After yesterday's posting of my 'less intense' journal entry on the possibility of living in peaceful diversity, at least in the part of our country known as San Francsico and the Polk Gulch district, let me now go directly to the main topic of today--so fasten your seat belts guys, here we go again, zoom zoom:
First of all-- for those who like to listen to audio tapes, I highly recommend the following extensive website:
You will notice that it makes reference to an ancient prophecy attrributed to Padmasambhava:
"When the iron bird flies, and horses run on wheels, The Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the World, And the Dharma will come to the land of the Red Man."
Padmasambhava was a Buddhist monk from India who changed Tibet from an aggressive militaristic society to a peaceful Buddhist country where the main thrust of the culture has been the idea that our life is an ongoing education toward higher awareness and enlightenment--and that such education extends beyond death and continues if necessary into further reincarnations--as many as it takes to attain Divine realization.
Until the Chinese invaded the place, it was essentially run as a theocracy by the monks, but with the general consent of the people of Tibet, whose sons saw it as an honor to enter the monasteries and participate in a culture of learning and spiritual practice.
After Padmasambhava had changed Tibet in that manner, he wrote a book of instructions for those who were about to die, were in the process of dying or who had recently died--and since we are all destined eventually to go that route, the instructions are valid for all of us.
However, Padmasambhava did not think that even the Tibetan people at the time were yet ready for his instructions for Liberation in the Intermediate Stage between Death and Rebirth and even more, that his book would not make the New York Times best sellers list for a long time to come--so he buried various copies of it in the most remote places of the most remote Tibetan countryside, among rocky outcroppings and the like--but predicted that after 400 years the Tibetan people at least (and at last) would be ready and his writings would be found--but that the West would have to wait a bit longer--as mentioned before, until the iron bird flies, etc. And so it happened. Umberto Eco could not have thought up a better plot.
But whatever their provenance or early games of hide and seek, these Intermediate Stage instructions were not some kind of hocus pocus, but were, for those who understood the Tibetan culture, they were very clear directions that in more recent times have caught the attention of Western scientists, especially those who deal with the soul, i.e. with relationship, meaning primarily (but not exclusively) those engaged in psychology (the study of the soul, i.e the study of relationship), or psychiatry (the healing of the soul, or relationship).
In the West, we have generally had quite a different attitude towards death and dying--seeing it as a fearsome onetime event which for the great majority of people who don't believe in the efficacy of salvation by some divine intervention in human affairs are said to have extremely dire and everlasting consequences.
Western science and psychology have sought to supplement our religious doctrines and institutions to some extent. Someone like Elizabeth Kuebler Ross, for instance, has achieved much recognition for her work with regards to the process of living with an awareness of dying and on the process of bereavement. Her best known book was:
But in my view, and that of many others, the best book that has appeared in the west on the subject--and which was also highly recommended by Dr. Ross, was the one of the first books I read a long time ago by Adi Da--at the time still known as Bubba Free John: Easy Death: a book by Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The other one being of course The Knee Of Listening - Spiritual Autobiography of Adi Da Samraj
Adi Da was a westerner, born under the name Franklin Albert Jones, with a Welsh and German American family background, born in Queens NY, a Columbia graduate with a Stanford Masters degree, who continued his education at a Greek Orthodox Seminary to learn Greek so he could thereafter enroll at Westminster Theological Seminary, where a prior knowledge of the koine was a requirement. He eventually became a Lutheran chaplain, but everything he had done after Stanford was done under the directions of his kundalini yoga teacher, Swami Rudrananda, a Gay Jewish guru in NYC (ho also ran an antique shop in the Village) for it had been his objective all along to engage in eastern spiritual studies. For this reason he eventually left Rudrananda and went to India for some time to study 'at the feet' of Swami Muktananda.
For many people the question might arise as to how a highly educated westerner, and a Lutheran minister at that, got so involved with eastern spiritual practices? In the case of Adi Da, the best way to find out of course would be to read The Knee of Listening, his spiritual autobiography.
But in a more general sense, with a few exceptions the people in the West first became aware of the powerful Hindu traditions in 1893 during the first Parliament of the World's Religions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia at which occasion a speech given by Vivekananda, an Indian lawyer who was a disciple of Ramakrishna electrified the audience:
The eloquence of Swami Vivekananda and his introduction of Hindu thought to the United States are particularly remembered. The speech has been identified by many to mark the beginning of western interest in Hinduism not as merely an exotic eastern oddity, but as a vital religious and philosophical tradition that might actually have something important to teach the West. The opening line, "Sisters and Brothers of America...", was greeted by a three minute standing ovation from the audience of 7000.
"Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful Earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now."
As a result of Vivekananda's visit, Vedanta Societies were established all over America, including the one in San Francisco: 50/50.- San Francisco, Vedanta temple. Tourist Information ...
For an idea of what Vedanta is see: Vedanta - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Vedanta (Devanagari: वेदान्त, Vedānta) is a spiritual tradition and school of philosophy based on the teachings of the Upanishads and is, like those manuscripts, concerned with the self-realisation by which one understands the ultimate nature of reality (Brahman).
We'll eventually get back to the Upanishads (a word that literally means 'at the feet', i.e of a guru or teacher), but first quickly outline how Buddhism became influential in America. After WWII and during the Korean War, many American servicemen became aware of Buddhism, an off-shoot of Hinduism--and the concepts of Zen, Yoga, etc. became familiar to Americans--and are ever more popular today.
On Polk street we even have a place called: Funky Door Yoga - Bikram Yoga in San Francisco and also not far from my place is the San Francisco Zen Center on Page Street. There are of course many Buddhist temples that cater primarily to particular ethnic groups--be they Chinese, Japanese Korean or Vietnamese. There is one near my place on Van Ness Avenue for instance: Buddhist Centers - Northern California.
But what really caught fire, if slowly, in the larger scientific community in the West, was the translation of the Bardo Thodol, which literally means Intermediate Stage (Bardo) Liberation (Thodol) but which was named The Tibetan Book of the Dead by the the translator Walter Evans-Wentz - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia by analogy to the better known Egyptian Book of the Dead.
For more information please check this excellent website:
The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Transitions to the Otherworld - here's a quote:
The Bon religion of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism both maintain that crucial moments of transition are charged with great spiritual potential, especially the intervening moments between death and rebirth. This intermediate period, called bardo, is a state of suspended reality in which the deceased are presented with a series of opportunities for recognition of the true nature of Reality. If the deceased persons are capable of recognizing the confusing and often frightening bardo visions as simply their own mental projections reflective of the previous life's thoughts and deeds (karma), the ongoing cycle of birth and death will be overcome. Failure to recognize these appearances, on the other hand, leads eventually to rebirth and further suffering in cyclic existence (samsara). To help the deceased travellers gain insight into their ambiguous situation, a spiritual teacher or lama recites inspirational prayers and instructions from special funeral texts--the first stage in the ritual of the Tibetan Books of the Dead.
Actually the first major contact between Europe and India came at the time of Alexander The Great--and the influence was mutual--as especially visible in the art of Gandhara Buddhism. The name Gandhara itself is related to Kandahar, the--by now--well known town in Afganistan, and the name of a region in Pakistan. Kandar or Iskandar is still a popular boys' name today in places ranging from the Middle East to Indonesia, where my younger brothers had a playmate called Kandar, the small son of one of our maids. All of these names may be derived from Alexandros, Alexander the Great--although there is some dispute about this. But the fact is that Alexander founded many cities called Alexandria, from Egypt to India, many of which have descendents of the original Greek and Macedonian soldiers that came with him and 'went native'.
Be that as it may, the face of the Gandhara Buddha reveals the enigmatic smile and the top knot (or kondeh in Indonesian) borrowed from the Greek God Apollo. Here is an example of a very Hellenic looking Buddha:
The Indonesian word kondeh is cognate to the word kundalini, which refers to the knots or coils in the flow of energy and is called un boucle in French, a buckle-- a lock or knot of hair--hence also a buckle or clasp in English, gesp in Dutch.
Before Buddhism, the influence of Hinduism itself on the West over the centuries, though often hidden, has been even more profound. So let's go back to the Upanishads, which were first translated from Sanskrit into Persian by prince Dârâ Shukoh, the enlightened eldest son of Shâh Jehân, then from Persian into Latin by the French scholar Abraham-Hyacinthe Anquetil Du Perron, whose Latin text had great influence on the thinking of Schopenhauer.
Upon reading the Latin translation of the Upanishads when it first appeared in the West, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, whose influence on both Nietzsche and Wittgenstein was profound, made the significant remark that the Upanishads would be a great source of inspiration and enlightenment to the generations to come:
Schopenhauer [furthermore stated] that the West's acquaintance with the Vedas, 'the access to which, opened to us through the Upanishads, is in my eyes the greatest advantage which this still young century enjoys over previous ones,' and made the prophecy that, 'They are destined sooner or later to become the faith of the people.' Schopenhauer predicted in the preface of his book, The World as Will and Idea: 'I believe that the influence of the Sanskrit literature will penetrate not less deeply than did the revival of Greek literature in the fifteenth century.' (Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea [London: 1957], I, xii-xiii.)
But even before then, the Upanishads had crept into Western consciousness, as shown in the following article:
from which I will quote the following lengthy but worthwhile passage--please don't skip this:
Further, Socrates (469-399 BC) had occasion to meet an Indian philosopher in course of roaming on the streets of Athens and was greatly moved by the latter’s Upanishadic observation that humans - the relative - could be properly understood only in the light of an understanding of the Divine - the Absolute.
The Indian influence is most discernible in the writings of Plato. His ‘myth of the cave’ reflecting the Vedantic doctrine of maya, his concept of 'nous' showing its similarity to the Upanishadic concept of 'Atman' and his idea of 'omniscience', somewhat similar to 'jnana yoga', the way of knowledge in the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita - all indicate the influence of Indian Upanishadic and religious thought on Plato. Indeed, Max Muller was startled to note the similarity between Plato’s language and that of the Upanishads. And Urwick went to the length of observing that most of Plato’s Republic was a paraphrasing of Indian ideas.
In modern times, the Greek mind turned to India in the quest for its spiritual wisdom when Demetrius Galanos of Athens (17601833), a self-effacing scholar acclaimed as ‘the Plato of this age’, embraced India as his second motherland, lived a life of penury in his adopted country and breathed his last in his beloved Varanasi, proving himself to be one of the earliest and ablest pioneers of Indology.
On the whole, the Greek culture, of which the rest of Europe is the inheritor and descendant, was practical rather than contemplative, this-worldly rather than other-worldly. Yet there were points of confluence, as noted above, between Greece and India; and to the extent India, with her spiritual culture of the Upanishads, reminded Greece that liberty of the soul was also to be striven for along with the liberty of the body, India was able to do her bit for the enrichment of Greece and through her for the enrichment of the rest of Europe as well.
The crucial initial role in bringing about the expansion of India’s spiritual culture to France was played in the year 1671 by a French traveller to India by the name of Francis Bernier, who brought to France in that year the Persian translation of fifty Upanishads made by Prince Dara Shukoh in 1656. The French interest in India’s spiritual literature, awakened by this event, received a boost when Voltaire received the gift of a copy of the Yajur Veda in 1760, which he regarded as the most precious ‘for which the West was ever indebted to the East’. The distinguished French philosopher Victor Cousin (1792-1867) poured his heart’s reverence for the Vedanta philosophy of India by acknowledging it as the highest philosophy that mankind had ever produced.
Among the early French scholars none opened the soul of India to the West better than Anquetil-Duperron (1731-1805). After forty years of dedicated struggle he brought out his Latin translation of the Upanishads. The work titled Oupnek’hat, which was a Latin translation of Dara Shukoh’s Persian version of the Upanishads, attracted the minds of the greatest philosophers of Europe including Schopenhauer and Paul Deussen. This Latin magnum opus of Anquetil was published in 1801-02. Anquetil died not long afterwards, exhausted, no doubt, from the extreme penury in which he lived while working on this life’s work of his. Of the same nature as the sages of India to whom he dedicated his work, Anquetil wrote, ‘I live in poverty [one-twelfth of an Indian rupee for his daily food] … bereft of all worldly goods, all alone. … With perfect peace of mind I await the dissolution of the body which is not far off for me.’ That the grinding poverty could not unnerve the sage that Anquetil was could be seen from what he went on to write of himself: ‘With unceasing effort I aspire to God, the highest and most perfect Being.’ (186)
Most immediately, we should probably acknowledge and emphasize that the influence of Schopenhauer himself, a fervent anti-Hegelian, on Western thinking has of course also been very profound--and in particular the acrimonious debate between Schopenhauer and his one time admirer Nietsche as encapsulated in the following:
ABSTRACT: On the basis of his metaphysics, Schopenhauer was led to advocate quietism and resignation as attitudes toward life. In the course of his career, Nietzsche reversed his estimation of Schopenhauer from initial agreement to final excoriation. In what follows, I examine and assess the grounds on which Nietzsche revised his opinion of Schopenhauer as educator of humanity. I argue that three fundamental issues divide Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. The first concerns the eliminability of human suffering. The second regards the value of sympathy to those who feel rather than are recipients of this sentiment. The third is the value of cultivating indifference to the suffering of others. Schopenhauer considers suffering as inextricably bound up with human existence, whereas Nietzsche views suffering as a sign of weakness that is ultimately eliminable from human existence. Schopenhauer assumed that sympathy and compassion have a benign effect upon those who experience these emotions; Nietzsche maintains they have the opposite effect. Contra Nietzsche, Schopenhauer deplores the cultivation of indifference towards the suffering of others. I defend Schopenhauer against Nietzsche on all three issues, though I argue that Schopenhauer exaggerates the ubiquity of human suffering and hence the need and desirability of the cultivation of self-denial.
One can see how Nietsche's approach led directly to the exesses of 2oth century conflicts in Europe. I suspect that there might even be a kinship with the misguided followers of Ayn Rand as well as the Neocons:
Ayn Rand (IPA: /ˈaɪn ˈrænd/, February 2 [O.S. January 20] 1905 – March 6, 1982), born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum (Russian: Алиса Зиновьевна Розенбаум), was a Russian-born American novelist and philosopher. She is widely known for her best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism.
She was an uncompromising advocate of rational individualism and laissez-faire capitalism, and vociferously opposed socialism, altruism, and other contemporary philosophical trends, as well as religion. Her influential and often controversial ideas have attracted both enthusiastic admirers and scathing denunciation.
My late friend Bill Zahiroff, a Russian Jew Born in China and raised in Israel, was a great admirer of Ayn Rand, as apparently is, of all people, Alan Greenspan. According to the late William F. Buckley--in his last interview with Charlie Rose, Atlas Shrugged was one of the most influential novels ever written--although he admitted that he had to 'flog himself' to read it--much to Charlie's amusement--and indeed one can't help but smile on picturing the scene....
In suspect that there is some connection that runs from Nietsche not only to the Nazi concept of the Uebermensch--Nietzsche's Superman--but also to the current phenomenon of neo-conservatism--and its unholy alliance with the Christian right--and that Ayn Rand too is in this chain gang somewhere--for there has been a distinct whiff of super-arrogance in and around the current White House advisers.
For the scoop on the Neocons check:
|"Neocons" believe that the United States should not be ashamed to use its unrivaled power – forcefully if necessary – to promote its values around the world|
Directly opposed to those views are the trends from the Upanishads through Schopenhauer to the renewal of western interest in eastern philosophy--culminating at the popular level in the Woodstock nation of the late sixties--and as I see it--now finally coming to fruition in the younger electorate with the enthousiasm generated for Barack Obama and what one might call: The New Enlightenment.
I left out one important element that connects the Woodstock Nation to Eastern philosophy:
A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead By Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., & Richard Alpert, Ph.D.
The authors were engaged in a program of experiments with LSD and other psychedelic drugs at Harvard University, until sensational national publicity, unfairly concentrating on student interest in the drugs, led to the suspension of the experiments. Since then, the authors have continued their work without academic auspices.
This manual, based on the Bardo Thodol in the form of a loose translation, was written as a guide for those who would take LSD or other mind-altering substances and was dedicated to Aldous Huxley, who wrote: The Doors of Perception.+When Aldous Huxley was dying, he took a dose of LSD, as documented in LSD - My Problem Child, a book written by Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized this pschedelic substance.
Significantly, in this respect, when still going by the name of Franklin Jones, Adi Da himself was enrolled in an extensive CIA research program on the effects (and potentially 'useful' possiblities) of LSD. it was not long afterward that he developed a great interest and sensitivity for Eastern religion....
While there is no doubt that all good things turn bad when done or practiced indiscriminately or to excess, as is true even of religion itself, the connection between the ancient past and the contemporary presence, though circuitous, is clear--and it is important that we come to a better understanding of this connection, which was my intention. In addition, it should be more openly acknowledged that the connection between psychedelic drugs, religion and the death experience is a close one. It is no accident that Christians use the drinking of an alcoholic beverage as a sacrament--or that some Native American (or 'Siberian-American') communities ingest peyote in their religious ceremonies--or that Rastafarians smoke pot as a sacrament. It is entirely possible that we would never have developed any religious sense at all if at some time in the distant past the human species had not come across some kind of substance that gave them a different view of reality.
LSD itself was synthesized from ERGOT which is a disease that can be found in rye grass--and it is likely that some of these diseased grasses crept into the diet of ancient people, inducing visions of other realities, less apparently stable, more fluid, and similar to the experience of, let's say, people who experience an epileptic spell.
One famous epileptic who created a new religion and may have been the first monotheist in history was the Egyptian Pharaoh Echnaton, perhaps better known to the larger public as the father of 'King Tut' --who started in life as prince Tut-Anch-Aton, but changed his name to Tut-Anch-Amon once the monotheistic heresy of El Amarna had been squelched at the death (or exile) of his father. There are even some historians who suggest that echnaton and moses were the same person: Thema: Echnaton = Moses ?- but to pursue that suggestion here would lead me too far afield. After all, this is just a short journal entry, and intentionally so, for when one gets too long in the tooth, people's attention span understandably wanes. We want our modules of information to be short and snappy and preferably something you can take to bed. And no one really wants to curl up with a computer screen--well, may be some....
So let this be the conclusion of my three journal entries on Padmasambhava to Barack Obama and the sources for a new enlightenment.
I just hope that from now until the General Election both sides of the Democratic camp will refrain from the kind of dirty tricks the Clinton machine has gained so much experience in over the decades. If Clinton wins fair and square she will get my vote--and gladly, especially if she picks Obama as her running mate.
But if she finagles her way to the nomination by changing the rules, if she steals the nomination the way der Bushbaby stole the election from Al Gore, then that will just go to prove that all the stories that have been circulating about the Clinton machine are in fact true and many voters, including myself, who are loath to reward such misbehavior, may just sit on their hands in the general election--or vote for the interlopers, the Nader-Gonzalez ticket. And then we will have politics as usual, and no New Enlightenment as yet.