Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

Buddhism in Nerd Culture

Dogma?

dogmaticRecently I came across a political thread in which there were many of one group of political activists putting down another group of political activists by claiming that their views are dogmatic and only based on the faith.  I wont go into which groups but I pointed out something that seemed to quiet the discussion further.  Views are only dogmatic when they belong to the other person. I was surprised when that worked because honestly its a variation on the Yogic Yama of Satya or truthfulness that I have stated here several times.  Truth is always subjective.  However wording it in this manner seemed to get the point across in a language they were accustomed to.  But what is Dogma?

Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system’s paradigm, or the ideology itself. The term can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, religion, or issued decisions of political authorities.

The term derives from Greek δόγμα “that which seems to one; opinion or belief” and that from δοκέω (dokeo), “to think, to suppose, to imagine”. In the first century CE, dogma came to signify laws or ordinances adjudged and imposed upon others.The plural is either dogmas or dogmata, from Greek δόγματα. The term “dogmatics” is used as a synonym for systematic theology, as in Karl Barth’s defining textbook of neo-orthodoxy, the 14-volume Church Dogmatics.

“Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”
― Joseph Campbell

 

Remember, seek not what divides us this year, instead find what it is that unites us.  We are all individuals who are interdependent on one another and we need each other.  From an American political point of view;  We need Conservatives to remind us not to give away the store, and we need Liberals to remind us not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Compassion is key!

A final note: Science is not a religion. Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.  There is always data from the experiments to back it up, however when you cherry pick your data you can interpet things to be however you want and people often find it easy to manipulate with this pseudo-science.  Take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt.

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An Update to Ujjayi Breath

pranayama2I originally had meant to post this weeks ago when I first recieved it from my Yogini, but life events came up and pushed posting this quite a bit.  It was when I was watching, or re watching(again), the show Chuck on Netflix when I came across an episode where Morgan defeated a laser grid using his Yogi skills and Ujjayi breath that I remembered to post!

So to you my readers I give you from my personal Yogini, Ujjayi Pranyama for beginner’s!

Ujjayi: Ud-jaya-ii
Simply put, Ud, when attached to verbs and nouns means upward or superiority in rank, it also means expanding, conveying the sense of pre-emenence and power. Jaya means conquest, victory, triumph or success. Ujjayi is the process in which the lungs are fully expanded and the chest puffed out like a proud conqueror.

Pranayama: Prana-yam
Prana means life-force or personal energy. Yama means distribution of that force or energy.
Prana is the basis of everything. It can be consciously directed to heal and strengthen the body. The breath becomes the Yogi’s key to health, strength, and vitality. Without breath there is no life. This is why, in English, we translate this Sanskrit Ujjayi Pranayama to “Victorious breath”.

We also sometimes hear this victorious breath referred to as “Ocean breath”. As the waves form the beach, so too does the breath form the Yoga practice. Your inner waves set the rhythm. The murmuring of your breath becomes the murmuring of your inner ocean while waves of inhalation flood your inner coast. The rhythmic sound of Ujjayi Pranayama might sound like waves rolling into the shore, which can be wonderful imagery during your practice!

While I joke around about Ujjayi being Darth Vader breath, in fact, it is not at all. Darth Vader wore a life support system that had a respirator and a microphone. We certainly aren’t trying to achieve that! However, the muscles we use in our throat during Ujjayi Pranayama are the same ones we use when practicing our best “Luke, I am your father”. So go ahead and practice that for a moment, and let’s get to it.

  1. 1. Sitting in a comfortable position, preferably Padmasana (lotus pose) or Siddhasana (easy seated pose), keep the back erect and rigid, spine tall and strong. Stretch the arms out in front of you, then relax the back of the wrists onto your knees. Here you can perform Jnana Mudra (seal of knowledge) by gently resting the thumb to the index finger. However, this is not necessary to practice Ujjayi.
  2. 2. Close your eyes and look inward.
  3. 3. Exhale completely.
  4. 4. Take the palm of one hand up to your mouth.  Imagine your hand is a mirror and that you are going to “fog” up with your breath with your mouth open.  When you do this it produces a clean “hollow” sound kind of like “haaaaaaaaaaa” (think Darth Vader).  It feels warm against your skin.

The tricky part is making the same sound on the inhale.  You can hold up a hand in front of your mouth and another at the back of your neck—two mirrors.  Try to fog them both up—the exhale fogs up the front mirror, the inhale the back.

Once you are adept at fogging up the “mirrors”, create the same sound and sensation—by breathing through your nose only.

Breathe in a balanced manner in through the nose and out through the nose.  The inhale and exhale are equal and the quality of sound is even.

Breathing in this way causes a slight constriction of the throat.  The glottis partially closes just like when you whisper speech.  As the air goes in and out it causes a slight “rubbing” sensation of the throat.

Now that you have the feel for the Ujjayi sound, it’s important to add diaphragmatic breathing.

Exhale completely by drawing your abdomen towards your spine.  Inhale by gently releasing the abdomen.  As it goes out it will automatically draw air in.  Start the breath (inhale) as low as you can—the pelvic floor, and fill your entire torso full.  The exhale empties the breath from the top down.

Now add chest breathing.
As you inhale, try to fill your chest.  Notice how all four sides of your torso expand in opposite directions.  You can feel this if you place your hands on the sides of your ribs.  As you exhale the air from the chest, all four sides draw in.

Put the two together.

Exhale by drawing in your abdomen towards your spine.  Inhale by releasing your abdomen.  Air comes in.  Begin the Ujjayi at this time.  Direct the air towards your sternum, as this will expand your chest.  As you continue to inhale fill the air all the way to the top of the chest and notice how it widens.

Exhale by relaxing and drawing the abdomen in.  Breathe the air out slowly and rhythmically finishing the Ujjayi breath.

It is important the abdominals are relaxed and soft above your bellybutton, yet firm (not hard) below it.  This allows your diaphragm to move freely.

The breath is never forced or done using strain.  Both are a sign that you are “pushing” too hard and are moving from a place of ego instead of taking care of yourself.

Work to reduce the amount of effort the Ujjayi takes.  It is a strong, deep breath done in a relaxed, even delicate manner.

Begin with practicing 10 victorious breaths in the morning and night. Increase as you become more comfortable with this style of breathing.

The Upanishads (sacred ancient teachings Yoga derives from) specify that the inhalation should be like drinking water through the stem of a blue water lily—unbroken as though you were drinking through a straw—as if your breath were liquid.  The exhalation is compared to the flow of oil—smooth and uniform as when you poor oil from a ladle.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says the breath is felt “from the throat to the heart.”

Ujjayi can be a specific practice but it happens spontaneously when concentration deepens. This is the only pranyama technique that is appropriate to use throughout all area of you yoga practice.

As you become very well rehearsed, to an advanced practitioner of Ujjayi Pranyama, you can begin adding other pranayma techniques as well. Until then, may the force be with you!


7 Day no tech experiment log.

So I have decided to remove all tech for 7 days (minus having a land line and transportation what with the kids and all).  As to create my own 7 day retreat at home.  My focus will be embracing my true self once more, meditation, study and reflection.  I am tracking my progress on a legal pad which I will upload later.

Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69174.8

First let me say how difficult it is to count the Stardate when Star Trek has been off the air for such a long time and no computer or calculator at one’s disposal!  After dropping the kids off at school and taking a few moments to meditate and gather my thoughts for the day, I quickly realized I had no new books to read that might spur on my reflective moments.  After a quick jaunt over to the local book store, I managed to get a copy of Tesla’s Notes and Inventions in hard back and a paper back of the Essence of the Heart Sutra by the Dalai Lama.

Started reading the Sutra, best quote so far: “The Buddha recognized among his followers a diversity of mental dispositions, spiritual inclinations and interest, and saw that in order to suit this diversity he had to teach differently in different contexts.  No matter how powerful a particular teaching may be or how “correct” a philosophical view may be, if it is not suitable to the individual hearing it, it has no value.  A skillful Spiritual teacher will this judge the appropriateness of a given teaching for a given individual and teach accordingly. Buddha recognized the diversity of mental dispositions, interests, and mental capabilities of his followers and thus gave diverse teachings.  Looking at all the world’s religions in this light, I feel a deep conviction that all of the traditions are beneficial, each of them uniquely service the needs of their followers.”

Decided to write things out on this legal pad after the kids went to bed to serve as a sounding board for my thoughts, much like I do when online.  I find it therapeutic when my brain is scrambled with thoughts to give them linear form, thus making them easier to let go of.

After the kids got home and had finished their homework they had played outside till dinner then I decided it was best to give them the freedom of choice to watch Netflix or not.  Just because this is something I am doing does not mean I should force them to go through it too.  I retreated to a quite corner to read and meditate further.

One thought that I have felt a strong urge it to let a friend know that I have had a crush on her for quite some time, but I feel it is better to not mention it now that I have time to reflect instead of the instant form of communication brought via instant messaging.  I don’t want to bring her into this troubled world I live, she deserves far better than myself.

End Entry Day 1

 

Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69177.7

Still quite the feat calculating Stardates but at least its easier with the initial Stardate calculated.  Went fishing today, you may think “how cruel” when I say went fishing, I mean I went to the river and cast an empty hook and line out repeatedly knowing full well I would not catch anything but twigs and leaves lol.  I had been difficult, I have subconsciously reached for the phone a few times, only to have been stymied by the fact that wifi has been shut off lol. Have managed to maintain a vegetarian diet the past few days as well as to not disrupt the flow of energy.

Today’s quote also from Heart Sutra about theologies with a creator deity.

How might we determine whether someone loves God sincerely? Surely, we would examine that person’s behavior and attitude toward fellow human beings, toward the rest of God’s creation.  If someone has genuine love and compassion towards fellow human brothers and sisters, and towards the Earth itself, then I think we can be sure that that person truly demonstrates love for God. It is clear that when someone respects God’s message they emulate God’s love for humanity.

End Entry Day 2

Science Officer’s log: Stardate 69191.5

So the experiment comes to a close.  What can I conclude? Although technology has it’s pros and its cons it is neither inherently good or bad.  Good and bad are simple illusions, symptoms of an underlining problem, a colossal time suck for certain.  The root of the problem, however, lies not in the tech but in the heart, the mind, and the soul.  Although my self imposed isolation can hurt at times, it is neither fulled or caused by the technology, it is a crutch, and until I can learn to be ok with being alone, I will never be able to end my self inflicted suffering.

End Experimental Log….


Mirror mirror on the status….

mirrorEven as a child I found social interactions confusing, often I would find myself unsure of how to act or react so I would sit quietly watching the interactions of others, often feeling like an outsider to the species (figuratively), if you will.

I have come to the long standing conclusion that often what we fear, what we hate in ourselves is what we hate in others.  I know not a very profound statement considering this has been a belief long held by psychologists.  But even my untrained eye can see what is right in front of it.  I will give an example.

I was following an interaction on a politically fueled discussion in regards to an argument of Liberals vs Conservatives.  It was a short lived argument because the Liberal decided not to engage (something I wish I had the strength of foresight to do often). The Liberal minded person made a statement (something I wont mention because I feel it will distract from the topic at hand), and the conservative persons response was as follows:

“You stupid ‘Libtard’ you are so uneducated are you a high school droup oute, or go to some libtard college?”

And that was where the altercation ended.  I did find it fascinating that the conservative minded person was angry, because they believed that the Liberally minded person was uneducated, yet themselves could not properly use punctuation marks, real words, or correctly spell the most basic of words.  I don’t mention this to insult, I know my own punctuation can be lacking due to thoughts streaming out into posts with little regard to editing,  merely to point out the very thing he hated in the liberally minded person was what was true in his own heart.

I often find myself wondering if those who hate others for other various reasons also do so out of such fears.  Hating those who are homosexual out of fear that they might be homosexual in their own hearts comes to mind.

1. When you catch yourself having a defining thought about someone, step back and ask, “What do I really know about this person?”

Often, the answer is a version of “not very much.” This behavior acts as a pattern interrupt, and forces you to stop and consider where the judgment is coming from.

2. When you hear yourself criticizing someone to others, stop and take a moment to come up with one thing you like about that person. Then praise them, out loud, for that quality.

This is another version of a pattern interrupt, and is also a reminder that they too are human, and like us all, have both attractive and not-so-attractive qualities.

3. When you find yourself in one of those incessant loop thought patterns of judgment about someone else’s behaviors, ask the hard question: Do I myself exhibit this same behavior or attitude that I judge in this person?

Almost always, the answer is yes (not that one always comes to that yes easily). You probably already know that the stuff that irritates us the most about others tends to be attributes we don’t necessarily realize we ourselves have. This was the single most difficult tool I used. It was also probably the most effective.

“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.” -Buddha

“By doing this you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.” -Buddhaghosa Visuddhimagga IX, 23.


More bewilderment from social networking

A comment caught my attention and surprised me today on Facebook, it read: “In most cases Buddhist has as much in common with Buddha as Christian with Christ.”  What shocked me most was not the comparison of Christians and Buddhists, but rather the implication that one was sitting in judgement over others who follow Buddha and determining on whether or not they were living up to the judge’s standard on what it is to be Buddhist.  If the old adage is to kill the Buddha we see along the road, then perhaps before we start the journey down the road each day we should look first in the mirror.

Remember we are all at different points along the journey, some of us have larger gapes than others.  It is not our place to admonish someone for taking longer.

 

“Who is this Migasāla … to know the complexity of the human character?’ Then he added: ‘Do not be a judge of others, do not judge others. Whoever judges others digs a pit for themselves.” -Buddha

What is your motivation?

Good morning Sangha, I say good morning because it is 8am as I begin to write this.fotolia_6232946_XS

A thought occurred to me this morning on my way home after dropping off the kids at school.  We Buddhists, much as the same as others of other faiths, seem to find ourselves in our respective communities, come across a vocal minority who believe we are not living as piously as we should be.  A few examples; those who believe all Buddhists must be vegetarian or even vegan, and those who believe all Buddhist should refrain from coitus or carnal relations.  There are times when I find myself smiling and shaking my head slowly when I find these few.  Sometimes the best teachers are the ones who are quite adversarial and sit in judgment, admonishing.

I could cite passages of where the Buddha ate meat, and had discussions with monks who tried to force their views of vegan-ism upon the sangha of that day, I could agree on quelling sexual desire with physical relations only serves to strengthen that desire, much as the lust of possessions only deepens that hunger.  But there are plenty of articles out there, easily found in our virtual community today.

Instead I will ask you the reader this, when you see someone, practicing in a way you think is not correct, that moment before you chose to speak are you practicing metta? Are you remembering that the teachings of The Middle Way are also teachings on the Buddha teaching his followers to find a middle way between extreme practices and opinions, not to get lost in fanatical perfectionism?

We must strive to keep clear in our minds and focus when dealing with others in our communities, that not everyone will be along the path in the same place, at the same time.  Practice your loving-kindness, be inoffensive and non-violent towards others and towards your own thinking.  For truly, is it not what really angers us when we see the flaws in others, a reflection of our own flaws that we see in ourselves?

Remeber, we cannot all be Lamas and Monks!

 

Namaste’

 

“The Pali word metta is a multi-significant term meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence. The Pali commentators define metta as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others (parahita-parasukha-kamana). … True metta is devoid of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers. Metta is indeed a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.” -Acharya Buddharakkhita


Buddha on Love

Yin_Yang_Heart_by_emmysdaddyWith Valentine’s Day fast approaching here in the states, you cannot help sometimes but feel the twinge of the chronically single life style.  With everything geared towards romance and couples, the days can pull at the ole heart strings.  Admittedly a few times myself I have wondered if my standards were too high, if I should have settled when a relationship did not work out.  Other times I have asked myself what I could I have done better when someone had left me and the shoe was on the other foot.

Lately while reading the Dhammapada a running theme kept popping up, and if you are like me you may find these words, if not inspiring, at least comforting when those doubts start to creep into your conscious trains of thought.

If a traveler does not meet with one who is his better, or his equal. let him firmly keep to his solitary journey; this is no companionship with a fool.  DP 61

If a man finds no prudent companion who walks with him, is wise, and lives soberly, let him walk alone like a king who has left his conquered country behind, -Like an elephant.  DP 329

It is better to live alone, there is no companionship with a fool; let a man walk alone, let him commit no sin, with few wishes, like an elephant in the forest.  DP 330

The fields are damaged by weeds, mankind is damaged by lust: therefore a gift bestowed on those who are free from lust brings great reward. DP 359

If we want to be free of suffering in our relationships, we must find our equals and those who inspire us to better ourselves, we must not become trapped by our lusts, for when we do we become like spiders who have become trapped in our own webs.

But how is this fair we might ask?  So many happy couples why not me? Honestly who knows, we should strive to continue on living in the now, continue our good works until our seeds ripen to bare fruits.

Even a good man sees evil days (finds suffering in this world), as long as his good deed has not ripened; but when the good deed has ripened, then the good man sees happy days.  DP 120

Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, it will not come nigh unto me.  Even by falling of water-drops a water pot is filled; the wise man becomes fill of good, even if he gathers it little by little.

So to my fellow romantically challenged brothers and sisters, I wish you press on, happily diligently, doing good works, for sometimes the sweetest fruits come from the trees that take longest to bloom.

Namaste’


Ego monsters rise again!

egoserpentOnce again the ego monster has reared it’s head on the net. People who have not trained under a master, who rely on their own egos corrupt the teachings of the Buddha, to put down or belittle people they feel do not agree with what their egos are telling them. I do not view this as condemnation or judgement, because I feel everyone has their own personal truths, I do however think we all (including myself) need a refresher of some of the Basic tenants of Buddhism.

Zen Teachings & Beliefs

  1. All sentient beings have Buddha-nature.
  2. Knowledge can be acquired from all aspects of life.
  3. Such knowledge helps to achieve enlightenment.
  4. The six paramitas (perfections) are the six principles of enlightened living. They are:
    • Dana paramita: unattached generosity, boundless openness. Open heart, mind and hand.
    • Sila paramita: virtue, morality.
    • Shanti paramita: patience, tolerance, acceptance, endurance.
    • Virya paramita: energy, diligence, courage, enthusiasm, effort.
    • Dhyana paramita: meditation, absorption, concentration, contemplation.
    • Prajna: transcendental wisdom.
  5. Meditation and mindfulness help in achieving new insights which leads to enlightenment.
  6. The experiencing of mu (or ‘wu’, the lack of presence, emptiness) leads to satori (spiritual awakening

“Well so ‘n so believes in stuff that I think is new age hippie BS and not Buddhism, because they are talking about coming from a place of spiritual love and compassion.”

Well, to be honest one of the basic teachings of Buddhism is the act of Altruism (the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others.)

‘Is this what you have in mind,’ I asked the Dalai Lama, ‘when you say in teachings that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the world are the most selfish beings of all, that by cultivating altruism they actually achieve ultimate happiness for themselves?’

Yes. That’s wise selfish,’ he replied. ‘Helping others not means we do this at our own expense. Not like this. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, these people very wise. All their lives they only want one thing: to achieve ultimate happiness. How to do this? By cultivating compassion, by cultivating altruism.
The root of happiness is altruism — the wish to be of service to others. -Dalai Lama

As for the confusion of Spiritualism, often people still mistake the No-Self or No-Soul means there is not room for spirituality in Buddhism. If Buddhism does not believe in an immortal soul, then what and who will be reborn in the cycle of samsāra?

This is an interesting question. Buddhism definitely does not accept the belief that there is an immortal and perpetual soul. As mentioned in the teaching of non-self, no permanent self or soul entity exists permanently and invariably—only the current of karmic consciousness of sentient beings flowing constantly like the running of a river. If there were an immortal and invariable soul, an animal would not be able—after cultivating wholesome karmas through multiple lives—to become a human and a human would not be able to become a Bodhisattva or even a Buddha (See Jataka Tales for more information). Here, it is the very karmic current of consciousness that continually operates and transforms itself from this life to the next life in the cycle of samsāra in which the mind of each individual is the only foundation for this operation. Consequently, Buddhism does not accept the existence of an immortal soul, although it does accept that a transformation of the mind occurs throughout the journey of birth and rebirth. Until a practitioner—after a long term of spiritual training—attains sainted fruits such as Arhat, Buddha, or Bodhisattva in the eighth stage, he or she will break the cycle of samsāra. At this point of the spiritual journey, the motivation of birth and rebirth belongs to the devotional vow of each Bodhisattva; it is no longer pushed by the karmic force. Speaking of problems of rebirth or samsāra, you should note that Buddhism does not use the term soul, but rather mind.


The Sound of Silence

the-sound-of-silenceThe sound of being silent, or knowing when to be silent!

As a rule, I generally only post what I practice, or at least what I strive to practice. I know I am not a perfect individual and I still struggle with the ego mind that acts as my own worst critic. Often, however, I have to “kill the Buddha I see in the mirror” as it were because I have turned my practice into an extension of my own ego. When ever it goes too far to the opposite tangent I tend to step back and pull away from sharing what I learn when I start to feel that I need to lead others, especially when I am lacking in my own practice. Namaste my friends!

A disciple once asked, “Master, what is the value of silence?” The master told the disciple, “ So long as the bee is outside the petals of the lotus, and has not tasted its honey, it hovers around the flower, emitting its buzzing sound; but when it is inside the flower, it drinks its nectar silently. If a man quarrels and disputes about doctrines and dogmas, he has not tasted the nectar of the Tao; when he has tasted it he becomes still.”


Illusions faced in our modern Era

814fef964575afa493e93845fc6e8fc3Often, through the means of social media, with the anonymity that comes with it, we find there are many with self appointed authority on any given subject. Whether it is spirituality or through other subjects. Often it is easy to get wrapped up in the egos of ourselves and the egos of others.

No one man should one be regarded more than another, this was the first illusion Buddha shed when he discarded his princely riches.

We must remember no one man is more holier than another, what is divine in ourselves is divine also in others. If you seek validation, you will only find the ego, and the ego leads to suffering. Seek only genuine connections, and help, free yourselves from the illusion of the digital media age.

Romans 14:3-6
3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.  -NIV Bible

“If you find no one to support you on the spiritual path, walk alone. There is no companionship with the immature.” -Buddha