Monday, April 17, 2017

Humility and the Middle Way

Humility and the middle way are two concepts that compliment each other very well. The concept of the middle way can be  considered as a product of the practice of humility. Humility is often thought of as putting yourself down but that is not, or should not, be the Christian meaning. This conceptualization of humility is a consequence of thinking from within an egotistical framework that implicitly enshrines the concept of self. Real humility is about understanding the limits of human knowledge and thought. Ignorance is bad but so is being overconfident in a set of beliefs. The middle way is an acceptance of the limitations of  human knowledge and the ability to be intelligent while tolerating ambiguity. Humility is the act of doing this in your daily life

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sin or Debt?

In the Lords Prayer I prefer the forgive debts version over the forgive sins version. This is how I think of it

 A debt is something you are owed within a system of borrowing and exchange. If someone owes me a debt it means that the system agrees that the debt is owed. Justice is served when the debt is paid. If they don't pay I can use the law to collect. When someone has wronged me justice demands that they pay me back in some way. The idea of justice implies that the universe somehow agrees that my claim is just. Forgiveness, in this context, means erasing the debt.

Forgive us our debts is usually taken to mean that I'm guilty within the cosmic system of justice but God can make an exception for me because I admit guilt and I'm trying to get it right. This is very much like a liberal justice system. But if I take the debt to be a sense of debt within myself then forgiving the debt means erasing the sense of debt from within me. It is a request to be freed from an emotional attachment to a false belief in cosmic justice.

“As we forgive our debtors,” can also be interpreted in a similar way. Here I believe that the cosmic justice system owes me because someone has wronged me. I feel I am owed restitution or compensation and that includes punishing those who wronged me. But, “as we forgive our debtors,” means I should not attach to the idea of justice being owed to me or to anyone. I should erase those debts. I should let go of any sense that I am owed anything.

Essentially, I owe nothing and nobody owes me. This seems like recipe for social disorder but that's only if you take it in isolation. The liberal justice system metaphor is also a legitimate way of understanding this part of the Lord's Prayer. Here the emphasis is on following rules and begging for forgiveness when you fail. I think both are right and also each is the antidote for the other. In Buddhism, an antidote is a thought that undoes another thought. Usually antidotes are thought of as countering harmful ideas, but in this case the antidotes balance each other. I like this version because I feel that Christianity is in need of rebalancing, away from an excessive focus on sin, guilt, justice, and retribution. More generally, I think it is a good practice to find balance in contradiction.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rapture and Enlightenment Time

When is the rapture? We could also ask when is enlightenment? Many Christians believe that the rapture will come at some definite point in the future. However, some Christians believe that the rapture is on God's time. God's time is outside of ordinary time and it's eternal so everything has already happened, everything is happening, and nothing has happened yet. Likewise, many Buddhists believe that enlightenment is an event in the future but enlightenment can also be thought of as outside of time. Therefore, with regard to my own enlightenment, I can say - I am enlightened, I am becoming enlightened, I am not enlightened. So it goes

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


"The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small dirty, object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether" - C. S. Lewis

In, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis points out that the centre of Christian morality is humility, but he makes a mistake when he says that this is unique to Christianity. In Buddhism, the concept of no-self is perfect humility. In some Christian texts, perfect humility is compared to complete silence, which in Buddhism would be known as emptiness.


People do not become enlightened
Enlightened becomes people

Friday, October 14, 2016

Noetic warfare strategy

To win in noetic warfare

Your goal cannot be to win, it needs to be to be
You cannot win, your goal must be selflessness
The power to win does not reside in you and cannot be controlled by you

The idea that you have the power in you to win contains three traps

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Buddhism, souls, and Process Philosophy

In Buddhism there is no self and no soul and no permanent objects of any sort. In Christianity there is a soul that goes to heaven. Seems different but of course it is more complex. In Buddhism there is reincarnation so it is fair to ask, what gets reincarnated if there is no soul. To answer this we need to turn to process philosophy, which is an often ignored branch of western philosophy that explains Buddhist ideas on permanence using language more suited to western philosophers. The main difference is that Buddhist explanations are usually made in the pragmatic context of reducing suffering in individuals, whereas western philosophy is more about universal truth and metaphysics. Anyway, process philosophy is very unpopular because it states that nothing exists, there are only cause and effect processes. So a rock is not a rock it is rocking (this is actually how some North American First Nations languages (e.g, Cree) work). Applied to the soul it means there is no soul, there is only souling. So reincarnation occurs because souling continues after death. This can be applied equally to notions of heaven, where souling continues but not in a new body. In fact, with this notion you can have both, where after death souling continues in new bodies and elsewhere. In ancient Chinese religion the soul was believed to go to more than one place. However we have trouble thinking without permanent objects so we need them. We just need to keep in mind that they are not real. In the diamond sutra the Buddha says, there is a mountain (belief in object), there is no mountain (realization that there are no objects), there is a mountain (pragmatic use of the idea of mountain to refer to mountaining). So with the soul. The concept of the soul as an object helps us to make progress under certain conditions. But beyond that it can become poisonous, and cause people to selfishly pursue wealth and immortality in an imagined afterlife with all delusions of this life. A dogmatic adherence to the idea of no self can also be a problem, for different reasons. Tich Nhat Hanh sometimes talks about the existence of the soul and the non existence of the soul as being equal. This is because dogmatic attachment to a belief, even if the belief is of the absence of something, is still a type of permanent object, albeit a more rarified one.