The Sound of One Hand Slapping

Portrait of the Mastress, by Masterymistery
The Seeker asks the Mastress: “How may this humble supplicant who kneeleth before thee become enlightened? How doth One enjoin with the All, or is it predestinated forevermore to tread the cyclic wheel of existence, hamster-like, until the wrathful deities take pity on the crusading pilgrim's benighted soul?”

The Mastress — a nut-brown, gnarled and ancient guru of indeterminate gender and reproachable demeanour — respondeth imperturbably saying, “Ask the next six people you meet; perhaps you may find the answers you say you seek.”

“What the fricking flaming biscuit!” exclaimeth the Seeker, on hearing these mysterious words.

Loincloth wafting on a stealthy breeze, the Nut-brown maketh the smile of one lip curling. The visage of the guru wears a veil of inscrutability as profound as the deepest depths of inner space.

Dissatisfied and disgruntled, the Seeker taketh his leave of the Gnarly One and sets his footlings on the path that leadeth to the Inn of the Flowering Beetle, formerly The Queen’s Moustache. On the way he encountereth the first of six respondents — an aged washerwoman squatting phlegmatically in the shade of a cinnabar tree.

“How do you do, O Gentle Crone?” enquireth the Seeker courteously.

“Get lost asshole!” quoth the Crone, waxing wrathful, “or I’ll box thy poxy earhole in the blink of a newt’s eyelid!”

Brothers dreaming

Once upon a night, a nine-year-old boy named Cain dreamed he was soaring like an eagle in the skies above a land so beautiful that he wept with joy.

He felt so full of wonder and delight that he called out to his younger brother Abel, asleep in the bunk below. Cain wanted Abel at his side, flying through the air of that mysterious land. Cain knew in his heart it would be a long time and a far way before he’d see those colours or hear that music again.

The next morning Cain felt off-balance. He was happy and excited, as if he had discovered a great secret that would change everything. But he was also angry and resentful that he had to get up and go to school. He wished he could just go back to sleep and resume the magic dream.

Abel woke up that morning feeling hot and dizzy. Their mother, Eve, took one look at his pale sweaty face and said “no school for you today sweetie, you must be coming down with something.”

Then Cain said “he’s faking, it’s not fair…” and Abel said “am not!” and Cain said “liar liar your pants are on fire!” and Abel said “well your pants smell like poo!” at which point Cain flew at his brother in a rage, throwing punches as hard and fast as he could.

Enlightenment: the Dark Side

Depiction of the Wheel of Existence, showing the six realms of existence, with Lord Yama the "God" of Death in attendance. Applique and embroidery on silk. (circa 1800)

The Question

Abiding in bliss sounds great, but wouldn't it get boring after a while? Why seek to achieve enlightenment and/or nirvana and become One with the All?

From various sources, including conversations with various people (some real), I've constructed a ramshackle, unstable, incomplete and misleading picture of what some aspects of enlightenment/nirvana mean, to some people.

But I don't understand what the benefits are; I don't understand why achieving enlightenment should be set as a goal.

According to some schools of Buddhist thought, life is full of pain and misery. Then you die and are reborn... into another life of pain and suffering... over and over again, until you escape Samsara (the "Wheel of Cyclic Existence"), achieve nirvana and become One with the All.

Reincarnation is to be avoided. Life is to be avoided. The self must be liberated from the endless wheel of cyclic existence.

Or so they say. But is that true for everyone?

Not every life is full of pain and suffering. Life may be full of delusion, but what's so terrible about a bit of delusion once in a while? And even if every single life, without exception, is nothing but pain and suffering and delusion and aversion, some might still prefer that over nothingness, blissful or otherwise.

Us vs Them

Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, first published in Britain 2005, with introductory comments from the Dalai Lama.
What is a person? It's an important question because the way that a human behaves towards another lifeform is determined by whether the human believes the other lifeform to be a person or not.

In the introductory commentary to the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition (2005) of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Dalai Lama describes the Tibetan Buddhist view of what constitutes a person, as set out below.

"Among the ancient schools of thought, which accepted the notion of continuity of consciousness, there were several non-Buddhist philosophical schools which regarded the entity, the 'I' or 'self', which migrated from existence to existence as being unitary and permanent. They also suggested that this 'self' was autonomous in its relationship to the psycho-physical components that constitute a person. In other words they believed or posited that there is an essence or 'soul' of the person, which exists independently from the body and mind of the person.

We are all strange loops

Strange Loop -- book cover
In “I am a strange loop” (2007) Douglas Hofstadter proposes that the self -- personal consciousness -- is a pattern. Hofstadter notes that patterns exist at different levels of resolution, ie at different points on a spectrum of granularity, from coarse-grained to fine-grained.

Here’s an example: Jack and Jill are persons who know each other. Per Hofstadter’s idea, the knowledge of Jill in Jack’s mind is as much a valid part of Jill as Jill's physical body is part of Jill. But the knowledge of Jill in Jack’s mind is “low res.” compared with the knowledge of Jill in her own mind. Jill’s actual body and mind are at the highest res available.

Extending the idea: A photograph of Jill is part of Jill. And so too are letters written by Jill, letters written about Jill, clothes worn by Jill, memories of Jill in the minds of her friends: these are all parts of Jill. Every part and aspect of reality touched by Jill in any way, is part of Jill — the “Greater Jill”, the total, aggregated footprint of Jill upon Reality.

Perhaps the most significant difference between the various parts or aspects of Jill is the extent to which each is subject to change. Everything is subject to change, but some things change less than others. A digitized photograph of Jill uploaded to the internet is less subject to change than Jill’s physical body.

How eating dogshit can avert death

The male and female primordial buddhas Samantabhandra and Samantabhadri in union. Thangkas painted by Shawu Tsering and photographed by Jill Morley Smith are in the private collection of Gyurme Dorje.The male and female primordial buddhas Samantabhandra and Samantabhadri in union. Thangkas painted by Shawu Tsering and photographed by Jill Morley Smith are in the private collection of Gyurme Dorje.
If we were sitting on a mountaintop with the wind in our hair and the stars in our eyes and a mug of yak-buttered tea in our hands, maybe just maybe we could have a productive conversation about the Book.

I'm talking about The Tibetan Book of the Dead, deluxe edition, with introduction by the Dalai Lama, Penguin Books Ltd, 2005.

Much of the material is outrageously bizarre and peculiar (in my eyes, at the time of reading). For example, here's an excerpt from the Specific Rites for Averting Death:

“When the indication of protruding ankle bones appears, one should face westward towards the sun when it is close to setting and remove one's clothes. Then, placing a dog's tail under oneself, and some dog excrement in a heap in front, one should eat a mouthful and bark like a dog. This should be repeated three times...

“Also in cases where other people are afflicted by illness: if the roots of their teeth grow grimy and black, such a person should wear a goat's skin, face the sunrise, and bleat three times like a goat. Similarly, in cases where the nostrils sag inwards, it will be beneficial if one visualises the syllable A on the tip of the subject's nose, recites the syllable A twenty-one times, and bathes in various rivers...” (Number of rivers not specified.)

Free Lunch (the Law of the Conservation of Karma)

The Triumph of Death, or The 3 Fates. Flemish tapestry (probably Brussels, ca. 1510-1520). Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, who spin, draw out and cut the thread of Life, represent Death in this tapestry, as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity. (Wikipedia 23 April 2014)The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, "...who spin, draw out and cut the thread of Life ... as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity." (Wikipedia 23 April 2014). I don't know what Chastity's got to do with it. Death triumphs over Chastity? Doesn't make sense to me.
The fact that anything exists at all is a very good sign pointing to the basic fairness, rightness and justice of Everything*.

You can get a free lunch, you just gotta know where to look (Everywhere and forever, all at once.)

According to philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, “god” is the answer to the question about why anything exists. The question arises from the contradiction between a reality in which things exist, and the idea that non-existence is easier than existence. In contrast to non-existence, which requires nothing, “everything that is possible demands to exist,” as Leibniz puts it.

But the fact that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people is a bad sign, pointing in the other direction, to the basic randomness and meaninglessness of Everything.

This post is about how that apparent contradiction is resolved by the Law of the Conservation of Karma.

In physics, the Law of the Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can only be changed from one form to another.

Similarly, the Law of the Conservation of Karma states that justice (karma) cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change from one form to another. In other words, everyone gets their just desserts, maybe not at the time or in the form anticipated, but at one stage or another, at one place or another, in one way or another. Everyone gets what’s coming to them, sooner or later, here or there, once or twice, in one lump or many.

Shall I Sing to Thee of Hatred?

DOJO OF ABS, oil on stretched canvas 39.75 cm x 50.25 cm. A horrible work, don't like it at all. DOJO OF ABS, oil on stretched canvas 39.75 cm x 50.25 cm. A horrible work, don't like it at all.
Shall I sing to thee of hatred
whilst the rancid wine-red moon
lies plump upon a sullen sky, beloved?
Or doth thy internecine inclinations
bereft of paradigmatic meaninglessness
assert thy drolly wrothful commands?

As you feed the gentle drops of blood
caress your cheeks like crimson tears, my love
calling forth sweet morphogenetic memories
of all the times we’ve slain together
the line of carcasses stretching to eternity
death-lily delineating forevermore.

Shall I woo thee with insurance
until the gibbous enormity patronises
the very longitude of marsupial afterbirth, dollface?
Or would’st thou engrave betwixt delinquent carnage
thrice-flailing widdershins encircling
sublunary solemnity’s crepuscular astrolabe?

Forsooth! And whence thy infinitesimals
thy gaping quiescence incarnadine
fistula-festooned but buttery, sweet cheeks?
Or durst thee verily impignorate
thy carious kynodontic blandishments
whence fulsome gadzookery ...