discrimination…

“Further, O Mahamasti, the five categories are: Appearance, Name, Discrimination, Suchness, and Right Knowledge.

“O Mahamati, what is Appearance? Appearance is what is seen in colors, forms, figures, which are distinctive and not alike, –this is what is called Appearance.

summeriii

“O Mahamati, depending upon this appearing of things, there arises Discrimination, saying that ‘this is a jar’, ‘this is a horse, a cow, a sheep, etc.,’ that ‘this is such and such’, ‘this is no other things’ –this, O Mahamati, is called Name.

“O Mahamati, depending upon these objects thus named, their characteristics are distinguished and made manifest, whereby such various names are set up as cow, sheep, horse, etc. This is called the Discriminating of mind and objects belonging to mind.

“O Mahamaati, when one surveys names and appearances even down to atoms, one never sees a single reality, all things are unreal; for they are due to the Discrimination stirred up in one’s deceiving mind.

“O Mahamati, when is known as Suchness is non-emptiness, exactness, ultimate end, self nature, self-substance, right seeing, –these are the characteristics of Suchness.

“By myself and the Bodhisattvas and [other] Buddhas who are Tathagatas, Arhats, and All-knonwing Ones, it is said that though names differ the sense is one.”

An English translation of an excerpt of Bodhiruci’s translation cited in, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra, pp 26-28.

Solitude…

solitude

Today’s edition of Aeon offered an amazing piece, Before you can be with others, first learn to be alone, written by Jennifer Stitt.  Hope you find this discussion about solitude as enlightening as I do.

“In 1840, Edgar Allan Poe described the ‘mad energy’ of an ageing man who roved the streets of London from dusk till dawn. His excruciating despair could be temporarily relieved only by immersing himself in a tumultuous throng of city-dwellers. ‘He refuses to be alone,’ Poe wrote. He ‘is the type and the genius of deep crime … He is the man of the crowd.’

Like many poets and philosophers through the ages, Poe stressed the significance of solitude. It was ‘such a great misfortune’, he thought, to lose the capacity to be alone with oneself, to get caught up in the crowd, to surrender one’s singularity to mind-numbing conformity. Two decades later, the idea of solitude captured Ralph Waldo Emerson’s imagination in a slightly different way: quoting Pythagoras, he wrote: ‘In the morning, – solitude; … that nature may speak to the imagination, as she does never in company.’ Emerson encouraged the wisest teachers to press upon their pupils the importance of ‘periods and habits of solitude’, habits that made ‘serious and abstracted thought’ possible.

In the 20th century, the idea of solitude formed the centre of Hannah Arendt’s thought. A German-Jewish émigré who fled Nazism and found refuge in the United States, Arendt spent much of her life studying the relationship between the individual and the polis. For her, freedom was tethered to both the private sphere – the vita contemplativa – and the public, political sphere – the vita activa. She understood that freedom entailed more than the human capacity to act spontaneously and creatively in public. It also entailed the capacity to think and to judge in private, where solitude empowers the individual to contemplate her actions and develop her conscience, to escape the cacophony of the crowd – to finally hear herself think.

In 1961, The New Yorker commissioned Arendt to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi SS officer who helped to orchestrate the Holocaust. How could anyone, she wanted to know, perpetrate such evil? Surely only a wicked sociopath could participate in the Shoah. But Arendt was surprised by Eichmann’s lack of imagination, his consummate conventionality. She argued that while Eichmann’s actions were evil, Eichmann himself – the person – ‘was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions.’ She attributed his immorality – his capacity, even his eagerness, to commit crimes – to his ‘thoughtlessness’. It was his inability to stop and think that permitted Eichmann to participate in mass murder.

Just as Poe suspected that something sinister lurked deep within the man of the crowd, Arendt recognised that: ‘A person who does not know that silent intercourse (in which we examine what we say and what we do) will not mind contradicting himself, and this means he will never be either able or willing to account for what he says or does; nor will he mind committing any crime, since he can count on its being forgotten the next moment.’ Eichmann had shunned Socratic self-reflection. He had failed to return home to himself, to a state of solitude. He had discarded the vita contemplativa, and thus he had failed to embark upon the essential question-and-answering process that would have allowed him to examine the meaning of things, to distinguish between fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, good and evil.

‘It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong,’ Arendt wrote, ‘because you can remain the friend of the sufferer; who would want to be the friend of and have to live together with a murderer? Not even another murderer.’ It is not that unthinking men are monsters, that the sad sleepwalkers of the world would sooner commit murder than face themselves in solitude. What Eichmann showed Arendt was that society could function freely and democratically only if it were made up of individuals engaged in the thinking activity – an activity that required solitude. Arendt believed that ‘living together with others begins with living together with oneself’.

But what if, we might ask, we become lonely in our solitude? Isn’t there some danger that we will become isolated individuals, cut off from the pleasures of friendship? Philosophers have long made a careful, and important, distinction between solitude and loneliness. In The Republic (c380 BCE), Plato proffered a parable in which Socrates celebrates the solitary philosopher. In the allegory of the cave, the philosopher escapes from the darkness of an underground den – and from the company of other humans – into the sunlight of contemplative thought. Alone but not lonely, the philosopher becomes attuned to her inner self and the world. In solitude, the soundless dialogue ‘which the soul holds with herself’ finally becomes audible.

Echoing Plato, Arendt observed: ‘Thinking, existentially speaking, is a solitary but not a lonely business; solitude is that human situation in which I keep myself company. Loneliness comes about … when I am one and without company’ but desire it and cannot find it. In solitude, Arendt never longed for companionship or craved camaraderie because she was never truly alone. Her inner self was a friend with whom she could carry on a conversation, that silent voice who posed the vital Socratic question: ‘What do you mean when you say …?’ The self, Arendt declared, ‘is the only one from whom you can never get away – except by ceasing to think.’

Arendt’s warning is well worth remembering in our own time. In our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate constantly and instantly over the internet, we rarely remember to carve out spaces for solitary contemplation. We check our email hundreds of times per day; we shoot off thousands of text messages per month; we obsessively thumb through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, aching to connect at all hours with close and casual acquaintances alike. We search for friends of friends, ex-lovers, people we barely know, people we have no business knowing. We crave constant companionship.

But, Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude, our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think. We risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being ‘swept away’, as she put it, ‘by what everybody else does and believes in’ – no longer able, in the cage of thoughtless conformity, to distinguish ‘right from wrong, beautiful from ugly’. Solitude is not only a state of mind essential to the development of an individual’s consciousness – and conscience – but also a practice that prepares one for participation in social and political life. Before we can keep company with others, we must learn to keep company with ourselves.”Aeon counter – do not remove

Jennifer Stitt

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Dear Mother Earth

 

spider“Dear Mother Earth,

The Human Species is but one of your many children. Unfortunately, many of us have been blinded by greed, pride, and delusion, and only a few of us have been able to recognize you as our mother.  Not realizing this, we have done you great harm, compromising both your health and your beauty. Our deluded minds push us to exploit you and create more and more discord, putting you and all your forms of life under stress and strain. Looking deeply, we also recognize the you have enough patience, endurance and energy to embrace and transform all the damage we have caused, even if it takes you hundreds of millions of years.

…There are times when we have not loved you enough; times when we have forgotten your true nature; and times when we have discriminated and treated you as something other than ourselves. There have even been times the, through ignorance and unskillfulness, we have underestimated, exploited, wounded and polluted you.

…we have turned to you dear Mother, and asked whether or not we could count on you, on your stability and compassion.  You did not answer right away. And then beholding us a great compassion, you replied, ‘Yes, of course, you can count on your Mother.  I will always be there for you.’ But then you said, ‘Dear children, you must ask yourself, can your Mother Earth count on you?'”

~Thich Nhat Hanh, (Excerpts from Love Letter to the Earth)

black and white sunday: traces of the past

Generally speaking, Heaven and Earth endow the generality of men with the same mediocre qualities, so that one is hardly distinguishable from the other.  Not so, however, in the rare instances of the Exceptionally Good and the Exceptionally Evil that flash through the pages of history. The first embodies the Perfect Norm of Heaven and Earth; the second, its Horrid Deviations. The first comes into the world when Harmony is to prevail; the second, when Catastrophe impends. The first ushers in peace and order; the second brings war and strife. Examples of the first are the Emperors Yao, Shun, Yu, and T’ang, the Kings Wen and Wu, the sages Confucius and Mencius, and such philosophers as the Ch’eng brothers and Chu Hsi; examples of the second are the tyrants Ch’ih Yu and Kung Kung, Chieh and Chou and the First Emperor, and such usurpers and traitors as Wang Mang, Huan Wen, and Ch’in K’uai.

window

Today, under our divine Sovereign, peace and prosperity reign…which manifest itself in the form of sweet dew and gentle breeze.  …there is no place under the clear sky and the bright sun for the Deviations from the Norm; these had to hide their ugly heads in the abysmal chasms in the bowels of the earth, where they lie inert and powerless. But occasionally, pressed upon by the clouds or wafted by the winds, traces of these evil elements find their way into the upper air and clash with the traces of the Norm, causing violence storms and thunder and lighting. (Trans: Chi-Chun Wang: Tsao Huueh-Chin, Dream of the Red Chamber, pp. 22-23)

I began the day with the intention to nourish myself by avoiding the Twitter Wars by engaging in literature; that is, Dream of the Red Chamber which was written sometime around 1742.  Yet, as my eyes fell upon page 22 I stumbled out of historical China and into the present time, this time of Horrid Deviations.

This passage and image are  submitted in response to the”traces of the past” challenge posed by Lost in Translation.

weekly photo challenge: path

I believe that in order to move forward, to identify one’s own path and not another’s, requires time to contemplate where one has been, one’s regrets and celebrations; as well as a review of one’s beliefs, values, and guiding principles.

The state of the world today leaves me unsettled in that my own grounding principles seem to be shadowed by the ramifications of war, negation of principles, righteous anger, and divisiveness.  All of this leaves a world formulated less and less by rational thinking and more and more by emotional reactivity.  Therefore, I find that my path is not an earthly one, but one drawn from the words of Buddha:

path
Path

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition, nor upon rumor, nor upon scripture, nor upon surmise, nor upon axiom, nor upon specious reasoning, nor upon bias towards a notion pondered over, nor upon another’s seeming ability, nor upon the consideration ‘The monk is our teacher.’
When you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.

When you yourselves know: ‘These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.
                                                                                                                                                          

seeing differently: 12th of 15

 

alley

A photographer, model, bystander…what were the various causal factors that created this moment in time?  Submitted in response to Robyn’s Seeing Differently challenge for October.

I hope you enjoy this video inspired by the photography book, Tao of Photography.

weary eyes

…”There is a charming quality, is there not,” he said to me, “in this silence: for hearts that are wounded, as mine is, a novelist whom you will read in time to come asserts that there is no remedy but silence and shadow. And see you this, my boy, there comes in all our lives a time towards which you still have far to go, when the weary eyes can endure but one kind of light, the light which a fine evening like this prepares us in the stillness of darkness, when the ears can listen to no music save what the moonlight breathes through the flute of silence.”*

silenceproust.jpg

I will be taking a break for a bit as I have two eye surgeries scheduled for December and January.  It is a bit of a wonder to the possibility of “seeing” what I have not been able to see.  Hope all who visit find the days within the next two months to be filled with loving compassion and equanimity.

 

*cited:

In Search of Lost Time

M Proust