04-27-06 4:47Avenging a Theft

Steve: This asshole stole my backpack! So, after I spray his eyes with pepper spray, I might get away with one good kick to the groin, stomach, or chest. More if no one was looking; I'd break his limbs so he couldn't run away and force him to show me where his house is to get my bag back.

The reason I would beat the shit out of him would be so that he feels a lot worse for the next time he even thinks about robbing someone. Also to see if I might convince him to let me know where he left my stuff. I'd pull out his wallet (maybe steal his shit if no ones looking.)

I guess I'll go with what's least harmful to him because I actually CARE what the law will do to me. but it would be nice in my opinion if true justice for crimes might be served by surgically disabling criminals instead of putting them on time out as a punnishment. Seriously, it could be seen as humane. A thief doesn't deserve a hand to steal with in my book.

At this point I'm starting to side with the thief.

You seem to have no qualms against stealing on your own, if you won't get caught.

All he did was steal from you.

You are proposing assault, torture and maiming and its only your cowardice in the face of possible repercussions against yourself that holds you back.

Morally you are a step under the theif since he did not physically assault you when he had the chance and it is only circumstance that made you the victim since you would happily steal from him, if it were safe.

I'd say you have far more critical issues at hand than the mere loss of a few books.

Steve: I have no qualms with stealing from a theif, it's their own medicine.

So you are a petty thief. Under the law stealing is stealing. It doesn't matter if the person you steal from is a thief and it doesn't matter if what you steal was stolen. Your willingness to steal makes you a wannabe thief.

You are no better than them and perhaps worse since they may have been acting from need and you are definately acting from revenge.

Steve: They know how angry it makes people when shit is stolen from them yet they do it anyway because they have no faith in society or social structure.

You don't know why they do anything since you know nothing about them.

Steve: So now you are saying it's ok if he does it to me but I'm bad if I do it to him?

It is bad for him to do and it is equally bad for you to do.

The irony is that you claim to know better, but obviously you don't.

Steve: You call it cowardness as if it were a poor justification for not commiting evil.

As you described it, you are not avoiding the act because it is wrong. You are glorifying the act and not commiting it because you are afraid of getting caught and punished. Glorifying evil and not committing it out of fear makes you both vile and cowardly.

A good person refuses the act because it is wrong and unjustified even if they were wronged first.

A brave person is not detered from doing what they feel is needed despite any possible detrimental consequences.

I'm sorry if this flies in the face of your self-image but your choices leave no other possible conclusion. The only difference between you and the thief is the thief is brave enough to act on his depraved desires. While that makes you more law-abiding while people are watching, it doesn't make you a better person.

Steve: Ha! I say maiming is effective prevention.

If maiming were effective there would be no crime in places where it is practiced, like Saudi Arabia. But that is not the case.

Steve: I respect the law, but since they hurt me, I will attempt to get away with hurting them in return.

You do not respect the law or you could not say something like that. You are just a cowardly criminal who is restrained by his fear of the law catching him.

There is a world of difference between respecting the law and fearing the law. If you respected the law you would not wish to break it so much.

04-25-06 1:54Desire

Sturmey: Whenever I've heard buddhists talk about the letting go of desire I've always wondered, won't the desire fade away of its own accord, in its season, just in the natural course of things?

It depends on the nature of the desire in question.

Normal, or perhaps natural desires, rise and fall according to the circumstance of their nature. If you are hungry for food, the hunger passes as you meet the nature of your desire by eating. These desires don't necessarily lead to suffering if one is mindful of them so that they serve their purpose, but don't take over one's life.

Abnormal or unnatural desires are created by mere thought itself so they have no natural rhythm and they have no natural sucession. If you are hungry for power there is no way to fully satisfy the desire and attempting to do so necessarily will bring suffering. Pursuit of power always ends up consuming one's life. Instead of being mindful of the course of the desire, one must be vigilant against its arising. When it noticed, one then stops the root thought processes which give rise to it and the desire terminates.

Mindfulness, vigilence and stopping thought processes are all some of the mental disciplines developed by a constant meditation practice, hence its emphasis as a means of delivery from abnormal desires and suffering.

04-24-06 5:35After Death

Unsub: It's gonna happen to all of us here 1 day. It scares the shit out of me to think it. What if this is it.? I mean I have my beliefs, but what if this is it. We die & that's it. Blehhhh, freaks out!

Can you tell me what do you feel will happen to you when you die?

Scared seems a perfectly reasonable approach.
Dying seems like something to be approached with due caution under normal circumstances.
Depending on exactly how you die, it promises to be quite a show as the brain burns itself out in a final burst of extreme activity and potent psychedelic drugs.

Dead however, nothing happens when you are fully dead.
If anything is still happening, then you aren't yet fully dead and you should enjoy the ride as best you can.

This is it. Whether or not there is an after life, this is your shot at this life and then you die. The dying part is easy though. Only one guy blew it so far, and that's an unconfirmed rumor. So don't sweat it.

This is the time for living and smelling the flowers.
Don't spend all your time thinking on the last page or you'll miss the book.

04-24-06 4:24The Buddha's Flower

Davee: You said that when the Buddha used a single flower, it wasn't a symbol for anything. If the lesson there was just that it is what it is, then why don't you go around holding a flower and teach the dharma that way?

I don't for the same reason I don't just keep saying "ball" over and over. It must be what needs to be said before it becomes what to say.

But I have actually used it once to make a diferent, but specific point about reality to my sweety. That was a couple years ago and she still remembers it and I bet she always will.

Davee: You say, "Be a light unto yourself," but it's tricky though to know when you're not just fooling yourself and when you're on the right track, for any path.

No its not.

Davee: Being a light onto oneself might just be fooling yourself further.

That is part of the process too. If you don't try to fool yourself, fail, learn what it is like and how to catch it early, you never mature and are easily manipulated by self doubts and fear. You don't have to be perfect, in fact it is essential that you not be perfect or there really is nothing to learn. Screw up, take your lumps, learn to do better. Give fooling yourself your best shot and see how far you get before it is just to absurd to continue. Don't take getting it right the first time so seriously.

Davee: You seem to agree with my definition of ngedon as the "meaning" and trangdon as the "words". in that usage, ngedon is seeing the point, trangdon is the picture of it.

I actually am avoiding the terms since I don't see that they are adding to anything at the moment and I try to avoid unnecessary jargon. However, I feel that you are confusing understanding the meaning of the stereogram, such as there is a picture of a star to be seen, with actually being able to see the star.

You have the words (the actual stereogram) and the meaning (that it shows a star), but you lack the thing itself (seeing the star).

I say this because you seem to be getting your meanings from others, but when you can see the thing in and of itself, you can find the meanings in everything you see and you don't need anyone else's meanings. You become a light unto yourself.

I call this a meta-understanding. It is the source of the meaning and words you discuss.

04-22-06 4:20Humans in Basic Buddhism

Jake: Why do all religions assume there is something wrong with humans? Whether its orginal sin (chistians, jews), needing to space out to some fantastical level (buddhists), being dirty and having to beg for forgiveness all the time (islam, chirst, etc), why do they all have this one set of defining attributes?

While there are wide variations to what buddhism is like at the local scene, the buddha didn't have anything in particular against humans. He just didn't like suffering and felt he had hit on a way to not suffer and be happy. There is no idea of inherant "sin" and even suffering is not seen as "evil." The only forgiveness is the ordinary kind you give and get over the ordinary mistakes of life.

Finally, if some one is trying "to space out to some fantastical level" they aren't practicing buddhism. Buddhism is trying to get you to pay more attention to what is happening so you stop blundering about. Meditation is supposed to be unspacing you out, though like many swords it can cut both ways.

You also might enjoy the philosophy of Epicurus. He hit on many of the same concepts of the buddha though he took a far less monastic turn to it. He basically figured out how to have the most enjoyable life possible. Between the two of them, not suffering and enjoying life to its fullest, they make a pretty complete package.

Jake: What exactly is the criteria for determing who is right?

The criteria, at least in buddhism, is you try it and see if it works as described.
In particular scientists have for years been testing various claims made by buddhism and they have been verifying many of them.

Recently they did a study which showed buddhists are in fact generally happier than non buddhists.


Pinky: You make it sound so simple. :)

It is very simple and yet that is what makes it so hard sometimes.

As some zen guy said:
Zen is open to all, so it has no gates.
So how do you pass through the gateless gate?

But really the basics are almost excruciatingly simple.

The buddha boiled it down to just: morality/compassion, insight/wisdom, and pay attention/focus.

But that was too complex so he boiled that down to: do what is good, reject what is bad.

But even that was too complex so with his dying breath, for his best friend in the world, he boiled that down to: be a light unto yourself.

He really only had one tool: practice meditation. Sit on your butt. Focus on something like counting your breath up to ten over and over. When you notice you are not counting your breath just go back to counting your breath. Don't fight whatever the distraction was. Don't engage it at all.

Just sit. Count your breath. Go back to counting your breath. Go back to counting your breath....

15 min every day is plenty.

There you go.

Of course the religious then piled a bunch of crap on top so it would sell better, but that is buddhism in a nutshell. With just that much you can do your own version of everything he did.

Of course there are piles of tips and advice which have accumulated over the ages but they can end up a distraction.

Pinky: I can assume that many religions believe there is something wrong with humankind because there is evil.

Is there evil or are there just things you really don't like?

Pinky: I believe that without "evil" to compare "good" to, we would not have "good."

There are two ways of looking at such a dichotomy. If it is like electrons and positrons, then the two are both existent and opposite. When they come together they totally negate each other.

If it is like light and darkness, then one is the absence, or context, for the other. Darkness is not a thing in itself as light is. It is where there is no light, an emptyness where the light can go. Without darkness there would be nowhere to express light.

I think that in this case both good and evil are the darkness in which humans express themselves. The epressions we enjoy we call good and the ones we don't we call evil, but its all just our expressions.

Pinky: I look up to your (I hope you don't mind me saying) detached way of perceiving the world.

To steal from Newton...If I seem tall, its because I stand on the backs of giants.

04-10-06 10:24Sleepiness During Meditation

Iron Doug: I often get sleepy during meditation, especially at the beginning of the meditation and at the beginning of the week after taking Sunday off. I try to observe the sleepiness and let it float away like I do thoughts, but this often makes me sleepier. I have changed the time I do it from morning to early evening before dinner but it hasn't helped much. Any advice?

Sleepiness is no big deal. It hits every one.
It stops being a problem as you work out what works for you.

There is a standard litany...

Straighten your posture.
Don't use as many cushions.
Meditate in the morning.
On an empty stomach.
With a sip of tea (but not too much)
Open your eyes half way or all the way.
Change the focus from something rhythmic like breathing to something non rhytmic like listening.
Change from lotus/cross legged to taylor/folded legged sitting, or vis versa.
Don't try to be too comfortable meditating. Some discomfort is part of the process.

You can also purposefully pursue holding the meditative state into sleep via a lucid dream.

Eventually you notice what the start of sleep feels like and you can use it to refocus.

Iron Doug: Thanks for the tips and the reassurance. I was wondering if it might be somewhat typical. Does green tea have caffeine in it? I heard this was quite common for monks to use in order to stay awake during meditation.

Green tea has a relative of caffeine which is a bit less jittery and slower acting.
It also has a unique amino acid which many find mildly calming.
But too much will interfere.
I would save it as an occasional suppliment rather than a constant companion.

04-10-06 10:24Miracles

Marley: read in the SF Chronicle today that a Florida State University professor has forwarded a theory that Jesus Christ may not have walked on the stormy waves of Galilee, but stood on a hard-to-see piece of ice floating in it.

However, I'd like to pose the question, "Does it really matter?"

Then I guess the real question is, "Do miracles matter?"

You know miracles are often used to somehow "prove" a deity, yet it seems to me they would actually be proof of his failure.

They would be a violation of the universal laws he set down in the begining and usually for the most petty of reasons, like someone's personal ease in life.

I don't think a real deity would put up with such nonsense. Bending and breaking his own rules willy nilly like that? Why should he?

Stand on your own two feet and make your own damn miracles.

Marley: Well, I believe most of these miracle stories are symbolic of spiritual truths: I just think it's sad that people don't see the "miracle", the power, of the spiritual truths.

I don't like the term "miracle." I feel it cheapens the moment by fundimentally denying its possibility.

One of the reasons I enjoy buddhism is that the buddha catagorically denied being anything other the just some guy.

All this god stuff cheapens both the divine and the accomplishments and insight of the spiritual leader.

What the buddha did, anyone can do. You don't need to be the son of god. You don't even need god in your pocket like mohammad.

You can use his game plan or make your own. You fundimentally have the capacity to realize enlightenment. It is inherant to your nature.

Miracles need not apply.

Marley: You say, "You fundimentally have the capacity to realize enlightenment. It is inherant to your nature." How do you come to this thought?

By doing it.

Marley: Out of the chaos of nature human beings some how have the inherent ability to be "enlightened"? Or can dogs, cats, etc... realize enlightenment, also?

The ability is inherant in the nature of what a human mind in a society of minds, is. There is nothing magical or supernatural about it.

If you want to do a flip, practice the parts of a flip, strengthen your muscles and increase your agility with more practice. At some point it will come together and you can do a flip.

If you want to be enlightened, exercise your morality/compassion, wisdom/insight and attention/concentration and at some point you will become enlightened.

As for dogs and cats, ask a dog and a cat.

Marley: I think you do not believe in god, yet you believe in humans being inherently capable of enlightenment. This I do not understand.

Believing in the fashion you outline is not something I find useful. I neither believe in god, nor do I not believe in god. I also neither believe nor disbelieve in freem.

As for enlightenment, there was sufficient evidence to make it a reasonable assumption. The methodology is public and accessable and requires no specialized equipment, so I've tried it and verified the basic claims for myself and I know other people who have done the same. Where exactly does belief enter the picture?

Marley: You say, "What the buddha did, anyone can do." How so?

Because the buddha and the various other buddhas, were just ordinary people who learned how to do it.

Marley: I do not believe anyone can do what buddha did.

Then you have not read and understood what he had to say about it.
Or you've been confused by the creeping religousizing of the teachings by the monks and priests. The whole point of his teaching is that anyone can do it. Anyone at all. That's what took him so long: trying to get it down to the point where even a really smart person couldn't muck it up too bad.

Marley: I have seen very few examples of it.

1) Being able to do it is not doing it.
2) Doing it doesn't mean you have to make a spectacle of yourself.
3) That you have seen any examples of it proves my point that there is reasonable evidence to support further investigation.

04-05-06 8:23What is Fair?

Diablo: I recently had a divine revelation that I need to be more conscious of others. I am still trying to work out what that means. What do you think?

Care about them. Be nice. Play fair.

It's not rocket science.

Diablo: What is fair?

Ask the person you are playing with.

Diablo: Lol, I doubt that would provide much honest feedback.

It has always worked for me, seriously.


If you disagree, play with some one else whose idea of fair is closer to yours.

Fair is what you both agree is fair.

04-05-06 1:23Socialism

Pootey: Isn't socialism what we fought against in the Cold War?

Socialism is the belief that the basic needs of every one in the society are more important than the full and unbridled enjoyment of excess by the few.

Benjy: That's Utopian crap! Socialism implies that everyone believes in socialism and that no one is selfish and we are all atruistic...

Where did you get those strange notions? Socialism doesn't care about beliefs. It cares about distribution of necessities for the common good. It actually assumes people are selfish and/or inefficient at taking care of each other at an individual level and so group organization is needed to make sure every one is taken care of.

It doesn't assume every one is altruistic, but it does assume you are smart enough to see that a strong social context allows the most benefit for every one, rich and poor.

For a comparison consider a more socialist country like Norway vs a less socialist country like Haiti.

Rene: The problem as I see it is that this "every one in society" consists of individuals all with different needs and abilities. In reality there is no "everyone," compared with the reality of the individual.

You are setting up a false dilemma. Socialism is not to meet every need, it is to meet the basic needs. If it helps, consider that people are an essential infrastructure for the society. Certain basic needs must be met.

A minimum level of law, food, clothing, health care, education, child care, occupation and entertainment must be met or there are serious problems which degrade the functioning of the society as a whole - crime, disease, insurrection, homelessness, stupid people making poor decisions at the polls, etc.

Societies depend on their infrastructure, and if you fail to provide the minimum level of support for any essencial infrastructure - be it roads, communications, education, health care, water, waste disposal...or people - and the society begins to fail.

It is particulaly ironic that in a nation of gross surpluses, where we have to destroy things to keep them from piling up, we are failing to maintain any of our infrastructures.

I think for the most part you are talking about communism's propaganda about itself mixed with our propaganda about it.

For an example of a working socialist country use Norway, though lately the EU and their conservative wing nuts are messing it up.

Ziego: Would you agree that "law, food, clothing, health care, education, child care, occupation and entertainment" are adjusting and evolving concepts that individuals have vastly different ideals for?

Hence the use of the term minimum.

I'm not saying you don't have to work for what you want or that you will be ecstatic about the base level subsistence.

But people are the fundamental infrastructure in a country and the better they are, the better the country is.

Ziego: For your information, the Nazi Party was the National 'Socialist' organization.

Yeah, and East Germany was "German Democratic Republic." Big deal. Names are cheap and often misused by toltarian regimes who want to impress people who can read but not think.

Ziego: Your statements imply a subjection of individual 'expanse' and will, for the greater good of the 'country', nation, society, global economy or 'race'.

My statements imply no such thing.

Ziego: In my stance, country, nation, society, and global economy serve the flourishing of individual will.

Suuuuure they do.

Ziego: And so ideas of 'infastructure', organization, and methods for distribution of resources will naturally form to serve that fundemental nature.

I've made no comments about implementation. I'm merely noting that a fundimental infrastructure is not being maintained at peak effeciency and that the consequences effect the entire society.

Ziego: You say names are cheap, I agree.

However, you saying that our "fundamental infrastructure is not being maintained" sounds like Nazi talk.

True freedom DOES entail the individual right to despose of their own living existence at the point of THAT INDIVIDUAL's choosing.

"Living existence?" If by that you mean you have a right to choose to kill yourself, I would agree though I fail to see the relevence to the immediate questions.

Ziego: Are we to subject individual freedom, growth and expanse to the subjective ideas of others as to what is Social, Cultural and National 'freedom, growth and expanse'?

Expanse? Are your borders growing on you?

Personal freedoms exist in a social context. They are not seperable from one another.

Neither is more important then the other. Neither can long survive without the other.

Both are optimized by achieving a harmonious balance.

Read more in the Archives.