here and now,
not dependent on time
[i.e., immediately effective]. 
Western Theravada nun Ven. Ayya Khema
The first line of this Buddhist chant proclaims real confidence in the Dharma/Dhamma (capitalized to signify the Buddha's teachings). It is not about believing without inquiring, but an inner relationship of trust. When one is faithful to someone, one trusts, one places oneself in that person's hands, has a deep connection and an inner opening.

How much more is this true of the confidence and faith in the teachings of the Buddha? Those aspects of the Dharma which we do not yet understand can be set aside for the moment. That does not shake our confidence, faith, and trust.
If we feel the teaching is completely, perfectly, and "rightly expounded," we are very fortunate, for we know that one thing in this universe is right. There is nothing else to be found that is without blemish, nor is there anything that is becoming perfect.

If we have that trust, faithfulness, and love towards the Dharma and believe it to be rightly expounded, we have found something beyond compare. We are blessed with inner wealth.
The results "to be seen here and now" are up to each of us. The Dharma has been made clear by the Enlightened One, who taught it out of compassion. We have to see it for ourselves with inner vision.
"Here and now" needs to be stressed because it means not forgetting [the very definition of sati or "mindfulness, memory, vigilance, watchfulness, conscientiousness], being aware of phenomena (dharmas)/the Dharma in each moment. 

This awareness helps us to watch our reactions before they result in unskillful intentions, words, or deeds (the three kinds of karma) -- seeing the positive within us and cultivating it, seeing the negative and substituting it. 

When we believe all of our thoughts and claim justification for them, we're not seeing the Dharma, the Truth. There are no justifications, there are only arising phenomena which quickly cease again.
"Not a matter of time" or "not dependent on time" means that we are not dependent upon the Buddha or any buddha being alive in order to practice the Dharma. Although this is a widespread misconception, we can undertake the path-of-practice right now.

Some people think there has to be a perfect situation or a perfect teacher or perfect meditation technique. None of that is true. Mental and physical phenomena (dharmas) are constantly coming, changing, and going (arising, turning, and falling), altering without pause. When we cling and try to hang onto them or consider them our own, we will believe any story our mind tells us without wise discrimination.

We consist of body (form), feelings (sensations), perceptions, mental formations (fabrications), and consciousness, which we grip tightly believing them to be "I," "me," and "mine." We need to take a step back and be a neutral observer of the whole process. These are processes, not things.
Inviting one to come and see,
leading inwards.
The understanding of the Dharma leads to inner depths of awareness. We are invited to "come and see" what is really there. We are not being asked to "come and see" a meditation hall, Buddha statue, stupa (dagoba), or shrine. We are invited to "come and see" the phenomena (dhammas) arising within us. The defilements as well as the purifications are to be found inside one's own heart and mind. More

Nirvana is NOT "cosmic consciousness"

Ven. Sujato (sujato.wordpress.com) edited by Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly

Nibbana is not viññāṇa. Really, it just isn’t.
I’ve just read yet another assertion that tries to slip a Hindu "cosmic consciousness" Nirvana (Pali, Nibbana into the Buddhist sutras.

In these arguments the same mistakes are made again and again, and we should be aware of them.
  • [WQ EDITORS: The word for "enlightenment" is bodhi, not Nirvana; it is a process of purification of view. Nirvana is the "unconditioned" element in a universe of conditioned, i.e., compounded/fabricated composite things. Enlightenment leads to directly seeing/experiencing Nirvana (liberation from samsara). They are often quite mistakenly used as synonyms.] 
One popular argument is based on the famous passage:
viññāṇāṁ anidassanaṁ anantaṁ sabbato pabhaṁ
"Consciousness non-manifest, infinite, radiant all around."
Nirvana is NOT nothingness! See B
This is sometimes said to be a term for Nirvana. But since it is an obscure poetic passage of dubious meaning, we should not infer any major conclusions from it.
This obscure passage has been often exalted to the revelation of the highest teachings of Nirvana. One of the arguments one hears is that viññāṇa (process of "consciousness") normally means "separative consciousness" and that this has been reevaluated to refer to an infinite awareness. This argument is plain wrong.
The etymology of viññāṇa is invoked to justify this conclusion. Vi, so the story goes, means "separation," and ñāṇa means "knowing," so viññāṇa must mean "separative knowing" (as contrasted with the presumed universal or "cosmic consciousness" of Nirvana.)
But we cannot derive the meaning of a word by adding a root and a prefix. Words derive meaning from context. This is particularly true in the case of words in abstract philosophical use.
In any case, the etymology of viññāṇa does NOT mean "separative consciousness." The prefix vi has many different meanings, which anyone can read in the Pali Text Society’s dictionary. If reading the entire entry is not appealing, these are the four applied meanings it gives: More

Friday, September 23, 2016

Roots of Buddhist Psychology (Jack Kornfield)

Jack Kornfield (spiritrock.org), SoundsTrue.com (video); Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly
(Diamond Mind) Three-part guided meditation on "Buddha Nature" [our innate potential for enlightenment], forgiveness, and equanimity with insight meditation instructor Jack Kornfield.
Psychotherapy 2.0 2016: Online Training Summit (soundstrue.com)

iHeart Fest, Ozzfest, Knotfest, Rhyme Fest

Seth Auberon, Pat Macpherson, Crystal Quintero, Wisdom Quarterly; ozzfestmeetsknotfest.com
iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas and broadcast on The CW (kfiam640.iheart.com): The show is tonight (9/23/16) at this website: CWTV.com

Ozzfest is Saturday (9/24/16) and Knotfest follows on Sunday (9/25/16)
Rhyme Fest comes to Los Angeles Sept. 29, 2016 (rhymefestla.com)

Festival Supreme COMEDY extravaganza comes to Shrine (at USC), Los Angeles
Not your dad's rock 'n roll show. Oh, wait, yes, your dad's show (955KLOS.com).
Los Angeles Podcast Festival: Sofitel Hotel, Beverly Hills, Sept. 23-25, 2016 (LAPF)
What happens when Ozzfest meets Knotfest? (955klos.com)
Hillary (left) and Donald want imperial rule
Die Antwoord came to Hollywood last night for a sold out show at the Palladium and plays tonight at the Observatory in Orange County before continuing their tour. But the real news is a surge in "festivals" as temperatures soar and infamous Santa Ana winds kick up. Everyone is coming down with something as the weather moves in fits and starts from summer to fall. Demons must be delighting and the dead awaiting their turn to pierce the veil around Halloween. Something strange is in the air (smog, dust, gloom), and it is epitomized by the pop rock extravaganza in tinsel town tonight, not the Strumbellas and Cold War Kids in Hollywood but the iHeart Music Fest in Vegas. Oktoberfest (which really takes place in September) means drinking. Then the two devils meet on Monday in the OC -- The Donald versus La Hillary in a blood match the whole nation will be watching. Is it any wonder people need spectacular distractions like music?