The Trap of Tribal Conditioning

“We build walls, install security systems and wage wars. We cling to the belief that if only our tribe can destroy its enemies, then all will be well— a tragic misconception if there ever was one, for the stark truth is that we will either learn to live in peace or go extinct as a species.” ~Jalaja Bonheim

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I want to thank author Jalaja Bonheim for allowing me to reblog her very insightful essay  shared recently on the Huffington Post. Jalaja believes that to understand Donald Trump’s popularity we need to reflect upon the evolutionary role of tribal consciousness and conditioning, a defensive way of seeing threats by “others” in the world that served humans well for millions of years but that is now creating global instability as a new consciousness (centered more in love and awareness of humanity as one family) dawns for our species.

“Today, I’d like to share a concept that may help you understand the Trump phenomenon. I call it tribal conditioning, and I discuss it at length in my recent book The Sacred Ego: Making Peace with Ourselves and Our World.

Tribal conditioning encompasses a wide range of habits that evolved during the tribal era, yet continue to govern how we think and relate today. Some of these habits still serve us well, but many do not.

The tribal era, we must consider, lasted not just millennia but millions of years. Therefore tribal conditioning is immensely powerful and compelling. It affects every one of us, and the things it tells us to do, no matter how insane they might be, tend to feel “right” in ways that have nothing to do with the rational mind.

Indeed, they once were right. Take, for example, phenomena like racism and xenophobia. For a member of a small isolated tribe, it made perfect sense to assume that every stranger might be a potential enemy. If someone looked different, talked or behaved different, you’d be a fool not to be on guard. It was a simple, indisputable fact: Sameness was safe, differences were dangerous. This is how things stood for eons.

Then, practically overnight, the world seemed to flip on its axis. The human population exploded, and suddenly, the rules changed—not just slightly but radically. Everywhere, people of all races and nationalities started mixing and mingling. As the entire planetary community fused into a single tribe, difference ceased to be the exception and became the new norm. Today, racism and xenophobia have become scourges upon our communities.

Yet we are creatures of habit, and the older a habit is, the less willing we are to give it up. Though sameness is no longer safe, millions of people remain convinced it is. Quite simply, our collective consciousness has not yet caught up with the changes that have so fundamentally transformed our world.

And so, we continue to engage in a wide range of behaviors that are becoming increasingly self-destructive because they are so out of touch with our present reality and needs. Stubbornly, we close ranks against the influx of all that is unknown, strange and new.

We build walls, install security systems and wage wars. We cling to the belief that if only our tribe can destroy its enemies, then all will be well— a tragic misconception if there ever was one, for the stark truth is that we will either learn to live in peace or go extinct as a species.

That said, there’s no doubt that change is underway. We’ve become much more tolerant of differences and better able to feel a sense of solidarity with the greater planetary community.  A new consciousness is awakening that recognizes our oneness as a global community.

More accurately, I should say an old consciousness is blossoming in a much larger way than ever before. Global consciousness is, after all, what Jesus was preaching two thousand years ago. Yet in his times, the unitive awareness he stood for was not a prerequisite for human survival. Today, it is.

Sadly, beings like Jesus who preached the radical gospel of unconditional love have always been perceived as threats by the establishment and by those loyal to tribal conditioning. Today, however, their sense of alarm is immeasurably greater than ever before—and for good reason. All the old structures the tribal ego depended upon are disintegrating. The old, familiar world appears to be vanishing down a rabbit hole. The speed of change is mind-boggling, and much of it seems for the worse.

In response, the part of our collective psyche that is governed by tribal conditioning is contracting defensively, hardening and growing ever more fanatic, extreme, rigid and self-righteous. This is why the expressions of tribal conditioning we see today seem so outrageous, so over-the-top, so completely insane.

It is this defensive, scared part of the collective psyche that has fastened upon Trump as the savior. He is the one who will defend the tribe against its enemies, who will restore America’s greatness and put an end to the relentless dissolution of the familiar. It is he who will uphold the boundaries that separate “us” from “them.” He is the old-fashioned warrior who has no qualms about slaughtering his enemies, the defender of the righteous and destroyer of the immoral. He is the answer to the helpless suffering of the tribal ego.

Ancient as it is, tribal conditioning possesses the formidable force of an instinct. Global conditioning lacks that advantage. It has none of the magnetism of the old and familiar. Yet it has something equally potent going for it—I call it heart-power.

Tribal conditioning puts a straight-jacket on our hearts by telling us we must reserve our deepest love for the members of our own tribe. For eons, we obeyed. Yet today, the human heart is rising up in rebellion. More and more people are refusing to limit the circle of their concern to a small minority.

“Why,” they are asking, “should I split humanity into ‘us’ and ‘them’? Are we not all brothers and sisters?” Even as they honor their own tribe, nation and religion, they identify first and foremost as citizens of planet Earth. Instead of heeding the fear-based warnings of tribal conditioning, they are embracing love as their guide, kindness as their foundational practice, and Mother Earth as their home.

Much of contemporary spiritual literature celebrates this awakening of this new consciousness, and rightly so. Yet all too often, we overlook the fact that the old conditioning affects not just Trump supporters but every one of us.

Just the other day, I encountered it in myself. It happened while I was having breakfast at a restaurant in Manhattan. At the next table, two couples were talking politics. Being alone, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. Trump, it transpired, was one of their favorites. Secretly, I snuck a glance at them and found myself surprised at just how normal they looked.

And why should they not? Contemplating my reaction, I saw how I had fallen into the trap of tribal conditioning. I didn’t expect them to look so normal, so likable, because unconsciously, I had turned Trump supporters into something monstrous and alien. I had stopped thinking of them as beloved brothers and sisters and started viewing them as strangers and potential enemies.

And so, I myself was re-creating the very “us-versus-them” dichotomy that is the source of all wars. Trump is, in my view, an embodiment of tribal conditioning at its worst. Yet here I was, grappling with it within myself — not for the first and, I fear, not for the last time.”

 

Jalaja Bonheim is an award-winning author, teacher and speaker on the subject of women’s spirituality, healing, empowerment, peacemaking and skillful circle facilitation. You can follow Jalaja Bonheim on Twitter here: http://www.twitter.com/jalajabonheim

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Keys of Zen Mind, by Zen Master Foyan

“When you find peace and quiet in the midst of busyness and clamor, then towns and cities become mountain forests; afflictions are enlightenment, sentient beings realize true awakening… You have to actually experience stable peacefulness before you attain oneness; you cannot force understanding.” ~Zen Master Foyan
 
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Zen Master Foyan (1067-1120) was a twelfth-century Chinese Zen master recognized as one of the greatest masters of the Song dynasty Zen renaissance in China. The following is one of his deepest teachings, best read slowly, mindfully and with care…
 
Association with good companions is a serious recommendation of the ancient sages. Students today should follow the words of the Buddhas and Patriarchs. If you want to clarify this matter, you must arouse wonder and look into it. If you wonder deeply about this matter, transcendental knowledge will become manifest.

Why? The task of the journey just requires the sense of doubt to cease. If you do not actively wonder, how can the sense of doubt cease?

There are examples of how perfectly realized people never utter a single word or half a phrase without purpose. Whenever they try to help others, they never give random instructions, and they did not approve people arbitrarily.
 
Nowadays there are teachers all over who sometimes speak correctly and sometimes speak without a grasp.
 
Why? Because they have not yet attained perfect realization. Sometimes they approve people and say they are right, but then sometimes they say they are not right; how is it possible to clarify “from birth to death, it’s just this person” in such a manner?
 
When you look closely, you see that people of the present are none other than people of yore, and the functions of the present are none other than the functions of the past; even going through a thousand changes and myriad transformations, here it is just necessary for you to recognize it first hand before you can attain it.
 
The reason people today cannot attain it is just because they do not know how to distinguish it with certitude.
 
How is it that they cannot distinguish it with certainty? They just make up interpretations of ancient sayings, boring into them subjectively. If you just do this, you will never understand.
 
Why? I tell you, if you “turn your head and revolve your brains,” you’re already wrong.
The most economical way here is to save energy, not asking about this and that but clearly apprehending it in the most direct manner.
 
You people first came forth with rationalizations, using ancient sayings to wrap and bind yourself. It’s like scattering a handful of dirt on a clean surface.
 
How can I blame you? The ancients were so compassionate as to tell you, “Walking is Buddha walking; sitting is Buddha sitting; all things are Buddha teaching; all sounds are Buddha’s voice.”
 
You have misunderstood, supposing all sounds are actually the voice of Buddha and all forms are really forms of Buddha. Since it is not admissible to understand in this way, then what would be right?
 
I tell you, the instant you hold onto sayings, you’re already alienated; when you want to manifest it by means of the light of knowledge, you’ve already obscured it.
 
Now, don’t hold onto my talk; each of you do your own work independently. You may contemplate the stories of the ancients, you may sit quietly, or you may watch attentively everywhere; all of these are ways of doing the work.
 
Everywhere is the place for you to attain realization, but concentrate on one point for days and months on end, and you will surely break through.
 
The spiritual light, shining independently,
Transcends the senses and objects;
The essence is revealed, real and eternal,
Not confined to written words.
The nature of mind has no stain;
It is basically complete of itself.
Just detach from false mental objects
And be enlightened to being-as-is.
 
When you find peace and quiet in the midst of busyness and clamor, then towns and cities become mountain forests; afflictions are enlightenment, sentient beings realize true awakening.
 
These sayings can be uttered and understood by all beginners, who construe it as uniform equanimity; but then when they let their minds go, the ordinary and the spiritual are divided as before, quietude and activity operate separately. So obviously this was only an intellectual understanding.
 
You have to actually experience stable peacefulness before you attain oneness; you cannot force understanding.
 
In recent generations, many have come to regard question and answer dialogues as the style of the Zen school.
 
They do not understand what the ancients were all about; they only pursue trivia, and do not come back to the essential. How strange!
 
People in older times asked questions on account of confusion, so they were seeking actual realization through their questioning; when they got a single saying or half a phrase, they would take it seriously and examine it until they penetrated it.
 
They were not like people nowadays who pose questions at random and answer with whatever comes out of their mouths, making laughingstocks of themselves.
 
People who attain realization study the path twenty-four hours a day, never abandoning it for a moment.
 
Even if these people do not gain access to it, every moment of thought is already cultivating practical application.
 
Usually it is said that cultivated practice does not go beyond purification of mind, speech, action, and the six senses, but the Zen way is not necessarily like this.
 
Why? Because Zen concentration is equal to transcendent insight in every moment of thought; wherever you are, there are naturally no ills.
 
Eventually one day the ground of mind becomes thoroughly clear, and you attain complete fulfillment. This is called absorption in one practice.
 
Nowadays people only work on concentration power and do not open the eye of insight. For them, stories and sayings just become argumentation, unstable mental activity.
 
Zen study is not a small matter. You do not yet need to transcend the Buddhas and surpass the adepts; but once you have attained it, it will not be hard to transcend and surpass them if you wish.”

 

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Verses on Faith in Mind – Seng-ts’an

“The Great Way is not difficult for those not attached to preferences. When neither like nor dislike arises, all is clear and undisguised. If you wish to know the truth, then hold to no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind..”

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The following is Richard Clarke’s translation of the Hsin Hsin Ming (Verses on Faith in Mind) by Seng-ts’an, the 3rd patriarch of Zen….

The Great Way is not difficult for those not attached to preferences. When neither like nor dislike arises, all is clear and undisguised. Separate by the smallest amount, however, and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

If you wish to know the truth, then hold to no opinions for or against anything. To set up what you like against what you dislike is the dis-ease of the mind.

When the fundamental nature of things is not recognized, the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail. The Way is perfect as vast space is perfect, where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.

Indeed, it is due to our grasping and rejecting that we do not know the true nature of things. Live neither in the entanglements of outer things, nor in ideas or feelings of emptiness. Be serene and at one with things and erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

When you try to stop activity to achieve quietude, your very effort fills you with activity. As long as you remain attached to one extreme or another you will never know Oneness. Those who do not live in the Single Way cannot be free in either activity or quietude, in assertion or denial.

Deny the reality of things and you miss their reality; assert the emptiness of things and you miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it the further you wander from the truth. So cease attachment to talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find the essence, but to pursue appearances or “enlightenment” is to miss the source. To awaken even for a moment is to go beyond appearance and emptiness.

Changes that seem to occur in the empty world we make real only because of our ignorance. Do not seek for the truth; Only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in a dualistic state; avoid such easy habits carefully. If you attach even to a trace of this and that, of right and wrong, the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion. Although all dualities arise from the One, do not be attached even to ideas of this One.

When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way, there is no objection to anything in the world; and when there is no objection to anything, things cease to be in the old way. When no discriminating attachment arises, the old mind ceases to exist.

Let go of things as separate existences, and mind too vanishes. Likewise when the thinking subject vanishes so too do the objects created by mind.

The arising of “other” gives rise to self; giving rise to self generates others. Know these seeming two as facets of the One Fundamental Reality. In this Emptiness, these two are really one, and each contains all phenomena. If not comparing, nor attached to “refined” and “vulgar”— you will not fall into judgment and opinion.

The Great Way is embracing and spacious— to live in it is neither easy nor difficult. Those who rely on limited views are fearful and irresolute: The faster they hurry, the slower they go.

To have a narrow mind, and to be attached to getting enlightenment is to lose one’s center and go astray. When one is free from attachment, all things are as they are, and there is neither coming nor going.

When in harmony with the nature of things, your own fundamental nature, and you will walk freely and undisturbed. However, when mind is in bondage, the truth is hidden, everything is murky and unclear, and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness. What benefit can be derived from attachment to distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way, do not dislike the worlds of senses and ideas. Indeed, to embrace them fully is identical with true Enlightenment. The wise person attaches to no goals but the foolish person fetters himself or herself.

There is one Dharma, without differentiation. Distinctions arise from the clinging needs of the ignorant. To seek Mind with the discriminating mind is the greatest of mistakes.

For the Realized mind at one with the Way, all self-centered striving ceases. Doubts and irresolutions vanish, and the Truth is confirmed in you. With a single stroke you are freed from bondage; nothing clings to you and you hold to nothing.

All is empty, clear, Self-illuminating, with no need to exert the mind. Here, thinking, feeling, understanding, and imagination are of no value. In this world “as it really is” there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To know this Reality directly is possible only through practicing non-duality. When you live this non-separation, all things manifest the One, and nothing is excluded. Whoever comes to enlightenment, no matter when or where, realizes personally this fundamental Source.

Each thing reveals the One, the One manifests as all things. To live in this Realization is not to worry about perfection or non-perfection. To put your trust in the Heart-Mind is to live without separation, and in this non-duality you are one with your Life-Source.

Words! Words! The Way is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.

by Seng-ts’an, Third Zen Patriarch
Translation by Richard Clarke

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Ready for a New Way of Thinking?

“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”  ~Albert Einstein

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If you turn on the news, the human species seems to be at a crisis point. Poverty, racism, political division, ecological destruction, social instability and other seemingly “unsolvable” problems appear to be getting worse. And yet, when walking in a forest or looking up at the night sky there is a sense that we live in a Universe of great balance, mystery and beauty.

The wise among our species have repeatedly offered very simple solutions to humanity’s difficulties. Walt Whitman and Van Gogh were overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounds us, and sought to share that in their poetry and paintings. The Dalai Lama has often said that we just need to prioritise peace, gratitude, love and wisdom. That the human family’s problems are caused by closed hearts and minds, and will be solved as more and more of us open them. Could it be that simple?

“If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.” ~Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama’s advice aligns with what Jesus taught, what Charlie Chaplin spoke of in the 1930s (see video below) as Hitler’s popularity was rising in Germany. At that time, both Chaplin and Einstein stressed our need for more compassion, imagination and kindness, less of an emphasis on technology, materialism and knowledge.

 

They believed that humanity’s problems stem from a lack of love rooted in a crisis of thinking, the dominant world view of warrior civilizations that promote fear, aggression and attention to problems instead of gratitude, love and attention to creative solutions.

The sad truth is that modern people see the world in simplistic ways, much as our ancestors did 2000 years ago. Our secular institutions (media, government, education) train us to categorise and compartmentalise reality, to focus on differences, rather than relationships and connections.

We seem to see life as a struggle, identifying ourselves (and others) by race, religion, nationality, political affiliation, gender, sexual preference (gay/straight), education level and/or career status. We separate the world in our minds, setting ourselves into constant battle with each other.

The recent election in the United States shows how such thinking can feed polarisation, anger and conflict. These distinctions and comparisons keep us boxed in “us vs. them” narratives of nationalism, racism, elitism and identity politics. This feeds a perpetual warrior mentality, political conflict, militarism, a sense of competition, fear and division.

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To become wiser as a species, Einstein believed that we need to develop a broader and deeper sense of identity, one that focuses on our relationship with the Universe (and one another) rather than cultural differences. He encouraged us to transcend our human identifications (of race, politics, gender, nationality, religion), focusing on our connection to the Cosmos and the planet. Understanding ourselves to be Earth residents, children of Nature (or God) and the Universe, points us in the right direction. He said:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

What is missing in mainstream consciousness is an awareness of ourselves as members of the human family, the Universe and the Earth community. We tend to ignore that our cells and bodies are part of the creative history of evolution. That our atoms are part of the history of the Cosmos.

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Peace and gratitude arise naturally in our hearts when we take time to celebrate and reflect upon how we are each a part of a much greater whole. Such awareness dawned on a wide scale for humanity during the 1960’s, and we need it to rise again. As Alan Watts expressed:

“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that.”

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What Einstein, Watts, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama and many others believed is that our species has the potential to grow wiser, more creative and loving as a species. We just need to be mindful of our connection to the rest of humanity, to Nature and the Cosmos. We need to be more rooted in a spiritual view, rather than a materialistic one.

Most modern people are so preoccupied with economic status, social ranks and cultural identities that we ignore the Universe that brought us into being, the systems of Nature that we belong to, and that sustain our lives. Because of this we get caught up in petty human dramas, militarism, nationalism, economics and global games of politics.

Our species needs to understand how we are a living part of Nature, to stop us from falling into the deluded thinking patterns and emotional dramas we create. We need to see how our compartmentalised world views create conflict (both inner and outer), limiting our ability to cooperate with those who think differently than we do, suppressing our potential for deeper peace, balance, wisdom, compassion and joy.

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Spiritual traditions (together with a more unified vision of science) can help remind us that we belong to the greater community of life. That we live in a creative Universe, and belong to the natural world.

“Who would deny that when I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space?” ― D.T. Suzuki

Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching and the Dharma of the Buddha point in this direction. It’s there in the mystic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Zen and Islam as well. Abraham Isaac Kook describes this view (below) from the perspective of the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism:

“An epiphany enables you to sense creation not as something completed, but as constantly becoming, evolving, ascending. This transports you from a place where there is nothing new to a place where there is nothing old, where everything renews itself, where heaven and earth rejoice as at the moment of creation.”   

Many Indigenous cultures identify daily with the Source of Life, with Nature and the Earth community. This identification is important, understanding the greater whole (and feeling gratitude in their hearts) guides the community with problem-solving and decision making.

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Indigenous cultures have practices to help them stay conscious of their Earth identity and responsibility to the planet, as well as human generations into the future. Because of this native cultures have lived more in balance and harmony with the Earth.

“Growth comes with an increasing awareness of and respect for Great Mystery in all people and things, with an awareness that this force of mystery is at work in all events. Growth comes through tolerance for the infinite variety of ways in which Great Spirit, the Infinite,may express itself in this Universe.” ~Ed McGaa, Oglala Lakota

Can civilization’s people grow wiser and more aware of our connection to the Earth, more compassionate to other creatures and fellow human beings?  We must, because the Earth really is at a crisis point. The struggle now of Native Americans trying to stop an oil pipeline at Standing Rock, is indicative of the challenge we face, as a species. We need to come together and challenge those still caught up in mindsets of fear, materialism and greed. But will be more successful if our efforts are grounded in a different way of thinking, guided by wisdom, gratitude and love.

If we don’t learn to live in harmony with Nature (and be generous with each other) all future generations will suffer. The future will be dystopian, violent, poverty stricken and sorrowful, as it already is in ghetto communities around the planet, in places like Syria, Yemen, Gaza and Iraq.

We need to understand how cultural narratives and scientific paradigms influence our world views. How beliefs shape our thinking, how thoughts influence feelings, how emotions regulate our actions, the way we view problems and experience our lives.

As we grow wiser, and learn to love more deeply, the human community will be in a better position to solve our problems. Because we’ll have identified and corrected (in our hearts and minds) the source of our difficulties, our disconnection with wisdom and love (within us), Nature, Life and the Universe (all around us).

Understanding how rare and beautiful our planet is (and how precious our lives are) can open our hearts, fill us with gratitude, guide our creativity, lead us to new ways of thinking, and more humane ways of being.

By Christopher Chase, December 2016

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson

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“Over the course of the last hundred years, Western scientists have given us a deeper view of the Universe, of Life & Nature as a creative and unified self-organizing process. Unfortunately, most modern societies are still operating with outdated ideas and assumptions, that do not reflect this new paradigm. Albert Einstein understood this, as have many others. In order to survive as a species, it is essential that we shift paradigms, developing ways of thinking (and behaving) that are more aligned with how human life and Nature’s systems actually work.” ~Paradigms are Made for Shifting

“What is needed to launch our societies along the humanistic path is some sort of evolutionary compass. Some way of guiding our efforts so that they are in tune with, aligned with, the general evolutionary processes of which we are a part… So rather than seek to dominate the planet, the quest becomes one of dynamic harmonization, of evolutionary consonance, in short, of syntony. The evolutionary compass, then, would be one that points our way toward syntonious pathways for future creation.” ~Alexander Laszlo

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“The greatest revolution of our time is in the way we see the world. The mechanistic paradigm underlying the Industrial Growth Society gives way to the realization that we belong to a living, self-organizing cosmos.” ~Joanna Macy

“You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle.” ~Eckhart Tolle

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Related:

How Wisdom Grows – Educating Hearts & Minds  * Paradigms are Made for Shifting Wholeness: a Coherent Approach to Reality – David Bohm * Systems Thinking – Rediscovering Nature’s Paradigm * Love vs. Power: A Tale of Two Mindsets * Perpetual Curse of the Warrior Mindset *  How We Participate in the Creative Life of the Universe  * How Einstein Saw the World  * Poetry Surrounds Us – Vincent Van Gogh  *  * How Wisdom Awakens Us From Our Dreams *    *

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Don’t Believe Everything You Think

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.” ~Shunryu Suzuki
 
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In Japanese 無 (mu) means “not” or “without” and is used to indicate emptiness or the absence of something. It’s a central idea in Taoism and Zen…
 
A friend in college would sometimes tell me “you think too much.”

One Thanksgiving, she came to stay with my family, in New York. I remember, we were sitting in the kitchen talking with my Dad. Suddenly the two of them were telling me that my opinion about something was wrong.
 
Seeing the two of them aligned together, saying I was wrong made me very upset. I left the room and went downstairs. My mind was spinning with thoughts of “why are they against me?” I felt confused and betrayed, with feelings of anger and unhappiness…
 
Then her words popped into my head, that “you think too much.” At that moment, I stopped thinking. My mind went silent, and I remember listening to the sounds of the house. Immediately, with the extinction of thoughts the swirl of conflicting emotions evaporated.

I went upstairs, they were laughing but had already moved on to another topic. I joined the conversation, the flow had changed and we were soon all laughing together.
 
That was my first taste of the power of silent awareness, 無 (mu), cultivating an emptiness of thoughts and views.
 
In Zen and traditional Asian arts (such as tea ceremony, aikido) 無 (mu) indicates quiet attention to the present, a cessation of internal narration and self-centric thinking.
 
This is what Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki refers to as “beginner’s mind,” keeping our minds quiet and open to input, in their “natural state.”
 
Emptiness in Asian cultures is not considered to be negative, a lack of something. It’s seen instead as a state of mindful attention and potential for connection.
 
In Zen Buddhism and Chinese Taoism 無 (mu) is an openness that allows for greater peace, balance and relationship, like an empty cup that provides space for tea.
 
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“Those who cling to views and perceptions wander the world offending each other.” ~Buddha
 
“When you are able to silence all views and words, when you get free from views and words, reality reveals itself to you and that is Nirvana. Nirvana is cessation, is the extinction. First the extinction of views and then the extinction of the suffering that is born from these views.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
 
“Let silence take you to the core of life.” ~Rumi
 
“Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” ~Buddha
 
“If there is peace in your mind you will find peace with everybody. If your mind is agitated you will find agitation everywhere. So first find peace within and you will see this inner peace reflected everywhere else. You are this peace. You are happiness, find out. Where else will you find peace if not within you?” ~Papaji 
 
“The greatest effort is not concerned with results. The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.”~Atisha 
 
“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda

“Empty your mind of all thoughts. Let your heart be at peace. Watch the turmoil of beings, but contemplate their return. Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source is serenity.” ~Lao Tsu

“As Zen students you have a job to do, a very important job. To bring your life out of dreamland and into the real and immense reality that is… We are actually the whole Universe.” ~Charlotte Joko Beck
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One Truth ☮ Many Songs

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“All major mystical traditions have recognized that there is a paradox at the heart of the journey of return to Origin. Put simply, this is that we are already what we seek, and that what we are looking for on the Path with such an intensity of striving and passion and discipline is already within and around us at all moments.
 
The journey and all its different ordeals are all emanations of the One Spirit that is manifesting everything in all dimensions; every rung of the ladder we climb toward final awareness is made of the divine stuff of awareness itself.
 
Divine Consciousness is at once creating and manifesting all things and acting in and as all things in various states of self-disguise throughout all the different levels and dimensions of the universe.
 
The great Hindu mystic Kabir put this paradox with characteristic simplicity when he said:
 
Look at you, you madman,
Screaming you are thirsty
And are dying in a desert
When all around you there
is nothing but water!
 
And the Sufi poet Rumi reminds us:
 
You wander from room to room
Hunting for the diamond necklace
That is already around your neck!
 
We are so addicted, either to materialism or to transcending material reality, that we don’t see God right in front of us, in the beggar, the starving child, the brokenhearted woman; in our friend; in the cat; in the flea. We miss it..
 
This world is not an illusion, and the philosophies that say it is are half-baked half-truths. In an authentic mystical experience, the world does disappear and reveal itself as the dance of the divine consciousness.
 
But then it reappears, and you see that everything you are looking at is God, and everything you’re touching is God. This vision completely shatters you.

The Paradox of the Journey
 
Knowing that we are looking for something we already have (and are) does not, of course, mean that the journey is unnecessary, only that there is a vast and sublime joke waiting to be discovered at its end.
 
One serious explanation of this joke at the heart of the journey is, of course, that our essential self is hidden from us by what the Sufi mystics call ‘a hundred thousand veils of illusion.’
 
Placed in this dimension of time and space and matter, we forget who we are; we identify our essential nature with what surrounds us and with what our culture and society and parents and ordinary senses tell us about ourselves.
 
A massive journey is then needed for us to ‘dis-identify’ with everything we have falsely learned about our selves so that we can experience, with the ‘hundred thousand veils’ burned away, the glory of our true identity….
 
~By Andrew Harvey, The Direct Path ~
 
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Buddhist Anarchism – Gary Snyder, 1961

“Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain. No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets.” ~Gary Snyder, 1961

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Gary Snyder’s Buddhist Anarchism was originally published in Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1 (City Lights, 1961). A slightly revised version appeared in Earth House Hold (New Directions, 1969) under the title “Buddhism and the Coming Revolution.” This is the latter version, with the original title.

“Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-“self” — because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away.

In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and-desire to be given facts of the human condition.

Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hangups and cultural conditionings.

Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.

No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets.

The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam.

The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies — Communist included — into vicious distorters of man’s true potential. They create populations of “preta” — hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.

There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident.

One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means.

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and refusal to take life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities.

The belief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim and repress — and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers.

Avatamsaka (Kegon) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm.

The hawk, the swoop and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard, and he must be effective in aiding those who suffer.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila).

Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions.

Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself — over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in.

Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.”

This last aspect means, for me, supporting any cultural and economic revolution that moves clearly toward a free, international, classless world. It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous redneck.

It means affirming the widest possible spectrum of non-harmful individual behavior — defending the right of individuals to smoke hemp, eat peyote, be polygynous, polyandrous or homosexual. Worlds of behavior and custom long banned by the Judaeo-Capitalist-Christian-Marxist West.

It means respecting intelligence and learning, but not as greed or means to personal power. Working on one’s own responsibility, but willing to work with a group. “Forming the new society within the shell of the old” — the World War I slogan of fifty years ago.

The traditional cultures are in any case doomed, and rather than cling to their good aspects hopelessly it should be remembered that whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed from the unconscious, through meditation.

In fact, it is my own view that the coming revolution will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past. If we are lucky we may eventually arrive at a totally integrated world culture with matrilineal descent, free-form marriage, natural-credit communist economy, less industry, far less population and lots more national parks.”

GARY SNYDER
1961


 

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