Conversations: Civilization

It is important to realize that the distinction between science and religion is not a matter of excluding our ethical intuitions and spiritual experiences from our conversation about the world; it is a matter of our being honest about what we can reasonably conclude on their basis.

However, there are good reasons to believe that people like Jesus and the Buddha weren’t talking nonsense when they spoke about our capacity as human beings to transform our lives in rare and beautiful ways.

But any genuine exploration of ethics or the contemplative life demands the same standards of reasonableness and self-criticism that animate all intellectual discourse. Continue reading

Orwell on Orthodoxy

‘Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.’

– Orwell. G. 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four London, Great Britain: Penguin Books (2008) p. 56

Sequacious [Adj.]

Lacking independence or originality of thought.

Embracing the Preposterous

‘Clearly, it is time we learned to meet our emotional needs without embracing the preposterous. We must find ways to invoke the power of ritual and to mark those transitions in every human life that demand profundity— birth, marriage, death—without lying to ourselves about the nature of reality. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Muslim, or Jewish be widely recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we stand a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world.

I have no doubt that your acceptance of Christ coincided with some very positive changes in your life. Perhaps you now love other people in a way that you never imagined possible. You may even experience feelings of bliss while praying. I do not wish to denigrate any of these experiences. I would point out, however, that billions of other human beings, in every time and place, have had similar experiences—but they had them while thinking about Krishna, or Allah, or the Buddha, while making art or music, or while contemplating the beauty of Nature. There is no question that it is possible for people to have profoundly transformative experiences. And there is no question that it is possible for them to misinterpret these experiences, and to further delude themselves about the nature of reality.

You are, of course, right to believe that there is more to life than simply understanding the structure and contents of the universe. But this does not make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about its structure and contents any more respectable.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 28-29

Gross National Happiness

The Gross National Happiness or GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development which balances between material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness.

“A sound economy is not an end to itself, but should serve a purpose, to improve society.” – Hans Messinger

Flag of Bhutan

Flag of Bhutan

The GNH is the standard index of Bhutan.

GNH is a unique approach to national and global development. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all facets of life which is essential to our happiness.

The goal of GNH is happiness. The GNH was designed in an attempt to define an indicator and concept that measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than only the economic indicator of gross domestic product (GDP).

The concept of Gross National Happiness consists of four pillars: Fair socio-economic development (better education and health), conservation and promotion of a vibrant culture, environmental protection and good governance.

“The overwhelming majority of our people seek a greater opportunity for humanity to prosper and find happiness. They recognise that human welfare has not increased and does not increase through mere materialism and luxury, but that it does progress through integrity, unselfishness, responsibility and justice …” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The four pillars are further elaborated in nine domains: psychological well-being, living standard, health, culture, education, community vitality, good governance, balanced time use and ecological integration.

In accordance with these nine domains, Bhutan has developed 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyse the happiness of the Bhutanese people.

Tantric Sex‏

Tantra involves a slow, sustained form of sexual intercourse founded on Indian mysticism; particularly, an esoteric current of Hinduism.

Prince and lady on terrace at night

Contemporary picture of an Indian prince and lady on terrace at night

The word Tantra also applies to any of the scriptures (called Tantras) commonly identified with the worship of Shakti, a divine representative of female energy. Tantra deals primarily with spiritual practices and ritual forms of worship, which aim at liberation from ignorance and rebirth.

Tantrism originated in the early centuries of the first millennium and developed into a fully articulated tradition by the end of the Gupta period (320 to 550 CE). It has influenced the Hindu, Sikh, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain religious traditions.

As tantric practice became known in western culture—a development that started at the end of the 18th century, and that has escalated since the 1960s—it has become identified with its sexual methods. Consequently, its essential nature as a spiritual practice is often overlooked.

Tantric sexual methods may be practised solo, in partnership, or in the sacred rituals of groups. The specifics of these methods are often kept secret, and passed from practitioners to students in an oral tradition.

In Vajrayana Buddhism, tantric sexual practice (Sanskrit: Maithuna; Tibetan:Yab-Yum) is one aspect of the last stage of the initiate’s spiritual path, where he or she, having already realised the void of all things, attains enlightenment and perpetual bliss.

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Some Nuggets Of Wisdom

  1. “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  2. Follow the three Rs: Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions.
  3. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  4. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  5. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  6. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  7. Spend some time alone every day.
  8. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  9. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  10. Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  11. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  12. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  13. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  14. Be gentle with the earth.
  15. Once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been before.
  16. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  17. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.”

– Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

14/x mmxii

Salvador Dali believed he was the reincarnation of the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross (24 June 1542 – 14 December 1591), a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, Catholic saint, Carmelite friar and priest, born at Fontiveros, Old Castile. Dali also designed the logo for Chupa Chups lollipops in 1969, since when more than 40 billion have been sold. Dali is also known to have painted his armpits blue.

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama

The present Dalai Lama is the 14th consecutive reincarnation of Avalokitesvara, Bodhisattva of compassion. His real name is Lhamo Dhondrub. The son of a farmer, Tibetan monks dreamt his whereabouts when he was a toddler and spent three months searching the country for him. They found the predicted house – turquoise roof tiles, oddly-shaped gutters, next to a monastery – when the boy was two. He was enthroned as Dalai Lama aged 4 in 1940. The Dalai Lama prays for five and a half hours every day to develop compassion and to reduce his natural anger. For him, Buddhism “thrives on evil” because it provides him with something on which to exercise his compassion.

Lettuce is a kind of daisy. Both belong to the same botanical family as thistles, dandelions, chicory and nipplewort.

Dahlias were discovered by the Spanish in Mexico at around the same time as potatoes, tomatoes and maize. The Spanish tried eating all of them, but the dahlias were disgusting.

All parts of the daffodil are poisonous. An extract of daffodil bulbs, when applied to open wounds, produces staggering, numbness of the whole nervous system, and paralysis of the heart. If you are trapped in a small space with a daffodil, it will give you a headache. There have been several cases of death by daffodil poisoning in which the bulbs were eaten in mistake for onions.

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