06-05-06 12:12Office Chit-Chat

Alan: Do you find yourself taking the passive, path-of-least-resistance approach to handling everyday problems?

Choose your fights carefully.

Letting people be when there is nothing at stake is not passivity, it is courtesy.

Alan: For instance, i feel that chit-chat is patronising, so i don't partake in it at work. This makes me come off as antisocial. So what i find myself doing is that i play nice all the time, even though they know it's fake, just not to stir up gossip.

How can i be less passive with these people to appease them, while still maintaining individuality? or should i not worry about this?

I never played office games but never had difficulty relating to my coworkers on my own terms.

Pay attention to them, that is all they are actually asking for.
Dig for the substance of their lives - Ask questions like what interests you?
Most people would love to talk about it, but are afraid to say anything for fear of being "exposed." Once they get going just ask about the parts that seem most interesting to guide the conversation. When you are done say something like "I got to get back to it. Let's talk again later."
When you pass them, smile and nod.

Since I'm basically interested in everything and like smiling at people this worked very well for me.

Alan: That's brilliant, thanks. I'll remember that.

06-03-06 11:11Overcoming Fear

Sri Dharma: What is a simple, direct and immediate technique for overcoming fear?

Not a theory, or a philosophy, not something that has to be built up or worked on over time, but something highly effective that one can do right in the moment to confront and penetrate fear. What is the best way to work with fear right in the moment that fear is present, and especially at that time that it is gripping one to the point of being disabled?

It is just like any distraction.

Notice that you have become distracted into something.
Stop doing that and refocus on what you wish to be doing.

If you are full focused in what you are doing, there is nothing left to be afraid.

Of course this takes practice. Meditate on something that scares you until you feel fear, then turn to your focus (such as your breath) so that the fear leaves you.

A quick fix is to just not worry about it or better yet, give it a good laugh. But those require a knack.

Refocusing will take out fear for the long haul.

06-03-06 10:11Buddhism, Tobacco and Harm

Borg2: Can you smoke cigarettes and meditate at the same time?

Abhin: I guess if you abide by the rules laid down in the earliest texts of Buddhism and if you wish to try to respect the various (historical, linguistic, etc.) contexts in which they were laid down, you could perhaps puff away due to there not being a rule against it.

Smoking tobacco does not seem to have been addressed in any way in the oldest literature of Buddhism.

Tobacco is a new world plant and wasn't used by westerners until the 16th century and it wasn't used by easterners until well after that.

However, smoking tobacco causes harm and therefore should be avoided.

Abhin: What? Tobacco is the number one healing plant worked with through out the world!

Sure, its one of the most addictive substances known. Far more addictive than heroin for example. And it is heavily promoted by the megacorps who need new markets now that the west is wising up.

Except for being a fair insecticide, it has no medicinal properties of note.

Kevin: Ha! I have seen tobacco utilized quite effectively by a shaman to remove chiggers.

As I said, it is an effective insecticide and the shaman probably had a fair idea of what he was doing.

Kevin: It's also an experientially intense drug when prepared in various ways.

At those levels it is also quite dangerous and potentially fatal.

Kevin: But according to your position it would seem that we should all move out of cities and only live where there is no possibility of harm from carbon monoxide.

I did not prescribe or proscribe any particular actions. How you choose to minimize the harm is up to you.

Kevin: Should we all stop using knives because they are harmful?

Knives are dangerous but they are not innately harmful. If you use a knife in a way that is harmful you should stop. If you use a knife in a way that is not harmful, drive on.

You are squirming to avoid what you already know is the right answer.

Kevin: Does other people's tobacco use (even ceremonially) really rub you that hard as a deviant practice?

Ever been by a cancer ward? Perhaps you'd like to ask my mother-in-law about how she feels about having a lung removed?

Tobacco is not benign. It is a dangerous and addictive drug that kills 300,000 people a year. That's 3 times the number of people that alcohol kills (100,000) and 10 times the number that die in auto accidents (30,000) and 50 times the number that ALL illegal drugs kill (6000). (numbers are rounded and courtesy of US gov)

Yes, advocating tobacco use is a deviant practice.

Kevin: Oooh, you are telling people what to do! You told people that they shouldn't use tobacco, not to minimize it, but to abstain from it.

Yes, "shouldn't," not "don't."

Kevin: Can we not allow for grey areas?

If you can't get the basics, the subtleties will be even more difficult. This is an example:

Kevin: Sometimes it is better to harm yourself a little bit in order to heal yourself to a greater degree (or not even to heal, any number of other functions too). Take surgery, for example...

For surgery you go to a specialist who knows exactly when and why surgery must be performed. You don't just grab a knife and cut yourself a little every day for the fun of it, as you do with smoking.

If you go to that same source, a doctor, and ask him about unnecessary surgery, he will say no, don't do that. If you ask him about smoking, he will say stop.

There is absolutely no reason to smoke tobacco under ordinary circumstances.
If you find yourself in the Amazon and a shaman prescribes some tobacco for a specific purpose, such as part of an ayahuasca ceremony, then that one isolated use won't be a problem. But that doesn't justify being a lifelong addict and there are no such ceremonies in ordinary buddhism.

Kevin: You mentioned your mother-in-law. So, obviously you are emotionally attached to your position.

Go to a cancer ward. Speak with people who are dying from smoking. It is not emotional attachment to feel compassion for their plight and try to help others avoid the same.

Kevin: You may not necessarily be able to consider it on a more objective level.

I have studied the matter in some detail from several different aspects.

Kevin: You cannot site one case, or even a million, as a out and out reason that a tool is not useful.

Actually you can. Example is a valid source of rational discourse. It just is not persuasive emotionally to one who has ulterior motives for ignoring you. Also, tools are defined by their utility. Tobacco is a useful tool for killing insects. It is not a useful tool for recreation as it is poisonous, addictive and causes harm, even death.

Kevin: I am not familiar with the same level of deaths and cancer related to the areas of South America where they smoke tons of jungle tobacco (nicotiana rustica) without all of the additives.

You aren't smoking rustica in the amazon.

Kevin: I still think there is no reason I have to avoid it entirely.

I didn't say you have to avoid it entirely.
Hurt yourself as you see fit or as circumstances dictate.
All I said was harm should be avoided.

Choosing to harm when you can avoid it is an ill path.

Little Lightning Bolt: If you look into the ethnobotany of tobacco you will find that it is a sacred and powerful healing plant.

We were discussing buddhism, not ethnobotany. Also, its sacred use by indigenous peoples doesn't change its pharmacology or excuse non-sacred use by addicted westerners. I'm sure you've seen all manner of things but that is neither here nor there concerning the original question or the known effects of misusing tobacco.

As for using tobacco, don't. It is both highly addictive and both chronically and acutely toxic. In addition to a whole host of long-term aliments, it is quite easy to OD and die if you try to use it as a medicine or a dilerient the way indigenous peoples do without knowing what they know and developing equivalent tolerances. Nicotine is absorbed through the skin quite effectively so even topical use can be dangerous.

If you want to use it in meditation, set it on your altar and meditate on how impermanent your life would be with it inside your body.

Little Lightning Bolt: No, even though this statement is still warped with your personal and cultural bias, it's still a good idea and the most sensical thing you have said yet, good for you!

it would be a great addition to tantric practice and it is used in such away in nepal by practitioners...

I still think maybe smoking and meditating might go well together.
But something tells me this is inauthentic sitting.

Why is it inauthentic sitting? Because it causes you harm.
Self-mutilation is inauthentic sitting even if it happens subtilely.

Buddhism specifically advocates not causing harm when you can avoid it.

The science concerning the harm caused by tobacco is copious and irrefutable.
It is not a matter of personal or cultural bias.

You are free to pretend however you like, but sacred doesn't mean safe and one peoples medicine is your poison.

Little Lightning Bolt: thats really insulting swarm.

Find what you look for.

Little Lightning Bolt: theres alot you dont know.

There is a lot I do know.

Little Lightning Bolt: and its really other peoples poison thats my medicine.

Nothing you have said has lead me to believe this.

Little Lightning Bolt: it insults the thousands of cultures that work with tobacco through out the world as a medicine and spiritual sacrament.

You are not those cultures. I have no reason to believe you use it in those ways. And, when they stop using it just ceremonially and start using it recreationally, it becomes just as much a problem for them.

Little Lightning Bolt: tobacco could be very easily integrated into tantric practice.

Not by you.

Something for you to consider:

"If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change."
-Dalai Lama

Kevin: You say, "Self mutilation is inauthentic sitting even if it happens subtlely. Buddhism specifically advocates not causing harm when you can avoid it." But I wonder what you would say to the monks who score there arms with incense or any of the other intensive (and bodily harmful to some degree) practices that various sects of Buddhists perform.

I would, and have, said: "Stop that. You have become lost."
The buddha eschewed asceticism and choose the middle way.

Kevin: I wonder exactly what it is about cigarettes that are addicting.

Pure nicotine in a single dose to a non-smoker just triggers a single acute episode of poisoning. Even nicotine requires repeated administration before addiction happens. Early use usually involves some degree of sickness which is endured to reap perceive social benefits (fitting in, being cool, rebelling, whatever). When it stops making you ill, tolerance and addiction have set in.

The problem with nicotine is it actually makes changes to the receptors in the synapse, much like heroin does. This is why it has withdrawal and it takes so long to actually stop craving it after you stop smoking. It takes time for those changed receptors to degrade and be replaced.

Borg2: You said, "If you want to use it in meditation, set it on your altar and meditate on how impermanent your life would be with it inside your body."

I love this comment.

In my case, I know the tobacco is hurting me because I have a permanent, bad cough.

I like the idea of meditating on the tobacco and reflecting on why I choose to damage myself.

However, life is impermanent whether one smokes tobacco or not.

There is impermanence and then there is purposefully cutting life short.

My life will end but that doesn't mean I should kill myself.
I will get sick but that doesn't mean I should cause myself sickness.

We all take risks from time to time for specific purposes. Like climbing a mountain or driving a car. Hiding from life is no answer either.
But being a buddhist means learning something from all this impermanence and not choosing to inflict it on yourself or others.

What is the risk and what is the gain?

Smoking tobacco gives no gain and it carries many risks. As I said, my mother-in-law just had a lung removed.

Even if you dodge cancer and emphysema it increases the severity of colds and flus, it decreases the sense of smell and taste, it decreases the immune system and kills your endurance, the constant carbon monoxide exposure yellows the skin and degrades the blood and vital organs, and it makes you, your breath and everything you own stink which degrades your social contacts.

It is to wit a filthy, nasty, harmful addiction.

Do what it takes to kick it in the ass, you are better than all that.

Abhin: Again, smoking tobacco does not seem to have been addressed in any way in the oldest literature of Buddhism.

In Paali (Middle Indo-Aryan), the terms `surA, meraya, majja' definitely refer to intoxicating beverages.

They are *not* blanket terms for intoxicating or harmful substances in general.

They were specific drinkable things to Indians at the time.

Not one is or involves tobacco.

Again, that literature was written long before tobacco was discovered so of course it doesn't mention it.They also don't mention A-bombs or global warming.

Abhin: Since the earliest Buddhist literature `was written long before tobacco was discovered' and it does not mention smoking tobacco, why should smoking tobacco be avoided?

I'd like to know what authentic text, tradition, authority, etc. you are referring to. Please cite your source. Or are you referring to yourself as the authority?

You said, "We were discussing buddhism, not ethnobotany."

Perhaps. It seems, though, that you are discussing Swarm's buddhism, which thus far does not at all seem anchored in an ancient tradition based on texts. Precepts and practice collide a lot. So more power to you! Nevertheless, I'd like to know, if I may, if you are following the tradition found any primary texts.

You claim, "Buddhism specifically advocates not causing harm when you can avoid it."

Please cite your source.

Why? You already know the sources as well or better than I.
This legalistic maneuvering will get you no where.

Buddhism specifically advocates not causing harm when you can avoid it.

If you think the purpose of knowing the sutras is to avoid this fact, you have learned nothing from your studies.

If you cannot find the basic intents of buddhism by now, how can I help you?

This discussion continued here.

06-01-06 8:55Buddhist Lover Cop-out

MT: The three Buddhists lovers I have had in my life (2 women and one man) have when the going got rough in the relationship blamed it on my "karma". . . which strikes my athiest soul as kind of funny and mildly a cop out. . .seeing that you are buddhist and thus have probably slept with more buddhists than me. . .have you heard this karma line. . .?

It is a cop out, and actually you have slept with more buddhists than I. I am just still sleeping with the one I have.

Using karma like that shows a profound, but unfortunately common, misunderstanding of karma.

Also a relationship is always both people, good or bad.

Karma is not personal, good or bad, or accumulated.

Karma is just that effects follow from causes.

05-31-06 8:55Why be moral?

Waylon: I don't see how Athiests can claim to be moral. Why should someone who does not believe in a higher power live any lifestyle other than total self-indulgence?

"It doesn't work" seems like a good reason.

Most atheists I know are some mix of pragmatist, epicurean hedonist and secular humanist, though they don't necessarily use those terms, because that is what really works well for enjoying your life and having fulfilling relationships. The exception would be angry young male atheists, who tend to be objectivists/anarchists until they out grow their angst.

Basically humans are hooked up such that caring and compassion are fun. Pleasure is maximized by moderation and well spiced by occational want. Hard work is fun and fulfilling. A moral lifestyle similar to what religions often partially advocate is healthy and enjoyable if you don't get carried away into prudity. Etc., etc.

The only thing you give up is needing god as an excuse to do what you want to any way.

In fact I would say athiests have a better and more personal understanding of morality since they generally rely on their own understanding to arrive at it. And all without the guilt employed by religion.

Waylon: As Christians, we see it more as something we do because we want to serve a higher ideal as a part of our spirituality.

So you are willing to do it for a "higher idea." I actually find that to be quite weak as a reason.

You don't really know why you do it. You are just following orders because another told you god likes that.
Were I your god, I would find your acts empty.

When I help another it is because I care about helping. Higher ideals and deities need not apply.

Waylon: Why do people have a fellow-feeling if there are no spiritual reasons to feel that way?

Because fellow-feeling has nothing to do with spiritual reasons and everything to do with evolving as social animals.


Waylon: Why does anyone (atheist, theist, agnostic, or some other group I have somehow not included) do the things they do and behave the way they do?

To a large extent much of what any one does is driven by subconscious biological imperitives which have proven effective over the millenia and have become part of our genetic makeup. The conscious mind likes to pretend it is calling the shots so a lot of what it does is backfilling so it looks like it made a descision. Thanks to MRIs and PET scans we now know that the decision is often made and being acted on long before the conscious even becomes aware that something is happening.

As for the small percent that actually is conscious descision making, there are many reasons and influences. Enjoyment, avoidence of displeasure, functionality, parsimony, elegance, intricacy, challenge, celebration, interest, and reasons we haven't even figured out. They all interact and result in interesting combinations.

Waylon: Why doesn't everyone just live for the moment in a life of self-gratifying bliss?

What makes you think you aren't? Though why you feel that you must try to prejudice bliss by thinking its self gratifying aspect is seperate from any other aspect of it is beyond my comprehention.

Like any worthwhile project, maximizing bliss is complex. Shallow understanding is self-defeating and self-limiting. Over-focusing on personal bliss can limit interpersonal bliss just as over-focusing on interpersonal bliss can limit personal bliss. But eventually one learns to balance and tune.

Waylon: Okay, now this is more the kind of information I was looking for. Thanks for the input.

It just seems to me that we're selling ourselves short as a species if we say that treating one another well is purely related to biological programming.

But if that's the case, then should we accept the directives of our biological and social programming or inquire to see if we can find something that works better?

Its not an either/or situation. We start where we are with what we have and then learn to do better as we may.

Waylon: Thanks, Swarm, for the thoughts on the matter, you've given me a lot that is worth thinking about, whether I agree with you or not.

05-30-06 5:55Nepalese Boy Buddha

Dr. Tom: I was listening to NPR whilst driving today and heard a story about a Nepalese teen who had been meditating under a tree for months without food or water. Do you think he is real or a fake?

The boy, fake or real, is irrelavant.

The only buddha for you to be concerned about is you.

05-30-06 5:45Life's Eternal Questions

Douglas: Isn't the spiritual world is as "natural" as any other?

Generally not. Some forms of buddhism and animism believe this, but most religions claim the spiritual world is supernatural and generally go on like natural is some how defective.

Douglas: Myself and thousands of years of collective human experience have strongly alluded to the presence of a personal loving force (let's call Him "God") who we would suggest is the motive force behind this physical world.

Alluding and suggesting just aren't good enough. For thousands of years people have believed all manner of whack shit. What matters is what can you prove, and then show me how to also prove it.

Douglas: Science is FULL of limitations.

Only the limit of what you are willing to learn.

Douglas: There are some questions you can only answer for *yourself*. No way to clear up the fundamental questions that many people have regarding the deity such as:

Questions cleared...

Does God exist? - no.

If God exists, then what are His qualities? - N/A

Does God punish people in an eternal hell? - N/A

Why do bad things happen to good people? (and vice versa) - Because you don't like (or like) something which happens.

If God exists, then why did He create such a fucked up world? - N/A

Where do we go when we die? - We don't.

Is there one, "true" religion? - Obviously not.

What is the place of humanity in the larger universal scheme (sic. alien life, etc.)? - A spec of cabon on a spec of a planet in a smallish system on the edge of a medium galaxy.

...and, important one here-

What are the rules to this game I find myself in and is it possible to attatch value to my life which extends *beyond this life* by playing it well? - Other than actual physical constraints, the rules are just what we agree them to be. There is no beyond. What you are is what you get.

Douglas: Most people just lack the strength and resolve to SEE FOR THEMSELVES.

Ah, like those who delude themselves into looking for supernatural answers to the natural limits of existence?

05-30-06 5:30Sensations During Meditation

Perpetua: What sort of sensations does one normally feel when meditating?

People feel all manner of sensations. The full gaumet from bliss to terror.

Perpetua: I feel this relaxing void...it's like a focussed portal of emptiness.

Don't worry. Refocus on your meditation and it will eventually go away like all distractions do.

Perpetua: Is that what I'm supposed to be experiencing?

What you feel is what you are supposed to feel. Just don't try and feel things.

05-23-06 4:30Athiest Buddhist

Skylar: Can an Athiest be a Buddhist? I feel that they could. What is your opinion? Is it based on doctrine or just your own understanding of the word?

There is nothing about buddhism which requires belief in any deity and questions of god are one of the unfruitful questons which the buddha suggested should not be pursued.

Therefore buddhism is as compatable with atheism as it is with theism. Gods just aren't what buddhism is fundimentally about.

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