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11/25/2012 02:23 AM
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I think it feels a little weird being an Asian born and raised Buddhist in America talking to very Westernish people about Buddhism. Because they’ll often use words which in English may be related to “Buddhism,” but these words don’t register in my “Oriental Buddhist memory bank.”
I’ll hear words used like “Spiritual,” “Transcendental,” “Enlightenment,” “Renunciation,” etc. Sometimes I’ll know what these words basically mean in English as it is generally used in speech. I understand what people are trying to get at when they say “spiritual,” and “enlightenment,” and I’ll know the exact words and Eastern counterpart idea/concept for such words.
But sometimes, I get words like “transcendental,” and “renunciation,” that are either so vague and smoky or “substance-less” that I have a difficult time figuring out what or how such concepts actually fit into the Buddhism I got from my family. Like what is “transcendental” anyways? And what does it “look” like in its original Pali and context to pre-English Buddhism?
To get the answers what I usually do is first search the internet for specific English translations of suttas that have these questionable English words in it. This way I can pin point the exact sutta and see the context it is used in. Then I take the sutta’s name and I go to my 80 year old grandma because she is the most easily accessible person. The old monks that are related to me live in temples in a different city from us.
My 80 year old grandma is a very religious person [according to our Culture and Old Traditions]. She has all 40 something volumes of the Tipitaka by her bed. They are very big orange colored books. There are over 25,000 pages of writings in those 40 something orange books, and she’s read them all at least twice. She says reading and being Mindful of everything around her [Samma Sati] keeps her from forgetting [Alzheimers]. In Khmer they are called the “Trey-Bey-Dock,” as it sounds to my ear [trey and bey rhyming with “they”]. So I’ll give my grandma the name of the sutta and ask her to read the entire thing to me. Then I listen very closely for the context I remembered built around the word I am looking for. When I think she is reading the general area, I stop her and I ask her what every Pali and Sanskrit word in that general area means.
But there are several problems. First the Tipitaka is entirely written in very high Khmer that is flooded with these huge words from Pali and Sanskrit, which is beyond my lay-person grasp. The second problem is that my grandma’s native language is Thai and not Khmer. She thinks in Thai. The only reason why her children speak Khmer is because the province her family had been living in for centuries in Thailand was given back to Cambodia, and so her children [my aunts, uncles, moms, etc] went to public schools learning Khmer and not Thai. Which means I don’t speak Thai, I only understand very basic Khmer. Basic as in very primitive every day words.
What this means is that for my grandma to get me to understand what the Tipitaka is saying she has to first think things out in Thai to herself, then find very basic and primitive words in Khmer which she can use to explain what these words mean. When this happens, asking about a single Pali word, takes all night for her to explain. And she uses this picturesque way of explaining things for me to understand. Which is where me and my cousins get our “culture” of explaining things from.
Most often in the West – in general – people tend to think that conveying one’s ideas in a verbose jungle of big Latinate words shows that they are “educated” and “intelligent.” True perhaps, but it lacks Creativity, organic intelligence [as opposed to book based memorization] and that taste of feral, freestyle thought process. Have you ever thought about that? I once believed that Muslims who could recite [memorize] the Qur’an and who knew what every word in Arabic means was intelligent; as intelligent as a hard drive. But I started hanging out with these street grade gangbangers one who never even finished high school, but you give them a beat and they start flowing their rhymes from the top of their head, weaving words together, poetically conveying ideas to a huge audience who can not only understand the message beneath the flow, but be greatly inspired and influence.
No matter what language, dialect, or big words you use to say something like: “The Spoon Is Shiny,” that underlying ideation is still stupid and meaningless. Every time I read or hear one of these verbose pseudo-intellectuals talk or write, I always think of Owl from the Adventures With Winnie The Pooh. Remember Owl? How he likes to go on forever about absolutely nothing, but in a smart sounding way? And such pontifical punks will say things like: “If you don’t understand me, maybe you need an education?” Like they were on a “higher” level then the average person, because they can decorate average ideation and dress them up in big words. Why bother preaching or teaching if whom you desire to teach does not understand you?
I think of cars and going on a drive when I encounter Western minded people. They don’t seem to notice it, but their materialistic weltanschauung seeps into even the way they speak and use their words. For example with me and the people I know in my own life when we communicate or use words to convey an idea we map out the departure point and the destination and then focus on getting our listener/student to that destination as best as possible. The destination being the state of Mind in which the listener/student gains a full intuitive understanding of your idea. It doesn’t matter what “road” I take to get us there, or what “car/vehicle” we use to get there. These things are irrelevant. Just get to the god damn destination.
But with many Occidental minds I encounter, they don’t have a clear map of a departure point [the original state of mind of the student] and the destination [the end result or state of mind you wish to birth in the student’s mind]. Instead they make big fuss about the kind of car/vehicle they use to convey the idea. It can’t just be any car, it’s gotta have all the commas and right punctuation in the right place. As if a mishap of grammar somehow affects the underlying memes. And furthermore it can’t just be any driver, its gotta be a driver that is some “authority.” As if to imply that if the driver is sexually deviant or associates with questionable friends, that his/her ideas are stupid. To me it seems as though when a group of Westerners – especially in internet forums – “plans” a “road trip” that they never leave the car rental lot because they are to busy debating and arguing on what car and color car to take and which is better.
In this illustrative case the –ism and –ology would be the model and make of the vehicle. For example you often see that “Satanists” will refuse to go anywhere in any vehicle unless it’s a “Satanism” model. And even then the make [sect] is somehow really important, because if its got a theistic hood ornament dangling a non-theistic Satanists will not get in that car. It’s retarded. And they fight and argue and go nowhere.
Now with something like Buddhism, things are slightly different. Buddhism initially was given a big jump start by Emperor Ashoka who made it his empire’s religion, and he spread it all over India. But later Buddhism defused or spread into other countries via the Silk Road; both the land route and sea route. Most often the people on this Silk Road are what we today call “Traders.” Back then these traders were businessmen. They took junk their people make in their home country, and they travel as far as they can into a different country of ignorant consumers and they try and pawn that junk for profit. In such case, you have to be sly if you want to sell your junk. Your crappy earthen vessel isn’t just a wobbly jar it’s a mysterious Bagdad Battery from the far reaches of Arabia!
Buddhism was also pawned to ignorant consumers in the same sly manner, most often by the same traders or monks that traveled on the Silk Road who picked up a savvy for business and marketing. If a wandering monk found himself in China where the people were Taoist, he slyly sold Buddhism to the people as “Chan Buddhism,” rewording everything in Taoist sounding words. These sly re-inventions of Buddhism are called Yanas. A Yana literally means a Wagon or Horse Cart. The word “Mahayana” is a “big” word which means a “Huge Wagon.” Can you imagine some Indian monk selling Mahayana to a bunch of sucker Chinese: “With our Big Wagon you too can go from illiteracy to Buddhahood in One Life!”
In the ONA, we’d call a Yana an “Outer Form,” or an “Exoteric Form.” Is the ONA its Outer Forms? No. An Outer Forms is just one – of many – practical ways/methods of Conveying “esoteric” ideas. The Vehicle is not the Essence. The Vehicle only Conveys the Essence. This is not to imply that Outer Forms are tricks or worthless. They are vehicles that are designed to Move you from point A to point B. Along this journey some of us may have used the vehicle of “Traditional Satanism.” But as we grow and develop naturally, such outer form may become inadequate as a vehicle to take us to our Destination. We get off, kindly give thanks to that Satanism for having brought us this far, and without fuss climb onto a new Vehicle to take us further.
It’s all a matter of what we need at any moment in time in our natural process of development as a human being growing towards a deeper understanding of our world and self. Sometimes we do need training wheels on our bikes. Then we grow out of that and discard those training wheels. As we grow older and become aware of a larger area of Life, a bike may no longer suffice. We put up our bike in the garage, and buy our first car to explore the limits of our new bigger area. The larger our world gradually becomes the more effective and efficient our vehicles must be. Cars are put aside for trains. Trains are put aside for airplane rides around the world. Airplanes are retired and space shuttles are used to take us higher. And so, having grown to know the vast expanse of Human Experience and the Cosmos as “Astronaut” in our shuttles, when we look back and see a grown person riding a pink bike with training wheels, it becomes easy to understand that there is something wrong with that person’s level of mind and size of his world doesn’t it? Don’t be so attached to the Vehicles you use. But let’s talk about words and such.
What the hell does that word mean? When I think of this word I picture groups of people growing wings and flying beyond this world to a higher place. It didn’t make sense to me how Buddhism in English is “transcendental.” Does that mean Buddhists believe the world is fake and they must strive to ascend the fakery to a realer spiritual reality? If it does then how come the Buddhism I got has no such idea or concept remotely similar to this belief?
Well, I located the specific Pali word [Lokuttara] translated as “transcendental” and I asked my grandma what it meant. I always thought the word “Loka” meant a “World,” or “Planet,” or “Realm.” But I guess it doesn’t. Loka is a word used to refer to the people as a collective, as in everybody together. In Khmer this word becomes “Publok” [pronounced Poob-Loak] which means “The Populous,” “Citizens,” the “Public.” I remember the word Publok because when I learned it I noticed how similar it was to the word “Public,” and how they both had the same essential meaning.
Uttara has several meanings. Uttara means “Above,” “Northern,” “Beyond,” “To Go Beyond,” “To Pass,” “Left Side,” “Better Than,” and “More Capable.” And so Lokuttara metaphorically means to Surpass the Populous, to be better then the public citizen, to go beyond their level of mentality, way they do things, to go beyond the “worldly” and mundane, etc.
In the ONA we would call Loka the “Mundane,” the “Vulgar,” the “Profane.” The idea in the ONA is to understand the basal nature of the Mundanes, and to strive to become what Nietzsche calls the Ubermensch. Mensch may correspond with Loka; while Uber goes with Uttara. Which means that in its native context, Lokuttara is not some fluffy idea of transcending an illusory world for a better dreamy world beyond. It means to work to supersede the idiocy and mundane nature of the vulgar mass and to strive to be more than you were.
That was a much harder word to locate for me. When I hear that word I think of rejecting something and walking away from it. Which makes sense to me. If you want to strive to be an Ubermensch, you should “renounce” the untermenschen and their mundane ways. But in respects to Buddhism this English word is used to mean that for a “Buddhist” be a real “Buddhist,” they must “renounce” the world and giving up worldly ways of life and worldly pleasures. How come I was never taught this? Where are these Westerners getting their Buddhism from? Why don’t I know what they are talking about? I’ve never heard anybody in my own culture tell me it is wrong for us to enjoy life. I am told to learn to avoid NOT enjoying Life [Dukkha].
The Pali word translated as “Renunciation” is “Nekkama,” or “Nikkama.” I had to ask my grandma what that word meant. But I noticed the word “Kama” in it so I knew my grandma would take a “detour” when she explains this word to me. Kama means sensual pleasure, or the excitation of one’s senses, and is most often associated with sex. If you were to literally translate Nikkama it would just simplistically mean: No [Nik/Nek] Sensual Crap [Kama]! But fortunately for us the Buddha spoke Pali, and he is known to often totally disregard literal meanings and used only the metaphorical meanings. And to reinforce the fact that he uses metaphorical meanings, the Buddha in the Tipitaka is known to tell long winded tales and stories with hidden moral lessons associated with these metaphorical concepts.
My grandma used a fat lady to explain Nikkama. She said Kama is when a fat lady walks into a cake shop, and when she sees chocolate cakes, she wants to eat the cake and she can’t resist the desire to eat the cake that is calling out to her. Kama is when you lose control of yourself and falling prey to your passion or to something that entices or excites your emotions. What do you call it when you have the fortitude to resist something? Nikkama. My grandma says that Nikkama is when the fat lady wants to lose weight to look pretty. She puts herself on a diet and is faithful to her diet. So when she walks into a chocolate cake store and sees all the cakes, she says to herself: “No, I am not going to eat you, I am on a diet because I want to look pretty!” My grandma doesn’t know what the word renunciation means, and the idea of it is alien to her. Nikkama actually means something like “Fortitude,” and “Endurance.”
After this explanation I reworked Nikkama for myself in my own words. Kama is like when you have your first boyfriend and you have sex with him. He is a rooky with sex and can’t control himself so he falls prey to his inexperience and busts his load before you get anything out of it. Which sucks if you were all excited and expectant. Nikkama is when he matures and has learned to control his passions and he has built up an endurance to go at it for a while. Kama does not master him. He is now master of Kama. But this only comes with time and experience.
What exactly was the Buddha telling the common Pali speaking people of his time to Resist, Endure, and not fall prey to? To the central “thing” the Buddha was opposed to: Brahminical Social Order, Brahminical Weltanschauung, Brahminical Religion, and Brahmicical Status Quo.
Of course the idea of Nikkama would then be associated with political and religious things. It is to have the strength and endurance to resist the bullshit they hand to you. Because when you buy into that bullshit – whatever it is – you support the system and perpetuate it. For example with the rhetoric of being productive and getting a job. They tell you to go to college to get a degree and climb the corporate ladder for wages. If you have no endurance and buy into that you will go thru that process and one day find a nice job: like the millions of others. You graduate in debt and by the time you do find a job the cost of living has increased. You are alone with no one to depend on so you get roommates you can’t stand and borrow money to pay off loans.
Or a better example to show how falling prey to rhetoric causes suffering and supports or empowers a system is old time American racism. Why did Western countries get involved in the slave trade? They needed slaves. Why did they need slaves? To work large plantation. What was the essential purpose of those plantations? To sell their products, shares, and bonds for profit which strengthened the fledgling economy of the new American republic. How do you get a population of White people to emotionally accept the idea of enslaving other humans? You dehumanize the other race you want to enslave. Why was that racist anti-African rhetoric taught to White people of that era? To condition them to accept the idea that it was ok to make Black people slave. Why did Black people need to be slaves? For an Economic reason: to profit those behind the rhetoric and businesses. The White people of that era fell prey to the rhetoric and ideas being sold to them and this lack of mental fortitude cause the mass suffering and indignation of an entire race of humans for 400 years. It all had nothing to do with skin color. Falling prey to such ideas supported and perpetuated the system of slavery. Now ask yourselves what ideas are needed to support and empower the system of the Nation-State, and ask yourself how many of those ideas you have lost yourself to.
Samma and Majjhima-patipada
Majjhima-patipada most often is translated as “Middle Path,” which is what the Buddha used to describe his Way. Except what exactly does “Middle Path” mean? Middle of what? Majjhima means “In The Middle,” and “In Between.” Patipada doesn’t mean “Path,” or “Way.” Patipada means to “Show,” “Acknowledge,” or “Admit,” it is used as a word to mean “What Is Obvious,” or “What Is There,” or “That Which Is Shown.”
If you were to point to the color red, and another person were to point to the color violet, and these people constructed a paradigm based on this color dichotomy, Majjhima Patipada is the Glaringly Obvious other colors BETWEEN the red and violet, which of course is the rest of the colors. So when you learn to see the color red and violet and acknowledge the rest of the colors, you now see what others are looking at very differently. When one person sees only red, and another sees only violet, you see a rainbow, which isn’t even a color, a rainbow is a completely different phenomenon then two mere colors.
The Buddha also uses the word Samma to mean the “Middle Way,” metaphorically. Except Samma literally means “Complete,” “At Once,” “Collective,” “Total.” This word is mistranslated as “Right,” or “Correct,” in English.
If you were to ask the Buddha how you should live your life: 1) In total denial and abstinence or 2) With illogical and irresponsible hedonistic indulgence. He would say Neither, live the Samma, what is In Between those two extreme. What exactly is In Between these two extremes in Life? Practically the entire scope of human existence and phenomenal experience, which is the Samma, the rest of everything between those two ignorant extremes.
The Samma is huge. We often forget that as humans we all exist in the same single vast arena of Life and human experience. But as humans we encounter problems. Animals you see do not think in language. When an animal is alive inside that same vast arena of Life and experience, those animals feel and apprehend that vastness in a wordless and mindful manner where everything remains in its Natural raw form.
But we humans have language by which we may convey messages to each other. We once wordlessly apprehended life like animals when we were babies: Before we thought in words. The problem arises when we translate such raw Nature and experience into words. These words are only approximation of the Real; but we often lose ourselves in a world of our own words. And furthermore we compartmentalize these worlds constructed of words/memes into religions. And we lock ourselves up inside our 6 foot by 6 foot box of religions. We don’t experience life in the raw anymore. We experience the memes and ideas of religion. And what ideas do not fit nicely into our religions, we throw out and deface. For example if you are a Satanist and it is “unsatanic” to experience the human feeling of Hope, then you reject Hope as if it were not real. If you are a Muslim and it is Islamic to not eat pork, then you reject the human experience of eating pork. If your are a Hindu, you may see the whole world as an illusion of maya and reject it all. If you are Christian and it is unbiblical to have premarital sex, you deny yourself the human experience of just being human and having sex. And for sure a Christian would never live the life of a Satanist. Inside each of our religions and worldviews we believe that we are experiencing the Totality [samma] of Life and Human Experience, when in fact we are not. Yet we hold onto our different religions and paradigms believing they mean something, never realizing that we have never felt and tasted Life directly as it is Naturally.
Tipitaka means The Three Baskets. I’ve always wondered why those ancient monks named their huge pile of writings Three Baskets. It’s not an inspiring mystical name for “holy scriptures.” What do you do with baskets in 500BC? When you and your friends collected to build a temple you first must dig a big hole in the ground to set stones inside to make a foundation so your finished temple won’t fall sideways or sink into the ground. So you and a bunch of your friends take woven baskets and convey the dirt with. After the hole has been dug, you use the baskets to convey the raw material that will be used to set the foundation and construct the temple. What is carried in a basket? Raw Material. What do you do with Raw Material? You build things with it. Which is to say that raw materials are not the End but a pile of means to an End.
It’s funny to me when I observe some Westerners and their religions. They’ll take their pile of raw material [their bibles], and idolize it in that state then measure everything up to it. It’s like as if you were to go by a box of Legos and instead of opening the box to use your creativity to build things with the Legos, you take the box and either measure the world with the box or beat people with it that don’t like your Lego box. It’s stupid and apish. Take the damn Legos out and make something with it.
What do we call all of those thousands of pages ONA Manuscripts, Naos, and the BBS? What do we do with them? Do you idolize their content in their raw state, or do you take the raw materials contain in them to make something with? I do remember in the Seven Fold Way where it openly states that you should take the Black Book of Satan and just use it as a guide to make your own Black Book. Yet when we encounter Mundanes they like to take this BBS in its raw state and measure us by it. They are just the raw material of an outer form. You build with it.
Dhamma is the Pali of dharma, but I don’t like using dharma because the Hindus have taken that word to mean a “religion,” and the Western New Agers have all sorts of weird meanings for this annexed word.
In the old days a dhamma was a blueprint you drew things on which you gave to your building friend so that everyone was on the same page and knew what the temple they were all collectively building should end up looking like.
The Buddha uses dhamma in many different ways to mean a mess of different things. It’s most important and fundamental meaning is an idea which is very hard to translate into English. To understand this we need to break two English ideas down: Actuality and Truth.
What is Actuality? It is the Condition or State [-ity] of what is Actual. Actuality and Real-ity in this context mean the same thing: What is Real or How Thing Are Actually, before and beyond the words and intellectualizations. What do I mean by that? I mean that Sun is an actual thing regardless of what we call it, and it was here in its actual state billions of years before we humans evolved to intellectualize it and put a word on it.
So when you and I stand together facing the East, and we wordlessly apprehend the Sun climb over the East, move across the sky, and set in the West; we have in that wordless moment mindfully apprehended a dhamma: An actual “way” or constituent aspect of Nature and Life, As Is.
Now when I turn to you and say to you in words after I have intellectualized that dhamma: “The Sun rises in the East and sets in the West,” that worded statement, that approximation of what I wordlessly have felt and experienced, is “Truth.” That statement is truth [Saccha] insofar as it is true and accurate. Truth is subject to idiocy, misunderstanding, interpretations, philosophical debates, and argument. But the dhamma that inspired it can not be argued and debated.
Let’s say that there is a cave and in this cave were a race of people who never left their cave. You walk into this cave and you then say to them: “I have spoken with Chloe! Behold, she told me the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West and I have seen it! It is true!” And the cave people said to you: “We believe, even though we have never ourselves see this sun or know which direction east and west is; we still believe.” That “truth” is now a Doctrine.
A Doctrine has nothing to do with Life. You Believe in Doctrines. You experience things. If you went to ask a Christian if he Believes in God he would say yes. Ask me if I believe in the Moon, and I will say No, because I don’t need to believe in it. The Moon is just in the sky for me to see, and with my eyes I experience it. Ask a contemporary cosmologist if he Believes in the big black hole in the center of our galaxy, and he will say yes, math doesn’t lie. He has to Believe in it because it has never been experienced.
So dhamma is like the primary source of something, which is experienced directly and has nothing to do with the act of believing. Truth is a secondary source of that experience. A “Truth” is one person’s approximation of that wordless Flow of Life and Nature. The dhamma that is spoken is not the true dhamma. The Tao that is “tao-ed” is not the true Tao. And Doctrine is the tertiary source based on the worded truths others make. Most of us have never directly experience Life. We believe in Doctrines or we philosophically juggle truths in our head. Animals in their Natural and Primal essence don’t believe in anything about Life. How do they then apprehend Life?
You can say: “Well, mindlessly apprehending Life without thinking and words like animals is stupid, how do you learn and be smart?” How does a baby human “learn” human language before it had the ability to “think?” Have you ever thought about that? When a two year old says something like “Look at the dog,” how does she know what the words “at” and “the” means? Who told her the definitions of each of the words she learned? Webster? How does an animal devoid of lingual intellectualization [“thinking”] learn from Life? How does a group of chimps who have developed the culture of fishing for termites with twigs pass that culture down to their young? Mindfulness does not mean mindlessness. It means the entire opposite. It means to drop the language and thinking shit which is a barrier between you and Life and to learn to be consciously Mindful – to fill your mind – of Life. Don’t you ever wonder why is it that the only animal on earth to make such a big deal of words, ideas, thinking, education, beliefs, doctrines, is also the only animal that has a difficult time living Life and getting along with its fellow creatures?
It’s as if we as a species in our developed nation-states have dug ourselves into a big hole which we are lost or stuck in. This hole is a hole made of our own words, beliefs, interpretations, philosophications, intellectualizations, and “academizations.” If we see the world as being fucked up or that our countries is fucked up, those could be the reasons why.
The chain link of Dhamma-Truth-Doctrine is like a rope tossed into that hole. You grab a hold of each notch at a time and pull yourself out. There is nothing wrong with “doctrines” just learn to ask yourself: “What is the Truth behind such doctrines,” and go find those Truths. When you have found those “truths” learn to ask yourself: “What is the dhamma – the wordless “isness” in Life/Nature – these truths came from. Then put your ass directly in Life and find that dhamma to apprehend yourself directly. In this way, we each pull ourselves out of that hole we were in to return our minds back to its proper home: Life in the Real.
Have you ever had the experience of taking a picture of the scenery with your digital camera and the image in your view finder is blurry with undefined edges? In that blurry state its hard to figure out what it is you are looking at. So you try and focus on the image to sharpen its edges, and enhance the contrast, so you can See the foreground and background. Then things are more discernable.
Seeing the world is much like using a digital camera in a very real sense. What happens is you basically pick up the image with your lenses and retina. That image is then converted into electric pulses. These pulses goes through the pineal gland and then to the visual cortex. Then the recognition faculty of the Conscious Mind pegs words to each picture. It’s like DNA replication at this stage. The DNA is split into two halves. Then enzymes read each codon. Each codon correspond to a specific amino acid or protein molecule. So as the enzymes read the codons, they construct and weave a chain of protein molecules. Somewhere, in the back of the brain, each impulse is read by the brain and linked to its corresponding memes for the Conscious Apparatus to understand.
So in the end what happens is that, just as with a digital camera we can say that the image we see in the camera is not the actual “thing” such images represents in the phenomenal world, we can also say that what we become aware of in our minds, is a processed mental apprehension of the actual “thing.” Except now we come to a problem. The problem is that the mental apprehension is literally understood by the conscious mind via the words and memes pegged to each pulse and mental image. What I mean is when an English speaking mind sees the fruit of a “Malus Domestica” it Sees that fruit as the word/meme “Apple,” and to a brain that speaks Khmer this same fruit is grasped understood as a “Pom.”
The first problem is how the brain works with its memes. The brain functions rather much like Google search. When you type in a key word on google, you get an entire list of everything that could possibly be related to that keyword. The brain’s memory faculty does this too where it groups “related” memes together in this chain or link. So what happens when you think/input “Apple” in a Westernized brain is that memes of all sorts remotely related to “Apple” is also queued up: apple pie, Sleeping Beauty, eve, eden, snake, satan, caramel apple, carnivals, and so on. The problem is that what memes are linked together to such “keywords” is very language and culture specific. Ideas of satan, the original sin, and apple pie just don’t get drawn up when a Khmer mind thinks/inputs “Pom.”
Which leads us into the second problem. Because the conscious mind is actually apprehending a facsimile of the natural phenomenal world with its own memetic processing, what words and language, and culture our brains have been born and raised inside of ultimately becomes the literal fabric of our paradigm and worldviews. Meaning that our words/memes constructs the “world” we See and “live in.”
Which brings us to the last problem. Not only does this mean that our “world” we experience in Mind is limited literally by our arsenal of words, lexicon, and memes; but what words we use influenced the “image” we are “Seeing.”
So now, let us say we have an Occidental Mind and this mind uses cloudy, vague words like “Enlightenment,” “Force,” “Energy,” “Field” “Subjective Universe,” “Reality,” “Truth,” “Spiritual,” “Good,” “Bad,” etc. With such very vague words that really describes nothing, what sort of image or resolution of the world is such a mind Seeing? A Blurry one. Just like the unfocused blurry image in your viewfinder with undefined edges.
Enlightenment Is Meaningless
I do use the word “enlightenment” a lot in context to Buddhism and ONA. But it has no meaning or value. And I have no problems admitting that. But essentially it’s not actually my fault, although I help perpetuate the fault. It’s the English language’s fault. If everybody spoke Sanskrit and Pali or my indigenous language, there would be no problem or abuse of vague words you see. People around me speak and think in English. And so, if I want to be understood, I have to convey and format my ideas and thoughts into an English vehicle to transmit those thought.
What exactly is “enlightenment?” Or its sister words “illumination” which is just as nebulous? Essentially, when I use the word in English to English conditioned brains, I just mean the state of not being stupid, ignorant, and superstitious. And so when I say person is “Enlightened” I just mean in a basic way that such person has the mental prowess and ability or capacity to discern – with reason, commonsense, and critical thinking skills – what is actual and factual from idiocy. But that’s not what the word means to me inside my own brain.
Inside my own brain the word and notion of “enlightenment” has no meaning and when I shift myself into “Oriental” mode that word stops existing and cannot exist inside my Eastern Weltanschauung. There is no word or concept in Khmer or Thai which comes close to meaning “Enlightenment.” And as shocking as it may seem “enlightenment” does not exist as a word or concept in Theravada Buddhism or Pali.
Acquisition of Knowledge and Insight
In Buddhism there are identified three major methods of acquiring knowledge and insight. The third method is at the “top,” and “distant.” The second method is in the “middle,” and “close.” The First method is deep “below” and is “intimate.”
The third method correspond with the top of the head or the Conscious Mind and its faculties of knowledge apprehension. Conscious “Mind” in this context refers to specifically what is called “Mana” in Sanskrit which means “Mind.” Mana being related to the Latin word “Mens.” The function of Mana is called “Manasa.” Manasa usually means things like “Thinking,” “Idea,” “Concepts,” “Conceive,” “Imagine” and “Willing To Learn.” Oddly this word Manasa when the Hindus use it, is translated into English as “Spiritual” or “Spiritual Learning.” So usually when you here a Hindu Guru speak about such things as how he has “Spiritual” wisdom to teach you, that word “Spiritual” is Manasa which is just a word to refer to functions of the conscious mind and its ability to learn by being told things.
This third method is usually described as the method of the “Anariya” meaning “Ignoble,” or “Worldly,” or “Mundane.” This worldly method of accumulating knowledge is impersonal and indirect. Prone and often subject to deception and manipulation. It involves reading texts and books; getting second, third, and fourth hand information from other people, gurus, teachers, preachers, etc. And it involves the heavy and almost exclusive dependence on the opinions and discourses of other people, convention, consensus, or authoritative. This also involves engaging in philosophical and intellectual arguments and debates over things the Anariya have no real direct experience of. It is essentially word and meme gymnastics all done inside a closed box which is out of touch with the actual phenomenal world of human experience.
The second method corresponds with the eyes or is symbolically placed at eye level. It is symbolized by the Chakka/Chakra. The Chakka is a spinning blade some devas use to cut down enemies with. You can say that the Chakra “cuts through the bullshit.” In the old days – circa 500BC – this second method went by the name “Pacchakka” in Pali or Pratyaksa in Sanskrit. Metaphorically this word means “With Your Own Eyes.” Etymologically the word means “Immediate,” “Direct,” “In your face,” “Visible,” “Self-Evident,” and “Actual.” The Buddha later renamed Pacchakka “Vipassana” which in Buddhism is a “meditative” [another word which is near meaningless] method of acquiring insight from direct observation and breaking down what you see directly into workable components to analyze with your faculty of Reason. Vipassana in Theravada Buddhism is always linked directly to the doctrine of “Vibhajjavada” meaning “Direct Experience.”
During the Buddha’s time many philosophers believed that even Reason and logical thinking and analyzing things directly had its limits. After all, how do animals “know?” How do they “know” what to eat and what not to eat? How does a flock of bird migrate thousands and thousands of miles and always end up in the right places? When their Mana is underdeveloped compared to humans; and when they lack Reason? How do they “know” things?
Which takes us to the deeper and more intimate method of insight acquisition. The first method of acquiring “knowledge” and insight corresponds to the heart level. “Thinking” on this level was an act of Chitta/citta – the Unconscious. It is not really a “thinking” it is here more of empathy and intuition. In Sanskrit this type of “knowing” is “Budh.” The word “Buddhi” actually means “Intuitive Understanding.” “Buddha” is merely a masculine form of Buddhi. Buddhi means “Realizing/Understanding Intuitively.” The “Mind” which deals with Buddhi is referred to as “Buddhicitta,” or just Citta. When approximately translated it means the “Intuitive Mind.” Buddhi is to Chitta, what Manasa is to Mana. Except Chitta does not mean mind, it means “Heart.” Not your beating heart, but the Seat of your feelings, inner thoughts, and the source of volition, intention, and will, that rests beneath the Conscious Mind.
Have you ever contemplated on something for a long time and you just could fully grasp it, and then one day unexpectedly IT comes to you out of the blue and you say, “AHA! Eureka!” That’s Buddha. That’s “Enlightenment.” Ask yourself where that “enlightenment” came from, if your conscious mind did not have that enlightening insight yet. The word Buddhi is most often mistranslated as “Enlightenment” in English, because there is no real single word in English that fully grasps the native idiomatic value and quality. “Intuition” has its own quality and meanings in English which do not fit well with Buddhi.
This is not to say that one should favour one method of knowledge acquisition over the other. All three should be used and mastered, but prioritize the methods. You can’t learn your people’s culture and traditions and accumulated knowledge without Manasa. You can’t also pass your own knowledge you have acquired to your children without Manasa. But a mundane makes Manasa his only method and means of acquiring knowledge. There is more to Life than just books, teachers, and political ideologies though. The rest of Life takes the other two methods to decipher and “learn” from. How does a scientist ultimately get their theories? From direct observation of the real world of experience, and then processing things through the steps of the scientific method. That’s the second method of gaining insight. When that scientists puts his findings into a text book, and you as a student learn about it, the knowledge to you becomes Manasa.
The word Buddha does not mean “Enlightened One” in any grammatical way. It’s missing grammatical suffices to mean that. Buddhassa is the word which means “Enlightened One.” But Buddha doesn’t even mean “enlightened” in the first place. It means “Having Awoken to the Understanding of an Insight Intuitively,” or “An Intuitive Realization.”
Since Buddhi is personal and such intuitive insights comes from within oneself directly from the deep. One does not need to rely on any outside factor for such “acquisition” of insight and intuitive knowing. Thus the Buddha is also called the Sambuddhassa meaning the “One That ‘Buddhi-ed’ Itself.” He’s also called the Samma Sambuddhassa, which means Wholly or Completely Self “Buddhied” Who Left Nothing UnBuddhied. Samma meaning “In Wholeness,” “All Together,” “Without Any Part Unconsidered.”
But then what is Sambuddhi anyways? It is translated as “Self-Enlightenment.” It’s not the act of you reading a book by yourself or doing research on your one time and effort for your own growth of intelligence. The Third Method of acquiring knowledge is when the Buddha as a young vagabond went around asking Brahmins and priests of other sects and religions for the answers to his questions about life and reality. He abandoned that method and isolated himself into the forest to practice Pacchakka, or to directly experience Life face to face.
Sambuddhi is when he even abandoned that method. He had learned to silence his conscious mind, and to just experience phenomenal things [dhamma] and events with his Chitta in empathic connection with such. From that Insights arose from inside of himself. From placing himself in chitta-connection to a river he realized intuitively insights he later formulized in words as “Anicca,” “Sunyata,” and “Anatta.” And from the simple chitta-connection with the event of a worm beings uplifted from its underground hole by a plough which was eaten by a bird he got an insight which he latter formulized in words as Dependent Causal Arising. That’s Sambuddhi. I think in modern Western terms, when I think of Sambuddhi or the process of Sambuddhi [Self Born Insight] I think of Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity. He didn’t have to go to anyone for that insight. Most of his peers and the academicians back then told Einstein it couldn’t be done and was not worth trying.
The Silky Road of Information
These words and ideas are not “Buddhists” and don’t belong to a specific race. Back in 500BC ideas traveled along the Silk Road frequently between the West and East. It’s not coincidence that ancient ideas like Tao, Dhamma, and Logos are similar. And it’s not accidental that the great minds of that age such as Lao Tzu, Heraclitus, and “Buddha” all lived around the same period. The only difference is that when memes find their way into other people’s cultures, such memes are naturally expressed in that specific culture’s native language and tailored to fit the worldview of such cultures, than over time, each culture builds on top of that original idea, their own understandings and new insights.
Thus although we can say that concepts like Tao, Dhamma, and Logos may have sprouted into being from some common seed idea somewhere forgotten, each meme has since then absorbed their own culture’s living essence and world views unique to each people and culture. And so, in our gradual inner growth, many of us will come to the moment where we begin to understand that even our own people’s, culture’s, and words are limiting. Do we keep ourselves then within our diminutive boxes of religions, and cultural myopia, or do we go beyond such limits for our own growth?
The Limits Before Us
What are we “pointing to” when we say things like “We are disconnected with Nature and Life?” What is it that is doing the disconnection, that has come in between us and Nature/Life? The State? What is a State? A mirage made of abstract ideologies. Is it religion? What is religion? A delusion made of abstract ideologies? Our paradigm? What is a paradigm? Our patterns of thoughts and beliefs made of abstract ideologies. Do our worldviews divide us from Life? What is a worldview? It is the internal intellectualization of The Real which exists in our own minds as a set of abstract ideologies. If you haven’t notices, no matter what we understand the factor of disconnection to be, there is a common denominator: abstract ideologies/memes.
Would it be accurate to say that what divides us, misdirects our awareness, disconnects us with Life and Nature are our own abstract ideations? We’ve wrapped ourselves up in a thick blanket of words and intellectualized thoughts, and we can barely feel, “know,” and apprehend Life as it is without that saran-wrap around us. Rather than embrace Life, we hold onto dead words and the dead books of our religions. Rather then mess around with Life for the experience, we instead mess around with words, ideologies, and their meanings. Then we take those words and construct “better” religions and ideologies out of. Just more wrapping paper to mummify us. More walls in between us and Life. More hurdles we must climb over eventually. And we think entrapping ourselves in this maze of words and memes is progress and “evolution.” How do we free ourselves an reconnect with Life again? It’s a simple answer: Leave It.
There are a zillion different meanings for that word. Nobody who philosophically talks about Nirvana knows what they are talking about. They basically build their own thoughts on top of somebody else’s understanding. Thankfully Pali has an ease answer. Nibbana is the Pali form of Nirvana. Since the Buddha spoke a dialect of Pali and taught his Way in Pali and forbade his teachings to be Sanskritized during his time, it would be safe to say that insofar as Buddhism goes, “Nibbana” is the original word. In Pali there are actually two entire words with different meanings spelled “Nibbana” and pronounced the same way.
In those old days the Buddha and his monks had abandoned the Vedic city-state to retire in the forest. The forest became something of their new home, sanctuary, and school. They would meditate in that forest for a long while using Buddhi to draw up inner insights. When they had collected enough insights, they left the forest to return to the city to beg for food and Free whoever they found in the cities that resonated with their Way. The word Nibbana means to “Leave The Forest.” When a Bikkhu has “Nibbana-ed” he left the forest behind. “Bana” means “Forest.” Nib is the Pali version of Nir which means “Un,” “Not,” “Without,” “Not Having.” Nibbana literally means to “Unforest.” You go foresting, then you Unforest.
The other Nibbana is a word the Buddha made up by putting that same “Nib” prefix to a Pali version of the Sanskrit word “Varna.” Varna meaning Color and Caste, where each of the four castes had its own defining color.
The thing with Pali is that it is a vernacular of Sanskrit spoken by what we would call common street grade people. If you ever pay attention to street grade slang, you’ll end up noticing that such vernaculars often disregard the literal meaning of words and instead ascribe purely metaphorical meanings to them. Pali was the same way.
In Vedic city-state life, the Varna [bana] was the all pervasive and ubiquitous way of life of that city. Each rank in the caste system had their own duties to perform. Each person in these cities is busy doing their own thing. The people at the bottom to those monks looking in seemed to be exploited and used by those at the top. And those at the top of the Varna seemed to get fat, powerful, and wealthy by tricking and bullshitting the unfortunate low ranking people. To them the city life and the predators and prey all made the city-state look like a Jungle. Have you ever heard in English the inner cities being metaphorically referred to as a Jungle? What do you do when you have grown tired of this Jungle and desire Liberation? You Leave the Jungle: Nibbana.
If the jungle of words, ideologies, and the State has imprisoned us and our minds, we seek our Liberation by struggling to not to destroy these things, but to simply leave it behind. All of it: the words, the abstractions, the ideologies, the laws, the politics, all of it.
There are better things for us of the ONA to do with Life. There is Life to be enjoyed and experienced. Nature to intuitively learn from. Tribes to rebuild. Our own clans to labour for. And a collective future to work towards. The first step we just need to take is a big step away from it all and Leave.
[link to onanxs.wordpress.com]