4-04-08 8:04  •  Poly Triad

Mrs. Ellis: "I want to have a relatioship with a woman but I don't want you to have one..." That's what I told my hubby. I love him and he was okay with it. Now, I am wondering if anyone else has ever done this. Do you think it can work?

Its great he is willing to indulge you, but in general it is best not to ask for what you aren't willing to give in a relationship.

Personally I would look for someone interested in at least being friends with you both, or as Gracie Allen used to say: "Only if my husband comes along..."

While tastes vary, personally I'd rather feel included than left out, even if it isn't a threesome.

B: It sounds like the original poster would like to have an expanded relationship and there is nothing wrong with that. The danger lies in defining relationships by the gender roles within them.

That doesn't seem to be the issue here. There seems to be a good mix of bi and straight, poly and mono, success and failure.

All relationships are challenging. There are social, biological, and personal drives weaving in and out an often in conflict. Different people seek different things, often also conflicting, power, safety, companionship, sex, commitment, family, standing, trust, deep intimate bonding, etc. Frequently these change or are subconscious. Relationships themselves change over time, the first couple years of infatuation and exploration, the seven year itch, the mid life crisis.

Frankly, even with the biological drive behind it, the vast majority of relationships don't work out. That is not a condemnation of any of the people involved. It is just a testament to the challenge. But when it does work out it is one of the few things of true merit people can do with their lives.

There aren't easy answers but there is a given: relationships are built with your attention and the quality of your interactions with each other.

4-01-08 4:01  •  Pascal's Wager

Ricardo: I say, God does exist! Christianity is right. But you disagree.
And if you're right then I have lost nothing. If I am right you have lost everything.

So you think by choosing fear and cowardice you lose nothing?

You think that by having the courage of my convictions I gain nothing?

Pascal's wager is a fool's bet.

2-29-08 3:01  •  How to feel OK

Ashleigh: I have so much love for people. I look around and want to give love to people. But it doesn't work with myself. I have this "My parents failed me and I will never be loved" idea. It comes back even at the best of times. I often have this feeling that something is wrong. How can I feel ok?

Everybody gets that feeling. The Buddhists even have a word for it - dukkha - unsatisfactoriness, suffering.

It may help to remember that feelings don't necessarily mean anything. They aren't rational. That kind of feeling feeds on your attention, fear and dislike of it. This can create a feedback loop, making it seem worse than it is.

The traditional method of working with it is to learn to notice it for what it is, a feeling, and thus remove the fear and dislike that feed it; and, to learn to focus your attention so that it dissipates. No thought or feeling can be maintained without your attention. If you turned around and saw a car coming straight at you, the feeling would instantly disappear because you have more important things to occupy your mind.

However, jumping in front of cars is hard on the driver, so people have worked out other methods.

The one I like focuses on the fact that this feeling is really just a distraction. In this case it is a distraction from living your life. So the practice is to create a very boring task. Let that cause the mind to throw up distractions and then practice refocusing on what you are doing.

A traditional task is to just sit and watch a rock. Now, you'll be tempted to examine the rock, but the task is just to watch it. Start some where between 5 and 15 minutes and just sit and watch the rock. If you are like most people it won't be 5 seconds before your brain rebels and starts trying to think about things. As soon as you notice you are distracted, gently go back to the rock. You be distracted again, go back to the rock. You'll remember something important; go back to the rock. You'll feel silly, want to do something else, have an itch, feel sad, feel happy, unfold time and space...as soon as you notice you are distracted, gently go back to the rock.

Just 5-15 minutes every day. The every day bit is more important than how long you do it, but don't get hung up on it. If you miss, realize that is just another distraction and start back in.

After a while you'll notice when some distraction is messing with you and you'll start naturally refocusing on what you are doing and who you really are.

2-29-08 3:01  •  Working with Desires

Maya: We know desire cause all kinds of troubles, attachment, wanting, feelings of lack, wanting to force things and make them happen, anger jealousy, etc. So we give them up, perhaps suppress them, perhaps replace them through hopefully partially healing blissful practice.

Yet, even the desire to practice is attachment. Don't we need desire to become the Buddha?

How do you deal with desire? Can you meditate them away or replace them with some bliss? Is it ok potentially to attach to our own Buddha-nature?

There is nothing wrong with desire in and of itself. Suffering is attached to the misuse of desire. For example, desiring what cannot be, and aversion to what is.

If you are hungry and want to eat, you then eat and go on your way that is the natural functioning of your mind.

If you are hungry, spend your time wishing you had something else and complaining that what you have is no good and then after you are done you go on thinking about how it could have been a better meal if only...; that is suffering.

A common approach to getting a grip on things so the first doesn't slide into the second is paying attention to your desires and aversions so you know them for what they are and can see how they rise, fall, attach and detach and how your thoughts influence them.

2-14-08 2:14  •  Buddhism Questions Answered

Robert: I have some questions about Buddhism and I've heard you know something about it. What are your thoughts on these questions?

Question 1) Buddhism seems to be about letting go of Attachment. But Attachment is closely linked to Passion. I've heard folks comment that a lack of passion in life would be a 'dehumanizing' direction for them. How does this work?

Buddhism doesn't make you something you aren't. If you are passionate, you are passionate. Certainly the records of the various masters show they had deep passions. Buddhism provides means of relating to passion without it becoming destructive or getting stuck in obsession. You can be passionate when it is time to be passionate and let go and move on when it is time to let go and move on.

Robert: Ah, but Buddhism is a path towards shedding those actions/addictions that cause suffering, so it seems to me that it does make you something you are not now (when you are not residing in your Buddha nature). Being passionate about something or someone specific does seem to be a violation of equanimity, so I don't feel that the question of passion has been addressed.

The classic answer...How many addictions did you have when you were born? Buddhism is not changing your nature. It is giving you the insight to give up harmful traits you learned along the way, often before you knew the consequences of such habits. Grudges, hating, lusting after possessions, clinging, aversion, are all seen as unnatural modifications to be shed in order to recapture your original Buddha nature.

Equanimity and passion are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Equanimity is not pretending to be made of stone. It is more a matter of composure in the face of tension. Passionate, but not obsessed. Engaged, but not clinging. Moving easily from this to that with a sense of balance and appropriateness for what is of the moment.

Question 2) How does one go about planning for things from a Buddhist perspective? If one is in the moment (or attempting to be in the moment) without attachment it seems that plans would be difficult to initiate. A practical example would be how can a Buddhist have a 401k?

Any successful planning requires flexibility, and clinging to a specific means or a specific outcome reduces the efficacy of planning and the necessary error correction which implementing plans entails. Being in the moment doesn't divorce you from the past or future. It is just like knowing exactly where you are makes it easier to actually go where you intend. Buddhism isn't wandering lost in the moment. It is knowing that this is it and finding yourself here.

Robert: I would counter that at its essence any planning (successful or not) requires a focus on the future, and this seems to be a violation of the essence of 'be here now'. Being flexible is indeed a valuable quality, but the act of planning for the future puts the focus of your attention on the future and not on the here and now.

You are trying to introduce divisions where there aren't any. "Be here now" is a nice sentiment from Ram Das, but it is not a Buddhist tenet. Being in the moment doesn't prevent you from considering the past or the future. It's just not trying to live in the past or the future. You may have known someone who was always thinking of some upcoming event, or reliving some past event, to the point where they are missing their lives right now. That is what being in the moment seeks to avoid. You can totally be in the moment and consider future plans, and then set them down when done and be in the moment doing something else.

Question 3) The third one is harder to formally express...the difficulty in taking any actions in life from a Buddhist perspective with the awareness of interconnectivity and the dangers of ego-centric impulse.

This seems a reformulation of the old Buridan's ass dilemma - would an ass, placed exactly in the middle between two stacks of hay of equal size and quality, starve to death since it cannot make any rational decision to start eating one rather than the other?

Of course no ass ever starved like that and indecision is not a leading cause of death in Buddhists. If taking action seems a problem, try giving it instead.

Robert: I don't feel I have relayed the question well. What I'm referring to is that any action taken has consequences (Karma) that one cannot foresee, many of which can be considered unskillful.

Skillful or unskillful is what you are personally doing right now. Karma is no more skillful or unskillful, good or bad, than gravity is. Once the effects leave your range of influence, they are no longer yours to control.

Robert: But if one is truly focused on compassion and empathy for all living things it would seem that there would be a bit of a lock up.

How could there be a lock up? Focus is just intent. It requires learning, practice and opportunity to realize that intent. Fuckups are part of the equation. They are you presenting an opportunity for another to grace you with their compassion and empathy.

1-14-08 3:21  •  Uncertainty Principle Hijacked!

Jonathan: You have said that the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics has the disadvantage of not having any actual evidence to support it.

Here's an argument that David Deutsch, probably the chief current proseteliser for MWI likes to make: suppose we actually get a quantum computer built, that can do such miraculous things as factoring very large numbers; the sort of job that would take more processors than there are atoms in the universe. Where is this calculation happening? It clearly can't be happening in our universe; there are not even enough atoms in the whole universe to do the job. Deutsch argues that (unless we want to believe in magic), we are forced to conclude that the processing power comes from the other worlds. Thus, argues Deutsch, construction of a quantum computer will be experimental proof of the existence of the other worlds.

That has got to be the hokeyest load of drool I've ever heard. You might as well say god is programming it for you and it runs on unicorn sweat.

Jonathan: Well then what's your explanation for where the processing power is coming from?

The great pumpkin does it on a scratch pad.

Imaginary processing power isn't coming from anywhere.

If we imagine a gremlin that has more atoms than the universe, where does it exist? Only in your imagination.

Jonathan: So your explanation for how a quantum computer factors large numbers is...?? Or am I to conclude that you don't actually have one.

Quantum computers don't exist.

Jonathan: That's hardly the point!

No, it is exactly the point. Imaginary computers consume no resources and have nothing to explain.

Jonathan: If quantum computers don't work then MWI is disproved, instantly. The question was, if they *do* work, how do you explain it?

Let them work first, so we actually have something which needs explaining. As it stands I explain it with unicorn sweat.

Jonathan: Sounds like a pure dodge to me. There's no reason you can't consider a hypothetical circumstance.

OK, hypothetical circumstance...and infinite number of unicorns perform the calculations. How many pins are required to hold them?

1-12-08 1:29  •  Suicide and Buddhism

KT: Mama Gaea asked you the question, "According to your personal beliefs, what do you think happens if one were to commit suicide?"

Well, I want you to know that it's not about your "personal" beliefs. As an individually trained Buddhist guru, I will tell you what the Buddhist teaching makes emphatically clear.

To kill oneself is a form of human murder, and it has unspeakably grave consequences.

Basically, if you commit suicide, you go straight to hell. It is almost impossible to retrieve a consciousness that has committed self-murder.

Try yoga and mantra instead. That would be a needed step and the beginning of a growth cycle.

-- KT, dagger priest and medical tantrika

Mama Gaea asked me for a personal opinion. I don't see anything else happening here except you are appealing to yourself as some kind of Buddhist authority. Your position seems flip and lacking in compassion.

KT: It's not my authority. The authority here is a fellow known as Guru Sakyamuni.

You are not him. You cannot claim his authority. I do not find your words to be his words.

KT: Guru Sakyamuni taught what are known as The Ten Precepts, the first of which is No Murder.

It seems you could use a refresher.

The Five Precepts:

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

Calling it "murder" is using a pejorative term and violates precept 4. Also, these are not "god's laws." Violating them is not "sinning." Nor does it mean "hell." These are voluntary vows one undertakes to better oneself.

KT: I am also not appealing to myself or my own authority.

Then you should be more clear. "As an individually trained Buddhist guru, I will tell you what the Buddhist teaching makes emphatically clear." Looks like self-appeal.

KT: You are entirely mistaken in casually claiming that the statement somehow is "lacking in compassion". Quite the reverse. I am CLEARLY telling people that they should never bring themselves the unbearable torment of a long long long stay in the hell realms through committing suicide, which cuts off the path of liberation.

Clearly telling people doesn't mean you are compassionately telling them. Telling someone who is suicidal that they "should never bring themselves the unbearable torment of a long long long stay in the hell realms through committing suicide, which cuts off the path of liberation" is cruel, not compassionate.

It is also just your unfounded opinion.

KT: Since this teaching derives from Guru Sakyamuni...

I don't recall him threatening suicidal people.

KT: ...I recommend you not be so quick to condemn the dasasila or other basic precepts of Guru Sakyamuni, which I as vajrayana guru fully received, practice, teach and bestow.

I condemn what is wrong no matter who proclaims it. And again with the self-authority.

All of this mainly seems to be you strutting.

Ryan: It is certainly part of orthodox Buddhist teachings that misdeeds can lead to being reborn in a hell realm.

Just because Buddhism includes quaint and even nasty superstitions, that doesn't mean one must accept them as the gospel or inflict them on others.

Ryan: I'm not especially interested in whether or not it is merely superstition. I was just pointing out that what you seemed to imply was an “unorthodox position”, is not one.

The question is whether it is compassionate to harp on the matter with someone who is suicidal.

If it wasn't superstition then there might be reason to at least consider broaching the topic. But as superstition it is doubly lame.

My exact words to KT were "Your position seems flip and lacking in compassion." How is that implying it was an “unorthodox position?”

Ryan: You are implying that it is not part of Buddhist doctrine to believe that suicide can result in lower rebirth.

It depends on what Buddhist doctrine you happen to follow. There is every reason to reject rebirth as a Hindu graft having nothing to do with the original teaching, just as the Buddha specifically rejected vegetarianism as a point of dogma. I have yet to see any reconciliation with anatman which makes a lick of sense. Buddhists as foreseen by the Buddha are supposed to be able to think for themselves and arrive at good decisions.

12-30-07 2:48  •  Human "Potential"

Zo: You say anger is part of everyone's life, but what about Pure Enlightened Ones who live in bliss? Yes, in a normal psychological profile, one must have anger. That is human. But that is why psychology is not spirituality.

Are you denying human potential? The Pure Enlightened are outside the normal range!

And yet, you and I are both stuck working with normal. The spirituality of heavily abnormal people may be interesting as a piece of data, but its immediate application seems a bit dubious. People with Downs Syndrome tend to love to hug and to be hugged. Their love and affection seems unconditional. But what does that tell you about your own love? How will you learn to transcend your anger from someone who has never felt anger?

Zo: Buddha supposedly stopped a mad charging elephant with a glance. Even psychologists accept the existence of hypnotism, and some people are amazing animal trainers. So why couldn't that be true?

If he did, so what? Stopping elephants with a glance isn't spirituality. It's just a trick. I bet the Buddha was so embarrassed to be caught doing parlor tricks from his past he never made that mistake again.

When asked, the Buddha said without suffering there are no Buddhas. That is spirituality. Seeing the necessity of your own suffering as the first step in your path to transcend it. Groovy stuff like being "pure" or getting blissed out all the time is at best a collection of unnecessary side effects. Getting excited about somebody else being pure because they can't help it...well, I just wouldn't worry about it is all.

Zo: But that could be the real underlying human potential...virtually infinite in nature...that we are not bound to sweat and grunt under a weary life, mere caged animals in pants and shirts!

If you are in a cage, be enlightened in a cage. If you are free, be enlightened being free. What good would it be if your enlightenment didn't help when you were bound to sweat and grunt under a weary life, merely a caged animal in pants and shirt?

Underlying human potential isn't relevant. Even underlying Zo potential is only peripheral. Spirituality as I understand it deals with the actual Zo, right now.

09-22-07 1:37  •  Math and the World

Josh: You can't say that science is empirically based, because so much of modern science involves math and math is not empirically based.

While a lot of science uses rational means such as math and formal logic, the primacy in any aspect of science lies with the observation. No matter what the math says or how the arguments are formed or even what some authority decrees; if you can show that the observations disagree that trumps everything else, and it has trumped everything else as our understanding and ability to observe have improved over the years, and as new data rendered old theories obsolete.

This dynamic nature of scientific understanding bothers those who want unchanging truths and are looking for right and wrong.

Scientific understanding is not right and wrong in the common sense of those words. A theory is accepted not for being "right" but for successfully accounting for the available observations while not introducing superfluous explanations.

A perfect example of this is string theory, an area where there is just math. The math makes a lot of other things come together, but it cannot yet be accepted because it has no successful experimentation to back the math up.

Josh:No one's ever been able to explain how it is that math hooks up with the world as well as it does.

You must not have asked the right person. Math hooks into the world the way it does because we developed it based on how the world works. Numbers were made to count things. Adding is how to describe the accumulation of groups in the world. Calculus was developed to talk about how things fall and bounce and it is the same need at the root of any branch of math. You might as well wonder why photos capture images so well.

Josh: This isn't true. Math is an "armchair" science, not an observational one.

Today that is sometimes the case, but math *developed* as a way to describe the world and how things accumulate and relate to each other. Early math was all about direct application to the world. Building things, monetary transactions, describing motion, etc. and that is why it hooks into the world the way it does.

Josh: What was the observation of 'how the world works' that lead to the discovery that the square root of two is irrational?

Problems in architecture requiring more accurate measurements lead to geometry and the Pythagorean theorem and the square roots of numbers as well as pi.

Josh: But there are unchanging truths, such as that the whole is greater than the part, or that it cannot be raining and not raining in the same place at the same time in the same respect. It remains unchangingly true that a valid argument using true premises concludes with a truth.

If you look into logic and math a bit further you'll find that those are just agreed axioms and can be altered.

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