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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Right singularity

I've been covering, in my idiosyncratic way, the eight points of the eightfold path promulgated by Gotama when he snapped out of his long bout of meditation, determined to save the world. We've arrived at the last one, and it's a doozy. Here's the first part of the exposition/exegesis by the author of A Basic Buddhism Guide:

8. Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi. This is often translated as concentration, meditation, absorption or one-pointedness of mind.

And the rest:

None of these translations is adequate. Samadhi literally means to be fixed, absorbed in or established at one point, thus the first level of meaning is concentration when the mind is fixed on a single object. The second level of meaning goes further and represents the establishment, not just of the mind, but also of the whole being in various levels or modes of consciousness and awareness. This is Samadhi in the sense of enlightenment or Buddhahood.

Wow, fancy; meditation is said, when undertaken correctly (whatever that might be), to get you the whole enchilada.

Well, it does. But it's generally offered embedded in pietistic hooraw: that "various levels or modes" thing can easily, and I suspect very often, be the money clause: "This stuff takes years, kid. Support me the whole time and I might get you there."

I like and recommend meditation's ability to show, experimentally, such reality as we're equipped (as brains with sampling systems -- eyes, ears, etc.) to appreciate. And it takes some appreciation of what's what for there to be some justification for the other seven aspects of the path. 

But it would be a mistake to go sit with the idea of "attaining" some kind of holiness. Becoming something special (which is patently impossible) is exactly what Gotama would have you not do -- it would be the very illusion he returned to his friends to warn against.

So let's do a simple intellectual exercise. 'K?

You can imagine animals and plants arising from the biosphere, not as anything separate from the biosphere, the planet, the galaxy, the universe, but as aspects of all of the above -- it's all one thing, taking a variety of shapes, like thoughts in a mind. Yes?

But, wait -- are you an observer, outside of this image, or are you in it? The center of the universe, or an aspect of the universal?

Stolen from Paul Watson (Sea Shepherd Society)
I think we have to understand ourselves as, in our individuality, provisional beings at best, an aspect of the universal, to go on from here to the twelve principles that have been adumbrated as those of Permaculture. As foraging and farming and trading beings (which we have to be to live) we intervene with the plants and animals around us for our own benefit. How we do so may matter: what if they are our equals? What if it's important to show some respect? Hmm?

We know we have been destructive. How do we become less destructive, or are there even ways in which we can be constructive? If we are going to undertake to change the world for the "better," it's godawfully important that the results be, umm, for the better. 

'Cuz if we don't have good evidence for what we're doing, better we shoulda stayed on that couch, watching the commercials.


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