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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nothing Lasts Forever.

Body impermanent like spring mist;
mind insubstantial like empty sky;
thoughts unestablished like breezes in space.
Think about these three points over and over.

-Adept Godrakpa, "Hermit of Go Cliffs"

James: I've been meditating over these verses for awhile now and the essence that I feel from these lines is one of liberation from the chains that keep me anchored in the deep bedrock of the ego-self. Reminding myself of the impermanance of the body emphasizes that the disease schizoffective disorder, which clouds my brain at times is merely a guest in the present moment of this birth/life.
A spring mist can dangerouslly cloud ones path and confuse a hiker climbing a mountain, which could cause him/her to fall off a cliff. However, if the hiker patiently sits still and is mindful of his/her surroudings then soon pockets of sky will appear again and the route becomes clearer. It's the same when dealing with a mental disorder.

Because forcing my way through cloudy "misty" states of mind that come with schizoaffective disorder makes things worse and leads to decisions that are inherent with danger. Living with a mental disorder gives a person plenty of chances to accept that the mind isn't the ally that we often believe it to be. The power of the mind to control my life is stripped in accepting that the thoughts the mind produces are usually nothing more than projections on a movie screen.

The mind can only be trusted to protect itself.


~Peace to all beings~

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29 comments:

Uku said...

Great picture and great post! Buddha's Way can really help us to go through the delusions of our minds.

With palms together,
Uku

Anonymous said...

i think those lines, and your post, are really interesting. i'm getting into meditation and i have a question about it for you.

what i like about meditation is to connect to a spiritual place that is in me and where i came from, since my body and mind are temporary. i remember that project deadlines and little worries can resolve themselves if i don't push them (i finished the tao te ching recently) and that there is really little to worry about. i'm a bit of a worrier and this kind of meditation really helps me. but i've also read about meditation, especially in the context of jon kabat-zinn's "wherever you go, there you are" as being about presentness, and i have trouble with that. why is the "now" better than other moments? is the past merely hating it or longing for it to return, is the future merely dreading or anticipating it? the past and future are in a sense a part of the present moment, which makes the present less present. so what is this "presentness" people are talking about, adn why privilege it over other states? i don't want to cut myself off. i like to think of meditation is being connected to the infinite, and the "present" is but a small part of that.
so what do you think about meditation and presentness?
--G

They call him James Ure said...

Uku:

Thanks!! I wish I could take credit for that fabulous picture. Yeah the Buddha Dharma has been the only thing I have found that effectively works at slicing through my delusions.

G:

In my mind I totally understand what you're talking about and find myself agreeing with you. It's all a stream of consciousness. I think for me it comes down to what is the most pressing state and that is most often the present state.

I do think that there is some good that can be had in reflecting on the past and planning for the future. However, I think the reason that most teachers emphasize the present moment is because it is easy to wallow in the suffering of past mistakes, etc.

And the future can cause extreme anxiety if we put too much emphasis upon it as you mentioned.

That said I think what you say is very important because it is not said often enough that there are good moments in the past, which can help motivate us in our present circumstances.

And as I said above it is good to look into the future a bit to plan to a certain degree. Just so long as we don't get caught up in our plans being concrete because it can lead to much suffering by disappointment.

But I'm not a teacher so this is just my personal opinion.

Trepe said...

I think that maybe thoughts are like words. Sometimes we are just hearing someone else. I think I deal with major depression and so I feel that I can sympathize. Ask your angels to help and they will.

anonyrod said...

Without wishing to point fingers, obviously there are teachers and there are teachers, and the present moment, now, is in danger of becoming a slogan due to the proliferation of book sales. Correction, it already is a slogan as such books like 'Be Here Now', which explained little about Buddhism, have been around for donkey's years and people are no wiser.

Anonymous, you have to be able to figure out who are the teachers and who are the people selling books. Teachers don't sell anything.

The present moment is important because that is what we always deal with. If the mind is empty then we don't have anything to deal with, and if you want an empty mind stick with meditating and avoid reading.

Obviously, we do read and we do think, the trick here is then to do this in a skilful way, namely in the light of the true teachings, being aware of what's in our mind, having some direction, and being able to let go.

Linda Sama said...

I tagged ya over at Ageless Hippie Chick

Barry said...

James, thank you for sharing your spacious view of mind function.

Most of the time I find it hard not to view the mind as an ally - and your post shifts that view a little.

Warmly,
Barry

Pete Hoge said...

thanks for expressing your being
and letting other's know it's
alright to do the same.

funny post on Sarah Palin!!

Pete.

Kamacharya said...

Good post James.
The mind is an interesting subject to study. Especially the effects meditation has on the mind.

I found this interesting article on the New Scientist website:

"WHEN Zen Buddhists meditate, they may be deliberately switching off their default network, a recently discovered system within the brain that has been strongly linked with daydreaming (see main story).The goal of Zen meditation is to clear the mind of wandering, stream-of-consciousness thoughts by focusing attention on posture and breathing. Giuseppe Pagnoni, a neuroscientist at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, wondered whether this meant they had learned to suppress the activity of their default network.He recruited a group of volunteers trained in Zen meditation and put them in an fMRI scanner. He presented them with random strings of letters and asked them to determine whether each was an English-language word or just gibberish. Each time a subject saw a real word, their default network would light up for a few seconds - evidence of meandering thoughts triggered by the word, such as apple... apple pie... cinnamon.Zen meditators performed just as well as non-meditators on word recognition, but they were much quicker to rein in their daydreaming engines afterwards, doing so within about 10 seconds, versus 15 for non-meditators (PLoS ONE, vol 3, p e3083).

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026811.500-the-secret-life-of-the-brain.html

They call him James Ure said...

Trepe:

Yeah thoughts are often like holograms--they seem so real yet often disappear just as fast as they appear. I understand major depression well so feel free to email me if you need someone to listen.

Anonyrod:

You're right that too often modern Buddhists see the present moment as something that should and could only be "happy times."

It is necessary to be mindful in all states of mind. Mindfulness is just as effective during periods of suffering as periods of relaxation and peace.

Barry:

Yeah I have seen a lot to tell me that the mind is like a mad scientist who more often then not shocks us and tortures us.

Pete Hoge:

Thank-you. Part of my reason for blogging is to bring attention to mental disorders and reduce the stigma surrounding them.

Kamacharya:

That's a great article and I have read similar studies myself. I was just talking with my chiropractor about how the mind, body and "spirit" are all interconnected to make our bodies "work."

Kamacharya said...

James said: I was just talking with my chiropractor about how the mind, body and "spirit" are all interconnected to make our bodies "work."
-----

Being a physicalist, I believe that the mind and spirit (or soul) are the same thing and both are produced by a living brain.

If the brain is affected by, or damaged due to chemicals (drugs) or trauma (such as haemorrhage or tumor) for instance, then the mind is affected accordingly. If brain death occurs then no mind can exist (hence my disbelief in gods and ghosts).

I don't think I could ever be a Buddhist as I can't bring myself to believe in the traditional karma and rebirth doctrines. The 'no brain = no mind' concept is too self-evident to me to think otherwise.
But with that said, is it really necessary to "believe" in Buddhist doctrines?
I was told it's good to at least have confidence in them until you know for sure(though to me there's no difference between 'confidence' and 'belief'), but isn't it just as good to disbelieve in them for the same reason?

Sorry. I'm verging close to being off topic.

anonyrod said...

Kamacharya:

Show me some sperm brains and I might go along with that. Also it is fairly evident, as in protein folding or growing tissue in a laboratory, that things occur on the level of mind that do not involve any brain (single celled critters don't have brains either).

This argument goes back to the 'seat of consciousness' idea, which thousands of years ago was considered to be the heart and now just happens to be the brain.

As for the mind itself, then it is not physical, and even by scientific measures cannot be tested, as in the previously quoted article that you mentioned. Scientists can only measure the physical qualities of the brain, not the mind (accepting that these physical qualities are created by the mind).

Generally, the term soul is not used in Buddhism because it usually implies a permanent self, travelling onwards (the Christian idea), whereas the mind changes from moment to moment and can be starved of fuel (karma) to the extent where it ceases to be.

For a living being to exist, then there needs to be two parts, a body and a mind. Note that when people die they quite often have brains in perfect condition; how come they cease to function? Should we call a mechanic to put cables on someone's ears when they die, and how come the brain doesn't take care of such problems?

Your idea is like a cell phone without a battery, the battery being the power source.

As for what comes first, the mind or the body, just look at life in general. Moment to moment, sometimes rupa (the body) is the cause and mind (nama) is the effect (mindfulness of breathing), and sometimes it is the mind that is the cause and body the effect (movement). Long term, it is always the mind that creates the body.

As for not believing in gods or ghosts then this is correct. I generally don't believe anything either but due to experience I have a different view of things (like beings with non material bodies).

As for not believing in karma, me too, however due to experience, once again, I have a different understanding.

I think that using words is limited, even though to many of us what is said may appear to be logical. You cannot prove anything in words alone, people have to experience things for themselves.

If like myself, you were fortunate, in seeing some things that are 'physically' impossible, like a monk going over a high waterfall and vanishing into thin air (Yama realm actually) and then appearing standing at the bottom of the falls, or seeing Chinese mediums in Singapore slashing their tongues with swords, spraying blood everywhere, with their tongues grotesquely hanging on by flaps of skin, and then talking to them a few minutes later
while they drank tea and smoked cigarettes and then stuck out their unmarked tongues, you might, just might, have a different perspective.

Even such stories cannot be a valid proof unless you witness such things for yourself.

As they say in Buddhism, "Fish do not see the water because it is touching their eyes all of the time, and people do not see the world because it is touching their eyes all of the time too."

Kamacharya said...

You're a prolific writer, Anonyrod, but unfortunately it takes me way too long to type as much as you so I'll only address a couple of things you mention:

"Show me some sperm brains and I might go along with that. Also it is fairly evident, as in protein folding or growing tissue in a laboratory, that things occur on the level of mind that do not involve any brain (single celled critters don't have brains either)."

I don't understand your meaning, unless you think I'm saying that for something to function it needs a brain? Or do you think that all biological organisms have minds?

I'm no biologist but I understand most biological processes require matter, energy and instructions (DNA)- no actual mind involved.

Sperm, like other single-celled organisms are produced biologically and specifically, in the case of sperm, by manufacturing cells in the testes. Sperm do not have a brain of their own as they don't require a mind, but follow a set of instructions coded in their (your) DNA.

I can't prove to you that other unicellular organisms like bacteria for instance, don't have a spirit or mind, but I also doubt that you could prove they do.

Anonyrod said:
"For a living being to exist, then there needs to be two parts, a body and a mind. Note that when people die they quite often have brains in perfect condition; how come they cease to function? Should we call a mechanic to put cables on someone's ears when they die, and how come the brain doesn't take care of such problems?"

Here you do actually say that an organism requires a mind to live. Why do you say that?
You also say that a dead brain is perfectly fine. But I say that a dead brain is far from perfect. No matter how anyone dies, whether from a car accident, heart attack, drowning, whatever, they really only die from one thing - anoxia, a lack of oxygen in the brain. As soon as oxygen-rich blood is lacking in ANY organ it begins to deteriorate. A dead brain is not a healthy brain. It is a severely damaged brain.
That is why a "brain mechanic" will probably never work.

Anyway, when all is said and done , I'm still a physicalist - until I'm persuaded otherwise.

Tim said...

Happy Thanksgiving James.....

Andicat said...

What a great post. Thank you. Impermanence seems to come again and again... The beginning line in A Course in Miracles that says "Nothing Real Can Be Threatened, Nothing Unreal Exists." In this way, the only thing permanent is our spirit. Its the only thing that we both start with, and end with.

anonyrod said...

Kamachariya:
Like Science, Buddhism is simply a set of instructions and descriptions for people to work out for themselves, as for proof then you cannot really prove things as in mathematics, or logic, but you do temper your own realizations with the reality of what we come to understand as true nature.

Material Science is rather a limited way of looking at things; it is a set of presumptive descriptions that scientists accept as being true. Like DNA, the alphabet soup that makes up gene coding is presumed to be a set of instructions, yet like most things in our world it just happens to be a convenient truth rather than reality.

Science changes often, all of the high tech stuff of today will be museum junk in a century's time, as will the scientific proofs. Our true nature, on the other hand, does not change at all.

I mentioned the lab experiments because of your your no brain, no mind concept, yet mind exists without the presence of a brain.

As for organisms like bacteria I suspect that there is a mind behind their material form because they express an intelligence that develops immunity to modern medicines.

The biologists view of matter, energy, instructions is the belief in Frankenstein.

While I can prove anything at all using formal logic equations, even 2+2 = 37.961, mathematical proof is more concerned with probability than anything else, and this probability is usually steered toward what the scientist desires.

Being Buddhist you don't have to believe in anything (Kalama Sutta), and as my own teacher points out, despite the wonder and complexity of modern science and the highly educated scientists, the driving force behind it is still greed, anger, and delusion.

They call him James Ure said...

Thanks Tim!!! You too!!!

Kamacharya said...

Sorry James, and Anonyrod too I suppose, but even though I may be flogging a dead horse here I just have to voice my opinions in regard to spirtualist's disregard of physical science.

Anonyrod said: "Material Science is rather a limited way of looking at things; it is a set of presumptive descriptions that scientists accept as being true. Like DNA, the alphabet soup that makes up gene coding is presumed to be a set of instructions, yet like most things in our world it just happens to be a convenient truth rather than reality."

I beg to differ. The universe is a physical entity ruled by physical laws (physics). There is nothing non-physical about it, only that which we, of limited experience and intellect, cannot as yet explain in terms we understand. I believe religious or spiritual answers are close to insulting due to their lack of rational inquiry.

"Science changes often, all of the high tech stuff of today will be museum junk in a century's time, as will the scientific proofs. Our true nature, on the other hand, does not change at all."

True, but unlike religion (I don't put Buddhism in this catergory, although it can come close to it.) science can change. That is why it is so important. Science is adaptable.

"I mentioned the lab experiments because of your your no brain, no mind concept, yet mind exists without the presence of a brain."

Where's your proof? Because you "think" minds can exist without brains? Seems like a kind of wishful thinking to me.

"As for organisms like bacteria I suspect that there is a mind behind their material form because they express an intelligence that develops immunity to modern medicines."

Adaptability has nothing to do with intelligence. Adaptability has to do with DNA's ability to mutate in procreation. This is called evolution.

"The biologists view of matter, energy, instructions is the belief in Frankenstein."

Huh?

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

No worries Kamacharya. I'm fine with discussion and debate as long as no one starts slinging insults and name calling. Otherwise, debate away!!

Part of why I started this blog way back when was to create a place where everyday Buddhists, nominal Buddhists and nonBuddhists can come to discuss mostly Buddhism but many other things too.

anonyrod said...

True Handsome, it is only natural that people have different points of view.

Also, if you happen to see a bumble bee flying around it isn't really happening because Bumble bees flying is against the laws of physics.

As for the universe, it comes from the five aggregates, and the big bang theory originated when the young scientist fell out of his pram and hit his head on the concrete floor (cause and effect, karma).

I know of a lot of geniuses (nutcases), and it simply depends upon your point of view. However, I am simply a Buddhist, what do I know?

anonyrod said...

The Laws of Physics

According to Newton mechanics, providing that we have spin, mass, vector, etc., then we can predict the future of every particle in the universe. However, quantum mechanics destroys this theory because you can never be certain about anything, there are simply probabilities.

While the world recognizes some scientist as a genius because nobody can prove him wrong at the time, we have to wait until someone else comes along with a new theory that nobody can disprove.

My own, perhaps somewhat impolite, view is that human beings tend to like the smell of their own farts, and that all of these new discoveries concerning the mysteries of the universe are simply the equivalent of self-important people breaking wind.

Kamacharya said...

Hey Anonyrod, I don't mean to be insulting at all. I just get taken away by my passion for science a tad at times. I don't mean to sound arrogant or anything, but I get all riled up when I read something that sounds a little... well... wrong.

So I will remark on your comment:

"...if you happen to see a bumble bee flying around it isn't really happening because Bumble bees flying is against the laws of physics."

Although the idea that according to the law of aerodynamics the Bumblebee should be incapable of flight (According to Wikipedia, some credit physicist Ludwig Prandtl (1875—1953) of the University of Göttingen in Germany with popularizing the myth.) it turned out to be false.

See this site for further details:
www.news.cornell.edu/releases/
March00/APS_Wang.hrs.html

Also, I too am only human. What do I know?

Kamacharya said...

By the way, I don't like farts. Not mine. Not anyone's.

Peace.

Kamacharya said...

YOU started this blog Handsome B. Wonderful? I thought this was James Ure's blog. Or are you and he the same person, like in Fight Club?

anonyrod said...

Kamacharya:
I wasn't aware that anyone was trying to insult me so no problem; just expressing opinions like yourself.

As for Bumble bees, most scientific revelations turn out to be false. Don't forget that scientists thought the Earth was flat, and that the world was only as old as stated in Christian texts, not forgetting that even more recent discoveries in tectonics (1960's) were laughed at by the majority of scientists.

Since the laws of physics were changed, I understand that Bumble bees are happier.

I just look at everything from the position that mind is the originator, and that mind also creates the unreliable piece of meat we call the brain.

Kamacharya said...

That's cool Anonyrod. Even if I don't sound like it I do respect your views but I do like a good argument.

So that being said, I do have to add that some scientists may have thought the earth was flat in the past, but certainly not all of them. People have suspected that the earth was spherical since the time of Pythagoras (approx. 570 BC).

But I do understand your point. The beauty of science, unlike religion, is that it is able to change without too much fuss. Science is about empirical study and rational enquiry. Religion tends to rely wholly (or is "holy"?) on faith alone. Unlike religion, I doubt many people were killed over heretical beliefs in the realm of scientific learning.

By the way, I don't lump Buddhism in with other religions. Buddhism, like many philosophies, has a tradition of questioning belief that is much akin to science.

Anonyrod said: "Since the laws of physics were changed, I understand that Bumble bees are happier."

The laws of physics were never changed. Nor were they misunderstood in the case of the Bubblebee. As I said before, that whole business about how according to the law of aerodynamics the Bumblebee should be incapable of flight turns out to be a myth, probably started by physicist Ludwig Prandtl (1875—1953).
I don't know why it was started (probably a joke that was taken seriously by the ignorant, science-fearing public) but no physicist ever took it seriously.

In my view it is quite evident that the brain creates the mind, not the other way around.

From infant to adult the mind develops as the brain does. And from adult to geriatric the mind deteriorates as the brain does.

By your reasoning, if the mind has little to do with the brain (an unreliable piece of meat) then a blow to the head wouldn't affect the mind in the slightest. But as aging boxing stars like Muhammad Ali show us, this is certainly not the case. And again by your reasoning a new-born baby would have as wide a knowledge as a university professor. There would be no need for school! Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

I say, an undeveloped brain equals an undeveloped mind and a damaged brain equals a damaged mind. Reality proves this to be true.

anonyrod said...

Kamacharya:

You are correct, Buddhism isn't really a religion in the usual sense; society made it a religion.

As for science, then the original science was metaphysics, which probably goes back some 30 thousand years, and Buddhism is the final solution.

Damage to the body, including the brain, obviously has a limiting effect upon the mind if it affects the usual senses and awareness, and blind-from-birth beings, even though they may have a brain in perfect condition, can never fully understand this world of ours, although many people do quite well in living regular lives.

From a Buddhist perspective, the mind is the creator (along with karma, heat, and food) and the body is simply a mental product. We focus upon purifying the mind rather than focusing upon 'worldly' knowledge like regular science, i.e. knowledge that is only useful for earning a living.

In the end it doesn't really matter whether the Earth is flat or round, or whether we win or lose. While the purely scientific aim is to be able to manipulate and control nature. the Buddhist aim is to get the hell out of Dodge and make sure that we don't end up center stage again.

Why? because it's boring, a pain in the ass, not the best scenario, birth, old age, sickness, and death, etc., Dukkha!

Or haven't you noticed?

Kamacharya said...

Oh I've noticed all right! It is true what you say, we are questioning the poison arrow instead of removing it. Or, as said in that brilliant movie Fight Club, "F*#k Martha Stewart. Martha's polishing the brass on the Titanic; it's all going down, man."

But then again science is definitely important while we're here.

It isn't spirits that hold a plane up in the sky, it's the law of aerodynamics. If you've ever flown in a plane and survived to tell the tale it is because someone out there got their mathematics right!

It is'nt the power of positive thinking that treats heart disease or cancer, it's medical science (although thinking positive can't hurt).

The world isn't made less stressful by good intentions alone, but by advancements in science.

Don't devoid life of positive science, but let science be an aid to life. I doubt if many people could live long without it. I know I couldn't.

vinod said...

consciousness is god .....the one who carry the consciousness is the son of god...."nothing is real,real is nothing" because the thing which is real will be unreal tomorrow."the real consciousness is that we all are "sunya" that means zero...having a sense of something gives us a feeling of supremacy to us which is the only cause of pain ..we all need to be homogenize at one level that is spiritual level........ "what is god" and does every person has different god or there is only one energy which we call god......"unheard the voice of our heart is the cause of all adversities'......try the odyssey of self.......and think we are here for what.......(human being)

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