While you may not remember life as a toddler, you most likely believe that your selfhood then—your essential being—was intrinsically the same as it is today.
Buddhists, though, suggest that this is just an illusion—a philosophy that’s increasingly supported by scientific research.
“Buddhists argue that nothing is constant, everything changes through time, you have a constantly changing stream of consciousness,” Evan Thompson, a philosophy of mind professor at the University of British Columbia, tells Quartz. “And from a neuroscience perspective, the brain and body is constantly in flux. There’s nothing that corresponds to the sense that there’s an unchanging self.”
Neuroscience and Buddhism came to these ideas independently, but some scientific researchers have recently started to reference and draw on the Eastern religion in their work—and have come to accept theories that were first posited by Buddhist monks thousands of years ago.
One neuroscience paper, published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences in July, links the Buddhist belief that our self is ever-changing to physical areas of the brain. There’s scientific evidence that “self-processing in the brain is not instantiated in a particular region or network, but rather extends to a broad range of fluctuating neural processes that do not appear to be self specific,” write the authors.
“The standard neuroscience view is that deep sleep is a blackout state where consciousness disappears,” Thompson says. “In Indian philosophy we see some theorists argue that there’s a subtle awareness that continues to be present in dreamless sleep, there’s just a lack of ability to consolidate that in a moment-to-moment way in memory.”
Something wicked bubbles just beneath the surface of the collective conscience. Our society is rife with corruption, predation, perversion, over-consumption, violence, addiction and so much more. Somehow enough is never enough, as if the driving force behind human existence is pure want.
This is not true, though, for we know that spiritually well beings are content beings, looking no further than the present moment’s blessings for satisfaction. We don’t have an inherent need for want. Want is a symptom, not the condition. It’s something that enters when the spirit is untended to.
It must then be a spiritual illness which plagues society. Something secretly driving so many of us mad with insatiable desire for sensation and objects. Unforgiving cravings that manifest in any way imaginable, from sex, to money, to food, to power and even in the need to be perfect. It’s a war against the self, waged unconsciously by the self. A below subconscious campaign of self-annihilation.
There are no contemporary metaphors to understand this kind of emptiness. The void just is. And since the void is so rarely acknowledged and so rarely looked at deeply, it sits in the shadows driving us mad, steering with impulse.
In Chinese Buddhist philosophy, though, there is a story that fits. The hungry ghost.
“In Chinese Buddhist teachings, “hungry ghosts are unable to take in or assimilate what they desperately need. The problem lies in their constricted throats — which cannot open for nourishment. They wander aimlessly in search of relief that is not forthcoming.”” [Source]
Interestingly, according to some of its origin myths, the hungry ghost was born out an act of cruelty. In many of the stories, it is a wealthy man’s wife who did some terrible thing to a monk, and when she eventually dies her spirit takes the form of the hungry ghost, forever lurking in purgatory, unable to ever fill its distorted belly and therefore always needing and wanting more.
The hungry ghost, then, is an expression of karma.
Hungry ghosts are the demon-like creatures described in Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jain texts as the remnants of the dead who are afflicted with insatiable desire, hunger or thirst as a result of bad deeds or evil intent carried out in their life times. [Source]
In the realm of hungry ghosts, a deep drama between the ego and the ghost plays out ad infinitum. It’s an interplay that feeds the ego just enough for it to survive, so that in turn the ego can feed the hungry ghost. A dead-end cul-de-sac of sorts. A looping projection of one of our worst human vulnerabilities.
“The work of the ghost does not want to completely destroy its prey. Having fed off the other through dissociative trajectories of turbulence, the ego again becomes more robust. The hungry ghost now has, as companion and source of nurture, a replenished ego on which internal feeding may resume inside the space of erasure until the plenitude of the ghost-within again permeates the intersubjective.” ~ Nick Totton, Psychoanalysis and the Paranormal: Lands of Darkness
Spiritually healthy people understand their cravings for what they, expressions of innumerable forms of pain. Manifestations of the suffering caused by disconnection from the self, and from nature. And the self is nature. There really is no distinction between the two. The illusion is of separateness.
The ghosts are there to remind us that our real work is transmuting our suffering and cruelty into resilience and compassion. It’s not enough to numb the pain, it must be used to our advantage, for our growth, to serve as a catalyst for transformation, and to provide a chrysalis in which the transformation can take place.
“We are social beings. When we feel disconnected or alienated, we experience pain. Addiction, depression, anger, and violence are different ways we react to pain. To heal our society we must heal the emotional wounds.” ~Chris Agnos
Few understand this more clearly than Dr. Gabor Maté, whose work with drug addicts has transformed our understanding of what it means to be stuck in the realm of hungry ghosts.
Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist esoteric arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. He is the editor of WakingTimes.com, the proprietor of OffgridOutpost.com, a grateful father and a man who seeks to enlighten others with the power of inspiring information and action. His remarkable journey of self-transformation is a testament to the power of the will and the persistence of the human spirit. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Militant Buddhism is in the same league as the Klu Klux Klan eejits and Christianity. Shut up about Buddhism Aung San Suu Kyi. You and the likes of you have no clue about it, do not understand it, have corupted it, and are distorting one of the most profound peaceful philosophies ever thought out by humanity. Shame on you Aung San Suu Kyi. We hope that at least yo understand the concept of Buddhist Karma. Karma is a bitch Aung San Suu Kyi.
And there is also what was seen as a newly emerging democracy with a prominent international figure, Aung San Suu Kyi – the state counsellor of Myanmar and the nation’s de facto leader – guiding the country against a backdrop of Islamophobic Buddhist nationalism.
Buddhists are often regarded in the West as a peaceful people, so to hear of this kind of public prejudice may come as a shock to many. But looking at it from a Buddhist cultural perspective, one can begin to see why this is happening.
Suu Kyi has used her own Buddhist faith to explain her ideas in the past. But it was only in a televised speech to the Burmese nation, in mid-October 2017, that she used some standard Buddhist rhetoric for the first time in her comments on recent events. Suu Kyi evoked the Buddhist principles of “compassion”, “loving-kindness” and “sympathetic joy” to overcome hatred. A “close adviser” later briefed the media, explaining that Suu Kyi’s speech marked an attempt to wrestle Buddhism out of the “hands of extremists”.
One could say that the Buddhist sentiments expressed in Suu Kyi’s speech are in line with the modern Western understanding of Buddhism. But look deeper into modern Asia and you will see Western perceptions aren’t wholly accurate. There is now a form of militant Buddhism, which often promotes the supremacy of Buddhism, and can be Islamophobic, ethnocentric and chauvinistic in its preaching.
This is a Buddhism alien to the romantic, pacifistic, meditative and compassionate Buddhism of popular imagination, and – one would hope – much of Buddhist history. It is a Buddhism in which the Buddhist faith should be protected against the supposed threat of other religions (primarily Islam) overrunning Buddhist Myanmar.
Led by the Mandalay-based monk Ashin Wirathu, it is a religion which campaigns to punish those who offend Buddhism. In its organised form in Myanmar these nationalistic Buddhist ideas coalesce around a group popularly known as MaBaTha – the organisation for the protection of race and religion.
The battle between the two emerging forms of Buddhism in modern Myanmar is linked back to two core principles of the religion.
The first is the familiar Buddhism of calm, non-attachment, and compassion. Until recently one could say this was dominant within Myanmar. Lay meditation movements were important in the revitalisation of modern Buddhism and aspects of popular mindfulness meditation originate from them. The Saffron Revolution of 2007 displayed little of the aggressive nationalism of the MaBaTha movement, with monks evoking the “discourse on loving-kindness” – The Metta-sutta – as a Buddhist path of compassion to overthrow military rule.
The other form of Buddhism has a more ritualised focus. At the risk of oversimplification, this practice is based upon the performance of personal and state rituals in order to protect society from danger. To be a practising Buddhist is to have recited certain texts, and to have paid homage at Buddhist shrines. To be a good Buddhist is to be a good Burmese, and, as it now appears, to “stand with Aung San Suu Kyi”.
It would be too simplistic to argue that Buddhist teachings are irreconcilably at odds with ideas of nationalism and patriotism. However, a sense of superiority and discrimination against minority groups does appear to be indefensible from a Buddhist perspective. Could Suu Kyi’s speech, and the idea that she wishes to use Buddhist teachings in a way at odds with Buddhist nationalism be an acknowledgement that Buddhism needs to become part of the solution in modern Myanmar, rather than an aggressive symbol used by Buddhist nationalists?
If Myanmar is to emerge from military rule and become a modern democratic state then it must save its Buddhism from descending into extremism. If Buddhist identity is focused upon a narrow and uncompromising view of what it means to be Burmese, then it seems likely that Buddhism will become a form of state-sponsored religion promoted by the military. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this type of Buddhism, but it is clearly engendering a form of nationalistic fervour, and atrocities are being committed and justified.
Can Suu Kyi see beyond the flags and slogans and use Buddhist narratives of compassion and loving kindness? Observers expected this of her, and of the Buddhist nation, many weeks ago, yet we are still waiting.
When old and young are systematically rounded up and shot. When women are gang raped and their babies thrown into waterways to drown. When their homes and businesses are burned. When all the atrocities of ethnic cleansing are plain to see, international law leaps into action. Global bodies and their constituent states work to simultaneously put an end to the atrocities, provide refuge for survivors and bring perpetrators to book, no matter the identity of the offender or the victim. Or so we are told. For as the on-going slaughter and displacement of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims reveals, international law is not so blind.
Since their citizenship rights have been progressively revoked between the 1940s and ‘80s, thousands of Rohingya men, women and children have been subjected to murder and rape, their villages have been raised to the ground and more than a million have fled to neighboring countries without much protest from the world beyond. Even the UN’s late attempts to investigate the most recent barbarities have fallen short of constituting a full Commission of Inquiry and independent investigators have been blocked from entering Myanmar by the Buddhist-led government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi. “Just imagine, for a minute,” Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi urges in a recent article, “if it were Jews or Christians, or else the ‘peaceful Buddhists,’ who were the subjects of Muslim persecutions.” Given the attention Muslim violence ceaselessly garners, the reason behind the apparent lack of outrage to protect the Rohingya is clear to him: “Something in the liberal fabric of Euro-American imagination is cancerously callous. It does not see Muslims as complete human beings.”
Even when one acknowledges that Muslim Bangladesh (where about 500,000 Rohingya have sought refuge) has long sought to prevent their “infiltration,” Dabashi’s point hits home. According to the UNHCR, ordinary Bangladeshis have opened their villages and towns to the latest influx of Rohingya refugees, providing food, clothing and shelter. And even the state’s seemingly cold-hearted actions only reflect Bangladesh’s inability to accommodate its Rohingya co-religionists without international support, which is clearly not forthcoming. Furthermore, various Muslim-majority governments, as well as the Organization of Islamic Conference, have begun pledging funds and voicing the deep concerns expressed by their constituencies. But is it just the dehumanization of Muslims in the Euro-American imagination that seems to be at play in their voices falling on deaf ears beyond? What of the contrasting image of ‘peaceful Buddhists’?
Academia is in fact rife with examples of scholarship that touts the tolerance and inclusiveness of Buddhists and the general argument is nothing new. According to Thomas A. Tweed, Professor of History at Notre Dame University, increasing awareness of religious diversity due to colonial expansion and Christian missionizing led Euro-American Enlightenment intellectuals repelled by Christian sectarianism to consider Buddhism to fit the bill of the “natural religion” (or “perennial philosophy”) they sought, one that exuded “tolerance” toward people of different faiths and was amenable to scientific progress. So convinced were they that some, such as the nineteenth century German-American scholar Paul Carus, even chastised Asian Buddhists when they launched polemical assaults on Christian missionaries, accusing the Asians of using language the “Buddha certainly would not…” So was born the pervasive myth, characteristically articulated by the early twentieth century Swedish-American Theosophist Herman Vetterling, that Buddhism is “a religion of noble tolerance, of universal brotherhood, of righteousness and justice,” and that in its growth as the religion of a global community it had not “caused the spilling of a drop of blood.”
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Michael Jerryson, picks up where Tweed signs off to show that the tendency to associate Buddhism with tolerance did not die in the early twentieth century or remain bound in an ivory tower. In the wake of World War II, it found its way into the writings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, marching further forward in time with such works as Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and by the 1980s assumed political dimensions in the form of the Free Tibet Movement. And finally, who can forget (even if you want to) Keanu Reeves in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha.
Social history, however, tells a different tale than Orientalists and popular culture. For every instance of forbearance, history also provides examples of violent intolerance legitimated by Buddhist doctrines and conducted by practitioners. As many ancient Jain and Brahmanical texts speak of persecution at the hands of Indian Buddhists, as Buddhists accuse their South Asian competitors of the same. And consider Jerryson’s examples of the sixth century Chinese Buddhist monk Faqing, who promised his 50,000 followers that every opponent they killed would take them to a higher stage in the bodhisattva’s path. Or recall that with the advent of nationalism, Buddhist monks rallied to the cause as with Japanese Rinzai support for the military campaign against the Russians in 1904-5, or Zen and Pureland Buddhist justifications of the Japanese invasions of China, Korea and Singapore during World War II. Buddhism has been corrupted in these places, they argued, and violence is necessary to insure that ‘true’ Buddhism is restored and preserved. The same rhetoric – of some fundamental Buddhism under threat – also underwrites the more recently nationalized bigotry and violence that Buddhist monks and laypersons have unleashed on non-Buddhists in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and, last but not least, Myanmar.
“No religion has a monopoly on ‘violent people’,” Jerryson astutely concludes, “nor does any one religion have a greater propensity for violence.” All religions are vast complexes of thought and institutions and devotees of each can always find legitimacy for hostility or hospitality toward the other depending on mundane needs or wants. It is for this very reason that the apparent disconnect between historical Buddhism and the sustained Euro-American myth of its tolerance is as malignant as the perpetual dehumanization of Islam and Muslims is cancerous. These Buddhists have long been the good guys and those Muslims the bad in this lore. Each is a necessary fiber in the liberal fabric of Euro-American imagination that veils the gaze of international law when it comes to the murder and displacement of the Rohingya.
“The ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow.”
By Maria Popova
Alan Watts may be credited with popularizing Eastern philosophy in the West, but he owes the entire trajectory of his life and legacy to a single encounter with the Zen Buddhist sage D.T. Suzuki (October 18, 1870–July 12, 1966) — one of humanity’s greatest and most influential stewards of Zen philosophy. At the age of twenty-one, Watts attended a lecture by Suzuki in London, which so enthralled the young man that he spent the remainder of his life studying, propagating, and building upon Suzuki’s teachings. Legendary composer John Cage had a similar encounter with Suzuki, which profoundly shaped his life and music.
In the early 1920s, spurred by the concern that Zen masters are “unable to present their understanding in the light of modern thought,” Suzuki undertook “a tentative experiment to present Zen from our common-sense point of view” — a rather humble formulation of what he actually accomplished, which was nothing less than giving ancient Eastern philosophy a second life in the West and planting the seed for a new culture of secularized spirituality.
But by 1940, all of his books had gone out of print in war-torn England, and all remaining copies in Japan were destroyed in the great fire of 1945, which consumed three quarters of Tokyo. In 1946, Christmas Humphreys, president of London’s Buddhist Society, set out to undo the damage and traveled to Tokyo, where he began working with Suzuki on translating his new manuscripts and reprinting what remained of the old. The result was the timeless classic Essays in Zen Buddhism (public library), originally published in 1927 — a collection of Suzuki’s foundational texts introducing the principles of Zen into secular life as a discipline concerned first and foremost with what he called “the reconstruction of character.” As Suzuki observed, “Our ordinary life only touches the fringe of personality, it does not cause a commotion in the deepest parts of the soul.” His essays became, and remain, a moral toolkit for modern living, delivered through a grounding yet elevating perspective on secular spirituality.
Suzuki begins at the beginning, laying out the promise of Zen in our everyday lives:
Zen in its essence is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom. By making us drink right from the fountain of life, it liberates us from all the yokes under which we finite beings are usually suffering in this world.
This body of ours is something like an electric battery in which a mysterious power latently lies. When this power is not properly brought into operation, it either grows mouldy and withers away or is warped and expresses itself abnormally. It is the object of Zen, therefore, to save us from going crazy or being crippled. This is what I mean by freedom, giving free play to all the creative and benevolent impulses inherently lying in our hearts. Generally, we are blind to this fact, that we are in possession of all the necessary faculties that will make us happy and loving towards one another. All the struggles that we see around us come from this ignorance… When the cloud of ignorance disappears… we see for the first time into the nature of our own being.
One of Suzuki’s most overlooked yet essential points — and one particularly prescient in the context of what modern developmental psychology has found in the decades since — has to do with the crucial role of adolescence as a pivotal point in moral development. The teenage years, he argues, are when we begin “deeply delving into the mysteries of life” and when we are “asked to choose between the ‘Everlasting No’ and the ‘Everlasting Yea’” — a notion young Nietzsche intuited half a century earlier when he resolved, “I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!” At this fork in the road of existence, Suzuki insists, mastering the principles of Zen can make the critical difference in leading us toward a meaningful and fulfilling life. He writes:
Life is after all a form of affirmation… However insistently the blind may deny the existence of the sun, they cannot annihilate it.
Much of that blindness, he admonishes, comes from our attachment to the ego. Paradoxical as it may sound to any parent or teacher of a teenager, Suzuki suggests that adolescence is the time most fruitful for the dissolution of the ego:
We are too ego-centered. The ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow… We are, however, given many chances to break through this shell, and the first and greatest of them is when we reach adolescence.
And yet the “loss of the mental equilibrium” produced by the polar pull of “Everlasting No” and “Everlasting Yea,” which causes “so many cases of nervous prostration reported during adolescence,” can also derail and anguish us at any point in life. In a sentiment that once again calls to mind Nietzsche and his beliefs about the constructive role of suffering, Suzuki writes:
The more you suffer the deeper grows your character, and with the deepening of your character you read the more penetratingly into the secrets of life. All great artists, all great religious leaders, and all great social reformers have come out of the intensest struggles which they fought bravely, quite frequently in tears and with bleeding hearts.
Those ego-stripping struggles, Suzuki points out, can be of the intimate, most nonmaterial kind — the kind Rilke had articulated so beautifully two decades earlier in his letter on the burdens and blessings of love. Suzuki writes:
Love makes the ego lose itself in the object it loves, and yet at the same time it wants to have the object as its own… The greatest bulk of literature ever produced in this world is but the harping on the same string of love, and we never seem to grow weary of it. But… through the awakening of love we get a glimpse into the infinity of things… When the ego-shell is broken and the ‘other’ is taken into its own body, we can say that the ego has denied itself or that the ego has taken its first steps towards the infinite.
Although he takes care to note the invaluable role of the intellect in day-to-day life, Suzuki argues that the intellect is what keeps us from the infinite:
Zen proposes its solution by directly appealing to facts of personal experience and not to book-knowledge. The nature of one’s own being where apparently rages the struggle between the finite and the infinite is to be grasped by a higher faculty than the intellect… For the intellect has a peculiarly disquieting quality in it. Though it raises questions enough to disturb the serenity of the mind, it is too frequently unable to give satisfactory answers to them. It upsets the blissful peace of ignorance and yet it does not restore the former state of things by offering something else. Because it points out ignorance, it is often considered illuminating, whereas the fact is that it disturbs, not necessarily always bringing light on its path.
How poignant the latter remark is in the context of contemporary intellectual life. So much of our higher education is premised on the spirit of tearing things down rather than building things up — on how intelligently a student can criticize and counter an argument — which has, unsurprisingly, permeated the fabric of public discourse at large. We have a culture of criticism in which critics, professional and self-appointed, measure their merit by how intelligently they can eviscerate an idea, a work of art, or, increasingly and alarmingly, a person. We seem to have forgotten how to acquire what Bertrand Russell called, just a year before Suzuki’s essays were published, “a high degree of intellectual culture without emotional atrophy” in his magnificent meditation on why construction is more difficult yet more rewarding than destruction.
Similarly, Suzuki’s point is that the intellect is best at pointing out what doesn’t work, and as such can be a force of destruction, but when it comes to what does work, to the art of moral construction, we must rely on a wholly different faculty of the human spirit. He points to the lineage of philosophy — a discipline that continues to rely heavily on Descartes’s ultimate slogan for the intellect, cogito ergo sum — as evidence of the intellect’s insufficient powers in illuminating the path:
The history of thought proves that each new structure raised by a man of extraordinary intellect is sure to be pulled down by the succeeding ones. This constant pulling down and building up is all right as far as philosophy itself is concerned; for the inherent nature of the intellect, as I take it, demands it and we cannot put a stop to the progress of philosophical inquiries any more than to our breathing. But when it comes to the question of life itself we cannot wait for the ultimate solution to be offered by the intellect, even if it could do so. We cannot suspend even for a moment our life-activity for philosophy to unravel its mysteries. Let the mysteries remain as they are, but live we must… Zen therefore does not rely on the intellect for the solution of its deepest problems.
While the intellect may portend to fight illusion, Suzuki argues, it often does the opposite, creating different illusions that take us further from the truth of life rather than closer to it. He writes:
As nature abhors a vacuum, Zen abhors anything coming between the fact and ourselves. According to Zen there is no struggle in the fact itself such as between the finite and the infinite, between the flesh and the spirit. These are idle distinctions fictitiously designed by the intellect for its own interest. Those who take them too seriously or those who try to read them into the very fact of life are those who take the finger for the moon.
For anyone who has ever experienced the soul-squeezing sense of not-enoughness — and in a consumerist culture, most of us have, for the task of consumerism is to rob us of our sense of having enough and sell it back to us at the price of the product, over and over — Suzuki’s words resonate with particular poignancy:
Life as it is lived suffices. It is only when the disquieting intellect steps in and tries to murder it that we stop to live and imagine ourselves to be short of or in something. Let the intellect alone, it has its usefulness in its proper sphere, but let it not interfere with the flowing of the life-stream. If you are at all tempted to look into it, do so while letting it flow. The fact of flowing must under no circumstances be arrested or meddled with…
The great fact of life itself … flows altogether outside of these vain exercises of the intellect or of the imagination.
No amount of wordy explanations will ever lead us into the nature of our own selves. The more you explain, the further it runs away from you. It is like trying to get hold of your own shadow.
What Zen offers, Suzuki suggests, is a gateway into precisely that elusive nature of the self:
Zen … must be directly and personally experienced by each of us in his inner spirit. Just as two stainless mirrors reflect each other, the fact and our own spirits must stand facing each other with no intervening agents. When this is done we are able to seize upon the living, pulsating fact itself. Freedom is an empty word until then.
The ultimate standpoint of Zen, therefore, is that we have been led astray through ignorance to find a split in our own being, that there was from the very beginning no need for a struggle between the finite and the infinite, that the peace we are seeking so eagerly after has been there all the time.
We are all finite, we cannot live out of time and space; inasmuch as we are earth-created, there is no way to grasp the infinite, how can we deliver ourselves from the limitations of existence? … Salvation must be sought in the finite itself, there is nothing infinite apart from finite things; if you seek something transcendental, that will cut you off from this world of relativity, which is the same thing as the annihilation of yourself. You do not want salvation at the cost of your own existence… Whether you understand or not, just the same go on living in the finite, with the finite; for you die if you stop eating and keeping yourself warm on account of your aspiration for the infinite… Therefore the finite is the infinite, and vice versa. These are not two separate things, though we are compelled to conceive them so, intellectually.
Suzuki argues that the ultimate essence of Zen lies in its promise, both practical and profound, to “deliver us from the oppression and tyranny of these intellectual accumulations” and to offer, instead, a foundation of character at once solid and transcendent:
Zen may be considered a discipline aiming at the reconstruction of character. Our ordinary life only touches the fringe of personality, it does not cause a commotion in the deepest parts of the soul… We are … made to live on the superficiality of things. We may be clever, bright, and all that, but what we produce lacks depth, sincerity, and does not appeal to the inmost feelings… A deep spiritual experience is bound to effect a change in the moral structure of one’s personality.
And yet this “reconstruction of character”” is no cosmetic tweak:
Being so long accustomed to the oppression [of the intellect], the mental inertia becomes hard to remove. In fact it has gone down deep into the roots of our own being, and the whole structure of personality is to be overturned. The process of reconstruction is stained with tears and blood… It is no pastime but the most serious task in life; no idlers will ever dare attempt it.
Zen goes straight down to the foundations of personality.
Many ancient texts refer to ‘magical’ and ‘mythical’ lands, which is fascinating, particularly when you consider how much of the writings in ancient Buddhism, Vedic philosophy, or other Eastern traditions is being confirmed by modern day science. Quantum physics in particular has gained a lot of momentum recently. One great example is the conundrum of consciousness, which is directly correlated with quantum physics and goes hand in hand with other realms of existence. Perhaps this is why some of Nikola Tesla’s ideas were influenced by ancient Eastern philosophy. Not many people know this, but most of our pioneering scientists were also mystics, including Issac Newton, who studied alchemy, among other subjects.
“Broadly speaking, although there are some differences, I think Buddhist philosophy and Quantum Mechanics can shake hands on their view of the world. We can see in these great examples the fruits of human thinking. Regardless of the admiration we feel for these great thinkers, we should not lose sight of the fact that they were human beings just as we are.”
This is precisely why we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss other possible knowledge that remains hidden within ancient texts, especially when evidence is increasingly proving the strength of the connection between ancient wisdom and modern day knowledge.
We are surprisingly and inexplicably selective about which parts of ancient writings we hold to be true, and which we dismiss as fantasy. We might take, for example, a description of ancient Greek society written by a philosopher living at the time, such as Plato or Socrates, at face value, yet when confronted with the same philosopher’s description of an advanced ancient civilization, find some excuse to ignore it. We can take Plato’s description of things that are believable to the mind and accept them as fact, but as soon as we are confronted with something outside our known experience, our minds shut down, even in the face of mounting evidence lending credibility to many of these ‘mythical’ stories.
Several ancient texts from various traditions mention beings from ‘another world’ that exist within our own. One such world, referenced in Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu traditions, is Shambhala, which is a hidden kingdom within our own planet, a place which we do not understand and is difficult to find.
Although those with special affiliation may actually be able to go there through their karmic connection, nevertheless it is not a physical place that we can actually find. We can only say that it is a pure land, a pure land in the human realm. And unless one has the merit and the actual karmic association, one cannot actually arrive there. (sources)
This closely resembles descriptions of the spiritual principles that once guided Atlantis given by Plato and other scholars. According to Manly P. Hall, author, historian, and 33rd degree mason:
Before Atlantis sank, its spiritually illuminated Initiates, who realized that their land was doomed because it had departed from the Path of Light, withdrew from the ill fated continent. Carrying with them the sacred and secret doctrine, these Atlanteans established themselves in Egypt, where they became its first divine rulers. Nearly all the great cosmologic myths forming the foundation of the various sacred books of the world are based upon the Atlantean Mystery Rituals. (source)
Sambhala, however, although no erudite Orientalist has yet succeeded in locating it geographically, is an actual land or district, the seat of the greatest brotherhood of spiritual adepts and their chiefs on earth today. From Sambhala at certain times in the history of the world, or more accurately of our own fifth root-race, come forth the messengers or envoys for spiritual and intellectual work among men.
Edwin Bernbaum, Ph.D., a lecturer, author, mountaineer, and scholar of comparative religion and mythology, writes that Shambhala is round but depicted as an eight-petalled lotus blossom, which is a symbol of the heart Chakra (left). He also makes it clear in his book, The Way To Shambhala, that the way is not clear. Shambhala is a physical place existing within the human realm, but it’s also a spiritual, even supernatural place, which many also believe exists within another dimension.
Michael Wood, a BBC journalist, based on his research describes it as a lost kingdom buried somewhere in the Himalayas, and writes about how the name Shambhala first appears in a text known as the Kalachakra tantra – or Wheel of Time teaching. This Kalachakra doctrine belongs to the highest level of Buddhist Mahayana teaching.
He writes that in Shambhala, the people live in peace and harmony, and are faithful to the principles of Buddhist. In this land, war, grief and sorrow were completely unknown. According to Michael, one commentator on the Kalachakra tantra puts it like this:
The land of Shambhala lies in a valley. It is only approachable through a ring of snow peaks like the petals of a lotus … At the centre is a nine-storey crystal mountain which stands over a sacred lake, and a palace adorned with lapis, coral, gems and pearls. Shambala is a kingdom where humanity’s wisdom is spared from the destructions and corruptions of time and history, ready to save the world in its hour of need.
The prophecy of Shambala states that each of its 32 kings will rule for 100 years. As their reigns pass, conditions in the outside world will deteriorate. Men will become obsessed with war and pursue power for its own sake and materialism will triumph over all spiritual life. Eventually an evil tyrant will emerge to oppress the earth in a despotic reign of terror. But just when the world seems on the brink of total downfall and destruction, the mists will lift to reveal the icy mountains of Shambala. Then the 32nd king of Shambala, Rudra Cakrin, will lead a mighty army against the tyrant and his supporters and in a last great battle, they will be destroyed and peace restored. (source)(source)
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone