"The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; writ...more"The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent. Build a tangled bank."(less)
This isn't quite a review, but rather my interpretation of some ideas in the book compared to another that I recently read about Yogic practice-- 'Aut...moreThis isn't quite a review, but rather my interpretation of some ideas in the book compared to another that I recently read about Yogic practice-- 'Autobiography of a Yogi'.
It was very interesting for me to read, in a short period of time, both Paramahamsa Yogananda's 'Autobiography of a Yogi' and David Chadwick's 'Crooked Cucumber'. The books detail the journeys of two of the greatest spiritual teachers of the last century-- two men who can each be attributed with bringing a traditional school of eastern mystical thought to prominence and acceptance in the west in the mid-1900s (Paramahamsa Yogananda was a yogi & guru who brought Kriya Yoga to the west-- the first Hindu teacher of yoga to spend a large part of his life in the West. Suzuki was a Zen priest who established the first monastic practice in America and helped adapt traditional Zen teaching to the rhythms and quirks of western culture).
The parallels don't end there-- Yogananda expounds on the benefits of Kriya Yoga practice and observing the breath; at the heart of Suzuki's Soto Zen is the basic act of zazen-- sitting and breathing with awareness. Both philosophies account for a type of Cosmic Reality-- the divine nature at the center of all things and moments which can otherwise be referred to as God, buddha nature, the Tao, consciousness-- that can be realized with enough devout practice.
My interest is particularly in where the two seem to differ. In his book, Yogananda extols miracle after miracle-- stories of sages apparating and transporting themselves to different time periods and places (astral projection); priests who go years without eating, their only form of sustenance their extreme devotion to God; divine interventions and visions that present themselves to him because of his sheer overwhelming love for the "Divine Mother"; gurus wrestling and conquering tigers and bears; holy men literally conjuring feasts out of thin air.
These stories strongly suggest the idea of maya as I understand it in the Vedanta sense-- the sensory world that we are trapped in because of our small-mindedness due to the human condition (caught up in dualistic, ego-fulfilling ideas as is our wont). With extreme devotion and practice in mastering our bodies and minds, we can one day attain a state of being that allows us to transcend these limitations, where miracles such as the above are commonplace. Once we understand the principles of maya-- once we attain the Divine Understanding and communion with God (nirvikalpasamadhi)-- we will be able to master and circumvent the very principles that otherwise govern Reality as we know it.
Zen thought similarly discusses a state of enlightenment that can be achieved after years of labor. But Suzuki, in his version of Soto Zen, thoroughly de-emphasizes enlightenment and repeatedly reminds students to practice without any gaining ideas. Indeed, the end and the practice are one and the same-- we sit in order to sit.
Zazen is a practice of meditation centered around awareness of the present moment-- someone seated in zazen merely sits, counts the breath, and observes thoughts and emotions as they arise. With a careful, deliberate study of the patterns our mind works in, we can slowly understand and strip away these intellectual trappings (cut down the chattering of "monkey mind", as Zen masters would say) and begin to experience Reality itself.
It is interesting to note that miracles are rarely ascribed to any Zen masters. They're merely described as serene, cherubic individuals with a particular warmth to them-- sages who float through the world with considerable awareness and full-minded attention to the present moment and their actions in it. In Zen, there is no notion of transcendence of the present, or of manipulating reality and performing tricks and improbable acts of power-- merely of accepting the present moment and interacting with it with your full being.
Why, then, does Yogic thought so heavily emphasize metaphysical miracles? I think it comes down to the concept of bhakti-- religious devotion. In Hindu thought, each individual is said to have a soul, or atman, that can eventually merge with the cosmic consciousness, or brahman-- a process of self-abnegation through surrendering where egotistical, dualistic ideas disappear. This can only happen if you truly believe in a divine power, and surrender your ego to that greater being. Miracles are a way to convince jaded laypeople to place faith in those higher principles and embark down the road of devotion-- seeing is believing, as it were.
In contrast, Zen enlightenment is achieved by slowly stripping away the ego through deliberate practice, and the only way to do this is to get rid of all gaining ideas-- if you believe in miracles, and enlightenment, and something "special"-- you inevitably remain attached to that goal and your ego. According to Suzuki, you merely need to place faith in the habit of your practice-- and no external concepts otherwise-- to achieve a breakthrough and eventually escape the shackles of the ego. This difference in approach probably stems from the Zen/Buddhist metaphysic (or lack thereof)-- the very genesis of Buddhism was a refreshing move away from the intellectual ideas and concepts that had bogged down Hinduism. In this approach, deliberate practice is the key to nirvana, whether or not you place faith in any specific ideas about God.
Ultimately though, the end goal of the two practices is one and the same, I believe-- to strip yourself of all egotistic notions and experience communion with the Divine, Present Moment (enlightenment, self-realization). Different paths to the same end.(less)
Bummer that this only goes up to Kurosawa's Rashomon days, but this was an otherwise awesome look into the life of one of my favorite artists. Simple,...moreBummer that this only goes up to Kurosawa's Rashomon days, but this was an otherwise awesome look into the life of one of my favorite artists. Simple, clean, refreshing: reading Kurosawa write about his life is like drinking a cool bottle of Oi Ocha on a warm day.(less)
This is maybe a little more rambling/unstructured than usual for Kerouac (!), but overall, it's quintessential kerouacian stream-of-consciousness pros...moreThis is maybe a little more rambling/unstructured than usual for Kerouac (!), but overall, it's quintessential kerouacian stream-of-consciousness prose that's worth a read for when he finally hits his stride mid-book.
"since beginningless time and into the never-ending future, men have loved women without telling them, and the Lord has loved them without telling, and the void is not the void because there's nothing to be empty of."(less)