All posts by taranatha

First night in September

As today is the first day of September, I’m re-posting a link to “September Night” by Van Morrison. It’s one of my favourite September pieces of music, one of my favourite of all autumnal pieces of music (ancient seasonal ragas aside). It’s an instrumental piece, with lots of (abstract) vocalizing used as instrumentation, but with no lyrics or singing of actual words.

For the most part I tend to prefer musical pieces that also have lyrics. Hey, I’m a wordy kinda guy. Love words. Love poetry. Literature. Love reading and writing. Love conversation. Love exchanging personal letters (and Love-letters?—just one of the best things in the world!). Love the lyrical dimension to music. But instrumental music (the purely musical part of music, after all), is so wonderful also! And sometimes is best on its own, without benefit, or distraction, of lyrics.

With “pop” music, of broadly-termed rock and related genres, I often find that I tend to assess the true musicality/musical-attunement of various bands/groups and individual “singer-songwriters,” in part, by whether they include in their repertoire at least a few word-less pieces (like one or two per album, or concert) they’ve composed and/or at least pieces they cover by others, pieces that are instrumental-only, without lyrics.

Typically I don’t much care for pop/rock singers who don’t also write their own songs. To me, that’s mostly like a bar-mitzvah/wedding cover band or lounge singer. I’d rather hear from a poet who tries to sing mostly her or his own words, and a singer-songerwriter who also sometimes tries writing & playing her or his own instrumental-only numbers.

Somewhat sadly, to my taste, such instrumental-only pieces are fairly rare in the repertoire of musicians performing/composing in most of the categories I tend to listen to the most: rock/folk/folk-rock/pop/blues/r’n’b/soul, etc. But often I feel such rare instrumental numbers are among such musicians’ best pieces, or perhaps more often that such pieces sometimes could be among their best, with a little more work (&/or talent).

I sometimes get so tired/bored hearing the same old words, or range of thoughts-in-word-form, the same old trite story lines/narratives/ subject plots, sung over and over even by the lyrical writers/performers I like best. Sometimes I just want to hear what they may have to “say” instrumentally-only, what they might have to “say” without words, just with instrumental composition and performance. Just one of my little rants. And one reason I sometimes turn to jazz and classical music.

I love me some good jazz and (good) classical music (and not just Western, European/American classical, but also, most of all, classical Indian music). Love these genres for various reasons, but one reason is their “abstract,” “non-objective,” largely lyric-free, story-free content. With notable exceptions, I typically don’t so much care for vocal jazz or vocal (Western) classical music. There are certainly beautiful exceptions, and you just can’t beat really good operatic arias and jazz skat-singing, and even more so the amazing extensive Indian classical tradition of wordless tonal singing, an ancient mostly spiritual equivalent both of arias and skat. But otherwise, generally for my listening tastes, I like both Indian classical, Western classical, and jazz for their non-wordy intellectually-complex instrumental music, their “pure (word-free) music.” I’d like to see a little more of that incorporated into rock. Some rock. And while we’re at it, I’d love to see much better rock lyrics as well! More literary/poetic intelligence and sophistication, more psychological and spiritual intelligence, insight, sensitivity, and  depth.

Meanwhile, there’s Van Morrison. Whatever his limitations, at his best, for what he does, there’s no one better.

Similar dream-wishes I sometimes have regarding many representational visual artists: I often find myself bored with looking at “the same old” representational objective contents: portraits, figures, landscapes, buildings, still-lifes, etc, as painted by certain representational-only artists. And I sometimes wish many of these same artists also had painted (or, if contemporary, will yet go on to paint), a few purely non-representational, abstract, non-objective pieces. Can you imagine what such non-representational pieces might look like if painted by such historic artists as: Blake, Durer, Chagall, Samuel Palmer, Edward Calvert, Whistler, Van Gogh, Manet, the two Rousseaus (Théodore and Henri)? And so many others—Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Ingres, Brueghel, Hieronymus Bosch, Constable, Caspar David Friedrich, Philipp Otto Runge? The list is endless.

But then, I also sometimes dream how fascinating it would be to see seriously-endeavoured, sustained examples of landscape, figural pieces, portraits, and other representational works by purely abstract artists. Sadly, in many cases such examples do exist and are fairly pathetic. But then, I suppose most novelist are not such good poets, and vice versa. Many creative artists of various arts and genres have a strong suit and maybe not so very often an also fairly edifying less-strong suit. So be it. I’m grateful for what music and painting and other art there is. One simply always wants more.

Bonus tracks: Enjoy these ancient classical India night ragas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doing more for the Himalayan peoples and their cultures.

This volunteer NGO project looks very good to me. I don’t personally know anyone working with them, and I’m not sure how I came to be on their mailing list, but I’m glad I am; they all look like peeps I’d like to have as friends. Take a look at what they are doing to help the people of Nepal and surrounding areas.  –Sky
 

About Us

Himalaya Project is a Chicago-based non-profit organization consisting of 5 volunteer board members who share the wish to provide education and public health to an entire district of Nepal. We see the benefit of preserving Himalayan culture and its medical practices so that they may directly benefit our friends in Dolpo and so the medical traditions are not lost.

Board of Directors

Mark Sobralske
Executive Director

Mark Sobralske is a practitioner of Chinese medicine, studies Tibetan language at the University of Chicago, and is a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism. With the changes of the last 50 years in Dolpo, Nepal, Mark recognizes the value in preserving the unique cultural heritage of Himalayan medicine in the trans-Himalayan region. Mark is inspired by the talent and experience of the board of directors and the advisory board and finds it a privilege to learn from and work with them.
Kenny Wong
Secretary

Kenny Wong is Secretary for Himalaya Project. He strongly believes in the organization’s mission of self-empowerment through education, traditional healthcare, and the preservation of a way of being. He studied philosophy at the University of Chicago, where he read books and cut hair to fundraise for Nepal’s earthquake relief and Himalaya Project. He has previously worked with two nonprofits in education – Chicago’s Peace Corner Youth Center and the Jacaranda School in Malawi.
Mason Stabler
Treasurer and Social Media Director

Mason Stabler joined the board of directors of Himalaya Project in 2014. He is a fourth year student at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine where he will receive his masters of science in acupuncture and oriental medicine. He received his BA in biology from Kenyon College.
Dr. Lori Howell
Education Director

Drawing on a background in academia, Dr. Lori Howell focuses on the design, implementation, program evaluation and student learning for our school for Himalayan medicine. Dr. Howell is an advocate for education, healthcare, and the preservation of traditional medicine. She is a member of Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ILAAOM), International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (IASTAM), and Association of Traditional Medicine Chiangmai Northern Thailand (ATMCNT). Dr. Howell practices traditional Chinese medicine and is Associate Professor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.
Shristi Dugar
Board Member

Shristi Dugar is a Nepalese freshman at Northwestern University studying Material Science and Engineering and Economics. She is passionate about teaching self-sufficiency to communities lacking basic necessities like electricity, water and healthcare. Her passion for social entrepreneurship motivates her work with Himalaya Project. She is actively involved in social initiatives in Nepal, focusing on reconstruction and rehabilitation after the April 2015 earthquake and women and youth empowerment. She wants to participate in Himalaya Project to learn, grow and help provide the Dolpo community self-sustaining medical education and healthcare.
Hannah Kupferschmid
Board Member

Hannah Kupferschmid is in her first year at the University of Chicago studying Global Studies and South Asian Languages and Civilizations. Her interest in Global Health and the Tibetan language led her to the Himalaya Project, and she is excited to be a member of the team. Hannah has volunteered for the non-profit “For Hearts & Souls” in Iraqi Kurdistan, and she is looking forward to helping the people of Dolpo preserve their traditions and gain access to medical education.

Advisory Board

Himalaya Project’s Advisory Board provides strategic advice and support to the Board of Directors in areas of expertise including navigating the education and medical communities in Nepal and the trans-Himalayan region, non-profit organization and management, fiduciary responsibility and accountability, clarity of communication to Nepalese and north American audiences, brand recognition, strategic planning, marketing, and team building.

Dolpo Tulku Rinpoche
Dolpo Tulku Rinpoche was born in Dho Tarap, Dolpo in 1982 and recognized as the third reincarnation of Dolpo Nyinchung Tulku Rinpoche. He received early monastic training in Namdroling Monstery, India and entered Nyingma Ngagyur Institute at age 15, distinguishing himself in Tibetan literature, poetry, history and Buddhist studies. In 2007 he was became a full-fledged teacher at the Institute. He is the subject of an award-winning documentary “Dolpo Tulku-Return to the Himalayas.” Currently, he travels throughout Asia and Europe teaching Buddhist philosophy, conducting seminars and raising awareness about the needs of people in Dolpo. He founded The Dolpo Tulku Charitable Foundation in 2010 to promote protection of the environment and culture, improve healthcare and promote integration of modern and traditional education.
Amchi Namgyal Rinpoche
Dr. Namgyal Rinpoche serves the people of Dho-Tarap, Dolpo running an herbal clinic, teaching meditation and conducting healing rituals. He received his initial teaching through the lineage of his grandfather, Lama Gartung Rinpoche and received the traditional Medicine Buddha empowerment from Ghagar Rinpoche, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche and His Eminence Shechen Rapjam Rinpoche. Namgyal Rinpoche founded Dolpo Mentsee Khang in conjunction with the WWF Nepal initiative for cultural and natural preservation of the Tibetan culture in the Dho-Tarap Valley. He is the current President of the Dolpo Amchi Association, Chairman of the National Himalayan Amchi Association and advocates for recognition of Himalayan Medicine as a primary healthcare resource in Nepal.
Amchi Ngawang Thinley
Dr. Ngawang Thinley has directed the Tibetan Medicine Department at Shechen Clinic and Hospice in Boudhanath, Nepal since 2000. Born in Thimphu, Bhutan in 1975, Ngawang attended Chagpori Tibetan Medical Institute in Darjeeling, India. Following his studies, Ngawang helped set up a Tibetan medicine clinic at his alma mater. In 1998 he helped to create Shechen Rabjam Public Trust Project, a mobile clinic providing free health services to 46 destitute villages in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. Inspired by his mother to pursue a career in medicine, Dr. Ngawang Thinley treats the spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of his patients whose illnesses range from the common cold to incurable cancer.
Dr. Yangbum Gyal
Dr. Yangbum Gyal is a traditional Tibetan medical doctor and licensed acupuncturist currently practicing at Human Nature in Madison, WI, Medicine Buddha Healing Center in Spring Green, WI and Life Force Healing Center in Evanston, IL. An accomplished translator and teacher of the Tibetan language, Dr. Gyal has taught language and Tibetan medicine at Indiana University-Bloomington, authored the Tibetan Medical Dietary Book: Vol I, The Potency and Preparation of Vegetables and translated One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn into Tibetan. Dr. Gyal is also working as a training officer focusing on translation and interpretation at the Cultural Linguistic Service, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.
Sienna Radha Craig, Ph.D.
Sienna Radha Craig is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. She is co-editor of Himalaya, the journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies and chairs the Medical Advisory Board for One Heart World-Wide. She co-founded DROKPA in 1998, a non-profit whose mission is to partner with pastoral communities in the Himalayas and Central Asia to implement grassroots development and catalyze social entrepreneurship. She earned her Ph.D. in anthropology at Cornell University in 2006. The major focus of Sienna’s research, writing and teaching is the investigation of contemporary Tibetan medicine as a globalizing “complementary and alternative” medicine. She has published widely – from scholarly articles to poetry, creative non-fiction and journalism to children’s literature.
Matthew R. Barton, CPA
Matthew R. Barton, CPA is a partner at Weinberg, Barton & Company, a public accounting firm specializing in tax and strategic financial planning for small to mid-size business. Matt is a graduate of Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina where he received his BBA in Accounting while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. Matt serves on the board for Evanston American Youth Soccer Organization, Warren W. Cherry Preschool and Curt’s Café, Evanston.
Dylan Lott
Dylan Lott is an Instructor and doctoral candidate in anthropology at University of Illinois at Chicago. His research examines the development of emerging neuroimaging research fields and technology sectors within South and East Asia. In addition to his work with the Himalaya Project he is—with the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation—working to preserve and repatriate the linguistic materials and tribal artifacts of the Parintintin, an indigenous people of Brazil.
Stephen B. Starr
Stephen Starr is Principal of Stephen B. Starr Design, Inc., a design and communication consultancy in Evanston, IL. Stephen is a former president of the Chicago Creative Coalition, organizer for the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group and founder and organizer of the Chicago Web Professionals. Stephen designs web-based and print communication and edits language for north American audiences for Himalaya Project. He is interested in the wisdom of indigenous spiritual traditions and its evolution in the unfolding story of human life.
Diane Testa
Diane A. Testa, M.A., is founder and president of Koi Consulting Group, Inc., which offers business, marketing and leadership consulting services. Diane is passionate about her mission—enabling people and organizations to live their purpose and move forward with clarity, strength and courage. She remains behind the scenes of the Himalaya Project, helping with strategic planning, marketing strategy, and team building. She is most interested in helping to educate the western allopathic world about the ancient wisdom of eastern medicine and to ensure the people of Dolpo receive basic medical education and health care.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Closer to School Opening | Possible Partnerships | Site

Moving Closer to School Opening | Possible Partnerships | Site Visits

Since raising the funds to start our vocational school for Tibetan medicine in 2015, it has been a long and winding path to move forward with our project; certainly not a straight line to the top of the mountain for our team!

In the past year, we had a number of obstacles put in our path including things not happening as planned with the original partner organization that we intended to work with in Nepal from the beginning. Fortunately, all of these obstacles occurred early and so we have been able to explore other options in terms of partner organizations.

Now, after learning a few things, we feel like we are in a better position than we were originally when we first began. Sometimes it works out like that and in the end its all for the best. Though it has taken us more time, we are talking to multiple possible partner organizations in Nepal which have a similar mission and vision as ours and things are finally looking up and better than we could have ever imagined in the beginning.

Hopefully soon, we’ll have a memorandum of understanding with these organizations in hand, and we can begin to share all the details of our partnership with you! And finally, the next step after the partnership piece is solidified, we’ll plan to open the school.

To bring us to this point, in 2017, a few of our board members travelled to Nepal at various times to attend meetings with the new potential partners.

Lhakpa Tsering, our Himalaya Project field coordinator has been indispensable in arranging meetings, and negotiating the terms of the potential memorandum(s) of understanding we are pursuing.

In just a few days, Lhakpa will head to Dolpo with a group from the Nomads Clinic, led by Upaya Zen Buddhist teacher, Joan Halifax, in order to offer free check ups and healthcare to the local people from their team of experts. Read more about the Nomads Clinic and Upaya Zen Center here.

As our field coordinator, he also happens to be stopping in the village in which our school may soon be located. Lhakpa will perform a site visit and have a few meetings with the school staff regarding our potential collaboration. Exciting things to come!

 

Introducing Our Newest Board Member | Hannah Kupferschmid

We are so excited to introduce to you our newest Board Member, Hannah Kupferschmid, who joined the team in March of this year!

Hannah is beginning her second year at the University of Chicago studying Global Studies and South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Hannah’s passion for Global Health stems from her experience volunteering in Iraq in 2016 through For Hearts and Souls, a non-profit organization that sends a team of doctors to developing countries to conduct heart surgeries. Additionally, Hannah became interested in Tibetan medicine after taking a year of the Tibetan language in college and traveling to Tibet this summer to learn about Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhism art.

Outside of academia, Hannah enjoys running outdoors, hiking, reading historical fiction novels, and traveling to new places to learn about their cultures.

Welcome, Hannah! We couldn’t be more proud and pleased to have you on our team.

Get To Know Our Board of Directors

While most of our Board has remained the same over the past year, there are some slight changes. We hail from across the country and globe, which is why our board meetings have recently migrated from in-person to online, Google Hangouts.

Here are some quick facts about our hardworking and talented team!

Mark Sobralske: Mark is a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, enjoys motorcycling, Tibetan Buddhist meditation, and is passionate about providing health care and education to underserved rural areas.

Dr. Lori Howell: A learned scholar on Chinese Medicine, Dr. Howell teaches courses relating to this subject at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine – Chicago and has a private acupuncture practice in Evanston called In Fine Fettle. Lori also likes traveling and has studied in both China and Thailand.

Kenny Wong: A 2016 graduate of the University of Chicago with degrees in Philosophy and International Studies, Kenny now works at Innosight in Boston. Kenny has interests in design, cutting hair (which he did to raise money for the 2015 Nepal earthquake), and rock-climbing.

Mason Stabler: After graduating from Kenyon College with a degree in biology, Mason studied acupuncture at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. In addition to practicing acupuncture in Vermont, Mason enjoys foraging for medicinal and edible mushrooms, and has found many types this summer, including Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and Chaga.

Shristi Dugar: Shristi is a rising junior at Northwestern University and studies material science, engineering, and economics. She is from Kathmandu, Nepal, and has greatly helped the Himalaya Project gain contacts in the region. Most recently, Shristi has joined Jeffery Snyder Group as a research intern in the field of thermoelectrics.

Hannah Kupferschmid: From Dallas, Hannah will be a second year at the University of Chicago. While her biography is above, another interesting fact about Hannah is that she was born in Guam, a small island in the Micronesia, and enjoys going back to visit.

NYC Teen Risks Life to Comfort Stranger

Suicidal-Woman-and-Good-Samaritan.jpg

Angels come in many forms.

 This is further proof that not all is lost. That when given a chance for compassion, many of our youth..our future..will know what to do when the time comes.

This happened in New York City on Saturday. At a subway station at Lafayette and Broadway.

A despondent young woman climbed over a railing and crawled over open girders that were 25 feet above the ground and over 5 feet apart. And began sobbing.

According to a witness, Michal Klein, “The only thing I overheard was the young girl saying nobody cares about her.”

Then a young man on the first level saw her, and ran up to the second floor. He climbed and crawled over the beams to where she was sitting. He began talking to her quietly. Then he put his arm around her. After a minute, she put her head on his shoulder.

They were up there for almost ten minutes before the fire department arrived. They both crawled back over the ledge…holding hands the entire time. He borrowed a pen from an officer and wrote his information down for her and she put it in her pocket.

She was then taken away by ambulance to the hospital.

And this young man picked up his backpack, got on a subway, and left.

Said Klein, who took the picture, “It was just like a random person who went over to keep her calm.  He actually cared enough, whoever he was, to help her. A lot of people seemed to be like, ‘Oh, it’s New York,’ and kept walking. I don’t know what I would’ve done. I don’t think I would’ve climbed over to do that.”

Another witness noted that most people didn’t even break stride as they quickly glanced up.

Said another, “Angels come in many forms.”

The NYPD has stated that when you encounter a suicidal person, even if they are gentle, you should call for help, ’instead of taking matters into your own hands.’

I respectfully disagree. When many feel alone and isolated, the kindness of someone that WANTS to be there can make all the difference in their world. And if you have that feeling of compassion come over you and you feel it in your bones, then you should act on those feelings.

In NYC, more people die per year in the city from suicide than from both murder and car accidents.

Thanks to this young man…not last Saturday.

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Justice Lost and Poetry Found

“THINGS,” as they say, “could always be worse.” Consider Tuco “the Ugly” Ramirez in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The first and second of his death penalty sentences are given below. Not everything bad-ass is Truly Bad-Ass. Poetry is where you find it.

(First)

Wanted in fourteen counties of this state,
the condemned is found guilty of the crimes of
murder,
armed robbery of citizens, state banks and post offices,
the theft of sacred objects,
arson in a state prison,
perjury,
bigamy,
deserting his wife

and children,
inciting prostitution,
kidnapping,
extortion,
receiving stolen goods,
selling stolen goods,
passing counterfeit money;
and contrary to the laws of this state,
the condemned is guilty of
using marked cards

and loaded dice.
Therefore, according to the powers vested in us,
we sentence the accused here before us,
Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez
[“known as ‘The Rat’ ”],
and any other aliases he might have,
to hang by the neck until dead.
May God have mercy on his soul.
Proceed.

(Second)

… Wanted in fifteen counties of this state,

the condemned, standing before us,—sitting before us,—

Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez,

has been found guilty by the Third District Circuit Court of the following crimes:

murder,

assaulting a Justice of the Peace,

raping a virgin of the white race,

statutory rape of a minor of the black race,

…of derailing a train in order to rob the passengers,

…bank robbery, highway robbery, robbing an unknown number of post offices.

…and breaking out of the state prison,

counterfeiting and passing counterfeit money;

…and the accused is also charged with using marked cards and loaded dice,

and promoting prostitution,

…guilty of crimes against places of high authority;

…blackmail,

intention of selling fugitive slaves,

… illegal postal pick up,

… guilty of crimes that include

burning down the courthouse and sheriff’s office in Sonora.

The condemned then hired himself out as guide to a wagon train.

After receiving his payment in advance, he deserted the wagon train on the hunting grounds of the Sioux Indians.

The condemned is also guilty of

cattle rustling,

horse thievery,

supplying Indians with firearms;

… and misrepresenting himself as a Mexican General

in order to receive a salary and living allowance

from the Union Army.

For all these crimes the accused has made

a full and spontaneous confession.

Therefore we condemn him

to be hanged by the neck until dead.

May the Lord have mercy on his soul.

Proceed.

Dallas Protesters Embrace Each Other

And sometimes, people join together

(This just looks a  little staged to me. It doesn’t seem like there was any angry hatred or desire to injury or kill others here as among the KKK/Nazis in Charlottesville. But it sends a good message, in any case. With or without prayer huddles. So I like to think it’s legit.)

 

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A Confederate Veteran Speaks: What the Monuments Mean

A Confederate Veteran Speaks: What the Monuments Mean

In Confederacy on August 21, 2017, with no comments

 

What do Confederate monuments mean? This is apparently a question that continues to vex many.

Perhaps Wiley N. Nash, Mississippian and Civil War veteran, can help.

“What good purpose,” he asked in 1908, “is subserved, promoted and supported by the erection of these Confederate memorials all over the South?”

#Shorter Nash reply: “White people shall rule the South forever.”

But of course Nash had studied both literature and the law at the University of Mississippi, so his actual answer came fully attired in his best Lost Cause finery:

Like the watch fires kindled along the coast of Greece that leaped in ruddy joy to tell that Troy had fallen, so these Confederate monuments, these sacred memorials, tell in silent but potent language, that the white people of the South shall rule and govern the Southern states forever.

Wiley was the featured speaker on December 2, 1908, when the white citizens of Lexington, Mississippi, gathered for ceremonies to unveil their new Confederate monument. It was typical of the memorials then going up across the south: A generic soldier standing atop a stone column, in front of the county courthouse.

The column is of modest height, not as tall as the one in Natchez, say, nor does it feature any secondary statues at its base, as the one in Greenwood does. Both were richer cities. Still, the monument’s debut was something to be celebrated. A college band played “Dixie.” A group of school children sang “The Bonnie Blue Flag.” Civil War Veterans paraded along with eleven girls chosen to represent the eleven seceding states of the Confederacy.

Nash was eminently qualified for his leading role. He was a Mississippian by birth, and a lawyer who had served both in the state legislature and as the state’s attorney general.

More to the point, he had fought in the war, riding in various cavalry units. Equally important, after the war he had fought in the campaign to restore white rule in Mississippi. Nash “did as much as any one man,” read one of his obituaries, “to assist in gaining control of the state government and accomplishing the overflow [sic] of carpet bag and Negro rule.”

“To him,” it continued, “Mississippi should be ever grateful for the part he took in the protection and preservation of our traditional hereditary rights and liberties.”

We may be ever grateful to Nash as well, for among his fulsome remarks that day, which run to roughly 7,000 words, he included a clear, concise, nine-point-itemized list on what the statues actually do.

The ruddy leaping joy of perpetual white power comes in at number seven. Monuments also “keep honorable” the “present and future dominant and ruling Southern Anglo-Saxon element” (item 2) and help “keep the white people of the South united — a thing so necessary” (item 6). They will also remind one and all “how sacred and how dear are the reserved rights of the States, reserved in the language of the Constitution to the States, or to the people” (item 8).

It may be asked, “What good purpose is subserved, promoted and supported by the erection of these Confederate memorials all over the South?” I answer:

(1) Besides honoring the South, the Southern cause, its supporters and brave defenders, the living and the dead, it will keep in heart and spirit the South, and her people for all time to come.

(2) It will keep honored and honorable, as the years roll on, the name and fame of the fathers and forefathers of our present and future dominant and ruling Southern Anglo-Saxon element, those who, “come weal, come woe,” are to mould, shape, fix, dictate, and control the destiny of the South and her people.

(3) It will educate each rising generation, each influx of immigration in our customs, traditions, thought and feeling, as well as in the esteem, love and admiration of the Southern people.

(4) It will help all others to form a correct idea of, a respect for our civil, religious, social and educational institutions.

(5) It will help to a true understanding of home rule and local self-government, contending for which the South lost so many of her best and bravest.

(6) It will serve to keep the white people of the South united — a thing so necessary — to keep, protect, preserve and transmit, our true Southern social system, our cherished Southern civilization, —

    • “And Dixie’s sons shall stand together,
    • Mid sunshine and in stormy weather,
    • Through lightning flashes and mountains sever,
    Count on the ‘Solid South’ forever.”

(7) Like the watch fires kindled along the coast of Greece that leaped in ruddy joy to tell that Troy had fallen, so these Confederate monuments, these sacred memorials, tell in silent but potent language, that the white people of the South shall rule and govern the Southern states forever.

(8) They will tell to Sovereign States from the Atlantic, where raged the fight that made us free, to the calm and placid waters of the Pacific, to States, if made from the isles of the sea, how sacred and how dear are the reserved rights of the States, reserved in the language of the Constitution to the States, or to the people.

(9) They will teach the South through all the ages to love the Southern Cause, her Southern soldier boys.

On this matter, Nash is an unimpeachable source: a Mississippian, a veteran, a redeemer and a monument-unveiler. This is what the monuments mean. His is the definitive answer. His is a direct expression of the original intent, if you will, of the people who built them.

More than a dozen Confederate monuments have come down across the country since the events of Charlottesville earlier this month, and others are now being reviewed. The memorial in Lexington still stands, as do all the rest in Mississippi. No cities have announced reviews. Earlier this year, a member of the legislature said that anyone who wanted to take down statues “should be lynched!” De-Dixiefication, like the Civil Rights Movement, will come late to Mississippi.

There is a renewed talk about finally changing the state flag, an effort rekindled by Dylann Roof murdering nine church-goers in Charleston, South Carolina, two years ago. Mississippi’s current flag is the last in the south to contain a Confederate element. The design dates back to 1893, when the state legislature, including Wiley Nash, approved it.

 

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Paths on the Mountain

A Talk by John Blofeld

From the journal Material For Thought, issue number 12

© 1990 Far West Editions

 

July 13, 1978

In 1933, at the age of twenty, John Blofeld left his native England to begin a lifelong sojourn and study in Asia. In China, he studied with numerous sages of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, becoming one of the leading scholars and translators in the Western movement of these religions. His work includes a translation of the I Ching, two explorations of Tantric philosophy (The Bodhisattva of Com­passion, and The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet), and a spiritual autobiography (The Wheel of Life). Blofeld was also one of the first writers in the West to speak of the practical application of Buddhism in life. In addition, during the early 1970’s, he assisted Far West Institute in the translation of The Life of Milarepa. At his death in 1987 in Thailand (where he had retreated after the Communist revolution in China), he was concluding his first work to be written entirely in Chinese. The following lecture was given at Far West Institute in San Francisco at the beginning of an extensive tour of spiritual groups and sites throughout the United States.

 

Friends, this is my very first trip to America. So far, I haven’t been anywhere in America except California, and what I’ve seen here has impressed me very much. I’ve been quite amazed at how far the interest in Asian religions and philosophy has gone here and that people are outwardly practicing different arts: Japanese Zen, Tibetan Nyingma, and so on. I see they’re doing this with great sincerity. I used to think that the counter-culture was a kind of fad, an amusing thing to do for a year or two, and that this would pass away like so many other fads. But I’ve found that I was quite wrong. This is a living thing. It expresses a very real desire on the part of people like you to find something to make life really have a meaning and be worth living. At Tassajara I saw people who sit for hours a day in Zen-style meditation, slightly Americanized to suit the local scene. In Ukiah I saw American monks dressed up in Chinese robes reciting long texts in very rapid Chinese. They had learned enough Chinese to communicate with their master quite easily, and they’re doing valuable translation work. These places are just two out of many communities dedicated to the teachings of China, India, and of Asia generally. They are perhaps, as some of us like to use the phrase, “dedicated to the ancient wisdom,” a kind of wisdom which may have existed much more universally in the distant past than it does today.

All of this has been deeply inspiring to me, all the more so as the re­verse trend is taking place in Asia now. More and more Asians are being swallowed up by the pure, gross materialism which you people have been through, found wanting, and have abandoned. It may be another twenty to fifty years before the Asians, in their turn, go through that gross materialism and come up again with something worthwhile. By that time, in many Asian countries, especially the Communist ones, the old traditions will be dead: books will be burned, monks will be dead, teachers will be dead, and there will be no young ones to follow them because Communism does riot allow it. So it may very well be that fifty years from now Chinese, Tibetans and others will be coming here to California. It’s not a joke; it’s true; it can really happen—especially if some of you really give your lives to the terribly hard work of translating those texts from Sanskrit and Pali and Chinese and Tibetan into English so that they can be preserved. Because without the translated texts there’s no hope: some master will come over—a Zen Roshi, a Chinese master, or whatever—and he will teach his American disciples something valuable. They will learn it in all sincerity, but in passing it on to their disciples they will get it just a little bit wrong, their disciples will get it just a little more wrong, and within three or four generations the whole teaching will be altered. The only way to prevent this is to have good, correct translations of the ancient texts. If those are there, then nothing can go wrong.

Now this brings me to the question I have been asked to talk about this evening: to what extent are the various religions and sects compatible with one another? Here in California I suppose we have as many as a hundred different religions and sects, all teaching somewhat different ways, and some teaching fundamentally opposed ways, or so it appears to us. Should we simply accept this and say, “Well, good, this man follows the Indian path, that man follows the Sufi path, I follow the Zen path, and you follow the Tibetan path,” and so on? Are we all contributing to the same spiritual development of human beings? Or is there too much diversity? Should we keep the paths separate, as they have sometimes been in the past? Or should we try to unite all of them, including the religions of the book—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—on one hand, and the non-book religions—Hinduism, Taoism and Buddhism—on the other? Is it possible to reconcile them or is it not?

This is the question I put to myself yesterday when I was preparing this talk. I am not going to give you a definite answer to this question because I don’t think I have the wisdom to do that. What I am pro­posing to do this evening is to talk for a few minutes about the reasons I think there is a need for all of us to work together to combine the different paths, then to talk for another few minutes about the reasons why this is either difficult or quite impossible, and then finally to make some suggestions as to the extent to which we can work together.

Now I think not only our modern counter-culture, but maybe all the religious aspects of any kind of culture in this world since the beginning of time, all arise from one source. Throughout history and pre-history there have always been human beings who have felt that getting our daily bread and butter, producing our children, and dying do not represent the whole of life. If there is not more in life than that, then we might just as well be dead, because life viewed from that perspective involves so many difficulties, troubles, boring moments and tragic moments, that it simply isn’t worth living.

Though I speak to you in this way, I may assure you that I am a very happy man and I value my life, but it is because I see something that goes way beyond this eating and procreation and earning the money to do those two things. Today nobody seems to be very sure what this something is. In the past, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims felt very sure that they knew the answer. But now we don’t have that certainty. We just feel, “Well, yes, there is something there,” but we don’t know what it is. We don’t know if it is a God—a being who stands above the world—or a state of being.

You know, in Chinese Taoism there is no idea of God as a personal being, but there is a kind of worship or respect for the Tao, which is a state of being. And Buddhists, generally speaking, hold the same view.

They have many different names for that supreme state of being that might be called reality. It can be called one mind, or it can be called the womb of all created things, or it can be called nirvana, according to which aspect of that state you’re emphasizing, but there’s no thought of a personal divinity.

So the first question is, “Is there a God or anything over and above what we see in our rather shoddy little daily lives?” The second question is, “Is God a person, or a state of being, or different from both of these?” To answer the first question, I feel sure there is Something or Someone because otherwise why should people all through history be moved to believe quite passionately in the existence of that ultimate good? As to whether that ultimate good is a being or a state of being, I think it simply doesn’t matter. It is something so far beyond our human comprehension that anything we say about it is sure to be wrong or very limited.

Let’s not waste time on futile arguments which cannot be resolved in that way. You will go to your grave convinced that God is a being and I will go to my grave convinced that God is a state of being, and neither of us will change, however much the other argues. The Buddha always refused to answer questions concerning the origin of the universe and so on. His attitude was that any question to which the answer is purely speculative is simply not worth dealing with, because all you get is speculation. Instead of spending your time and your energy speculating on how and why the world began you’d better use that time and energy to lead some kind of spiritual life aimed at the improvement of yourself, in order that you may be of more service to sentient beings. All the whys and wherefores and hows and whats should be forgotten.

Well then, let me repeat: I think that many of us are convinced that there is something over and above the world as reported to us by our senses. This something is quite wonderful and exercises a fascinating power that draws us to some form of spiritual practice, whether or not we belong to any particular religion. This is the basis on which we may, to some extent, work together. I think you will also agree with me that all religions, including whichever religion you personally happen to belong to, are only approximations of the truth.

It’s very hard to believe that any one religion in the world has got hold of the whole truth. All religions are reflections of man’s desire to get in touch with that Something or Someone, and we have tried to picture that Something or Someone in our minds. The picture we have built up may be quite a good reflection of the truth but it is only ap­proximate, like the reflection of the moon or the sun in rather dis­turbed water. You can see there’s something bright there but you cannot see the form perfectly because the water is disturbed. And so our minds are disturbed by desires, longings and passions, and as long as the mind is like this we’ll never have a perfect reflection of what lies beyond. Incidentally, every time I use the word “beyond” I want to scold myself, because I don’t think that that something or being is “up there.” It’s here; it’s right in us and part of us. The whole world, what Buddhists call samsara, this world of suffering and misery, is nirvana. The world of plurality is the undifferentiated point. So we’re not merely trying to get from somewhere to somewhere else—as one would say, from samsara into nirvana, from the world into heaven—but we’re trying to create within ourselves a revolution of mind which will let us see the reality in front of us from a totally different point of view from that which results from relying on our senses, with all the false and imperfect data they report to us.

So then, religions are all approximations of truth: they all contain concepts which are approximations of a reality that is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, the true religion must be a religion beyond all religions. To that extent we may feel, “Well, why shouldn’t we all combine and be Buddhists and Christians and Muslims and Shintoists all at the same time?” Before going into the question of whether that’s possible let’s glance at some points of history. We see that, on the whole, the Greeks and Romans in ancient times had no difficulty in accepting many religions at the same time. Those of you who know your Christian Bible will remember the reference to the Greeks who set up an altar to the unknown god. We all know from history how the Greeks and Romans borrowed deities from Egypt and all over the Near East, and incorporated those deities into their own religions. Those people did not have the narrow-mindedness—if I may be allowed to call it that—of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims, each of whom thinks that they have the whole truth, that their God is the only God, and all other gods are false.

Then we come to East Asia. Thailand, where I live now, is something like eighty-five percent Buddhist. The rest are Muslims of Malay ancestry. Most Thais are Buddhists, and yet they also worship Hindu gods. So they are Buddhists and Hindus at the same time. The Buddha does not provide you with any information about what number is going to win the next lottery or how your current business deal is going to turn out or how to find a pretty girl to marry; Buddha is not going to be concerned with that. So the Thais turn to Hindu gods for this sort of purpose, without in any way losing their understanding of the Buddhist doctrine for more important things. Then you go to China, and I mean the China I knew, which was a little bit before Mao Tse-tung’s time. In those days every Chinese was a Confucian, and most were also Taoists, Buddhists, ancestor worshipers and followers of the folk religions simultaneously. No problem.

Very recently, in Thailand, I was talking to my Thai housekeeper who is an ardent Buddhist. She was talking about a couple of her sisters who married Muslims. I said, “What do you think of that? Are you sorry that your sisters married Muslims?” She said, “No, I don’t see what there is to be sorry about. I am sure that Lord Mohammad and Lord Allah teach the same kind of good things that Lord Buddha teaches.” She went on to say that no doubt Lord Jesus also teaches the same kind of good things, so what’s the problem, what does it matter? Well, of course, if she had been a more educated woman she would have discovered that there are some very fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam on the one hand and Buddhism on the other, but of this she was unaware. I think she truly imagines a heaven in which Lord Buddha sits here, and Lord Mohammad sits here, and Lord Jesus sits there. So we can say that in China, Thailand, and in many other Far Eastern countries it is possible to follow several religions at the same time, though normally these would not include Islam, Christianity, or Judaism because those three religions are so exclusive that they would not wish themselves to be included in such a mixture.

From what we have observed about the ancient Greeks, Romans, and East Asians, it seems that we could argue in favor of a kind of universal religion in which all the ways would be combined. On the other hand, the revealed religions, the religions of the book—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—would find it difficult to accept the idea of a universal religion because each conceives of truth as something that is expressed in a particular book—the Talmud, the Bible, or the Koran.

In the past, Buddhists were very clever at dealing with this kind of thing. If you go to different Buddhist countries, such as Tibet, Japan, or China, you find that in each one Buddhism has taken on a very dif­ferent form, especially as regards iconography. Wherever Buddhism went, in the days when it was moving out from India, it never opposed local religions. It just took over the deities of those religions and reinterpreted them in Buddhist terms. In Tibet it took over some quite ferocious Tibetan mountain deities and didn’t tell people to stop worshiping them but instead explained to people, “These ferocious-looking beings are representations of the tremendous power you need in order to combat all the passions, desires and egoism in yourself.”

The Catholics, to a very small extent, have done the same. In the South of Italy, for example, you can see statues of the Madonna with all the attributes of the goddess Diana. The Christians also kept up the old feast of Christmas, which goes back to the Druids and the pre-Christian religions. Protestants on the whole have been much less broad-minded and less willing to make any kind of compromise. You can’t imagine John Knox, Martin Luther, or Calvin making pleasant compromises with religions other than their own.

Now, what can be said further in favor of the idea of coming as close together as possible and accepting everybody else’s belief as a valid way of reaching the truth? First, all religions aim at the spiritual de­velopment of their followers, and nearly all of them preach a very similar ethical code: trying to be unselfish, trying to help and not hurt other people, trying to be honest and sincere. In addition, all these different religions aim at what might be called devotion to something lying beyond the world of our five senses; all recognize that Something, although they describe it very differently. In this way, also, all religious people are seeking the same goal: contact with, or union with, or knowledge of that Someone or Something. And all religions, or nearly all, have the same attitude toward materialism: that it is a deadly thing, limiting our lives in ways that make them hardly worth living.

Prayer is another practice in common among different religions. Christians pray to God or to the Holy Virgin and get results from their prayers. I pray to the Goddess Kwan Yin and get results from my prayers. Other people pray to Krishna or whomever and they, too, get results. I don’t mean the kind of result where you pray, “Dear God, please let no rain fall on my wedding day.” That is a gross kind of prayer where you want God to alter the world for your pleasure, regardless of how that would affect the farmers and so on. I don’t mean this sort of prayer. If you get an answer to that kind of prayer, it is just coincidence. There’s another kind of prayer which doesn’t even have to be spoken. It can be wordless prayer or meditation. You put yourself, you put your mind, in tune with the Infinite. And that Something, whether it’s visualized as the body of Christ, the Holy Virgin, or Kwan Yin, responds. When we pray to these individual deities or put our minds in tune with these individual deities we are in fact putting our minds in tune with the same unnameable Something.

I am reminded here of a story told by a Chinese friend of mine who was born into a Buddhist family but who later converted to Catholicism. He got lost in the mountains and prayed ardently to the Holy Virgin to come and help him out. The Holy Virgin duly appeared in front of him, dressed in her traditional white and blue, and brought him to a nice cave where he slept very comfortably on a warm bed. In the morning when he woke up he found the cave was there but the nice bed wasn’t: he’d been sleeping on a bed of flints and stones. A few days after that he went to a Buddhist temple where he saw a picture that reminded him of his childhood and made him realize that the lady he had mistaken for the Holy Virgin was actually a Chinese goddess, an attendant of Kwan Yin. Then he thought, “Well, I prayed to the Holy Virgin but when Kwan Yin answered me she didn’t want to give me a shock so she sent her number two along because number two happens to favor the same kind of dress—white and blue—as the Holy Virgin. When I saw this number two in the white and blue I thought it was the Virgin to whom I prayed.”

We have talked about the pros. What about the cons? What do we have against the possibility of a universal religion? Although Buddhism and Taoism are quite remarkable among religions in that they have no dogma whatsoever, you could not persuade a Buddhist or a Taoist to believe in a personal deity like the Allah of Islam or the God of Christianity. That would be absolutely out for him. There’s no dogma to prevent it, but his whole faith has been based on the premise that there is no creator god, that the universe is a creation of mind and reflects a divine state of being, not a person. Conversely, you would rarely find Christians, Jews, or Muslims prepared to give up the idea of a creator god. If they did, they would be thrown out of their respective religions. I mean their co-religionists would not accept a Christian who did not believe in God or who did not believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. He could go on calling himself a Christian, but his fellow Christians would say, “No, sorry, he’s not.”

Secondly, Buddhists, Taoists, and some others are, to a certain extent, pantheists, accepting the idea that the world, the universe, is God. God is not standing up there, apart from his creation. The body of the universe is the body of God. The stuff of the universe is mind stuff.

The third major difference concerns the doctrine of rebirth. Hindus, Buddhists, and some others believe in a great long series of rebirths. On the other hand, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism teach that we have only one life in this world and only one more birth, which will go on forever, in Heaven or in Hell.

There’s really no way to reconcile these three differences. All we can do is accept that our fellow human beings are seeking the ultimate in their own way. And even if we think the others are wrong we don’t need to get upset. We can recognize that, although these other people seem to be wrong in some particulars, they too are following a path, are aiming at the same goals we are.

Another problem, perhaps a more important one, even within each individual religion, is the question of method. In early Chinese Taoism, we have a method I have called “agnostic nature mysticism.” It would seem that Lao Tse, the author of the Tao Te Ching, may not have been a thorough-going mystic like Meister Eckhart or St. John of the Cross or the Buddha, but simply a man who wanted to live in tune with nature and was not much interested in the question of a future life. He said, “Let us learn to live with nature now, to flow with the flow of nature, and then if there’s another life after this, well, that’s good; if there isn’t we shall have lived this one very beautifully and well.” So his method, if we are right—and we may be wrong in interpreting Lao Tse in this way—was to do nothing, just go along with the flow of nature.

And there are other methods: we have the high mysticism of the Buddha, St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, and the Sufi mystics, people who are seeking to attain, or realize, total union with that thing which we have provisionally called Someone or Something. Then we have the method of the Indian sage, Nagarjuna, who felt that, at least at the early stages of religious progress, we need to use logic in order to realize the unity of samsara and nirvana—the unity of us, as individuals, with the eternal mind. We have to use logic to destroy such concepts as “I” and “other.” The concept of the ego must be destroyed logically before we can attack it at a higher-than-logical level. In Tibet, most lamas teach that you have to alternate the meditation method of going beyond thought with the Nagarjuna type of meditation, in which you use logical thought to overcome the idea of the ego.

Then there is the Christian notion that if you have faith enough, this faith will be effective in helping you to develop spiritually. There is also the Christian doctrine of grace, which suggests that you don’t have to do anything except hope that you are one of the people on whom the grace of God will fall. On the other hand, the doctrine of good works affirms that if you spend a lot of your time helping other people, teaching them or saving their lives, you will build up merit, which will help you along the spiritual path. Then there is the doctrine of asceticism, found espe­cially among Sephardic Jews, which asserts that the more you hurt your body, the better for you spiritually. The doctrine of devotion states that you should not be concerned with rewards: just love God or Lord Krishna and forget about the rewards, just love for the sake of love. In addition, you get combinations of all of these doctrines: faith together with good works, devotion together with good works, and so on.

Some of these methods and doctrines can be easily combined, but others cannot. If you believe, as Calvinists do, wholly in the doctrine of grace, then, whatever you do, you cannot save yourself. If you are lucky, God will choose you to be one of the elect; even if you misbehave you will still be one of the elect. But if He has not chosen you, even though you try to be the best man or woman who ever lived, you will not achieve Heaven. This doctrine is simply not compatible with the doctrine of other Christians of the same period who taught that everything depends on good works: if you love your neighbor as you love yourself and devote your life to your community, you will win grace.

Within Buddhism we also have two doctrines which are seemingly incompatible. First is the main Buddhist doctrine that all spiritual life depends entirely on your own effort, that no god, no goddess, no Buddha can help you along the road; they can show you the path, but this is a path you have to walk yourself. But also within the tradition of Buddhism are the Pure Land Buddhists who say that if you have faith in Amitabha and repeat his name—“Namo Amitabha, Namo Amitabha” with one-pointed mind, you can attain a state, known as entering the Pure Land, which prepares you for nirvana. The Pure Land, when you reach it, is discovered to be your own mind or univer­sal Mind, freed of all the ego-like accretions.

In Japan and China, the Zen method of enlightenment through a particular kind of meditation is called “self power”; belief in the doctrine of salvation through Amitabha is called “outer power.” But the teachers of those two schools should never quarrel with one another because they are both talking about mind.

According to this doctrine, the only reality is mind. Mind is not subject to spatial law: you cannot draw a circle around your mind and say that everything inside is mind and everything outside is not. So when we are talking of mind as the only reality, there is no distinction between inside and outside, between self and other. When you meditate or use some other method for attaining that high state of mind we call enlightenment, whether you conceive of the power you generate as coming from out there or from in here, it’s the same power; it makes no difference. So these two doctrines can be reconciled. But as I said before, other doctrines are incompatible. The Zen people say that study is a waste of time: you simply do your Zen meditation. Other Buddhists would say that study is essential: unless you alternate your meditation with a logical attack upon the illusion of ego, you will not achieve the goal.

Well, then, we have seen some of the reasons for believing that we could have a perfectly unified religion and some of the reasons for thinking that this might be totally impossible. Now we come to the last point: having reviewed these two possibilities, what conclusions do we draw? As I said before, I don’t feel in a position to give you decisive judgments about this. What I am going to say now will simply take the form of my own suggestions; they are conclusions that satisfy me, but they may not be right conclusions.

I will put it this way. First, we have concepts: whether we conceive of God as a being or as a state, as apart from the universe or as identical with the universe. If you believe in God but I believe in no personal God, then you have to go on believing your way and I have to go on believing my way. I can try to persuade you to believe my way, or you can try to persuade me to believe your way, but our beliefs cannot go together. There is a deep conflict there which cannot be resolved.

On the other hand, we can realize that our spiritual development is bringing us closer and closer together and that concepts don’t matter too much, because any concept is far behind the reality which it represents: the unnameable, unthinkable reality lying beyond.

As for methods, I think it’s very good, at the beginning of our spiritual quest, when we first come to feel that life has a meaning and that we should embark on some kind of spiritual path, to experiment with many kinds of paths. Sooner or later we will find that one path suits us individually more than others. Then, let us take that one, but never in the spirit of “I am now on the right path and everybody else is on the wrong path.” No, we follow our own path, but we accept the validity of other people’s paths.

The further we go, the less the different methods will matter. Ultimately, all methods converge. In Tibetan Buddhism, we have either four lower ones that involve all kinds of rituals and the use of mantras, mudras, visualizations and meditations. By the time you reach the highest level, you abandon all methods and all practices. So when we start off we are following entirely different paths; we have different practices, different beliefs, different concepts. But the nearer we get to the truth, the less those differences will matter. I think of it sometimes as a Sugarloaf Mountain. You start from this side, I start from that side. We all want to get to the top of the mountain. You go straight up, Zen style, to the top—if you can. I, being a poor mountaineer, climb round and round the mountain. But when we reach the top we are all in the same place. So we followed very different paths. You went straight up like a rocket, I went round and round like a snake. But ultimately we arrived at the truth, and there can only be one truth. There can be many levels of truth, but ultimate truth is only one. We can find it.

Then we follow our own paths, but always with respect for other people’s paths and always with the notion that we cannot guarantee that our way is right and other people’s ways are wrong. If we are loving and helpful to others, if we truly desire to behold the face of truth, then whatever God may be out there or in here will surely forgive our ignorance and account us good men. Once an Episcopal priest, when my children were born, said, “Look here, John Blofeld, you are an Englishman, but you have become a Buddhist. I’m very sorry for that, although I like you as a man. Don’t condemn your children; let them be baptized, and they can ultimately decide if they want to become Buddhists.” I said to this priest, “Is your God so cruel that if I don’t have my children baptized He is going to punish them for the pig-headedness of their father?” And he saw the point at once. So if the Christian God is everything He is supposed to be, He is not going to send you and me to Hell because we have conceived of Him in some different way, providing we live our lives, not selfishly for our own aggrandizement, our own pleasure, but for the sake of all living beings. Then, however many mistakes we make in our concept of God, if He is a God worth having He will surely forgive us. If, on the other hand, there is no God, if God is an impersonal Tao which is not conscious of its own creativity, the Tao certainly doesn’t want any recognition from us. If we fail to give it recognition, that’s fine; if we give it recognition, that’s fine too.

So there really is no need for fear. In the past, so many religious people have been ruled by fear—unless we do this and this we are going to be condemned to Hell. No, this is impossible to believe. Would God, who is able to create this extraordinary universe with all its millions and millions of worlds, be so mean and petty as to burn you and me forever just because we made a mistake in our way of thinking of Him? Of course not. So fear can be banished.

We follow the religion of our own choice because it suits us best, and always with a view to doing what is good for others. This means daily reducing our egoism until we reach the point of recognizing the ego as a non-existent entity, as a ghost with no reality, and daily increasing our compassion, doing more and more for other sentient beings, whether they are humans, animals, or spirits, even those horrible fiery demons. If we meet them we should be friends with them, not want to destroy them. We should never want to destroy anybody or any kind of living being. In the long run, we find that we are a part of other living beings to such an extent that if I punch you on the nose, I’m hurting myself. If I punch you on the nose, I am punching every being in the world on the nose, including this one. No one would be so stupid as to try and punch himself on the nose. So we should just give up hostility.

We have found in our modern world no way to happiness through materialism. This is only the outer aspect of life. There is some secret. If we could solve that, if we could find that secret, then we would see that this is a beautiful universe in which we live, that every stone of this universe, every grain of sand, is in itself nirvana. This is what we look for. We use our different ways. We don’t foolishly try to combine the uncombinable. But we go along in fellowship with one another. We cannot all belong to the same religion, but we can all unite in our struggle against the materialism that will otherwise rob our children and our grandchildren of their birthright as sentient beings.

 

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