Politics, God and Religion vs. Science


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Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jun 17, 2013 - 09:26pm PT
I'll address the issue of the supposed inflexibility of Tibetan Buddhism since I've wrestled a lot with this issue but especially the hierarchical aspects of it.

The main thing that Tibetan ritual, language and artwork does from the western point of view, is obscure for a long time, what the actual practice and philosophy is. Beneath it, one encounters finally, just plain Buddhism, but it takes a lot longer to get there. Then again, part of this slower process is that Tibetan practices aim at incremental stages rather than the instant enlightenment of Zen. Tibetan Buddhism also provides numerous methods and paths within itself as does Japanese Buddhism. The difference is that Zen is only one sect, reflecting only the most disciplined aspects of Japanese culture, and consequently is able to be very single minded.

For many people, the very mystique of Tibetan Buddhism, is the most helpful aspect at the commencement of their practice, and tends to appeal to people from one of two backgrounds. One such background are people who have been completely disgusted with the form of dogmatic Christianity with which they were presented, who then revel in being able to make spiritual progress mysteriously without being told what to think. The other, which often represents the majority around college campuses, are Jewish people turned off by the dry legalism and secularism they encountered in that tradition. They love the bells and smells approach instead.

Zen is very rigid about sitting a certain way and the accounts are full of western people whose knees were so painful they couldn't stand up after a sesshin. Tibetan Buddhism, probably reflecting the more severe climate, is much more active. They intersperse meditation with lots of sonorous chanting, prostrations and circumambulations, and chairs are not thought to hinder progress as long as a person doesn't slouch.

As for the future, one thing to consider in comparing them, is that both Hinduism and Zen were introduced to America at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893, whereas Tibetan Buddhism only encountered the West after 1959. India had already had a long encounter with the West and Japan had been modernizing for about 50 years by 1893. In contrast, Tibet had remained almost completely isolated until the later date. The first generation of Tibetan teachers had never even seen an electric light bulb, flush toilet or automobile when they encountered the West.

Even so, Lamas Thubten Yeshe, Chogyam Trungpa, and Tarthang Tulku, all made great efforts to simplify and modernize their message for Westerners just as the Dalai Lama has. Their success shows the value of a good education even in a medieval tradition far from the modern world, and also the flexibility of Tibetan culture, and of course, that something extra that all the masters have.

On my own first encounter with Tarthang Tulku's organization, I was struck by how intellectual, secular and cold it seemed compared to the indigenous Tibetan Buddhism I was used to as an anthropologist. When I remarked on this to one of his first generation American acolytes who was having a conversation with me, his reply was "Well, it's Berkeley after all". We both chuckled and then I had an out of body experience while sitting across from him in the lobby of the Nyingma Institute (following a week of intensive practice at a Self Realization retreat in the Sierras). What it did was convince me that the right energy was there, regardless of first appearances, a valuable lesson.

Sport climber
The Big Wide Open Face
Jun 17, 2013 - 10:47pm PT
John Gill wrote: I am willing to entertain the notion that your non-discursive process yields a more fundamental result.

To be perfectly honest, barren-ass emptiness might be the bedrock, so to speak, but the I-Consciousness you spoke of is a much more human and in most ways, more transformative experience IME. Seems likely that the I-Consciousness emenates from the heart center, to use the old 4th Way language. Simply sticking with raw emptiness renders an arid, even terrifying otherness that shivers many timbers because of the unfathomable time and magnitude and impersonal ambience. I'm not clear on the relationship between the impersonal and personal aspects of the so-called Pure Land. I do remember an earth-shattering experience I had concering the Trinity, which totally came out of nowhere, seeming that I had never given it any serious thought. That was an I-Consciousness moment where I encountered some very powerful material.

I don't really know . . .


Jun 17, 2013 - 11:51pm PT
These last two posts, from Jan and John, are exemplary.

Thank you.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jun 18, 2013 - 12:12am PT
Ward, I've read Generations and was fascinated by it.

I'm still interested to know from your perspective how you altered your teaching in order to better work with millenials?


Jun 18, 2013 - 12:27am PT
What jogill said.

For someone like me, who wants to learn and/or get a sense of what others are up to, those posts were very good.
Ward Trotter

Trad climber
Jun 18, 2013 - 01:06am PT
I'm still interested to know from your perspective how you altered your teaching in order to better work with millenials?

I am not a teacher. I think MikeL is the person you originally asked that question of.

Jun 18, 2013 - 01:29am PT
Great writing, Jan. Lama Yeshe was da bomb. The old timers (Americans) still gush about him.


Gen-Xers were cynical, particularly advertising and promotion savvy, and ambitious. i don't think they were at all political, but mainly oriented to themselves and their interests without being over-the-top egocentric. I would teach them using their own cynicism to make points, as though we were all comrades in the same boat, maybe even a wink of conspiracy.

Millennials, I found, were very difficult to categorize. They are liberal and conservative at the same time; they are local and global; they are collaborative--that is, they must be connected and working with others in groups. Too long outside of any group at all, and they begin to search them out or complain. Of course they are savvy on Web 2.0 technologies, social networks, media, and all of the typical things that young people like (music, vogue fashions, etc.). They want and expect to lead fairly quickly, but their sense of leadership is not grandiose. They want and expect some responsibility. They like feedback, also--even tough feedback. If you are sincere and show them your foibles, you score a lot of points. So, you can use both to get the best out of them: keen honest feedback but with some love. You'll need to give them kudos too, but not quite as much as you think you would. This generation sees things automatically from multiple perspectives simultaneously. They can see something from the view of the past, the present, AND the future, all at the same time. They also demand / expect full transparency from everyone, no questions. Of course they are green-minded, automatically so. (It's a given with them.) And they believe in democracy as much as any group I have ever met. It doesn't have to be an American variety.

What I've done is to show them more loving care. I don't hide my concern for them in order to be the leader or the teacher. (But I don't lead from the front anymore; I facilitate from the side.) It's important for them to know that I like them and that I expect the best from them. I go out of my way to see them one-on-one or in very small groups as often as I can (office, starbucks, library, bar) so that instruction can become more personal and customized for them. I also let them know that I'm not driving. . . they are. I'm just here as part of a support team. My age is so advanced in comparison, that we don't have to think about whether I get their respect, so I try to reach out to them and smile warmly as often as I can. I often start class with a question about how they're doing, how the class is going for them, and what their challenges are at the moment--in as personal of a way as I can muster. (It's so much easier when you really care). Not all millennials are equal, but some of the smarter ones can be shockingly creative, bright, and quick on their feet, but casually, you wouldn't think that of hardly any of them. They look rather relaxed. You have to give them big challenges, support them, and then try to get out of their way. Last, I have found that many of them are almost worldly because of all the traveling that they've done at early ages. Even as sophomores, some of them have resumes that I didn't think was possible. Being smart or quick is no longer enough to stand out in this generation. A young person must also show organizational initiative, creativity, and humane achievement to be recognized.

Of course I see many slackers in this generation, but mainly from the guys. The best young women are awesome and generally more advanced or evolved than the best young men. Guys need to step us their game to compete with them. (They're still playing "Animal House.") I think one of the worst sins one can do with this group is to bore them or put them in a job just to earn their stripes. They see through that ploy and think it's a waste of time.

Hope this says something to you. I'm probably forgetting some important things.

EDIT: Oh, yeah. They really believe in work-life balance, and they'll forgo really good jobs and live in apartments with 6 others to achieve it. They'd rather wait. In this respect, anyway, they know what they want, and they won't be taking a job for expediency's sake.

Jun 18, 2013 - 02:01am PT
Jogill you wrote but I did not answer:

I fail to see how you conclude what you have experienced is ultimate reality if you also conclude nothing is real or true. Isn't it possible your epiphany was a delusion, like so much else you have encountered?

So I answered the bit about me experiencing ultimate reality--sort of. I sort of said no, but that's not quite right, either. We are all experiencing reality, but (here's the nutsy part) we aren't aware of it. Think about the TV or movie screen, again. When the movie or TV is running, you can't really see the screen once the lights start up. Takes training and detachment.

More important is your second question about delusion. The answer is, "Yes," it is possible. I don't think so because of its effects, and IT is resolving every question I have, one by one. But, yes, you're right. It's possible. The only thing I think is impossible anymore is impossibility.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Jun 18, 2013 - 12:13pm PT
"Atheism" groups to pay consulting firms hundreds of thousands of dollars to help them improve their "image" or "brand" identities.

Really? No.

But medical schools do, of all things. Which points to the importance of image, reputation, brand identities when it comes to social change and influence, popular movements, et. (Heads up atheists.)

An interesting thought-provoking proposal for universities: If MOOCs, why not MOOAs?

"...widespread use of MOOAs could result in substantial unemployment among college bureaucrats."



It's not the fact of evolution but rather the notion of "free will" (and its links to sin and judgment) where science really pulls the KEY STONE out of the Abrahamic house of cards.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jun 18, 2013 - 01:08pm PT
Thanks for the good laughs about the MOOAS. I'm sure Mike L and others will like it too. The main surprise of the article is that administrative costs have only accounted for 30% of the rise in education costs in the past couple of decades. With university administrators making $200,000 and beginning faculty $30,000, the rising tuitions sure aren't going to the faculties.

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jun 18, 2013 - 01:12pm PT
Atheists SHOULD be paying special marketing firms to improve their image.

When 70% of adult Americans believe in little fairy Angels, the Atheists need a lot of help.

Atheists are seen as lepers, diseased yacks backing in to linen closets.

God bless the Atheists.

Jun 18, 2013 - 01:49pm PT

MOOCs did not initially become attractive as a cost-saving measure but as a way to provide more individualized instruction and to provide broader outreach to those who cannot afford an education these days.


Secondly, MOOCs seem particularly well-suited to Millennials as new ways of reaching them. Again, see TED at

http://blog.ted.com/2013/06/14/reinventing-education-for-millennials-anant-agarwal-at-tedglobal-2013/ .

On the other hand, if you want something cynical, clever, and comedic, then you can look at the URL that Fruity points to. It provides a good laugh, but it's not relevant. It's a re-hash of the idea of centralized planning. I think we're a little beyond that point these days.

Somewhere out there
Jun 18, 2013 - 02:55pm PT

Because it still needs to be said
dirt claud

Social climber
san diego,ca
Jun 18, 2013 - 04:12pm PT
Anybody seen this yet? Far out stuff for sure.


The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Jun 18, 2013 - 08:48pm PT
So the question was quoted earlier What is it like to be a bat...


Certainly a different way of apprehending what's Out There.

Enjoying all the dharma-speak the last few pages. No puerile sarcastic urges are manifesting, so something must have changed for the better.

Jun 18, 2013 - 09:31pm PT
Aha! I wonder how a Zen bat sees the world.

The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen
Jun 18, 2013 - 09:59pm PT
They're the ones that just fly in perfect circles all night long.

Funny how these newsy bits seem to pop up in clusters:

The Chief

Climber from the Land Mongols under the Whites
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:12pm PT
Thought I would share this post of mine from another thread.

During my several OPS TRAINING visits to Rum and Aqaba, Jordan, I had the distinct pleasure of conversing with some very wise old Jordanian Bedu's. One eve around a light fire, I proposed the following question to one of the old timers:

"Do you ever think about the future"

His instant reply was

"What is that?"

I then noted

"You know, tomorrow or next week or next year."

He pondered that for a minute or so. Then came this:

"Why should I do such a foolish thing when my cup and hands are overflowing with today. If I must worry, I will worry about the next piece of wood that needs to go into the fire that is burning in front of us. Even doing that takes away from the gift of what the fire is giving us this very moment. I have no time for such foolishness."

Mind you, the Jordanian Bedu have survived far longer than most cultures in modern times in one of the harshest environments on this planet. Many of the current small tribes date back to the days of the Pharaoh's.

This Wise Bedu would turn 92 the following week. Still walking/riding his camel through the Jordanian desert, collecting water, food and fire wood. Just as he had done every day of his life. As sharp as a brand new razor he was.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:17pm PT
Thanks MikeL. As a father of millenials I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. I really appreciate you taking the effort!

High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Potemkin Village
Jun 18, 2013 - 10:29pm PT
The best young women are awesome and generally more advanced or evolved...

then add to this, say, in ten years time, a boy toy (ala the leadership of Paris Hilton, e.g.), and it's pretty clear it IS becoming, some might argue, at long last, a woman's world. ;)

Lucky dawg(ette).

Yeah, perhaps I am a bit jealous of the age, the millennials and their accoutrements. Nature of cultural evo, I guess. Deal with it.
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