Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I believe that Dharma is not contained within Buddhism, but rather Buddhism is only one of many that draws from it. The Buddha said, “To be attached to a certain view and to look down upon other views as inferior – this the wise call a fetter”. If this is true then holding onto a belief that Buddhism is the one superior position is a path to entrapment and slavery, then Buddhism cannot be the one and only superior “way”.

I believe the concept of Dharma is simply a teaching. More specifically one's ability to 'see' or one's openness to be aware of it within one's surroundings. I don't think Dharma is necessarily a teaching or doctrine to introduce or indoctrinate one into Buddhism. The truth is simply out there and existent with or without our noticing it. Dharma is when we become in tune with it and give it life.

“Both the ocean and the Dharma become gradually deeper. Both preserve their identity under all changes. Both cast out dead bodies upon the dry land... The ocean is the goal of all streams and of the rain from the clouds, yet it is never overflowing and never emptier: so the Dharma is embraced by many millions of people, yet it neither increases nor decreases. As the great ocean has only one taste, the taste of salt, so the Dharma has only one flavour; the flavour of emancipation”. From the Cullavagga, translated by T.W. Ryhs-Davids
This is an absolutely beautiful piece, but it most definitely needs to be unpackaged, explored, discovered, shared, and discussed.

“Both the ocean and the Dharma become gradually deeper”.
Once a truth has been discovered it is near impossible to 'unlearn' or forget. (Now, let's be mindful and not completely write off the power of the human (dis)ability of denial though). We tend to build upon the truths we know. In fact, truth itself tends to be cumulative; the more we have the more it grows.

“Both preserve their identity under all changes”.
One core tenet of Buddhism is impermanence and Taoism holds that the only thing that doesn't change is Change itself.
"There is a thing which is all-containing, which was born before the existence of Heaven and Earth. How silent! How solitary! It stands alone and changes not. It revolves without danger to itself and is the mother of the universe. I do not know its name and so call it the Path [Tao]. With reluctance I call it the Infinite.”. Lao Tsu

So how can this 'Dharma-Ocean' preserve its identity under any and all changes?
I can't help but think that the very nature of the Ocean can and does teach us its lesson.
We cannot (ever) see the entire and whole ocean. Even when our entire view – from horizon to horizon - is filled with the Ocean, we only catch a tiny glimpse of its entirety.
For those who would claim to know the Tao, the Dharma, God, or even truth (Truth?) in their totality, the Ocean plainly holds their lesson.

For those who would show us the true nature of God; who would tell us what God is and what God isn't, and give us perimeters – who would attempt to put God in a box; who would have the arrogance to preach to us, to teach us the errors of our ways... the Ocean says otherwise.

I am not hesitant to name in the same breath the Dharma, the Tao, or God; nor am I suggesting that they must be synonymous. Simply that, like the Ocean, they would seem to share many similar qualities alongside the truth.

“Both cast out dead bodies upon the dry land”.
Although Dharma is the teaching, let's not take this too literally. It doesn't necessarily have to specifically mean Buddhism's teaching(s). We should not become frightened that to accept this Dharma means a path away from whatever belief or religion we currently belong to. No, I think this treasure – this universal truth – is simply being open to learning. I take Dharma as taking and accepting truth whenever and wherever we discover it. In fact, this might very well fly in the face of propositional truth. It may very well be the cure for the disease of Fundamentalism. (But again, let's not underestimate the great human (dis)ability of denial).
The Dharma-Ocean becomes the acid test for immutable fundamentalist beliefs. Why do so many people believe they must defend the beliefs they hold to be true? The truth needs no defense. It preserves its identity under any and all changes and challenges. It is unassailable.

It is also why – I believe in my humble opinion – so many fundamentalists (of numerous flavours) both avoid the Dharma-Ocean and become insular and isolationists. They really have no choice.
I think Taoism might have put it best. The Tao isn't the Path, but the passage. In more modern terms? It isn't the destination but the journey.

“The ocean is the goal of all streams and of the rain from the clouds, yet it is never overflowing and never emptier: so the Dharma is embraced by many millions of people, yet it neither increases nor decreases”.
I believe many (millions?!) of people embrace this Dharma but are not necessarily aware of it. Maybe they have different names for it. Maybe it's the elusive and evasive thing they reach out and search for.

I cannot decide whether these lines suggest a pluralism or a sycretism perspective. Maybe it's neither.
In "The Future of Buddhism", Sogyal Rinpoche may have put it best:
"...encourage each tradition to master completely the authentic teachings and practice of its own lineage, while at the same time maintaining a spirit of openness, harmony, and cooperation. There was no blurring or synthesis of one tradition with another - the purity of each was ensured - but they co-existed and often drew inspiration from one another."
"As the great ocean has only one taste, the taste of salt, so the Dharma has only one flavour; the flavour of emancipation”.

I should think a prerequisite to freeing an individual of what ails them is compassion. I think the Dalai Lama might have put it best when he said,
"...a key element here is to be truly sincere about the values of compassion that are at the heart of one's own faith tradition. For the ultimate reason to accord respect to other religions is to see that they, too, engender the beautiful qualities of the human heart and foster compassion and loving-kindness - exactly the qualities one is striving to attain through one's own faith.

"Interestingly, when it comes to actual spiritual practices, which I consider to be the essence of these religious teachings, as opposed to metaphysical or theological formulations, there is profound convergence across all traditions. All carry the message of love, compassion, and universal brotherhood and sisterhood. Based on these virtues, all teach forgiveness, forbearance, contentment, simplicity of life, and self-discipline". Excerpt from "Towards a True Kinship of Faiths"

 The Dharma-Ocean has but one taste, salt, and but one flavour, emancipation.
...I think I tend to agree...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Today and Tormorrow

I suppose this blog site, The Woven, had an agenda since its inception 5 years ago. Although it wasn't set in stone; it wasn't fully concrete, the general idea was always there. Originally it was to look at and hopefully explore the direction Judaism, Christianity, and Islam pointed in. (Not politically nor nationally, but theologically and possibly morally; maybe even ethically). The first inkling of these thoughts can be found in Three Syntheses: A Confession, of Sorts

“Barb” has asked whether this might extend to incorporate Buddhism or possibly even Zoroastrian. I wanted to explore and include the ethical, moral (spiritual?) values, resources and direction of Atheism as well.

I ended up doing a year and a half private study into Gnosticism which carried its influences.
After meeting Mark Townsend (can I truly call it 'meeting'? Talking with, email-conversations, discussions, etc. Maybe I should restrict myself to saying “electronically met”) the importance and values of a more natural earth-based pagan spirituality seemed to carry enough merit to entertain. (Hedge-Church).

I have been influenced by a few strong Agnostic positions and people (Lydia from On The Other Hand as well as Jonathan of Spritzophrenia. (You might be surprised to learn that Agnosticism doesn't have to be a position of transit or simply indifference or unknowing).

Most recently I have 'studied' (I use this word cautiously – I don't want to come off sounding pretentious) and immersed myself in more Eastern 'philosophies' and 'mindsets' (not really sure what to call them. I can't call them theologies).

Over the past three and half years I have trained in and practiced Taekwon-do under one the worlds true Masters (and student of Taekwon-do's original founder), having recently received my first degree black belt. (Traditional Taekwon-do finds many of its core values based upon Buddhist and Taoist tenets).

I have spend the past year and a half receiving Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture treatment for my asthma (which not only is under control now, but cured. Yeah, I know. That's quite a statement, isn't it, but I'm willing to wait and see). From my understanding, TCM and acupuncture are based upon Taoist concepts and I have (to a small degree) studied and looked into and explored.

My latest and newest excursion is into Buddhism, but my interest doesn't lie so much in its more traditional rolls, but in its newer, modern, western avenues and implications.

What is interesting is that this 'branch' of Buddhism – this new opening petal of the Dharma lotus – would seem to have a great deal of overlap in science, many new modern discoveries, and some psychology – often seemingly bordering onto secular and maybe even the atheistic.

These are exciting days!

A friend of mine (and fellow student of martial arts and self-proclaimed Atheist) suggested a book for me to read (Sam Harris' Free Will - book review yet to come).

This is great stuff! This is what spirituality means and looks like to an Atheist (much to their chagrin in their refusal to use the word “spiritual”). However, I was disappointed. Within the first 10 pages of the book I saw an old and disturbing pattern emerge.

Although I am sure few people want to hear this, I saw the same methods as Bible-centric Christians suffer from. Circular thinking. (Why is the bible authoritative? ”Because it says it is. It's right there in the bible!”) And it was then that – once again – I came face to face with that ugly demon, Religiosity. (Yes, even the atheist can suffer from religiosity).

Something struck me. In a recent and short conversation with my tattoo-artist, she had referred to herself (or maybe it was I who referred to her) as the “artist-type”. We both know what we were talking about.... but maybe I should clarify.

I think this might very well be the crisis we are currently facing in the world today. Maybe it has been the crisis we have always faced? They say that Science and Religion cannot mix. That Science is purely fact-based, and Religion is purely Faith-based.

There's a problem with these definitions. By “fact-based” are we to presume truth? By “faith-based” are we to presume belief? And by “belief” can we, or are we to substitute “circular-thinking” at worst, or at least “subjective” at best? Is the opposite of “belief” doubt? Is the opposite of doubt certainty?

By “fact” are we meant to take this word as being synonymous with truth? I wouldn't think so.
I can tell you a completely fictional story yet at the same time tell you an absolute truth. (Myth).

I have long since abandoned using terms like Postmodern and Postmodernity because they have lost all context of meaning. I have found that Postmodernism (e.g. the "Emergent Church" movement)  is little more than excuses to reinvent an old an defunct religion and hope to repackage it. I have my suspicions with various book reviews I have written. (John Crowder's Mystic Union, Jay Bakker's Fall to Grace, and Andrew Farley's The Naked Gospel).

The conversation with my tattoo-artist  was about how those "artist-types" see the world and generally view things. But how they see things are no less viable or truthful than those "science-types".

Maybe this is exactly what we need. Maybe this is what we're slowly seeing? Maybe this is the truer postmodernist? Those of us who can see both of these sides. Clearly the truth cannot exist within any single religion or belief-system. Exclusivism has little to no place in this consistently shrinking world we live in.

I think Ken McLeod may have put it better when he says,
“We interpret our experiences in life according to a set of deeply held assumptions. We may or may not be conscious of the assumptions, but they are there. Even when we explore our experience, we are usually looking for evidence that supports or confirms them. These assumptions are never questioned. They are taken as fundamental. A self-reinforcing dynamic develops that results in a closed system in which everything is explained, the mystery of life is dismissed, new ideas, perspectives, or approaches to life cannot enter and certain questions can never be asked. This is call belief.

The other way is to open and be willing to receive, not control, whatever arises – that is, not only allow but embrace every sensation, feeling, and thought, everything we experience. In this approach, we allow our experience to challenge our assumptions. Here, there are no fundamental or eternal truths, and some things cannot be explained; they can only be experienced. This willingness to open to whatever arises internally or externally I call faith.

...What, then, do we make of all the teachings of various spiritual traditions and other forms of human knowledge? For me, God, karma, rebirth, emptiness, brahman, atman, heaven, hell, all of these stories that people use to understand, explain, or give direction to their lives. The same holds for scientific views, astronomy, biology, quantum mechanics, or neurology. If we wish to be free of suffering, to be free of struggle, then the way to look at experience is to know “There is no enemy” and stop opposing what arises in experience. Is it difficult and challenging? Yes, but it's possible.”

Ken McLeod's Something from Nothing