Sunday, 13 December 2015

"The Meditative State"?

When I told a yoga instructor that thoughts arise while I meditate, she replied, "You are not getting into the meditative state." So -

(i) Is there a single "meditative state"?
(ii) Does everyone who meditates aim to get into that "state"?

The answer to (ii) is definitely no. I have never practiced the Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation but I understand that practitioners, using a mantra, get into a peaceful inner state. However, zazen, "just sitting" meditation:

is awareness of natural mental states;
is not no thoughts arising;
thus, incorporates thoughts arising;
can be unpeaceful. 

Therefore, the arising of thoughts is not a failure to meditate. Failure occurs neither when a thought arises nor when it continues naturally but only when it becomes deliberate. A monk said, "There will always be natural thoughts but don't add to them."

It follows that, as I had been told:

when I thought that I was failing to meditate, I was in fact meditating;
much meditation is not what we think of as meditation;
we learn from the thoughts that arise;
when we return our attention to the present moment, that moment includes not only the wall that we see and the cushion that we feel but whatever thought has arisen.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Present Consciousness

Every psychophysical organism is an instrument of present (cosmic self-) consciousness.
Any organism needs some memories to function in the present.
However, many memories are distractions from present awareness.
The first person singular pronoun is essential to memory.

The thought, "I remember...," affirms both the present existence and the temporal endurance of the subject.
"I" means either this organism with its particular history or a present subject transcending history.
Thus, "I should have acted differently then" or "I see that now."
Subjects with different histories meet in the present.

Monday, 6 July 2015


The One is.
The Sun gives light and life.
The One sees itself
Through conscious beings
By the light of the Sun.
We are the One,
Revealed by the Sun.

There are similarities and differences between Trinities:

Brahma: Being, Awareness, Bliss or Existence, Knowledge, Joy.
Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or Creator, Preserver, Destroyer.
Taoist: the Jade Emperor, Lao Tzu, Tao Chun.
Buddhist: the Three Bodies of the Buddha.
Christian: Father, Son, Spirit.
Goddess: Maiden, Mother, Crone.
proposed: One, Sun, Self.

Addendum, 26 Sept '15: I think that "One, Sun, Now" is better.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Being Determines Consciousness

Being determines consciousness. Educators abuse this fact. They try to determine their pupils' lifelong beliefs and values. I was told that I knew that matrimony was a sacrament. Children of American Fundamentalists are told that evolution is a myth.

Young people need to learn that:

each person is born at a particular time and place and in a particular social context;
people with different starting points necessarily have very different beliefs;
anyone could have been taken at birth to be brought up as a Muslim in Pakistan, as a Mormon in Salt Lake City, as a Maoist in China etc;
each of us needs to learn for him or herself;
learning includes understanding alternative points of view.

My mother, an Irish Catholic, did not even understand Anglicanism. Educators need to encourage learning, not propagate beliefs. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The One And The Sun II

The One sees itself by the light of the Sun.
The One is reality.
The seen world is manifestation.
The Sun is the agent of manifestation.

Each conscious moment can be religious practice.
Gods are personifications.
Temples are foci.
The beyond is here now and within.

Iupiter Optimus Maximus.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Experience, Words And Concepts

We rightly differentiate between experience on the one hand and words and concepts on the other. However, our experience would not be human experience if it did not incorporate words and concepts, if it were not verbally expressible. Knowledge may be concrete and experiential or abstract and conceptual but nevertheless acquisition of experiential knowledge involves application of concepts.

If I consider the consequences of a religious doctrine as I walk into town, then the doctrine is a distraction from immediate manifestations of reality: trees, gardens, the sky etc. Of course, I recognize trees as such because I have a conceptual framework as well as a sensory apparatus. There are perhaps four stages of development:

unconscious organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations;
mere immediate sensory impressions;
non-verbal conceptual frameworks applied by animals to their immediate environments;
human consciousness.

However, the doctrine that is a distraction to me is some people's way of relating to reality. They live rebirth or salvation through Christ. We relate to the eternal in different ways. For human beings, different ways involves different, mutually incompatible, concepts.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Consciousness And Reflection

Consciousness is a process in an organism.
Not in an immaterial soul.
Therefore, it is continually affected by other organic processes.
Most, including early, consciousness is not dispassionate.

Instead, it is motivated by biological processes.
Then by emergent psychological processes.
Psychology is of consciousness.
However, paradoxically, many psychological processes remain or become unconscious.

Momentary individual consciousness contains:
immediate sensory impressions;
wants and fears;
emotional reactions;
apparently random thoughts caused by unconscious mental processes.

There may also be:
the ability to reflect;
consequences of the practice of reflection.

Levels of being:


Can society encourage individual reflection?

Friday, 29 May 2015

After Meditation

Through a window after meditation:

blue sky
white clouds
green leaves

That is all.
It is enough.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The One and the Sun

Reality develops through qualitatively different levels.
From a vacuum filled with virtual particles to consciousness contemplating total reality.
Emergent levels incorporate and transcend earlier levels.
Religion is response to the highest transcendence.

The highest transcendence is total reality, incorporating every level.
Religions refer to trans-human consciousnesses.
However, imagined gods are myths, metaphors, projections and personifications, not realities.
Reality is single, thus the One.

The One is legitimately personified as a solar deity, thus the life-giving Sun. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015


I was brought up and educated by people who took for granted that I ought to conform, compete and succeed. I had no inclination to do any of that but it took me a long time to realize what I should have been doing instead. A better agenda would have been: change society and self. I had some idea of self-change but it was distorted by the religious indoctrination which was massively inconsistent: issues of religious belief and practice are ultimately serious but don't take them too seriously - unless you become a priest, in which case you are compartmentalized and pigeonholed for the rest of your life. We were told answers before we knew what the questions were.

Of course, in zazen, we do not act on the self to change it. We are merely aware of it. However, the transition from unawareness to awareness is itself a change. We do not try to change ourselves but do in fact change as a result of the practice. However, the change is usually gradual and not externally measurable. Merely to talk about it is to invite the reply that there is no discernible change and there is no need to deny that.

Meanwhile, acting collectively to change society is a matter of urgency. But we do this with others who agree that it is necessary. We do not argue with those who meditate that they should instead be changing society or vice versa. And it can take decades to realize this. But life was not designed for our convenience. It merely happened.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015


At what age or stage do we become capable of reflection and self-criticism? And how soon after that do we start to be reflective and self-critical? Some people never seem to. I knew a man who was always in conflict and always obviously in the right - in his opinion.

Present consciousness did not perform past acts but this psychophysical organism did perform them and present consciousness needs to acknowledge that. The first person singular pronoun refers both to the organism with a history of acting in particular ways (karma) and to present consciousness with the potential to transcend karma. I am neither identical with nor different from my past self so it is necessary to understand the relationship between past and present selves.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Materialism And Transcendence

I keep trying to use the form of Indian philosophical sutras to express my understanding of materialism and transcendence although this involves repetition of phrases that are my best attempt to account for the emergence of consciousness from unconscious biological processes -

Naturally selected organismic sensitivity to environmental alterations quantitatively increased until it was qualitatively transformed into conscious sensation.
Then, sensation was naturally selected because pleasure and pain have survival value.
Thus, animal consciousness is a biological means to survival.
However, human consciousness has become a moral end in itself.

We exist for consciousness, not for self.
Being became self-conscious through psychophysical organisms.
Thus, being is the universal subject of consciousness although most natural processes remain unconscious.
Individual organisms are not separate selves but members of the one universal self.

Mara And Other Myths


is the Buddhist tempter;

mythologically, is a distinct supernatural being;

but is adequately explicable as an aspect of mind or psyche, a perverse mental process;

can be experienced as a distinct inner voice because the self is not a unitary entity;

was Gautama's doubts arguing against the potential Buddha - contradictory psychological processes in a single organism;

teaches only the First Noble Truth whereas the Buddha taught all four - Suffering, Cause, End and Way;

says, "You are entitled to feel resentment and obliged to feel guilt - continue to suffer;"

is not the same inner process as the Goddess although they might cooperate, e.g., by fusing desire and resentment.

We are not entitled to exist but are obliged to avoid wrong actions and to right past wrongs if possible although not to wallow in guilt. The present is the moment when reality appears, or when being presents itself, thus the moment of revelation and realization. Reality appears to those parts of itself that have become psychophysical organisms. It follows first that reality did not appear before it became such organisms and secondly that it ceases to appear to organisms as they cease to function. If, after my death, my memories and sense of identity are reproduced elsewhere, then the reproduction of my consciousness will be astonished while I, this organism, will be dead. (See here.)

Reality appears to human beings both as an immediate environment and as memories of past deeds. However, the past is a distraction from the present. It is necessary to accept a memory while it is present but not to think about it when, like the deeds remembered, it has become past and thus is no longer a presentation to consciousness. Reality presents itself anew at every moment. Some moments require a response from rational or practical thought but not from the negative thoughts inspired by Mara. We already experience on the Terrestrial plane what we will allegedly experience on the Bardo plane, past deeds preventing realization.

To use Biblical terminology, every day is the Day of Judgment but in Buddhism we judge ourselves. To use Biblical imagery, the Son of Man is always coming on the clouds of heaven but we look up and do not see. The Son of Man who came to find what was lost is a Bodhisattva. (At least one Bodhisattva must transfer merit to those who call on the name of Jesus.) Hindu gods are the man on the road to Emmaus and Krishna's million faces. Many are One and One is Many.

Words can be distractions, abstractions or realizations. Some texts are revered as inspired scriptures, e.g.: "Now I have seen you, builder of the house of ego. Your rafters are broken. Never more will you build."

Monday, 4 May 2015

Virtual Gods II

Gods have matured with us. They began as personifications of whatever was awesome and dreadful, outwardly experienced seas and storms, inwardly experienced lust and greed. Such gods could demand human sacrifice and were later regarded as demons. The most powerful Roman god (see image) broke all the moral laws.

Antithetically, morality without awe is secularist. Rudolf Otto argued that "holy" synthesizes "awesome" and "righteous" and that this synthesis defines the Biblical deity. Such an idea of God develops in the Bible. These categories remain meaningful even when we have ceased to personify them. CS Lewis rightly argued that fear of a ghost differs qualitatively from fear of a man-eating tiger and that both differ from the dread that we would feel if we believed that we were uncomfortably close to a "great spirit." To combine this dread with moral obligation is to complete Otto's synthesis.

However, I think that:

awe is part of our response to impersonal nature;

morality results from the natural selection of intelligent social animals - we help others either because they bear the same genes or because they might help us in return and this motivation is experienced as moral obligation, not as calculating self-interest, which is what it sounds like when expressed in biological terms.

These reflections on the development of religion and humanity were prompted by reading Poul Anderson's account of Hanno bearing gifts to Melqart. See here.

Monday, 27 April 2015


Some Buddhists say that we are already enlightened although we have not realized it yet. Some Christians say that they are saved although they are still sinners.

Both these statements recognize both a deeper spiritual level on which everything is sorted and a more immediate practical level on which things are still to be resolved. Maybe one perception or insight is expressed through alternative conceptual systems?

Except when experiencing extreme suffering, we might recognize that in one sense things are ok because we are alive and conscious but in another sense much remains to be done?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

"No Deliberate Thought"

From Dogen's "Rules for Meditation:"

"...neither trying to think nor trying not to think, just sitting with no deliberate thought..."

We attend to the present moment but do not concentrate on it. If we concentrated, then we would be trying not to think. When we notice that a thought has arisen and return our attention to the present moment, then we are preventing not thought but deliberate thought.

The arising of thoughts is neither an interruption to meditation nor a distraction from it but part of it. We see the thoughts, therefore do not allow them to operate unobserved.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Inner And Outer

If we follow a spiritual path, then our inner life is divided between habitual thought processes and spiritual teachings while our outer life is divided between habitual behavior and spiritual practices. Sooner or later, we realize that there is a contradiction and also that we have always known it.

That is a very strange moment. Unenlightened thoughts and actions are very recent. They did not end when we began spiritual practice but why not?

Beliefs About The One

Two beliefs within Hinduism:

that the One, the ultimate reality, is a person who creates everything other than himself;
that the One is everything, including all persons and their environments.

In the latter case, we are:

Its self-consciousness;
the being prayed to by monotheists - It is many persons, not one;
not perennially wise or compassionate;
instead, learning wisdom and compassion;
thus, becoming the only God there is.

Neither one nor three but many persons in one being.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Chaos, Causes And Consciousness

Every event is either uncaused or caused by previous events.
Events are either physical or psychophysical.
Sensations, cognitions and actions are psychophysical events.
Many actions are entirely caused by previous psychophysical events.

For example, a man smokes a cigarette because previous usage has addicted him to nicotine.
However, some actions are instead expressions of present consciousness.
For example, a man suddenly stops smoking because he hears and heeds the message, "Smoking kills."
Previous events have caused both the presentation of the message and the man's ability to heed it.

Nevertheless, conscious responses to new challenges differ qualitatively from semiconscious habits.
Why are some people incapable of new responses?
Zazen is the practice of immediate awareness.
Such practice might facilitate ability to respond. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

One And Many

The One becomes conscious by appearing to itself as many. Thus, it simultaneously reveals that it is and conceals that it is one. Each conscious organism perceives its one environment as many objects and itself as a separate subject. Appearance of multiplicity is the first stage of consciousness but prevents consciousness of oneness.

animal consciousness of other
human consciousness of self and other
verbal/intellectual understanding of oneness of self and other
partial intuition of oneness
total intuition of oneness?

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


"King sent a brief prayer of thankfulness to Krishna - it seemed appropriate, since the merciful God had appeared to Arjuna and counseled him on a warrior's duty. Of course, he'd also told the noble bowman that he must fight and kill only from duty, without personal attachment."
-SM Stirling, The Peshawar Lancers (New York, 2003).

Krishna taught Arjuna karma yoga, non-attached action in the secular world, as against ascetic withdrawal from action. To engage even in military conflict may be the lesser evil but a karma yogi performs any necessary task mindfully, thus more efficiently, free from, undistracted by, mental attachments like desire for success or fear of failure. In the battle, he is untouched by it.

The Bhagavad Gita presents bhakti (devotional) yoga, mantra yoga, a cosmic vision and Krishna as a personal deity but I think that karma yoga is its most important and distinctive message. A former Krishna devotee told me that he visited the battlefield of Kurukshetra where there is a life size sculpture of Krishna and Arjuna on their chariot which is inscribed with shlokas (Gita verses) and a temple has been built at the site of the death of each of the epic heroes.

My religious philosophy is built on meditation (the Buddha) and karma yoga (Krishna).

Addendum: Theistic karma yogis offer their actions to God. Laborare est orare. For Buddhists, non-attached action is working meditation.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Meditation And Memory

Meditation is the present self-consciousness of being.
Memory is necessary for self-consciousness but impedes present consciousness.
Thus, a process that makes meditation possible prevents it.
Human history is lived in this contradiction.
Human beings are potentially enlightened.

Accept that guilt, recrimination, resentment and random memories arise.
Let them pass without thought unless it has a practical application.