For the Last Day of Your Life

At all times just remain free and uninvolved. Never make any displays of clever tricks — be like a stolid simpleton in a village of three families. Then the gods will have no road on which to offer you flowers, and demons and outsiders will not be able to spy on you.

Be undefinable, and do not reveal any conspicuous signs of your special attainment. It should be as if you are there among myriad precious goods locked up securely and deeply hidden in a treasure house. With your face smeared with mud and ashes, join in the work of the common laborers, neither speaking out nor thinking.

Live your whole life so that no one can figure you out, while your spirit and mind are at peace. Isn’t this what it is to be imbued with the Way without any contrived or forced actions, a genuinely unconcerned person?

Among the enlightened adepts, being able to speak the Truth has nothing to do with the tongue, and being able to talk about the Dharma is not a matter of words.

Clearly we know that the words spoken by the ancients were not meant to be passively depended on. Anything the ancients said was intended only so that people would directly experience the fundamental reality. Thus the teachings of the sutras are like a finger pointing to the moon, and the sayings of the Zen masters are like a piece of tile used to knock on a door.

If you know this, then rest. If your practice is continuous and meticulous and your application broad and all-pervading, and you do not deviate from this over the years, then you will mature in your ability to handle the teachings, to gather up and to release, and you will be able to see through petty things and cut them off without leaving a trace.

Then you when you come to the juncture of death and birth, where all the lines intersect, you won’t get mixed up. You will be clear and immovable, and you will be set free as you leave this life behind. This is deathbed Zen, for the last day of your life.

Yuanwu Keqin, as interpreted and translated by Brian Browne Walker

The Scientific World-view needs an Update

We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.
— John Archibald Wheeler

The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.
— Mrs Haine, my 6th Grade teacher (1961)

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
— erroneously attributed to Mark Twain

Yesterday, I posted at ScienceBlog an essay that I won’t reproduce here. The gist was

  • Parapsychology research has solid findings, consistent enough that physicists should stand up and pay attention.
  • The smartest people looking for a physical Theory of Everything are limiting themselves to reductionist theories, while the parapsychology research is pointing in other directions.
  • Mainstream science treats mind as an epiphenomenon, arising from computation by some yet-to-be-discovered mechanisms. But there is evidence from parapsychology and more mainstream research that mind is a fundamental constituent of the Universe, with effects including non-local physical interactions and (perhaps) determining the very physical laws that keep the whole show running.

I go on to speculate that the mechanical world-view derived from 19th century physics has never been replaced, even though it is inconsistent with 20th century quantum physics; and that the mechanistic/reductionist world-view has taken the meaning out of our lives and spawned the existential angst and chronic depression that are epidemic in modern Western socieities.

Finally, I speculate on the future of quantum biology. Life is a bulk quantum state, continually monitored from the inside by a chunk of consciousness that has taken up residence.

Please read and comment if you’re interested in such things.


What is it like to experience nirvana?

So much fuss about what it feels like to be enlightened! It is to the extent that we care what we feel like that we are not enlightened.

Aiming for enlightenment as a better or ideal way to feel is perpetuating the codependent interest we have in how it feels to ‘me’.

Enlightenment is real. Many saints and mystics attest as much, and many, many others, quiet and unsung, as well. They tell us that unselfishness can be cultured, compassion and empathy can be cultured, patience and a larger perspective on our situation can be cultured. But in the end, enlightenment comes by grace, almost despite us, and we realize that our seeking it has only gotten in the way.

Night Sky Sangha


We are questers and seekers, until one day, we let go of our seeking. Enlightenment is how things are when we do not wish them to be any different.

In other cultures, schizophrenia is a gift

I have sometimes wondered why schizophrenia survives in the human gene pool.  Perhaps it is a way of knowing things that are not accessible to the five senses, but that are supremely useful to a community (even if that knowledge is less dependable than the five senses).

Phil Borges tells about visiting shamans the world over, experiencing firsthand their trances and the knowledge that comes through them, asking their stories and (usually) traumatic childhoods.

Persistent illusion

The concept of Maya comes from the Upanishads…Maya is the creative power of the divine in the physical realm. Maya is Brahman turning upon itself and its own infinite potential, and it is this that creates the power of self-regard in us and other earthly beings.

– In what sense is “Maya” translated as “illusion”?

If the self-regard of Brahman produces the impression that the self is real and the physical world is primary, this is the illusion. But if we realize that ourselves and all the world around us are manifestations of Brahman, then we can find the connection back to the source, and that is the way in which Maya can be overcome, and not be a trap. 

This delusion that we’re in is also part of the grand plan of creation, and part of the self-expression of the divine.  If we take it to be absolute, then we are trapped; but if we take it to be the expression of something true, then we find the truth in it.  Yoga becomes the process by which, instead of escaping from Maya, we at once embrace this world and also understand its relation to the Absolute.

from Devashish Banerjee, interview with Jeffrey Mishlove

What does ‘sesquicentennial’ mean?

The Tides of Change

Herewith is Beauty fashioned? Canst thou deem
Her evanescent roses bourgeon save
Within the sunlight tender on her grave?
Awake no winds but bear her dust, a gleam
In morning’s prophecy or sunset’s dream;
And every cry that ever Sirens gave
From islands mournful with the quiring wave
Was echo of a music once supreme.
All æons, conquests, excellencies, stars,
All pain and peril of seraphic wars,
Were met to shape thy soul’s divinity.
Pause, for the breath of gods is on thy face!
The ghost of dawns forgotten and to be
Abides a moment in the twilight’s grace.

George Sterling was born 150 years ago today.